Drones Are Awesome: Don't Buy One

It’s 2018 and drones are flying off the shelves. Before trying to stake your claim in this developing genre of aerial photography, still ripe with unexplored possibilities, listen to these sensible reasons why it might all just be a terrible, terrible idea.

In this video, Tony Northrup has a few important words to say about what drone ownership truly is like. While many potential buyers have seen the stunning images shot with drones plastered over social media, there’s a lot more to it going on. One of the points stressed by Northrup is that there’s actually not a lot of places one can fly their drones by law. Additionally, even if a pilot gets the green light, drones should essentially be considered disposable as accidents — human error or otherwise — occur all the time. That’s a lot of money that can be gone in an instant.

Check out the full video above for all of Northrup’s valid points before making a purchase you later regret. What are your own thoughts on drone ownership? Is it all worth it to you in the end? Have you avoided buying one because of any of these reasons? Let us know in the comments below.

Cover photo by Pok Rie via Pexels.

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Leigh Miller's picture

I've felt this way for at least two years...I think we have passed the golden age of drones. Unless you can travel frequently to outlying locations free from regulation or bans it's nearly impossible to make it worthwhile. So many countries are stopping drones right at customs/immigration. I downgraded my Inspire for a Mavic and it works just well enough for the work/leisure I do given restrictions.

Studio 403's picture

An honest post. Well said. I am in agreement with the video. But........I want one, regardless. Grateful I don’t have the budget for one as this time. I think I will go hiking soon, maybe find one of those bilzzilon dollar drones.

Brian Stricker's picture

All reasons why I don't have a drone.

I still scratch my head at all the drone shots I see repeatedly on Instagram, specifically all over Manhattan, where I have always assumed they would be banned because of liability potential.

Leigh Miller's picture

I left out one thing in my post: most drone shots these days (within city limits) are likely illegal. Even in Toronto where I am now I see a few that I know are within 5 miles of the three airports in the area.

David Pavlich's picture

My son uses one for his photography business and has done quite well with it. One of his really fun shoots was a new oil pipeline on the Louisiana/Texas border. He has requests for drone shots for his wedding shoots as well. He was one of the early adapters and went through the whole FAA thing. He did have one bad episode when one of the blades had a catastrophic failure and sent the thing spiraling into the ground. Luckily, the manufacturer took care of the repairs. The evidence was, of course, captured on video from the drone. :-)

Daniel Medley's picture

I absolutely love the idea of a drone. I live in the Mountain West of the US and there are literally thousands of square miles in which to fly one. But I just can't shake the feeling of the dread I'd feel if it came crashing down and watching all that money scattered all over the ground. I suppose if I were using it in a money making commercial endeavor that would be different.

But ...

Spot on. It’s been a couple of year that I think about buying a drone, but the law is the one reason I didn't.

Jen Photographs's picture

I was recently gifted a drone, and have been doing a lot of reading on it. Drone pilots are very limited in where they can fly.

Stephen Kampff's picture

There's a good reason DJI own Hasselblad, and is investing in industrial markets.

I think you should have to pass a test before being allowed to buy one.
Most people are idiots. Odds are good that you're an idiot. Don't buy a drone. It's not a video game. You're not a pilot.
Get an rc car.

user-156929's picture

"Odds are good that you're an idiot." :-)

Leon Kolenda's picture

Personally, I think your an Idiot, for your stupid statement!

So what most people don’t realize is that you can build a drone from the ground up for pennies on the dollar compared to buying a readymade drone out of the box. “Stunning aerial photography” is honestly just an annoying way for people to get themselves into trouble.
If you want to have a lot of fun and hangout with like minded people I encourage all of you to find a local FPV racing group. In San Antonio we have several dedicated groups that race at different fields with a cash pot every weekend. We also compete with other cities in Texas. Last weekend was the Houston grudge match with 500 dollars and a free set of motors.
In the Whoop races we have 2-3 bars that allow us to set up inside for Sunday Funday races. We all bring bbq for the grill and have a great time together.
FPV racing is really where the fun is bc once you find a good group everyone always has spare parts for when they inevitably crash. You can also get the same kind of video produced by Mavics as you can with a racer.
If your in a big city I’m sure there’s a group of racers that will welcome you with open arms.
Great guys having a great time

Jon Kellett's picture

While I agree that self-building is cheapish, the reality is that if you want advanced features and ease of use it's pretty hard to turn down DJI.

I used to believe that 3DR would blow DJI away when people found out about them. These days there's no comparison - The features you get from a DJI Spark are amazing for the price. Sure, a self-built will let you attach a much better camera, but that's moving into serious RPAS photography - Not the market that DJI appears to be targeting.

That said, I want to do FPV racing! There's a group not far from me, but not far still means not cheap to get to.

Daithan Levar's picture

Some of his points are valid but they need more context. The truth is that most people have absolutely no business owning a drone because they have no intention of following the guidelines and rules put in place to keep the general public safe from their idiocy. They expect to unbox it and start immediately creating epic photos/videos. I have an Inspire Pro, a Phantom 4 Pro, and a Mavic that I fly for my photography business. I’m fully insured (liability and replacement) just like any other piece of photography equipment I own. I immediately obtained my FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate and once you have that, you can apply for airspace authorizations. I have airspace authorizations all across Georgia that let me fly (with proper notification) almost anywhere, which is great because it has allowed me to add $1500 to $2000 per month in additional income from realtors and business owners, and that’s led to in increase in portrait photography clientele as well. Taking the time to study for the remote pilot exam and obtaining the proper airspace authorizations shows my clients I’m professional and worth the additional cost. The money I’ve made by being responsible and operating inside of the rules has made aerial imagery an incredibly profitable business decision for me.

The title should have been “Don’t buy a drone unless you’re responsible, patient, recognize the risks irresponsible drone flying can pose, and recognize a business opportunity you can capitalize on. But if you do buy one anyway, make sure to subscribe to my channel so I can teach (and sell) you things.”

That’s kind of a long title you suggested here.

Ryan Mense's picture

Nah, my title is way better.

Daithan Levar's picture

Ryan Mense, I agree. If you ever need to hire a Chief Bad Title Writing Officer, call me.

Dalthan, I think you hit it spot on the head. Drones aren't the problem, its the way they are operated. We run a service business using drones and we know that these machines are not perfect, they need to be managed and operated with due diligence.

We were so frustrated by the numerous stories of operators either flaunting the rules or maliciously operating their drone in a risky manner, that we wrote this piece encouraging responsible drone operation: https://mydroneservices.com/dont-fly-that-drone-unprotected/

Kudos on being a safe operator and good luck with your business.


Daithan Levar's picture

Thanks Molly Rank. Good write up!

Thought it's going to be a typical click bait video but he makes valid points.

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

I'll fight my neighbors.

Ryan Mense's picture

Record it with your drone

Love dronea but its just like anything else. People are stupid and do dumb things with them.

Then goverment comes in and makes laws that dam near take the fun out of it.

Kinda funny how un-free we really are

I crashed my FRIEND'S drone on my first piloting attempt. So, there's a way to save some money while causing heartache which is more fun, really. Of course I'm kidding and I paid for new props.

I feel the same way about drones as I do about gimbals and gopros. They're just tools for capture, and if you don't have something epic to capture with them the results are underwhelming. I remember when I got my first gopro and took it out on my motorcycle to get some awesome moto footage. When I reviewed my extreme wideangle video of my warped hands driving sedately through highway traffic I realized that the gopro wasn't going to produce epic shots from my regular life. I've seen the same thing with drone footage and super smooth gimbal shots of nothing special.

As others have pointed out, being responsible can make it possible to fly your drones where others can't. Even if you crash your drone, as long as you don't lose it or crash catastrophically you can usually repair it and fly again.

But most important to me is knowing the story you want to tell, choosing the shot you can make that tells it, and choosing the tools to make that shot. A drone might be the perfect tool. But you could probably also tell that story with something you already have. I've come to appreciate the quality of a good monopod and a ladder to get great birdseye view shots for work.

Kind of silly video. Tony N. Is usually pretty encouraging and helpful in his videos. This was anything but. So what that you can’t fly in NY or LV or Morocco!! That’s no reason to not buy a drone. You might find you have a real talent for it. He wasn’t accurate regarding the rules about national or state parks either. This might be splitting hairs but you aren’t allowed to take off or land in a park. You can fly in their airspace however. On that subject, there are plenty of places you can fly, especially if you have a part 107 certificate. So if you want to learn don’t go buy the most expensive one. It’s going to crash. ( he’s right about that!) learn to fly a cheap one and then move up.

Kinda like: Cars are awesome, but don’t buy one: You can’t drive over certain speeds, you might crash and die, you might run over a dog, you might have to pay insurance(if you want to be legal), etc... I don’t see insurance mandatory for drones, but maybe that will be something Trump will make law, who knows.

I love my bad ass aircraft! I fly to the moon everynight! I fly wherever the hell i want and nobody says shit! I love my aircraft and nobody can stop me from flying anywhere.Cuz im rolling with my motha fuckn strap on tha side of meeee I Dare you tell anything$

Anonymous's picture

Ah, Tony has a new video.

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