So, you're thinking of buying a drone? Well, getting used drones can actually get you a great deal, but no one likes to get scammed. Let's walk through how to buy a drone online, what to check, how to verify the flight time, and then all the questions that you should be asking before we even discuss inspecting a drone in person.
Let's talk about some questions that you should ask yourself about a specific drone model. Is that model still available for sale on the manufacturer's website, or is the model shown as “end-of-life” and no longer supported?
Before buying used drones, check the seller
If it's not, then can you still get batteries, new batteries for it? for example, the DJI Inspire 1 is a great platform that is now available for cheap, but finding batteries for it is gonna make it very difficult.
This could also be a very limiting factor if you lose one of the batteries. Buying online sight unseen can be dangerous, and we don't recommend it unless you can verify the seller is trustworthy.
To better illustrate this, let me tell you about how we purchased our Inspire 2 several years ago. I saw a post from someone in a Facebook group.
I first checked their activity in the group to make sure that they were actually trustworthy, and then I found out that we had a friend in common, so I reached out for a second opinion. The seller provided me with records from air data and tons of pictures, which made me feel comfortable with how the aircraft was taken care of.
We agreed that we were going to use escrow for the transaction. The money would not be released until I confirmed that the drone had been received and was as advertised.
Now with all that being said, you should be leery when you're buying from Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist or anything like that unless the drone can be seen in person.
If you're buying in person, be sure to meet in a public place where you can actually test-fly the drone. This is important, and before meeting, find out as much as you can about the drone. How was it used? Was it used for commercial purposes or recreationally? Was it a backup drone, or was it a primary drone?
Is the drone being sold because someone is upgrading to a more expensive model? Or because the drone is out of date and the new model is available? A drone that was flown commercially means that it probably has more flight hours, but it also means that it probably was taken care of a little bit better.
But in all cases, remember that if it's too good to be. Well, it probably is. Once you meet in person, check the overall condition of the drone and ask if the drone was crashed. You're going to be looking for scratches suggesting a crash, missing screws suggesting that maybe it was opened up, and then you're going to make sure that all the parts are matching. Otherwise, it means that one of the parts was actually changed.
Check the Remote Controller
Check the transmitter for stick and switch movement. Make sure everything is operational. Look to see if there are any seams in the plastic, which may indicate that it was dropped or maybe even opened up. Gently shake the drone, be careful, and then also the transmitter and see if you hear any kind of loose pieces on the inside.
Check flight hours on used drones
Also, you should ask the owner how many flights the drone has had. While this is a difficult claim to verify, ask if the drone received any major or minor repair, and if the owner claims no flight hours, make sure to ask if this is a refreshed unit that came from the manufacturer. Checking the battery is also extremely important.
Ask how many cycles are on the battery, and then go ahead and verify that in the about section if it is available. You want to verify that the batteries are not puffy, and if they are, then you should not buy them. Tell them that you want a better deal, and they can keep it. If the batteries have a high cycle count, your flight time is more than likely going to be affected.
Now keep in mind that a hundred cycles is pretty high, although that really depends on the drone in a lot of different factors.
Inspect the drone's camera
Also, be sure to take a look at the camera. You're gonna be looking for scratches on the lens. You're gonna be looking for dust or even fog inside of the lens, and then make sure that the gimbal is moving freely and that there is nothing blocking it along the way.
If you can fly the drone, which we highly recommend, check that all the controls are working correctly, including the gimbal movement on the controller. Check that image transmission is also working well, that you can do everything inside the software, and that there are no warnings inside of the software.
Find the oldest battery in the kit and then see if it holds a charge when you're flying or if it drains immediately after you take off.
What accessories are included?
And then, lastly, you want to make sure that you look at what accessories are being included. A lot of used drones are being offered with additional accessories that did not come with the drone initially.
Make sure to have, at a minimum, a battery, and a transmitter charger, and the cables to connect your phone to the controller, unless you have a smart controller.
The ND Filters are a great added bonus because they're actually pretty expensive to buy new. Now, if you decide to pull the trigger, don't forget to register your drone on the FAA Drone Zone.
It's only $5. It's good for three years, and no, you don't have to worry about the previous owner deregistering the drone if they did that.
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Have you every bought used drones? Let us know about your experience in the comments below. We are curious to hear from you.
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