If you’re reading this article, then you are probably one of two kinds of drone pilots: the kind for whom money is no object (Camp A) or the kind who likes saving pennies for big investments (Camp B). There is also a Camp C for professionals willing to splash the cash on their craft. Regardless of which kind of buyer you are, expensive drones make you salivate. This article on the most expensive drones is your buffet.
That said, I will also examine whether these drones are worth it or not. Is this drone cool enough to show off your wealth if you’re in Camp A? And if you’re in Camp B, is this drone a good investment? If you’re in Camp C, I’ll try to be as informative as I can. Some of these drones are not sold openly on their official sites and require filling out a form to get information about them. The most expensive drone, the Dragon X12, won’t be for everyone.
- Camp A is for millionaires.
- Camp B is for savers/investors.
- Camp C is for professionals.
Got it? Great! Without further ado, let’s dive into our Scrooge McDuck money pits and see the most expensive drones money can buy!
Expensive Drone #1: xFold Rigs Dragon x12
If someone says they have a pet dragon, it’s either a lizard or this drone. XFold, as a company, makes drones for commercial, film, and industrial use. If you go to their site, they want you to rent their drones rather than buy them. Sales pages for the Dragon X12 are always on third-party sites.
As you’d expect of a dragon, this drone is a beast; it folds down to a 35.4 x 19.7” state. That’s almost a yard long, and that’s its compact form. Again, xFold makes industrial-grade drones. The Dragon X12 is a workhorse, not a toy.
Weirder still is that the Dragon X12 seems to be discontinued—at least, on one site. Other sites price it anywhere from $16,000 to $32,000. The official site doesn’t seem to like selling its drones to the general public, so it’s the secondary market or nothing.
But is this dragon worth the gold you need to get it? There aren’t many reviews of the Dragon X12. It looks great on paper. There’s footage of a Dragon on YouTube. It might be so prohibitively expensive or rare that people hesitate to review it. Unfortunately, the first answer to “is this drone worth it?” is “I don’t know,” but it should be worth it.
If you want to take a chance and dance with the Dragon X12, please review it! You’d be helping the internet out a lot by reviewing one of the most expensive drones. It’s certainly a rare drone, and worth showing off, but the relative lack of information is unsettling. There may be NDAs. Finding information on a real dragon might be easier!
Expensive Drone #2: xFold Rigs Dragon x12
This drone is designed for survey mapping, so features such as a triple-redundant autopilot, stability in high winds, and path planning are all included.
However, it does lack a few basic features such as an automatic landing function, following, and return-to-home.
Unlike the Dragon X12, there is plenty of information on Intel’s foray into commercial drones. The Intel Falcon 8+ Octocopter was announced in October 2016 as the tech company’s first major commercial drone. And for what it is, it’s fine.
And unlike the Dragon X12, reviews of the Falcon 8+ exist! They’re decent. If anything, it’s better than expected! The main demerits are the drone not having a reset button, the inability to fly in rainy weather, and the drone being overpriced. This drone has some growing to do, but it’s not bad.
Expensive Drone #3: DJI Matrice 30T Enterprise
Designed for commercial and first responder use in harsh conditions, the Matrice 30T Enterprise can withstand water, dirt, dust, wind, and extreme temperatures.
You will also find built-in redundancies and backup systems for flight control and signal transmission.
Hello again, DJI! Usually, DJI drones are some of the best on the market, but can they compete with drones that cost tens of thousands of dollars? Yes, actually!
The DJI Matrice 30T is when this hobby brand talks serious business. It can endure hot, cold, and wet environments, making it ideal for emergency search-and-rescue work. Also, its thermal imaging can be seen alongside its regular camera footage on a split-screen. Super cool!
It is even cooler that DJI’s site lets you see how much this drone costs! They have a contact form in case you want a demo/trial. That is A+ marketing and customer service. The Matrice 30T may be one of the most expensive drones, but they want you to try it before taking your money.
Expensive Drone #4: Sony Airpeak S1
This drone is designed with photography in mind because it is the "World's smallest drone that can carry a full-frame Alpha series mirrorless camera".
This drone can reach 55 mph which is ideal for photography and filming of extreme sports.
You may have noticed big names like Intel and Sony with hobby mainstays DJI and Autel. Sony has always been a big brand in photography and has made it clear that photography is the name of their drone game.
The Airpeak’s biggest selling point is a combination of its size and its ability to carry an Alpha camera. Okay—what’s an Alpha camera for the nonprofessionals in the room? Alpha is a line of Sony cameras, which are some of the best cameras in the photography industry. To clarify: this drone is meant to fly with another expensive camera attached to it.
But Sony’s Airpeak may be the worst-received drone on this list. First, it has a battery life of only 20 minutes—if you’re lucky and don’t have any payload. This reviewer also mentions poor signal strength and not flying the Airpeak as high or far as he would like.
If you buy this drone, you’re buying it to say you have one (Camp A), or you’re a professional photographer who wants to use a camera that you already own (Camp C). This is not a drone for hobbyists; it’s for photographers who already have a Sony camera, a Sony app, etc. Sony is smart enough to learn from its mistakes and improve on this model. If you’re in Camp B and looking for a drone that’s a good investment, hold your funds until Sony releases a better drone for its cameras.
Expensive Drone #5: Autel Robotics EVO II Enterprise
Autel drones are all about great digital imaging, and the EVO II Enterprise is no exception.
Along with exceptional 16x digital zoom, it has an adjustable aperture, a 48MP regular camera, target tracking, and thermal imaging.
Autel wants its Enterprise drones to be industry-only; like xFold, they require you to fill out a form detailing what industry you are in and what the drone will be used for. It is the drone of choice for public safety campaigns such as search and rescue and police searches.
Is it worth it? I don’t think Autel will let you down. Most reviews are positive. Anyone who wants to invest in the most expensive drone will probably be satisfied.
Buying Guide For Expensive Drones
You won the lottery—good for you! What kind of drone do you want to spend all that money on? (There are worse investments than these drones.) Before you click “buy now” on any of the options above, consider what you will be using your pricey drone for. That will narrow down your choices, possibly saving you thousands of dollars!
What Makes Drones Expensive?
The features that make drones expensive often relate to what that drone is meant to do. Remember, the most expensive drones have features used for high-tech filming, search-and-rescue operations, and other professional tasks.
Whether you’re flying a drone professionally or for fun, you want your drone to have a good camera. Drones like the Dragon X12 film big-budget movies and have camera quality to match. Some serious drones like the DJI Matrice 30T and the Autel EVO Enterprise mentioned above have both excellent-quality cameras and thermal imaging—great if you need to find someone trapped under the rubble!
Payload Lifting Ability
Payload lifting is important if you plan to use your drone for search-and-rescue, lifting professional cameras, or other tasks. A drone usually needs extra stabilizers and power to stay level while lifting objects, so a decent bit of engineering goes into drones that can lift heavy payloads. (Note: Please don’t lift animals, including fish, with the drones in this article. I have another post on drone fishing. I’d hate for your thousand-dollar drone to get wet!)
The control system on the most expensive drones should be both user-friendly and effective. Especially if you use your drone for emergencies, your connection shouldn’t stutter at all. But if your drone has unique features like thermal imaging, you want easy access to those! Again, this goes double for work scenarios in which lives may be on the line. You can’t afford to disconnect!
When you shop for the most expensive drones, you want them to last a while. Even with the best AI features, crashing your drone at least once is almost inevitable. Many expensive drones are made with carbon fiber to protect them. If you’re using drones in more serious situations, it helps to protect them against environmental hazards, too. Remember, these drones cost a lot of money; they’d better be able to last!
Warranties and Customer Service
What if something goes wrong with a drone you sold the farm for? You want some form of safety net. Look for drones that have a warranty, excellent customer service, or any form of guaranteed satisfaction. It’s your money; you deserve to get your money’s worth!
In drone-speak, “redundancy” is the short way of saying, “do it twice, just in case.” This is important for drones working under pressure; if one sensor gets bumped, it helps to have a backup! System redundancy is a sort of error-proofing in case a vital system gets damaged. Since the most expensive drones tend to be under a lot of stress, redundancy can only help.
Precision matters when it comes to buying the most expensive drones online! Believe it or not, I’ve flown some drones that land 6 feet away from where they should. That won’t cut it if you have to save someone from a burning building. It pays to get a precise drone for other reasons, but these are work machines and should do their job well.
Obstacle Avoidance and AirSense
Obstacle avoidance is a good feature of any drone. It lets you set your drone on autopilot without worrying about a crash. But some of these professional drones go the extra mile: they alert commercial aircraft to your drone’s presence. Now that’s a good investment, especially if you’re doing serious work!
While writing this guide, I noticed something: not only were many of these drones specialized, but some sites clearly did not want the general public to show interest in these drones. Some of them were tailor-made for specific tasks. This wasn’t just a paywall; these drones were straight-up gated. This is why I listed the sources on my prices.
Conclusion On Buying Expensive Drones
Part of what will determine if these millionaire drones are worth those big bucks is “why do you want this drone?” The Sony Airpeak is terrible unless you already have a high-end Sony camera to work with. The xFold Dragon X12 is a flashy model that should perform well, but information about it is so elusive that you’d better have something in mind. Breaking it down a little using our camps from before:
- Camp A (millionaires) —Buy whatever you want, but the Dragon X12 is easily the rarest drone on this list.
- Camp B (investors)—If you want to save up for an expensive drone with amazing features, but don’t have a specific purpose in mind, the Matrice 30T and Evo Enterprise will probably give you the most mileage.
- Camp C (professionals)—This depends on what you need for your job. If you need a Hollywood-grade drone, email xFold about your project; there’s no guarantee you’ll get the Dragon X12, but mention it and see what they say. The EVO Enterprise and DJI Matrice 30T were both designed to be excellent for many professional applications.
Which of the most expensive drones is right for you? I can’t decide that. But I hope this article helped you pick the best drone worth several paychecks!