For many people, buying a used drone seems like the best (and most affordable) option. Particularly if you’re planning to start a drone business, buying used equipment can be a great way to save money. After all, in order to get your business off the ground, you’ll probably be putting a hefty amount of cash into equipment, software and other general business costs.
How do you go about buying a used drone, though? Is it smart to just pick one up off of Craigslist? Does that drone listed on eBay actually work?
Unfortunately, many drone pilots have fallen victim to grifters and scammers by purchasing drones online. If you know where to look and how to go about the process properly, buying a used drone can be a cost-effective way to get your business started.
Here are a few tips on shopping for one:
In most cases, you probably don’t want to buy a used drone online. There are just too many things that can go wrong. Even if you’re buying from a legitimate source, images of the drone won’t always reflect its true condition. Just because it looks good in pictures doesn’t mean it will fly properly. There may be things that the pilot doesn’t even know are wrong with the drone, and you’ll want the opportunity to check it out for yourself before you buy it.
Avoid Craigslist and eBay (unless you live in a remote area where those are the only marketplaces available to you). If someone posts a drone for sale on a forum, do some research on the seller. Ask if anyone else has bought from that person.
Ultimately, however, buying in person is always a better option.
Buying a used drone in person gives you the chance to inspect it. Look carefully at the body for signs of stress like cracks and discoloration. There are certain triggers that should let you know if the drone has been mistreated.
Obviously, tiny cracks will be an indicator that the drone isn’t in tip-top shape. However, less noticeable signs like grass stains should also deter you from buying. If the drone has grass stains on its body (particularly near the propellers, this means that the drone has been flying with an uneven weight distribution. The smallest amount of unbalanced weight on the drone can cause deterioration over time. Also, check the tightness of the screws to make sure that drone hasn’t been flown with a wobbly frame.
Another thing you’ll want to look at is the motor. A well-functioning motor will show no signs of deterioration. The coils should have a fresh copper color with no oil build-up. You should be able to make them spin several rotations with only a flick of your finger. Additionally, make sure there’s no sand or detritus in the motor.
As any experience drone pilot knows, batteries require proper use and regular maintenance. If the batteries haven’t been properly cared for, you most likely don’t want to buy the drone. In addition to testing the batteries to make sure they work, ask how many times they’ve been cycled. Batteries that have been cycled over 40 times are not going to last much longer and you won’t want to buy them.
You’ll only want to buy a used drone if you can be sure there are miles left on it. After all, there’s no purpose in buying a drone that will die shortly after you purchase it. The best way to find out how many miles a drone has on it is to look at the flight logs. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to extract or read the codes where the flight data is sorted.
Luckily, you can read the flight data within the app that the seller used to fly the drone. If they’ll let you take a look at their app, you’ll be able to read the flight log right there. If not, you’ll either need to find a friend that can extract the code or continue your search for a used drone.
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