How Much Should You Budget for an FPV Drone?
You've seen the FPV videos, maybe you've been down to the flight field and met some of the guys who fly FPV drones. You are interested. You want in and you want to start flying yesterday!!! But,
How much is it going to cost?
You would think it's a simple question: how much do I need to pay to get myself a nice FPV setup and will give me a good experience? Turns out the answer is. well. complicated.
Recently, I posed this very question on the Rotor Riot Facebook page and no joke I got well over 100 replies. Some of the comments had over 50 replies just to the comment. At least one flame war broke out when someone suggested that you shouldn't spend more than $300 on FPV.
Some Background, Some Context…
So, here is why I even asked the question. I estimate that I personally have spent around $5,000 on this hobby in the past year (I started with toy drones last January 2017). That is too much money and it's mostly because I bought a lot of wrong stuff, had some failed builds and basically didn't focus on one thing. But, I learned a lot in this process.
Last week I decided to do a thought experiment: if I lost every single FPV item, what would I buy knowing what I know now to get back in the air. I figured new pilots would want to know this list, because they could get to the “right” setup but avoid the $5,000 learning curve that I went through.
I got some backlash on the $1,500 budget that I suggested, so I decided to think it over. To be honest, I suggested FPV goggles that come in at $600 and while I still think they are the right choice they are responsible for half the budget. We can shave off $400 by choosing a solid box goggle. But, to go any lower than $1,000 we have to make serious compromises.
Here's the Thing
Hobbies like this are going to cost you in time and money - if you really are not willing to plunk down $1,000 then you might need to rethink this hobby. The people who are saying that you can get into FPV with $200 are forgetting all the details that really add up. Sure, you can buy cheap parts to build a drone yourself for $200. As long as you already have a soldering iron, solder, zipties, hardware, goggles, radios, heatshrink, chargers and the list goes on.
Then there are people will say that “if you do your research” and “buy stuff second hand” and so on you should be able to cobble together a build for no more than $200 or whatever the BS pricepoint that only exists in their head is. In the beginning, there are already too many hurdles to get over in this hobby to be spending all of your time chasing deals. Especially when it's equipment that you are not familiar with.
Best FPV Budget Advice
So here is best advice that you are going to get on setting an FPV budget: expect to spend $1,000 initially and then budget about $100 per month to keep you in the air. Even if you discover elsewhere on this website that you can fly a toy drone for only $250 or even $100 if you look hard enough chances are that you are going to want more.
$1,000 is what it's going to cost to get you the standard FPV equipment that everyone uses that will be easy to setup, troubleshoot and get help with. $1,000 will get you radios and goggles that will last for at least your first year. While you may be able to cobble together a setup for less than $1,000 I just have to warn you that there is a good chance that you will run into more problems and probably end up replacing stuff a lot sooner than you should.
But, What Do I Buy?
I'm in the process of putting together shopping lists for these budget price points: $100, $250, $500 and $1,000. These budgets put you on a specktrum of toy to hobby grade FPV drone setup. Basically, if you want to just try out FPV you might only spend $100. If you want to spend your weekends at the flight field you will want to budget $1,000 intially. $500 will get you an easy Ready to Fly experience but the equipment will need to be replaced if you really get into this hobby.
Here are the lists for each budget: