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  • Writer's pictureHammer Missions

How to Buy the Right Drone?


Credit: DroneDJI


Overview


DJI is undoubtedly at the top of its game when it comes to the drone market, releasing new drones on what seems like a quarterly basis in both the consumer and enterprise market.


But DJI is not the only manufacturer in the market and they have some healthy competition from the likes of Autel and Skydio to name just two.


So that begs the question, what drone do you buy, and what are the benefits over other drones on the market?


Here at Hammer Missions, we have decided to put together a buying guide for commercial drones in 2023.


In this guide, instead of recommending drone X over drone Y, we have summarised our approach on how decide between drones. Feel free to take our approach and build your own approach on top of it!




How To Make A Decision


What we will look at is a method of ranking the drones with a scorecard, a 'decision scorecard' if you will.


What this will enable you to do is take the specifications of each of the drones and score them against the other drones of interest, and evaluate each drone in a holistic and systematic manner.


Credit: DJI


We will take the specifications onboard for each of the relevant drones, these specifications would include be based on 4 main components:


1. Camera Quality

2. Drone Specifications 3. Software Support

4. Cost


We would then score the drones based on each of these components and also attribute a specific weight to each of the components. Use cases discussed in this article include - mapping missions, facade missions, solar inspections, however the approach can be used for any use-case in general.


So let's look at some examples and how we would narrow down the list of relevant drones.


Creating Your Scorecard


So how would you create your scorecard?


Step 1: Create a Pre-filter


Scoring 100+ commercial drones on the market on every single property is unfortunately not very scalable.


Therefore, we recommend narrowing down the list using a pre-filter to give yourself some more specific results depending on your use case or mission, let's look at a few examples:


For example:

OR

  • If the use-case is solar, eliminate all drones without a thermal camera.

OR

  • If the use-case is [insert your use-case], eliminate all drones [insert your pre-filter].


Choosing a good pre-filter is key. You want to make sure that you don't filter out more drones than needed, but at the same time enough drones so that you have a small enough list to work with.

So once you have pre-filtered your list of drones, you can look at creating a table with your desired use case and the drones that are relevant to that use case with the 4 main components (camera, drone, support, cost) mentioned above for comparison.


For our examples, we will be scoring each of the components between 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, depending on the relevance of the component to the use-case. Ideally, you want to use different points for different components to associate a level of importance to each component depending your unique situation and use-case.


Step 2: Create a Scorecard


These scores will be placed inside the spec box and a total added at the bottom, this is a way to indicate what drone may suit your use case best.


The table would look something like the example below:


COMPONENT

DRONE 1

DRONE 2

DRONE 3

NOTES


Score:




Score:


Score:


Score:

SCORE

'Winner'


Step 3: Rank all Drones


Finally, the last step is pretty obvious but ideally you should rank all drones by summing up their scores on each of the different components.


Now we have our scorecard and component-based approach detailed, let's have a look at some examples against real use cases.


Scorecard Examples


In this section, we will look at three examples of real-world use cases. These will be:

  • Mapping

  • Facade Inspection

  • Solar Inspection


Use-case #1: Mapping


Credit: Heliguy


SPEC / PILLAR

DJI Phantom 4 Pro

DJI Mavic 3E

DJI M300 - P1 Camera

NOTES

Camera

(Pts 1 - 10)

1" 20MP Mechanical Shutter




Score: 7

M4/3 20MP Mechanical Shutter




Score: 8

Full Frame 45 MP Camera Mechanical Shutter



Score: 9

Each camera has a slightly larger sensor than the previous. Both P4 and M3E have 20MP with the exception of the P1 at 45MP. A larger sensor size and megapixel contributes to higher quality maps. Learn more here.

Drone Spec ​

(Portability / Set Up Time)

(1 - 5 )

Small form Factor, would require case or backpack. Additional tablet or phone required. Short set up time




Score: 3

Foldable, very small form factor, includes controller with integrated screen. Very Short set up time




Score: 5

Large form factor, would require possible two man team. Includes controller with integrated screen. Longer set up time


Score: 2

Both P4 and M3E have short setup times along with being fairly potable one man operations. The M300 is a larger unit that will require a longer setup time.

​Cost

( 1 - 5 )

​No longer in production - 2nd hand price in the region of ~$700


Score: 3

​~$3500






Score: 4

​~$20,000






Score: 2

This is entirely budget dependant

Software Compatibility

( 1 - 5 )

Requires separate tablet, Supported by Hammer Missions and DJI Go.




Score: 2

Android based OS on controller. Supported by Hammer Missions and DJI Go



Score: 4

Android based OS on controller. Supported by Hammer Missions and DJI Pilot 2



Score: 4


Both M3E and M300 have integrated controllers with the Android OS giving, no setup or additional hardware required.

SCORE

15

21

17

​DJI Mavic 3E


💡Important to note here that we gave the drones the scores based on our level of importance for each component, however this might be different for you! We are not suggesting that the DJI Mavic 3E is the best drone for mapping in all scenarios. However, what we are suggesting is that depending on how much importance you give to each component, you might end up with the DJI Mavic 3E as the natural choice for drone mapping.





SPEC

DJI M300 - H20T Camera

​DJI M30

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

NOTES

Camera

(1 - 5)

​1/1.7" 20 MP Zoom CMOS / 1/2.3" 12MP Wide CMOS / Thermal Camera


Score: 4

​1/2" 12MP Wide CMOS / 1/2" Zoom, Effective pixels: 48M



Score: 4

1" 20MP CMOS






Score: 3

Both M300 and M30 have multiple lenses included in their spec, where as the M2P only has one.

​Drone Spec (Portability / Set Up Time, other)

( 1 - 10)

Large form factor, would be difficult in built up areas. Includes controller with integrated screen. Longer set up time




Score: 4

Medium form factor, foldable and reasonably fast to setup.

Large screen controller, no additional hardware required




Score: 7

Foldable, very small form factor, optional controller with integrated screen / additional hardware required. Very Short set up time


Score: 8



Depending on how close you need to get to the facade, it might be advantageous to have a smaller drone.

​Cost

(1 - 5)

​~$20,000






Score: 2

~$10,000






Score: 3

​No longer in production - 2nd hand price in the region of ~$1000


Score: 4

If the budgets are constrained, you might want to award points between 1-10.

Software Compatibility

(1 - 10)

Android based OS on controller. Supported by Hammer Missions.




Score: 8

Android based OS on new large screen controller. Supported by Hammer Missions.



Score: 8

Requires separate tablet, or optional Android based controller. Supported by Hammer Missions.


Score: 8

M300 and M30 have android based controllers, the M30 jumping ahead here with the large screen.

SCORE

18

22

23

DJI M2P

💡 Important to note here that we gave the drones the scores based on our level of importance for each component, however this might be different for you! For instance, if your facade inspect is not in a built up area, you could choose to award less points to the M2P in the drone specification component.


Solar Inspection


Credit: DJI

SPEC

DJI M300 - H20T Camera

DJI M2EA

​DJI M3T

NOTES

Camera

( 1 - 10 )

​1/1.7" 20 MP Zoom CMOS / 1/2.3" 12MP Wide CMOS / Thermal Camera



Score: 8

1/2” 48MP Effective Pixels CMOS / Thermal Camera




Score: 7

1/2-inch 48 MP, Effective pixels CMOS / 1/2-inch CMOS, Effective pixels: 12 MP Zoom / Thermal


Score: 9

​All units have radiometric thermal cameras which is ideal. The M3T makes it easy to take RGB+thermal images all at the same time.

Drone (Portability / Set Up Time)

( 1 - 5 )

​Large form factor, would require more planning on logistics. Includes controller with integrated screen. Longer set up time


Score: 2

Foldable, very small form factor, controller with integrated screen. Very Short set up time




Score: 4

Foldable, very small form factor, includes controller with integrated screen. Very Short set up time




Score: 4

The smaller drones have a very quick set up time in comparison to the larger M300 meaning less time on site.

Cost

( 1 - 5 )

​~$20,000


Score: 2

~$6,000


Score: 3

~$5000


Score: 4

​If the budgets are constrained, you might want to award points between 1-10.

Software Compatibility

( 1 - 10 )

​Android based OS on controller. Supported by Hammer Missions & DJI Pilot.




Score: 4

​Android based OS on controller. Supported by Hammer Missions and DJI Pilot




Score: 4

Android based OS on controller. Supported by Hammer Missions and DJI Pilot.




Score: 4

Important to note if the supported software allows solar-specific configuration of mission parameters.

SCORE

16

18

21

DJI M3T

💡 Important to note here that we gave the drones the scores based on our level of importance for each component, however this might be different for you!


Conclusion


You can see from the example charts above that there is plenty to take into consideration when choosing what drone is ideal for your use cases and mission types.


In the examples above, we chose the compare only the portability in the drone specification, however other properties such as battery life / flight time and temperature tolerances can also be used as separate line items in the table. It all depends on the use-case and we recommend using properties that are relevant to the use-case.



Summary


We hope this guide has helped you understand how to figure out which drone is most suitable for your use cases and budget requirements.


To learn more about how to collect high-quality drone data for commercial mapping and inspection, please contact our team or visit our learning resources.


Hammer Missions is a software platform that helps drone (UAV) teams work with versatile & high-quality drone data for site surveys and asset inspections. Our goal is to help businesses cut costs and increase ROI by building operational efficiency in their drone programs.


Hammer Hub is a cloud-based platform where drone data can be processed and visualized in a full 3D environment. This data can also be annotated using AI to accelerate the annotation process, and it can then be shared with other team members or stakeholders within the organization.


If you haven't got a Hammer account yet and would like to try Hammer Missions you can get started with our free trial.


Questions for us? Feel free to reach out on our email below. We look forward to hearing from you.


- Team at Hammer Missions













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