When Should You Upgrade Your Drones?

We truly live in exciting times when it comes to UAVs. Engineers, designers, and programmers all stoke the fire of innovation in the drone industry. Every day, there are new advances in AI software, payloads, and hardware. Now, it seems like only policy is holding back the future potential of drones. 

While the speed our industry is growing signals a bright future, there is one drawback. Just like we all saw in the heyday of the personal computer (and current cell phones), the technology you buy today may soon be eclipsed by something newer, shinier, and more exciting.

With some drones representing significant monetary investments, those in charge of UAV operations must ask themselves when to purchase and upgrade their drones.

On one hand, the quality of current commercial drones is now high enough that most UAVs will remain usable for several years. On the other hand, some older drone fleets are showing their age, surpassed by newer models with better cameras, battery life, and extra features.

So, the more difficult question for many operators is this: When is it time to upgrade your drone?

While every end user is different, there are a few common reasons worth upgrading your drone or drone fleet.

Let’s take a look.

New Use Cases

For many organizations, the introduction of UAV technology into their operations was for a specific purpose.

For the most part, drones are designed to support specific missions, as opposed to being jack-of-all-trades platforms.

As your organization begins to experience the benefits of UAV technology, there’s a natural tendency to investigate what other use cases drones can support. So, if you’ve been using drones to solve one issue, and find another job you’d like to use them for, it might be time to upgrade your drones. 

A perfect example of this is with Japan Infrastructure Waymark (JIW).

With over 700,000 bridges in Japan, JIW conducts infrastructure inspections using drones. Initially, JIW manually flew DJI drones for their projects.

But, as AI advancements in Skydio’s drones proved them better suited for bridge inspections, they upgraded to over 300 Skydio 2+ drones. Within one year of making the upgrade, their business grew 70X.

So, when deciding if it’s time to upgrade your drone, consider this first aspect. Upgrades are worth considering when the work becomes more technically challenging, or changes entirely.

Often, new use cases afforded by newer drones expand your business, or offers greater efficiencies which more than cover the cost of the upgrade.

Close up hands of Unrecognizable Trainer teaching by explaining about drone operations to student - Concept drone or UAV pilot training.
Related: Education vs. Automation: Why Drone Training Courses Matter (click image to learn more)

Upgrade Your Drones When It Simplifies Your Life

Another reason worth considering upgrading your drones is the improved user experience.

As newer drones are released, they often have significant software improvements over previous models. While some improvements are less noticeable, others represent changes that make life easier, particularly for the UAV pilot.

Just a few years ago, inspecting a cell tower with a drone relied heavily on the pilot’s skills. Avoiding collisions with the various parts of the tower as you flew a slowly descending spiral around the structure required real skill.

Now, some drones can have preprogrammed missions in them, conducting the same inspection with the push of a button. While it still takes plenty of training and practice to conduct properly, programs like DroneDeploy make life very easy for pilots. 

While your drone fleet may still be very capable, it may be time to upgrade if technological advances make life easier for your pilots and others.

The time and frustration saved through ease of life upgrades can sometimes even produce better data and lower costs.

Upgrade When It Makes Sense Financially

New use cases and simplified user experiences are great reasons to make a move.

But, are there other times it makes sense to upgrade your drone?


When it makes dollars and sense.

Drones represent capital investments. As such, many reasons exist why an upgrade makes a sound financial decision.

Of course, every organization is different, and various businesses will have unique financial structures. That said, let’s examine a few common financial reasons to consider an upgrade.

First, a good deal is hard to pass up.

As new drones are released, manufacturers and distributors often have excellent promotional deals to take advantage of. Drones may come at a reduced price in bulk, or have bundles with extra batteries and software licenses.

These promotions might be time sensitive, such as end-of-year sales. If you’re already considering new upgrades and the right promotion comes along, it’s probably time. 

Second, if your current fleet is aging but still has some value, you might want to make a move. Much like trading in your used car while it’s still in good condition, you may get the best return possible by making the move.

If this is the case, selling your legacy drones after getting an upgraded fleet is also good decision. Depending on what the market will pay for your old drones, your new fleet could cost you very little.  

Finally, depending on the nature of your organization, you could have funding that needs to be spent or lost. Government entities often run into this situation. If you have money this quarter for drones but not next quarter, upgrading your fleet can be a now-or-never situation. 

a man holding up two drones. There is a caption which reads "which type of drone is best for you?"
Related: Which Style of Drone Design is Right for You? (click image to learn more)

Key Takeaways

Depending on how you use your drones and what you need them for, upgrading your drone fleet could be a costly proposition. And, when deciding to make larger investments, there are always pros and cons.

When making your decision, look at both sides of the equation. Will an upgrade speed up your processes? Will it open up new use cases & expand your capabilities? Can you trade in your current drones for a reasonable price?

Or alternatively, can your current equipment still fully deliver the results you need? 

Deciding when to upgrade your drones can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.

And, when in doubt, you can always speak with experts in the field

So, which drone is right for you? And, how do you get started? Do you hire out or bring your drone program in-house?

At Consortiq, we help you find a better way with drones.

Whether you’re looking for training, consultation and program implementation, or simply want experienced pilots to fly your sites for you, we’re ready to help.

Ready to learn more? Just complete the form below to schedule a risk-free consultation!

Are you ready to find your better way?

Picture of David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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