7 deals where you can get a free or cheap drone (for non-profits, students and more )

Tons of schools, non-profits or research projects can use a good drone deal to help them use drones for good. Maybe they’re using drones to spray down cities to fight coronavirus. Maybe they’re Girl Scouts using drones to learn about STEM — and deliver cookies via drone while they’re at it.

So you’re here because you’re looking to get a free or cheap drone donated to your cause. While every cause has its merits, the harsh reality is, not everyone can pull the strings needed to get a free drone. I wish I knew the secret to getting free drones myself!!

That being said, here’s my guide to finding free or cheap drones! These 7 tips will get you a drone deal at way less than you would pay at full retail price:

If you’re a first responder or former/current military: Save 10% on Skydio 2+ drones

Made-in-Americafollow-me drone maker Skydio offers 10% off to eligible military service members, veteran or first responders. Purcahse through Skydio’s Military + First Responder discount program, and you’re entitled to claim $100 off any Skydio 2+ Kit that you purchase directly from Skydio’s website.

Learn more about Skydio’s Military + First Responder discount program here.

Look for contests and promotions with free drones involved

Plenty of groups are offering free drones as prizes for taking surveys, submitting feedback, winning photo contests, etc. So what are the best places to remain privy to drone-related contests? This site itself, right here at TheDroneGirl.com! We’re frequently tipping readers off to contests where free drones are at stake.

For example, A June 2022 AirVuz video contest promises a free Evolve 2 drone to the winner. Frequently, Skylogic Research has been known to give away free DJI drones as a raffle prize if you take their survey. Other promotions, frequently offered by DJI themselves, give you a chance to “try” out the drone before you buy it, such as this drone deal promoting a free DJI Mavic Pro, where you could get one for two whole weeks, completely free.

Rent a drone

Why pay $1,000 for a drone you really only want to use a handful of times, when you can pay closer to $50 to rent it for a day? Sites like Up Blue Skies Drones offer drone rental services. Typically you pay a set daily rental fee (often discounted if you rent for longer periods, like a week or month), as well as a security deposit. They ship it to you, and you get to fly it! Once you ship it back, you get that security deposit back.

Here’s a pretty common example of the types of deals you’ll find on Blue Skies Drones:

This one is a Skydio 2+ Pro Kit, going for $55 a day (or $275 for a week). Given that the Skydio 2+ Pro Kit otherwise costs, you’d need to fly it about 40 days to justify the full price to buy your own. Considering many people don’t actually fly a drone 40x, it might be more economical to pay per day of use rather than buy your own.

Save money by buying refurbished drones

Electronics stores and Amazon sell all sorts of refurbished gear, including drones. I recommend buying refurbished drones directly through DJI. Why? Every DJI Refurbished product is tested by DJI themselves and includes the DJI standard warranty (you can also get enhanced coverage through DJI Care).

DJI Certified Refurbished Products are pre-owned DJI drones that were returned. But that doesn’t necessarily indicate a faulty drone! DJI promises that each refurbished product has undergone full functionality testing, where any defective modules are replaced,  is put through a thorough cleaning and inspection process, is repackaged and placed into a Final Quality Assurance inspection before being offered for sale. The only real downside to buying a refurbished drone? It likely will have slight signs of wear, such as scratches.

Among the drone deals you can find right now on a refurbished product? The refurbished Spark is going for $279, vs. $399 for a brand-new one (that’s a 30% savings), while the refurbished DJI Mavic Pro is going for $799, vs. $999 for a new one (a 20% savings).

If you don’t mind not having the DJI warranty, Amazon often offers even better deals on refurbished products, including the DJI Mavic Pro for $737.

drone deal DJI Mavic Pro free cheap sally french the drone girl quark arctic watch wilderness lodge
If money is a big factor, then buying a refurbished Mavic Pro is typically a much wiser decision than buying new.

Seek out smaller drone companies for donations

While the major players like DJI get inundated with drone donation requests — thus you likely won’t have much luck with them — seek out smaller drone companies to help you with your drone-related request.

Related read: Meet DroneDeploy’s head of “Flylanthrophy” Samantha Salis

For example, drone mapping software provider DroneDeploy won’t be able to hook you up with a free drone, but they may be able to help you on the software side of things. The San Francisco-based drone software provider has done volunteer projects such as working with first responders after Hurricane Harvey to assist with disaster relief efforts in Texas, through its Flylanthropy program, which connects nonprofit organizations with its software free of charge so they can put drones to work for good. You can get more information, including contact info, about DroneDeploy’s Flylanthropy program here.

And my friends at online drone training program Drone Pilot Ground School offer free courses to students, granted they apply for and are accepted to their drone scholarship program (scholarships are accepted on an ongoing basis). They occasionally offer additional cash grants on top of free drone course access.

If you’re a student: Use the DJI Education discount to save 10%

Editor’s note: This program was discontinued in spring 2021, but the information is being kept here for record (and perhaps in hopes DJI will reinstate the program!

The DJI Educational Discount allows customers with a “.edu” email address and who successfully fill out DJI’s online form to get a coupon code (typically a 10% discount) on a select group of items from its online site.  The items available for purchase include everything from drones like the Mavic Pro, accessories like DJI Goggles and –for those who prefer shooting from the ground — the Osmo Mobile.

If you’re a non-profit: use the DJI Better-With-Drones discount for non-profits to save 10%

Editor’s note: Like the DJI Education discount, this program was also discontinued, but the information is being kept here for record (and perhaps in hopes DJI will reinstate the program!

 Don’t have a .edu address, but you’re a non-profit? DJI offers a similar drone deal program to its DJI Education discount called its Better With Drones Discount program. Fill out the form on DJI’s website here, and when your application has been approved, DJI will send you a discount code, typically 10% off as well.

If you’re a software developer, become a DJI developer to save 40%

Editor’s note: Like the DJI Education discount, this program was also discontinued, but the information is being kept here for record (and perhaps in hopes DJI will reinstate the program!

To be eligible for this discount you’ll need to put in a bit more work, but you’ll also get a lot bigger of a deal. DJI’s Research discount program offers people with a .edu email address AND who are registered as a SDK developer on developer.dji.com the chance to get as much as 40% off on SDK products. Get more information and apply for that program here.

Do you have any tricks for getting free or cheap drones? Leave a comment sharing your best drone deal below!

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