Temu, the Chinese e-commerce platform known for its shockingly low prices, rocketed into American consciousness with its splashy Super Bowl 2024 ad blitz. But can drone pilots trust this newcomer for buying drones? We at The Drone Girl donned our skepticism goggles and dug deep to see if Temu takes flight or crashes and burns.
Temu’s allure: rock-bottom prices and endless variety
Temu is an online marketplace that sells a range of products, from toys and clothes to, yes, drones. Operated by Chinese e-commerce company PDD Holdings, it sells heavily discounted goods which are mostly shipped to consumers directly from China. Temu lists dozens of drones at a fraction of the price you’d find at established retailers. You can conduct a practically-infinite scroll of Temu to find a long list of drones. Many drones cost under $50. Many, many more cost under $100.
Temu itself isn’t a manufacturer. Instead, China-based vendors post their goods on the site, which they sell and ship directly to customers. The direct-to-consumer shipping is one reason why the goods are so cheap. And let’s face it, many drone pilots budget-conscious enthusiasts. With that, Temu’s siren song is undeniable. But it also means that quality can vary.
Temu drones: how is the quality and safety?
Temu drones come from many, many different drone makers — none of which are big names. As of this writing, you won’t find a DJI drone or Autel drone on its website. In fact, not a single drone in my guide to the best camera drones can be purchased on Temu. For those specific brands, you’ll have to go to more established and reputable online sellers like Amazon or B&H Photo, or credible drone hobby retailers like GetFPV.
Temu drones come from companies that we’ve largely never heard of. With so many different makers, quality is actually quite difficult to control, and it can be painfully inconsistent. Drone Girl has never independently reviewed drones from Temu. We tend to avoid recommending products from obscure brands for reasons including that spare parts and support might be nonexistent.
As far as the Temu website as a whole? Temu lacks accreditation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) which isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own. That said, a high BBB rating is a good sign, so to not have one can be a red flag.
But it doesn’t stop there, as customer reviews across a range of products paint a mixed picture. Complaints range from shoddy quality to items never arriving, raising questions about product safety and reliability.
A 2022 Time Magazine article cited undelivered packages, mysterious charges, incorrect orders, and unresponsive customer service. Similarly, a 2023 TechCrunch article noted scammy listings, damaged and delayed deliveries, incorrect orders and lack of customer service.
Are Temu drones safe?
For what it’s worth, pretty much anything you’ll find on Temu is a toy drone. In general, toy drones — which are lightweight and limited in range — pose minimal safety risks.
Many drones sold on Temu even weight less than 250 grams. Drones under 250 grams are a big deal for a number of reasons that largely chalk up to a critical safety threshold. In the early 2010s, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asked a committee of aviation and drone experts to determine the minimum weight of a drone that recreational drone pilots should be required to register their drones, centered around the theory that higher-risk drones would need to be registered while lower risk ‘toy’ drones wouldn’t need to be. The committee employed complex formulas involving kinetic energy and terminal velocity to determine that 250 grams was a clear threshold for what constituted a safe vs unsafe flight.
Of course, any drone with spinning propellers is some sort of risk, and even ‘toy’ drones should only be given responsibly to children (e.g. used under adult supervision). But, it’s unlikely a toy drone could cause serious damage.
If you do buy a toy drone from Temu, prioritize those with safety features like propeller guards, like those seen on the Tomzon Mini Drone. Even better, look for drones with full propeller cages as seen on products like the HoverAir X1.
We do like cheap, toy drones
For what it’s worth, the Drone Girl team generally does appreciate the proliferation of cheap, toy drones. I always recommend novice pilots learn on a cheap practice drone. For starters, you’d rather crash your $20 Temu drone into a pool than your $2,200 DJI Mavic 3. And that’s not the only reason to start on a cheap toy drone.
Cheap practice drones are often more difficult to learn how to fly than expensive, higher-end drones that have automated control software that enables the drones to takeoff and landing. That’s a good thing. Just as you wouldn’t get in the driver’s seat of a self-driving Tesla without first learning how to drive in your mom’s old Honda Civic, right, the same goes for drones. Even if a drone can fly itself, be prepared in case you need to take control. The best way to do that is to learn to fly the hard way on a cheap practice drone.
Temu: skip or embrace?
For now, we’re still saying skip. While I like the idea of newbies getting their hands on a cheap, practice drone, there are also plenty of drones for sale on other sites like Amazon.
While Amazon has its own issues (and plenty of its toy drones aren’t exactly high-quality either), the company as a whole has a much stronger reputation. Other great reasons to buy drones on Amazon?
- Returns are easy: If you don’t like what you bought, Amazon sends you shipping labels to cover the shipping cost, or you can simply print back the returned items to the Customer Service desk at Whole Foods which can be even easier.
- Refunds are fast: Expect the money back to your account within 3-5 days of the return being processed.
- Shipping is even faster: Most orders arrive in 2 days. Some can even come in two hours.
- Deals are even better for loyal customers: Loyal customers typically can benefit from becoming an Amazon Prime member. Though Amazon Prime membership costs $139 annually, it comes with additional benefits like faster shipping (or coupons if you opt-out of fast shipping), free photo and video storage, access to deals on Amazon Prime Day, Prime Gaming and more.
- Potential to save with an Amazon credit card: As a Prime member, you’re eligible to apply for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card. The biggest benefit of that card is 5% back on purchases at Amazon and Whole Foods. Even better, the card has a $0 annual fee.
Sure, Temu has ridiculously cheap prices. They generally offer free shipping, too. But if you opt to buy a drone (or anything else on Temu), use caution. The risk averse have plenty of other places to buy drones from.
Have you shopped on Temu before? Leave a comment about your experience!