If you’ve been following the drone market lately, you will have realized that most of the drone goodness in the world comes from China. Be it high-end DJI drones, mid-range drones such as the Cheerson CX-20, or even toy-grade quadcopters, almost all of it comes from China.That being the case, the thought of having to import a drone from China certainly will have crossed your mind. Even if you’ve never dealt with international import before, worry not, for it is a relatively straightforward process to import a quadcopter drone from China.
Check your country’s import regulations
In many countries, governments aren’t very open to drone import and the likes, for obvious reasons
This is probably the biggest problem that you will have to encounter in the process of importing a drone from China. In many countries, governments aren’t very open to drone import and the likes, for obvious reasons. Therefore, the first step would be to make sure the shipment passes through hassle-free from the customs department. You don’t want your beloved first imported drone to be seized/destroyed at the point of entry, do you?
Pick a reliable seller
Tales of people being ripped off by Chinese con artists aren’t news anymore. However, the key to a successful and legit purchase is to be aware of what’s going on. There are two main types of resellers that you can import your drone from. The first being marketplaces such as AliExpress, DHGate, etc., and the other being standalone online stores, such as Banggood, GearBest, etc.
Marketplace v/s standalone stores
To choose a reliable seller on a platform such as AliExpress/DHGate, you only have to go through the feedback records of the particular ‘shop’ you’re interested in. I’m not really a fan of DHGate, but have used AliExpress more than 50 times to import various products… without being ripped off. As a general rule, I make sure that the seller has at least 500 or 2000 rating points (for low value and high value stuff respectively), and also make it a point to chat with the seller before placing the order. You can also ask for a picture of the stock if you aren’t convinced.
Most online stores usually specialize in one kind of products, and are usually a bigger deal that you might think
On the other hand, you could also go with standalone online stores. Most online stores usually specialize in some kind of products, and are usually a bigger deal that you might think. These stores also often have direct relations with manufacturers, so chances of getting a lemon delivered in your mail are often lower than when you buy from a marketplace.
Some trusted online shops I’ve used in the past
A few trusted stores that I’ve dealt with in the past are:
- Banggood (tonnes of products)
- GearBest (great prices)
- TinyDeal (reputed store that’s been around for a while)
- Chinavasion (one of the oldest and trusted stores)
- Geekbuying (you will find ‘cool’ stuff here)
- EverBuying (GearBest sister store)
- Tmart (another trusted online store, in the business since long)
- …and a lot more
Select an appropriate shipping method
Depending on the value of the drone you’re importing, and the trust that you have on global post, you now need to make the tough choice between free shipping (global post) and expedited (courier [DHL, FedEx, UPS, etc] or EMS). In most countries, global post works just fine and you also save a lot of money. The two downsides to shipping via global post are: (i) long shipping duration and (ii) the parcels take a bit of a beating.
Chinese stores do package their shipments well, so point #2 shouldn’t really be a problem in most cases. However, if you’re importing a high-end drone (as a rule of thumb, say anything above $250) then expedited (FedEx is my favourite, DHL, UPS, etc work too) shipment is probably a better idea.
Patience is the key
I know how exciting importing a drone can be. However, you shouldn’t let the excitement turn into impatience — calling up the courier service every now and then might not be a great idea. You don’t want your parcel to fall in the scanners of the customs dept. It isn’t as if you’re doing something illegal, but its better to stay scot-free anyway.
This was how I think you could go about importing drones from China. Feel free to comment below the names of online stores you’ve dealt with, it’ll certainly help other users. Lets build a community of like minded drone-folk here!