When you think of a drone, you almost certainly think of a quadcopter or multicopter – with four or more propellers that allow vertical lift from any corner, and an integrated processor that keeps the machine at a wide level.
Even if you don’t have a good reason to justify buying one, you have to admit that drones are cool. Some are glorified technical toys, but most of the models we highlight here are suitable for use in imaging and cinematic applications of both small and large sizes. If you think you can use a flying camera in your next project, there is some good news – the technology has come a long way in a very short time. There are now models on the market that outshine earlier copiers in terms of video quality and stabilization.
And now for the bad news. You get what you pay for, and if you want an air video platform that can record stunning footage, you need to be willing to spend some money. Because drones are such expensive offers, it pays to do your research before you buy one.
What is the best drone on the market?
1. DJI Mavic Air
It’s hard not to love the DJI Mavic Air absolutely, the first foldable drone that can record stable 4K videos at 60 frames per second, but still fits in a backpack or even a jacket pocket. There aren’t many compromises when you agree to a battery life of 21 minutes. Our tests prove that the true flight time can only be 18 minutes, but that’s enough time for most people, especially if you buy the recommended Fly More Bundle with three batteries (it’s worth it).
The Mavic Air is small, fast and can do a lot of great tricks. It can detect moving objects, boomerang around them on a pre-coordinated path, and record spherical videos as if they would collapse on Earth to capture your ultimate drone self.
2. DJI Spark
The DJI Spark is the company’s most accessible drone. With its incredibly cool gesture controls that make you feel like a Jedi, and its multi-colored body wraps, it’s definitely more fun out of the box than many others on this list.
It’s easy to control with your smartphone, but it’s worth noting that this is the only controller you’ll have unless you want to buy a separate controller. It’s definitely affordable in terms of drones, but still we want a controller to be used.
3. Parrot Anafi
Parrot was no real competitor in the high-end video field until the arrival of Anafi in mid-2018, but it was definitely worth the wait. Instead of increasing prices and weight with sensors of questionable use (and the computing power they use to handle their data), Parrot leaves it to the customer to bypass obstacles very severely. In return, however, they have managed to keep portability and price manageable, which is supported by the fact that a large hard fabric zippered pocket is included, so you can photograph almost anywhere.
4. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
The Phantom was a revolutionary product, its earlier versions contained the first drone with a gimbal stabilized camera instead of requiring the user to own one. Its rugged body design means that while it is no longer the obvious choice for beginners or consumers (for whom folding products offer at least the same functionality), there is a strong application range for the occasional professional.
If you put the drone in the trunk of your car and don’t mind taking most of a special backpack (and not just a side pocket like the Mavic Air), the latest update to the Phantom Pro 4 is very tempting. Redesigned props for a quieter flight are definitely pleasing, and the new OcuSync radio system that enables 1080p video on the monitors is a plus (although it won’t work with the older controllers).
5. Ryze Tello
This microdrone – far below the likely minimum weight for registration – proudly proclaims to be “powered by DJI”. To support that, it’s not only a bit pricey for its size; it has a large number of software features and positioning sensors. With surprisingly good image quality and direct phone saving, it can give your Instagram channel a new perspective.
6. Yuneec Breeze
Some people will tell you that novice pilots have to cut their teeth on the bottom row of drones, but we think that’s nonsense. Why is that? Drones are harder and less reliable to fly, which means you are much more likely to crash and destroy. We think it’s a smarter idea to start with a slightly nicer drone with reliable, responsive steering, a good warranty and a design that’s easy to repair or upgrade.
With these goals in mind, Yuneec’s Breeze is a great choice for any greenhorn drone pilot. It is relatively cheap, but not so cheap that you are encouraged to fly carelessly. It also has a pretty good 4K camera on the chassis, and has an ultra-portable form factor that makes the transport, well, a Breeze.
7. Uvify Draco HD
Uvify’s Draco HD racing drone wins our choice for the best racing drone for a few different reasons, but the first and most important is that it is modular and customizable. This means that you are free to upgrade or replace any of the components (such as the camera, the motors, the video transmitters, etc.). Don’t get us wrong – this sucker is incredibly fast and agile, even in its stock configuration, but the ability to upgrade is crucial if you don’t want your racing gear to be obsolete in a year or two.
8. DJI Inspire 2
There’s a reason you can see DJI’s Inspire appear everywhere from movie sets to Enrique Iglesias concerts – it’s an animal. The Inspire 2 features some very impressive specifications: a controllable range of up to 4.3 miles, a top speed of 67 miles per hour, a top speed of 67 miles per hour, avoid forward obstacle, and all the stabilization and autopilot features you could ever ask for in a drone. But the camera is definitely the star of the show.
9. DJI Phantom 4 PRO Drone Quadcopter
The DJI Phantom 4 PRO Drone is one of the most powerful drones on the prosuments market with its four fast propellers, expert controls for detailed navigation and stability, and the drone’s five built-in obstacle sensors for advanced impact detection and safety.
While the Phantom 4 PRO has some of the best flight and navigation specifications, it also features a pro-level camera system with a wide one-inch shooter and 20-megapixel sensor to capture detailed, lifelike images at a glance. The system also features a brilliant video camera that has the ability to shoot in 4K with as much as 60FPS and ultra-low motion.
10. Skydio R1
Object tracking and collision avoidance systems are a nice incentive for most drones, but are only an alternative. The R1, on the other hand, has two cameras on each corner, two pointing upwards, two more down and the main 4K camera, combined to give its NVIDIA TX1 256-core processor a very complete picture of its environment.
There has never been a better time to buy a drone. That’s because the drones are housing top-notch 4K cameras and sporting portable form factors. That is, many of the best drones these days foldable for easy transport, so you can take them anywhere you go on your next adventure.