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The Insider Pick:
The humble drone has come a long way over the last few years. Even cheaper drones now offer excellent image quality, flying features, and other great tech. Of all the drones out there, the DJI Mavic Pro is our top pick, but we have drones in this guide that cost much less (and much more).
Drones are pretty cool. Sure, often you may not need one, but whether you need one or not, we think a household could always benefit from having a drone lying around. Whether it’s just for fun, or to use as a filmmaker, or to spy on your neighborhood.
Of course, they can get a little pricey, and before dropping the cash on a drone, it’s a good idea to think about exactly what you’re looking for. While normally you might have to do hours of research before buying, we’ve done all the work for you so that you don’t have to.
So what should you consider when buying a drone? Well, for starters, especially if you’re looking for a drone for filming purposes, you’ll want to think about video quality. Like any other camera, the footage that a drone can capture is only as good as the camera on the device, so resolution will come into play. You’ll have to consider how you can view that footage — whether you can live-stream it to a phone or computer, or if you have to wait and view it later once you have access to the SD card.
You also need to decide whether you want a drone that’s ready to fly out of the box (RTF) or a drone that you might have to assemble or buy extra parts for. Many recent drones are RTF, but some still require a little assembly, and if you’re not comfortable doing that, you’ll want to steer clear of buying one.
Next up is battery life. Drones are still relatively new, and they’re not able to fly for hours on end just yet. Some, in fact, can only fly for five minutes or so before they have to be recharged. The better drones available can fly for up to 30 minutes before needing a charge.
Last but not least is your level of experience when it comes to flying a drone. Unfortunately, this is a case of you get what you pay for. Cheaper drones are often harder to fly, while more expensive ones have auto features and landing features that make them easier to keep safe.
With all that in mind, read on in the slides below to see why the DJI Mavic Pro is our top pick, and why you should also consider the GoPro Karma, the Yuneec Breeze, the DJI Inspire 2, and the Parrot Mambo.
The best drone overall
Why you’ll love it: The DJI Mavic Pro is portable, relatively inexpensive, and it captures high-resolution 4K footage.
DJI is perhaps the most well-known and respected brand in the drone business these days, and for good reason. The company has long offered excellent drones with top-tier cameras that are easy to fly. The latest and greatest of these is the DJI Mavic Pro, which offers a 4K camera, is solidly built, and features DJI’s self-built video transmission system OcuSync, which is built to transmit high-quality video straight to your controller.
The drone doesn’t just offer an excellent camera and the ability to view streamed footage, it also has awesome flying features, like a decent flying time of almost 30 minutes per charge and a top speed of 40 miles per hour. It’ll also help you protect it from crashing with its front collision detection system.
Buying the DJI Mavic Pro is a somewhat big investment, but then again, drones in general are expensive. Compared to some of the other drones on this list, the DJI Mavic Pro is relatively inexpensive with its $950 price tag.
Still, most reviewers agree that for those interested in getting a high-quality drone, this is the best one to get. Digital Trends gave the drone 9/10, while Trusted Reviews took things a step further with a 10/10 score.
Portability is an important thing to keep in mind when buying a drone, and thankfully, the Mavic Pro is relatively small. It’s much smaller than most other drones on this list, and yet it still offers all of the features and top-quality footage you would expect from a top-tier device. Perhaps the only downside is that, while portable, the drone’s gimbal assembly is a little fragile.
Pros: Extremely portable, excellent camera, 4K video
Cons: Slightly fragile, still expensive
Buy the DJI Mavic Pro on Amazon for $950 (originally $999)
The best drone under $200
Why you’ll love it: The Parrot Mambo offers pretty decent flight controls and an included controller, but the best thing about it is the fact that it costs only $109.99.
Not everyone has a ton of money to spend on a drone, but thankfully those of you who don’t aren’t left out in the dark. Parrot has some excellent options for less than $200, the best of which is the Parrot Mambo.
There are a ton of things that make the Parrot Mambo a great option. While it’s cheap, it still has great auto flying features, including three different flying modes: Easy, Drift, and Racing. Even beginners can get used to this drone thanks to Easy mode, and you will feel like a pro within minutes.
The drone is also pretty versatile. You can use the included controller if you so choose, but you can also use the smartphone app to control the drone. Reviews suggest that both are pretty easy to use, but the controller offers a much better flight range.
Speaking of reviews, they’re pretty good. Trusted Reviews and TechRadar both gave the drone 4/5.
While the reviews were good, they did note some downsides. For starters, the battery life is pretty short, coming in at only eight minutes, and the image quality isn’t quite as good as the others on this list.
Pros: Cheap, easy to use
Cons: Low battery life, sub-par image quality
Buy the Parrot Mambo on Amazon for $109.99
The best starter drone
Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for your first drone, you probably don’t want to pay too much money, and that’s where the Yuneec Breeze comes in.
If you’re looking to get started in the drone world, you probably don’t want to spend a lot of cash, and you probably want a drone that will be easy to keep safe and sound. That’s where Yuneec steps in, with the Yuneec Breeze.
There are a number of things that make the Yuneec Breeze a great drone. The drone is small, light, and portable, which is awesome for those who want to take it on the road. That, however, doesn’t mean that it isn’t feature-packed. It offers a camera capable of capturing 4K video at 30 frames per second, and it can live-stream video straight back to your smartphone.
Beginners will want a drone that can practically fly itself, and thankfully, the Yuneec Breeze is pretty good at that. It has four modes: Orbit, in which it will fly around you; Follow Me, in which it will follow you; and Selfie, in which it will take a photo of you. Of course, you can also take control yourself, if you want.
Not everything is perfect here. With the absence of a dedicated remote, the drone relies on the app to be controlled, and it’s a little slower to respond than a controller would be. Still, you can pick up a dedicated remote for an extra $70 if you really want to. On top of that, the video footage isn’t stabilized, and the drone has a relatively short operating range. Last but not least is the fact that a charge only lasts around 12 minutes.
You would expect such trade-offs from a budget and beginner drone, and despite them, most reviewers consider the Yuneec Breeze to be a relatively good choice. PCMag gave it a “Good” rating of 3/5, while Digital Trends gave it a slightly better 7/10.
Pros: Compact, inexpensive, decent video capture, automatic modes
Cons: 4K footage not stabilized, smartphone control only
Buy the Yuneec Breeze on Amazon for $399 (originally $449.99)
The best drone with interchangeable cameras
Why you’ll love it: The GoPro Karma is a pretty good drone in its own right, offering an awesome remote for the experienced drone flyers, but perhaps the best thing about is that you can swap out the cameras for new ones.
GoPro may be better known for its standalone action cameras, but the company has also developed a few drones, including the GoPro Karma, which has the advantage of an ecosystem of interchangeable products you can use with it. That means, if a new GoPro camera comes out, instead of having to buy an all-new drone with that camera, you can simply swap out the camera itself. That’s good news for those of you who don’t want to invest an extra $1,000 every few years.
Unlike some other drones, this one is controlled completely by an included controller, which comes in a clamshell-type case and offers a nice, clear touch screen and twin-stick setup. The controller is relatively well-built, too, which is good news.
Most reviews think the GoPro Karma is a pretty good drone, too. Pocket-Lint gave it a 4/5, while Trusted Reviews and TechRadar stuck with a slightly more conservative, but still very respectable 3.5/5.
Of course, there are a few downsides to the drone. While drones from the likes of DJI are equipped with a ton of sensors to help you, GoPro has gotten rid of much of that, so you should probably only consider it if you’re a seasoned drone professional. It has a slightly shorter battery life of around 20 minutes, which is not what you would expect from a $1,000+ drone.
Pros: Swappable cameras, great video quality, easy to control
Cons: No obstacle avoidance, low battery life, expensive
Buy the GoPro Karma with HERO6 on Amazon for $1,199
The best film-making drone for professionals
Why you’ll love it: The DJi Inspire 2 is well-built and offers some great flying features, but the best thing about it is its high-quality video capture.
This is the second time DJI is featuring on this list and for good reason. The DJI Mavic Pro is a great drone, but the Inspire 2 goes a step further in its video-capture prowess. Make no mistake – this drone isn’t for beginners. It costs a whopping $3,000, but the result is pro-level video quality that should work for any filmmaker looking for a drone.
The DJI Inspire 2 goes a step further than 4K video with its 5.2K footage, and it also offers CinemaDNG and ProRes recording, as well as high-speed recording in the right modes. It also has a 360-degree camera, which could be pretty helpful.
Beyond video capture, the drone is pretty capable. The drone offers a spectacular build quality and features a ton of sensors for things like obstacle-avoidance tracking for up to 30 meters ahead. It has infrared scanners for detecting obstacles five meters above it, too, and it has terrain sensors fitted to the bottom.
So what are the cons here? Well, the main ones involve how expensive it is. Keep in mind, if you’re recording footage at such a high resolution, you’re going to need a pretty powerful computer to edit it. Apart from that, however, most reviewers agree that it’s an excellent option. Digital Trends gave it 8/10, while PCMag and TechRadar both gave it 4.5/5.
Pros: Excellent video capture, great build quality, lots of auto features
Buy the DJI Inspire 2 on Amazon for $3,000