And now the bad news. You get what you pay for, and if you want an aerial video platform that can capture stunning footage, you need to be ready to spend some cash. Because drones are such pricey propositions, it pays to do your research before buying one. We've tested many of the ready-to-fly models on the market to determine what's important to look for, and the best models available.
The Anafi is a great drone for the price, but the biggest complaint I have by far is the lack of any sensors for obstacle avoidance. The only obstacle that this drone will stop you from hitting is the ground, that is, as long as you don’t hit a tree first. All of the other drones in this price range have some kind of obstacle avoidance, so why they couldn’t even add some IR sensors is beyond me.
The X5S is a micro 4/3 camera with interchangeable lenses. You have the choice of shooting RAW 4K video at 60FPS, 12-bit RAW 5.2K video at 30FPS, and if you like Apple Prores, there’s even Prores 4444 XQ support. The X7 is DJI’s flagship cinema camera. It shoots 6K video, and no that’s not a typo! It has a bigger super 35 image sensor with 14 stops of dynamic range, more recording formats, and better low light performance. DJI also offers 4 custom f2.8 lenses for the x7 ranging from 16mm to 50mm. If you’re into stills the X7 will even shoot 24MP photos.
The battery lasts for about 23 minutes on a single charge, has a range of 3.2 miles, and has some pretty cool features. For example, there is a lock on the motor starting if you are 15 miles, or inside that radius, of the United State’s White House. No other drone we’ve seen has this type of feature. The controller is 2.4GHz and looks like a console controller with a clip for your smart device to sync with the app.
If you look on the top, you’ll see a few little connectors. These connections allow you to mount either a ball shooter or a little grabbing arm. There’s one other thing you can do with this connector though, and It’s super cool if you’re buying this drone for your kids. It’s a Lego mount! There are a few Lego mounting points on the Mambo, so you can turn it into whatever kind of Lego ship you can think of! The only limitation is how many Legos it can carry.
The Mavic Air is not a foldable Spark. This is a drone with all of the features that make it worthy of the Mavic name. Aside from the main camera, there are two front facing cameras, two rear facing cameras, and two downward facing cameras. All of these cameras are used for obstacle avoidance and advanced vision positioning. Just like the Mavic Pro, you also get dual IMUs, GPS and GLONASS for more accuracy. With all of this data to process, the Mavic Air has many different onboard chips that are designed for specific tasks like video encoding, machine learning, flight control, battery management and more.
I haven't gotten a lot of practice with it, yet - the weather hasn't been very cooperative, and I'm nervous to fly it in windy conditions - but I managed to learn how to land it without crashing before the first battery died. Yes, first - it comes with 4 rechargeable batteries for the drone itself, and a charging cable for the display. You'll have to supply the batteries for the controller itself, but ... full review
To be sure, you don’t want to lose any of the fruits of your drone’s flight recordings, so it might be a good idea to have microSD cards with you for plenty of storage. You can choose an app-controlled drone if you’re interested in having access to advanced in-flight features and aren’t concerned with the shorter range that goes along with using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Regardless of which drone you select, you’ll want to consider getting a drone case to protect it against moisture, dust and impact damage.
For kids 8 and under, we recommend the EACHINE E010 Mini. It’s small, the propellers are protected for added safety, and it’s only $21.99 which is almost disposable! For kids over 8 years old, there are many different toy drones to choose from, but we think the Parrot Mambo and Mambo FPV are the best choice, especially for education. With the Mambo, you get a versatile, easy to fly, Lego compatible, wifi controlled drone that you can learn to program on using Parrot’s SDK, Apple’s Swift programming language, or Tynker, a programming environment made for kids.
There isn’t much that the Inspire 2 CAN’T do. It comes standard with all of the features of the Phantom 4 Professional, but with a design optimized for performance and industry leading video features. It’s almost twice as big and twice as fast as the Phantom 4 (reaching speeds of almost 60MPH), and with it’s transforming design, the propellers will hardly ever appear in your videos. Additionally, the Inspire 2 comes with a dedicated FPV (first-person-view) camera so you can see where your flying at all times. With all of these features, you no longer have to blindly fly backward or sideways to get the shots you want.
If you’ve seen the Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro, you know they shoot 4K video at 30FPS. The EVO Goes one step further shooting 4K video at 60FPS. This is a great feature if you like capturing sports and action shots and slowing down the action. If it seems strange that a small company could come out with a drone that has a faster camera than DJI, that’s because it is. Personally, I think that DJI limited the framerate on the Mavic 2 so it didn’t fully cannibalize the Phantom 4 Pro, but nobody knows for sure.
Software upgrades have improved the steering and navigation, adding omnidirectional sense and avoidance via 10 sensors across the drone’s body. It also has 3D mapping features to help it avoid crashes. That, plus the promise of five years of software support, ensures a long-lasting product that’s worth the investment. Our reviewer Jonno loved the Mavic 2 Pro's amazing photo and video quality, and the easy to pick up and learn controls.
If you're flying within the United States, you need to take heed of FAA guidelines—or be prepared to face potential fines or jail time. There are no-fly zones set by the FAA, so don't take off if you're near an airport without notifying the control tower first. And, even if you're out in the middle of nowhere, don't take your drone above 400 feet. Most are set to obey these regulations out of the box, but controlling a quadcopter is just like driving a car—even if you missed seeing that speed limit sign, you're still liable to pay the ticket.
That said, price is a key consideration for most people, and luckily there are a lot of excellent budget options out there now for those that don't want to spend as much on their new toy as on a used car. Beyond that, there's camera integration and quality, as well as how compatible each drone is with the best drone accessories. We selected the best options across a wide range of budgets and use cases, to spare you some shopping headaches and get you flying ASAP.
You might not be able to spend so much on a drone like the Mavic Air 2, but its great collision-avoidance tech is why we made it our top pick. For a more affordable option, the Mavic Mini (8/10, WIRED Recommends) from DJI is also a great choice (and our previous favorite). It flies nearly as well as its larger siblings, though wind gusts that wouldn't faze the Mavic 2 Pro will ground the Mini. There's also no 4K video and no front and rear collision-avoidance sensors like you'll find in more expensive drones.
There are a total of eight obstacle avoidance cameras on the Mavic 2 and one IR sensor on the top for overhead obstacles. That means you’ll have a very hard time crashing this drone! Additionally, you can enable a flight mode called APAS where the mavic will go around obstacles as you fly instead of just stopping. APAS works while going forward and backward.
Battery life - Battery life is a factor that many drone manufacturers are still trying to nail down. Some drones can only fly for six to eight minutes, while more powerful ones can last up to 30 minutes. If you’re worried about the battery life, look for one with a “return to home” feature, which automatically directs the drone back home when the battery gets too low.
With a reasonable flight time of 30 minutes and a range of 11 miles, you’ve got a lot to work with in terms of setting up your shot and creating sweeping artistic videography. While larger than some of the other drones reviewed here, it’s able to fold and should fit in a large backpack. It’s easy to control and fly, with accurate obstacle detection and top speeds of 45 mph.
Flight speed on some models can reach 35 mph. You should use limited flight mode as a beginner to prevent crashes until you become more comfortable flying the drone at faster speeds. A fast maximum flight speed is a good feature to look for if you want to explore with the drone. It helps make up for the low battery life. Flight speed won't matter much if you use the drone for inspections and recording memories.
You get up to 9 minutes of flight time, have a 640x480p camera, and video capabilities that lack audio as there is no microphone. You can do flips in the air at the touch of a button on the transmitter, and there is a button that lets you share a video on social media instantly. The LED lights located at the center of each propeller and the headlight are pretty useful for flying at night, too.
It can take 4K videos at 30 fps and 60 Mbps data rate. The quadcopter has a speed of 22 MPH and its range is 2.5 miles. Video transmission is possible up to 4 km. It makes use of a brushless motor and has a button for auto-return to home. The camera is mounted on a three-axis gimbal stabilizer that helps it to take smooth videos and sharp photographs even while in motion.