The Mavic Air 2 (9/10 WIRED Recommends) is the drone that most people should buy. It's portable and lightweight, but it still manages to pack in a brilliant half-inch sensor for high quality images and video. Tons of automated features mean you can just fly and get the images you want, or shoot video and let the drone avoid obstacles and track your subject. You'll even get 60 frames-per-second 4K video—something that still isn't available in the more expensive Mavic 2 Pro—and Spotlight, a powerful automated flight mode pulled from DJI's pro-grade Inspire drone.
Looking for Hollywood-style shots without complex equipment and high operating costs? Well, then the Skydio 2 is a drone that you should seriously consider. With an advanced 45-megapixel obstacle avoidance camera system, it’s designed to take the heavy workload off the pilot. Intelligent flight modes allow it to zip through even the most complex terrain without losing sight of the subject.
It does include a camera, although not the greatest quality but still fun to play around with. This drone, like many others also has a headless feature, but also features an altitude hold function or hover which is something most of the less expensive drones do not have. This is especially useful when trying to learn how to hover. FPV is not possible with the small LCD display on the controller but it does give you some vital information about the drone during flight.
In any case, if you’re looking for an almost-ready-to-fly racing drone in 2017, the new Vortex 150 and Vortex 180 are probably the best way to go. The Vortex doesn’t have all of the beginner features, or the amazing HD video transmission system like the Connex Falcore, but it was made to be more of a pro race drone with better flight characteristics and a durable design.
The Mavic Pro 2 also has some serious appeal for pilots who make a living from aerial video and imaging. Its camera sports a 1-inch class sensor for higher quality photos, and it can record 4K footage with a wide or standard angle of view. It's a lot smaller than the Inspire too, appealing for independent creatives working without the support of a full film crew.
One really cool feature of the Mavic 2 is the bottom facing LED fill lights. This is something that you have to see in person to truly appreciate. These LED lights are like having a full size room light hanging from the bottom of your drone. These lights help the Mavic see in the dark when landing, but you can also turn them on and off manually from the controller.
A key part of our evaluation is testing out various flight modes, and putting the battery life to the test to see if it lives up to expected flight time and range. More advanced drones may have pilot assistance systems and the ability to perform advanced flight maneuvers, which is something we also test. If the drone includes a camera built-in we use it and evaluate the camera resolution, focus, tracking, frame rate, and other key features. Finally, we take a look at the price of the drone and compare its features to a competitor in the same range to make our final judgement. All of the drones we test are purchased by Lifewire; none are provided by the manufacturer.
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.