Most autopilot drones come with high-quality built-in cameras. Some have extremely advanced and professional features like adjustable aperture, zoom in and out, and time lapses. These are great for aerial photographers and their careers. However, drone pilots that love flying for a hobby will enjoy many 1080p HD cameras. The autopilot drones fly so smooth making it easy to capture stunning and clear footage every time.
The drones we review are ready-to-fly models, so you can use them right out of the box. In most cases, you'll need to bring your own Android or iOS device to view the camera feed in real-time, but we've reviewed a few models that stream video directly to a remote control. We don't cover racing, industrial, or agricultural aircraft here—our focus is on aircraft intended for aerial imaging and videography.
Uvify’s Draco HD racing drone wins our pick 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’re free to upgrade or swap any of the components (like the camera, the motors, the video transmitters, etc.) you’re free to. Don’t get us wrong — this sucker is outrageously quick and nimble even in its stock configuration, but being able to upgrade is crucial if you don’t want your racing rig to become obsolete in a year or two.
You can pair the Tello with a third-party gamepad controller, but it’s easy enough to fly using the simple, intuitive Tello app. Thanks to its link with DJI (the Tello’s flight controller is made by the drone manufacturer), it’s a great ‘first drone’ for kids or adults looking for a learner model to practice on before moving to a bigger quadcopter like the the DJI Mavic Air.
DJI models currently dominate our top picks, and there's a good reason for that. The company is simply a few steps ahead of its competition right now, and has a product catalog with models at various price points, which take up a good number of the slots in our top ten. It made a huge splash with its iconic Phantom series, and now makes the best small drones we've tested in the form of the Mavic series.
There is a wide variety of full-featured drones now available for less than $100. While you won’t get the range or feature set of a more expensive option, an inexpensive drone is the perfect choice if you’re just starting out. It’s generally easier to operate than its pricier counterparts yet sturdy enough to withstand a variety of novice pilot mishaps. The majority also pack features that you might be surprised to find at this price point.
Many manufacturers mount cameras inside the body of the drone. This is acceptable for casual photography, but if you want more professional results, consider adding an external camera mount, or gimbal. Gimbals allow you to place your video or still camera in front of the drone body, away from the vibrating motor and rotors. Gimbals can swivel and pivot, providing you with additional control over your imagery.
Some people will tell you that beginner pilots should cut their teeth on lower-end drones, but in our expert opinion, that’s nonsense. Why? Crappier drones are harder and less reliable to fly, which means that you’re far more likely to crash and destroy them. We think its a smarter idea to start out with a slightly nicer drone with reliable, responsive controls, a decent warranty, and a design that’s easy to repair or upgrade.
Speedy and nimble, the Mavic Air is great fun to use beyond its image-capture abilities – though these are stellar, too. The 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor sits on a three-axis mechanical gimbal that reduces vibrations and ensures silky smooth footage, with 4K video at 30fps offering plenty of detail. It’s only in low-light that you’ll notice it struggling.
Unfortunately, this one doesn’t come with a controller, which means you’re forced to pilot Tello via virtual joysticks on a smartphone app: a control method that’s notoriously mushy and imprecise. The good news, though, is that Ryze built the drone with third-party peripherals in mind, so if you prefer to fly with physical sticks under your thumbs, you can pick up a GameSir T1d controller and link it to your bird. We think it’s well worth the extra $30 bucks!