Lead camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H... See Full Bio
While DJI may be the first name you think of when it comes to drones, it isn't the only game in town. You can also look at models from Autel Robotics, Parrot, PowerVision, and Yuneec. Others have dabbled in the consumer drone space and exited quickly—GoPro pulled its Karma after a rocky launch and poor sales, and 3D Robotics tried to get in with the Solo, but also gave up the fight to focus on the industrial and enterprise spaces.
Because some drones can carry small payloads, such as still and video cameras, many photographers have added them to their equipment arsenal. For example, a wedding photographer can capture a panoramic or overhead shot by flying a camera-equipped drone over the wedding location. An amateur filmmaker can create pro-like crane shots and close-ups by using a drone with a stabilizer.
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.
To gauge flight performance, we put the drone through a number of tests to see how the manufacturer’s claims hold up. First we take it to a local football field and see how fast it can clear 100 yards, then do some calculations to get an objective reading on speed in miles per hour. After that, we do a similar test to assess ascent and descent speeds, and all the while, we’re also taking notes on how responsive the controls are, how stable the craft is, how far it can go before it’s out of range, and what the overall piloting experience is like compared to other drones.
Another one of the great drone on this list with the beginner in mind, the UDI 818A HD Drone is electric powered, radio controlled, and equipped with six gyroscopes for stabilization. Although it can take a decent beating, it is recommended that this drone not be flown above asphalt or concrete, as it is still made of plastic, and can break if improperly used.