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.
DJI’s latest Zenmuse cam, the X5S, is a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera made specifically for aerial photography and cinematography. It shoots in 5.2K at 30 frames per second (or 4K at 60), takes 20.4 megapixel stills, and boasts a ridiculously wide ISO range of 100 – 25,600. As an added bonus, this rig is cradled inside a vibration dampened 3-axis gimbal, so your footage comes out silky smooth no matter how crazily you fly.
The GPS systems in autopilot drones are what allow them to have the autopilot capabilities they do. Without them, hands-free flying wouldn’t be possible. GPS systems make it easier to fly longer ranges without losing control. Autopilot drones are some of the most stable drones on the market which is why professionals love them. They can capture smooth and clear footage for anyone to enjoy.
Any drone is going to be a handful when you’re first learning to fly it, but the makers of drones in this price range largely take the novice pilot into consideration with features that make the UAVs easier to handle. A feature called headless mode (which we cover below) helps you orient the drone, while multiple speeds enable you to start more slowly and gradually go faster as you gain more experience and confidence. Another feature, called one-key landing, can also save the day (and the drone) if your flight goes completely sideways.
Once you have a GoPro hooked up and are ready to go, you can use the TTR Hero application to monitor your distance, altitude, battery level, and more. Follow Me, Landing, Return to Home, and Waypoint Groundstation are the included features. Interestingly enough, Waypoint Groundstation allows support for up to 16 Waypoints that are preset by you before flying, which is pretty neat.
It's clear from the shorter battery charge time, short flying time, and flying distance of forty meters or less, that the X11 is a drone built for smaller purposes. The forty-minute charge time is perhaps the X11's most convenient feature, as it makes it one of the drones with the shortest charge times, while also able to live up to a comparable battery life of models like the X5C and UDI 818A.
Despite the DJI Phantom 4 Pro being a few years old, it’s still one of the most popular auto-pilot drones amongst professional aerial photographers. The 1080p camera is great for capturing brilliant imagery. It’s larger than the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, and missing some of the extra camera features, but it’s still a solid professional autopilot drone. The Phantom has three flight modes that are easy to switch between. In Position Mode offers obstacle sensing, Sport Mode adds extra agility and higher speed. While in Sport Mode, the Phantom can reach 45mph speeds. Atti Mode is ideal for the most experienced pilots. It switches off satellite stabilization and hold’s the drone’s altitude, making for smoother footage. This a top choice for professional pilots.
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.