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.
Since repairs are as easy as soldering a couple motors and the flight controller has proven reliable and capable, people have developed a few nice modifications for it. Modifications such as a chassis swap with lighter and more durable materials are fairly easy, even for those without electronics skills, and yield longer flight times as well as further improved handling.
The blade nano qx is the closest competitor to the Hubsan. Both of them are extremely popular for beginners, and both of them are loved by enthusiasts due to their modification capabilities and excellent flight characteristics. Repairs are easy, the motors have plug in connections so you don’t have to even solder if one goes out. The price on this one is a bit steeper than the others, running about $80 for a complete, ready to fly package, but you do get a more capable quadcopter.
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.
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.
Generally speaking, drones that cost less than $100 bucks aren’t worth your time. They’re flimsy, they lack advanced features, and they’re almost always squirrely as hell in the air. But Tello is different. Despite the fact that it retails for only $99, it boasts a boatload of high-end features and functionality. Under the hood you’ll find a 14-core Intel vision processing chip, flight stabilization tech from DJI, a 5 megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p HD video, and a battery that gets you 13 minutes of flight time.