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.
Unlike all of the other quadcopters on this list the manufacturer, Blade, has a very strong pedigree in radio controlled aircraft and because of that, Blade uses the DSM2 radio frequency standard. This is a key difference when compared to all the other quads on this list because if you have a DSM2 capable transmitter, you can fly using that rather than a lower quality transmitter the company would throw in.
Nevertheless, no matter the dimensions of your craft it’s not permissible for hobbyist drone users to fly their machines over 400ft above the ground, plus you’re required to always maintain a clear line-of-sight with the machine at all times. Furthermore, it’s your duty to carefully inspect the device before each flight session to ensure that it’s airworthy so as to avoid unnecessary accidents. Generally, the best drones under 100 (over 50) weigh less than 0.55lbs, but it’s your duty to ensure that you fly responsibly.
For video quality, we shoot a variety of clips at various resolutions and frame rates, including the maximum available. We film high contrast and low light scenes, along with close-ups of people to evaluate detail and skin tones. Special automated modes like DJI’s Quickshots are also tested. These uncompressed files are then evaluated on a calibrated monitor, along with the drone’s still photos. Stills are shot at maximum resolution and, if available, in Raw. We check for colour, noise and dynamic range, and also look at other shooting modes like HDR and panoramas.
Yuneec also has a model with a Micro Four Thirds camera. Its Tornado H920 is a huge drone with six rotors and room to hold three batteries, giving it an unheard of 42-minute flight capability. Its CGO4 camera is essentially a custom version of the Panasonic GH4, a favorite of many a terrestrial videographer. It doesn't record uncompressed video like the Inspire 2, but it's less expensive.
Most still cameras are 5 megapixels or higher. Therefore, do not be fooled by the claims of HD for a camera when the manufacturer is relying on the resolution for still photos. It is true what they are saying but not the complete story. Having HD resolution for still images does not explain the possibility of also having a lower quality for video-image capture.