This drone is built for better photos: the camera is farther away from the propellors to prevent interruption; the Phantom maintained near perfect stability even in 5+ MPH winds; and the various flights modes, such as Follow Me, worked great for getting interesting shots. We only flew the drone to 240 feet in the air, but we could have flown it much further if we had better visibility.
Finally, in the number five spot for this list is the Syma X11. For the drone enthusiasts who may feel a little intimidated by some of the larger drones, the Syma X11 R/C Quadcopter is a perfect alternative. This little R/C unit is 15 x 4 x 8 inches in its dimensions, and weighs just over fifteen ounces. It is a good drone for those who are more comfortable with other R/C units and want something that is easier to control with a price point that is reasonable.
Headless mode is another prerequisite feature for your dream device. Also referred to as cheater mode, the headless mode allows you to direct the drone to see any direction it goes as forward. Thus, you do not have to bother about flipping it around and bringing it back to your location at the end of a flight. Once the headless mode has been activated, simply push the joystick in the corresponding direction you want your device to move towards.
And now the bad news. You get what you pay for, and if you want an aerial video platform that can capture stunning footage, you need to be ready to spend some cash. Because drones are such pricey propositions, it pays to do your research before buying one. We've tested many of the ready-to-fly models on the market to determine what's important to look for, and the best models available.
It can take aerial shots with the altitude hold function, accessed by releasing the throttle. The drone hovers in place to get the shot. If you’re first starting out, you can operate it in headless mode to get a better idea of what it can do. It has a one-key return, and you can even perform aerial tricks and flips once you’ve mastered necessary controls.
If a drone in this category has first-person-view (FPV) capability, you can see what the drone sees. All except one of these drones require a smartphone (not included) to be able to view and record the video. The smartphone is held in a bracket and then it is connected to the controller. Some of these drones can be flown by only using the smartphone with a downloadable app installed that controls the drone.
The other primary consideration is how the photos and video are stored after you take them. Drones with WiFi capabilities will work with your mobile device, letting you see and store media real-time on your phone. For those that don’t, you’ll store the media on the drone, usually on a microSD card. If this is the case, know how much storage the drone comes with and whether (and by how much) it can be upgraded.
the first thing we do when we get a new drone is beat it up a little bit. We don’t kick it down the stairs or anything, but we’ll give it a few knocks, twists, and shallow drops to assess the build quality and durability. Does it feel flimsy, or does it feel like it could survive a crash landing in the park? We give each review unit a light beating (and usually a couple unintentional crash landings) before we give you a definitive answer on how durable it is.
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.
Another big addition is Spark’s obstacle avoidance system. While the ability to sense and avoid objects is usually a feature reserved for larger drones, DJI went ahead and built one into the hull of the Spark. It’s not quite as robust as what you’ll find on the Phantom 4, or even the Mavic Pro, but it still serves its purpose, and helps you avoid crashes.
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.
The controller has an LCD screen that displays important information such as battery life, range, and trim adjustments. The acceleration power is also displayed in percentage form. The controller also has a return to home button. Press this and the drone flies back to you. This is not a feature commonly found on a drone at this price point. The 2MP camera on the F181 is of 720p resolution and can take images at a 1280 x 720 resolution.
A flight time of 15 minutes or more makes the DROCON Bugs 3 a very attractive proposition. It's not the easiest to learn, but once you've got the hang of it, performance is excellent. So why isn't it in our best five? It's designed to carry GoPro action cameras (or similar). If you've got one, it's worth the investment. If you haven't, it's an expensive toy.
The Altair AA108 is durably built and will not break easily. You can count on a solid flight time of around 10 minutes, a bit less when you’re running it FPV. However the 720p camera really works well and connects to your phone through WiFi. It’s easy to fly because it has 3 flight modes, 1 beginner, 2 intermediate and 3 advanced mode. It also has Altitude Hold which allows you to take your thumb off the control and the drone holds it’s own altitude, making it very stable because it’s not bouncing up and down as you try to maintain altitude!