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.
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.
While the Mavic 2 Zoom will still set you back £1,099, that is £250 less than its brother, which makes choosing between the two a tricky choice. While it lacks the one-inch sensor, 10-bit HDR video and adjustable aperture of the Pro, its image quality is still excellent and more than good enough for epic YouTube videos. That spare change could also be put towards a spare battery or a ‘Fly More’ bundle. Whichever way you go, the closely related Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are the best all-round drones you can buy right now.
The flying range is the distance the drone can go before you start to lose control of it. You’re not going to see a tremendous flying range with drones at this price, but there can still be considerable differences among models. These drones are generally able to fly from 15 meters to 100 meters or so. Buy a drone with the longest range you can afford to give yourself more flying and photo/video options.
Likewise, ensure that your device is equipped with headless mode, which is a cheater mode that allows you to treat any direction that the drone goes as forward so that you don’t have to worry about how to flip it around safely and control it back to your location after completing a flight. With headless mode, all you need to do is just push the joystick in the corresponding direction that you want the device to travel.
The included 3.7V 650 when fully charged, offers about 9 minutes of flying time, and you only need about an hour to refuel. If you wish to have the drone in action for an extended period, simply purchase additional batteries. With the controller, you have up to 120m of control range, but reduced to just 50m when you activate the FPV mode. Even with this, you can still conveniently take videos at reasonable distances.
For both DJI drones, it's not necessary to go into depth about the basic functions, like take off, landing and navigating. You pay a premium, but these are definitely the top drones in the sky both because of their ease of use and extra features. On one battery, the Mavic flew for 21 minutes, in many different modes, speeds, and altitudes. The Tap to Fly feature on the Mavic was the biggest disappointment. The remote screen is too vague to simply place your finger where you want to go.
DJI’s control system is also fantastic. The revamped DJI Go app puts all of the camera’s advanced controls right at your fingertips. Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO can be adjusted with just a few taps, and focus can be set by simply tapping on the subject. With a setup like this, you don’t even need prior film experience or piloting skills to get professional-looking footage.
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.
Most drones are pretty easy to fly, but the controls will be slightly different depending on what kind of drone you get. Camera drones are the easiest drones to fly, while toy drones can be harder (because of their lack of sensors and flying aids). To fly a camera drone, people usually use a controller with their smartphone attached to it. The smartphone will let you see a live video feed and all of the most important flight data you need. Some drones like the DJI Mavic Air, DJI Spark, and Yuneec breeze allow you to fly just using your smartphone.
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.
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.
There are various factors you should take note of when shopping for these particular machines. First, you need to check the control operating system to ensure that it’s easy and manageable to use. Basically, there are 3 main control functions you can choose from which include OPTI, ATTI, and GPS, though they all help in flight-stabilization and assistance they tend to do it in slightly different ways.