Do you want to fly? We’re talking about drones here folks and please allow us to answer the question, YES! With a fairly large selection of quality consumer grade drones to choose from, most all are of the quadcopter design, where do you start in your search for the best? Another question answered, right here! Join us for our rundown of the best drones for sale today.
Have a budget or specific need? Try these lists instead:
We will regularly update this list to reflect new and exciting drones on the market. This month we bumped the DJI Spark up the list. It’s one of the best all-around drones you’ll fly – It’s actually not the ‘best’ at any one particular thing, but it does so many things really well that the entire package makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, update this month is just some house-keeping. See you next month and stay tuned for our DJI Spark review, we un-boxed it already.
|Category:||Overall & Ease of use||Professional camera||Semi-pro camera|
|Top pick:||DJI Mavic Pro||DJI Inspire 2||DJI Phantom 4 Pro|
|Who should buy this drone?||The DJI Mavic Pro is our top pick as the overall easiest drone to own and operate. The compact, folding design makes for great portability, quick-release, folding propellers add to the process. Fly by mobile device, remote control and even via the DJI Goggles VR headset. Use all three together for best results.
If you are looking for one of the best drones you can get your hands on before you start getting into the professional range, this is as good as it gets. 4K video capture and more in a ready to fly in a moment’s notice package.
|The DJI Inspire 2 may not, actually, be the best professional camera rig around, but it’s certainly the best for under $10,000. Most higher-end ‘camera drones’ are very well equipped multi-rotor UAVs designed to carry a high-end camera, but the Inspire 2 comes with its own camera.
The DJI Zenmuse X5S is a 5.4K camera that is already being used in some Hollywood productions. Also, if you have the need for speed, the Inspire 2 can top 60 mph.
|The DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+ differ in that the plus model has a display built into the controller. That’s a 5.5-inch super bright display so you can leave your mobile device at home. The successor in the iconic DJI Phantom drones line is a well equipped flying machine with great battery life and a well appointed 4K camera.
Five direction obstacle sensing, a 1-inch camera sensor with mechanical shutter and more make for a powerful and reliable drone for those that want serious aerial video without the serious aerial video price.
|Category:||Selfie drone||Hobby drone||Toy-class|
|Top pick:||DJI Spark||Parrot Bebop 2||Hubsan X4 H107|
|Who should buy this drone?||The DJI Spark is an interesting machine, it is able to fly by mobile app, with the optional remote control, or fly entirely by hand! Tap the power button to take-off, hand gestures to fly and land. Designed for first time drone owners, the Spark is a fun and well equipped machine.
Owners of the Mavic Pro or other mid to high end drones may not be satisfied with the Spark, particularly if the max 1080p video resolution is below your current filming standards.
|The Parrot Bebop 2 is a light weight and easy to fly quadcopter. Thing is, the Bebop 2 is an older drone at this point, it has all of the bells and whistles, which is why we like it, but it sits in a league of its own. It comes off as a toy when compared to serious drones, packing the same features, just not the same quality, but when compared to toy-class machines, it offers way more than the next best has on deck.
Perhaps that is the appeal, if you are looking for a drone that can do it all, but masters none, you found it.
|The Hubsan X4 H107 line is made up of several drones. The base H107 is a $30 toy that offers no flight assistance, just go out and have fun. The top end H107D+ or H107C HD which have altitude hold mode, some flight modes and more for a bit more money.
All in all, there is a sub-$100 Hubsan H107 drone that can satisfy almost any pilot. Keeping in mind, of course, that they do not have much for cameras, these toys are just made to have fun.
More specific Best lists:
There are many things to consider when buying a drone, the first should be to decide what category of drone you are wanting. Considering price, capabilities, portability, flight time, accessories and more, perhaps one of the following categories can help you narrow down your search. If not, please continue on below to see our choices for best drones across all of the major flight categories.
If you are a resident of the United States, for drones larger than 0.55 lbs, you are going to need to follow a few rules of the air, including a pre-flight check of your gear. Incidents happen, but accidents are preventable with proper care and judgment. You’ll most likely need to register your drone with the FAA before you operate, and be sure to check your state laws before you fly.
Update: As of May 2017, you are no longer required to register your drone with the FAA. Registration is still available, and we think it’s worth it, but it is entirely optional at this time.
Now that I’ve been all doom and gloom, one of the best ways to prevent an accident is to purchase a drone that provides some autonomous flight controls. You do not need a fully self-flying drone, but some collision prevention and hover capabilities will make a world of difference for you. Just some of the items we feel necessary for a great drone, which will be available on most models in our list today.
Consider your flight space, weather factors and range capabilities before you head to the skies, but mostly, have fun.
Finally, it makes us sad to have to put a cap on the list of drones we include today. Not like we can only talk about 10 fliers, but, let’s be fair, there are a lot of amazing drones out there, we’re just going to narrow down to a best list that includes a few different categories. Further research should be done if you are looking for best in class for specific ranges of aircraft. We invite you to hit the comments below to recommend your favorite.
Do I need to register with the FAA?
Getting started guide
We spent a good deal of time with our first drone, an inexpensive machine that taught us the intricacies of flight, how weather affects our machines and to stay away from dogs. That’s another story though. We want you to get the most out of your drone, and the first step is understanding what your machine is capable of, where you can fly, how you can fly and what you should expect from the experience. Luckily for you, we have been through it all, we’ve got a few resources that you can check out before you take to the sky. I urge you to check them out, if you get just one safety tip, or one little thing helps you get better video from the sky, I’ll be pleased.
The science of our drone lists
We are asking a lot of you to just trust us when we offer our recommendations on drones. Allow us to briefly talk about what we’re doing here today. Not just today, actually, we employ the same techniques and philosophy for all of our content on the site. We want you to get the most of your flying experience, which includes safety, value for your dollar and accurately identifying the capabilities of each drone.
Hey guys, this is Jonathan Feist. As a little history, I have been an enthusiast of flight for many years. My youthful enthusiasm matured into something real when I began studying government issued Aviation Training material in 2007, eager to get my private pilot’s license, or better yet, to become a helicopter pilot. I flew my first real life airplane in 2009, the little Cessna you see above. (Thank you again, Ethan!) Sadly, that was also my last time at the helm of a passenger aircraft, for now.
Truth is, I have poor eyesight. Not bad enough to prevent me from flying, but bad enough that there were hurdles to overcome. I then went to college for computer sciences and forgot about flight for a while. Sort of. My programming class final project was a flight simulator. Nothing to speak of, but that passion for aviation was not lost.
What comes next for an aviation enthusiast not currently destined for a real pilot’s license? UAV, of course. RC airplanes, RC helicopters and now, the amazing machines that we affectionately call drones.
I respect anything that can fly, but I believe that a flight is not successful if it ends in anything other than a smooth landing. I will not apologize for being picky. I know that many of the drones we cover on the site are mere toys, regardless their price, but I still believe that if they are in any way dangerous or otherwise incapable of stable flight, they do not deserve to fly. If they do not deserve to fly, they do not belong on this site. At least this is my desired approach.
If I do not yet have your trust, given time, I believe I can earn it.
Enough about me, what you really want to know is how we choose all these drones for all these lists. We will get more scientific about this as we go, but at least let me explain what we look for in a drone.
It all begins with research. Just like you are doing now, we look through as many reports, lists and reviews as we can find on each drone we consider for a best list. Experience plays a large part at this point, while we may not have put hands on each and every drone listed, we have, at the very least, handled another drone from the manufacturer. In the case of DJI, for example, we’ve put fingerprints on each and every drone with the exception of their agricultural sprayer.
It may not be apparent for each and every drone, but we will never tell you that we’ve handled something if we haven’t, and we generally have plenty to say, additional content, on the machines we have flown.
With research and an idea of a manufacturer’s quality in hand, we seek to put hands on each drone. This is not always possible, but we try. If we can fly a machine, we greatly allow our opinion of the flying experience to influence our ranking of the machine. For instance, despite being very similar on the spec sheet in terms of controls, I will take the DJI Mavic Pro over the DJI Spark any day of the week. Not to belittle the Spark, it is a great machine, I just have had a much better and easier time flying the Mavic. If for no other reason, Ocusync with the DJI Goggles.
We put opinion away briefly when we look at the capabilities of a drone, and at the price tag. It is usually pretty easy to weed out the good from the bad, a thousand dollar drone best have high-quality 4K video recording, have autonomous flight modes and fly smooth enough to capture great video. A $500 drone can compromise on the camera and some autonomous flight modes, but it better still hover smoothly. For under $100, I do not expect a camera at all, maybe a little 2MP FPV streaming camera, but anything in this price range that claims ‘HD video’ or to ‘capture great photos’ has got to prove itself before I believe it.
Once we ascertain a general value for a drone, we basically just compare it to its neighbors. This can be unfair with the behemoth DJI dominating most segments of the market, but that’s just the way it is. We’re excited for other manufacturers to step in to compete heavily with DJI, we love innovation born of competition. For now, we are un-apologetically fans of DJI and have their drones at the top of many lists. Please respect that this is because we truly believe that each of these drones has earned its spot.
At this time, we are actively keeping up on approximately 42 drones from 34 manufacturers. This makes up our short list of drones that we promote across the site in many different categories. There are many machines that did not make the short list, we may never talk about them more than once. Be sure to keep tabs on our slowly growing Drone Manufacturers list for a more thorough look through the options that are out there, then compare to our best lists to see which we think are worth your money.
Buying or borrowing? There is a thing that happens when folks like us receive review units from manufacturers, the general conclusion is that we will unfairly favor these drones as a thank you for the loaner. Yes, they are loaners, we don’t get to keep review units. The funny thing is, we’ve purchased more drones than we’ve had lent to us, and the ones that have been loaners we’ve found reason to exclude from many of our top lists. Again, we may have to earn your trust, but I tell you now, our loyalty is to you, if a machine is not great we will say so. If you are a manufacturer with a drone to share with us, make sure it’s good and safe. I am reasonable about my expectations, I am patient, but I will be blunt and can be cruel if you lie about capabilities or if your machine outright fails.
Trade shows are the true value in our experiences with the drones you’ll see in our lists. These are opportunities for us to meet the people behind a brand, and an opportunity to see many drones together in the same place. We may produce little content from a trade show, but I assure you that the meetings will influence each list we produce from then on.
A final note, you will see links to purchase each of the drones we present in any of our lists. We do make a small commission off of these links if you purchase. These are generally going to be links to Amazon and to the best priced buying option that we can find. We respect your dollar. Please respect that we keep the site alive with these commissions. We do not want to put advertisements on the site. Your conscious effort to trust us is what keeps us going, and for that we thank you!
Let’s get started, these are the best drones on the market today:
DJI Mavic Pro
Update: DJI has announced the new DJI Mavic Pro Platinum. With improved flight controllers and modified propellers, this slick new color on the Mavic Pro shell only teases at the overall improvements of the folding drone. Stay tuned for more.
We were so excited for this drone that we used it for our October giveaway. Then again for December. Then we went to LA for a hands-on experience. DJI is a long trusted name in the consumer camera drone space, with popular rigs you’ll see throughout this article, monster professional camera rigs and now one of the smallest and most capable drones we’ve ever seen, the Mavic Pro.
Packing a 4K camera, 27 minutes of flight time to go up to 8 miles at a max speed of 40 mph and a 16,404 foot service ceiling, you’ll have no issues violating any number of FAA drone flight regulations. The remote has a range of about 4.3 miles as well, so you should have no problems with connectivity while it is in the legal line-of-sight flight range.
Video capture runs at 30 fps for 4K shooting, up to 96 fps for 1080p capture. Still images are possible as well, 4000 x 3000 pixels of resolution are captured from the 12MP sensor. Stability is the name of the game as well, DJI has top notch gimbals, including this 3-axis stabilizer.
Smart features include obstacle avoidance, gesture mode, ActiveTrack, TapFly and of course, you can fire the live view from the camera back to your supported phone or tablet.
Despite offering a similar, if less capable flying experience to the older DJI Phantom 4, the Mavic Pro is much lighter and folds down into one of the most compact drones on the market. If you’ve got big pockets, you’re ready to hit the road.
The DJI Mavic Pro may not be the best camera drone around either, nor the best racer or an affordable toy class unit, but in terms of overall usability, convenience and bang for the buck, you’ll be hard pressed to find better at the going price of $999.
You can grab the drone itself for about $799, but we recommend at least getting the base pack, including controller, for $999. The optional Fly More combo is well worth it, but will bring you up to $1299.
Announced in New York in May, the new DJI Spark is, perhaps, not the drone for serious drone pilots. Instead, the Spark is a smart approach at automating flight, putting the best drone video capture modes in the hands of any new pilot. Control the drone by hand, literally, with multiple hand gestures from take off to landing, or use the app from your phone or opt for the optional remote control.
We’re still working with our Spark, expect a detailed review soon, for now, let’s say that this is a fun little flying machine. Very portable, easy to fly and at the ready for very stable footage, or at least great selfie photos, Spark is about as affordable as DJI drones get and packs most of the best features into a tiny package. The new DJI Quickshot automated flight modes take that to the next level.
You can grab the DJI Spark alone for $499. You’ll be flying by hand gestures or with a connected mobile device, otherwise, snap up the controller, another battery and more with the DJI Spark Fly More combo for $699 today.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+
Update: DJI has announced the new Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian. For the most part, Obsidian is but a color, but there’s more to it, thankfully. Stay tuned for more.
Built on the same iconic quadcopter frame as the remaining DJI Phantom line, a design emulated by many competitors, the Phantom 4 Pro is a recently announced drone that takes putting a camera in the sky very serious. Packing a full 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture and 20MP stills, the Phantom 4 Pro packs high speeds, 5-direction collision avoidance and stable flight into a familiar package.
In addition to the enhancements over the Phantom 4 previous, there is a new controller available as well, packing it’s own 5.5-inch display in the Phantom 4 Pro+ package. Save your phone battery, fly using this 1000 knit brightness touch panel for up to 30 minutes of air time and collision avoidance up to 31 mph.
Check out the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+ for $1449 and $1799 today.
Yuneec Typhoon H
Also seen in our Best drones under $1000 list
Another drone with multiple configurations available, the Yuneec Typhoon H 4K is likely the option for you. The Typhoon H Pro is a lot more expensive and packs some intense camera rigging, the 4K is the competitor to the more popular drones on our list today.
Breaking our little quad-rotor rule, Yuneec has packed 6 motors on the Typhoon H, making for very stable flight and it even has retractable landing gear. 4K video recording with a 360 degree swivel gimbal and over 20 minutes of flight time make for a drone that compares nicely to the Phantom 4.
Check out the Yuneec Typhoon H 4K for $999 on Amazon today.
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium
Autel Robotics is an interesting company with a different approach to drones. That is, they look to pack the same sort of features and flight capabilities into a much more affordable package than some of the other players on our list today. We would be remiss to say that the X-Star and X-Star Premium do not look and act like a certain competitor, but we will forgive that early start approach for the modularity that they have on the go now.
We met with Autel at CES in 2017, we were impressed with their prototype fixed-wing (airplane) style fliers, but perhaps more excited for their new camera modules coming to the X-Star Premium. Large CMOS sensors, Flir infrared and 360 cams are all in the pipeline, turning the X-Star into a toy, commercial drone or camera drone all with a quick replacement of the camera.
Check out the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium for $780 on Amazon, and stay tuned for more coverage of the drone.
Walkera F210 3D
As seen on our Best racing drones list
As far as an out-of-the-box solution goes in the racing world, the Walkera F210 3D is one of the best drones you’ll find today. It packs both normal and night vision cameras, a sturdy build, simple customizations and a lot of thoughtful longevity features. Not saying it won’t break if you crash it, but they’ve done what they can to protect core components and make the rest easy to replace.
Best of all, you can tweak the flight characteristics directly, adjusting the flight controller to your specifications. The F210 3D is lightweight, we hear it is extremely agile, particularly in those demanding corners of technical courses, and is fast enough to keep up on the long straights.
We can’t guarantee you’ll win races with the Walkera F210 3D, but if any ready to fly drone purchase was going to get you there, this may be it.
Check out the Walkera F210 3D for $415 on Amazon.
Parrot Bebop 2
This is the update to the familiar Parrot Bebop 1, a light-weight drone from Parrot in France. Like the Parrot Bebop 1 before it, the Bebop 2 is a simpler drone design, packing everything but the arms and propellers into a cylinder, not unlike an airplane. The nose of the craft is a 14MP camera with fisheye lens for 1080p video capture. Fly by Android, iOS or Windows app, or grab the optional WiFi extending remote to get up to 2 km range. GPS auto-home mode will get your drone back to you, as long as it’s still airborne.
We’ve had the chance to review this lightweight drone, check out what John Velasco had to say about the Parrot Bebop 2.
You can get the Parrot Bebop 2 for about $428 by itself, or bundle with the controller and more for $632 from Amazon.
Hubsan X4 H107L
As seen in our Cheap drones guide
Getting into the ‘toy’ range here, the Hubsan X4 H107L is a fairly entry level drone, great for those learning to fly or that are not in need of a robust machine to take to the skies. Also great for those with very little time on their hands, this little drone has no camera, cannot carry the GoPro and has battery enough for about 5-10 minutes of flight, depending on how you push it. Hubsan has proven their drones to be of the utmost quality at their market level, building a brand that we have come to trust.
As a seemingly pointless drone as compared to the powerful camera and racing rigs on our list, we all have to start somewhere, and the Hubsan X4 for $33 on Amazon sounds like a smart price to do so.
Sticking to toy caliber drones, the Syma X5C is a solid offering for the beginning drone enthusiast. 8 minutes of flight can be had while flipping, spinning and capturing a bit of video on the 720p camera. There is even bright LED lights for night flight. Rather, check your local laws for night flight rules, but hey, there’s bright lights, so, it’s up to you.
Grab the basic model for about $40, or bump up to the explorer kit, with replacement parts and extra batteries for $60 on Amazon today.
Coming soon: AirDog ADII
We recently enjoyed a live demo of the now in Kickstarter AirDog ADII. This is a folding drone that travels nicely, but unfolds to be quite large, and thankfully so as it is designed to withstand high winds and speeds to track you and your action sports. In our demo, we rode a bicycle down a mountain biking path and the machine kept us mostly in view for the entire route. I was very impressed by this GoPro camera equipped flying machine and I think you will be as well. As I say, the Kickstarter is live now, shipping in the fall of 2017, and in stores for the holiday season.
DJI Inspire 2
I’m not going to lie, the spec list on this drone is longer than the spec list of my DSLR and car combined. Let’s shorten that down for you: on the DJI Inspire 2 (a professional drone) you get a selection of available cameras up to the highly capable 5.2K X5S camera mounted to an even more capable gimbal. Powerful motors provide speeds up to 58 mph across the ground with image and collision avoidance active, and about 13 mph in vertical lift. This is a big, heavy drone with now two hot swappable batteries, balancing out to about 27 minutes of flight.
The fact of the matter is, there is a very good chance that the best drone footage you’re going to see from here on out will be shot on the Inspire 2. DJI Demonstrated that live in front of us, and have a movie to share. I can ramble about how fun the event was, but the important part is that this is perhaps the most stable and capable drone you’ll find. With a going price of $3000 for the drone, or $6000 with remote, high end camera and accessories, it better be good.
Now available: Yuneec Typhoon H520
A drone we plan to put on a few lists, including our Yuneec Drones Guide
Update: It’s here! Yuneec is finally selling the H520.
As we were playing with the Yuneec Typhoon H520 at CES 2017, it became apparent to us that Yuneec is a serious player in the drone space, driven to provide top notch flying products. As well, they are on par with the top drone camera players on the market. The H520 swaps through Yuneec’s available camera modules with zoom lenses, infrared and more.
Orange for safety, the Typhoon H520 offers the best features found in the retail focused Typhoon H, they look and act similarly in the sky, but the H520 is tailored for commercial use with improved controls and connectivity for the next generation CGO-series cameras.
Stay tuned for more on the Yuneec Typhoon H520.
Now available, you can order the Yuneec H520 for $1999. New camera landed with the hexacopter, check out our announcement of the new drone to see what visioning systems are now available.
Coming very soon: Yuneec Tornado H920 Plus
Yuneec produces relatively large drones, with the Recently announced Tornado H920 Plus being one of the largest. This isn’t just for posterity, they’ve made it as large as they felt it needed to be to take your expensive camera into the sky for smooth, secure and stable video capture.
The H920 Plus is a recent update to the H920, a solid offering in itself, but the new rig offers a new camera option and better flight controls. It is so new, unfortunately, that it is not yet up for sale. For now, check out the original Yuneec Tornado H920 for $3500 on Amazon today.
Coming soon: DJI M200 series
As seen in our Best commercial drones list
Recently announced, and not yet up for sale, DJI has an intriguing new drone on their hands. The Matrice line of commercial and professional grade drones has long been the workhorse of DJI’s quad and multi-rotor drones, leaving many niceties to the retail drones like the Phantom and Inspire 2. Imagine combining the very best that the Inspire 2 has to offer into a heavy-duty configurable machine, that’s the M200 series.
All the best flight modes and safety features, heavy lifting with multiple camera options and configurations. We’re talking about mounting a camera on top to face upward, for things like bridge inspection. We’re also talking about hanging two cameras on the bottom, to shoot infrared and high-zoom at the same time. Sound hard to operate, no worries, one pilot can control the cameras while the second controls the drone through the dedicated FPV camera, just like the Inspire 2.
This may be priced out of range for most of us, but as far as commercial use goes, this drone is as sleek, powerful and feature rich as we’ve seen yet.
Learn all about the DJI M200 series drones here.
Best drones wrap-up
We are falling in love with drones, and we hope you are too. From the starter toy drones all the way up to multi-thousand dollar rigs, we will keep you in the loop, check back for updates to this list as new and exciting drones hit the market.
What was your starter drone? When you fly, is it primarily for fun, to race, or for photography?
Looking for something a little different?