For many of us, there is more to the flying experience of drones than just the actual flying experience. Getting a drone to and from your launch site can be difficult with larger machines, keeping things small or folding them down for portability can help.
You may think of small drones when you think folding, and we wouldn’t blame you, but many large drones fold down as well. We’ll split the list into backpack-sized and smaller drones from the larger machines as we go. With that, this is our list of the best folding drones.
Why do drones fold?
I suspect you’ll skip over this paragraph, but for those that are not sure, there is only one major reason for drones to fold, for portability. We imagine folding could be a self-preservation technique for a drone that drops from the sky, but as it sits, reducing the overall size for transportation purposes appears the only designed reason to fold.
Before we begin
As always, it is important to understand safety and know a little about flying before you take to the sky. For the beginner or the seasoned pilot, here is our quick list of important things to know before you fly your favorite drone.
Let’s get started, first up are the drones that fit in an average backpack.
DJI Mavic Pro
Update: DJI has announced the new Mavic Pro Platinum, an upgrade to the Mavic Pro that improves flight time and reduces flight noise. We’ll have plenty more to say about this drone in the coming months, stay tuned.
The first drone on our list is a machine that is first on many of our lists, the DJI Mavic Pro. As we usually say, this is a compact and folding drone that is easy to transport, easy to fly and takes some of the best aerial photos and video for a machine under $1000.
The Mavic Pro is the sort of machine that satisfies the needs of most pilots. The beginner can fly it safely, the hobbyist can have some fun with moderate speeds, the camera fan can get solid photos and stable video and the pro can even use the Mavic Pro for production purposes, in the right situations.
Combining multiple control techniques, including mobile device and the DJI Goggles, the Mavic Pro is a great machine to take on the go. Transportation is easy in the DJI branded bag, or enjoy that the Mavic folds down to fit inside of your average water bottle sized bag.
Walkera is usually known around here for their racing drones, but we’d like to call your attention to the Walkera Vitus. We got to put hands on this drone at CES 2017, but did not get to fly. In hand, it is a small machine, especially when folded. It has decent build quality and a moderate set of functions and specs for the hobby flier.
Check out the Walkera Vitus for $799 at Walkera today.
As one of the most portable options on our list today, the ZeroTech Dobby is also the smallest we’re looking at. Portability is easy enough as is, but fold those propeller arms in to make a rectangle not much larger than your smartphone. Skinny jeans aside, Dobby will be a tight fit, but fit it will in your average pants pocket.
The ZeroTech Dobby satisfies the needs of several drone owners, from selfie machines to stunt drones.
Check out the ZeroTech Dobby for $249 on Amazon today.
The GoPro Karma is a bit of a stretch to get into your standard backpack, but it will fit. Of course, the drone comes in its own form fit backpack as is, so that’s probably your best bet for carry. Karma is on the larger size, especially when unfolded, and is quite heavy, but that is what it takes to produce stabilized GoPro camera footage from the sky.
Check out the the GoPro Karma with Hero5 for $1100 on Amazon today.
We’ve been looking at drones that fold in their entire propeller arms thus far, I’d like to sully our consistency for the Yuneec Breeze. Breeze does not fold in the propeller arms, it just folds in the landing gear. The propellers also fold in, making the Breeze almost the same size and portability as the DJI Spark.
We know this was a stretch, but at least they put in some effort to reduce your travel size.
Check out the Yuneec Breeze for $499 on Amazon today
A unique drone with one of the easiest to control tools around, the AirDog ADII is a decently light-weight folding machine to put a GoPro camera into the sky. ADII is still in active Kickstarter at the time of writing, the campaign closes on August 11th, 2017 and the machine will start shipping to backers right away.
The rest of us can look for the AirDog ADII on store shelves before the holiday season.
More fun before we go pro:
With the smaller drones covered, making portable machines even more portable, it’s time to talk about the drones that may be wildly non-portable without first folding them down.
DJI M200 series
Perhaps the most exciting machine not out yet is the new M200 series professional drone from DJI. Available in a few different configurations, the M200 series offers the ability to hang two cameras below and one above, and all that is in addition to the dedicated FPV camera.
Versatility makes this an unmatched machine for commercial users, from law enforcement to bridge inspectors. Of course, we imagine it will prove itself as competitor to the DJI Inspire 2 as well.
The DJI M200 series is not yet available for sale, but should be soon. Learn more about the drone here.
Launching just before InterDrone 2017, we got to go hands on, enjoy an in-depth interview and watch the new Yuneec H520 in action. More than just a drone, the entire flight package with the ST16s ground station remote control is a bit of a game changer, but we’ll talk about that more later. For now, just like the retail focused Typhoon H, the H520 drops down its propeller arms and the landing gear comes up, reducing the size of the drone for transport, and getting the legs out of the way of the camera while flying.
The Yuneec H520 will run you $1999.99 for the drone, then add on a camera or two starting around $1000 each.
DJI Spreading Wings
Perhaps the oldest machines on this list, the DJI Spreading Wings series are some of the largest drones around. Designed as very simple craft, the Spreading Wings series keeps flight controls fairly granular, and manual. Few autonomy features exist here, but you the versatility of the craft make them ideal for hoisting your own camera rigs into the air, or lifting one of the Ronin series gimbals.
The DJI Spreading Wings line is not for the feint of heart, and is all but discontinued, look to spend at least $3500 to get started.
While we await the final launch of the M200 series, allow us to explain that that ‘M’ stands for Matrice. If you are looking for the predecessors to the powerful M200, you can consider the M100 line or the current best M600 series.
Powerful and professional machines all, the Matrice lines focus on putting the power of flight at your fingertips and the versatility of camera rigs at your disposal.
Bottom line, the Matrice series is newer, more powerful, larger and more capable than the Spreading Wings series.
Check out the DJI M600 for $4000 on Amazon today.
FreeFly is more focused on professional camera gear than they are on drones, but that makes them ideal for those looking to put a camera into the sky. Available in 6 or 8 propeller setups, the FreeFly Alta is a massive and very powerful drone. Folding it down for transport is the only reasonable portability option.
You’ll be needing $12,000 to for the smaller machine, $17,500 to get started with the FreeFly Alta 8 today.
Is that folding? GDU O2
The new GDU O2 is not exactly a folding drone, but it certainly has the same goal for portability. Instead of folding in, the propeller arms slide directly into the body of the drone. The folding propellers tuck in, then you fold down the remote control and snap it to the drone. The combined package is ultra-portable.
The GDU O2 is not shipping just yet, but you can order today for $732.
Folding drones wrap-up
As you can imagine, there are plenty of drones out there that offer some sort of folding ability. If nothing else, we appreciate drones that have folding propellers. Machines like the DJI Spark prove that even bringing in the props greatly improves portability.
The larger machines, on the other hand, simply are not portable without folding. Unless you have a large truck to transport your machine, a compact size is key.
What is your favorite folding drone?