At first we were all just excited to see photos from the sky, then drones added exceptional video from on high. Later on came panoramic photos and even full 360 degree cameras capturing amazing video.
You do need specialized hardware to capture 360 degree video, but all you need is a quality drone and some software to get those still shots. Join us for a quick look at some of our favorite 360 degree camera apps for drones.
Before you go looking for fancy, and potentially expensive, software, be sure your drone does not already have the photo taking abilities you are looking for. The first apps on our list are the default manufacturer apps, meaning you are already good to go. After that we’ll explore alternative apps.
How does a drone make a 360 degree photo?
If you are new to how these things work, a 360 degree image is almost always a stitched together collection of smaller images. Google Photos has been stitching together your images to make larger panoramic images for a couple years now, as an example.
You can manually take a collection of images and lay them out in photo editing software, but that’s not what we want at all. Let’s instead focus on the tools, apps and software that do all the work for you.
From the get-go, you can explore 360 cameras that actually take an image of a sphere of its surroundings in one shot. We have the Insta360 in house ourselves, it’s pretty slick, but it really excels at video and more for ideally lit situations with photo subjects fairly close in.
We’ve flown the Insta360 a few times, it’s super light-weight and small enough most any drone can lift it. Of course, it’s not really made for standalone recording, it was built as an attachment to your phone or tablet.
Manufacturers like Autel Robotics have solutions tailor made for their drones. Cameras built for 360 capture. In those cases, once again, your default software from the company will be your tool of choice.
Drone legal and safety
Sphere Panoramic with DJI Mavic Air, DJI Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 series
We’re not sure about other drones with legit 360 degree capture, but we know that DJI drones like the DJI Mavic Air do a great job of faking it. At least with images. Fire up your new drone, take to the sky, dive into the photo modes to find the various Panoramic modes available.
On top of the Sphere pano, there is also the new Asteroid Quickshot. Asteroid, again, fakes the 360 image by stitching multiple images together, but then dynamically adds it into a video.
All of these DJI drones shoot the panoramic modes fairly equally, but of course, the ones with the better cameras make better images. Hint, the Mavic 2 Pro is the best camera in the bunch. Check them out:
- DJI Mavic Air for $689
- DJI Mavic Air Fly More combo for $892
- DJI Mavic Pro $875
- DJI Mavic Pro Fly More combo $1,129
- DJI Mavic 2 Zoom $1,187
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro $1449
- DJI Mavic 2 Fly More kit $319
DJI GO 4 for DJI
The DJI Spark was one of the first DJI drones to bring a full sphere panoramic to the table. Sphere mode captures multiple images and stitches them together into as close to a full actual sphere as the drone can get. Just remember, the DJI Mavic Air above does the same thing, but with more modes and an improved camera. For early adopters that have the DJI Mavic Pro, good news, your machine now has the same software capabilities for Sphere mode photographs.
While it is the software making the magic happen, if this drone can do it, surely your Mavic Pro can as well.
Parrot FreeFlight Pro
For the few of you flying a Parrot Bebop 2, don’t forget that Parrot’s software will take and create a panoramic photo, at least. There’s something nice about the software and hardware you already have doing the job you want next.
For many, Litchi is just an alternative app to DJI GO. It is, of course, an alternative, but it’s also a re-focus on the abilities of DJI drones. DJI chooses to put one many great camera modes into sub-menus in their interface, Litchi puts them up front.
Unlike DJI’s offering, Litchi has a price tag.
DronePan is a simple app that takes control of your drone for a minute, spins it around while taking 20 photos. This works with a selection of DJI drones for now. The software then takes a few minutes to stitch the images together. Panoramic sphere image pumps out and you’re good to go.
Allow me to say straight up, the nearly full-sphere images captured by Hangar software are pretty great. I was super excited to look at some of their work. But then when it came to do business, this Android user was left out in the cold.
If you are an iOS user, Hangar is a powerful tool to fly your drone, capture the images and then do more than just stitch it together in the end.
Update: Hanger is available for Android now as well – we have tried it on several Android devices, and it keeps crashing on us.
End of our loop
I hope you are as excited as we are to get a cool panoramic or full sphere out of your drone. The basic rules of camera quality apply, of course, the better your camera, the better the final sphere or pano will be.
Do you have a great panoramic or sphere photo from your drone? Please do link to it in the comments, we’d love to see it.