Drones can be great tools for capturing 360 degree images, today we want to find drones with dedicated 360 degree cameras. These are the drones that forgo stitching multiple images together through software, instead using hardware to capture the shot.
Related: 360 degree camera drone apps
Believe it or not, this is going to be a short list. A very short list. Update: We haven’t been searching all that hard, but we do keep our eye out for drones with 360 degree cameras, thing is, it’s now July of 2020 and we know of no current, viable drone with an official 360 camera. There are some out there, but this tech is proving to not be popular from the sky. We will update this article again when a new drone shows up on radar, but for now, this is our last frequent update to this list.
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium
Autel Robotics has been flying around with one base drone for a while now. The X-Star Premium is a great machine, and they’ve been adding accessories, such as additional cameras, to enhance your experience. One such camera is a 360 degree shooter.
You’re looking at an orange drone that could be confused for a DJI Phantom drone, if you’re not familiar with the differences. You can fly it for fun, or for commercial purposes with the higher-end cameras.
Check out the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium for $1179 today. Watch for sales as low as $799 though. (Currently unavailable.)
Not 360, but fakes it
We said we wouldn’t talk about drones that create panoramic images out of multiple stitched shots, but we wanted to give you something to read here today. Many modern drones offer panoramic photos now, and some of those are full sphere shots. Here is a 180 degree shot from the DJI Mavic Air 2, for example:
While it is technically possible to take a group of photos shot from any camera to stitch together, here are some popular DJI drones that can do it all by themselves.
That’s all, folks. Seriously, unless I’m missing something from the major players in the drone market, the X-Star Premium is the only mainstream drone that comes with a native-built 360 degree camera. We’re just sad that that’s a drone that has been discontinued for a while now.
Good thing there are cameras you can attach to nearly any drone for this need.
Cameras for your drone
There is an advantage to having a 360 degree camera that does not need to attach to your drone to operate. That advantage is that it doesn’t need your drone. I am sure you can think of a few uses for a standalone 360 camera, and since we deal with drones around here, let’s talk about the rigs that easily go into the air.
We’ve talked briefly in the past about the brand Insta360. We visited them at the NAB Show 2017 to check out their Pro camera, pictured above, as well as their smaller mobile rigs for iPhone and Android. The Pro drone was recently approved by Google Maps as an official camera to create 360 images and video for the mapping service.
The early smaller mobile rigs were pretty basic, if I must be honest, producing images roughly the same quality as a smartphone from 2016. Good thing there are newer mobile cameras in their lineup.
Insta360 One R – Similar in size and shape to a GoPro, the One R is a modular unit that can convert to different shapes and offer different shooting options for all of your needs. It’s pretty cool! $480
Insta360 Go – A small pendant of a camera that can easily be worn on clothing, or attached to a drone. At just 20 grams, your drone will hardly notice it’s there. $187
Insta360 One X – More of a traditionally styled hand-held rig, the One X shoots a little bit better images than the One R, but is not modular. $950
Insta360 One – An early model, the One attaches to your Android or iOS device, or can shoot stand-alone. It lacks some of the stabilization needed to make drone video look good. $299 (used)
Your choice here!
I need your help. I’ve seen and used a number of 360 degree cameras, but I can’t think of any that would be appropriate to slap on a drone. The best cameras I’ve seen are simply too large and heavy for the average drone.
If you have a compact and lightweight 360 degree camera in mind, one that does not break the bank and offers good quality footage, please let us know in the comments below.
We’ll keep looking for more, we really like 360 video from the sky, stay tuned.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t 360 degree videos look good from a drone?
One of the main reasons 360 degree videos struggle on a drone is that drones are surprisingly violent in the sky. By that we mean that they are constantly making rapid micro adjustments to the speed of each motor, this causes pitch, roll, and even yaw, as well as plenty of vibration that many cameras cannot compensate for. Aside from that, a 360 degree camera performs better the closer the subject is to the lens, any object more than a dozen feet or so from the camera is going to be lost in the image. Solid for landscapes, not good at all if there is something specific you want to capture on film.
Are stitched together panoramic and sphere images any good?
They certainly are, which is why we believe there are very few 360 degree cameras made for drones. There is aftermarket software that can stitch things together, but we’ve seen fairly good results from the built-in options on newer drones. Remember, the better the camera is, the better the overall result will be.