The largest, strongest, fastest and most capable drones on the market are targeted toward the professional community. These are the types of machines that the movie industry puts to work, that commercial agencies use to inspect infrastructure and some impressive self-piloted drones that survey farmers’ fields. Like it or not, our favorite drones are the smaller consumer products that make up just a tiny portion of the overall drone market. Today is about the drones where the money is at in the industry.
You don’t have to fly a drone for work to enjoy these machines, but they do come with a hefty price. Join us for a list of some of the best commercial and professional drones.
We’ll proceed today with little rhyme or reason, I plan to lump together camera drones with transportation drones. Inspection drones will mix with drones that perform no specific task, all while we explore the best drones for commercial and otherwise professional use.
We originally thought we might approach this from a price perspective, making this a list of drones over $2000. Truth is, just like friends, great drones come in all sizes, and your professional needs may differ from other pilots around, so we have no price limits here today.
You can fly these drones at home for fun, but please remember that if you are being paid to fly, you need to have your Part 107 licesnse in the United States. We’re working on our content, our drone pilot training, or you can hit up our preferred training provider Drone Pilot Ground School.
DJI Inspire 2
Update: DJI has released the new Zenmuse X7 camera, upping the game to 6K video recording. Enjoy interchangeable lenses and the best camera experience from DJI, short of the Hasselblad branded shooter.
DJI blew us away with the Inspire 2, a high speed flier with the best camera capabilities on a drone today. 5.2K video resolution exceeds that of most high-end DSLR cameras, never mind competing drones. The dual pilot system adds versatility in a professional capacity that any movie maker or news team can put to use.
The Inspire 2 is a drone that any enthusiast can enjoy as well, with similar flight modes as most other DJI products today. We believe the Inspire 2 can be put to use for aerial photographers, whether amateur or pro, or any other application that might benefit from high-speed maneuverability with a powerful camera.
Yuneec Tornado H920 Plus
From our Best camera drones list
Yuneec produces relatively large drones, with the 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 Yuneec Tornado H920 for $2,884 on Amazon today.
DJI Matrice line
From our Best camera drones list
There are several drone frames in the Matrice line from DJI. Starting with the M100 series, designed for developers to make what they need and test ideas and parts. Followed by the new M200 series, that includes the most versatile camera mounting we’ve seen to date. Operate up to 3 simultaneous cameras at a time, with 4 possible mounting options.
Finally, the M600 series are the big ones. These are the payload kings in the Matrice line, able to carry heavy cameras for professional video shoots.
While we wait for the M200 series to hit the market, check out the big DJI M600 for $3,999 on Amazon today.
DJI Mavic Pro
From our Best drones for sale list
Update: DJI has announced the new Mavic Pro Platinum. The upgraded version of the Mavic rocks greater flight time and it’s quieter in the air. Stay tuned for more coverage on this new drone, it may have to replace the original Mavic Pro in some of these lists.
You didn’t think the big drones would hog the spotlight, did you? Here’s the thing about the Mavic Pro that we cannot say enough, it is the most versatile drone we know of. Folding down to a very easy to transport package, this is the drone anyone can take along almost anywhere they go. The camera capabilities are good, perhaps not great, but more than enough to produce professional aerial footage.
As one of the easiest drone to fly, the Mavic Pro also makes for a superb learning tool. We maintain that you should start out on a toy-class trainer, but after that, a Mavic Pro could be the drone to learn the best flight techniques for smooth video.
Mostly, it is the growing YouTuber space that can best benefit from the Mavic Pro. Vlogging is becoming a profession these days, having a simple to use tool for some epic video on a daily basis is key. The Mavic Pro can deliver.
Check out the DJI Mavic Pro Fly More bundle for $1,069 on Amazon today, or grab the drone without extra battery for $869. Regularly $999 and $1299.
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium
From our Best drones under $1000 list
Autel Robotics has a fairly simple drone offering, but don’t be fooled, it is a good one. As far as the X-Star Premium goes, it is a familiar looking drone that offers flight capabilities on par with most higher-end drones today. What makes the X-Star stand out for us is the available camera modules, commercial drone pilots can quickly swap between zoom lenses, Flir infrared scanning and 360 cameras.
Check out the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium for as low as $1049 on Amazon today. This is still a good drone, but it sold for $800 for a long time, it’s a tough buy at the new price.
Safety first, learn before you fly:
We’ve been wanting to get this drone on this list for a while now. We had a look at this machine in January, now it’s on store shelves and ready to rock. Based on the Typhoon frame, this hexacopter is designed for the commercial pilot. Interchangeable cameras are the name of the game, swap through a number of high-end shooters for various aerial needs.
Professional machines come at a cost, and the Yuneec H520 is one of the lower starting point machines in the segment. You’ll need $1,999 to get started, then around $1000 each for the cameras.
Update: Yuneec has added new value to the H520 by bundling Pix4Dcapture software.
Intuitive Aerial Aerigon MK II
From our Best camera drones list
If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it. A full blown rig from Intuitive Aerial can set you back $25000 or more, including Hollywood style monster video cameras. The idea of the Aerigon MK II is simple, put your camera in the sky. We’re not talking about mounting your phone, GoPro, point-and-shoot or even your DSLR, we’re talking about 15 lb professional camera rigs.
With an example rig costing a full quarter of a million dollars, the media team at BrainFarm shoot 4K commercials and more, and you can too, if you can afford it.
FreeFly Alta 8
Introduced on this list, also on our Best camera drones list
The FreeFly Alta 8 is a massive drone with a huge payload. Measuring almost 4 feet across, the Alta 8 can pack up to 26 lbs of gear, including the batteries and such – so only about 20 lbs of camera. While FreeFly promotes themselves as film enthusiasts, the Alta packs an optional top mount for your camera. We introduced this idea with the DJI M200 series recently, but FreeFly has had it for a time already. Commercial drone pilots will be able to inspect the underbelly of bridges with either of these options.
If you are looking for a little less payload and a smaller drone, the FreeFly Alta 6 is a hexacopter take on the same air frame.
There is a lighter Alta 6 as well, if this is too much, but drones of this caliber come at a price, look to spend about $17,495.00 on the FreeFly Alta 8 on Amazon today. The FreeFly Alta 6 is $11,995 on Amazon.
DJI AGRAS MG-1S
Introduced on this list
Not a friendly name for a drone, but this friend to farmers wasn’t really made to be flashy. The DJI AGRAS MG-1S hauls around a 10L tank, the attached precision spray system puts the drone to work flying a pattern over crops to deliver the necessary fluids to grow our food. Aside from minimizing trauma to the plants from foot traffic or tractors running over top, the farmer can get a new perspective of the health of their field while the drone does all the hard work.
The benefit to the DJI AGRAS MG-1S for any user is the advanced RTK GPS. Most of us are comfortable with GPS tracking our mobile phones or camera drones to within a foot or two, the AGRAS MG-1S is accurate to within a few centimeters. DJI also provides ground station software to best create routes and programs for your flight. If autonomous flight is your goal, this is a difficult drone to beat for ease and precision.
The AGRAS MG-1S will not fit in your backpack, however, as it measures nearly 5 feet across when fully deployed. The DJI AGRAS MG-1S is a custom order type of machine, you’ll need to contact them for specific pricing.
Griff Aviation 125, 300 and 800
Filed under: can’t fly that in the U.S. yet
Have heavy lifting to do? Griff Aviation drones are not exactly shipping to the U.S., but I can’t ignore them for their immense capabilities. Keep in mind that the FAA says your drone with payload must be less than 55 lbs take-off weight – the Griff 300, as their middle option, can carry almost 500 lbs and stay aloft for over half an hour.
Their model numbers represent their weight in KG. That Griff Aviation 300 weighs 75KG and can haul 225KG, so the 800 model has a total takeoff weight of 800KG, that’s over 1700 lbs. This, folks, is the big leagues.
Stay tuned for more on Griff Aviation through 2017 and beyond, they’re making some moves.
Autonomy: Atlas Pro
The folks at Atlas Dynamics have a take on your commercial drone needs, they want you to buy their mostly autonomous tricopter, the Atlas Pro. Combined with a fully powered and self managed dock, Atlas Pro can be set to fly itself, land itself and dock in out of the weather until it’s time to fly again. This hands-off autonomous approach is a little early for most markets, but at least we know that they’re ready to rock once the FAA releases them.
Related: Best drones of InterDrone
High speed flight, great battery life and a planned selection of camera options to satisfy your agriculture or infrastructure inspection, security and other needs. This well-built machine is one to watch out for.
Intel Falcon 8+
Intel’s Falcon 8 and Falcon 8+ have been flying the skies for some fun inspection projects around the globe. These are not the sort of drones you pick up cheap and fly in your backyard, but if you are serious about inspection services, or other high flying, high-end camera needs, the Falcon 8+ could be the drone for you. More than just a drone, Intel Insight is a powerful software package that takes your images from the sky and performs magic on them. Well, maybe not magic, but creating a full 3D map out of stills is fairly slick.
3D mapping is only the start, Intel Insight is designed to assist in the inspection process. The software is able to identify and highlight any changes of an object after you collect subsequent scans. At InterDrone 2017 we watched as the drone scanned the facade of a building, changes were then made, removing screws and lights, etc. The second scan was able to identify these changes. The idea is to automate much of the menial work, place that info in front of a human who can then decide to repair or ignore the real world object.
We do not have a price tag for the Intel Falcon 8+ drone, but we’ve heard the number $42,000.00 floating around. A small price to pay if you need these sorts of tools.
We’re not saying that being in the military makes you a professional, but, it sort of does, doesn’t it? If you are looking for something more than your standard camera rig or quadcopter, maybe one of our list of military drones can help.
Professional drones Wrap-up
That’s all we have for today, I hope you can see the value in the various drone options presented. If nothing else, I hope we’ve giving you a sense of the types of industries and workloads that drones are supporting today. We did not discuss passenger drones, nor did we get into law enforcement and military equipment – we tried to stick to drones that you can actually go to a store and purchase, even the ones that the average pilot can’t afford.
Is there a commercial or professional drone that you think should have been on this list? Which of these pro drones would you like to play with for a non-pro flight?
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