There are a few drones that have paved the way for all others on the market, machines that many people identify at a glance, or are what people think of when they think of the word “drone.” We believe the DJI Phantom line is perhaps the most iconic drone around, but it is hard to ignore the presence of the Inspire, the multitude of props on the Typhoon and the extremely popular folding design of the Mavic Pro.

For now, let’s first dive into the drones that everyone knows, and then we’ll explore the newer drones that have all but replaced these iconic beasts over the years.

Original iconic drones

DJI Phantom 3: a trend-setter

The DJI Phantom 3 was, no surprise, not the first Phantom drone on the market, but it was the active model when drones really hit the spotlight in the consumer market. Not only were Phantom drones popular at the time, but there were many similar looking machines that took to the skies as well. The latest Phantom drones are far superior in almost every way, but the overall airframe design remains the same.

DJI Inspire: Big, intimidating pro drone

dji inspire 1 drone

The DJI Inspire was one of the first consumer-accessible professional camera drones on the market. As a large machine with a big price tag, it got some attention, but the retracting landing gear is really what made it stand out. Not only is the ‘legs-up’ profile intimidating looking, but the assumption that it is hard to fly gave it some exclusivity. Once again, the newer Inspire 2 maintains mostly the same airframe, but is better in almost every way as well. And don’t let anyone fool you, if you can fly a Mavic drone, you can fly the Inspire 2 as well!

Yuneec Typhoon H: Six propellers

yuneec typhoon h 4k drone

If four propellers are good, six are better, right? There are certain advantages to having extra propellers, such as increased flight safety and the potential for improved stability in the sky. We must compare drones to cars now, your car has four tires, we assume, which is a reliable balance of efficiency for safety. Your car would be also be safer and smoother with six tires touching the ground. We’ll stop there, point is, Yuneec launched a series of hexacopters and they are all fantastic machines to fly.

Hubsan H111: Super nano drone

Hubsan H111 nano drone in hand

The Hubsan H111 was one of the first tiny drones to take off from living room floors across the globe. I can fit the drone and the remote in the palm of one hand, and that’s the glory of the H111, it’s a super simple drone, a toy-class machine that great for first time pilots, and for experienced pilots to keep up with their skills.

DJI Mavic Pro: The portability king!

The DJI Mavic Pro was the drone that inspired us to start covering drones. That’s right, the impact this compact, folding quadcopter had on the market was huge. Prior drones were expensive and intimidating, the Mavic Pro made a flying camera accessible, portable, and easy to operate. Many similar machines hit the market since, and DJI themselves have continued the Mavic line with nearly a dozen iterations in different sizes with ever improving cameras. The latest Mavic drones are our top picks for the best drones on the market, and it all began with the Mavic Pro.

Updates and replacements for the iconic drones

With no rhyme or reason, here are a bunch of newer drones that were inspired by the iconic originals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are iconic drones the best drones?

In most cases, the iconic drones are no longer the best drones you should be buying. They may have been the market leaders in their time, but newer machines have outpaced older drones in many ways. The DJI Mavic Mini, for example, is a more capable aircraft, with a better camera, than the first few generations of Phantom drones. Considering the Phantom drones hit the market at around three times the price, it’s easy to see the value of the newer machines. However, the best Phantom drone is still a superb machine, the best Mavic drones also offer superb value for the money, and the Inspire 2, despite its age, is still one of the very best drones on the market.

Should I buy an older drone?

The short answer is always that if a drone meets your needs, and is priced right, it does not matter how old it is. Many older craft are still superb flying platforms, they just won’t offer the latest in features and sensors, and will likely have a lower quality camera than some would hope for. If you do not need these things, take the Phantom line of drones as your example, the overall airframe has changed very little over the years, proving there is nothing wrong with the ‘old’ airframe.

Should I keep my iconic drone as a collector’s item?

This is a tough question, we’d like to believe that drones, like cars, will eventually raise in value. However, our best advice is to think of drones like you do smartphones. They will have some residual value over the years, they may offer some nostalgia, and they will always be able to handle some of the tasks you throw at them, but they’ll always be a depreciating asset in terms of their value as a flying machine. I have plenty of old phones that make great MP3 players, that’s reason enough for me to keep them around, but I wouldn’t try to install a modern game on them, or take photos with them.

Will remote ID make my drone obsolete?

Sorry to say, but there is a good chance that Remote ID will force many drones out of the sky. The FAA has outlined what is required of the broadcast from your drone, and slated April 21, 2021 as the official start date for the new rules, but they have not yet approved any industry tech as being compliant. It is possible that the information already being broadcast from your DJI drone will be enough for the FAA’s requirements, or we might have to look at attaching a third-party broadcast module. We’ll know more soon, we hope.

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