Do you want to fly? We’re talking about drones here folks and please allow us to answer the question, YES! With a fairly large selection of quality consumer grade drones to choose from, most all are of the quadcopter design, where do you start in your search for the best? Another question answered, right here! Join us for our rundown of the best drones for sale today.
Have a budget or specific need? Try these lists instead:
We will regularly update this list to reflect new and exciting drones on the market. This month we have removed the Phantom 4, it’s probably still worth buying, but the newer models bump it from the list. There are a few great price changes in the list as well, like the Yuneec Typhoon H down to $999. Finally, we added the DJI Spark to our ‘coming soon’ section – the new compact machine may not end up on our list, but we’re intrigued by the concept and excited to try it out to be sure.
If you are a resident of the United States, for drones larger than 0.55 lbs, you are going to need to follow a few rules of the air, including a pre-flight check of your gear. Incidents happen, but accidents are preventable with proper care and judgment. You’ll most likely need to register your drone with the FAA before you operate, and be sure to check your state laws before you fly.
Now that I’ve been all doom and gloom, one of the best ways to prevent an accident is to purchase a drone that provides some autonomous flight controls. You do not need a fully self-flying drone, but some collision prevention and hover capabilities will make a world of difference for you. Just some of the items we feel necessary for a great drone, which will be available on most models in our list today.
Consider your flight space, weather factors and range capabilities before you head to the skies, but mostly, have fun.
Finally, it makes us sad to have to put a cap on the list of drones we include today. Not like we can only talk about 10 fliers, but, let’s be fair, there are a lot of amazing drones out there, we’re just going to narrow down to a best list that includes a few different categories. Further research should be done if you are looking for best in class for specific ranges of aircraft. We invite you to hit the comments below to recommend your favorite.
We’ll be mixing together drones with cameras, tough drones for beginners and racing drones today. An argument can be made for creating separate lists, which we hope to do one day, for now, let’s focus on quadcopter or similar multi-rotor unmanned flying craft, regardless their equipment or purpose.
Let’s get started.
DJI Mavic Pro
We were so excited for this drone that we used it for our October giveaway. Then again for December. Then we went to LA for a hands-on experience. DJI is a long trusted name in the consumer camera drone space, with popular rigs you’ll see throughout this article, monster professional camera rigs and now one of the smallest and most capable drones we’ve ever seen, the Mavic Pro.
Packing a 4K camera, 27 minutes of flight time to go up to 8 miles at a max speed of 40 mph and a 16,404 foot service ceiling, you’ll have no issues violating any number of FAA drone flight regulations. The remote has a range of about 4.3 miles as well, so you should have no problems with connectivity while it is in the legal line-of-sight flight range.
Video capture runs at 30 fps for 4K shooting, up to 96 fps for 1080p capture. Still images are possible as well, 4000 x 3000 pixels of resolution are captured from the 12MP sensor. Stability is the name of the game as well, DJI has top notch gimbals, including this 3-axis stabilizer.
Smart features include obstacle avoidance, gesture mode, ActiveTrack, TapFly and of course, you can fire the live view from the camera back to your supported phone or tablet.
Despite offering a similar, if less capable flying experience to the older DJI Phantom 4, the Mavic Pro is much lighter and folds down into one of the most compact drones on the market. If you’ve got big pockets, you’re ready to hit the road.
The DJI Mavic Pro may not be the best camera drone around either, nor the best racer or an affordable toy class unit, but in terms of overall usability, convenience and bang for the buck, you’ll be hard pressed to find better at the going price of $999.
You can grab the drone itself for about $799, but we recommend at least getting the base pack, including controller, for $999. The optional Fly More combo is well worth it, but will bring you up to $1299.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+
Built on the same iconic quadcopter frame as the reamining DJI Phantom, line, a design emulated by many competitors, the Phantom 4 Pro is a rreceently announced drone that takes putting a camera in the sky very serious. Packing a full 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture and 20MP stills, the Phantom 4 Pro packs high speeds, 5-direction collision avoidance and stable flight into a familiar package.
In addition to the enhancements over the Phantom 4 previous, there is a new controller available as well, packing it’s own 5.5-inch display in the Phantom 4 Pro+ package. Save your phone battery, fly using this 1000 knit brightness touch panel for up to 30 minutes of air time and collision avoidance up to 31 mph.
Check out the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+ for $1449 and $1799 today.
Yuneec Typhoon H
Also seen in our Best drones under $1000 list
Another drone with multiple configurations available, the Yuneec Typhoon H 4K is likely the option for you. The Typhoon H Pro is a lot more expensive and packs some intense camera rigging, the 4K is the competitor to the more popular drones on our list today.
Breaking our little quad-rotor rule, Yuneec has packed 6 motors on the Typhoon H, making for very stable flight and it even has retractable landing gear. 4K video recording with a 360 degree swivel gimbal and over 20 minutes of flight time make for a drone that compares nicely to the Phantom 4.
Check out the Yuneec Typhoon H 4K for $999 on Amazon today.
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium
Autel Robotics is an interesting company with a different approach to drones. That is, they look to pack the same sort of features and flight capabilities into a much more affordable package than some of the other players on our list today. We would be remiss to say that the X-Star and X-Star Premium do not look and act like a certain competitor, but we will forgive that early start approach for the modularity that they have on the go now.
We met with Autel at CES in 2017, we were impressed with their prototype fixed-wing (airplane) style fliers, but perhaps more excited for their new camera modules coming to the X-Star Premium. Large CMOS sensors, Flir infrared and 360 cams are all in the pipeline, turning the X-Star into a toy, commercial drone or camera drone all with a quick replacement of the camera.
Check out the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium for $780 on Amazon, and stay tuned for more coverage of the drone.
Walkera F210 3D
As seen on our Best racing drones list
As far as an out-of-the-box solution goes in the racing world, the Walkera F210 3D is one of the best drones you’ll find today. It packs both normal and night vision cameras, a sturdy build, simple customizations and a lot of thoughtful longevity features. Not saying it won’t break if you crash it, but they’ve done what they can to protect core components and make the rest easy to replace.
Best of all, you can tweak the flight characteristics directly, adjusting the flight controller to your specifications. The F210 3D is lightweight, we hear it is extremely agile, particularly in those demanding corners of technical courses, and is fast enough to keep up on the long striaghts.
We can’t guarantee you’ll win races with the Walkera F210 3D, but if any ready to fly drone purchase was going to get you there, this may be it.
Check out the Walkera F210 3D for $348 on Amazon.
Parrot Bebop 2
This is the update to the familiar Parrot Bebop 1, a light-weight drone from Parrot in France. Like the Parrot Bebop 1 before it, the Bebop 2 is a simpler drone design, packing everything but the arms and propellers into a cylinder, not unlike an airplane. The nose of the craft is a 14MP camera with fisheye lens for 1080p video capture. Fly by Android, iOS or Windows app, or grab the optional WiFi extending remote to get up to 2 km range. GPS auto-home mode will get your drone back to you, as long as it’s still airborne.
We’ve had the chance to review this lightweight drone, check out what John Velasco had to say about the Parrot Bebop 2.
You can get the Parrot Bebop 2 for about $410 by itself, or bundle with the controller and more for $469 from Amazon.
Hubsan X4 H107L
As seen in our Cheap drones guide
Getting into the ‘toy’ range here, the Hubsan X4 H107L is a fairly entry level drone great for those learning to fly or that are not in need of a robust machine to take to the skies. Also great for those with very little time on their hands, this little drone has no camera, cannot carry the GoPro and has battery enough for about 5-10 minutes of flight, depending on how you push it.
As a seemingly pointless drone as compared to the powerful camera and racing rigs on our list, we all have to start somewhere, and the Hubsan X4 for $33 on Amazon sounds like a smart price to do so.
Sticking to toy caliber drones, the Syma X5C is a solid offering for the beginning drone enthusiast. 8 minutes of flight can be had while flipping, spinning and capturing a bit of video on the 720p camera. There is even bright LED lights for night flight. Rather, check your local laws for night flight rules, but hey, there’s bright lights, so, it’s up to you.
Grab the basic model for about $40, or bump up to the explorer kit, with replacement parts and extra batteries for $60 on Amazon today.
DJI Inspire 2
I’m not going to lie, the spec list on this drone is longer than the spec list of my DSLR and car combined. Let’s shorten that down for you: on the DJI Inspire 2 (a professional drone) you get a selection of available cameras up to the highly capable 5.2K X5S camera mounted to an even more capable gimbal. Powerful motors provide speeds up to 58 mph across the ground with image and collision avoidance active, and about 13 mph in vertical lift. This is a big, heavy drone with now two hot swappable batteries, balancing out to about 27 minutes of flight.
The fact of the matter is, there is a very good chance that the best drone footage you’re going to see from here on out will be shot on the Inspire 2. DJI Demonstrated that live in front of us, and have a movie to share. I can ramble about how fun the event was, but the important part is that this is perhaps the most stable and capable drone you’ll find. With a going price of $3000 for the drone, or $6000 with remote, high end camera and accessories, it better be good.
Coming soon: Yuneec Typhoon H520
A drone we plan to put on a few lists
As we were playing with the Yuneec Typhoon H520 at CES 2017, it became apparent to us that Yuneec is a serious player in the drone space, driven to provide top notch flying products. As well, they are on par with the top drone camera players on the market. The H520 swaps through Yuneec’s available camera modules with zoom lenses, infrared and more.
Orange for safety, the Typhoon H520 offers the best features found in the retail focused Typhoon H, they look and act similarly in the sky, but the H520 is tailored for commercial use with improved controls and connectivity for the next generation CGO-series cameras.
Stay tuned for more on the Yuneec Typhoon H520.
Coming very soon: Yuneec Tornado H920 Plus
Yuneec produces relatively large drones, with the Recently announced 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 original Yuneec Tornado H920 for $3500 on Amazon today.
Coming soon: DJI M200 series
As seen in our Best commercial drones list
Recently announced, and not yet up for sale, DJI has an intriguing new drone on their hands. The Matrice line of commercial and professional grade drones has long been the workhorse of DJI’s quad and multi-rotor drones, leaving many niceties to the retail drones like the Phantom and Inspire 2. Imagine combining the very best that the Inspire 2 has to offer into a heavy-duty configurable machine, that’s the M200 series.
All the best flight modes and safety features, heavy lifting with multiple camera options and configurations. We’re talking about mounting a camera on top to face upward, for things like bridge inspection. We’re also talking about hanging two cameras on the bottom, to shoot infrared and high-zoom at the same time. Sound hard to operate, no worries, one pilot can control the cameras while the second controls the drone through the dedicated FPV camera, just like the Inspire 2.
This may be priced out of range for most of us, but as far as commercial use goes, this drone is as sleek, powerful and feature rich as we’ve seen yet.
Learn all about the DJI M200 series drones here.
Coming June 2017: DJI Spark
Announced in New York in May, the new DJI Spark is, perhaps, not the drone for serious drone pilots. Instead, the Spark is a smart approach at automating flight, putting the best drone video capture modes in the hands of any new pilot. Control the drone by hand, literally, with multiple hand gestures from take off to landing, or use the app from your phone or opt for the optional remote control.
We are falling in love with drones, and we hope you are too. From the starter toy drones all the way up to multi-thousand dollar rigs, we will keep you in the loop, check back for updates to this list as new and exciting drones hit the market.
What was your starter drone? When you fly, is it primarily for fun, to race, or for photography?