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? Try these lists instead:
We will regularly update this list to reflect new and exciting drones on the market. This month we have added the Autel X-Star Premium, admitting our oversight in not including it in the first place. Stay tuned for more drones soon, we are carefully evaluating at least 3 new contenders for this list, more on that soon.
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 $1499 and $1799 today.
Yuneec Typhoon H
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 $1299 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 $750 on Amazon, and stay tuned for more coverage of the drone.
Your need for speed starts here, the TBS Vendetta is a racing drone. with a carbon fiber monocoque design, you can expect speeds in the 70 – 100 MPH range. Made to be strong, easily repaired and modular for future upgrades, the TBS Vendetta is a hard drone to beat in terms of speed.
Speaking of modularity, this racing drone has an optional mount for a GoPro camera, we’re not sure it’ll compare to the camera focused rigs on our list, but we’re all for options.
Check out the racing TBS Vendetta for $499 on Amazon today.
DJI Phantom 4
One of the more popular and familiar drones around, the DJI Phantom series is a fairly tall drone design, with a hanging camera gimbal in the center. As one of the most advanced drones on the market, the Phantom 4 offers 4K video on a 12MP sensor, 22+ minutes of flight time, 4 mile control range, subject tracking and more.
Check out the DJI Phantom 4 for $1299 with extra batteries, carrying case and more from Amazon today.
ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro
A little less flexible for repairs and upgrades, the ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro is another high speed FPV (First Person Flying) racing drone. Equipped as the Vendetta above with a small front mounted camera that serves the live stream back to the pilot, get some practice first, this drone competes with the 70+ MPH racers as an almost off-the-shelf kit.
The IRC Vortex 250 Pro zips around the track for $499 from 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.
You can get the Parrot Bebop 2 for about $350 by itself, or bundle with the controller and more for $619 from Amazon.
Hubsan X4 H107L
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 $35 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 $66 on Amazon today.
Bonus professional rig
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, $6000 with remote, high end camera and accessories, it better be good.
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?