Top 10 Consumer Drones
Top 10 Drones Consumers and Prosumers Can Buy Today as identified by various online review sources
Best drone overall
Superb 4K and HD footage
Not pocket-money priced
DJI’s Mavic is what every UAV fan had been yearning for: a lightweight, portable drone that folds into a package the size of a milk carton, flies for 27 minutes for up to 4 miles away, avoids obstacles, shoots lush 4K footage from a stabilised, auto-focus camera no larger than a thimble, and then lands automatically in the exact same spot it took off from.
The Mavic is much smaller and quieter than its Phantom 4 stablemate and yet its video quality is about the same – ie: near broadcast quality.
What’s more, you can fly it via Wi-Fi using just a smartphone (iOS and Android) or, for massive distance and even better control, DJI’s pocket-sized controller with an integrated smartphone holder.
Gesture control, meanwhile, allows you to take selfies and make the Mavic follow you simply by waving your arms in the air. It’s the Swiss army knife of consumer droning.
Best prosumer drone for high-quality aerial footage
Superb camera with one-inch sensor
Four-sided obstacle avoidance
Comprehensive flight programmes
Excellent battery life
Not as portable as the Mavic or Karma
DJI’s new Phantom 4 Pro comes with a veritable cartload of sci-fi features, including the Holy Grail of flight safety systems: four-sided obstacle avoidance.
But it’s the all-new camera that really blows the mind. How does a one-inch CMOS sensor capable of capturing 4K footage at a phenomenal 60 frames per second grab you?
One of it’s most notable features is the obstacle avoidance system. The drone can intelligently position and maneuver itself around obstacles mid-flight.
The upgraded battery will keep the bird aloft for up to 30 minutes – ample time to take it to its phenomenal four-mile limit and back again. DJI’s also developed a special remote controller with a built-in 5.5-inch screen that is twice as bright as a smartphone.
If high-quality video and photography is your main consideration, then bag one of these.
3. DJI Spark
Best selfie drone
Takes great selfies
Propeller arms don’t fold
Only shoots 1080p
Gesture mode can be hit and miss
DJI’s splendid new Spark is about half the weight of the Mavic and its body is much smaller. However, because its propeller arms don’t fold, it won’t fit in a jacket pocket as the folded Mavic will. But, hey, this titchy air-snap gizmo is still incredibly portable and probably the smartest selfie drone in existence right now, and available in five lush colors.
The Spark comes with front obstacle avoidance and is rock steady when flown indoors or out. Its camera shoots very acceptable 1080p video and 12-megapixel photos and is equipped with a two-axis mechanical stabilizer for relatively smooth video footage. The battery provides around 16 minutes of flight time, which can be considered good for a drone of this size.
The Spark comes with DJI’s new QuickShot mode, which automatically creates a 10-second video from the footage captured in your flight.
QuickShot allows you to avoid all the work needed to take raw footage and create a final video. Instead of taking your footage, uploading it, editing it, and then downloading it, QuickShot simply creates a video for you using your best shots. This mode won’t be of interest to most professional cinematographers but could be an easy way to share a quick overview video with a client after a shoot, with the promise of more to come.
The Spark can be operated in three ways: using hand gestures, a mobile device or, for a much greater range (up to 1.2 miles), a dedicated hand controller. While not designed for high-quality videography, it still shoots excellent footage.
It’s also reassuringly tough as nails, as was aptly demonstrated at a recent DJI event when a rep accidentally flew one at full speed – that’s 50kph! – into a tree. The only thing damaged was a prop; everything else, camera included, worked perfectly. Another great reason to snap one up right away.
4. Blade Chroma (with 4K Camera)
Good for Professionals
The Blade Chroma offers 30 minutes of flight time (ten to twelve minutes longer than most drones in its price range).
Its built-in camera shoots 4K video at 1080p and takes 12-megapixel stills.
What I love most about this quadcopter is the built-in touchscreen display on the controller. For most drones, you need an extra device to display telemetry data, adjust flight/camera settings, etc.
With the Chroma, it’s built into the transmitter.
With 30 minutes of flight time and a powerful camera, the Blade Chroma is a worthy option for commercial pilots.
5. GoPro Karma
Best drone for fans of GoPros and extreme sports
Excellent navigation and editing apps
Comes with handheld image stabilizer
Slightly limited range and battery life
With an early battery latch problem seemingly solved, the GoPro Karma is now back on the shelves and/or flying off them.
Like the DJI Mavic Pro, the Karma is compact and collapsible with props in place. It’s not as small as the Mavic but still eminently portable. The front-mounted three-axis gimbal accepts the GoPro HERO 4 or 5 and the 4K and 1080p video those cameras produce are, as you’d expect, very good indeed.
The Karma’s maximum range is just 3km but that’s more than enough for most pilots. In a stroke of minor genius, users can also remove the camera and gimbal from the drone and clip it into a supplied Karma Grip for smooth cinematic ground footage.
Sterling app support comes in the form of the really excellent Quick editing software, and a navigation app that lets a ‘co-pilot’ steer the camera while you fly the drone or vice versa.
6. Parrot Bebop 2 FPV Pack
Keenly priced consumer drone with VR-like control
Very stableComes with VR goggles
Only digital camera stabilization
Lots of bits to pack
The GPS-equipped Parrot Bebop 2 comes packed with tech that makes it incredibly easy to fly. You can use just an Apple or Android device or, for an even more satisfying flight experience, the dedicated Skycontroller tablet dock.
The Bebop 2 flies for up to an impressive 25 minutes per charge and is equipped with an emergency cut-out feature that stops the rotors as soon as they come into contact with an obstacle, which should help prolong its life. It’s also light enough to survive the occasional crash.
This particular package also comes with a basic VR-style goggle system – First Person View, as Parrot styles it – that accepts any iOS or Android phone. Just slot your blower in, slap the goggles to your face and experience the delights/fears of first-person flight.
The Bebop 2 eschews a mechanical gimbal in favor of a digital camera stabilizing system that not only keeps the image steady via a throng of clever algorithms but also allows the user to pan down without the camera actually moving. Image quality is decent enough, though it lacks the sharpness and stability of the Mavic, Phantom 4 or even the little Spark.
In the sphere of camera-carrying leisure drones, the Bebop 2 is an unequivocal hit. It’s a doddle to operate, very keenly priced, and great fun.
7. 3D Robotics Solo
Good for Prosumers
Solo is an excellent quadcopter for action sports photographers and videographers. It is the only drone that can stream wireless HD video from your GoPro direct to iOS and Android devices.
The Solo is equipped with Smart Shot technology, making it easy to capture fantastic footage without expert pilot skills.
It’s also the first drone that allows in-flight access to your GoPro, allowing you to start recording, stop recording, and adjust camera settings from the ground.
The 3DR Solo is a robust drone for capturing many types of aerial imagery.
8. DJI Inspire 2
Best pro-grade drone
Sensational camera system
Dual controller option58mph top speed
Heavy for trekking with
Inevitably expensive…Especially with dual controllers
When it comes to drone design, mobile device integration, reliability, and ease of use, DJI is so far ahead of the curve that other manufacturers must be sobbing over their blueprints.
This bird is the best currently on the market but doesn’t top our charts because it is pricey with a capital P.
It is, however, a perfect choice for professional cinematographers and the casually minted consumer.
The Inspire 2 is made from carbon fiber and magnesium and its dual battery system and huge motors will take it to a top speed of 58mph and a flight time of up to 27 minutes. The landing gear is retractable, allowing pilots, or a second camera operator, to shoot a full 360º panorama. It also comes with forward, downward and upward-facing obstacle avoidance sensors for extra confidence when flying in tricky locations.
The Inspire 2’s pro-spec CineCore 2.0 image processing system is housed in the nose of the craft which means only the camera’s lens and sensor are attached to the gimbal. This reduces weight and allows for easy lens swapping. Needless to say, the imagery this ingenious system produces is of the highest order.
Its carbon fiber arms move up and out of the camera’s view when flying, giving you a 360-degree view of the world surrounding your drone.
Its Zenmuse X5 camera shoots 4K video, captures 16-megapixel stills, and lets the videographer change lenses. It also shoots raw video footage — perfect for professional filmmaking
9. Parrot Mambo
The best entry-level drone also boasts fragging frolics
Cheap and cheerful
Rock-steady indoor flight
It shoots stuff and picks things up
Gaming novelty can wear a little thin
The pick of the indoor toy drones, the acrobatic Parrot Mambo is a master of stability and a great drone to practice on.
You fly it using the Freeflight 3 app (Apple and And
Like the rest of Parrot’s Mini Drone roster, this little scamp hovers in one spot perfectly. You could probably pop off to put the kettle on, then return to find it still in the same place.
It also comes with novelty clip-on fittings that allow it to shoot tiny balls at a target or pick up items the weight of a sugar lump. Top indoor choice.
10 Yuneec Typhoon H
Good for Consumers and Prosumers
Yuneec Typhoon H is one of the most advanced drones on the market.
This hexacopter offers obstacle avoidance and a 4K UHD camera that gives you a full 360-degree view.
You can also bind one controller to the Typhoon H and one to the camera for dual operator control (using Team Mode).
To fly in FPV, use the 7-inch screen built into the controller or simply connect your goggle’s HDMI cord to the controller’s HDMI port.
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