The 6 Best Drones For Anyone Looking to Get Airborne
The era of drones is upon us, but how to you pick the right flyer? For the most part, your options range from tiny, cheap, radio-controlled quadcopters that can buzz around your backyard to full-fledge drones equipped with high-quality cameras and and flight distances measured in miles.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
DJI’s Phantom drones have consistently been among the most recommended for serious drone pilots, and its Phantom 4 Pro is just the latest and greatest. Among other upgrades, the Phantom 4 Pro comes with a new 20-megapixel camera and a large 1-inch image sensor, which is capable of shooting 4K video at 60fps. As PC Mag notes in its review, that sensor is about four times the size of most other drones in its class. This means the Phantom 4 Pro will give you noticeably better results—unless you’re ready to invest several thousand dollars into your new aerial friend.
If you’re looking to save some money and don’t necessarily need the best video quality out there, some of the earlier Phantom drones are also worth considering. The standard Phantom 4, which still does 4K video, is just under $1,000 and, as of this writing, you can still find the older Phantom 3 for only $400.
Blade Nano QX
The Blade BLH7680, also known as the Blade Nano QX BNF, is the bind-to-fly version of the Blade BLH7600. The major difference is that the BNF version is less expensive owing to the fact that it does not include a remote control. It is designed to work with digital spread spectrum controllers such as the DX6i or any DSM/DSM2/DSMX controller. Using one of these controllers versus the one supplied with the RTF version provides pilots significantly greater flying capabilities and convenience.
Amazon | $60
If you’re more interested in flying drones than capturing video with them—or would like to put on some training wheels before making a big investment— you can always opt for something like the Blade Nano QX. For just $60, you’ll get a palm-sized quadcopter that can be safely flown indoors or taken outside for a bit more distance.
Syma is well known for producing stable and reliable toy-grade quadcopters. The X5C-1 is a classic example of Syma quality and stability and is great fun to fly. If you have flown other sub-$100 quadcopters before, you’ll notice that the X5C-1 seems to perform a little bit better when it comes to handling and stability. Everything seems to be dialed in better in the X5C-1, making almost every flight a smooth affair with no nasty surprises. And I swear it’s also a little bit quieter than most other similar sized quadcopters.The drone is nice for the price. One thing I wished was you could see real life time footage as it was flying but still not a big issue for me to be honest. When flying the X5XC-1 drone remember that it does not fly well in high winds over 15 miles a hour. You can fly it but it drifts.
Yuneec Typhoon H
Don’t get me wrong, the $1,299, six-rotor drone is expertly designed. It has a third more rotors than, say, the DJI Phantom 4 and, unlike virtually every other drone I’ve tested, folds up for relatively easy transport: the rotor arms fold down to the body when not in flight. The landing gear can also retract to give the Typhoon H’s HD gimbal camera an unobstructed 360-degree view. In addition, the Yuneec H’s gray body is a rugged mix of ABS plastic and carbon fiber.
It alongside its two biggest competitors (the Phantom 4 and 3DR Solo), we’re confident in saying that the Typhoon H is the best drone we’ve flown thus far. It’s definitely not perfect, and Yuneec could stand to make a few improvements, but overall, its bang-for-the-buck overwhelms the competition.
For $1,300 ($100 less than DJI’s Phantom 4), the H has just about everything you could want in a camera drone: smart autonomous flight modes, obstacle avoidance, a dedicated touchscreen controller, and even a 4K camera with full 360-degree rotation. That’s a hell of a package, and if you’re in the market for an aerial photography/videography drone, the Typhoon H should be one of your top contenders.
DJI Mavic Pro
Tiny cameras that can fly still seemed like a sci-fi dream just five years ago, but with DJI’s new Mavic Pro drone, the future has arrived ahead of schedule.
When it comes to drones, no company is killing it right now more than DJI, and the Mavic Pro is its most amazing achievement yet. Yes, some drones fly faster and shoot better video, but the Mavic Pro is the ultimate drone for people who love photography, flight and the outdoors but don’t want to be weighed down.
DJI positions the model rather eccentrically, describing it as a consumer model but sticking ‘Pro’ in the name. The reality is that plenty of videographers use the Mavic for serious work. Both camera and flight capabilities are good enough for anything short of a full-on cinema-standard movie.
The DJI Mavic Pro costs $999, which gets you everything you need to fly bar an iPhone: the drone itself, the controller and charger. The Deluxe Bundle costs $1299 and adds two extra batteries, two spare propellers, a 4-battery charging hub, a car charger and a shoulder bag. This offers a small saving over the all-in cost of the individual items if you want everything in the pack.
Parrot Disco FPV
While most consumer drones are of the quad or hexacopter variety, they aren’t the only option. Parrot’s fixed-wing Disco FPV costs about the same as DJI’s Mavic Pro or Phantom 4, but it’ll give you a markedly different flying experience with speeds reaching up to 50 miles per hour—not to mention a longer 45 minutes of flying time.
As we found in our time with the Disco, you’ll want to have even more of open area for your flights than with a quadcopter—especially for landings, which can take a bit of practice. It’s also probably not the best option if capturing video is your top concern. While it has a 1080p camera, PC Mag described the video quality as only “so-so.” You like want to pass on the included FPV goggles while actually controlling the drone, being as it isn’t recommended by the FAA. But you get use them to give someone else a virtual passenger seat.