Have you noticed social media videos with plenty of aerial footage combined with smooth ground shots, and wondering how you can spice up your video posts?
Also, if you are a Vlogger, the best drone the market has to offer, a handheld gimbal, and a high-quality action camera, need to be essential parts of your gear. But, you must be aware that the drone market is probably one of the most overloaded ones and that finding the perfect model for your personal needs is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Hours and hours of research need to be done before making the final choice, but we are here to help you out and make that search for the best drone much shorter and more effective.
Our top pick is the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. This model comes as one of the easiest to fly drones and is incredibly stable in flight. It also has avoidance systems so that you practically don’t have to worry if something comes in your flight path, as the drone will avoid it on its own. Furthermore, the P4 Pro offers a control range of up to 7 km, which includes the live, HD video stream as well. As for the quality of the video footage, the camera that it comes with, is a 20mm wide angle lens 4K camera, with a 3-axis stabilization gimbal. Also, the drone offers advanced tracking and subject recognition, both JPG and RAW image capturing, sport mode, in which you can reach some serious speeds, and a flight time of around 28 minutes.
The step up pick, this time, is the DJI Mavic Pro, which comes with only 743g of weight, and, can be folded down to become a much more portable version, which measures just 198 x 83 x 83mm. This very useful feature makes it compact enough to simply place it in a small backpack or even the side pocket of cargo pants, and you are pretty much ready to go. It also includes a battery that, when fully charged, allows the drone to stay in the air up to 27 minutes. The drone can hit the top speed of 40 mph, and includes a 3-axis stabilized camera with 12 MP. Furthermore, the remote of the Mavic Pro is also extremely compact and very small when folded, and supports both Android and iOS smartphones as a monitor for live video stream of the flight.
The budget pick landed on the DJI Spark, the latest, smallest, foldable selfie drone model from the leading drone manufacturer. This little speedster is small in built, but huge when it comes to features. It is the first drone ever to offer hand gesture control, so you pretty much don’t even need the controller to operate this drone. You can simply let it take off on its own from the palm of your hand, use your hands to tell it to go higher, lower, back or forward, and to start recording or to snap a photo. It doesn't, however, come with a 4K camera, but its mechanically stabilized gimbal and video quality of up to 1080p is actually quite enough for awesome, smooth videos for social media.
A Little Insight into the Drone Matter
Up until just 5 to 7 years ago, commercial drones were something that only the rich could afford. Also, they were not nearly as feature-packed as today’s models. But, as the technology evolved, and as the production of RC drones became cheaper, the market started offering more and more models, and what’s best, their prices started to drop.
Today, you can get some really great models for under $100. However, since there are so many models available, the term “best drone” means that in order to find the best ones, you need to do extensive research, read tons of reviews and watch hours of videos, so that you make sure the one you get, for starters, really offers what is advertised, and is actually well made to survive more than just the first few flights before suddenly dropping down from the sky like a brick, or simply shorting out and going up in smoke on takeoff, or even flying away into the unknown, and taking your invested budget and high hopes with it.
But, don’t worry, not everything is that dark, and even though there really are bad models out there that are simply not worth the investment, there’s also plenty of great ones, which rightfully deserve their place on our best drone list. But, you actually need to know what to keep an eye on when searching, so that you make sure the one you pick, is actually the one you need, and that it offers the best features for the money. That is why you need to read our following section, where we will explain how to determine which model is great for your needs, and how to narrow down your search and keep an eye on the most important features.
How We Picked and What You Need to Know Before Buying
Just with any other decision in life, before making that final call, you need to look from all the angles, weigh on all the pros and cons, and compare all the possible outcomes, so that you make sure the final choice is exactly what you wanted. The same goes for when looking for the best drone for your needs. Here are the most important thing you need to keep in mind.
What Do You Need the Drone For?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself before even typing the search term best drone in your browser, is “What will I use this drone for?”. There are various types of drones and possible uses for them, and that’s why you first need to take a look at this table:
Type of the Drone
Type of the Camera
Toy Grade Drones
Learning how to fly, indoor flights
Mostly without cameras, but if they do have one, it’s low resolution
In most cases the registration is not required
Up to 100m
FPV racing, freestyle flying, aerial stunts
Only FPV cameras
Required, unless you buy a micro style (whoop) model
Up to 500m
Highly durable frames
Aerial filming and photography
High-end, high-resolution cameras (up to 4K)
Up to 7km
Autonomous camera and flight modes, GPS positioning, avoidance systems
Professional Aerial Filming Platforms
Cinematography, documentaries, high-budget commercials and videos
Come without cameras, but support the use of gimbals and DSLR and cinematography cameras
Up to 5km
Autonomous camera and flight modes, GPS positioning, avoidance systems
Now that you are more familiar with the types of drones, it’s time to offer more detailed explanations on each type.
Toy Grade Drones
Just as the name itself implies, toy grade drones are basically toys and not serious unmanned aerial vehicles. Most of them are small and lightweight, so no FAA registration is required. So, why would you buy a toy grade drone? Well, you could simply skip this part and opt for a few hundreds or even thousands model, but without any previous experience in drone piloting, you will pretty much waste money because you will definitely crash it because some of the pre-flight procedures weren’t followed, or in case something goes wrong in the air, you wouldn’t know how to react, and possibly save your drone from crashing.
So, start with a small, cheap model, get more familiar with the controls and how the drones function in general, master the piloting skills, and after a while, upgrade to a more advanced model.
In general, it is always a smart idea to start with a cheaper model (you can get a toy grade drone for less than $20) and hone your piloting skills before taking on a much bigger and more expensive bird. You will definitely crash a lot in the beginning, and it’s better to damage a $20 drone than to wreck a $1000 one, right?
This type of drones is the Formula 1 in this world. They are capable of reaching up to 150-160 km/h, and can perform sharp turn and aggressive flight styles without a problem. They are mostly used for freestyle flights, the type you see growing in popularity on YouTube, and in the last few years, people have started organizing drone races, and there is even a global Drone Racing League, where the best drone pilots from all over the world, compete for the ultimate prize of $100 000.
However, if you plan on buying a racing drone, you need to keep in mind that they don’t come with advanced stabilization systems and that your piloting skills really have to be top notch, and that you also need to get used to flying in FPV, with the use of FPV goggles, which is another investment on its own, and can be a little heavy on the stomach.
But, once you do become capable of controlling these small beasts, the level of adrenaline while doing loops or rolls around, over, and under a bridge, or flying at 100 km/h through a forest, while having the best seat in the house (the pilot’s cockpit), is pretty much the same as flying a jet fighter, only without the G force.
Commercial Camera Drones
When you hear the term “commercial camera drone” the first model that comes to your mind is probably one of the Phantoms, right? Well, you are right because the DJI Phantoms series is the perfect example of this class of drones. They are equipped with cameras that offer high resolution videos and high-quality images, and are really easy to use and don’t demand crazy stick controlling skills in order to safely fly them and get awesome footage and shots.
Best camera drones are great for those who want professional looking videos on their social media profiles, video logs, great video memory of vacations and celebrations, and can also be used for professional purposes such as real estate photography and videography, and even commercial ads and music videos.
However, if you are in the serious filmmaking world, or need cinematic quality for your video ads, you should be better off with the type of drones we are going to talk about next as the cameras on commercial drones, have small lenses, and cannot offer that WOW effect the professional cinema cameras such as, for example, the Epic Dragon Red camera offers.
Professional Aerial Filming Platforms
Now this type of drones is only for the professionals and they do come with some rather serious prices. But, for that price, you literally get a stable platform for a gimbal that can hold a DSLR camera, a cinema camera like the mentioned Red Dragon, or maybe Black Magic Cinema camera, and produce breathtaking aerial footage and photos.
However, you need to keep in mind that most of the high-end professional aerial filming drones, do not come with the fancy flight modes like the follow me, or point of interest, or orbit. And, in most cases, the stabilization gimbal needs to be purchased separately, so, the price you see for the drone, includes just the drone and the controller (in some cases you need to buy an additional controller so that one person can operate the drone while the other operates the camera movement), and you also need to include the price of the camera and the gimbal in your overall budget.
Top Pick: Best Drone 2017
When it comes to the new DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the first feature that, by many experts in this field, makes it the best drone, is its new camera system. The P4 Pro comes equipped with a 20MP, 1 inch sensor, that delivers impressive and much better dynamic range, photo and video quality, and much better performance in low light conditions than all the previous models. This is all possible thanks to the new mechanical shutter and adjustable aperture.
As for the flight performance, we are happy to say that the P4 Pro comes with the different sensors than the standard P4, and now offers obstacle avoidance in 4 directions. Furthermore, this model is also faster in regular modes, which was a problem with the previous P4 version, as you needed to switch to sport mode to achieve higher speeds, but that also meant that the obstacle avoidance systems had to be turned off, which is not the case with the P4 Pro.
Another cool, and very useful feature, is that you can choose either 5.8 GHz or 2.4 GHz for control frequency, or switch to Auto Frequency (the drone controller changes the frequency during the flight in order to find the best reception) which highly improves reception and furthers the control range to over 4 miles, in interference-high areas, such as densely populated cities. Also, you can opt for the P4 Pro Plus, which includes a super bright Full HD touchscreen monitor, so that you don’t have to worry about seeing the video feed even in direct sunlight, and to likewise control your drone by simply touching the screen and telling it where to go, while being on the safe side from hitting a tree or another obstacle on the way, thanks to the advanced obstacle system.
All in all, the reason why we think this is the best drone on the current market, is because for such a price, you really get a prosumer drone that comes with features, modes, image and video quality, that can be found on professional, much more expensive aerial filming models.
Flaws but Not Dealbreakers
The Phantom 4 Pro is truly an exceptional aerial filming drone and we simply can’t find any flaws in its performance. The only thing that we consider as a flaw, but definitely not a deal breaker, is the fact that the additional controller with the touch screen monitor, which is great by the way and doesn’t have any flaws, is maybe a little overpriced.
This unusually designed drone comes as a rather smaller model when compared with the phantoms or other popular drones, and is actually the drone that got the “foldable drone design” mania in motion, as it is the first commercial model that offered the option of folding the motor arms so that the drone itself is more compact and portable. Like all the recent DJI models, the Mavic also comes with an obstacle avoidance system.
As for the camera and image and video quality, this drone offers stabilized, crystal clear, distortion-free 4K video footage, and up to 12MP JPG and RAW images, and plenty of intelligent flight and shooting modes such as Follow, Orbit, Time-lapse, and more. The controller is not the standard Phantom/Inspire design, but a new, more compact approach, and offers up to 4 km control and video feed distance.
The DJI Spark drone comes with a size that is probably smaller than your supersized Smartphone. However, even though it’s really a small drone, it doesn’t mean that it lacks advanced features. On the contrary, the Spark represents the finest modern drone technology packed into a small size. Its features include a newer seen before in a drone hand gesture recognition and flight control, obstacle avoidance system, GPS positioning and stabilization, and a bunch of advanced smart camera and flight modes.
The coolest thing about this drone is that you can actually control it by simply moving your hands. For example, you can reposition it by pointing the palm of your hand at it, and it will move as your hand moves. Furthermore, when you want to get the drone’s “attention” you just need to wave your hand and it will wait for your next command. Also, for “ordering” the drone to snap a photo, you just need to make a “frame” with your hands. There are also more hand gesture commands, and all of them actually make you look like a Jedi Knight, using the Force.
However, the basic package includes just the drone and the battery, which is enough for the rather close range videos and photos. But, if you really want to take full advantage of the stability and the Full HD, mechanically stabilized camera, you will have to order a slightly more expensive, Fly More Combo, which includes the drone, the controller, spare props, and an additional battery,
Best Drone for Beginners
Now this tiny drone is as basic as it gets, and is perfect for those who never flown a drone before and are eager to get into this hobby. The Furibee F36 is really small (80mm) and can easily fit the palm of your hand. The package includes the drone, the controller, a battery and the USB charging cable (you can use any smartphone charger or USB computer port to recharge the battery), and a set of spare props.
What is so great about this little whoop style drone, besides being really easy to fly, is the fact that is fully upgradeable. This means that once you get more experienced and not a beginner anymore, you have the option of adding a new Betaflight Flight Controller, F3 upgraded motors, All-in-One FPV camera, and FPV goggles of your choice. Yes, you know what this means! FPV flying! But, the mentioned Flight controller gives you the ability to also turn on the Acro mode for this drone, and that further means loops, flips, rolls, and all the cool stunts you see on those Pro FPV Pilot videos on YouTube, as well as longer control range.You only need to invest in a more serious transmitter, as the one that comes in the package, doesn’t support the protocol the flight controller board uses.
All in all, even though there are plenty of great beginner drones on the market, we decided to include the Furibee F36 as the best beginner drone because of its upgradeability features, once you are not a beginner anymore, but closer to pro drone pilots.
Best drone for Racing
Unlike the little Furibee, the Arris X-Speed 280 V2 comes as a full fledged racer, and is not that recommendable for beginners. If you are already an experienced drone pilot, and want to give the FPV racing or freestyle flying a shot, this might be the best choice as it comes with several flight modes, that will allow you to get more used to flying in FPV. Once you master that, flying in full Acro mode and doing those insane stunts, will be a piece of cake with 4S battery beast.
As for the design, this Ready to Fly drone, besides its sexy aerodynamic lines and front canopy, also includes a Raptor 390 Tower, which houses a 4-in-1 30A ESC, F3 flight controller with transmitter and an antenna, OSD, 5.8G video transmitter, and a power distribution board. You also get the highly praised in the drone community, RadioLink AT9S transmitter, and 4S Lipo battery, for getting the best out of 5042 propellers and Arris 2205 2300KV brushless motors.
All in all, this is a great Ready to Fly racing drone that delivers serious, competitive speeds and handles sharp turns, rolls, and pretty much anything you throw at it, very well. Not the best model for first timers, but even in such cases, the learning curve is not that steep and after flying in stable mode a while, Acro mode will not seem that scary and you will soon master it as well.
Best Drone for Social Media Posts
The Yuneec Breeze 4K Drone is completely different from all the drones we talked about so far. Why? Well, for starters, this drone allows live streaming on social media! Yes, that’s right. Thanks to the dedicated App, you will be able to instantly stream the live video feed on Facebook. This means that the era of Vloggers, and other social media influencers, has just reached a new dimension.
As for the design of the drone and its features, we can say that it comes with a nice, compact design that makes it highly portable (not as much as the Mavic or the Spark, but still one of the most portable drones on the market), and useful flight modes such as Follow Me, Orbit, Selfie, Pilot, Journey, and Selfie, all great for stunning social media posts and YouTube Video blogs.
Speaking of YouTube video blogs, you will be happy to know that this drone comes with a 13MP camera, which can shoot videos in 4K resolution. Unfortunately, the camera is not stabilized with a gimbal, but the drone itself comes with advanced flight stabilising systems that make its flights and hovering rather stable. Also, it includes an Indoor Positioning System, which makes it safe to fly it indoors as well.
All in all, the Breeze is an advanced drone model with plenty of noteworthy features, and even though it cannot be used for creating high-budget ads and videos, the 4K camera and the ability to stream live video, make it the best drone for social media gurus.
Best Drone Hexacopter
Unlike other models that we included in the list, the Yuneec Typhoone H Pro, comes as a hexacopter, not a quadcopter. This means that, besides having two more motors and better stability than the quads, in case of a motor failure, it can still continue to fly with the remaining 5 motors. The fact that it has more motors also means that it can lift heavier loads than quads, which means more serious filming equipment.
However, when it comes to filming equipment, the camera it comes with is pretty much enough for most needs, unless we are talking about Hollywood blockbusters, of course, for which the drone budget needs to be near or over$10K (about which we will talk a bit later). But let’s get back to the camera. The Typhoon H Pro comes with a 115-degree FOV/12MP camera, that is stabilized with a 3-axis gimbal, shoots 4K videos @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps, and can be also controlled with a second controller, so that the pilot can focus on flying while the camera operator gets those difficult shots possible thanks to a 360-degree unobstructed field of view.
As for the flight performance and In-Air security, this drone comes with the RealSense technology, which offers collision detection and obstacles avoiding. This is a great feature for those who plan on using autonomous modes such as Follow Me, as the drone will be able to shoot a video and fly on its own, while you focused on your On-the-Ground activity.
Best Drone for Professional Cinematographers
The DJI Inspire 2 is one word – Spectacular! In fact, it was a close battle between the Phantom 4 Pro and this model, for the overall Best Drone Title, but since it is meant for professional filmmakers and is really expensive, we decided that the P4 is a much better fit.
Nevertheless, the Inspire 2 is really an amazing drone that looks like it came from a far, far away future. It is a quadcopter, and as such, the stability should not be as good as with more rotor models, but that is not the case with this one as it hovers and flies unbelievably stable. As for the design, the Inspire 2 continues the unique Inspire tilting landing gear/motor arms combination, for an unobstructed 360 degree camera view.
Speaking of cameras, the Inspire 2 doesn’t include a camera (at least not a filming one) in the basic package. It actually comes just with an integrated FPV HD camera for the pilot, while the filming cameras are sold separately and can be controlled by a different person and a second controller. And, this is where the Inspire 2 shines! It is compatible with the Zenmuse X4S and X5S cameras. The X4S uses the same 20 MP, 1-inch sensor as the already mentioned P4 Pro. The second option, the X5S is a completely different story as it allows lens changing, and records videos in Cinema DNG 5.2K resolution.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which drone should I start with?
A: If you are new to this hobby and have never flown a drone before, it is advisable to start off with a small, cheap, shorter range model until you get more experienced to safely fly bigger models.
There are a few things you should have in mind before buying a drone:
Small, toy grade drones are more forgivable with the beginners. Even though they don’t usually come with advanced stabilizing and flight aid systems, small, cheap, toy grade drones are a much better starting point for those who never flew drones in their life. For starters, they are so simple (especially the micro drones) that there is pretty much nothing on them that can break in case of a fall or when hitting a wall. They are usually made of elastic plastic materials that easily bend and don’t get broken in falls.
Their range is short and you can’t lose orientation that easily. Having a shorter range is actually an advantage when you are a beginner. With the advanced drone models, you can easily reach distances of 2, 3, or even more kilometers from your starting point, but that only means that the further it goes, the harder it will be to fly it in the line of sight and to keep the orientation. As a beginner, you will easily lose the orientation, even at 100 meters, so before you get skilled in drone piloting, you are much better off with a drone that doesn’t go that far.
Small drones are lightweight and have a short range, so they don’t need to be registered with the FAA. Before you get really serious with this hobby, you will want a drone that doesn’t need to be registered, which just comes at an additional cost of the hobby. If you, after a few weeks of flying and after getting the hang of piloting, still want to continue with the hobby, you can get a more serious drone that will need to be registered with the FAA.
Q: Is one battery enough or should I get more?
A: The answer to this is simple, the more batteries the better and for some models, especially racing drones, you can even choose different capacity batteries, based on your needs. However, there are a few things you should have in mind:
Batteries require special attention and should be handled properly and carefully. Most drones use LiPo batteries. The toy grade drones use from 1 cell to 2 cell batteries (1S, 2S), while bigger, more advanced models use 3, 4, or 5 or more cell batteries (3S, 4S, 5S or higher). Whichever the case is, if not taken care when charging or using them, you risk of over discharging them, which leads to dead cell, thus dead batteries, or overcharging, which leads to overheating and batteries bursting into flame. You should always follow the manufacturer specifications when it comes to battery levels for use and for storage, and always keep them in LiPo fireproof bags or metal cases when not using them.
Higher cell batteries offer more power, but are heavier. If you want to upgrade your drone with a battery that has more cells and offers higher voltage, so that your drone goes faster and has more lift power, keep in mind that the higher the cell count, the more weight. Therefore, when switching from, for example, 3S to 4S, keep in mind that your drone will perform more aggressive and reach higher speeds, but will have shorter flight time due to the higher weight of the battery.
Q: What does LOS mean?
A: LOS, or Line of Sight, means that you are flying the drone in the line of your sight. This actually refers to flying the drone by looking at it, not with the use of a FPV monitor or goggles, and not going so far that you can’t see it with the naked eye.
In most states, flying just in LOS is obligatory. In most states, the law states that recreational flying a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) is only allowed when flying in the line of sight, or simply said, you can’t go out of your eye’s reach and you can’t use a monitor or goggles, which is usually around 300 meters. So, before you decide to take your drone above the clouds for some spectacular videos, check your state’s rules.
Q: Are there any more rules I should be aware of?
A: Yes, because drones are considered as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, which means that they are actively involved in the aerial traffic and there are rules that need to be followed.
The maximum height limit for any type of drone is 400 feet. You can fly your drone at or below 400 feet, or otherwise, you will endanger planes, helicopters, or other aerial vehicles that might fly through that airspace.
Never fly your drone over people. Drones can have unexpected failures and crash at any given moment. Therefore, the law in every country strictly forbids flying over people, or over groups of people, or large meetings such as concerts, protests, or sport events.
Never fly near airports, prisons, or other government buildings. Due to the use of frequencies that are also used by planes and helicopters, flying near airports is forbidden as your frequency interference might cause danger to the control towers or even nearby planes in the air.
Also, drones are forbidden near prisons and other government buildings as they can be used to carry weapons, drugs, or even explosives and could represent a serious threat.
With FAQs we have reached the end of our article. The best drone for 2017 is the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. It is the best model because it comes with plenty of advanced and very useful features that make it a perfect choice for both beginners and professionals. It is stable in the air, has obstacle avoidance, which allows you to focus on filming, rather than on flying it, but also comes with modes that allow you to focus more on aggressive flying, such as the sport mode, where the fun of drone piloting is highlighted.
The P4 also comes with a high-quality 4K camera that delivers exceptionally vivid videos and highly detailed images, and has excellent performance even in low light conditions.
We hope that you enjoyed reading our article, and if you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on this topic. Thanks for reading.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.