The 10 Best Drones

Updated June 22, 2017 by Lydia Chipman

10 Best Drones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 35 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Rated for ease of use, imaging capabilities, flight duration and value, our selection of top-of-the-line quadcopters and multirotors includes budget-friendly options for kids and beginners that won't empty your wallet to sturdily built high-speed racers and premium drones for capturing professional-quality aerial imagery. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best drone on Amazon.

10. UDI U818A

Featuring 6-axis gyro stabilization and an innovative gravity induction mode, the UDI U818A FPV provides an immersive flying experience via live video feed and smartphone control functionality. A modular design makes for easy repairs after any hard landings.
  • 2 long-life batteries included
  • affordably priced
  • not the most reliable performance
Brand USA Toyz
Model pending
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

9. Syma X5C

Flying indoors or outside for up to 7 minutes per 100 minutes of charge time, the diminutive Syma X5C weighs in at just over 100 grams and offers impressive stability and wind resistance for aerial acrobatics and photography at a reasonable price.
  • 6-axis gyroscopic stabilization
  • replacement parts readily available
  • camera resolution is not the best
Brand Syma
Model X5C-W
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. GoPro Karma

Geared toward daredevil photogs, the GoPro Karma comes with a removable stabilizer and grip to let your imagination take flight and produce smooth, high-precision footage wherever your adventures take you – into the air, across rugged terrain, as far as you dare to go.
  • compatible with hero 4 or 5 cameras
  • features versatile mounting hardware
  • has no follow-me setting
Brand GoPro
Model QKWXX-511
Weight 13.9 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Parrot Mambo

Featuring a playful cannon to fire projectiles at targets and a grabber to grasp light payloads in flight, the Parrot Mambo is designed for fun – an ideal choice for kids and young-at-heart pilots eager for some remote-operated airborne playtime.
  • charging time of 30 minutes or less
  • flies at up to 11 miles per hour
  • does flips and barrel rolls
Brand Parrot
Model PF727001
Weight 11.4 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

6. QCopter QC1

With its included spare battery, the QCopter QC1 provides up to 30 minutes of in-air action between charges to practice piloting skills. It also has colorful LEDs for nighttime illumination and an HD camera to capture your adventures.
  • sleek and visually appealing design
  • built to be sturdy and lightweight
  • no faa registration required
Brand QCopter
Model QC1
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K

The Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K has a 16-megapixel HD camera and an impressively long 20-25 minute flight time. A personal ground station with built-in touchscreen and an integrated 3-axis precision gimbal camera provide optimal precision and stability for aerial photography.
  • affordable spare parts and batteries
  • fully charges in 60 minutes
  • user-controlled video resolution
Brand Yuneec
Weight 27.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Walkera Rodeo 110

With a brushless motor and a sturdy carbon fiber airframe, the Walkera Rodeo 110 racer delivers speed and performance at a fairly cringe-free price point. Quick-swap batteries, flexible rotors and a modular design make it easy to recharge and recover between heats.
  • hd wide-angle camera
  • compatible with fatshark fpv goggles
  • recharges in about half an hour
Brand Walkera
Model Rodeo 100/RTF1-DEVO 7
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. MJX X400W

In addition to being inexpensive and durable enough to withstand more than a few hard landings, the MJX X400W FPV is remarkably agile and easy to handle, performing 360-degree flips at the touch of a button and operating in headless mode for straightforward navigation.
  • 3d split screen display
  • 100-meter control range
  • 8-9 minutes flight time per charge
Model X400W
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. Holy Stone F181

Packing the capabilities of a higher-end quadcopter into a less costly, lightweight and durable airframe, the Holy Stone F181 is a good place to start if you're not quite ready to invest in a premium model just to crash it until you work out the kinks.
  • 1280 x 720 images and 30 fps video
  • spare battery for extended flying
  • easy to use headless mode operation
Brand Holy Stone
Model F181
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. DJI Mavic Pro

If you dream of flying your UAV effortlessly through the sky and capturing spectacular views along the way, the DJI Mavic Pro is the answer to your prayers, dauntlessly navigating the most challenging flight paths to record every breathtaking frame on its 4K 12MP camera.
  • high-precision mechanical stability
  • multiple autonomous navigation modes
  • compact and foldable airframe
Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000500
Weight 4.5 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

The Camera And The Bird

Twenty years ago the primary reason there was little to no such thing as aerial drone videography wasn't the absence of interest or industry need. Just look at any of the hundreds of aerial scenes shot from helicopters in the brief history of film to see that the market was there, waiting. The problem was that if you did manage to somehow get your camera airborne, the likelihood was that you were shooting on film was small, which adds just a little too much weight to the flight package.

Now, your modern drone video setup includes everything from physical gimbal stabilizers to 4K capture and live video feedback transmitted to your mobile device. Flagships like the DJI Phantom 4 (botDB) are redefining what we can do in the air.

Do you really need all that stuff? Probably. Especially if you have aspirations of showing your footage to anyone who's so much as taken a video on their iPhone. You want something of comparable quality, so here's why each element is important.

Think of the gimbal as a system of counterweights that allows for occasional erratic movement in your flying, either from pilot error, unexpected winds, or a hungry eagle mistaking your drone for prey. These counterweights will immediately adjust to the smallest turbulence in your flight, allowing for that super smooth video we already see Hollywood employing.

You may not have a 4k TV just yet, but, it turns out that most serious video production always shoots in 4K Video Capture which means it captures a higher resolution than the most common displays available. Why is that? Cropping. You see, if your framing isn't quite right, or you want to be a little closer to that character, or you find that the winds were so intense your gimbal can't cut down on all the shake, you can fix it in post, but only if you have room to crop the image and not lose resolution by the time it makes it to that 1080p television. 4K gives you all that freedom.

Are Lithium Batteries On The Way Out?

If you've flown a drone before then you understand the limiting factor that comes with them - battery life. The best drones out there are generally powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries, however, these are still limited in the sense that they don't truly contain that much energy, hence the short flight times. Not only that, but these batteries are expensive.

Why are they so expensive, if their energy reserves are low? That's due to the materials it takes to manufacture them, and due to the fact that they are usually rechargeable as previously mentioned. All batteries have ions and electrons. What separates lithium from regular batteries are how these ions and electrons react. With ordinary ones, the chemical reaction taking place happens in one direction, which equates to a use-it-and-toss-it scenario. Lithium batteries can reverse this chemical reaction, which causes the battery to absorb power. So, they've already got a leg up compared to their non-rechargeable cousins.

Are there other sourceable energies available other than batteries? Yes, but no. Some technology is out there, but they haven't been engineered to work in conjunction with drones, at least not yet. And other readily available power supplies just don't make sense. Take gasoline for example, which has a higher energy density than lithium. It seems like it'd make sense to pair it with a drone motor, but this adds weight to the body and it also produces propeller lag that wouldn't prove well on such a small scale. Besides, can you imagine using a mini-gas can to refuel the unit? That sounds highly inconvenient and potentially disastrous to us.

The other potential power source can come from hydrogen fuel cells. In theory it sounds like a smart alternative to batteries - they generate electricity through chemical reactions and they do so with little pollution. After all, these fuel cells only require hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity. Its exhaust is simply water vapor. If this sounds familiar even in the slightest regard, you're not crazy, as this technology has slowly and recently been pushed into the vehicle market, and in some cases in homes too.

If drones started enabling fuel cells it would mean fly times that can last up to a few hours, and refilling these cells would take minutes compared to a batteries lengthy recharge time. But why isn't is being employed in drones yet? Actually, it is, but only in prototypes since it still hasn't been researched enough to become a standard norm.

Luckily, the industry is starting to shift and soon enough drones with fuel cell sources will become available. Their price will increase astronomically no doubt, but some may be willing to invest if it results in a longer flight time. Until then, lithium batteries are the next best thing.

Drone Wars

There are a lot of examples throughout history of military technology making its way into the lives of everyday citizens. Wealthy nations often set aside considerable sums of money for their military expenses, and research and development into the next competitive advantage can drive technological advancements forward at an incredible pace.

Remember the Internet? Sure you do! Why, that started out as something called the ARPAnet, which is, let's face it, considerably less catchy.

Drone technology followed much the same path, though most early implementations of it were designed to give soldiers something to shoot at as they trained. The first known attack use of an unmanned areal vessel was in Venice in 1849, when Austria sent balloons loaded with bombs into the country.

In the early years of the 21st century, hobbyists, engineers, and downright geeks began building DIY drones out of simple materials and basic model plane and helicopter motors. That enthusiasm, and its concurrent development with cheaper, smaller, higher resolution cameras combined to rocket the drone market into something that no one could have predicted.

It's still early in the game for the technology, and the rules and regulations of development and deployment are still being debated, but for now, the sky's the limit.

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Last updated on June 22, 2017 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with an alphabet-soup of credentials to her name, Lydia has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts, throwing herself into a broad constellation of interests. From antithetical cultural analysis to interdisciplinary combat training, she bears the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience. Reading, biking and exploring are favorite pastimes, but – with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order (not on speaking terms with a higher power) and becoming an artist (can’t even draw a respectable stick-figure) – she’d try almost anything once.

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