- Jonathan Feist | Drone Rush
The best drones around are a diverse set of flying machines. There are some amazing UAS out there for everyone from the living room pilot and mountain climbing photographer all the way up to the drones used in Hollywood or for passenger flight. These are fun times, and 2018 is proving to be a turning point where hobby pilots, like you, can step up to pilot drone deliveries and more as flight takes hold around the globe.
We’re here to explore the best of the best in the drone industry, today is all about the best drones that you can buy on a store shelf in 2018. Please note, we are going to focus mostly on the sub-$2000 range, you can get some amazing machines for top dollar, let’s instead focus on the machines that most of us can afford at home. Join us for our rundown of the best drones for sale today.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
In August 2018, DJI announced the DJI Mavic 2 series of drones, including the Pro and Zoom models. Iterative updates to the DJI Mavic Pro drone, each of the two new models offer a different camera experience. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro offers a 1-inch camera sensor, that’s the same size as the Phantom 4 Pro. Thing is, this new Hasselblad build camera may just be the best camera that DJI has to offer without looking at the $3000+ DJI Inspire 2. With all-direction obstacle avoidance sensors and almost all of the best flight features that DJI has to offer, this is going to be a very hard drone to beat for a while.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
With the DJI Mavic 2 Pro taking our top spot for favorite drone these days, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is only a close second. The newly built 1/2.3-inch camera sensor is an improvement even over the DJI Mavic Air, and its secret trick, which is not so secret, is built into the name, it has a 2x optical zoom. In addition to some fun camera modes that take advantage of the zoom, this is a powerful tool for commercial operations or any other spot where you need to get the camera closer, but you can’t actually fly closer. Aside from the camera, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and the DJI Mavic 2 Pro are the same drone, so look for all the best safety and flight features baked in.
DJI Mavic Air
Announced on January 23rd, shipping starting January 28th, 2018, the new DJI Mavic Air is the culmination of everything learned from the Mavic Pro and Spark. The new machine combines the best of both existing drones and makes it better. It folds down even smaller than the Spark, but is still larger in the air. You’re looking at 4K video recording and 12 MP stills, those videos are at 100 Mbps, which will translate to the best camera experience of the three.
The new drone is light, compact, folds down and can fly by hand gestures. Check it out at the links below and stay tuned, we have plenty more coverage coming:
Have a specific need in mind?
Before we dive in to explore the best drones regardless your needs, we wanted to mention that we have many curated lists on our site. These drone lists are tailored to your needs – if you are looking for the best nano drone, mini drone, camera drone, racing drone and more, we have a list for you. These lists differ from our global Best Drones list you are reading now by further explaining what makes a specific drone great for a need. Have a read through the best list here today, then hit up the other lists when you are ready to narrow down for a purchase.
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. Accidents happen, but incidents 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.
As of December 2017 you have to register your drone with the FAA before you fly! This supersedes the info from May 2017 that said you are no longer required to register your drone with the FAA. Registration is required once again, don’t worry, it’s quick, easy and only $5.
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.
Do you get paid to fly? You need to be commercially licensed to do so, that’s the FAA Part 107 Airman Certificate with sUAS rating. We’re ramping up our tutorials on how to get the license, and we’ve teamed with a training company to help you pass the test. Learn all you need to know for the test and much more through Drone Pilot Ground School.
Getting started guide
We spent a good deal of time with our first drone, an inexpensive machine that taught us the intricacies of flight, how weather affects our machines and to stay away from dogs. That’s another story though. We want you to get the most out of your drone, and the first step is understanding what your machine is capable of, where you can fly, how you can fly and what you should expect from the experience. Luckily for you, we have been through it all, we’ve got a few resources that you can check out before you take to the sky. I urge you to check them out, if you get just one safety tip, or one little thing helps you get better video from the sky, I’ll be pleased.
Drone legal and safety
With our top recommendations out of the way, these are the remainder of the best drones on the market today:
DJI Mavic Pro Platinum
Update: DJI has announced the new DJI Mavic Pro Platinum. With improved flight controllers and modified propellers, this slick new color on the Mavic Pro shell only teases at the overall improvements of the folding drone. Stay tuned for more coverage. For today, the vast majority of the info for the original Mavic Pro is relevant for the Platinum version as well, but the newer machine, with improvements, is the better drone.
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, of the DJI Mavic Pro for $788. Add extra batteries and more in the DJI Mavic Pro Fly More combo for $999. (Regular price is $999 and $1,299.)
Ever since experiencing the new Uvify OOri at CES 2018, we’ve been eager to get our hands on it. Few mini drones capture our attention in a big way, but Uvify did it. With a pedigree in drone racing, OOri flies safe and slow for beginner pilots, then unleash the beast to soar at up to 60 mph. Considering this drone fits in the palm of your hand, we’re very impressed with what it can do.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the Uvify OOri, we have ours in-house. You can order your OOri for $349 now.
Update: Let us be perfectly clear, if you can afford the DJI Mavic Air, do not buy the DJI Spark, get the Air, it’s worth the upgrade.