The Best Drones in 2018 – Drone buying guide
Before we hop on to explore the Best drones available in the market lets understand some of the basics of drones first. What is a drone? Drone is an aircraft without the pilot onboard and which is controlled by remote control, that’s the reason it is also known as UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). Drones were first introduced for the surveillance and military operation but now drone industry has transformed itself for robust purposes.
No doubt the future of photography looks promising with the introduction of budget drones that has revitalized the artist within you, but it’s important to invest in a top drones that doesn’t just deliver good quality footage but also reliable enough to work properly for a long time.
Through this article we are going to list the best drones in 2018 and are dominating the market in different sectors, some drones are best for the hobbyist, some are best drones for professionals and some are just best small drones for fun purpose of beginners.
Drone market is on the continuous rise and we will be discussing the “top reasons to buy a drone” in the later phase of this article, but before that, it’s important to understand the core component of drones and their future.
Core Features Of Drones That You Need To Look After.
Micro-controller is the most important component of any drone and it is responsible for overall drone functioning. While purchasing the drone for yourself its good to be aware of the quality of microchip embedded in your drone, we will be talking about the microchips in our drone reviews.
Although military drones run on fuel, camera drones need a battery to fly. Although most of the affordable drones have a battery life of no more than 20-30 minutes that’s enough to shoot some great footage if you did some homework and some training.
Motor efficiency plays important role in drone functioning; most of the people bother about the sensors and functionalities offered by top drones companies but the quality of motors is the key feature that you should pay attention to. A set of good brush less motors will give you smooth and noise-free footage.
Some of the common sensors that you can expect to get with your drone are: Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Barometer, Temperature Sensor, GPS. Sensors can be digital or analog.
Altitude holds is one of the features that most of the people fail to recognize, apart from having a good inbuilt GPS system a drone is always required to be loaded with good altitude hold capabilities.
2018 Best Drone Reviews:
The Best Drones in 2018:
- DJI Mavic PRO
- DJI Mavic Air
- GoPro Karma
- 4 DJI Phantom 4 Pro
- DJI Inspire 2
- DJI Spark
- Yuneec Typhoon H Pro
- Parrot Bebop 2
- Holy Stone HS160
- Holy stone HS100
- Syma X5C 2.4G
Type of photography drones
We have classified the drones into three broad categories; pick a drone according to your need:
- Hobby drones
- Value for money Drones
- Professional drones
Many drones in the market are offering same functionalities and sensors than what make some drones outstanding and what makes some just a wastage of money? It’s the quality and reliability of drone. We are going to list the wide variety of best in class drones, you can surely take chance to invest on any of the listed drones because of their reliability.
1.DJI Mavic PRO
Until the introduction of DJI Spark, DJI Mavic Pro was the smallest drone available in the inventory of DJI. Mavic pro is one of the most loved drones all over the world which was made with the combination of most important elements of any drone success. It got portability, stability, performance and Reliability; what else you can expect from any drone?
DJI Mavic contains high performance 3-axis gimbal which is not very common in small and portable drone. But incredible camera stabilization helps in making the video recording feather smooth and also with the excellent camera quality you are surely going to love this incredible drone.
DJI Mavic Pro has got a top speed of 40 MPH with the battery life of 27 minutes that provides it incredible capability to record long distance without worrying about battery.
Let’s get deep into more details of technology included in DJI Mavic Pro, it has got a range of 7 km because of the DJI’s brand new OcuSync transmission technology, unprotected drones are very prone to hitting an obstacle in the long run but Mavic Pro comes with built in sonar that senses the obstacle from 15 m away. It has got gesture control to take a photo, video or just call your drone back to you.
One of the biggest issues faced by people is their drone’s sensors stop working abruptly, but Mavic Pro contains two set of every key sensor to make it more durable and reliable. GPS positioning also helps the drone to be capable of precision hover or come back to the exact location where it took off.
This is more like a miniature drone which is designed to carry easily wherever you go, I have some photographer friends who own a high end Inspire 2 drone as well but they purchased Mavic pro because of its portability. Sometimes nature gives you incredible shoot in the most uncertain way and carrying a miniature drone can help you capture those random shots.
2. DJI Mavic Air
When I first came across this drone I was instantly fallen in love with its geometric elegance, it is a real giant killer that DJI has produced. It has got incredible portability that no other competitor is able to provide with the combination of high-end features, it has got incredible camera qualities that have multiple recording settings. DJI Mavic Air is capable of recording astonishing 4 K videos at 60 frames per seconds that means incredible video quality even in slow motion.
With the battery life of more than 20 minutes and range of 10 kilometers, it is not just a drone; it’s a whole package in small size. One of the most incredible and user-friendly features Mavic Air has got is its foldable blades that makes it fit into the pocket of your jacket.
DJI has included the best of all technical features from its all drone models. This drone has got 8 GB of internal storage lets you save the photos and videos directly and then move in into storage device later. The camera of this drone is capable of recording 32 MP sphere panora+ma and slow-motion videos as 1080p 120 frames per seconds. Choose from six different QuickShots — Rocket, Dronie, Circle, Helix, Asteroid, and Boomerang, all are just a tap away.
Apart from getting the ability to record 4K video at 60fps, Mavic Air also provide you with the option to record 1080p videos at 120 frames per second.
3. GoPro Karma
So those who have been a loyal customer of GoPro and believed in its simplicity can opt for GoPro Karma Drone, you can also call it best mid-range 4K drone for photography.
So finally after tremendous success in the category of action camera GoPro launched its first official accessory for its action cameras, yes, a camera company landed themselves into drone market. This can be called as the best drone for GoPro diehard fans, if you already own a GoPro action camera then this drone can be a great option for you. Compared to DGI phantom this karma drone is more portable because of its foldable design.
GoPro has a mantra of keeping the functionality minimalistic that that’s the functionality that has been praised all over the world.
You can also expect the video quality of the Karma drone to be bit more superior than the DJI Mavic drone. Karma offers the much-required functionalities like Follow me and use of sonar for the obstacle avoidance. Karma flies smooth and leveled and you can expect lesser jerks.
You can expect the stabilization to be of great quality because of the integrated world class 3-axis gimbal that works on the brushless motors for superior quality video footages.
Although GoPro Karma Drone is highly portable it comes with its carry bag and you should not expect to carry thing drone in your laptop bag, it’s not that portable. Karma ships with the travel bag, controller, charger, and the handheld gimbal.
Providing a drone with a handheld gimbal make your purchase more versatile and practical, you may use the action camera through mounting it on the body or you can mount it on drone and you can have a capability to be mounted on hand hell grip as well.
Simplicity is the most admirable thing that GoPro maintain but it’s also one of its biggest drawbacks, because of the simplicity there is an absence of several functionalities that similar counterparts are providing. But we can assure you one thing, it might be very simple and basic but Karma does its job very well.
4. DJI Phantom 4 Pro
Phantom series can also be called as flagship models of DJI drones; DJI phantom series has made a different reputation in the world because of its superior technology and constant refinement of the sensors and functionality.
Although phantom 4 and phantom 4 pro looks identical with the same size and same built quality there has been considerable upgradation in terms of functionalities. You will be able to experience more reliable and smooth flight.
DJI drones have been so popular around the world that there will be no big deal if the famous videos you have been watching and enjoying are shot from these models. Upgraded 30 minute flight time makes it highly compatible with professional shoots which require long endurance.
Phantom 4 Pro has featured obstacle sensing sensors from 4 directions to protect your big investment from any damage while flying. This best value video drone comes with 16 GB memory card to let you store the data within your drone and can be transferred later. You can have a 4 battery charging hub in your package to charge multiple batteries simultaneously.
The 4K recording is provided with the phantom model at 100mb per second rate and that’s really impressive. For me, Phantom 4 Pro is Best Value Drone and worth every penny the quality of the product is way superior to its competitors and it has proven its technological advancement by becoming the most trusted brand within the professional photographer’s community.
5. DJI Inspire 2
You can call DJI Inspire 2 as a pinnacle in drone industry, developed with the consideration of high-end professional photography in mind.
This drone is not for the beginner nor for the hobbyist, it’s developed for hardcore professionals who have a career in cinematography and it possesses all the capabilities to blow your mind with its high-performance functionalities and sensors. But yeah if you have that kind of budget to invest in a drone then you can surely invest in it, it will help you with an added source of income.
No doubt that DJI inspire is one of the priciest drone available in the market and the drones we have reviewed till now were price efficient but DJI Inspire 2 costs more because of the ultimate professional functionalities that you won’t be able to find in the mid-value drone.
With the capability to record 5K videos at 100mgpx can give you incredibly clear footage and it’s not just the camera that outperforms any other drone in the competition. Inspire 2 provides more than 25 minutes of fly time which is enough to record any professional shoot but if you feel like time is not enough for you then you have the portability to carry an extra set of batteries for extended life.
Its carbon fiber alloy body gives it very solid and attractive; you will get the charger in the package that is capable of charging 4 batteries simultaneously. DJI has worked hard to provide superior quality sensors and stabilization to improve your experience with a drone. Inspire 2 has also featured advanced obstacle sensing sensors to save itself from crashing into an object. Inspire 2 is efficiently developed to record and follow fast-moving subjects for dramatic sports and action footage.
6. DJI Spark
DJI Spark became a favorite accessory because of its incredible portability, colorful and smart drone that you can have to satisfy your photographic taste buds. DJI Spark comes with the flexibility to be controlled through hand gestures, mobile device, and remote control or DJI goggles.
A powerful flying camera that you can take anywhere, it takes very less space to be your perfect travel partner. 2-axis stabilization gimbal camera that helps in delivering smoother footage.
Propulsion seems to be quite powerful and with the slick aerodynamic design, this drone has impressed me with its capability to withstand windy weather. The FaceAware feature makes it takes off by just recognizing your face. Hand gesture controls work great and provide you to take aerial selfie anytime and anywhere.
Active track technology allows this device to track an object and follow it. Perform preset flight maneuvers to get a perfect short at any moment. Spark knows where it is because of the inbuilt GPS and has active sonar that senses obstacles to avoid any crash.
Spark’s camera features a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor, allowing you to shoot stabilized video at 1080p and stills at 12 MP.
It’s an affordable option for the people we are looking to have not so costly drones and whose only a requirement is to have short videos memories.
7. Yuneec Typhoon H Pro
Are you in search of professional camera drone but DJI Inspire 2 is too expensive for your limited budget then you can consider Yuneec Typhoon H Pro as the best alternative for your needs. It has got all that you can expect from a professional camera drone, from the presence of a smart stabilizer to the delivery of excellent 360-degree video footage, you will get everything that a professional photographer in you will be expecting.
Typhoon has a flight duration of more than 25 minutes that is enough to capture some beautiful shots, its 3-axis stabilizer and Ultra high definition camera helps in delivering smooth crisp and clear video footages. Its camera has a capability to rotate at 360° range of motion.
Typhoon H Pro comes with the high-end integrated transmitter, receiver and Android platform that assist in gaining full control over the drone very effectively and efficiently. The transmitter allows you to perform a wide range of function like autonomous fly control, orbit me the circular path, point-of-interest focus and curve cable cam.
This drone comes with a multi-advance safety system to protect your heavy investment from any accidental damage, its safety system includes ultrasonic collision prevention, detachable landing gears and five rotor fail-safe insurance.
8. Parrot Bebop 2
Parrot Bebop 2 is one of the most successful drones manufactured by Parrot, with the introduction of this drone Parrot has earned a great reputation. If you are planning to own a cost efficient mid-range drone for great quality video recording than Parrot Bebop 2 can prove to be a great solution to your hunt.
You might be worried about the absence of stabilizer in the Parrot Bebop 2 but presence of video stabilization software and fisheye lenses allows the drone to record smooth video footages. Rubber dumpers are used in the chassis of drone that reduces the vibration in drone hence make it more eligible to deliver smooth footages.
Although the range of the drone is quite limited it’s acceptable with the asking price of manufacturers. You can pay bit extra to buy a controller to get better control over your drone movements. Inbuilt GPS tracker also allows you to command your drone with different options like follow me and virtual tracking.
9. Holy Stone HS160
Still not sure whether to invest your money in a drone that’s is not more than just hobby for you, then you should have a look at this incredible miniature drone who has wowed thousands of people across the world and satisfied many tech enthusiasts.
When I first got to know about this drone, I ordered it immediately because of the price. Holy Stone has been providing a bundle of functionalities in a miniature price. Holy Stone HS160 comes with 720p high definition camera that works incredibly well to have random photos or videos. HS160 can be controlled by a controller or through your Smartphone, its foldable blades make it incredibly easy to carry it anywhere, it’s so portable that you can carry it in your pocket. It supports the modular battery and one key start for easy to use.
It’s not just the camera quality and portability that impressed me, but the additional functionalities that HS 160 is providing within this price, it comes with the built-in GPS system that assists in functionalities like attitude hold and one key automatic landing. This drone worked very efficiently in stable indoor selfies. This drone also features gravity sensor mode, which enables the quadraptor to automatically follow the direction of your cell phone.
10. Holy stone HS100
Another highly trusted drone that has earned its reputation through good built quality and reliable functioning. If you are searching for a reliable drone which doesn’t prove havoc in your pocket but still have the capacity to satisfy your photography hobby then HS100 can be another great option for you.
Holy stone HS100 drone is an advance mid-range drone packed with all the features that you will expect from any drone in the same category. Drones come with excellent transmission range you can take the drone above an altitude of 100 meters still HS100 will be very much in control and responsive.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the mid-range drone is their signal might drop because of any obstacle or in any adverse condition and you might lose control over it, but HS100 has an advance auto-return system which makes it return to you in case of any signal problem. Holy stone has packed the drone with much efficient functionality like newest 720P 120° Wide-angle HD Wifi Optimized Camera, allow you to take high-res pictures and video during flight. HS100 also features one key take off and landing function which makes it handy for the beginners, Headless motion gives the drone a capability to move according to the pilot’s orientation.
Most of the sensors worked outstanding, its inbuilt GPS allows the drone to hover efficiently at the higher altitude as well.
12. Syma X5C 2.4G:
Before we get into the details of this, let me acknowledge you that it’s more like a toy and less like a drone, but still a great choice if your only concern is to play with drone and learn to fly it. Syma X5C 2.4G is a great way to introduce yourself or your kids to drone world; it’s the best and cheapest drone you can buy.
Syma X5C 2.4G weights only 1.6 pounds and is capable of flying for 7 minutes once fully charged, and it has only 100 minute charge time which is quite good. 6 axis gyro stabilizer is used to keep the drone stable for stable photo shoots or video recording.
This drone comes with the inbuilt HD camera that works great to take an indoor selfie and although outdoor usage of this drone is a debatable topic because it can get unstable in the windy situation and works best in low wind speed. This drone comes with a separate controller that is a great additional accessory to see with the very cost effective drone. Syma X5C 2.4G is also equipped with 2 GB memory card that makes it quite easy to use without any connection with the smart device and you can later transfer the photos to your storage disk.
The range of the drone around 50 meters that is quite enough with the price range and you are not advised to push your drone to further distance or you might end up damaging it, Syma X5C 2.4G comes with some additional spare parts like hover blades and blade guards and a battery.
Things to consider before you buy a Drone
Buying a drone can be hectic and it required a lot of pre-buying research before you make your final decision. Drones are complicated and you can’t afford to invest your hard earned money in a piece of crap, right? It’s important to consider few things before you make a final purchase of drone, I would consider the following things before buying a drone:
Reason to buy a drone:
Unless you don’t really care about money, you should have a clear mind on the “Purpose”. Before you even think of buying a drone, decide! What you are going to do with a drone. You can widely categorize commercial camera drones in 3 categories.
- Hobby Drone: Cheap and specially-built drones for the hobbyist, these drones will cost you under $300 and contains all the features to satisfy the craving to own a drone, although these drones may lack high-end sensors and performance.
- Best Value Drone: If you are planning to take your hobby to another level then you can go for this, these are the mid-range drones armed with best 4K cameras that are capable of capturing stunning photos and videos. We call these drones best value drone because they are not too expensive, high quality and can give you additional income source through the image and video quality.
- Professional Drone: Designed to deliver Ultra high-quality videos, many filmmakers opt to use these drones to capture stunning shoots for their movies that were utterly difficult and expensive to shoot before.
Portability should be your top priority if your only reason to buy a best small drone is for Hobby. There have been many drones in the market both low and mid variant that are very portable to carry anywhere, some of the listed drones are so portable that you can carry them in the pocket of your jacket.
Battery life of the drone is another aspect that you need to look at; most of the best video drones have an average battery life of 20 minutes and anything lesser than that does not deserve your investment. Look for the easily detachable batteries as well; detachable batteries give you the flexibility to improve drone’s fly time through carrying an extra pair of batteries.
It’s not just the pixel density that you have to look for in the drone camera, but many other aspects as well like a number of frame per second, low-light image quality, camera sensor size, advanced image stabilization algorithms, aspect ratios, 360° range of motion, etc.
So you have bought a good drone which possesses great camera quality but doesn’t contain a stabilizer, then your camera quality might be of no use. You will find good quality stabilizers in mid-range drones like GoPro Karma, Phantom 4 pro, etc. A stabilizer plays a big role in delivering stable and fluidic smooth video footages.
Most of the people struggle with choosing a right drone, why? Because of the long list of complicated technologies delivered through the drone. You might be able to find many brands that offer all the functionality in lower cost but reputation and reliability of brand are other important things to consider while buying a drone, some of the brands that you can definitely trust are DJI, GoPro, Yuneec, and Parrot.
It’s obvious, your budget is one of the most important things to consider before buying, but if you are planning to buy a Hobby drone then we would definitely suggest you to stretch your budget a bit more to consider the best value mid-range drone. To buy a quality mid range drone you should make up your mind to invest anywhere from $600 – $800 USD.
A mid-range drone will help you get professional quality footages at a cheaper price and these drones have the capacity to open new doors to generate an extra source of income, you can start selling your footages to stock images and stock videos companies or you can start your own Vlogging channel. We have a detailed discussion on “How to start a profitable business with drone” in the latter part of this article.
Learn to fly
Really want to do justice with your investment? Join a workshop on “how to fly a drone”; you will learn different techniques to handle your drone and you will get the first-hand experience on how to efficiently fly a drone.
How To Establish a Profitable Business With Drone.
#1 Sell Aerial Photos And Footages
This is one of the most common ways to earn money through aerial photography, but still, most of the people consider themselves unqualified to make profits from aerial photography, I know few people who quit their 9-5 jobs to pursue their passion for traveling and they make good money with the help of aerial photography. Tips to sell photos and video footages.
- Camera Quality: Make sure you own a drone with a good quality camera and inbuilt stabilizer.
- Practice and practice, we all know that practice makes a man perfect but still you are lazy enough not to practice with your drone on daily basis. Once you made an investment, research on how to record stunning aerial videos and train yourself to be the best drone pilot in the area.
- Travel: if you are a travel enthusiast and like to explore different places then this can be a great career option for you, you can go to different places like beach resorts, night concerts, historical places, amusement parks, etc.
- Work on creativity: you need to develop creativity to capture those random aerial shoots, you can opt to look for some random symmetry or contrasting colors.
- Register yourself: as a photographer on various stock photo websites, this will provide you a great opportunity to sell your images and videos without much hassle.
#2 Offer Aerial Surveying And Inspection
Many utility companies require hiring helicopters for aerial surveys and you can reach them to provide them a cost-efficient solution.
Surveys might include electrical or water line inspection and to figure out where the leakage is or you can give your helping hand to construction companies who require surveying the wide area. There are few functionalities you should look for in your drone to get a job at inspection companies.
- Range: more range means more coverage of the area and better efficiency.
- Flight duration: you might require flying for a long time for the proper survey, always looking for a drone with long-lasting battery life and replaceable batteries.
- Camera: your job might require good camera quality for the inspection purpose, always opt for a 4K camera drone.
- Stability: it will be required to produce high quality and noise-free photos, look for a drone that offers 3-axis stabilized within the package.
#3 Wedding Photography
Aerial wedding photography is the latest trend after the introduction of drones for commercial purposes; you can start your own wedding Photography Company which provides pre-wedding, the main event, and post-wedding photography services.
All you need to do is refer internet to have ideas about some of the most exotic aerial shots and implement them in your photo shoot. You should be able to earn thousands of dollars through your through your aerial photography for parties, weddings and birthday celebration.
Practice well before you apply for such jobs, your drone should be in your total control else you might end up hurting someone.
#4 Real Estate Advertisement
A demand of aerial view of the real-estate is on high demand, people and real-estate companies want to hire a drone pilot who can capture aerial video and photos of their property.
Why are the real-estate agents filming from a drone? Because aerial videos make the property more eligible for the fast sale, the buyer can have a great idea about the surroundings of the property which is proven to be very helpful for the property business.
Apart from real-estate photography, you can also have a meeting with hotel and resorts owners to create an aerial video of their hotel or resort.
Know The Federal Rules
As a drone owner, there are few rules you should be aware of.
- Register your drone with FAA
- Stay at least 5 miles away from all airports.
- Don’t fly more than 400 feet above the ground.
- Don’t fly over government facilities.
- Don’t fly in national parks.
- Don’t fly over private property without permission.
- If you are ever approached by police, be polite.
We have discussed everything about the drone through this article, we have discussed about different drones, we have discussed how to choose best drone for excellent quality and we have discussed how you can earn well through owning a drone.
You get what you pay for, you might be thinking of investing in cheap hobby drones but if you have any plan to earn from drone then you should definitely go for the best drones in market, extend your budget little more to enjoy superior quality picture quality and better stabilization.