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Updated November 2018

Best Drones

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We analyze consumer reviews to find the best products on the web. We buy products with our own money and test them in our lab. We also interview experts and conduct independent research to pick the winners. We have affiliate partnerships so we may get a share of revenue from purchases—It’s how we fund our Research Lab and bring you better reviews and comparisons. Read more.

Best Drones Updated November 2018

Conclusion

Pros

Cons

DJI

Phantom 4 Professional Quadcopter
Check Price at: 1 store
Repeat DJI drone customers encourage fellow drone enthusiasts to go Pro (or Pro+). The upgrade is worth it.
Performance, reliability, and high-tech features like new obstacle sensors puts this drone at the top of the market.
Our team of novice pilots didn’t expect setup to be easy but it took us quite a while to get this copter up and running. It doesn’t seem to be as compatible with Android as it is with iPhone.

Parrot

Bebop 2 Drone
Check Price at: 1 store
This drone has a limited range and is perhaps the best drone for beginners.
Users have raved about the video quality of this drone. The included accessory set and cockpit goggles also enhance the in-flight experience.
Some customers have warned others about software glitches and controller problems.

Holy Stone

Wi-Fi FPV Drone with 720P Wide-Angle HD Camera
Check Price at: 1 store
The Holy Stone is equally usable for both beginners and seasoned drone pilots.
We slapped our big “best value” sticker on this Wi-Fi-compatible drone due to the amount of features you get for the affordable price. Now smile for the HD camera.
Some app issues have been reported. One customer said he mastered the art of climbing trees (to retrieve the drone) as he was practicing flight.

UDI

HD+ RC with HD Camera
Check Price at: 1 store
There’s a fine line between a professional drone and a toy—this fun copter definitely steps into toy territory.
This drone comes with a lot of features for the price. Customers say it’s the most fun to fly.
The battery life is debatable and its extremely susceptible to wind.

3D Robotics

Solo Quadcopter
Check Price at: 1 store
This well-designed drone comes at a reasonable price and has impressive video capabilities.
The durable drone and user-friendly controls create a smooth flight, even for amateurs.
The gimbal is sold separately. Without it, your camera may be shaky resulting in blurry photos and video.

Our Process

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Customer Reviews
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Products
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Hours

Consumer drones are still a relatively new concept to wrap our heads around. These backyard copters are now equipped for high altitude, high speed, and high-definition multimedia. The sharp design, controversial nature, and futuristic technology of these drones make the purchase journey nothing short of intimidating. We get it—we all want to be up to speed with the latest gadgets but those purchases take time and money. Here’s the good news: we did the research for you. The bad news? We’ve only narrowed it down to five exceptional products.

Drone reviews guide

Drones have come a long way since their debut during World War I by the US Army. Today, drones are used for recreational and commercial purposes like drone racing and backyard fun, professional photography and videography, as well as commercial delivery and even agricultural production.

Before you buy, you’ll want to determine what you’ll use a drone for and how often you’ll fly. It’s important to consider the safety and privacy standards you’ll have to abide by. You’ll learn that each city has different rules in addition to federal regulations.

Our team has pored over drone reviews and user feedback in addition to testing top-rated drones firsthand. We’ve checked into privacy concerns from the public, government requirements, and frequently asked questions to put together a comprehensive guide on how to buy a drone.

3 Reasons to buy a drone

Photography and videography—Today, anyone from the average joe to a professional photographer can use a drone to record their travels, property, and even wedding from above. From 400 feet in the air, you can capture aerial shots of the brilliant fall foliage in your own neighborhood. Real estate agents and property managers use drones to provide virtual tours of homes to prospective buyers and renters. You can even buy a mini drone designed specifically for taking selfies on vacation.

Recreation—There’s no two ways about it. Drones are fun. Controlling a flying machine is exciting. Recreational aircrafts run the gamut from toy drones for kids to drone racing for serious hobbyists. As you may have guessed, toy drones aren’t as souped-up as professional or commercial-grade copters. They’re usually smaller, easier to fly (sometimes through an app on a phone), and more affordable. Some are even suitable to fly indoors. They make great gifts, especially for teens and young adults who like the thrill of lift-off.

Racing—Like model airplanes and remote-controlled boats, passionate hobbyists will oftentimes build their own drones for racing. However, there are some ready-to-fly racing drones in a variety of sizes available on the market today. These quads usually include a headset or first-person-view goggles as well as some gates to practice quick maneuvers.

You can watch professional events hosted by the Drone Racing League in person, online, and on ESPN.”

4 Features we tested

Installation

For first-time flyers, easy—or at least straightforward—instructions will be important. You don’t want difficult assembly to spoil the excitement of your new drone. You can prevent this frustration to a certain extent by purchasing a ready-to-fly (RTF) drone, which should include all—or most—of the parts already assembled. Time-consuming installation was our only complaint about our top pick, the DJI drone.

Controls and operating systems

Total control is key to a smooth flight experience. Software glitches, a sudden change in weather, and range restrictions can all result in a drone going rogue. Operating a drone through an app on your phone or tablet can quickly drain your device of battery. If your drone is controlled through an app, wait to fly until your device is fully charged. Also, avoid flying drones in windy or inclement weather conditions.

Flight time and battery life

Manufacturer’s flight times are a bit of a stretch. Drones are tested in controlled environments and conditions by experts who know how to install, control, launch, and land that particular product. Also note, the more features that are activated and the more add-ons you install, the faster the battery will deplete. Depending on the size of your drone, you can expect about seven to 30 minutes of solid flight time.

Features

New features seem endless these days. Here are a few we learned about in testing the best drones on the market:

  • Built-in standard or HD cameras with photo and/or video capabilities or the ability to attach your own camera.
  • Gimbals stabilize drone cameras, which you can imagine is a tall order for a flying, remote-controlled machine.
  • Obstacle sensors for smoother, agile flights.
  • Brushed versus brushless motors, which lend a quieter operation and a long-lasting motor.
  • Headless mode is a helpful feature for starter drones. It enables the drone to move in whichever direction the user points the controller’s joystick despite where the front of the drone faces.

Drone photographers can make between $50,000 and $70,000 a year. Some pilots make $500 to $3,500 per wedding for aerial photos and videos.”

Safety tips & privacy rules

Consult your state and local legislation before you buy a drone. Additionally, here’s a checklist of rules that all drone pilots must follow:

  • Learn how to fly a drone and obtain a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate
  • At least 16 years old
  • Pass TSA vetting process
  • Drone must be less than 55 pounds
  • Drones heavier than 0.55 pounds must be registered
  • Pre-flight safety inspection
  • Yield to manned aircraft
  • Notify airports and/or air traffic control before flying within five miles of airport
  • Drone must be within pilot’s line of sight
  • Drone cannot exceed an altitude of 400 feet high below 100 mph
  • Daytime flights only
  • Don’t fly over people or vehicles

DJI’s Fly Safe page online is chock-full of safety tips and video tutorials that customers can use as a checklist before launching their drone.”

The do’s and don’ts of drones

Do know the difference between RTF and ARTF/ARF. RTF stands for ready-to-fly drones that require little to no assembly while ARTF or ARF stand for almost-ready-to-fly, which require a more hands-on installation process and maybe even additional purchases of some parts that weren’t included with your drone.

Don’t discredit others’ concern for safety and privacy. Drones can be intrusive and the invasion of privacy is a hot debate around the market. High-speed blades, cars, buildings, and unaware passersby don’t always play well together. Many of us think we’re far more interesting to others than we probably are. For that reason, people have a tendency to feel that their privacy is threatened when they spot your drone hovering overhead, even if you’re flying in your own yard or an empty lot.

Do register your drone with the US Federal Aviation Administration. Drones fall under the unmanned aerial system (UAS) category, which is regulated by the FAA. UASs must register with the FAA or else face fines of up to $27,500, criminal penalties, and even imprisonment.

Do research no-fly zones. If you thought you’d get an exclusive view of Yosemite from above, think again. National parks, as well as some state parks, are no-fly zones in the US. Even county and local spaces have their own regulations that you’ll have to look into before you fly.

Don’t expect the investment to end here. Future purchases include extra propellers and batteries as well as costly repairs after nearly inevitable crashes. As your enthusiasm for drones builds, you’ll likely explore accessories and upgraded features.

Drone photographers and videographers can look into freelance and festival opportunities to earn money from their hobby. Consider commercial flights to deliver packages and scan farms for crop yields or win a few races and score a contract or sponsorship for thousands of dollars.”

Frequently asked questions

What is the best drone on the market?

The DJI Phantom 4 Pro is a very cool drone. Everyone in the office gawked at the pearlescent machine as we unboxed, assembled and tested it. That being said though, you may not need all of the fancy features that are built into the Phantom Drone. Don’t overlook camera-free, lightweight drones for a fun weekend activity and consider buying a ARTF/ARF kit to enhance your hobby.

What drone has the longest range?

The DJI quadcopter drone has the longest range (3.1 miles) of all the drones we reviewed, but all drones must remain within the pilot’s eyesight.

How much does a drone cost?

The drones we reviewed range from $90 to $1,250. You’ll also have to take license exam costs ($150 per exam) and registration fees ($5 per drone) into account.

How high can you go with a drone?

Despite how high your particular drone can reach, all drones must remain within 400 feet of the ground.

How long does a drone fly for?

Seven to 30 minutes of flight time depending on the size of and activated features on your drone.

Do all drones have a camera?

No. Although it’s a popular feature, not all drones have cameras. There are really two major types of drones: drones with cameras and camera-free drones.

How much weight can a drone carry?

The drone itself can be heavy, let alone cameras and other accessories. Some drones with attachments can weigh up to 45 pounds. Remember, the FAA requires drones to weigh less than 55 pounds.

Are drones illegal?

To fly your drone without legal or financial consequence, you’ll have to register it with the FAA. You should also consider investing insurance and definitely research no-fly zones before you launch your copter.

The team that worked on this review

Kelsey Roadruck
Writer
Kealia Reynolds
Editor
Marc Lewis
Product Researcher
Sabrina Karr
Photo Editor
Sean Burgess
Developer

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