As technology advances and prices fall, the demand for consumer drones continues to grow
Drones are available in all shapes and sizes from the tiny, entry-level Nano Drone 4.0 to the high-end, professional DJI Inspire 2. It can all be a bit confusing, as these remote control or autonomous aircraft
go by a variety of names, including UAVs drones and quadcopters. These are largely
interchangeable, although the term quadcopter refers to the number of rotors. From as little as £40/$60, you can experience the fun and excitement of owning a drone without breaking the bank.
Explore, perform stunts, and even play multiplayer games. You can choose from a range of drones to suit your budget and experience level.
With so many drones on the market, it can be hard to find the right one. We have compiled a guide to introduce you to ten of the coolest drones out there at the moment that will suit everyone from first-timers to filmmakers. Whether you are a complete beginner and want to learn how to fly or an expert pilot looking for a high-end camera drone to take photos and record video, we’ve got you covered.
1. DJI MINI 2
DJI’S LATEST CAN FIT IN YOUR BACKPACK, BUT HASN’T SACRIFICED ANY OF ITS SPECS
DJI took everything that made their previous Mavic models popular and put it all into the smallest and most lightweight body they could The DJI Mini 2 is portable enough to stick in your backpack
and go. Instead of space-hogging fixed arms, the DJI Mini 2 has a set of folding arms and propellers that, thanks to a clever configuration, allow the drone to fold down to the size of a smartphone. The Mini 2 also appeals to those concerned with safety as DJI sell 360-degree propeller guards that attach to the drone for better flight safety and the built-in sensors provent it from crashing into objects. The sensors also allow the drone to fly autonomously, tracking people while shooting their stunts with its built-in camera. Even though the DJI Mini 2 may be on the wishlist of every skateboarder, mountain climber and
beginner pilot, professional photographers and filmmakers can also benefit from its features.
The quadrocopter has a 12-megapixel camera with its own three-axis gimbal; it has a maximum battery life of 31 minutes, can resist winds of up to 38km/h; and has an operating range of up to ten kilometres. Despite having these impressive specs, the DJI Mini 2 costs a lot less than most prosumer drones: it retails for £419/$449, where professional photography drones can cost double that
The DJI Mini 2 is able to fly itself thanks to a powerful combination of smart sensors and software. These sensors also allow the drone to hover in place, making it easier to line up the perfect photo. When performing stunts on your bike (or skateboard, surfboard, etc), you should use the DJI Mini 2’s Quickshots. These allow the drone to effortlessly fly itself in different formations to take different shots. There are five modes to choose from: Dronie, Rocket, Circle, Boomerang and Helix. In fact, performing
these impressive camera movements is as simple as selecting it from the DJI Fly app on your smartphone. If you’d rather control the drone yourself, the app features controls for all levels of pilots; experienced pilots can use the Sport mode for advanced controls while beginners looking to create interesting videos can use the CineSmooth mode to slow down the speed of the drone for more precise movement.
For the most part though, you control the quadcopter yourself. To do this, you can use an app on your phone or for more precision and greater range, the Mini’s dedicated controller. Just like the drone, the controller also has foldable antennas for easy storage. You can also insert your phone into the controller to act as a view screen, displaying a live feed from the drone and vital stats like battery life.
- The Mini 2’s lightweight design with folding arms make it highly portable and easy to carry around.
- Its 12MP camera is the rival of professional models, complete with a three-axis gimbal.
- The DJI Fly app has tutorials to help beginner pilots learn the basics of flying as well as video editing
software for quick sharing.
2. DJI FPV
DJI HAS INTORDUCED AN FPV DRONE FOR A MORE IMMERSIVE FLYING EXPERIENCE
Whether you’re wanting to start racing with drones or just a different flying experience, you should look into FPV drones.
FPV, or first-person view, is when you pilot a drone while weating a headset that shows you the view from the front of the drone. There are a number of FPV drones on the market, but some will require you to assemble them yourself and the majority are not beginner-friendly. The DJI FPV comes with three different flight modes, so whether you’re an experienced pilot or just starting, you should feel comfortable flying. Normal Mode makes the FPV behave like your standard drone it will hover in place and the sensors around its body will prevent it from flying near any object. Manual Mode disables the hovering and sensors so you are in complete control. This is something for the more experienced pilots. Sport Mode is somewhere in the middle of the other two, with some features being disables and others still active. If you’re new to FPV or any kind of drone piloting you should feel safe with the DJI FPV
because as with all DJI drones it has a host of safety features included such as the Return to Home function that tells the drone to fly back to the spot it took off from. There are LED lights on the front that can be customised so you can see them more clearly and all flying modes come with an Emergency Brake and Hover feature that can be activated at any time.
FLY IN NEW WAYS
What will strike you the first time you see the DJI FPV is the design of the drone. The look of the drone wasn’t for show but instead it was done to make it aerodynamic. It can reach speeds of up to 140 kph and accelerates from 0-100 kph in two seconds. You can look at the pilot’s view using the DJI FPV Goggles V2. It has a range of up to 10km with low-latency and at 720p. The DJI FPV comes with a standard controller, but if you want a different piloting experience you can purchase the DJI Motion Controller. Retailing for around £139/ $199, this uses hand movements to pilot the drone. If you’ve used a joystick to pilot before then this will feel familiar. While the drone is accessible to new pilots and incredibly fast, it can also capture great videos. The built-in camera is capable of filming at 4K/60fps or you can use the slow-mo feature that shoots 1080p at 120fps for a unique type of video. The price reflects these features – at £1,249/ $1,299, it may be hard to justify it as your first drone but you can look at it as an investment.
- TOP FEATURES
- FPV flying at a distance of up to 10km. Footage streams to headset at 720p with low-lantency.
- Smart sensors control lift off and help to prevent any possible crashes.
- Safety features make it good for those wanting to learn FPV flying
The Parrot ANAFI Ai is the first drone to use 4G to link the pilot and the drone. The technology allows for stronger connection while flying at any distance even when behind an obstacle. The Skycontroller 4 and drone’s connections are encrypted so any data is secure and it is always optimised during a flight for the best video resolution and frame rate.
As with most popular drones on the market today the ANAFI Ai is foldable, portable and easy to take out and start using in a short amount of time. The drone can reach speeds of up to 54km/h horizontally and
14.4km/h vertically. It’s incredibly fast and thanks to its rechargeable 3.350mAh smart battery, has an impressive flight time of around 32 minutes. The ANAFI Ai features a USB-C charging system, meaning
you can connect the drone to any portable power bank or computer to begin charging. This means you can charge the drone for a second flight without having to leave your location.
FLYING PRO-GRADE CAMERA
One of the key selling points of the drone is its ability to take pictures and record full high-definition video using the 48-megapixel on-board camera. For those who want to create professional-looking videos, the ANAFI Aican shoots 4K HDR footage at 60 frames per second and it features a 180-degree tilt
gimbal. It ranges from -90 degrees to +90 degrees, enabling you to get more creative with ideas for shots, and the six-axis image stabilisation helps keep footage looking smooth. The camera’s HDR feature enables it to take excellent-quality photos in any light conditions. No details get left behind as the Quad Bayer sensor captures realistic shadows alongside vivid colours in the same image. The Skycontroller 4 can be connected to a range of devices including larger smartphones and even Apple iPad minis. Its HDMI output enables you to stream video footage live from the drone to other monitors.
The ANAFI Ai is aimed towards the prosumer, and it shows with its price tag of over £4,000/$4,000. With it being a costly investment, the drone features plenty of security features to help protect itself. It uses a unique obstacle avoidance system, using two cameras to detect any objects or obstacles in every direction and the drone will avoid them automatically. The drone comes packaged with the Skycontroller 4, a hard case, a USB fast charger, gimbal protection, a set of additional propeller blades and more
- TOP FEATURES
- The 48-megapixel Full-HD camera is digitally stabilised on six-axis using powerful computer algorithms.
- Its USB-C charging system means you can use a portable power bank to charge the drone.
- It has around 32 minutes of flight time per charge and is able to reach speeds of up to 54km/h.
Yuneec have been making amazing aerial photography drones since before the word ‘drone’ was even in the popular vernacular. Of its many models, the Typhoon line has consistently been one of the best in the business but like every other UAV maker out there, the company has been in the shadow of DJI for the past few years. However, the Typhoon H Plus goes straight for DJI’s jugular. The first thing you’ll notice about the Typhoon H Plus is that it’s a hexacopter, which means it has six rotors instead of the normal four. What’s more it only needs five to fly – the redundant propeller is for in case of emergencies, so the drone can safely fly back to the home position for repairs. If you think six arms might take up a lot of space, you’ll be happy to hear the arms also fold down for simple storage. The other unique feature of the Typhoon H Plus is that, rather than only panning up and down, the in-built camera’s three-axis gimbal can swivel 360 degrees for maximum scope. The H Plus has upgraded its camera from previous Typhoon models – it can now shoot 4K video at 60FPS and 20MP images, even in low-light situations. Like the DJI Phantom 4 and 3DR Solo, the Typhoon H Plus also has a range of autonomous features. This includes object avoidance powered by a combination of Intel’s RealSense R200 RealCamera technology, which allows the drone to ‘see’ in 3D, and sonar for added protection in low light and night flights. The Typhoon H can fly itself in a number of preset modes, such as flying a between a series of programmed coordinates, tracking the user and orbiting a single location.
The Typhoon H is ultimately a prosumer model intended for advanced aerial photography. If you don’t have much experience flying a UAV, it will take you a while to get to grips with Yuneec’s redesigned ST16 ground station controller. While the obstacle avoidance tech will hopefully help you to avoid crashing, the user faces a steep learning curve to master its many switches. The upside of this that once you master it, or if you’re an old pro, you get an unparalleled level of control. Perhaps because the controls take some work, the Typhoon H also comes with an innovative
flight controller. Essentially a smaller, more compact controller, it allows a pilot to operate the drone with simple ‘point-to-fly’ commands that can be executed with just one hand, while a photographer controls the camera separately using the ST16. This ST16 is better suited for manning the camera as it has a built-in digital video downlink that displays a live feed from the drone’s camera in 720p high definition.
- TOP FEATURES
- The Typhoon H’s camera can turn a full 360 degrees for panoramic photo and video.
- 3D computer vision and sonar allow it to avoid obstacles even in low light.
- Fly it as a two-person team for advanced aerial photograph
The DJI Phantom was renowned for offering professional-grade video capabilities and an array of smart features, which put it firmly at the top of the list for any aspiring drone cinematographer. It improved the range with the Phantom 4 Pro which was part of a drive to make drones smarter and safer with the addition of autopilot modes and a refined design for more stable flight. If you’re worried it all sounds a bit dull, then don’t be – it’s faster than you would expect! DJI then improved on this model with the release of the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 in 2018. The changes don’t warrant a purchase from those who already own a Phantom 4 or Phtantom 4 Pro but if you’re new to the range, the newer version is the one to get. Three sets of sensors calculate the drone’s speed and distance from objects to prevent it from hitting obstacles such as trees. The sensors on the Phantom 4 also allow it to manoeuvre around obstacles even when it’s following a pre-set waypoint. The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 can detect obstacles in five directions thanks to its array of sensors. Amateur pilots can breathe a sigh of relief, as the drone will automatically stop itself colliding with an object, even if the pilot continues to fly it into harm’s way. Another fancy feature is ActiveTrack, an autopilot mode that makes the drone track and follow you. This, combined with the obstacle avoidance, means that the Phantom 4 Pro can follow you almost anywhere. The mounted 20MP camera is able to shoot 4K video at 60fps as well as take 4K images. Along with the automated flight modes and obstacle avoidance, shooting professional-looking footage should be stress-free.
FLY FASTER, FOR LONGER
The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 can reach speeds of 72km/h when in S mode, even in winds of up to 10 m/s. The improved Phantom 4 Pro is able to achieve these higher speeds and altitudes thanks to the use of new materials and a more aerodynamic structure, making it lighter than the original Phantom 4 Pro. It’s not just faster either; the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0’s 6000mAh battery provides an extra two minutes of flight time compared to the Phantom 4, boosting it to 30 minutes overall. Even though the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is aimed at the prosumer and professional market, it’s still remarkably easy to fly. A host of flight modes, satellite positioning, and a more stable air frame makes it easier to pilot than ever. For around £1,590 ($1,500), the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is far from cheap. But if you want the very best, look no further.
- TOP FEATURES
- Obstacle avoidance stops crashing into terrain or structures in its path.
- As well as 4K images, the camera can capture 4K 60fps video.
- The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 can fly for 30 minutes.