In the landscape of best drones for sale, it’s DJI’s world, and everyone else is playing catchup. Sure, there are some exciting options, but if you want a solid off-the-shelf experience, the best camera drone on the market will have a DJI logo on it.
Not in the mood to read a small book on all things drones? Our top pick for the best drone for sale in 2021 is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It’s the perfect blend of features, value, and portability.
Before the arrival of inexpensive, off-the-shelf camera drones, aerial photography and videography used to involve strapping into a helicopter and hanging outside the door with a camera.
Not sure how I feel about trusting a harness that’s probably seen better days and dangling out of a helicopter. They don’t make anti-anxiety pills that large and then there’s the cost. Renting a helicopter for a video or photography session isn’t cheap.
The solution? Slap a camera on a drone, and you’re in business. I don’t have to endure a panic attack hanging outside of a helicopter, and who among us hasn’t played video games? Put those skills to use and get the perfect shot or footage.
For me, that includes dropping a Phantom between two cliff faces to get an amazing waterfall shot. Multiple storm chasing shots and video. Chasing my nephew through the woods. A tree won that particular battle but showed DJI drones could take a beating and come out on top.
Want to jump to a particular drone? Below is our list of the best drones for sale today:
Before we dive deeper into the specs and what you can expect from each drone, it pays to know what you’re getting yourself into. Drones are a blast, but these are the questions that always pop up.
Need some help with the editing process? Here’s our constantly updated list of the best YouTube channels for all things post-production.
- What is a Camera Drone?
- Glossary: Explore the world of FPV & Camera Drones
- What are the Best Drones for Sale
- 1. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- 2. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
- 3. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
- Best Mavic 2 Accessories
- 4. DJI Mavic Air 2
- 5. DJI Mini 2
- 6. Skydio 2
- 7. DJI Inspire 2
- 8. FreeFly Alta Series
- 9. Autel EVO
- 10. Parrot Anafi
- FPV Drones Go Mainstream
- Your Camera Drone Questions Answered
- What Drones Will Release in 2021?
What is a Camera Drone?
The most important part of the camera drone is, well, the camera. A lot goes into each drone camera, and it’s good to know the basics of what exactly you’re purchasing and why each features matters.
Drone Camera Sensor. The headline of every launch is the sensor. Without it, we aren’t looking at amazing footage or stills. One number you’ll hear tossed about is the megapixel count. 12 megapixels. 20 megapixels. 21 megapixels. What does it matter? The biggest is, the higher the count, the more detail you can render in your photos and videos. It enables you to crop in for that perfect edit.
Sensor size is another vital piece of the camera assembly. The larger the sensor, the more surface area light has to render the image or video. It’s why you hear the Mavic Pro 2 marketing immediately push the one-inch sensor feature. Here’s a visual of why the sensor matters in terms of quality.
Field of View (FOV). One area you may not hear much about is the FOV. It’s vitally important to get it right because some camera drones will start to restrict it when heading into different 4K video formats. We all know the old GoPro fisheye look. That was an extreme field of view. Drones like the Mavic 2 Pro have a FOV of 77-degrees giving a wide image but not to such an extent the quality begins to suffer.
Bitrates. Nearly every camera drone can use some form of 4K video at a 100Mbps bitrate. It’s a measurement of the amount of data that can be pushed to the storage device. The higher the number, the more detail you can pull out in post-production.
Aperture. A basic explanation is the aperture represents the opening of the lens. The lower the aperture, the more light can hit the senor. It’s at these low numbers you can start to get the background blur known as bokeh past your subject. In higher apertures, the lens begins to close up, and you’ll have both the foreground and background in focus.
Want a deep-dive on all things camera related? The Digital Photography School has a great intro course that will walk you through the terminology and different techniques.
Glossary: Explore the world of FPV & Camera Drones
FPV (first-person view) – Popularized by drone racing, fpv feeds in the video direct from the drone camera to fly the drone. Stabilization technology has allowed FPV drones to capture more immersive videos and photos over traditional camera drones.
RTH (return-to-home) – One of the primary safety features on all camera drones is the one-button RTH functionality. If you get disoriented or the drone is in a precarious location, hitting the return-to-home button will push the drone to autopilot. It will then fly to a safe altitude and fly back to the controller autonomously.
ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast) – A tracking technology for manned and unmanned aircraft that has been introduced as a potential replacement for secondary surveillance radar in air traffic control, as well as a method for integration of drones into manned airspace and a component of UTM (unmanned traffic management) systems.
RTF (ready-to-fly) – You will likely come across the acronym ‘RTF’ in your search for the best drones on the market. RTF, or ready-to-fly, is a drone that’s ready to be flown with zero alterations or assembly. Any drone purchased at a big box store will be RTF.
Gimbal – The mechanical stabilization technology used on numerous camera drones. A feature commonly seen advertised is a three-axis gimbal to stabilize the camera during flight fully.
Follow Me – Equal part safety and camera feature. The follow-me function on camera drones lock on via GPS, remote controller, or beacon to follow the subject. The more advanced camera drones have onboard obstacle avoidance to track the subject around various obstacles in its path, like trees.
What are the Best Drones for Sale
Now that we know the basics, it’s time to get kitted out with the best camera drone for you on the market. Remember the old adage of just because it’s expensive, doesn’t make it better. Photography and videography have a lot to do with the user over the equipment.
1. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The Mavic 2 Pro is our pick for the best drone for sale in 2021. It merges a laundry list of features into an ultra-portable and affordable package.
DJI’s current flagship consumer camera drone. It takes everything we loved about the original Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro and combines it into one hell of a photography or videography platform.
The Mavic 2 Pro is the first of DJI’s consumer drone line to benefit from the company’s partnership with Hasselblad. Name sound familiar? It was a Hasselblad camera snapping photos during the first moon landing. That’s a hell of a pedigree and the Mavic 2 Pro sports a Hasselblad L1D-20c camera with a new one-inch CMOS sensor.
The Spec Sheet
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is packed with the latest tech for camera drones. A one-inch sensor leads the way in headline features along with an array of new sensors and capabilities:
- Camera Resolution: 20 megapixels
- Video Resolution: 4K with 10-bit HDR and maxes out at 30 frames per second.
- Adjustable Aperture: f/2.8-f/11
- Battery Life: 31 minutes. Real World: 28-29 minutes.
- Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance
- OcuSync 2.0
DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro packs a ton of value into the foldable drone. The omnidirectional obstacle avoidance is a first for a DJI, allowing it to smartly avoid objects in its flight path and prevent those ‘oops’ moments.
A headline shot mode for the Mavic 2 lineup is the hyperlapse. You can set it to four different modes, and the Mavic 2 will start shooting images in both JPEG and RAW at the interval you set and stitch them together to form an aerial timelapse.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro’s 4K Drone Camera in Action
The Mavic 2 Pro opens up a world of possibilities. I already mentioned the hyperlapse, but let’s dive deeper and get visual. You can select from Free, Circle, CourseLock, and WayPoint.
Why stop at a hyperlapse? DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro has an enhanced HDR toolset to stack multiple images at various exposures for a crystal clear image free of artifacts and no ghosting across 14 stops of dynamic range.
Panoramas are improved across the Mavic 2 allowing for a sphere, 180-degree, horizontal and vertical panoramas.
Need more control? The Mavic 2 Pro offers a 10-bit-Dlog-M flat profile to really make videos your own through extensive color grading. Add in the 10-bit HDR video and the H.265/HEVC codec, and you have a beast of an aerial video platform which folds and fits into an oversized pocket.
Mavic 2 Pro Aerial Photography
Mavic 2 Pro Bundles
There are four purchasing options for the Mavic 2 Pro. The base drone-only package which is $1599. The recently released DJI Smart Controller offers up a bundle at $2049. And finally, the best deal is combining the drone-only package at $1599 with the Mavic 2 Fly More Kit for $399.
Why is the Fly More Kit the better value over the Smart Controller or the DJI Goggles? Batteries. You end up with a total of three which means up to 90 minutes of flight time. The Fly More Kit also includes a car charger, battery hub, extra props and a shoulder bag that fits everything.
If it were me, I’d opt for the extra batteries and consider the Smart Controller later down the line.
Let’s recap the four options for the Mavic 2 Pro:
- Drone-only ($1599)
- Mavic 2 Pro with Smart Controller ($2049)
- Mavic 2 Pro ($1729) + Fly More Kit ($439)
2. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
My personal favorite of all the camera drones for sale is the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. Sure, it’s a holdover from my first camera drone, the Phantom 3, but there’s something about it.
From a pure camera perspective, it outshines the Mavic 2 Pro. Yes, they share the same sensor. However, the Mavic 2 Pro is hampered by heat issues due to its small footprint. The advertised 20 megapixels is actually in the neighborhood of 17-18 usable megapixels. That’s completely related to heat dissipation from the camera system on the Mavic.
Sticking with the camera, the return of DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro also pushes the company back into the 4K video at 60fps. That’s a big deal with Autel preparing to launch its next-generation EVO II. DJI needs a stopgap, and the P4P fills that role quite nicely.
It doesn’t mean the Mavic 2 Pro is inferior. Both have their use cases. If you want ultra-portability, the Mavic 2 line is the go-to drone. Want to snag your camera drone by the landing skids? The Phantom 4 Pro has your back. Trust me, the landing skids are a more significant feature than most realize. Being able to launch and recover from a kayak is a breeze. Gravel-filled landing area? I’d worry about a Mavic 2, but the P4P handles it with ease with the extra clearance.
Battery life is similar, along with many of the safety features. Hell, even the price is the same. I’d ding the P4P for this as it’s older, but the U.S.-China trade war has yet to be resolved.
Pricing is at $1599, and I’d forgo the controller with the dedicated screen in favor of additional batteries. You’ll get faster firmware updates with new shot modes using your phone or a tablet as the screen. I’ve used the controller with the dedicated screen, and it doesn’t justify the additional cost. Especially with smartphone screens outclassing it.
The Spec Sheet
- Camera Resolution: 20 megapixels
- Video Resolution: 4K at 60fps.
- Adjustable Aperture: f/2.8-f/11
- Mechanical Shutter
- Battery Life: 30 minutes. Real World: 25-28 minutes.
- Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance
- OcuSync 2.0
DJI Phantom 4 Pro in Action
The one-inch sensor really shows off in both stills and video. One of my favorite videos is ‘Miami at Dusk.’ It shows just how powerful the camera drone is in a variety of situations. Plus, it’s Miami.
It doesn’t get much better than that. Except maybe a Phantom 5 with interchangeable lenses. Come on DJI. Hook us up.
3. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
Rather punch in with optical zoom? The Mavic 2 Zoom is for you featuring 2x optical zoom and up to 4x lossless digital zoom.
Want to save a bit of money but still get nearly all the perks of the Mavic 2 Pro? The Mavic 2 Zoom is for you priced at $1349. The difference between the two flagships is the sensor size, and the Mavic 2 Zoom has 2x optical zoom and up to 4x lossless digital zoom.
Other differences are on the video front with the Zoom not having access to the HLG 10 bit and other ‘pro-centric’ features.
Owners also get access to a special shot mode dubbed the Dolly Zoom.
Yes, you can get this effect on the Pro, but it involves some skill with video editing. On the Mavic 2 Zoom, it’s a button push.
The Spec Sheet
There’s considerable overlap between the second generation Mavics, but here’s what you need to know for the Mavic 2 Zoom.
- Camera Resolution: 12 megapixels (Pro has 20MP)
- Video Resolution: 4K30p
- Zoom: 24-48mm optical. Up to 4x lossless digital zoom.
- Battery Life: 31 minutes. Real World: 28-29 minutes.
- Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance
- OcuSync 2.0
The Mavic 2 Zoom is one hell of a drone, and if you’re looking for an aerial platform with optical zoom, you can’t go wrong. Yes, you lose the one-inch sensor in favor of the smaller sensor found on the original Mavic or the Air. 12MP versus 20MP. A lot of the color profiles advertised in the Mavic 2 Pro are gone, but you still have access to the D-Cinelike.
It’s one hell of a drone, and if you’re fine with the output of the smaller sensor, the Mavic 2 Zoom could just as easily be number one on the list.
What Can You Capture
I mentioned it above, but the amount of overlap in features is substantial between the Zoom and Pro The biggest difference comes with the drone’s camera sensor. Making up for the sensor difference is the ability to shoot super-resolution photos at 48MP. DJI accomplishes the feat by shooting nine separate images before stitching them together into a final image.
Another feature exclusive to the Mavic 2 Zoom is the Dolly QuickShot. It’s easier to show you versus explaining the effect:
Like its more expensive sibling, the Mavic 2 Pro, hyperlapses are the most impressive of the shot modes. There are amazing creators making unbelievable videos using various modes. Take a look below:
Other QuickShots include Panoramas, Asteroid, and Boomerang. What you can capture is only limited by your imagination.
Mavic 2 Zoom Aerial Photography
Mavic 2 Zoom Bundles
It’s the same setup as the Mavic 2 Pro. DJI offers four buying options:
- Drone-only ($1349)
- Mavic 2 Zoom with Smart Controller ($1779)
- Mavic 2 Zoom ($1349) + Fly More Kit ($399)
Best Mavic 2 Accessories
After settling on which Mavic 2 Pro package you’re getting, there are a few accessories you can add to maximize the footage and images you capture. And then other accessories are quality of life improvements. Let’s break them down.
ND filters. Think sunglasses for your drone camera and you’re on the right track. If you don’t want to invest in a solid set, you can make use of the Mavic 2 Pro’s adjustable aperture. On bright days, you can move to a higher aperture to allow less light in to get your desired shutter speed for video.
Prefer to leave the lens wide open? ND filters are a must. Polar Pro and Tiffen are the go-to filters, with Polar Pro offering long exposure photography filters.
Mavic 2 Pro PolarPro
Mavic 2 Zoom PolarPro:
Need a primer on ND filters?
Next up would be a solid bag. Yes, the Fly More Kit comes with a shoulder bag, but most of us want extra room and protection for our gear. My favorite bags come from Lowepro.
The DroneGuard BP 250 is perfect for the Mavic 2 and has space for days. It strikes the right balance of protection and comfort. Sure, it’s not a hard pelican case, but the idea of a portable drone is portability. You can mix and match what gear you want including your drone, another camera plus a lens, batteries and dedicated space for your laptop and tablet.
Another accessory you don’t readily think you need? Landing gear. One of the biggest pros of the Mavic 2 is its size. Then you notice on takeoff and landing how close the camera and gimbal are to the ground. The solution is snap-on landing gear. PolarPro makes a set that retracts for easy storage. You don’t need them, but for $30, it qualifies as a quality of life accessory.
Finally, lights. You’re probably thinking why do I want my drone to have lights? Check out Lume Cube’s set for the Mavic 2, and you’ll see why:
Yeah, it’s not a must-have but damn if it doesn’t expand your horizons on the type of images you can capture.
4. DJI Mavic Air 2
DJI’s latest consumer camera drone is easily one of their best. If you’re new to the game or are looking to upgrade from a Mini or original Mavic Air or Pro, the DJI Mavic Air 2 is probably for you. Every pitfall from the original Mavic Air has been addressed. Battery life? It’s up from 21 minutes to a whopping 34 minutes. The old 12MP sensor has been replaced by a brand new half-inch 48 Sony sensor.
Video specs have also been bumped to 4K60p in non-HDR filming, making it the only Mavic currently on the market capable of 4K at 60 frames per second. The only other DJI camera drone capable of that is the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, which is decidedly less portable.
Other improvements come from OcuSync 2.0 which bumps the range to 10km, and a completely revamped controller that places your phone above the sticks. Hopefully, it’s a design change that makes its way into the Mavic 3.
What Makes the DJI Mavic Air 2 a Great Buy? It’s more Pro than an Air. What I mean by that is the list of features on the Air 2 resemble what you’d expect on a Pro upgrade. The new Mavic Air 2 isn’t just an upgrade of the original AIr. It’s an entirely new camera drone. For the same price. It’s hard to find many faults when it’s more a revolutionary upgrade over evolution of the drone.
What Holds the Mavic Air 2 Back? Not much. There are some nitpicks with the 4K60p being only available in non-HDR filming. Then there are the 48MP stills only available in single shots and not Burst or AEB modes. It’s not a deal-breaker in any sense, but you kind of wish it went all-in on the 48MP sensor. But, heat would quickly become an issue, and DJI would want to leave something for the Mavic 3 when it launches later this year.
5. DJI Mini 2
DJI’s follow-up to the Mavic Mini is everything we expected it to be with a few surprises. The battery life stays excellent at 31 minutes. Not sure what kind of magic the company is pulling off for it, but damn if it’s not one hell of a coup considering the smaller battery in the Mini 2 over the first-generation Mini.
Upgrades are everywhere for DJI’s beginner drone, with 4K video finally making an appearance and an absurd 10km range. It should be noted that’s under the best conditions with a clear line of sight and no radio or physical obstructions. Follow your local laws and ordinances on how far you can fly a drone away from yourself. Keep visual line of sight on the Mini 2 at all times.
The big marketing headline of the original Mavic Mini was the weight. It was 249 grams placing it a gram under the FAA registration requirement. The Mini 2 keeps its slim figure, and most buyers will not have to register the camera drone with local authorities.
Pricing sees a slight uptick in the United States to $449 for the drone and $599 for the Fly More Combo. Considering the number of features the company upgraded, it hardly qualifies as a price increase. Plus, it screams $399 price cuts when DJI runs its regular promotions. You can compare the DJI Mini 2 with the original Mavic Mini over here.
6. Skydio 2
If you’re looking for the future of autonomous camera drones, the Skydio 2 is showing off serious chops in the world of object avoidance. The videos showing it off are stunning. It’s powered by an NVIDIA Jetson TX2, which has 256 GPU cores of processing power. Six 200-degree field of view cameras provide 45 megapixels of details to help the Skydio 2 avoid anything in its path.
What Makes the Skydio 2 a Great Buy? If you’re a one-person action sports participant who wants aerial footage, there’s not a better option on the market. Use the SkyBeacon to keep the drone locked on you as you mountain bike, snowmobile, and generally shred through whatever sport you want.
The 12MP sensor is on a three-axis gimbal and is capable of 4K video at 60fps. Autonomous speed tops out at 36mph, allowing it to keep up with just about any sport. At $999, it’s a solid value considering the lack of competition for now in the autonomous market.
What holds the Skydio 2 Back? Scale. Skydio is built in the United States by hand in a small assembly line. That presents problems getting the volume of drones out the door and into the hands of consumers.
Another is the Skydio 2 looks like the drone GoPro wishes it had built. It is heavily marketed towards the action sports crowd, which feels limiting as it can easily compete with other camera drones. It loses out in range and sheer camera control in the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom. And it lacking the scale of DJI is a problem.
The $999 Skydio is taking deposits, but 2021 is coming, and no one should be under any illusion DJI isn’t planing one hell of a response. They did it to GoPro, and I’d be concerned by the time production is ramped up, DJI will already have a host of camera drones that outstrip the current advantages the Skydio 2 enjoys.
Still, it’s a hell of a drone, and if you’re into action sports, it’s one to definitely consider.
7. DJI Inspire 2
The big leagues of off-the-shelf drones. It will set you back serious cash, so it resides in the arena of professionals or hobbyists with a lot of disposable income.
DJI’s Inspire 2 is the only true, off-the-shelf, professional camera drone. One of the biggest selling points is it’s more of a platform thanks to its interchangeable lenses and the variety of camera payloads DJI offers.
It breaks down into three separate buying options, each offering its own list of specs and performance options. There are a few specs that are standard across the line of options.
The Inspire 2 Spec Sheet
- Max Flight Time: 27 minutes
- Max Speed: 67 mph
- Dual-Operator Mode, Two Cameras, Obstacle Avoidance
- 360-degree gimbal.
What Can You Capture
DJI’s Inspire 2 is a professional system. You can shoot professional films using this aerial platform and the price more than reflects its capabilities.
DJI Inspire 2 Aerial Photography
Inspire 2 Bundles
Inspire 2 Standard Combo. Priced at $2999, it features the Zenmuse X4S camera with a one-inch sensor. It can handle 4K video at 60fps and oversamples to 5.2K at 30fps. Burst rate on the photos can hit 20fps, and like all Inspire 2 combos, it has the option for a dual operator mode with the forward-facing camera.
Inspire 2 Professional. Get ready for a massive price leap. The Inspire 2 Professional combo prices out at $10,110 and includes the Zenmuse X5S over the X4S. In addition to the standard remote controller found on the standard edition is the Cendence Remote allowing for dual operator mode.
The X5S is an upgraded 20.8MP MFT sensor capable of Apple ProRes video at 5.2K. Dynamic range is expanded on the X5S camera to 12.8 stops.
Also in the combo are two 7.5-inch Crystal Sky monitors. No more sunshades over your tablet to see where you are flying the camera drone.
Inspire 2 Premium. Priced at $12,560, it forgoes the standard controller for two Cendence controllers, ultra-bright CrystalSky monitors, and two 480GB CineSSDs. The X5S is still the onboard camera with the option to add interchangeable lenses.
8. FreeFly Alta Series
If the Inspire 2 makes your checking account recoil in fear, the FreeFly Alta series is the true bank account buster. And with good reason. These are the true professional drones. You should know your use case if you’re buying a Freefly Alta-series drone. The Alta 6 starts at $12K and jumps from there, while the Alta 8 starts buying frenzy at $18K. Oh, and neither has a camera, yet. That comes later, but your options are limitless.
Sorta like your budget needs to be. Freefly does have more than its share of incredible bundles, including the absurdly nice Movi Carbon. It’ll set you back $45,000, but it is a handheld, or drone-mounted 5-axis stabilized Panasonic GH5 complete with every filmmaking goodness you’d ever want.
Of course, we all want that.
Then there’s the Alta X, Freefly’s latest drone to wow the industry. The starting price is $16K without a camera, but you can feel free to add whatever payload you can dream up. Movi Carbon? Sure. LED lights? Definitely.
Each Alta is its own animal. These are the ultimate in cinema-grade drones. What they are not is your typical hobbyist drones. You’re looking at $30K to get the cheapest option off the ground and filming.
9. Autel EVO
One look at the Autel EVO and you see a Mavic competitor. And on the specs, it gets close, especially with its camera shooting 4K at 60fps. Still, DJI’s ecosystem and reliability win out.
Where the EVO falters is on the price. It packs a similar sensor as the Mavic Air, but is priced higher. Still, it checks all the right boxes on features, including flight time and a drone camera capable of 4K video at 60fps for under $1000.
- Flight time: Up to 30 Minutes
- Range: Up to 4.3 Miles
- Integrated Screen on Remote
- Front and Rear Obstacle Avoidance
It shares similar specs and stylings as the Mavic, but it loses ground to DJI’s innovative shot modes. However, competition breeds innovation and the Autel EVO is one to watch.
Autel Evo Buying Options
Autel keeps it simple with a $999 package which includes plenty of extras. You’ll want to invest in additional batteries to keep you flying.
10. Parrot Anafi
One of the more unique camera drones of 2021 is the Parrot Anafi. It looks like a Mavic clone, but its gimbal makes it stand out from the pack. It can rotate 90-degree down and 90 degrees up along its vertical axis.
- Three-Axis Gimbal Which Rotates 180 degrees Vertically
- 21MP Sony Sensor
- 2.8X Lossless Zoom
- 25-minute Battery Life
The Anafi has its collection of smart shots including dronies and cineshots. It can’t match the breadth of what DJI puts forward technology, but a $699 price tag does make it compelling against the Mavic Air.
FPV Drones Go Mainstream
Over the past year, there’s been a marked transition on the types of drone footage you see on social media. Yes, the majority is still the same steady shots of areas with breaking news or stunning vistas. But a new medium has emerged. Cinematic FPV drones with action cameras strapped to them. This can be either a Cinewhoop or a racing drone. Cinewhoops are more stable and can create some of the more cinematic views of locations. Racing FPVs are all about the acrobatics. Want to line up a plunge over a waterfall. You’ll want a racing quad for that to have the power to pull out of the dive.
One of the hotly anticipated FPV drones is the one slated to be released by DJI. The company has long hinted it wanted into the FPV game with the DJI FPV system. Now, it’s set to release the DJI FPV Drone (the naming scheme is subject to change).
When it does release, it should set off a series of a mad scramble from competitors in the space. BetaFPV looks to be one of the chief direct competitors and has been teasing its Insta360 collaboration throughout January 2021.
Your Camera Drone Questions Answered
There are a few options on the market claiming to be one of the best drones to buy. Prices vary but solid values can be had starting at $399. Our list includes:
DJI Mavic 2 Pro: The DJI flagship and our current pick for the best drone for sale on the market today. Priced at $1599.
DJI Mavic Air 2. DJI’s latest consumer camera drone is one that checks nearly every box. It has a 48mp sensor and is capable of hitting 4K60p. For $799.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. Consider it the co-chair of DJI’s flagship consumer camera drone. It was the first to have the one-inch sensor and it’s the only DJI drone capable of using the full 20 megapixels and recording 4K video at 60fps. Priced at $1599
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom: It’s the sibling to the Mavic 2 Pro but includes a zoom lens over the 20-megapixel sensor. You can make equal arguments for either DJI drone, but our pick goes to the Mavic 2 Pro. Priced at $1349.
DJI Mini 2. DJI’s replacement for the Spark is the ultimate gateway drone into the hobby. Its major selling point is it is under the 250-gram drone registration requirement. It’s priced at $399.
Parrot Anafi: Parrot is known for its unique drone designs, and it carries over into the Anafi line. When it needed to compete against the DJI juggernaut, the company opted for a 21-megapixel sensor with a vertical movement of 180 degrees. It can shoot straight up or down. Priced at $699.
DJI Inspire 2: The professional drone of the list. And it has a price tag to match. DJI’s Inspire line can work with three different proprietary cameras complete with its own lens lineup. Priced at $3499.
For camera drones, the best drone for beginners is something like the DJI Mini 2. You avoid FAA registration requirements and the price starts at $449 and even with extra batteries, it never gets above $500.
Stores like Amazon, B&H, Adorama, Best Buy, DJI, and others are all excellent options to buy drones online. Each carries the latest camera drones and the accessories you’ll need to keep you in the air.
The short answer is no on needing a license to fly a drone. There are two caveats to the answer. One is for hobbyists. Currently, the FAA is working on a general knowledge test which will be baked into every app, and we will have to pass the exam. It’s expected to be simple, common-sense questions, though no word on when we can expect it to release.
The other caveat is it depends on your usage of the drone. Is it for business? Monetized YouTube content? Then you need to pass the Part 107 exam. Once you dive into the realm of making money, the hobbyist exemption no longer applies to you. And obtaining the license opens up a wealth of opportunities and places to fly.
Professionals aren’t all that different from hobbyists. The drones they use can vary from a Mavic 2 Pro up to a Freefly Alta 8 with a RED camera attached to it. You don’t need the most expensive equipment for the best results. That comes down to storyboarding your ideas, executing, and skills in post-production.
The short answer is yes. The long answer dives into new regulation passed in the recent FAA Reauthorization Act. It lays out general guidelines for both hobbyists and those looking to use their new camera drone for commercial purposes. A lot of it is common sense, but let’s go over it:
Keep your drone within line of sight at all times.
Stay below 400ft.
Don’t fly near other aircraft.
Respect people’s privacy.
Stay away from first responders.
Don’t fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Do not fly in National Parks.
Be aware of FAA airspace restrictions.
Here’s where it can be a bit tricky thanks to different rules governing hobbyists and commercial users. There are plenty of apps to help you figure out where you can fly, any temporary FAA restrictions and help commercial drone pilots (Part 107) automatically apply for waivers to operate within controlled airspace.
A few include the B4UFLY FAA app, Kittyhawk, Hover, and DJI’s app are integrating airspace warnings, LAANC approval systems, and any local ordinances regarding the use of terms. A big one we haven’t seen change is if there will be waivers granted for National Parks in the same way commercial pilots can immediately apply to fly within the five-mile buffer around airports.
Hobbyists can stick to local parks, your backyard, etc. Use the apps with updated info, and you’ll find there are quite a few areas you can fly your brand new camera drone.
Yes with a major caveat. An app becomes necessary when flying in a city. You need to know where you can fly, if the FAA has any temporary airspace restrictions, etc. While not required, you may want to invest in earning a Part 107 license, even if you have no intention of using your drone commercially. It’ll open up an array of options to fly within city limits.
400 feet. Yes, any off-the-shelf camera drone can easily push 1000 feet, but it’s a no-go zone after 400 feet. Why is there an altitude limit? It protects other aircraft. Even if you don’t live anywhere near an airport, stay under the limit.
A perfect example is where I live. Nowhere close to an airport, but military choppers love using the area as a training ground. Keep it under the legal ceiling, and everyone wins.
Do I need to register my drone?
Yes. There was a lot of confusion surrounding the registration of drones in the past as a court case was making its way through various appeals. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 put the question to bed, and any drone must be registered. It’s cheap and takes maybe a minute or two of your time.
Prices for a drone vary wildly. A cheap drone for kids is typically less than $100, while a flagship camera drone from DJI, such as the Mavic 2 Pro, cost around $1599.
The difference in price centers around the drone camera. You’re looking at a starting cost of $300 for a drone with a camera. A 4K drone starts at $800 depending on the features. If you have the cash to spend, a Hollywood-ready drone from Freefly starts at $15,000.
What Drones Will Release in 2021?
With 2020 in the books, all eyes turn to 2021. It should be a busy year as multiple DJI product lines are set for a refresh and Sony joining the consumer drone market sometime in Spring 2021.
We already have a good idea of what’s set for release in the new year, thanks to the amount of time that has passed and recent announcements.
The first drone in 2021 that all eyes will be on will be the DJI FPV drone. The amount of leaks surrounding it has essentially given us a great look at what we can expect. After that is a Mavic 3 Pro, it’s been years since the Mavic 2 Pro was released, and it’s time for DJI to update their flagship consumer drone.
Other potential DJI camera drones in 2021 include the Inspire 3 and perhaps a Phantom 5. The rumors of the Phantom line dying off feel exaggerated to me, and the company could do some serious design changes to bring it into this decade.
In addition to DJI’s relentless release schedule, other companies will respond. The biggest will be Sony. They own the mirrorless camera market, so if anyone can knock it out of the park on the first try, I’d give the edge to Sony. BetaFPV’s Insta360 collaboration will be one to watch as it looks to counter DJI’s FPV drone.
Then there’s Skydio and EVO. Will they make a move to upgrade their flagships to compete against DJI. Here’s hoping. Competition is excellent for the industry as the consumer wins.
2021 is shaping up as a return to normalcy and everyone back into the skies. Luckily, we will have plenty of new camera drones to capture those moments.