Last updated on January 3rd, 2020
Thinking about getting a drone? You should. We finally bought one and it has been a lot of fun going out on the weekends and taking it up in the air! In this product review, you’re going to find the top 5 best camera drones on the market.
We spent a full day in Best Buy figuring out which drones were the absolute best. With most of them, the number one statistic we were concerned about was battery life. Come to our surprise, these drones actually have quite a respectable battery life for being in the air and using as much power as they do.
We also wanted to know the overall top speeds. It seems a lot of people these days are using drones for action sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, cliff diving, all kinds of action sports to get that perfect shot.
Realtors and landscape architects have even started using drones to capture beautiful aerial shots of properties and back yards. These days, there are just a bunch of different uses for drones.
What Is A Camera Drone?
Camera drones have many different names, you will hear names such as quadcopter, drone, and quadrotor. For our review, we’re going to use the term “camera drone”.
Here is the short answer to the question of “what is a camera drone”.
A camera drone, or quadcopter, is a simple flying mechanical vehicle that has four arms, and in each arm, there is a motor attached to a propeller. Two of the rotors turn clockwise, while the other two turn counterclockwise.
Camera drones are aerodynamically unstable and require a flight computer to convert your input commands into commands that change the RPM’s of the propellers to produce the desired motion.
In addition, these camera drones are equipped with high-quality cameras that can take pictures and high-quality video from the air. What’s cool about them is you can literally take them anywhere and capture images that you would never be able to get from the ground.
Controlling The Camera Drone
Your typical camera drone comes with a 4 channel controller that sends wireless commands to the drone while it’s airborne. The types of commands affect the drone’s throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll. The connections between the controller and the drone are the same as your typical WiFi connection which is 2.4 GHz.
Usually, a controller will also have 4 trim buttons that allow you to make minor adjustments to your camera drone’s flight behavior. If you ever notice that with no control input, your drone will drift in a random direction. When you apply trim for that specific control to move in the opposite direction, your drone will no longer drift in a random direction.
Camera Drone Propellers
Something you always want to remember about drone propellers is that there are two sets of propellers and two sets of motors that operate in opposite directions. If you buy a drone and if you ever need
to do anything to the propellers, mark which engine each propeller came from. If you put the wrong propellers on the wrong motors, your drone will be trying to fly downwards instead of upwards. This could potentially be a bad situation, especially if you’re flying over a body of water.
Final Words On “What Is A Camera Drone”
The few sections above are the most important basics of camera drones. You never want to go out and not know anything about your drone so we want to give you as much information as possible.
A side note on the camera: when it comes to your camera, you always want to make sure it’s mounted snugly. In addition, always make sure the camera lens is wiped clean. You don’t want to be in the air wanting to capture a really good shot, only to find out your camera lens is dirty.
What Are Camera Drones Used For?
Camera drones have a very wide range of uses. In addition, many businesses and professions can benefit from drones as well. Think about real estate, if you’re selling real estate, you can use camera drones for taking aerial photos of the properties you are selling.
Also, photographers love to use drones as well. Many photographers sell stock photography and nothing looks more beautiful than a gorgeous picture of a sunset from 100 feet in the air.
So you see, there are so many different things you can use a camera drone for.
Other types of people who use drones are people who participate in action sports. Whether it’s fishing, downhill mountain biking, dirt biking, skiing & snowboarding, skateboarding, wake-boarding, all of these action sports look much better when they are captured on film by a camera drone.
As far as hobbyists are concerned, many people like to go out on the weekends and explore new places. Whether it’s a new beach, the top of a mountain, or a luscious forest, any of these landscapes would look absolutely beautiful when shot by a camera drone.
There are many other professions and uses for hobbyists as well but the above uses are what we have seen most often. We even took these drones out on the boat while we were fishing and they can do some awesome fishing photography as well.
How Fast Can A Camera Drone Fly?
Our favorite and most popular drone we tested was the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. This drone can fly at a maximum speed of 44 mph at its top speed!
Now if you take the drone out of sport mode and just using the drone for casual flight and taking pictures and video, you can get up to 32 mph. Still pretty fast for a camera drone.
Just because this drone can fly at a top speed of 44 mph, does not mean you should fly it at those speeds at all times. It’s like driving a car, you never want to be driving your car at its top speed. In fact, most people notice a comfort level between 10-15 mph.
The only reason you would want to go that fast with a drone is if your drone is in chase mode. Chase mode is where your drone follows you. This feature is useful for dirt bikers that like to take follow videos of them on their bikes.
Another example would be a boat traveling at higher speeds, the drone will be able to take video from behind while the boat is zipping through the water.
Even though most drones can get up to 30 mph or more, you never want to go this fast.
Can Camera Drones Fly At Night?
As of right now, it is illegal to fly a drone in the night sky. This ruling falls under the FAA rule Part 107.29. Here’s the thing though, many drone operations actually happen at night. Drone operations that happen at night are for anti-poaching, search & rescue or emergency response. Data proves this as well. Since December 31, 2017, the FAA has received over 5,000 requests from drone operators and companies that want to operate at night.
Here’s the funny thing: to this day, the FAA has never received any reports of a drone accident that is operating under a nighttime waiver.
Some drone operators claim that it is safer to operate at night. The reason why is because their collision lights make the drone easy to spot in the sky without the added glare of the bright sun.
But as we stated a little bit ago, as of right now it is illegal to operate your drone in the sky after the sun has gone down.
Do Camera Drones Come With Accessories?
This really depends on if you’re buying a combo package or not. If you’re buying your drone at Best Buy, you likely won’t get any extra accessories with your drone. However, when you buy a package on Amazon, you will usually get a bunch of accessories that come with it. For example, the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum and the DJI Mavic Pro 2 come with a bunch of accessories.
Normally the kinds of extra accessories you will get will be extra batteries, a second set of propellers, SD cards for saving your images and videos, or some very nice carrying cases for your drone. The package deals are definitely worth it and the accessories come in handy when you need them.
What If My Drone Breaks? Can I Get Replacement Parts?
Replacement parts for any drone are pretty easy to find these days. All it takes is a simple search on Google and you can find just about any part you need. We recommend using Amazon since they have just about anything you’re looking for.
If you just needed general parts for your drone, just use Amazon as we stated above. However, if you’re needed brand-specific parts, your best bet would be to contact the manufacturer of the drone itself.
Top 5 Best Camera Drones
Are you ready to finally see our top 5 picks that we chose? We had a ton of fun testing these drones. As we stated earlier, we tested them on a boat while we were fishing and these drones can surely fly! The drones are in order of 1-5 with #1 being our ultimate favorite.
1. DJI Mavic Pro Platinum (Most Popular)
The Mavic Pro Platinum features a sleek design and compact body that is both powerful and alluring. A new and improved 30-minute flight time coupled with 60% noise power reduction makes the Mavic Pro Platinum DJI’s best portable drone yet.
- The Mavic Pro Platinum features a sleek design and compact body that is both powerful and alluring.
- A new and improved 30-minute flight time coupled with a 60% noise reduction makes DJI’s Mavic Pro Platinum the best portable drone yet.
- New FOC sinusoidal driver ESCs and 8331 propellers mean that up to 4 dB (60%) of aircraft noise has been lowered during takeoff and landing, and maximum flight time has been extended to 30 minutes, providing a quieter and more enjoyable flight experience.
- The 8331 propellers have a brand new aerodynamic design giving the Mavic Pro Platinum an impressive noise control performance, and new FOC ESC drivers offer sinusoidal current for increased stability.
2. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro embodies all of DJI’s advanced and signature technologies, including Hasselblad Camera (Mavic 2 Pro), 8 km 1080p Video Transmission, Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, & Hyperlapse. The Mavic 2 Pro is all about dynamic perspectives. Capture everything from wide-angle to mid-range shots for even more creative options.
- Latest Flagship Drone: Powered by Hasselblad L1D-20C Camera provided Ultra-Image Quality; 20 MP 1 inch CMOS Sensor and Adjustable Aperture, 10-bit HRD Video.
- Better Flying Experience: Up to 31 minutes flight time, 44 mph max speed, low noise propellers, 3-axis gimbal for steady shots, 8GB internal storage, Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, SD card support up to 128GB.
- More Functionality: ActiveTrack 2.0, Dolly Zoom, Hyperlapse, Low-Noise Design, HDR Photos.
- Package includes Mavic 2 Pro Aircraft Body, 1X Intelligent Flight Battery, Gimbal Protector, Remote Controller, 3x Propellers (Pair), Battery Charger, Power Cable, Communication Cable (USB3.0 Type-C), USB Adapter, Spare Control Sticks (Pair), RC Cable (Lightning connector), RC Cable (Standard Micro USB connector), RC Cable (USB Type-C connector).
- Extra Dealer’s Choice Accessories: Polaris Filter Set (CPL, ND8, ND16, ND32), 64GB MicroSD card, Landing Gear, Landing Pad and 10L lightweight backpack. Authorized Dealer, Full Manufacturer warranty.
3. DJI Mavic Air
A marvel of engineering and design, the Mavic Air was built to go wherever adventure takes you. Inheriting the best of the Mavic series, this ultraportable and foldable drone features high-end flight performance and functionality for limitless exploration. 3-Axis Gimbal Camera.
The Mavic Air is the most portable DJI drone to house a 3-axis mechanical gimbal, with its angular vibration range reduced to 0.005 degrees. Set in a triangular formation, gimbal dampeners help create even steadier shots. 32 MP Sphere Panoramas. In addition to Horizontal, Vertical, and 180 degrees panoramas, the Mavic Air stitches 25 photos together in just eight seconds to create crystal-clear 32 MP Sphere panoramas.
- Includes a full DJI USA warranty.
- The ultraportable Mavic Air features high-end flight performance and functionality for limitless exploration, 32 MP Sphere Panoramas.
- Included in the box you will find the drone, remote control, intelligent flight battery, charger, power cable, propellers (pair) x4, propeller guards, RC-to-Lightning Cable, RC-to-Micro USB Cable, RC-to-USB Type C cable, gimbal protector, communication cable, USB Adapter, RC Cable Sliders (Large & Small), carrying case, replacement control stick pair, 1-year limited warranty.
4. DJI Spark (Best Budget)
Though agile in the air, drones can be bulky and cumbersome when on land. Not so with the DJI Spark which won’t hold you back no matter what the adventure. This compact quadcopter features an integrated camera with motorized stabilization to capture 12MP photos, 1080p Full HD videos, and even aerial selfies.
The drone’s compact size, 31 mph top speed, and up to 16 minutes of flight time will appeal to a variety of users, from FPV enthusiasts to racers to those just looking for more dynamic shots that aren’t possible with a smartphone or camcorder.
The drone features GPS and vision-based navigation for outdoor or indoor use, a variety of flight modes, and a 3D obstacle detection system.
- DJI Spark Remote Control Combo includes a remote controller and the standard DJI Spark accessory kit.
- 2-Axis Stabilized Gimbal Camera 12MP Still Photos / 1080p/30 Video Gesture and TapFly Control.
- FlightAutonomy with Obstacle Detection Subject Tracking from Various Angles GPS- & Vision Position-Based Navigation.
- Top Speed of 31 mph in Sport Mode Up to 16 Minutes Flying Time.
- Up to 1.2 Mile Control Range Control, Edit, Share with DJI GO App.
5. Parrot Anafi
- This drone with a camera equipped with f/2.4 wide-angle ASPH lens, HDR, and up to 2.8 times digital zoom captures spectacular 4K videos, Full HD or 2.7K videos (2704×1520), and 21 MP photos without loss of quality. Additionally, you have a timer, a Burst mode that captures 10 photos per second, and wizards to take over professional settings.
- The ANAFI Parrot Drone can have up to 25 minutes of filmed flight time thanks to an intelligent Li-Po battery that optimizes its life and charges 60% faster using the Power Delivery USB Type C charger.
- With its ultra-compact and lightweight carbon frame (320 g), this quadcopter drone unfolds in less than 3 seconds, reaches a speed of 55 km/h in sport mode and withstands bullets up to 50 km/h.
- Equipped with a Parrot Skycontroller 3 folding remote control, the ANAFI Parrot Drone can be located at any time thanks to the activation of your smartphone’s vibrator when attention or immediate action is needed, as well as the Geofence, SmartRth, and Find My Drone functions.
Tips For Owning A Drone
Remember The Law
The law doesn’t really apply to the cheaper drones that are less than $100. The cheaper drones are classified as more of a toy. However, there are laws for the more expensive drones that have autonomous flying capabilities and shoot high-quality videos and photos.
You’ll need to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration or (FAA). It’s easy to do and you can register on the FAA website.
Learn About Your Drone
Do as much research as you possibly can before you start using your drone in public. Here’s the thing, you don’t want to go receive your drone in the mail and just go start flying right away. You need to learn the controls and how they work first.
We’ve seen this first-hand, a new drone owner didn’t bother learning about their drone first. They took it up in the air and the drone fell to the ground and broke one of the rotors. Learn about your drone before flying.
Check Your Drone Before Flying
This one is important, it’s the same reasons why single-engine airplane pilots check their planes before flying as well. You want to make sure all your components are in working order as well as your rotors. The last thing you want is to take it up in the air and have a component malfunction.
Respect Others If Flying In Town
Let’s be real here, drones can be quite noisy and some people don’t like this. The noise they make can be annoying at times as well. If someone asks you to stop, just do it. It’s not worth the hassle of someone calling the police on you for something as little as a noise complaint.
Have respect for animals and birds in the wilderness. Animals can hear better than we humans can hear and the sounds of a drone can greatly upset any nearby animals. You also don’t want to take the chance of having a “bird strike” and losing your drone.
Set Return To Home or (RTH) Altitude
(For DJI drones) When RTH mode is enabled, your drone will fly to the preset altitude (set by you) and return to your home point automatically. We recommend setting the RTH altitude before you take off. That way your drone won’t fly into any obstacles on its way back to you.
Check GPS Signals
Always make sure to check your GPS signals before your flight. You want at least 10 satellites found with at least 4 bars. A strong GPS signal is crucial for a safe flight.
Always Pay Attention To Battery Status
Always check your drone’s battery status during its flight and leave enough battery for your drone to return safely. Also, remember that flying against the wind will eat up your battery as well.
So you see, there are so many awesome drones to choose from. It’s a tough decision, but I’m sure you already know which ones stand out the most. We know that the GoPro Quad-copter should be on this list as well, but we didn’t include it because it’s not as “universal” as the others.
We also didn’t want to include the GoPro drone because those drones only work with a GoPro. In addition, we realize that not everyone owns a GoPro so it wouldn’t have made much sense to include it in this review. Overall, these are the top 5 best camera drones on the market. Get out there and explore the world from a birds-eye view!
Your first flight will be a lot of fun and something you will never forget. If you have any questions about these drones, feel free to leave a comment below.
How important is a high-quality camera on a drone to you? Will you be using your drone for fun or for business?