Buyer’s Guide

Any kind of raking is, of course, subjective and to a certain extent arbitrary, depending on which criteria are selected. And yet everyone likes to read them because they give a quick overview of what is on the market and eliminate extensive research. Here is my subjective assessment of the currently best drones sorted by different criteria:

Camera drones (below 5 lbs) with the best image quality

1. DJI Phantom 4 PRO
In the Pro version, the Phantom offers an excellent 20-megapixel camera with a large 1” CMOS sensor that records 4K videos. In addition, there is a very good obstacle detection and a flight time of 30 min.

2. Yuneec Typhoon H Plus (available June 2018)
Yuneec’s Typhoon Plus offers a 20-megapixel camera with a 1” CMOS sensor, which is additionally equipped with an endless 360° rotatable gimbal. I also like the fact that Yuneec claims – unlike DJI – not to transfer your data to their own servers.

3. DJI Mavic Pro
With its smaller 1/2.3″ image sensor, the Mavic Pro camera does not quite match the quality of the first mentioned models, but the quadrocopter with its foldable booms and a weight of only 1.62 lbs is much handier and somewhat cheaper – and is at the forefront in image quality in the class of compact drones.

Compact Camera Drones / Drones for Travel

1. DJI Mavic Air
The little brother of the Mavic Pro is hardly bigger than a smartphone (only thicker). The dimensions and only 0.95 lbs (430 g) weight make it suitable for backpacking and traveling. In addition, it has received a new obstacle detection system with additional sensors.

2. DJI Spark
The Spark is the cheaper alternative to Mavic Air. Weights only 0.66 lbs (300 g), but the booms cannot be folded in, so you might want to use the Styrofoam box before putting it in your backpack. An inexpensive, solid drone with gesture control and various flight modes for selfies and easy filming.

3. Yuneec Breeze
Yuneec’s Breeze is again a bit bigger than Spark, has a 13-megapixel camera, but the image sensor with 1/3.06″ is a bit smaller than the Spark. Even if the Spark is a little bit better in almost all aspects, the Breeze is ahead when it comes to the price: For less than $200 you get the very neat selfie drone.

Toy Drones / Mini-Drones

1.Syma X5C-1 Explorer
The quadrocopter from Syma weighs almost 1.1 lbs and is therefore not a “real” mini-drone. Apart from that, the price-performance ratio is ideal for buyers looking for an inexpensive toy drone which includes a camera and first-person view. The flight time is 8 minutes. Images can be transferred to a smartphone via Wifi. The drone has very good flight characteristics and is quite stable in the air. Prices start around $45.

2. HUBSAN X4 H107C
The mini-drone is already available from approx. $30, so crashing it does not hurt too much. With a size of 6×6 cm and a weight of a few grams, it is very agile and easy to control. The battery only offers a flight time of 7 to 8 minutes, but this is not a bad value at all for a mini-drone.

This mini-drone is ideal for children and beginners who want to make first flight attempts without spending much money. The 9.5 x 9.5 cm Quadcopter costs under $25, stays approx. 5 min in the air and its battery is recharged in only 5-10 min.


Professional Camera Drones

1. DJI Inspire 2
The Inspire 2 is one of the best drones currently available for professional film and photo shooting. It can be equipped with various cameras, including the current gimbal and lens series Zenmuse X7. $ 7000 must be taken into account for drone, camera, and one of the four lenses.

2. DJI Inspire 1
The predecessor model Inspire 1 is still an excellent camera drone, but not compatible with all new cameras (e.g. the X7). In a set with the camera Zenmuse X5 and X5R it is available from about $ 5000. You also have good chance to snag one used in good condition.

3. Yuneec H520
The H520 is an orange hexacopter, which remains just under 2 kg take-off weight and is therefore much handier than the DJI Inspire drones. The software and flight control has been significantly improved compared to previous Yuneec models. You can combine the H520 with three camera options: The CGO-ET thermal imaging camera, the E50 with a longer focal length for inspection tasks and the E90 with 20-megapixel and a 1-inch image sensor. The range of video transmission is up to 1.6 km. Including the E90 camera the purchase price is around $3300.