Drone technology is better than ever. If you’re thinking of buying a new drone and getting into aerial photography, there are loads of options out there. In this guide, we’ll take a look through the best drones available on the market at the moment. Here are Dronelife’s recommended photography drones for pilots in 2020.
The DJI Mavic Mini
An introduction to the world of drones
Beginners: look no further than the DJI Mavic Mini, a tiny, 249-gram feat of engineering that still has us scratching our heads in disbelief.
To understand why the Mavic Mini is so impressive, you have to go back around four years. In 2016, DJI launched the original Mavic Pro. At the time it was futuristic, compact and the best portable drone on the market. Today, it’s a cumbersome giant in comparison with the new Mavic Mini.
That comparison isn’t entirely fair. The Mavic Mini is more a follow-on from the DJI Spark than the next generation Mavic Pro. But either way, DJI’s smallest drone highlights how far the technology has come.
Its camera shoots 2.7K video at 30 frames per second or 1080p at 60 frames per second and takes 12-megapixel photographs with a 1/2.3-inch sensor. It also has an enormous 30 minutes of flight time, along with plenty of features that help make it ideal for new drone pilots.
Mavic Mini pilots get their own app: DJI Fly. There are also accessories designed for beginners, including a 360° Propeller Guard and DIY Creative Kit.
Best of all, the Mavic Mini is light enough to fit into the sub-250g weight category, so you won’t need to register it with the relevant authorities in the US, the UK, Canada or Europe. You can read more about DJI’s intentions when building a drone one gram under the weight threshold, here.
DJI Mavic Mini Specifications
|Ideal for||First-time buyers, kids and anyone reluctant to be put on a register in order to fly|
|Headline features||Miniscule size, built-in safety features, HD video and a huge 30 minutes of flight time|
|Flight Time||30 minutes|
|Top Speed||29 MPH|
|Range||4km of HD Video Transmission|
Read our full feature on the DJI Mavic Mini here.
Something to capture your adventurous side
Aerial photography means different things to different people. For some, the term evokes spectacular landscapes and sweeping mountain vistas. For others, it’s about the guy snowboarding down the mountain and capturing the action from above.
If you’re looking for a drone to take care of the flying and filming while you concentrate on doing whatever it is you’re doing, look no further than the Skydio 2.
Skydio’s latest drone has industry-leading computer vision and a vastly improved camera compared to the original R1. It’s also reasonably priced compared to the competition from China.
The California startup’s ambition has always been to develop a drone that’s basically a flying camera crew: something smart enough to look after itself and capture footage in an intuitive way.
Skydio 2 Specifications
|Ideal for||Adventure enthusiasts and pilots who don’t want to be the pilot (all the time)|
|Headline features||Unmatched collision avoidance and obstacle detection, an awesome warranty and true autonomy|
|Flight Time||23 Minutes|
|Top Speed||36 MPH|
|Camera||4k@60fps | 12MP HDR photos|
Read our feature on the Skydio 2 here.
Something capable and quirky
The ANAFI is the latest platform from the French manufacturer arguably responsible for starting the consumer drone market way back in 2010. But since those successful early days, Parrot has struggled to compete with drones coming out of Asia and the US.
The ANAFI is a drone designed to put Parrot back on the map. And it’s a solid effort.
With 25 minutes of flight time and a remarkably portable form factor, the ANAFI is ideal for travelling with and shooting on the go.
It’s also got a couple of nice touches too, from the 2.8X lossless zoom to the way its camera cab be tilted vertically upwards, allowing you to shoot scenes from below. Oh, and you can charge the battery directly using a USB cable, which is nice.
Parrot ANAFI Specifications
|Ideal for||Aerial photographers looking for portability and versatility|
|Headline features||2.8X Lossless zoom, vertical shots, superb flight time and highly portable|
|Flight Time||25 Minutes|
|Top Speed||35 MPH|
|Camera||4K HDR Videos and 21MP photos|
Read our full review of the Parrot ANAFI here.
DJI Mavic 2
DJI launched the Mavic 2 in the summer 0f 2018. The Chinese manufacturer’s follow-up from the original Mavic Pro actually came in two forms: the Mavic 2 and the Mavic 2 Zoom.
The Mavic 2 is the mass-market, multi-purpose model. It has a number of sensors to keep you from crashing, omnidirectional collision avoidance, a top speed of 45 mph, and a huge 31 minute flight time.
DJI’s OcuSync transmission system gives 1080p live video streaming and a maximum range of up to five miles.
The Mavic 2 has a Hasselblad camera that houses a 1-inch CMOS sensor with a 10-bit Dlog-M color profile. It can shoot 4K video, 20-megapixel stills, and has an adjustable aperture from f/2.8-f/11.
The Mavic 2 is a popular choice for professional photographers and offers a great balance between ease of use, performance and capability.
DJI Mavic 2 Specifications
|Ideal for||Professional aerial photographers|
|Headline features||Portability, capability and performance|
|Flight Time||31 Minutes|
|Top Speed||45 MPH|
|Camera||4K video and 20MP photos|
Read our full feature on the DJI Mavic Pro 2 here.
Autel Evo II Series
A quick caveat before we begin with the Autel Evo II: It’s not actually out at the time of publication. Units are expected to ship before the end of Q1 2020. It’s on the list because the announced specifications mean it’s going to be a worthy challenger to all of the drones on this list.
The first thing to note about the coming Autel’s Evo 2 Series there are actually three Evo II drones.
A bit like what DJI did with the Mavic 2, the Mavic 2 Zoom and the Mavic 2 Enterprise, Autel are launching the Evo II, the Evo II Pro and the Evo II Dual based off of the same foldable airframe. Each drone has the same performance specifications. The difference is in the payloads, which can be swapped in and out.
So unlike with DJI, you can buy a single, modular platform that, with the right payload additions, can be used for everything from thermal inspections to mapping and cinematography.
But you’re reading this for the cinematography part. Although the Evo II offers 8K Video, your best bet is the Evo II Pro, which offers 6K video, a Sony IMX383 1-inch sensor and adjustable aperture.
Whichever Evo II you end up going for, the performance specs are impressive. Its 40 minutes of promised would set a new standard for a drone of this size. The range exceeds that of DJI’s Mavic 2. And Autel has claimed the Evo 2’s 12 obstacle-avoidance sensors make it as good at dodging obstacles as the Skydio R1 – which is a big claim.
Autel Evo II Specifications
|Ideal for||Professional aerial photographers|
|Headline features||6-8K future-proof video, portability, epic flight time, and omnidirectional obstacle avoidance|
|Flight Time||30-40 Minutes|
|Top Speed||44 MPH|
|Camera||6K-8K video and 20-48MP photos|
|Price||~$1500 (not confirmed at time of publication|
Read our preview on the Autel Evo II here.
DJI Inspire 2
The ultimate aerial cinematography machine
Despite launching over three years ago, the DJI Inspire 2 remains the Chinese manufacturer’s heavyweight prosumer drone. There may well be an Inspire 3 on the cards in 2020, but until that day, this model sits at the top of the pile in terms of performance and capability.
It does so mainly because of its unmatched speed and agility, alongside its ability to carry DJI’s professional Zenmuse cameras.
Because the base model is the oldest on this list, the Inspire 2 doesn’t come with the same safety features as some of the newer DJI aircraft. But it still has basic obstacle sensing: Its Forward Vision System is capable of detecting obstacles up to 30 meters ahead, while the upward facing infrared sensors can sense obstacles within a 5 meter range.
DJI Inspire 2 Specifications
|Ideal for||Professional cinematographers|
|Headline features||Speed and durability, compatible with multiple professional payloads|
|Flight Time||27 minutes|
|Top Speed||58 mph|
|Camera||Compatible with: Zenmuse X4S, X5S X7. Zenmuse X7 offers: 5.2K Apple ProRes,
14 Stops of Dynamic Range, 6K CinemaDNG and 24 MP Stills
|Price||$3499 (Base model without any camera payloads)|
Read our feature on the DJI Inspire 2 here.