This is a shorter version of our complete Best Drones list on Drone Rush.
I beg you to learn the drone laws and register with the FAA before you fly, it’s the law, after all. Once you are ready to take to the sky, let’s take a moment to get you the right drone. You may be wanting a toy for in the house, a racer to take to the track or a superb camera drone to capture photos and video from the sky. There’s a drone or two for all of those tasks.
It used to be that you either chose the DJI Mavic Pro for its compact design or the iconic Phantom line of drones for their camera capabilities, but many more options exist today. We explore the ins and outs of many drones over on Drone Rush, but let’s just focus on the best of the best for you today.
Note: We’ve adjusted some prices, swapping out to better purchase links for you.
People buy and fly drones for all sorts of reasons, so we’re going to look at the best ones in a number of categories. If these drones do not quite fit your needs, we’ve evaluated hundreds of others on Drone Rush.
Best Nano drone for flying indoors – $18
There’s no single category for small drones, but we generally consider any machine that can fit in the palm of your hand a nano drone. One of our absolute favorites is the Hubsan H111. We respect Hubsan as a brand, we have many of their larger drones in various other categories on the site, but the H111 is one of the easiest machines to get your hands on, and safest to fly indoors.
Make no mistake, this is a toy drone. It has limited battery life and minimal flight capabilities compared to more advanced machines, but it lives on my desk and flies frequently. It’s challenging enough to hone my piloting skills and super fun. It’s also priced right to be a great holiday gift.
Check out the Hubsan H111 on Amazon.
Best toy drone, a resilient trainer – $47
We firmly believe every aspiring drone pilot should start with a drone like the Syma X5C. This toy-class drone has limited functionality, but it is true to the piloting experience of more expensive drones. Flying this machine will help you master the basics of flight, understanding which way is forward and managing to hit the video record button at the right time in that flight. Crashing is almost inevitable, but would you rather learn how to handle crashes on a machine worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, or a resilient and fun Syma X5C?
Check out the Syma X5C on Amazon.
Best racing drone trainer, the need for speed on a leash – $345
This one’s for those who prefer high-speed fun to silky smooth photo and video capture from the sky. The UVify OOri impressed us with its resilience and flight capabilities when we tried it at CES 2018. This small drone can safely fly inside your home with the prop guards installed. It’s stable and has enough flight assist features for most people to master it circling the couch. Machines like the Hubsan H111 and Syma X5C top out at less than 10mph — not the case with OOri. Give the UVify OOri some room to move and it’ll clock up to 60mph.
There are many trade-offs when you look at a racing drone. These machines are built for speed, extreme maneuverability and short distance operations for a race that lasts a little more than five minutes. A fun alternative to this drone is the Fat Shark 101 race trainer.
Check out the UVify OOri.
Emax Hawk 5
Best racing drone, no leash – $223
Racing drones are like computers. You can buy great ones off the shelf, but the very best around are built from scratch with individually sourced components. Further, every race course and league offers different challenges for your drone, the winner today may be the worst possible machine for the race tomorrow. We chose our top racing drone because we’ve seen it in action. In the hands of Nytfury at the 2018 AUVSI Xponential drone convention, the Emax Hawk 5 took the win for the IDRA Challengers Cup championship.
The Emax Hawk 5 is what we call a bind-n-fly drone, meaning you’ll need your own hobby-class remote control. This is fairly standard for the racing market.
Check out the Emax Hawk 5 for $223 on Amazon.
DJI Mavic Air
Best folding drone, for portability – From $690
Few drones on the market fold as compact and offer as many advanced flight features as the DJI Mavic Air. Make no mistake, DJI’s consumer-class drones offer mostly the same capabilities in the air, but none are as portable as the Mavic Air. If you are looking for a stable 4K camera in the sky, this is where you should start. Safe for the beginner pilot and advanced enough to keep hobby and most semi-pro photographers happy, this is the sort of drone most people can get behind. It folds down to fit in your palm, easily slides into a (larger) pocket or bag for travel and soars over 40mph when you want to have some fun.
The DJI Mavic Air is probably the greatest bang for the buck you can find of any drone today.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Best camera drone under $2000 – $1,449
Released in August 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is one of the best camera drones DJI has built. Considering DJI’s status in the industry, we’d say that makes the Mavic 2 Pro one of the best camera drones on the market, period. The Mavic 2 series includes the Mavic 2 Zoom and the Mavic 2 Pro, which only differ in their cameras. The Zoom model offers a 2x optical zoom from its 1/2.3-inch camera sensor and the Pro model rocks a full 1-inch sensor built by Hasselblad.
The Mavic 2 Pro is one of the best camera drones on the market, period.
We’ve seen some high-end camera blogs complain that the Mavic 2 Pro cannot shoot as high of quality photos and videos as a “proper” Hasselblad camera. All I got from that was the camera on this drone is worthy enough to be compared to cameras that cost thousands of dollars. It isn’t as good as those high-end machines, but it’s still quite good.
As for the drone itself, the Mavic 2 Pro is one of the fastest, most stable, and most agile camera-focused machines we’ve flown. The multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors make it one of the safest drones we’ve flown as well. Don’t let the name fool you, a beginner can put the Mavic 2 Pro into the sky with great success. It offers a great selection of self-piloted flight modes to help get the best shots. On the flip side, experienced pilots can take manual control of the craft and really push the camera to new heights.
Check out the DJI Mavic 2 Pro for $1,449, our links here are to a $1,849 combo with the Fly More kit. Grab the Mavic 2 Fly More Kit for $323 to get extra batteries, accessories and more. If the Mavic 2 Zoom for $1,245 is more your style, grab that instead.
DJI Inspire 2 with Xenmuse X7 camera
Best Professional drone, also one of the best camera drones – From $2,499
The very best of the best professional camera drones allow you to put your professional camera into the sky. They are simply vessels to fly what would otherwise be a handheld camera. The DJI Inspire 2 is an alternative to that, offering its own selection of cameras. Currently, the Zenmuse X7 is the best on offer. This is a 6K camera with interchangeable lenses. Yes, I said 6K video capture. The 24MP Super 35 sensor can shoot in 6K CinemaDNG, 5.2K Apple ProRes, and more. If I kept running down the spec sheet for the camera, you’d think I was talking about a high-end DSLR, and that’s exactly my point.
The DJI Inspire 2 is easy to fly on its own. It handles and operates very similarly to most other DJI drones. However, the best way to operate it is with two pilots, with one person controlling the craft and the other controlling the camera. It can scoot along at nearly 60mph, stick to the sky for nearly half an hour and is one of the more capable video livestream drones around, perfect for a news crew.
The best of the best has a price tag, the DJI Inspire 2 is $2,979 for a basic flight package, no camera. You’re looking at around $2,700 for the camera, $1,200 each for lenses or combo with the Inspire 2 and Zenmuse X7 camera for around $6,249. Like these drones, the sky is the limit for the Inspire 2 packages, DJI even offers an Inspire 2 Cinema Premium package for $20,349, if you want it all.
Let’s get flying
Remember, there are rules to flying drones in most countries around the globe. In the U.S., the FAA can issue fines up to $20,000 and give you some jail time if you break the rules. Rest assured, the rules are easy to understand and follow, hit the link below to get started.
- You have to register your drone with the FAA before you fly
- You must affix your registration number to the outside of your drone
What is your pick? Do you want a drone from this list, or is there another machine out there that will fly away with your wallet?