6 best drone quadcopters to buy now: Parrot, DJI, Hubsan and more
Drones are filling the headlines as well as the skies these days. From military drones bombing targets to amateur camera drones pestering celebrities, crashing into National Parks or shipping drugs into prisons – they're everywhere.
Companies like Amazon and Dominos are already testing drone delivery services that could mean the skies are filled with buzzing bots soon.
For now there are plenty of drones that can be used for fun. Some with cameras built-in, some able to mount a GoPro to and some that can move enough weight to carry a baby. Whatever your need there's a drone for it. We've rounded up the best drones available on the market right now.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition Quadricopter
Parrot was one of the first companies to get into the drone business. So with it's second generation of refined AR.Drone you get a lot of technology for the price.
The quadricopter is controlled via Wi-Fi using an app that's available for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. Unlike the first model the AR.Drone 2.0 is able to work inside and outdoors. It can be controlled using the virtual joysticks but is also capable of automatic takeoff, landing and hovering. Plus there's a button to do a quick 360-degree flip trick.
The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition should last 18 minutes on a charge. But it comes with two batteries that can be swapped while the other is charging so you'll get a good 36 minutes of use.
Range is limited to 165 feet from the controller device.
A built-in camera relays photos and 720p 30fps videos to the smartphone so that they can be stored, played back and shared instantly from the device. There is also a second camera on the base of the copter that makes landing on certain spots easy. Users also have the option of connecting a small USB stick to record directly.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter
DJI makes slightly more expensive drones but that's because they're packed with professional level features. The Phantom 2 Vision+ is the latest drone to come from DJI sporting its built-in super high quality camera.
The camera on this drone is 1080p for video and shoots stills at 14-megapixels. It also has some software smarts to back that up including the ability to shoot in DNG RAW. The camera can be tilted to aim it exactly where the user wants and it uses Adobe's lens profile support to get ride of barrel distortion – making horizons look flat rather than curved because of the wide-angle lens. All that and it even has 3-axis camera stabilisation for smooth video.
The Phantom 2 Vision+ has a max flight time of 25 minutes but batteries can be swapped out, if more are bought, to extend that time. It's range is limited by Wi-Fi but thanks to a controller your phone slips into that is extended up to 700m. Plus it means using real joysticks for controls. And should it slip out of range it will detect a signal break and automatically start flying back to you.
Turbo Ace Matrix
This is the daddy of drones, made for professional grade filming and photography.
The Turbo Ace Matrix, with its 1 metre wingspan and triple carbon fibre deck build, has a range of 1.2 miles and can stay in the air for 25 minutes thanks to its 8,000mAh battery. The whole thing even folds down for easy transport.
it comes with an 8-inch monitor for viewing what the flight camera feeds back. But that's just for flying - the unit can have gimbals and cameras plonked on top to carry around for high definition filming and photography.
Hubsan X4 H107D FPV
This more affordable drone still manages to cram a camera into its palm-sized body. The transmitter remote has a built-in screen allowing you to control the flight from a first-person perspective. Not that you should need it much with a limited 100 metre range.
The camera is a 0.3-megapixel device that manages a 640 x 480 resolution video feed. This can be recorded if an SD card is inserted into the controller. While it might not be high quality it should be clear thanks to the latest 6-axis gyro sensitivity for balanced flight.
The battery lasts about 7 minutes, claims Hubsan, and recharges to full via USB in 30 minutes.
For those that want a cheaper option there's the Hubsan X4 V2 H107L which doesn't have a camera but manages 9 minutes on a half hour charge and costs £28 on Amazon.
Parrot Rolling Spider
Alright, the "out now" part of the headline doesn't apply here. But it's so good we had to include it.
The Rolling Spider is part of Parrot's as-yet-unreleased MiniDrones range. This handheld drone is capable of flying to a range of 20 metres indoors or outside at speeds of up to 11mph. It's smartphone controlled using Bluetooth 4.0 LE and can take pictures at a tiny 300,000 pixel resolution.
What makes it unique is it's ability to roll along the ground, like a car, when its wheels are attached to either side. Making it two fun gadgets in one. It can roll up edges onto its back and while flying does 360-degree flips. And it's engines start when you drop it, keeping it hovering ready for you to control.
The battery lasts up to 8 minutes and recharges back to full in 90 minutes.
The app is Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8.1 compatible. When it will be released or how much it will cost haven't been announced yet. But since it was shown off at CES back in January we'd expect it here in time for Christmas.
Blade 350 QX V2
This is a brilliant quadcopter as it's all ready to fly right out of the box and can even carry your GoPro. But it's not just for the photographic sort, it's also an aerobatic flier capable of flips and rolls too.
The Blade comes with an anti-vibration GoPro mount, but at that price you'll obviously have to provide the camera. You can GPS fence the drone in and use a single button to return it to home. Due to carrying weight it should manage a flight time of between 9 and 14 minutes before needing a charge.