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. But they're not all bad. 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 you can use for fun.
Some come with cameras built-in, while some are able to mount a GoPro. There's even one drone from GoPro. Whatever your need, there's a drone for it. We've rounded up the best drones available.
DJI has unveiled the latest drone in its arsenal - and has done so with something of a new form factor. Rather than have a large, rigid quadcopter design, the Mavic Pro is foldable, and it's small enough to fit in your bag. Similar to the GoPro Karma drone announced recently, the four quadcopter arms fold in to the body, but do so in a very neat and incredibly compact fashion.
Although it’s small, don’t let that fool you in to thinking it isn’t powerful and full of top-notch features. For instance, it can last up to 27 minutes in flight on a full battery, and it takes less than a minute to set up and calibrate to get it flying. Mounted to the 3-axis stabilisation mount is a camera capable of recording up to 4K resolution at 30 frames per second, or full HD up to 96 frames per second.
It has a minimum focusing distance of 0.5m and a 12-megapixel sensor equipped with the ability to take still RAW pictures tuned purposefully for aerial imagery. Perhaps more impressive is that the new transmission system has a range of up to 4.3 miles and can live stream 1080p footage directly to Facebook Live, Periscope, and YouTube through the connected DJI GO app.
To immerse you more in to the experience of flying the drone, DJI says its new gadget will pair with a new set of immersive DJI goggles. With these on your face, you’ll see 90-degree view straight from the drone’s camera in 1080p. DJI Mavic Pro is available to pre-order from DJI’s online store and will ship in October. It will also be available in Apple stores from November.
Starts at £720, shop.gopro.com
After months or teasing, GoPro has officially unveiled its latest products, one of which is a company first: the Karma drone.
Size-wise, it's small enough to fit easily in to a small backpack (which it ships with), that the company claims is light enough to wear during any activity without getting uncomfortable. What's more, the controller is designed to be as easy to use as a console gamepad and has a built-in touch screen, so you don't need a phone to see footage from the Karma.
As for the camera mounting system, it's a 3-axis stabiliser which can be removed from the Drone and then attached to an included handgrip and used handheld, giving you super smooth handheld footage. In many ways, the Drone is trying to compete with drones, and handheld gimbal systems with one product. It will be available to buy from 23 October.
The Karma alone will cost £720 or $799, with no GoPro included. It is compatible with Hero 4 and Hero 5. The GoPro Karma with the Hero 5 Black will cost £999 or $1099. The Karma with the Hero 5 Session will cost $999, with no European pricing available for that bundle as yet.
Skeye Pico Drone
Despite being micro enough to fit into your hand many times over, Skeye Pico Drone can fly with precision, thanks to 6-axis flight control and a gyroscope. But this little daredevil doesn't just fly, it does tricks, too. The drone can manage flips, spins, and even aerial dives. If you want to do it all in the dark, the LED lights should not only help it be seen but make it look good too.
The Skeye Pico Drone charges in half an hour, flies for up to eight minutes, and comes with a controller that works up to 50m away.
Mastering drone flight isn't always easy. But if you've spent a fair chunk of change on your flying toy, you'll need to be in control if you want it to last. The UDI U818A should help solve that by not only being affordable and strong but by making flight control simple. All of the rotors are protected, so that even if you do have a bump, the drone should be alright to carry on.
But crashing is unlikely, thanks to a six axis gyro with posture control to make precision flying easy. There's also a camera should you want to get snaps, but at 640 x 480 resolution, don't expect them to be of much use. This drone is more about flying fun.
One of the best drones from Parrot is the Bebop. This is meant to sit between professional level drones and toys. There's a Bebop 2, but this is more pricey for, among other things, more flight time. The result is an impressive drone with 1080p camera that can be controlled and viewed from a connected smartphone or tablet. That £450 price is for the basic model.
It'll cost your hundreds more for the version with controller for range extension, but you'll get to fly farther. Either one is a strong drone that can do tricks, fly indoors or outside, and comes with two batteries. It lasts about 10 minutes on a charge in real world use.
Odyssey Toys Pocket Drone
This is a fold-away drone that you can carry anywhere. Yup, no worries about packing it correctly in a special bag to protect the wings, this little guy slips into your pocket like a gaming companion should. The controller is a similar size and shape plus they're both tough - ideal for kids. Flight time is about eight minutes, so use it wisely and enjoy the HD camera while doing so.
Then, when it comes to charging, it's USB-friendly, so any mobile phone charger will do.
Dromida Ominus FPV
Dromida offers its Ominus FPV for those who want a full quadcopter experience at a lower price. The drone offers an HD camera feed directly to your connected mobile ,which is used as the controller. That means flying round corners and remaining in control is a possibility. The Ominus FPV comes in blue, green, red or yellow and works with iOS and Android.
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 3 Standard
DJI is fast becoming the go-to name for hobbyist and professional drone fliers alike. The Phantom 3 is a line offering Standard, Advanced, and Professional models. The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is the most affordable of the three. Despite that it still crams in plenty of next-gen drone tech. The camera offers 2.7K video or 12-megapixel stills and uses a gimbal to offer stable footage.
The drone itself can fly for up to 25 minutes on a charge and will return home or land if the battery gets too low. Pre-set routes can be mapped out so the drone flies them over and over as the user focuses on working the moving camera for the best shot. With the range extender controller, the drone can fly up to one kilometre away from the pilot, all controlled via a smartphone app.
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 100m 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.
The battery lasts about seven 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 nine minutes on a half hour charge and costs £28 on Amazon.
Parrot Rolling Spider
This is an affordable fun way to try out drone flying.
The Rolling Spider is part of Parrot's MiniDrones range. This handheld drone is capable of flying to a range of 20m 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 eight minutes and recharges back to full in 90 minutes.
The app is Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8.1 compatible.
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 nine and 14 minutes before needing a charge.