(Pocket-lint) - From military drones to amateur camera drones pestering celebrities, crashing into National Parks or hitting the headlines because of airports – drones are everywhere.
There's never been a better time to buy one, either, because today's drones are extremely capable and brilliant at the basics.
With the advancement of battery efficiency, navigation, obstacle avoidance and stabilisation, you don't need to pay too much to get a great experience. Paying top money still gets you the best overall drone, but the barrier for entry if you're a beginner is significantly lower than it's ever been.
Whatever your need, there's a drone for it. And that's why we're here - to run through the best drones you can buy today.
Our Top Pick: Best Drone
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- Really impressive video and stills
- Great battery life
- Good obstacle detection
- Expensive for beginners
DJI's Mavic 2 Pro is, without a doubt, its best consumer drone to date. It takes the high-end performance and camera capabilities of the bigger Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian, but puts it in a package that's foldable, still fits in your backpack and does everything you could possibly need a drone. It's fantastic.
Image and video quality are pretty much unmatched by anything else in its price range, thanks to the use of a large 1-inch CMOS sensor, and optics designed with the help of renowned camera-maker, Hasselblad. It shoots fantastic pictures, thanks to advanced 10-bit HDR processing, as well as great 4K video. What's more, professionals can make use of DJI's Dlog-M profile to give them a raw file that's really great for colour grading and tweaking in the edit suite.
As well as awesome image and video capabilities, the Mavic 2 Pro has all of DJI's latest innovations in obstacle avoidance and pre-programmed flight patterns. It's one of the only drones to feature obstacle sensors on every side, and has the APAS system that - instead of stopping in front of obstacles - can figure out a path through them, providing they're not completely blocking its path.
There's a bunch of QuickShot flight modes enabling you to create stunning cinematic effects by just choosing one of the modes and selecting your subject. Depending on which mode you choose, the drone will then circle, follow or pull away from the object or person it's focussed on.
It has a few flaws. Even the 25 mins or so battery we got from a full charge is decent for a drone. It's a little expensive, but it's genuinely brilliant.
Other great drones to consider
Here are four other impressive drones to check out.
DJI Mavic Air 2S
- Impressive size
- Creditable video and stills
- Solid battery life
- Still expensive
- Some cropping in video modes
If you're after a really small drone with all the power and features of the bigger flagship models, look no further. The Mavic Air 2S is that drone. It's essentially a halfway house between the smaller Mini and the bigger Mavic 2/Mavic Pro series drones. It's small, fits in the side pocket of a backpack, but still packs some serious punch.
When folded, it's only slightly longer than a big smartphone, sharing similar dimensions to the included remote controller that comes with most Mavic series drones. That means it can comfortably sit on your palm without any issue.
Despite its size, it's a more than capable drone. It has three-way obstacle sensing, and can make use of many Quick Shot flying modes enabled in other drones. What's more, the camera is mounted to a tiny 3-axis stabiliser. it's also surprisingly capable of withstanding wind.
You get 4K video at 60fps and HDR stills from the 20-megapixel 1-inch CMOS sensor too, so there's not much compromise in image/video quality.
DJI Mini 2
- Unbeatable portability
- Great video
- Good battery life and range
- Won't take as much punishment as bigger models
Before 2019, DJI's smallest drone was the DJI Spark, which - while being tiny - wasn't the best drone around. It had minimal stabilisation, only full HD recording and the arms were rigid. With the Mavic Mini, DJI improved virtually everything, and then improved it again with the second generation model.
Like all the other Mavics, the arms are foldable, allowing you to reduce the size of the drone so that it's virtually the same in length and width as a smartphone. It folds small enough to fit in your coat pocket. It's tiny.
You don't get any of the usual caveats that you'd normally get with a small drone either. Battery life is superb for its size, it records up to 4k resolution video which is super stable thanks to the three-axis gimbal and it even features some of the advanced QuickShot modes from the bigger drones.
Add to that the fact that it only weighs 249 grams, and you have a drone that's not restricted by any of the regulations and rules you need to abide by with anything even a single gram heavier. In the UK, that means you don't need to take a theory test or register it.
If you're wanting an experience of what it's like to fly a proper, advanced drone, without the financial outlay and in a drone that's small enough to take anywhere, this is the one for you. It's brilliant.
- Good video capture
- Great zoom
- Middling build quality
It's not the most well-built drone around. In fact, its lightweight plastic casing makes it feel a bit cheap, but there's no denying the specifications of the Anafi are very good.
It folds up to be really slim, similar in width to a water bottle, making it perfect for storing in the side pocket of a backpack. What's more, it has a camera built onto a 3-axis gimbal on the front that's capable of pointing upwards towards the sky.
It can last up to 25 minutes on a single charge and fills up quickly again using USB-C connection. It shoots 4K at 30fps, and can survive in wind speeds up to 31mph, and reaches flight speeds of 33mph.
Parrot Bebop 2/Bebop 2 Power
- Solid pricing
- Decent battery life
- Great still images
- Video quality won't win awards
The Bebop 2 is the follow up to the popular Bebop, which we loved when we reviewed it at the time of its launch. The design has changed quite a lot, but the value for money has increased.
The Bebop 2 can fly over 37mph and resist winds of the same speeds, and can slow down to a standstill within four seconds. It has a Follow Me feature to track you while you're cycling, running, climbing, or whatever else you might be doing, and it uses GPS to track its position and return home again when you're done.
Its camera can shoot in 1080p full HD resolution, and take great pictures with its wide-angle 14-megapixel lens. It can even capture in RAW and DNG image formats, giving you the ability to edit them professionally afterwards.
At £349, it's great value for money, and you can control it with your smartphone. Or, for £499 price point you can also get the brand new Skycontroller 2 control pad and the first person view (FPV) glasses, which let you watch the live stream of the camera's video feed in real-time.
Skycontroller 2 gives you an impressive 2km range when piloting the drone, while the glasses can stream 1080p video footage right to your eyes.
There's also the all-new Parrot Bebop 2 Power which comes with 60 minutes battery life thanks to shipping with two batteries. You can buy the Power FPV pack with VR goggles and the physical remote for just £549.
Other products we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. Many of the devices we consider don’t make our final best guides.
These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5:
How to choose a drone
Picking out the right drone for you could be a bit of a challenge, especially given how much you might end up spending. Here are a few important questions to ask yourself to help get things straight.
Have you flown a drone before?
There's absolutely no shame in being a beginner - everyone has to learn to fly a drone sometime. That said, some systems are easier to get on board with, while others are better for those who already have some familiarity with flight controls and mechanics.
Most of DJI's current drones, for example, should be fine for beginners to learn on, but you wouldn't want to buy a first-person view drone, or a pro-quality cinematic drone, if you might just crash it within a few minutes.
What do you want to use it for?
Are you hoping to take nice holiday shots from the air, and do the odd video here and there? Or do you want a drone in order to unlock possibilities in your filmmaking for more professional ends? That should inform how much you're looking to spend, and how intense the drone you end up with will be.
Frankly, though, as drones have got better and better, the gap between those two tiers of devices has become ever smaller.
Do you want to travel with your drone?
One big variable between drone models is how small they fold down, if they do at all. DJI now offers multiple options that can fold away to fit into even small bags or big pockets, so they're great choices if you want to take your drone on holiday with you.
However, if you don't think you'll be using your drone on the go that much, you shouldn't worry about its size and weight.
How important is visual quality?
Different models of drones have plenty of big differences, but a huge one comes down to the cameras they pack. If you're looking for the crispest 4K video at good frame rates and with accurate colours, then you'll probably end up spending a decent wedge to get it.
However, if you don't mind 1080p video, since you're not a professional and just want some nice shots to remember moments by, you'll be able to cut down on the budget side of things by a respectable margin.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
Drones aren't necessarily something that you'll use daily, but it's nonetheless key to test them in a lot of different conditions and settings. We've used all the drones on this list to film footage and take stills in diverse weather and locations.
This means we've checked how they handle, what their build quality is, and what sort of photography and video they produce. It's also given us the chance to compare their specs to work out which have the best range and battery life, especially when compared against their relative size and prices.
We aren’t interested in pointless number crunching or extraneous details - we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. And don’t for a second think that the products aren't tested fully because the reviews are concise.
We’ve been covering tech since 2003, and, in many cases, have not only reviewed the product in question, but the previous generations, too - right back to the first model on the market. There is also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides.