(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 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. Top dollar still gets you the best overall drone, but the barrier for entry 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 pick of the best drones to buy today
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- 1-inch 20MP CMOS sensor
- 31 mins maximum flight time
- 4k video 30fps, 3-axis gimbal
- Omnidirectional obstacle sensing
DJI's Mavic 2 Pro is - without 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 is 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 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.
DJI Mavic Air 2
- 3-axis stabiliser
- 3-way obstacle avoidance
- Small enough to fit in a coat pocket
- 12MP stills/4K video
- Up to 34mins flight
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 2 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 12-megapixel 1/2-inch CMOS sensor too, so there's not much compromise in image/video quality.
DJI Mini 2
- 31 minutes flight time
- 4k video, 3-axis gimbal
- 10km range with controller
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 brill.
Yuneec Mantis Q
- Up to 33 mins flight time
- 168 x 96 x 58 mm (folded)
- 4K video capture (30fps)
- 1.5k video transmission range
From its product range and pricing strategy, it seems Yuneec is going after DJI's features, but at a lower price point. The Mantis Q feels a lot like the Mantis Air in its promise of portable, foldable design, but with high end specifications and features.
As well as this portable design, the Yuneex Mantis Q is equipped with a camera capable of recording 4K video at 30 frames per second, and a number of smart flying features. You can get it to circle around a point of interest, return home automatically using the GPS and GLONASS navigation, as well as command it with your voice.
You can tell it to "wake up", "come back" or "start recording" just by yelling at it, plus, the remote is simple to use, and features a cradle for your smartphone.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
- 30 mins flight time
- 7km flight range with remote
- 4K video at 60fps
- 5-directional obstacle avoidance
- 20MP 1-inch camera sensor
The Phantom 4 series was the standout drone from DJI up until the Mavic was released. If you want the smoothest, most stable flight and footage, as well as the best looking image quality available without going super high-end, the Phantom 4 Pro is the drone for you.
Perhaps the biggest advantage this has over the Mavic is the camera technology. Inside its magnesium alloy chassis, and attached to a gimbal, the camera features a mechanical shutter and a huge 1-inch sensor packed with 20 million pixels. It also has the ability to shoot 4K resolution videos at 60 frames per second. For the video nerds, you can shoot H.265 as well as the usual H.264 codec.
Its battery is more capacious than the older Phantom 4 thanks to increased density, and can now last up to 30 minutes flight time on a single charge.
It has a bunch of flight modes, including the Active Track feature that can track objects, and a new Draw Mode that lets you draw a path for it to follow. Of course, there are many more flight modes, and an almost endless number of settings to dig into, both for recording and flying.
The biggest takeaway from our time with it was how effortless it seemed to fly. It was impressively stable, comfortable and performed very well.
- 4K/30fps + 1080p/60fps
- Lossless zoom
- 3-axis gimbal
- 25 mins flight time
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 on to 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 Type-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
- 25 mins flight time
- HD videos and 14MP stills
- 2km range with SkyController
- Digital stabilisation for smooth video
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 an slow down to a stand still 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.
- Auto take off and landing
- Up to 19mph speed
- Rotate 90-degrees to fly forwards
- Up to 60m range
This is an affordable, fun way to try out drone flying.
The Swing is a relatively unusual form factor for Parrot, and was first drone to be able to fly with its propellers faced upwards like a regular quadcopter, or turn and fly horizontally like an X-Wing fighter. It's lightweight, easy to fly, and has a camera onboard.
Although its wings are relatively large, they're made from a polystyrene/styrofoam-like material, making the aircraft very lightweight. This means that while it's not exactly sturdy, it's so light it's unlikely to get damaged from dropping to the floor.
You can control it either by using the included gamepad-style controller, or by downloading the app on to your iPhone or Android smartphone.