(Pocket-lint) - Today's drones are extremely capable and brilliant at the basics, which makes this an excellent time to consider one.
Whether you're a seasoned flyer or are just getting to grips with snapping photos and video from lofty heights, there are tons of excellent options to choose from.
Plus, with the advancement of battery efficiency, navigation, obstacle avoidance and stabilisation, you don't need to pay too much to get a great experience, either.
Paying top money still gets you the best overall drone, of course, but the barrier for entry if you're new to the area is significantly lower than it's ever been.
Whatever your need, there's a drone for it. And that's why we're here. In this guide, we'll run through the best you can buy today.
What are the best drones?
Our Top Pick: Best Drone
DJI Mini 3 Pro
- Lightweight and compact design
- Impressive flight performance
- Tri-directional obstacle avoidance and FocusTrack features
- It's pretty expensive
- Add-ons like the DJI RC controller make it even more expensive
The Mini 3 Pro quickly became our favourite drone. Not only does it offer a lot of the desirable features found on DJI's larger (and typically more expensive) drones, it does so in a tiny, lightweight form factor that's handy to take anywhere. It's also a lot more restriction-friendly, but this can vary from country to country.
Despite its tiny size, it flies well, even in the wind, and produces lovely stable video footage and sharp 48MP photos. The battery life is improved, too, and if you're not so concerned about the 250-gram weight limit, you can add an even bigger battery for 47-minute epic flights.
It has a few features that you won't find on other drones, too, like the ability to shoot in a true vertical format for social media. As well as being able to tilt the gimbal higher than ever before for some unique low-angle shots.
Drones we also recommend
While we think the Mini 3 Pro is currently the best drone for most people, some will want something that can handle harsher environments or with even better image fidelity. So, here are four other impressive drones to check out.
DJI Mavic 3
- Unparalleled image quality
- Adjustable aperture
- Improved safety features
- Even pricier than the Mavic 2
- The telephoto camera is a little disappointing
The DJI Mavic 3 takes everything we loved about the Mavic 2 Pro and makes it bigger and better.
With a staggering flight time of up to 46 minutes, you'll rarely be concerned with battery life. The range, too, is improved thanks to the upgraded O3+ transmission system that allows you to fly up to 15 km away.
Imaging, of course, has seen drastic improvements and now allows you to shoot at up to 5.1k 50fps as well as adding high frame rate options such as 4K 120fps.
The Mavic 3 does all of this whilst retaining a compact form factor and achieving a marginally lower weight than its predecessor. Impressive stuff.
You'll have to be prepared to shell out, though, as such a capable drone comes with a hefty price tag to match - especially if you opt for the more professional 'Cine' variant.
Autel Robotics Evo Lite+
- Incredible flight times
- 1-inch sensor with night mode
- Adjustable aperture
- No 10-bit colour
- Tracking features aren't as comprehensive as DJI
The Autel Evo Lite+ is confusingly named, as although it sounds like it would be a smaller drone, it's actually a similar size and weight to the Mavic 3. When it comes to specs, it sits right between the Air 2S and the Mavic 3, and the same is true of the pricing.
The image quality from the Evo Lite+ is stunning, and while it can't offer the same 10-bit colour as the pricier Mavic 3, the crisp 5.4k videos from the 1-inch sensor are detailed and vibrant. We found the image straight out of the camera to be more impressive than that offered by the Air 2S.
The drone and its accessories feel reassuringly sturdy and the user experience is easy and intuitive. When it comes to software, DJI still has a slight edge but the app and feature set is improving with each update that gets released.
With the Evo Lite+, Autel presents a compelling alternative to DJI and an image quality that simply can't be ignored.
DJI 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 Air 2S is that drone. It's essentially a halfway house between the smaller Mini and the bigger Mavic 3 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
While the Mini 2 has been succeeded by the superior Mini 3 Pro, the older model still deserves a place on the list.
The new model is significantly more expensive, while the Mini 2 will likely only get cheaper from here on out. It flies fantastically and produces superb 4K 30fps video.
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.
Other products we considered
When trying to figure out what we believe are the best drones currently available, we spent hours testing and researching. We consider a number of factors when it comes to recommending drones - and apply the same criteria when a new device is being considered for inclusion. It's not all judged on our testing, either - we also try to factor in consumer reviews, brand quality and value.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
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.
As with any roundup, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user, but we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each charging station is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.