Photo by Alex Yuzhakov / Shutterstock
No longer mere novelty gizmos for hardcore gadget hounds, personal drones have really taken flight in the past few years. In fact, a recent report forecasts that the consumer drone market is set to reach $9 billion by 2024, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 18 percent. This growth even comes in spite of efforts by local and federal lawmakers to crack down on when and where drones can legally be flown.
It’s a great time to jump into the world of piloting unmanned aerial vehicles, or if you’re already a pro, it might be time to look at expanding your collection.
Now that the industry has matured and the interfaces for controlling drones keep getting more intuitive, it’s a great time to jump into the world of piloting unmanned aerial vehicles, or if you’re already a pro, it might be time to look at expanding your collection. (And if you want to pilot a manned vertical take-off and landing vehicle, we’ve got you covered there, too) Here we present six recent drone models that are sure to tantalize drone enthusiasts, whether you’re a passionate photographer, an adrenaline junkie who wants to immortalize their latest adventure, or simply someone who needs to get the perfect selfie every time.
DJI Mavic 2
DJI MAVIC 2
DJI is the undisputed leader in the consumer drone market—and for good reason. For years, they have offered reliably excellent drones across a number of categories. The latest major addition to the brand’s stable is the Mavic 2, a compact drone with an impressive photographic pedigree that improves upon its predecessor by nearly every metric. Front and center is the drone’s new 20-megapixel, HDR-enabled camera from famed Swedish camera maker Hasselblad. To help you capture killer 4K video with that sweet new camera, the drone’s obstacle sensing and follow abilities have been enhanced, and it is faster, quieter and flies longer than the original model. Along with the Mavic 2 ($1,729), DJI also offers the Mavic 2 Zoom, which uses a different camera with—you guessed it—an optical zoom.
The Ryze Tello is a great way to satisfy your itch for selfies with its go-anywhere, ultra-compact form factor and easy-to-pick-up controls. Perfect for beginner drone pilots, the Tello actually employs a flight control system from DJI that allows its pilot to perform mind-blowing aerial tricks at the press of a button. The petite flier is equipped with a five-megapixel camera with image stabilization to capture the moment with cinematic flair. Just toss the drone from your hand to get it airborne and use one of the preset flight patterns—such as one that instructs the drone to circle its subject while taking video—to capture unforgettable footage in seconds.
The standard Tello is priced at a very reasonable $100, so you don’t need to stress about just tossing it into your bag.
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Yuneec Typhoon H3
YUNEEC TYPHOON H3
Veteran drone makers Yuneec recently announced the Typhoon H3, which was co-developed with the venerable German camera brand Leica. The fruit of this collaboration, the ION L1 Pro camera, is mounted on a three-axis gimbal that allows it to turn 360 degrees. Equipped with a one-inch CMOS and Leica’s legendary optics, the ION L1 Pro takes 20 megapixel stills and 4K video at 60 fps. Built with serious shutterbugs in mind, the drone’s photographer-friendly features even extend to its user interface, which was adjusted to feel more familiar to people used to camera layouts. More than a one-off, the Typhoon H3 ($2,600) is just the first product of a planned long-term partnership between the two brands.
If you really want a thrill (and a test of your stomach’s resilience), you can pilot the drone from a first-person view using Uvify’s optional first-person view goggles.
If you’re ready to fly something with a little more oomph, the adrenaline-packed Uvify Draco (starting from $600) should satisfy your need for speed. The world’s first production racing drone, the light and agile Draco is able to reach speeds of up to 100 mph. It features a modular design, making repairs and upgrades quick and easy. If you really want a thrill (and a test of your stomach’s resilience), you can pilot the drone from a first-person view using Uvify’s optional first-person view goggles.
Skydio’s claim to fame is its AI-based sensing and navigation system, which allows it to follow subjects even when traveling through densely packed environments with plenty of obstacles to navigate around. In practice, this produced highly dynamic subject-tracking videos in which the drone swoops in between trees and under low hanging objects with the eye of an action movie cinematographer. The new Skydio 2 is more compact than the original and features even smarter automated navigation and a new camera that shoots in 4K video at 60 fps and offers HDR-support for richer colors. The company also offers the Skydio Beacon accessory, which extends the drone’s range and creates and stronger GPS signal between the user and the drone, further improving its follow abilities, even when you’re out of sight.
The Spry has a unique ability, and its novelty alone earns it a place on this list. Other drones may be marketed for adventurous outings, but the Spry ($987) is the only drone that can follow the action into the water. The craft is completely waterproof and buoyant, so you can follow surfers, jet-skiers, or wakeboarders with confidence and even land and take off from the surface of the water—it can even take short dips beneath the surface to capture glimpses of the world under the waves. The Spry is equipped with a 4K video camera that captures the action at 30 frames per second (fps). An included waterproof remote controller (naturally) lets pilots follow their subjects at up to 43.5 mph.