LAST UPDATED: December 6, 2019
Best Drones 2020: Take Epic Shots and Videos From Above
A drone offers a unique photographic perspective, so get one and see things differently
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON December 6, 2019
You may be thinking of getting a drone to take breathtaking shots and videos. Or you may want one to monitor the acres of crops on your farm. A drone can do much more than just take pictures and videos. It can be used to investigate tropical storms or track wildlife. If you are looking for a drone, here are some of the best.
This is one of the best GPS drones for beginners. It offers an intuitive user experience, allowing you to create cinematic shots. It only weighs 249 grams, so you don't have to register it with the FAA.
It comes with a flight tutorial that helps you to get started quickly and safely. You only need to install the DJI Fly app to start enjoying a streamlined flying experience. It takes 12MP aerial photos and 2.7K Quad HD videos.
The pictures and videos it takes are of poor quality. The drone will not take off if you live in a Geo Zone, like near an airport, a power plant, or a prison.
If you want to get your kids interested in drones, you can get them this mini drone that comes with a lot of awesome features. It has a headless flight mode, altitude hold, and phone app control.
Unlike many mini drones, this drone has a nice flight time. Its 250mAh battery allows for approximately seven to eight minutes of flight time. Its compact size makes it easy to store, and it also comes with removable blade protectors.
The Wi-Fi video quality is very poor. There are no additional parts that protect the propellers. Flying it outdoors is risky as it may fly away when it comes into contact with strong winds.
If you're looking for a beginner-friendly drone with great features, the Snaptain S5C is the one. With a futuristic design and LED lights, it will give you an immersive flying experience. It has a flight time of around 10 minutes.
The drone is very user-friendly. You can get it to take off, land, or return by just pressing one button. It has smart voice control, 360-degree flips and rolls, and headless mode—all great features for drone newbies. Protective propeller guards ensure a safe flight.
The drone is difficult to fly because it does not stay in place and drifts a lot. The headless mode is not very effective, and the One Touch return only works if you fly the drone in a straight line.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Drones
- Have fun. Both children and adults love using drones because they get to control their movements, similar to a remote-controlled car. Tech toys like drones and quadcopters are irresistible to kids of all ages, and they are also used for racing.
- Capture great aerial footage. If you love photography and videography, a drone is a great way to capture unique and sometimes breathtaking footage. Whether you're at the beach or simply recording aerial shots of your dog racing around the yard, a drone is perfect for recording some fun photos and videos.
- Feel secure. Some people use unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance purposes. It allows the user to safeguard private events, public meetings, and certain venues. Some agencies even use drones for research purposes following natural disasters in order to help with recovery efforts.
Types of Drones
Beginner and Kids’ Drone
If you're new to drones, you want a device that checks the following boxes: It's easy to use, not too expensive, and is somewhat durable. If the drone allows you to grow as a pilot, that's a bonus. Good-quality beginner drones typically cost a few hundred dollars and feature decent cameras. You can find even cheaper ones for children. You don’t need to spend too much on your first drone because you may not use it very much, or you may inadvertently damage it due to inexperience.
Mini drones are also known as nano quadcopters or mini quadcopters. Some are so small that they fit in the palm of your hand. They are great for beginners because they are easy to fly. They are also relatively inexpensive, and many (but not all) feature built-in cameras. They are often used indoors because they are so small and don't damage the walls if they crash into them.
If you're a filmmaker, you need a professional camera drone that is able to capture stunning aerial shots. If you don't want to build a custom device from scratch, you can find several options that are ready to fly out of the box. Aspiring filmmakers can also benefit from a high-quality drone. However, this type of drone is not cheap and can cost thousands of dollars.
There are several brands you can use if you’re looking for the best racing drones. Many of them are modular, which means they're easy to upgrade. Technology moves quickly, so you may want to add more advanced components as they are released. If you want to beat the competition, you need a drone that isn't obsolete after a year or two.
This type of drone is popular among both professionals and hobbyists. They are typically ready to fly out of the box, are portable, and can be used both inside and out. They range from under $100 to several hundred dollars, depending on what type of features they have (i.e., gesture control and facial recognition).
Autel Robotics is based in Bothell, Washington. The company has years of engineering experience and is known for its quadcopter and camera drone technology. One of its top products is the Autel Robotics EVO Drone Camera.
The Paris, France-based Parrot was founded in 1994 and manufactures advanced wireless products, including civil drones and hands-free communication and infotainment systems. One popular product is the Parrot MiniDrones Jumping Race Drone Max.
- Under $100: If you're looking for a cheap drone, don't expect to get too many bells and whistles. It will only stay in the air for a few minutes due to limited battery life, and it won't shoot video in super high resolution. It may be quite small but won’t necessarily be foldable, and it will likely require the use of a smartphone for operation.
- $300-$500: Drones in this price range are a step above beginner drones; although, you can find several that are good for first-time users. Many of them are foldable and easy to transport, and they often feature cameras that are 4K or above. You can find several well-designed drones in this category.
- $1,000 and up: Drones in this price point are the best of the best. They may be made of carbon fiber and feature much higher speeds and flight times than their less-expensive counterparts. They also have excellent cinematic-quality shooting capabilities as well as advanced features that aren’t geared towards beginners.
Flight Time and Battery Life
Some drones are more powerful than others. One very important feature you need to consider is battery life. This affects the flight time of the drone. While you can operate some drones for a decent period of time, others will only hold a charge for a few minutes. This greatly affects the amount of footage you can shoot.
If possible, look for a drone with a video resolution of 4K or higher. Some drones have broadcast-quality cameras that produce some incredible images. However, the higher the resolution, the more expensive the drone will be (and they can cost several thousand dollars). Decide what you will use the drone for before investing too much money in one.
If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you need to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to legally fly it outside. You must do this, even if you're only using it on your own property. If you don't register your drone, you will be penalized and can be fined thousands of dollars. The good news is that most beginner drones weigh less than 0.55 pounds and don’t require registration.
- Return-to-Home Functionality: Many drones include safety features so you don't lose track of them. This includes things such as GPS and a return-to-home functionality. This is important because if the battery loses juice or a signal is interrupted, the drone will make its way back to the takeoff point to land.
- Size: Drones are getting smaller and smaller, so they are more convenient to use. For example, travel photographers and hikers are often more interested in using small, lightweight, and portable drones that easily fit into a bag or backpack. The downside is that some small drones struggle to fly and many require using a smartphone as a remote control, which can be challenging.
- Controller: There are a couple ways to control a drone. Some brands come with a specific controller that uses a radio frequency. Other drones require Wi-Fi and the use of a smartphone in order to fly. More advanced drones use a dedicated remote control, while toy drones need an app and a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.
Best Drones Reviews & Recommendations 2020
If you are a beginner looking to add a new dimension to your pictures or videos, this is a drone worth getting. It is DJI's cheapest, lightest, and smallest drone, weighing just 249 grams.
It adheres to drone laws across the United Kingdom and the United States. The Civil Aviation Authority in the U.K. and the FAA in the U.S. require all drones weighing 250 grams and above to be registered. Unlike most of its rivals, this drone falls in the lightweight category and does not need to be registered. It is small enough to fit in a large jacket pocket and lasts 30 minutes in the air.
The DJI features three-axis mechanical stabilization and a microSD card slot. However, there are some drawbacks. It lacks 4K and 2.7K 60fps video recording, and only manages 2.7K at 30fps. And if you live near a Geo Zone, it will not take off. Still, it remains one of the best on the market.
This mini drone comes with a lot of great features and is perfect for children. It has a headless flight mode, altitude hold, and phone app control.
It uses an HD camera for aerial photos and videos and comes with a built-in WiFi module that allows you to see live video when you’re using the app. Compared to rival mini drones, this model has a decent flight time. Its 250mAh battery allows for approximately 7-8 minutes of flight time. Its compact size makes it easy to store, and it also comes with removable blade protectors. The drone is very user-friendly and automatically takes off and lands with the use of one click.
One problem with the drone is that the Wi-Fi video quality is not very good. Also, there are no additional parts that protect the propellers. Another drawback is that flying it outdoors is risky because it may fly away if it encounters strong winds.
The Snaptain S5C is an excellent beginner-friendly drone with some really neat features. It has a futuristic design with LED lights and gives the user an immersive flying experience.
It has a flight time of around 10 minutes and has the ability to edit HD footage so you can directly upload it using an iOS or Android device. The drone is very user friendly. It takes off, lands, and returns with the press of a button. It has smart voice control, 360-degree flips and rolls, and a headless mode, which are great options for drone newbies. Protective propeller guards ensure a safe flight, and excellent aerial pictures are possible due to the altitude hold function.
One complaint about the drone is that it is difficult to fly because it does not stay in place and frequently drifts. In addition, the headless mode is not particularly effective, and the One Touch return will only work if you fly the drone in a straight line.
If you want a drone but don't want to invest a lot of money, consider the DROCON Bugs 3 Gopro Drone. It has a flight time of between 15 to 20 minutes, depending on throttle pressure.
The drone also features a brushless motor, which is safer than brush motors that tend to fray and spark. This is a great option for a beginner as it is smooth and stable; however, it's also entertaining for expert handlers. It takes just seconds to fly 1,000 feet, and you are 100-percent in control even when it's just a small dot in the sky. In addition, it features a low power alarm and weak signal alarm, so you can keep it under control when power runs low. It's built with durable nylon fiber to withstand windy conditions, and you can direct it to perform rolls and flips, which is a fun feature. The company provides lifetime technical support should you encounter any issues.
Unfortunately, while it has GoPro in the description, you have to provide your own camera to use with the drone. In addition, the camera mount that’s included does not work with all cameras. Some users complain that the remote is a little too touchy.
The Holy Stone HS120D GPS Drone has a high-definition 2K UHD camera that has the ability to send footage to your smartphone. The gesture control feature allows you to instantly share photos and videos on social media.
It also comes with a backpack, so you can easily carry it on your next adventure. If the drone loses the signal, flies out of range, or loses power, it automatically returns home, so you don't have to worry about losing it. You can create a custom path so the drone traces your movements and follows you, allowing you to take the perfect selfie. It will fly for 36 minutes on battery power, and it's easy to operate due to the one key takeoff and land functions. Plus, it's small enough that you can fly it indoors. Overall, it's a good mid-level drone.
However, there are no protectors for the blades, and it's a little fragile. Also, if you do not own a smartphone you can not operate it.
- When buying a drone, check whether the camera is included. It's better to buy a drone with a built-in camera or a detachable one because it's cheaper and also easier to set up.
- If you want a drone you can fly right out of the box, be sure to get one with the initials RTF (Ready to Fly). ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) drones require some assembly before they're ready to fly. BNF (Bind and Fly) drones do not come with a transmitter, and you have to find one and bind it to the drone's receiver.
- Set a budget before buying a drone because the price determines whether you buy a recreational one or a professional one. The good news is that drones are sold at different prices, so you won't have a hard time finding the right one for your budget.
- If you have a drone that’s over .55 pounds, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). If you want to avoid this, get a beginner drone as most weigh less than .55 pounds.
Q: How can I avoid crashing a drone?
A: The best way to avoid crashing your drone is to have a cautious flying style. Make sure your drone is always within view, and fly it in open areas. Do not fly it on windy days, when it's raining, or at night. In addition, ensure it's always 30 feet away from any obstacles.
Q: Can I fly a drone at night?
A: Yes. You don't need a license to fly a drone at night, but you have to follow basic safety rules. These rules are set by the FAA and will help you to avoid getting into trouble with law enforcement or crashing your drone.
Q: How high can I legally fly my drone?
A: The Federal Aviation Administration recommends flying a drone below 400 feet (121 meters) above ground level. This ensures it avoids crashing into manned aircraft like helicopters and airplanes.
The DJI Mavic Mini Drone with 2.7K Camera is hard to beat for its flight time and intuitive user experience. But if you want a beginner-friendly drone, the budget-friendly EACHINE Mini Drone with Camera for Adults and Kids will do.