Fancy piloting your very own drone? It has never been easier or cheaper - as this best drone list proves.
Drones are some of the hottest tech items out there, and they come in all shapes, sizes and prices. However, if you’re new to drones, are trying to keep up to speed with where they're going, or need to know the rules and regulations, we’ve done a lot of the legwork for you.
During the course of compiling the best drone for 2019 we’ve covered all bases, from testing these flying machines to deciding which one is best suited to a certain type of buyer.
After all, there’s little point in spending a small fortune on a high-end professional-level drone if really all you're after is the occasional fun afternoon out. Of course, there are all points in-between too, so we’ve handpicked a drone for every occasion and budget.
While the name may not seem as familiar as DJI or Parrot, Ryze’s Tello is a sensible choice if you have minimal cash to spend. Conversely, you actually get maximum value from this little drone, as it has a feast of features and functionality that makes it appealing, but it’s also easy to use for the fledgling drone operator.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro has to be our best overall choice as it has the lot in terms of drone appeal. It’s small, light and therefore wonderfully portable, but at the same time bristles with features, including 4K video. Considering its beefy spec, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro price is pretty reasonable.
The expert's view
The shortlist: best drone
1. Parrot Anafi
While DJI is perhaps seen as the drone brand to head for, Parrot makes rock-solid models too. The Anafi is more affordable, but still offers camera resolution up to 4K and can shoot 21-megapixel still images. Range is less at 2.4-miles but the battery life is around 25 minutes, so it’s still more than capable. The other bonus with the Anafi is that it’s nicely portable and flies pretty well too.
2. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
If you have an eye on going pro, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is a superb drone that comes with all the features and functionality you’ll need. It’s actually competitively priced when you consider the drone has a fantastic Hasselblad camera that shoots up to 4K as well as 20-megapixel stills. There’s a 5-mile transmitter range and a flying time of just over 30 minutes.
3. Parrot Bebop 2 FPV Pack
Perfect if you’re looking for a neat twist on a regular drone to keep the interest levels up. This particular Parrot comes complete with First-Person View goggles, which allows you to control it in the air for 25 minutes over a fairly limited range of 100-metres using the power of technology. In that respect it’s a breeze to fly and a lot of fun too.
4. DJI Inspire 2
If you’re a budding cinematographer, the DJI Inspire 2 will complete your aspirational kit list. It’s expensive, but that’s because of its high-end capabilities and a construction that combines carbon fibre and magnesium. Nevertheless, it’s a heavyweight drone that requires skill and knowledge to pilot successfully. However, if you’re planning on producing quality films from the air and have deep pockets it’s hard to beat.
5. Ryze Tello
The Ryze Tello is perfect for beginners who want to get to grips with flying a drone. It’s compact, easy to get off the ground and keep in the air, but best of all it’s affordable. Video is acceptable at 720p plus you get 5-megapixel still images and a flying time of just under 15 minutes. While it doesn't fold up the compact size means it’s easily transported.
6. Yuneec Typhoon H
The Typhoon H is a nimble but 4K high-end drone that packs in lots of sophisticated features and the capacity for piloting it using a 7-inch touchscreen controller. The real bonus here is it uses lots of intelligent navigation tools to keep it in the air and avoid crashing into things. Brilliant if you’re tracking an object and don’t want to be sidetracked by avoiding obstacles along the way.
7. Yuneec Mantis Q
Another feature-packed 4K drone from Yuneec that bristles with cool features including voice control and face detection. The added benefit here is that the Mantis Q can be folded. This doesn't make it unique, but combined with the raft of other cool tools and 33 minutes of flying time means you’ve got a drone that takes a lot of beating. One of the best if you’re a sucker for tech features.
8. Holy Stone HS100 Navigator
A great choice if you want to sample the delights of a Global Positioning Satellite or GPS camera drone without breaking the bank. It’s light, has a control range of 500 metres and makes use of a practical controller. Battery life is just 15 minutes but that’s long enough to let you learn the ropes. GPS feature Return to Home means it won't end up getting away from you either. An ideal beginner’s option, in other words.
9. Hubsan H501S X4
While the Hubsan is relatively cheap and cheerful, it does have plenty of appeal, especially if you want to explore what a drone is capable of without risking too much of your hard-earned cash. It comes armed with a 1080p HD camera, and built-in GPS aids beginners by delivering the drone back to you for safekeeping. It’s also a smooth operator thanks to a 6-axis flying system that helps keep things stabilised. Pretty good value all round.
10. TBS Oblivion racing drone
The TBS Oblivion is made by Team Blacksheep and its website calls its drones ‘serious toys’. While this drone does have toylike connotations it’s actually a tasty alternative to conventional drones if you’re looking to race. Drone racing has become a big deal and this flying machine is tailor-made for competing. It’s quickly assembled and can be tweaked and fine-tuned as you gain experience. It’s durable, built for speed and is ideally suited to short high-energy bursts of in-air activity.
How we chose the best drones to test
Drones come in all shapes and sizes but they do have one thing in common; they’re all flying machines.
As such, if you’re a newbie to drones you are best off starting with an entry-level model and then progressing up the drone-piloting ladder until you get the machine you’re really after. That’s the main reason our best drone 2019 guide features ten models from across the pricing spectrum.
While the principles of flying a drone are essentially the same if you’re piloting a cheap and cheerful machine or a professional-level craft, the pitfalls can be more dramatic with an expensive model. That’s why we’ve singled out the likes of the budget-level Ryze Tello alongside the more upscale models such as the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, the Parrot Anafi and the Yuneec Typhoon H.
Bear in mind there are also other models available that might tend to fall in a more ‘novelty’ or ‘toylike’ category and we’ve omitted them for obvious reasons (most are rubbish), though we do have plenty of budget level models on show here.
Most drone owners aspire to fly better and subsequently capture cool stills and video from the air. As a result, we spent our testing time looking for quality of build, features, usability and overall durability too.
Drones, by their very nature, are subject to all sorts of stresses and strains, ranging from unpredictable piloting from their owners through to tackling adverse weather conditions. So if you're new to the world of drones you’ll tend to see that a few manufacturers tend to carry the bulk of the best models, simply because they’re so good at it.
DJI is perhaps the strongest player in the drone field, but there’s also Parrot and Yuneec too, all of which produce drones that are perfect for anyone with a penchant for carrying out quality aerial work.
Lower down the budget spectrum there are plenty of options for the beginner, though bear in mind our cheaper models generally come with less on-board options. And flight times are lower too, thanks to their smaller batteries. That’s no bad thing, though, as if you're starting out it's perhaps a good feeling to know that your maiden voyage will probably be fairly-short lived and hopefully uneventful.
Drone pictured: Ryze Tello
We also considered the implications of repairs if you do end up running your flying machine into the trees.
Drones can be great for shooting aerial video and taking still images, and that scenario was at the core of our selection process, but as always, specifications are often compromised on the cheaper models in our round up.
If you spend more then you’ll generally get access to bigger camera sensors, meaning better quality footage, while things like range and smoothness of what is captured can be better on machines that cost more, for obvious reasons.
How we tested the best drones
The more you pay the more you get: that’s certainly the case with drones. Some of the high-end models cost a lot but have more tech than you can shake a stick at.
However, we tested a range of products across the price spectrum, and expected different things at different prices.
With a beginner’s hat on we thought carefully about how easy the drone would be to fly, and also what sort of challenges it produced during take-off and landing. We also paid close attention to performance characteristics, as some of the more professional-level drones can be hard to fly if you have to carry out other tasks as you pilot the craft, such as working the camera and so on.
We were also keen to keep an eye on running costs, such as replacing parts and buying spares in case we ended up crashing or, worse still, losing the drone altogether. If you’re nervous about flying a drone, it really is worth starting out with a basic model to master the technique of piloting a craft from the ground.
Once you have the basics down these skills can be transferred to a more upscale machine. But, without a basic understanding of what makes a drone fly, you’re opening yourself up to problems with your purchase.
We therefore looked closely at what was involved in keeping the drone in the air, including battery life and range, both of which varied wildly across the different models we looked at.
Drone pictured: Yuneec Typhoon H
Another big deal for anyone heading into the world of drones with a view of capturing both moving and still images is the quality of the on-board camera. Controlling one of these can also seem like a bit of a dark art, which again is why it’s often a good idea to cut your flying teeth on a budget-level model and then transfer those skills to a higher specification model further down the line.
We also considered that not everyone wants to go down the video and stills route, so we had a look at models that can be flown just for the hell of it. Indeed, we also decided to include a more race-like option just in case you simply want to enjoy the adrenaline rush of flying a small buzzy electric aircraft around an open space.
Ultimately, however, most drone purchasers want to see what sort of results they can get from the on-board cameras that are often the centrepiece of these flying machines, so we kept a keen eye on what sort of results we got on that front once our drones returned to terra firm.
Best drone: test results
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is our best-ranked drone. It’s a nicely rounded package that allows you to do everything you want to do with one of these portable flying machines. The software lets you squeeze the best out of it, while making it hard to ditch thing even when faced with difficult weather conditions.
And, naturally, being armed with a built-in Hasselblad camera means the Mavic 2 Pro is superb for shooting video and taking stills.
The DJI Inspire, on the other hand, has even more potent
capabilities but also needs a custom camera added to complete the
package, which makes it less of a newbies’ option. It also costs
a lot of money.
If you're after high-quality footage, the Parrot Anafi, Yuneec Typhoon H and Yuneec Mantis Q are all top-notch performers that pack high-resolution film and stills capacity. At the same time though, they are not the ideal first choice for a beginner as all three are quite an investment.
Want to spend less? All of our shortlist options are rock-solid in the air, and we’ve found them all to be able to fly in a variety of conditions. Even the lower-cost Hubsan H501S X4and Holy Stone HS100 Navigatorare surprisingly nimble, while the Ryze Tello crops up again as one of the simplest options in terms of delivering a simple but effective dose of drone action.
Perhaps the only real outsider here is the TBS Oblivion, which is
in essence more of a racing drone and therefore not so suited for
shooting everyday video and stills. However, it can go very, very fast.
If you’re angling towards a bit of a sporting future on the drone front, this little beauty is well worth checking out.
Every one of our selected drones has plenty of positives worth shouting about. Better still, now that components have improved and design and manufacture is becoming better they're all pretty durable machines too.
We found that the way they stood up to outdoor use was admirable and while some are better than others in terms of battery life, as you’ll see from our individual overviews, they're all able to stay up in the air long enough to deliver a thrilling taste of what it’s like to fly a drone.
Finally, the other crucial consideration for us while we were testing the units was their portability. A drone like the DJI Inspire is a pretty big machine and is therefore not very portable, but it’s favoured by professionals. On the other hand, a unit like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is perfect for average users as it’s not too bulky, but still offers high-end performance.
However, if you're looking for something that’s easy to pack in a bag between flights then we’re back to the Ryze Tello once again. It’s basically a simple-but-effective drone solution.
Best drone overall
DJI Mavic 2 Pro £1343
DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro is, as the name suggests, a follow-up to the hugely popular Mavic Pro. The two are similar, but DJI made some notable improvements this time. It can stay in the air for 31 minutes, a couple more than the older incarnation, while it's a shade faster going through the air too, topping out at 44 miles per hour.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro’s software is great too. It works in tandem with a raft of on-board sensors to ‘see’ and duly avoid obstacles in its flight path.
Its Hasselblad camera is a star performer, with a 1-inch CMOS sensor and adjustable aperture. This adjusts how much light enters the camera, and noticeably change the depth of field when your subject is relatively close.
Sure, you can stick to Automatic mode if you’re a newbie, but these features also build in a certain futureproof charm. The Mavic 2 Pro capture genuinely great video and stills.
There’s no zoom feature mind, although DJI does have its Mavic 2 Zoom model to cater for that. Granted, that underlines the only slight drawback of this drone. It has a static camera that you’re stuck with.
However, it performs beautifully for most general film and photo tasks. Combine that with the way DJI builds its drones and you have a fine combination. The build quality of the Mavic 2 Pro is second to none, with a great use of design and materials to produce a drone that feels like its price tag is justified. And, going back to the software for a moment, DJI has done a grand job in fine-tuning this to make the Pro pretty easy to fly considering its potent shooting potential.
The software is intuitive too, and will bail you out of any sticky situations, which is a boon for less experienced users. Of course, anyone with a desire to have a model that allows you to work with different cameras mounted might prefer to investigate the DJI Inspire 2. But for folk at the lower end of the drone-learning/buying curve that could prove to be a little too expensive and complicated a move initially.
As an out-of-the-box solution then the DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone is a great model to consider as you can be up and running in no time and enjoying the fruits of your labours, without too much in the way of manual reading and machine configuration.
Best drone for value
Ryze Tello £79
We love the Ryze Tello, even if its low price and status as more of a toy mean it will never gain star status in the drone world. Of course, that is reflected in the overall construction and technical specification too, but it does tick a lot of boxes if you’re after a quick-fix.
The Ryze Tello is particularly great for novice flyers as you need little knowledge or experience to get it flying. It is compact and lightweight too, which makes it ideal for heading to a safe flying location and bringing it back again without too much in the way of faff.
Its basic-but-functional app lets you fly it using a smartphone or tablet and is the perfect accompaniment for it too, although downsides include limited flying time of around 13 minutes and basic shooting capabilities.
The 720p live feed video provides a fun view from the air, but it’s not up to snuff if you’re angling to make ‘proper’ movies using the HD video feature. Nevertheless, for less than a hundred quid the meat ‘n’ potatoes video and 5-megapixel still images are easy to forgive.
A neat party trick that it can take off and land in/on your hand, which is great fun. And, at just 80 grams it’s as light as a feather – which incidentally, can make it a little more of a handful to pilot in windy conditions.
That’s something that can affect other drones obviously, but for something so light this could be a limiting factor if you live in one of the more exposed areas of the country.
The Trello controller app
A definite plus is the safe feel of the Ryze Tello, with propeller guards protecting all four blades and anything they subsequently touch. It’s also low-maintenance, with batteries that can be charged on-board using a microUSB port and that camera is fixed in place, so you get stabilisation electronically.
That means there’s very little to do once you’ve taken the Ryze Tello out of the box. For many beginners that is perhaps the most appealing aspect of all and a fairly conservative range of between 50 and 100-metres means you won't see it disappearing into the distance either, which will doubtless be reassuring to parents who’ve decided to give their eager offspring a go at flying it.
Important advice for drone owners
While flying drones is seen as being a lot of fun you’ll also need to remember that buying one comes with a level of responsibility.
We’ve all seen stories in the press about drones and not all of the exposure has been positive. Drones are viewed by many as antisocial and an annoyance. And, at their worst, drones have been used to cause chaos, particularly when they're flown unauthorised near airports and airfields.
In that respect you’ll definitely want to follow the code of conduct for drone flying, which involves avoiding the aforementioned airports and airfields, staying below 120-metres off the ground and also maintaining eye contact with your flying machine.
Needless to say, don't go anywhere near other aircraft and use common sense too. Many people get irritated if a drone is flying overhead and not only can they cause injury or damage if anything does go wrong, they might be straying into private property.
Based on that thinking, we’d underline just how useful it might be to start off with a smaller and cheaper model, something like the Hubsan H501S X4 or Holy Stone Navigator and, if you have a desire to do things more professionally or indeed commercially, move on up to machines like the DJI and Yuneec drones.
If you have children who’ve seen drones on their travels and look longingly at the skies hoping they too can get up in the air then something like the Ryze Tellomakes a cheap and fun entry point into the world of flying. If they subsequently lose interest then you haven’t laid out too much cash and can probably find another willing new owner to take it on if it’s surplus to requirements.
That said, even higher-end drones are popular items on the secondhand market, so it should be reasonably easy to pass on any kind of model just as long as it’s in good shape and performs as it should. Most drone manufacturers are smart enough to produce spares for their models as they too know that we can all do damage to these fairly fragile flying machines. But if you're particularly accident-prone then it might be an idea to consider a model that can be returned to its original glory without breaking the bank. The same needs to be considered when it comes to things like batteries and rotors too, as on some models these can be annoyingly expensive things to replace.