As with every year, the best drones of 2021 that you should consider buying include some of the best machines from previous years. DJI remains a global leader in the market, particularly in the consumer drone segment.
DJI called the Mavic 2 Pro an iterative update over the original Mavic Pro; It may look like a simple upgrade, but the Mavic 2...
- 31 - MIN
- 4K - 30 FPS
- 44 - MPH
- 6.2 - MILES
Generally recognized as one of the best camera drones on the market, the DJI Inspire 2 offers great cameras, superb flight and robust controls for...
- 27 - Minutes
- 6K - 30 FPS
- 58 - MPH
- 4.3 - MILES
The DJI Mini 2 is an updated Mavic Mini, now with a 4K camera, Ocusync 2.0, and updated flight features in a package still small...
- 31 - Minutes
- 4K - 12MP
- 36 - MPH
- 6.2 - Miles
The DJI Mavic Air 2 is the first "air" to look like a Mavic drone. It's the perfect midway between the Mini and larger Mavic...
- 34 - MIN
- 4K - 60 FPS
- 42.5 - MPH
- 6.2 - MILES
Yuneec's reliable hexacopter hardened for the commercial market, the Yuneec H520 is ready for your inspection tasks and more.
- 28 - Minutes
- 4K - 30 FPS
- 38 - MPH
- 1 - MILE
There are some amazing drones out there, everything from nano machines for the living room pilot, carbon fiber beasts for the commercial market and Hollywood, plus some amazing consumer rigs designed to put a camera into the sky. Here is our short list of the best of the best drones in 2021.
Note: We will update this list every month, or when new drones make the list. No new drones added, but DJI has an announcement on March 2nd.
The top five drones only tell part of the story, the drone landscape looks more like this:
These are fun times. 2018 was a turning point where hobby pilots, like you, could step up to pilot drone deliveries and more, that trend continued in 2019. The world realized the usefulness of drones, often as imagined in our favorite sci-fi flicks, and the need for experienced pilots is on the rise. The latter half of 2019 introduced a lot of new drone laws. That carried over into 2020 with the FAA on the verge of rolling out new testing requirements for all pilots, a few changes to what you can do with your drone in the sky, and the potential for new privacy laws that will restrict your flight over private property.
Not to mention the introduction of LAANC for hobby pilots to fly in controlled airspace. Please don’t fly near airports without clearance.
We’re here to explore the best of the best in the drone industry, today is all about the best drones that you can buy on a store shelf in 2019. Please note, we are going to focus mostly on the sub-$2000 range, you can get some amazing machines for top dollar, let’s instead focus on the machines that most of us can afford at home. Join us for our rundown of the best drones for sale today.
Things to know before you fly
- You must register your drone with the FAA before you fly
- You must affix your drone registration number to your craft
- Coming soon: The FAA will require you to pass a test before you fly your drone
- You must acquire your Part 107 certificate if you are to receive any compensation for your flight
- You must follow all of the FAA’s airspace rules if you are flying outdoors
- Hobby flights have different requirements from commercial flights
- In the eye’s of the FAA, drones are aircraft. Period.
- You need to acquire authorization to fly in controlled airspace
- Coming soon: The FAA will require all drones to broadcast a Remote ID – a digital license plate
Do you get paid to fly? You need to be commercially licensed to do so, that’s the FAA Part 107 Airman Certificate with sUAS rating. We’re ramping up our tutorials on how to get the license, and we’ve teamed with a training company to help you pass the test. Learn all you need to know for the test and much more through Drone Pilot Ground School.
Getting started guide
We spent a good deal of time with our first drone, an inexpensive machine that taught us the intricacies of flight, how weather affects our machines and to stay away from dogs. That’s another story though. We want you to get the most out of your drone, and the first step is understanding what your machine is capable of, where you can fly, how you can fly and what you should expect from the experience.
Drone legal and safety
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
August 2018Release Date
Introduced in August of 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro instantly became the best consumer-class folding drone that DJI had to offer. A marked upgrade over the original Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 Pro rocks a 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture at 100Mbps, multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors for some of the safest drone flight possible, and much more. OcuSync 2.0 enhances connectivity to the remote control and other accessories, now able to transmit 1080p live stream video well beyond the legal line-of-sight.
With an initial launch price of $1449, plus another $319 to get the Fly More kit with extra batteries, there is a barrier to entry with this machine, but if the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is within your budget, we think you will not be disappointed.
DJI Mavic Air 2
May 2020Release Date
The DJI Mavic Air 2 drone is more than just a successor to the original Mavic Air, it's more of a transition from its own form-factor into a true Mavic drone. The Mavic Air 2 maintains its place as a mid-tier drone in DJI's lineup. In terms of size, price, and capability, the Mavic Air 2 sits almost perfectly in between the Mavic Mini and the Mavic 2 series drones.
In the same way that the Mavic Air stepped up the camera game for small drones, the Mavic Air 2 is an exciting update in the camera department as well. You're looking at a new 1/2-inch sensor that shoots 12MP stills, but does so from a 48MP sensor! You can capture 48MP stills as well, but the 12MP shots are better, using pixel binning managed by Quad Bayer technology. Photos are great, but the new 4K video capture at 60fps, and a data bit rate of 120Mbps, are more exciting to many users.
Check out the DJI Mavic Air 2 for a starting price of $799 for the base package, $988 for the Fly More combo at launch in May 2020.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
August 2018Release Date
If you run down the spec sheet, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the same machine, with one major exception, the camera. The folding quadcopter design offers great portability, the multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors assist in safe flight, and the new capabilities of OcuSync 2.0 add versatility for control and accessories. That is true for both of the drones, the Mavic 2 Zoom, on the other hand, rocks a 2x optical zoom lens on top of a 12MP camera. It shoots 4K video at 100Mbps and can digitally double that zoom for an impressive close-up.
DJI Mini 2
November 2020Release Date
The original DJI Mavic Mini was a very important machine for the consumer hobby drone market. The DJI Mini 2 is the next generation of super-compact camera drone, it's a solid improvement over the original Mini, especially in terms of the camera and flight capabilities. You still get a sub-250 gram drone, but now get a 4K camera, vastly improved connectivity, a more durable design, and more power.
The newer 1/2.3-inch sensor produces 12MP stills, and 4K video at 30 fps and 100Mbps data rate. For some, the most exciting update is lossless zoom. With up to 4X zoom, you can safely fly at distance from your subject, perfect for those pet photos or to capture shots of a waterfall in the distance.
DJI Mavic Mini
November 2019Release Date
With a long list of drones that start with the name Mavic, DJI has launched yet another consumer machine, perhaps their most consumer friendly yet, the new, very compact, folding DJI Mavic Mini.
As the name implies, the DJI Mavic Mini is a very small machine, and in true DJI fashion, it has few compromises to make it all work. The first thing to note is that the Mavic Mini weighs less than 0.55 lbs, which means you do not need to register it with the FAA before flight. Registration is quick and easy, but not requiring it at all is a bonus.
Related reading: DJI Mavic Mini review
Don't let the small size fool you, this drone packs a 12MP camera, shoot 2.7K video from a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal and has all of the flight features you'd expect from a Mavic drone today.
DJI Mavic Air
January 2018Release Date
DJI found great success with the Mavic Pro, they followed that up with the far less expensive Spark. The Mavic Air bridges the gap between these two, offering all the fun features from the smaller Spark as well as all the pro flight features of the Mavic Pro. Better yet, the Mavic Air introduced a 100Mbps data rate for video capture on a DJI drone under $1500. That sounds like a mouthful, suffice to say that the Mavic Air instantly took the crown for the best video at the lowest price of any drone on the market.
After the launch of the Mavic 2 series of drones, we had to recommend the newer Mavic line as the best camera on a compact drone, but the Mavic Air still remains our top pick if ultimate portability is your concern. The Mavic Air manages to pack down to almost fit comfortably in your pocket.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
May 2018Release Date
The DJI Phantom series of drones are some of the best machines on the market, every iteration makes improvements on the previous and in the case of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, we're talking about improved motors, more efficient propellers and the first Phantom drone to rock OcuSync connectivity.
The Phantom 4 Pro series was DJI's best drone at launch for object avoidance technology, a trend that continues and is improved upon with the V2.0 series, adding radar and more obstacle avoidance goodness. The newer drone comes with the same 20MP 4K camera as previous, still one of the best camera drones on the market.
The difference between the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 for around $1,499 and the Phantom 4 Pro+ V2.0 for $1,749 is the inclusion of a 5.5-inch built-in display on the remote of the Pro+. The bright, Android powered display is the only difference between the two machines.
January 2018Release Date
UVify has a rich history in drone racing. They understand that future racers need to start somewhere, developing the UVify OOri as a fantastic beginner's race drone. Slow and stable for practicing in your living room, this machine can open up to over 50MPH when you want to win a race. Agile, light-weight, and fast, the UVify OOri is great for beginners on a budget.
There may be less expensive beginner drones out there, but if quality is of concern to you, the UVify OOri for $295 is hard to beat in the segment.
Autel Robotics Evo II
January 2020Release Date
The Autel Robotics Evo II (Evo 2) is an exciting update to the initial Evo. Sharing much of the same ideology for form-factor and flight characteristics, the newer machine is an update in almost every way. Primarily, pilots should be excited for 40 minute flight times, extended connectivity range, and an 8K camera. Sure, you can upgrade to a Pro model that has a larger sensor and only a 6K camera, but base model Evo II buyers are getting their hands on one of the first consumer products to shoot 8K video, not just drones, one of the first, period.
This orange folding drone is a machine that satisfies consumers, but also tackles commercial and professional needs. Notably, the top model of the new Evo II line comes with a dual-camera configuration, sporting an 8K sensor and a decent IR camera. The base model and the commercial model each get that 1/2-inch 8K sensor, while the pro model gets a full 1-inch 6K sensor. They can all send the camera feed back to the Autel Robotics Live Deck, for your studio and independent recording needs as well.
The Autel Robotics Evo II will be available in early 2020 starting at $1495. Exact prices and availability yet to be announced.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Pro+
November 2016Release Date
When you think about drones, it's possible that the first image that comes to mind is the iconic design of the DJI Phantom line. DJI knows it, continually iterating their Phantom drones to be some of the best high-end consumer class quadcopters on the market. That trend continued in the fall of 2016, launching the Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro+ alongside the Inspire 2.
The difference between the Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro+ is the inclusion of a 5.5-inch built-in display on the remote of the Pro+. It's a good looking, Android powered display, but it's the only difference between the two machines.
Yuneec Typhoon H Plus
July 2018Release Date
The hexacopter design of Yuneec's Typhoon line of drones has been quite popular, if not successful. The design has become an icon in the industry and the safety of having extra propellers has been well accepted in the commercial market. The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is a second generation model of their consumer focus. The Typhoon H Plus lands somewhere in between the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire line of drones in terms of specs and price. Packing a 20MP 4K camera on a 3-axis gimbal, folding design and market average flight times and speeds, the Intel RealSense obstacle avoidance sensor may a leading reason to consider this drone over others.
You'll be able able to check out the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus for about $1899 from a few retailers.
July 2018Release Date
The Parrot Anafi is one of the best entries from Parrot for the consumer camera drone market. Recognizing the power of an articulating gimbal, the new 21MP, 4K camera is able to point all the way down and rotate to pointing all the way up. This is extremely powerful for inspection services on commercial drones, but is built into a consumer friendly folding quadcopter design.
The drone itself is a step up from Parrot's usual mostly-foam build. Foam is great for building size without adding much weight, instead the Anafi is a much sleeker package with a plastic body.
Look for the now-common set of features in the Anafi, such as folding propeller arms, folding propellers, a compact size and a stabilized 4K camera. The remote control uses your phone as a display and you can swap batteries to expand your flight day. The Parrot Anafi sells for $699, but you can often find deals to save a few dollars.
DJI Inspire 2
November 2016Release Date
The original DJI Inspire may have set a tone for what a professional drone should look like, but the newer DJI Inspire 2 set the tone for what it should be able to accomplish. At launch, the Inspire 2 was equipped with the Zenmuse X5, a 5.2K camera with interchangeable lenses, ready to take on tasks in Hollywood. Since then, DJI has added the Zenmuse X7 camera, a 6K shooter even more capable of professional filming tasks.
September 2017Release Date
After some success with the hexacopter design, Yuneec decided to head over to the commercial drone market with the Yuneec H520. A commercial-grade, folding machine that ships in construction orange. A range of payloads are available, mostly allowing the H520 to serve your inspection, surveying, mapping and search and rescue needs. Retractable landing gear allow 360 degree rotation of the camera, and the platform promises stability, even in high winds.
The Yuneec H520 alone costs less than $2000, but you should expect to pay around $4000 for a full flight package with multiple batteries and a camera or two.
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise
October 2018Release Date
After finding success with the second version of the Mavic Pro, along came the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, using the same platform as the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom, but adding mounting points for accessories. The accessories are designed for tasks such as search and rescue, with a spotlight, loud speaker, beacon and more. Available in two versions, the Zoom Edition uses the same camera as the Mavic 2 Zoom, and the Dual Edition adds a thermal camera to the mix, but removes zooming from the visual camera.
DJI did not initially display the purchase price for the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, we understand it has a starting price of $1999, the accessories are added from there.
DJI Matrice 300 RTK
May 2020Release Date
Commercial drone operations are a serious market, and the DJI Matrice 300 RTK is a machine that has promise for many applications. DJI's best obstacle avoidance and aerial awareness tools are included in this platform, making it one of the safest machines in the sky. RTK GPS capability, along with Airsense ADS-B tech and a bunch of Smart tools, ensure the best possible accuracy and safety for your inspection needs. For example, Waypoints 2.0 can manage up to 65,535 points, so you can pre-program a lengthy mission.
The new Ocusync Enterprise offers range up to 15KM, that's almost 10 miles. It also has triple-channel 1080p video transmission. That's one signal to the remote, one to a dedicated recorder and one to flight command or the news truck, or whatever receiver you need.
The new Zenmuse H20 payload is a powerful camera system that comes in two versions, the H20 and H20T. Both have a 20MP sensor with 23x zoom, a 12MP wide angle camera, and a laser range finder. The 30T also includes a thermal camera, for your serious inspection needs. The Matrice 300 RTK supports most older Matrice payloads as well, so you can mount the single or dual camera lower payloads, as well as the top mounted camera, for your upward facing inspection needs.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is more of a custom order, and shipments will begin later in Q2 of 2020.
Best drones wrap-up
We are falling in love with drones, and we hope you are too. From the starter toy drones all the way up to multi-thousand dollar rigs, we will keep you in the loop, check back for updates to this list as new and exciting drones hit the market.
Have a specific need in mind?
Before we dive in to explore the best drones regardless your needs, we wanted to mention that we have many curated lists on our site. These drone lists are tailored to your needs – if you are looking for the best nano drone, mini drone, camera drone, racing drone and more, we have a list for you. These lists differ from our global Best Drones list you are reading now by further explaining what makes a specific drone great for a need. Have a read through the best list here today, then hit up the other lists when you are ready to narrow down for a purchase.
Thank you for trusting us on your drone journey. Check back often, we’ll update this list, and many others on the site, whenever a new drone makes an impact on the industry. We like the conversation as well, so hit the comments below and let us know, what drone do you fly?