The very best drones for mapping are some powerful commercial machines. Custom-built, high-end drones can be configured exactly how you need them, which is great, but we’re here today to show you some off-the-shelf machines that can help you out. Here are some of the best consumer-level mapping drones.

We’d also like to point out that mapping, for drones, is a diverse topic. Some may be looking to map an area of the ground, like a traditional map, while others may be going vertical with 3D mapping of a building or structure. All of these drones can capture photos of the ground and can either stitch them together themselves or utilize a third-party service to tackle the mapping, the same goes for 3D mapping a building, but more likely than not you’ll need third party software, such as Pix4D.

Jonathan Feist, Drone PilotJonathan Feist

Why trust Drone Rush?

I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.

The best mapping drones

1. DJI Matrice 300 series: Versatile inspection drone

DJI Matrice 300 series: Versatile inspection drone

The DJI Matrice 300 is one of the most capable drones around. The payload options, and available mounts, allow for versatility for many flight needs, including mapping, inspection and more. As a high-end commercial aircraft, this may not be the best solution for a casual pilot looking to just get some mapping shots of their backyard, while a professional pilot can take advantage of RTK and more to easily produce highly accurate maps of a large area.

Thermal imaging takes your mapping to new places, allowing you to capture RGB image and infrared scans. The M300 offers enough flight time to cover a lot of ground, and the dual operator setup means you’re not wasting time transitioning from pilot to photographer. Better yet, engage some of the self-piloted mapping tools to automatically capture an area.

Should I buy the DJI Matrice 300 RTK?

We say again, the Matrice 300 is designed and priced for folks that plan to use the drone to make a living. There are faster drones out there if you need to cover larger swaths of earth, but the RTK precision and powerful payload options make the M300 a viable solution for many tasks beyond just mapping.

Pros

  • Powerful commercial unit
  • Multiple payloads
  • Multiple payload configurations
  • Dual-operator setup
  • Safe and reliable
Cons

  • Best flown with two operators
  • More accessories than mounts

DJI Matrice 300 RTK

(9.6)
  • 55 - MIN
  • 4K - 30 FPS
  • 51.5 - MPH

2. Yuneec H520: Reliable hexacopter

Yuneec H520: Reliable hexacopter

Yuneec H520 Demo at InterDrone 2017

The Yuneec H520 is a powerful hexacopter, designed for stable and reliable flight for a number of inspection tasks. Built-in flight software makes it easy to capture a map of an area, including overlapping image tiles, or just a big image map.

Should I buy the Yuneec H520?

The H520 remains one of the best and affordable hexacopters for commercial operations, however, it is an older drone. The airframe is as capable as needs be, and Yuneec introduces new payloads to extend the viable life of the drone, but that can’t continue indefinitely.

Pros

  • Hexacopter stability and reliability
  • Interchangeable payloads
  • Powerful controller and software
Cons

  • Older drone
  • Limited payload mounts

Yuneec H520

(9.1)
  • 28 - Minutes
  • 4K - 30 FPS
  • 38 - MPH

September 2017

Release Date

3. DJI Matrice 200 series: Almost as good as the M300 series

DJI Matrice 200 series: Almost as good as the M300 series

DJI M200 M210 M210RTK dual camera

The DJI Matrice 200 series of drones paved the way for the newer 300 series. The M200 and M210 differ in mounting points for payloads, and the M210 RTK adds in that precision GPS radio. As the M300 basically does all of this in one drone, DJI decided to discontinue the M200 series.

Should I buy the DJI Matrice 200?

On one hand, buying a discontinued drone has its drawbacks, but if you are not able to commit to the M300, one of the M200 will be less expensive and cater to a specific task better.

Pros

  • Powerful and weatherproof drone
  • Safe and reliable
  • Dual-operator option
  • Powerful payloads and mounting points
Cons

  • Older drone
  • Different versions, choose wisely

DJI Matrice 200 series: 200/210/RTK

(9.5)
  • 38 - MIN
  • 6K - 24 FPS
  • 50 - MPH

February 2017

Release Date

4. DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise: Search & rescue drone

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise: Search & rescue drone

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise kit

The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise is an upgraded consumer Mavic drone, able to haul an infrared camera and a top-mounted accessory of your choosing. While the loudspeaker will not help much in your mapping project, the lights may help keep you going and to help align your drone on the go.

Should I buy the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise?

The Mavic 2 enterprise is better utilized for search and rescue than for mapping tasks, but it’s still a stable and reliable drone, able to capture the necessary images from the sky.

Pros

  • Encrypted data
  • Interchangeable accessories
  • Familiar and popular airframe
  • Safe and easy to fly
Cons

  • Older drone
  • Not made for mapping

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise

(9.6)
  • 31 - MIN
  • 4K - 30 FPS
  • 44 - MPH

5. DJI Mavic 2 Pro: Best consumer drone

DJI Mavic 2 Pro: Best consumer drone

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is a powerful and popular consumer camera drone. The 1-inch Hasselblad camera remains one of the best 4K shooters on the market, and the airframe remains one of few to offer all-direction obstacle avoidance sensors.

Should I buy the DJI Mavic 2 Pro?

As a consumer camera drone, the Mavic 2 Pro is capable of capturing the images you’d need for mapping, but you’ll have to find third-party software to make it work.

Pros

  • Powerful consumer camera drone
  • Great 4K camera
  • Safe, fast, and reliable
  • Familiar and popular airframe
  • Easy and fun to fly
Cons

  • Older aircraft
  • Not designed for mapping

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

(9.7)
  • 31 - MIN
  • 4K - 30 FPS
  • 44 - MPH