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
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK packs multi-direction obstacle avoidance, advanced airspace awareness and multiple payloads for commercial drone operations.
- 55 - MIN
- 4K - 30 FPS
- 51.5 - MPH
- 9.3 - MILES
Building off of the Mavic 2 platform, the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise offers new cameras and new accessories such as lights, speakers and beacons.
- 31 - MIN
- 4K - 30 FPS
- 44 - MPH
- 4.3 - MILES
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
The Parrot Anafi is one of few drones that looks up as well as it looks down. The 4K front mounted camera is on a...
- 25 - MIN
- 4K - 30 FPS
- 32 - MPH (50 km/h)
- 2.5 - MILES
There is no mistake here, 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.
Best mapping drones
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.
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 Matrice 200 series: 200/210/RTK
February 2017Release Date
When DJI re-imagined their commercial drone platform, they had inspection services in mind. Previous drones struggled with looking up, so DJI added a mount to point a camera up. Previous drones struggled with only having room for one payload, so DJI put three mount points, and thus the DJI Matrice 200 series was born. The Matrice 200 is the started machine, a quadcopter that accepts two bottom mounted payloads. The Matrice 210 adds a third mount on top of the drone, for an upward facing camera. The Matrice 210 RTK adds in that crucial GPS performance for demanding environments and precision operations.
These are powerful, fast and weather resistant drones that are almost custom order from DJI. Budget about $6,500 to get started, with a full flight package of the 210 RTK running north of $10,000.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
June 2015Release Date
The 3DR Solo was one of the best drones in its time. This large and powerful machine was made to haul a GoPro, and it did so very well with a 3-axis stabilized gimbal (worth more than the drone itself) and quality peripherals to enhance the flight. 3DR themselves have shifted their focus greatly since the Solo began to lag behind others in the market. 3DR is almost entirely a services and software company now, offering site scan packages using drones from multiple other manufacturers, that said, these are drones that accomplish what the Solo did in the early days.
The 3DR Solo has big, powerful motors, a large battery and versatile payload mount. The machine is sturdy with a plastic housing and LED lights on each corner. The landing gear are not wimpy, but they are a little fragile feeling. Considering some of the antenna are in those legs, we recommend getting spares, just in case.
The 3DR Solo is a stable drone, hovering quite well and is fairly smooth. We don't recommend relying on the non-stabilized GoPro mount for your camera, but the results are not terrible. As mentioned, the stabilized gimbal sells for more than the drone these days, it also supports up to the Hero4 camera, so we have a really hard time recommending it at this point. Still if you are looking for a solid and reliable drone for other uses, the 3DR Solo is a great option.
We've seen some crazy deals on this discontinued drone, but you should expect to find the 3DR Solo for around $399.
Old, but still worth looking at:
Parrot Bebop 2
December, 2016Release Date
The Parrot Bebop 2 hit the market as an intriguing alternative to more expensive drones. Offering a decent camera, solid flight capabilities, and a light-weight frame, the quadcopter clocked in at well under a thousand dollars. Parrot built the Bebop 2, as with most of their drones, out of plastic and foam. The foam core is quite resilient, super light, and is easy to both build with and repair. Propeller arms and some body shielding are made of the plastic, adding the rigidity needed for an aircraft.
Related reading: Parrot Bebop 2 review
The bebop 2 is a larger drone, by modern standards. It does not fold down, so you're going to need to keep the original case or a larger backpack for transport.
Parrot likes to use a single airframe and build multiple machines on top. Variants of the Bebop design hit the market over the years, including some pro and commercial iterations.
These functional flying machines can do so much more than just take some photos from the sky, but if you were looking to take stalk of your world, I hope we’ve helped you narrow down your choices.