It’s always fun to see a stunt drone take to the sky. There are many styles of stunts to behold, but from a retail sense, you should expect a machine that flips in the air. Sometimes they call it 360 aversion, or you might consider it a barrel roll, no matter, it’s a stunt and it’s fun to see.
There are other tricks that drones can perform these days, we’ll leave the technical merit of each up to you. For now, these are some great drones that perform some sort of aerial maneuver to bewilder an audience, the best stunt drones.
Best stunt drones
- Racing drones – speed and flips
- DJI Mavic Air – hand gesture controls
- Yuneec Mantis Q and Mantis G – voice controls
- Skydio 2 – superb follow-me modes
- Air Hogs 360 Hoverblade – unique flight
Fun camera drones:
I hope we do not have to say this, but please be safe out there. A toy class drone performing a flip in your backyard will be just fine, perform that flip over your siblings’ head in the living room, maybe not as safe. Please note that we are intentionally omitting one of the most exciting ‘stunts’ you can perform with a drone, the high speed pass. I won’t pretend that a big drone flying quickly isn’t a rush, but a big drone flying quickly is an easy recipe for trouble.
What really matters, please work with me folks, it is still early days for drones in in terms of laws, which are still being developed to control and even hinder our flights. If we make a habit and culture of flying safe, like manned aircraft strive for, chances are we’ll see fewer restrictions on future flights. Legislation aside, stunts can be dangerous, I have seen propellers break skin and require stitches, please do not experience the same.
Here are some safety tips and FAA rules to be aware of:
If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.
Drone legal and safety
Various stunt drones
Eachine E019 Paraglider
August 2018Release Date
Eachine is one of the top manufacturers of toy-class drones, and the E019 Paraglider is a fun entry in the stunt drone segment. Simple controls and a few different flight modes offer a skateboarding stance and a parachute, of sorts, for the included action figure. Simple button clicks for flipping round out the functionality. A fun little toy.
Air Hogs 360 Hoverblade
March 2016Release Date
Before we started globally referring to RC aircraft as drones, Air Hogs had a rich catalog of flying machines. They focus almost exclusively on light-weight, foam and plastic built toy machines. They do not conform to the quadcopter style of most modern drones, instead offering planes, helicopters and fun designs such as boomerangs. That is where the Air Hogs 360 Hoverblade comes in. This is a three-spoke boomerang that has a small motor to keep it on the move. Basically, this is a self-propelled boomerang, satisfying a dream I had as a child.
Check out the Air Hogs 360 Hoverblade for around $30 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.
Yuneec Mantis Q
August 2018Release Date
The Yuneec Mantis Q is an easy drone to get excited about, it packs a slim, folding form-factor, it flies for longer than most drones on the market, it has DJI Mavic Air level specifications and it has a cool trick, voice commands. We must admit, the long list of flight features and modes exceeded our needs of a drone, but the things we asked it to do, it did very well. 33 minutes of flight time allows for a lot of action in the air, the voice control features make for a good time as well.
We understand that this is a first generation of the product, we really like it, but the camera is not stabilized. It's obvious that this drone was made for pilots, not for photographers. That about sums up our opinion of the machine: if you are looking for a fun drone to fly, the Mantis Q is fantastic, if you are looking for a flying camera, this isn't the drone you're looking for.
Check out the Yuneec Mantis Q for about $450 on Amazon, down from its original $499 price at launch.
Yuneec Mantis G
October 2019Release Date
The Yuneec Mantis G is everything we had hoped for in the original Mantis Q. We can't see the difference between these drones, save for the new stabilized camera Gimbal. Superb flight time, easy controls, voice activated features, a compact design that folds small for transport and a 4K camera all sound good to us.
Yuneec understands they have stiff competition in this portion of the drone market. They build mostly for the commercial space, but fun drones like the Mantis line and larger Typhoon hexacopters have a tough battle. The Mantis G is a leap forward for the company. We had a hard time recommending the Mantis Q to users that cared about shooting video, now we can put the DJI Mavic 2 drones and this new Mantis G in the same sentence.
Based on price and camera sensor size, the Yuneec Mantis G best competes with the DJI Mavic Air, which is to say it is a viable option for hobby pilots looking for a reliable drone to fly.
The Yuneec Mantis G will be $699 at launch in October 2019.
Purchase links coming soon!
November 2019Release Date
Skydio 2 is the follow up to the impressive Skydio R1, a powerful drone with unheard of autonomy for its time. The power of both Skydio drones is in the Nvidia Jetson on-board computer and an array of obstacle avoidance sensors. The Skydio 2 uses six cameras, with a total of 48MP of resolution, for obstacle avoidance purposes, making it one of the safest drones around, in terms of avoiding a crash. They believe in this tech so much that they offer free repair or replacement if your machine happens to crash.
Skydio is not the only company that has drones powered by the Nvidia Jetson computer system, but at the time of launch, we know of no other Jetson powered drone that is designed for consumer use with a price tag less than a thousand dollars. Of course, the Skydio 2 integrates with DroneDeploy, for those looking to perform inspection or mapping tasks.
For the consumer side, the Skydio 2 offers a fairly standard 4K camera, that shoots at up to 60 fps. It is a class-leader in follow-me modes and finally offers additional control options. You can control Skydio 2 via your smartphone, just like the earlier models, or you can opt for the new remote control or the Skydio Beacon, which gives you some control of the drone, but mostly acts as a wireless tether, to ensure the drone follow you even when it cant see you.
Launch price for the Skydio 2 is $999 with pre-orders in October 2019, first shipments due in November 2019.
Purchase links coming soon!
Intel may be the current leader when it comes to choreographed flight. We’ve seen their Shooting Star drone up close and personal, but one in hand pales compared to hundreds of them flying in formation at Disney or over the Super Bowl.
Problem is, Intel has made it clear that Shooting Star is not headed to consumers anytime soon. Don’t fret, we can enjoy choreographed flight at home without them.
While the team at UVify may not have built this drone for general consumer enjoyment, any fan of the light shows at the Super Bowl have a new opportunity to launch their own drone business. The UVify IFO is a commercial platform, as much as it is a well-equipped drone with a big LED light. The idea is to pay a monthly fee to take possession of a handful of these machines and put on your own light shows.
Intel Shooting Star
As I mentioned earlier, Intel is a world leader in the drone choreography department. Let’s explore that a little more.
Did you see that thing that happened above the stadium around the Super Bowl in 2017? Yes, that display of drone flying prowess painting pictures in the night sky. That was put on by Intel, and they were flying the Shooting Star quadcopter. Correction, they were flying hundreds of Shooting Star drones during that presentation. Let me assure you that I am one of many that would love to fly a group of these drones. For now, I’ll have to settle with having simply held one earlier this year.
Related reading: Shooting Star presentation at Girls Who Drone event
The Styrofoam and plastic build make for a very light-weight machine, especially considering it is a fairly large drone and it houses a dome with a bunch of bright LED lights. The accompanying ground station is able to manage as many as 500 Shooting Star drones at one time, allowing for fairly elaborate displays. Precision is the goal, but each drone is well equipped with cages so that propellers do not hit if… I mean when drones bump each other in the air.
Bottom line, one of the coolest stunt drones in the air today is one that you and I cannot purchase. Intel is keeping them all to themselves.
Update: Intel has updated the Shooting Star drone. The new version is more plastic than foam, and altogether more capable. We met up with them at InterDrone 2017 where I totally forgot to ask just how many of these drones they’ve created over the years. Anyhow, if you want to see what we did ask, enjoy the following video.
Special consideration: Racing drones
I don’t know how you feel about flying drones, or your skill level, but I pose to you that successfully navigating a race course with a high-speed drone is a stunt. I know my practice to create ultra-smooth and slow-moving flight for video capture makes me a poor race pilot. I applaud anyone that can rock the high-speed flying around highly technical courses, and if you are looking to give it a go, time to grab a racing drone.
See what we mean:
January 2018Release Date
UVify has a rich history in drone racing. They understand that the 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.
When it comes to stunt drones, there are really only a few on the market that focus their efforts on some basic maneuvers. The rest is now up to you. Get out there with a flying machine, something agile and easily repairable, and create some new techniques. In this regard, most any drone that doesn’t fly itself can be the best stunt drone for you.
What is your favorite drone stunt?