The number one use for commercial drones today is for inspection services. These machines fly over power lines, rail lines, under bridges and so much more to accomplish tasks such as preventative maintenance, documentation of work, and records for insurance claims.
Add an infrared camera and you can use these powerful drones to inspect pipelines, buildings and more for leaks — this makes for ideal search and rescue drones as well, but we’ll talk about that another day. For now, these are some of the best retail drones that make ideal inspection drones.
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
DJI designed the Matrice 200 series to offer a versatile set of inspection capabilities. Choose from various payloads and mounting points to look up, down...
- 38 - MIN
- 6K - 24 FPS
- 50 - MPH
- 5 - 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
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 Phantom 4 RTK adds the best GPS precision to the popular Phantom line of drones. This is a serious tool for drone mapping,...
- 30 - MIN
- 4K - 30 FPS
- 36 - MPH
- 4.3 - MILES
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.
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.
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 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.
DJI Phantom 4 RTK
October 2018Release Date
The DJI Phantom series of drones are some of the best machines on the market, while the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is the best consumer offering, professional users will want to look at the Phantom 4 RTK. Taking the best features of the Phatom line, then adding the extreme precision of RTK technology makes for a drone with great hover accuracy, and photo capture that is within 1cm. RTK utilizes connectivity to satellites and to a ground station, which is a little cumbersome for your fun hobby flights, but absolutely beneficial to your professional drone needs.
For those times that you need some highly-accurate aerial imagery, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK starts at around $8,000.
Drone legal and safety
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.
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.
May 2017Release Date
The DJI Goggles offer an immersive experience for drone flight. As with most AR and VR headsets for drones, enjoy a first person view of the world from above. The DJI Goggles are one of very few goggles to offer a Full HD experience, with two 1080p panels, one for each eye.
Versatility is the name of the game, you can connect many popular DJI drones to the Googles via OcuSync wireless connectivity. Several flight modes allow for you to observe, or even take over and fly your drone entirely through head tracking. When you are done flying, head on home and enjoy re-watching those videos in the headset from the comfort of your couch. Six hours of battery life means you can then connect an HDMI cable and enjoy a movie or play some video games as well.
The DJI Goggles are a fantastic option for your FPV drone flights and more, but be sure to bump up to the DJI Goggles Racing Edition if you desire some high-speed fun. The base Goggles are good, but the latency bump on the RE edition makes the difference on the race track.
Grab the DJI Goggles for about $349 today.
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.
Stay tuned, we’ll be adding more and more drones to the site, building up the list of the best inspection drones and more. This list used mostly just easily available off-the-shelf drones, but there are many other machines out there for this task.
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