If you’re looking for a versatile, mobile camera setup, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the best drones in 2023. Drone technology is constantly evolving, with more powerful functionality trickling down from the pricey, premium models to the cheaper, more accessible ones.
Before buying a drone, though, you should consider what you want it for. Naturally, those looking for photography options should opt for a drone that packs a powerful camera, or potentially one with clever tech like defogging options for clearer photos. Others may want to opt for a more portable drone that fits in a bag (many come with a carry case).
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Your intended use of a drone will always dictate the features and functionality you need to consider, so beyond camera functionality and drone features, size, weight and overall design are essential considerations. For those carrying their drone alongside other photographic gear, a sub-250g drone such as the DJI Mavic Mini 3 Pro or the Autel EVO Nano+ are great choices. But if you’re looking for the very best image quality, features and functionality, the DJI Mavic 3 or Autel EVO Lite+ may be more suitable. So, whatever you’re looking for in a drone, you’re sure to find it here with our top picks of the best drones.
DJI Mini 2 Drone Bundle:
was $675.42 now $479 at Adorama (opens in new tab)
Save $196: This DJI Mini 2 drone has a 4K camera for stunning aerial film and photos. The bundle also comes with a 64 GB microSD card, shoulder bag and Corel PC software suite included.
Best for professional drone pilots
If you’re a professional photographer or videographer looking for the highest possible image quality in a portable and lightweight drone, then look no further than the DJI Mavic 3. This drone features a dual camera with a large Four Thirds 20MP sensor and adjustable aperture in the main camera offering excellent image quality for stills and video.
With video possible at up to 5.1K in standard and Raw formats, stills in Raw and JPEG format and other advanced features it’s a drone that’s aimed at professionals. The Mavic 3's second camera is much more limited, however, and can only shoot images in JPEG and standard video at 4K 30fps in auto mode, but it does offer a hybrid zoom of up to 24x.
The Mavic 3 features a folding design for easy transportation and the two models available weigh 895g and 899g. The standard model provides 8GB of internal storage, while the more expensive and slightly heavier Cine model includes an internal 1TB SDD with support for Apple ProRes 422 HG video recording. Both models also feature a microSD card slot to expand onboard storage.
This drone is DJI’s flagship ‘consumer’ model and provides up to 46 minutes of flight time with several incredibly useful safety features on offer. The Mavic 3 uses multi vision sensors to sense obstacles, as well as the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 5.0, which uses six fish-eye sensors and two wide-angle sensors to sense obstacles in all directions. When enabled, the drone can be set to fly autonomously around obstacles when detected or to brake.
Best all-rounder drone
If you’re looking for the perfect balance of price, features and camera performance, the Autel EVO Lite+ could be the perfect drone for you. This versatile UAV features a 20MP 1-inch sensor in a camera with an equivalent focal length of 29mm and an adjustable f/2.8 – f/11 aperture, which is ideal for controlling exposure when shooting video.
Photos can be captured in JPEG and RAW, while video can be captured in Standard and Log Color in 5.4K up to 30fps, 4K up to 60fps, 2.7K up to 60fps and HD up to 120fps. Image quality for both photos and videos is excellent, with aperture settings between f/2.8 – f/5.6 providing the sharpest results before diffraction kicks in and reduces overall image sharpness.
Flight times are advertised at up to 40 minutes thanks to the high-capacity 6175 mAh flight batteries, and with speeds of up to 40mph possible and level 7 wind resistance (up to 38mph), the Lite+ performs well in a wide range of conditions. Plus, features including obstacle avoidance and GPS positioning make it incredibly easy and indeed safe to fly the drone.
The Lite+ features a folding design that makes it much more compact for transportation and storage. Folded, the drone is 210×123×95mm and 427×384×95mm unfolded, alongside a weight of 835g. It’s not the smallest or lightest drone available, but the trade-off here is improved image quality, more advanced camera functionality and more power.
Available in two kits, the Lite+ Standard Bundle includes the drone, one battery, a controller and other useful accessories which costs $1379 / £1249. While the Premium Bundle offers everything in the Standard Bundle but also includes two additional batteries, extra spare propellers, an ND filter set, a three-battery charging hub and a shoulder bag which costs $1679 / £1519.
Best professional mini drone
The DJI Mavic Mini series has taken the drone world by storm thanks to being a member of the regulator-friendly sub 249g category. So not only are these drones incredibly small and lightweight, but they can also be flown in more places than larger drones. The DJI Mavic Mini 3 Pro is the latest incarnation of this popular series and addresses several shortcomings of previous models to make it the best DJI Mini to date.
With the standard Mavic folding design, The Mini 3 Pro is a pleasure to carry around because it’s so small and lightweight. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that this palm-sized drone doesn’t pack a visual punch. The new 1/1.3-inch 12.1MP sensor, capable of shooting 48MP Raw files and JPEGs, produces fantastic image quality with excellent high ISO noise handling thanks to dual native ISO capturing technology. Combine this with the 24mm equivalent lens and fast f/1.7 aperture, and this drone has some serious low light credentials.
This new model is, as the name suggests, capable of satisfying the needs of professional and enthusiast drone pilots alike. Tri-Directional Obstacle Sensing uses forward, backward and downward sensors. This, alongside Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems 4.0 (APAS 4.0), provides obstacle avoidance and automated flight patterns for capturing professional-looking video with ease. Plus, video can be captured in 4K up to 60fps, 2.7K up to 60fps and FHD up to 120fps with Normal and D-Cinelike colour profiles available. There’s also a digital zoom providing 2x at 4K, 3x at 2.7K and 4x at FHD.
Best portable drone
The DJI Mavic Air 2S is the smallest, most lightweight drone featuring a 1-inch sensor available today. This makes it ideal for photographers and videographers who carry other kit with them while exploring the outdoors, or simply those who like small and lightweight tech. The 1-inch 20MP sensor is capable of capturing stills in both Raw and JPEG formats, alongside video up to 5.4K at 30fps, although lower resolutions such as 4K can be captured at higher frame rates.
Like all Mavic models, The Air 2S features a folding design to make it more transportable with a folded size of 180x97x77mm and weight of just 595g. Battery life is advertised as offering up to 31 minutes of flight time and the digital zoom provides up to 8x magnification when shooting FHD videos with a sliding scale to 4x at 4K, allowing you to film subjects without needing to physically fly closer.
The Mavic Air 2S is suitable for both beginners and more experienced drone pilots, with features that make it ideal for both amateur and professional use. Safety features include obstacle sensing in four directions, as well as Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 4.0 which can be set so the drone flies autonomously around obstacles when detected.
Best for beginners and enthusiasts
If you’re a drone beginner or an experienced pilot looking for the most portable and lightweight DJI drone available, the 249g palm-sized Mavic Mini 2 is a great option. Not only is this drone exempt from requiring the owner to register with the CAA (UK) and FAA (US), it’s also packed with some impressive features despite its diminutive size. With a 1/2.3-inch 12MP sensor, you can shoot stills in both Raw and JPEG format as well as up to 4K video.
It also features a folding design that makes it incredibly small, to the point where you barely notice it being carried in a bag. Flight time is advertised as being up to 31 minutes and there’s also a digital zoom offering up to 4x magnification when shooting FHD video, 3x at 2.7K and 2x at 4K, allowing you to safely get closer to the action you’re shooting.
The features on offer are impressive although there’s no Raw video recording available, but this is unsurprising in a beginner model. And there’s certainly more than enough features to keep even experienced pilots happy. Safety features are pared down compared to more advanced Mavic models in that it doesn’t offer collision/obstacle avoidance, but it does use GPS positioning and offers Return to Home functionality.
Best FPV drone
FPV drones are notoriously difficult to fly, but with the DJI Avata anyone can easily capture immersive FPV video footage in stunning 4K resolution at up to 60fps. The Avata can be flown in Manual/Acro mode which is the holy grail of FPV flight, but it’s this that makes FPV drones difficult to fly, so DJI ships the Avata kits with its intuitive and easy-to-use Motion Controller that’s ideal for beginners. More advanced pilots can purchase the FPV Controller 2 separately.
The Avata features a cinewhoop style design where prop guards are built into the airframe to protect the propellers in the case of crashes. The drone is 180x180x80cm and weighs in at 14.46oz/410g with a battery, which is advertised as providing up to 18 minutes of flight time. There’s also 20GB of onboard storage alongside a microSD card slot, so plenty of storage options for safely recording FPV videos.
Video quality from the 48MP 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor, the f/2.8 lens with a fixed focus from 0.6m to infinity and the 12.7mm equivalent focal length is excellent. And although you can also shoot photos in JPEG format, this isn’t the type of drone for stills photography. The Avata is designed for shooting immersive FPV video and can capture in 4K up to 60fps, 2.7K at up to 100fps and 1080p up to 100fps with DJI Goggles 2. While with the DJI FPV Goggles V2, 2.7K and 1080p video can be captured up to 120fps. Video colour profiles include Normal and D-Cinelike, and the maximum video bitrate is 150Mbps.
The DJI Avata is available standalone and in two kits, so owners of compatible controllers and goggles can use their existing accessories. This basic No RC kit costs $629/£499, while the Pro-View Combo costs $1388/£1229 and includes the latest DJI Googles 2 and accessories. The Fly Smart Combo costs $1168/£989 and includes the slightly older DJI FPV Goggles V2 and accessories.
Best mid-priced drone
The Mavic Air 2 was closely followed up by the Mavic Air 2S, but this small drone remains highly relevant in the market due to being 25g lighter than the Air 2S at 570g, and most importantly it’s much less expensive making it ideal for those on a budget. With a 1/2-inch 12MP sensor, the Air 2 can capture stills in both Raw and JPEG format, as well as video at up to 4K at 60fps. Plus, the drone can capture video in the D-Cinelike profile (Raw) as well as the Standard profile.
The Mavic Air 2 looks almost identical to the Air 2S and features the standard folding design of the Mavic series. Advertised flight time is up to a respectable 34 minutes and maximum flight speed is up to 42mph in Sport mode. There’s no digital zoom available with this model, but you can capture 48MP stills that are saved as JPEGs so you can crop photos down to achieve a similar effect, and with video you have to zoom into 4K footage slightly and output at FHD in video editing software.
In terms of safety features, the Mavic Air 2 provides front and rear obstacle sensors, plus there are sensors on the bottom of the airframe. The drone also features geofencing to keep it away from restricted airspace such as airports, and Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) 3.0 can be set up to fly around objects when detected or to brake. These, alongside the video functionality, make the Mavic Air 2 a strong beginner option alongside the Mavic Mini 2 despite the larger size.
Best premium FPV drone
FPV or first-person view drones are traditionally niche and difficult to fly, but with the DJI FPV anyone can enjoy the immersive flying experience and video offered by these drones in an easy to fly package. The FPV comes with DJI Goggles V2 to provide the pilot with a first-person camera view, but this means that you have to always have to have someone with you spotting the drone in the air when flying outdoors to remain safe and legal.
The FPV features a fixed upright body and propeller arms, with the propellers needing to be fitted and removed before and after flight. Battery life is also extremely limited, but where the FPV makes up for this is in the sheer amount of fun it provides and the ability to fly at eye-watering speeds of up to 60mph in Sport mode and up to 87mph in manual mode; although the latter is only for experienced FPV pilots.
This drone is all about video so stills functionality is limited to JPEGs which are mediocre overall, although 4K video looks great and can be captured in a Standard profile, as well as D-Cinelike (Raw). Safety features are limited compared to ‘standard’ drones but it does use GPS positioning in Normal Mode, and sensors alert you to potential collisions and slow the drone down but won’t stop it so great care is needed during flights.
Best for windy conditions
In the world of drones, compact and lightweight options are few and far between, but with the Parrot Anafi you get both of those traits alongside a photo resolution of up to 21MP and video at up to 4K. Plus there’s up to a 2.8x digital zoom that’s claimed to be lossless, alongside standard digital zoom up to 3x. Compared to other drones in this guide, the Parrot Analfi offers generally limited video functionality in terms of frame rates, but this simple approach may appeal to beginners who feel overwhelmed by too many options to choose from.
The Anafi features a folding design which makes it long and thin for transport and storage, and the light weight of just 320g adds to the portability factor. Like most drones, the Anafi features automated flight patterns to make it easy to capture professional-looking videos with ease, but where it differs is that the gimbal only works on 2-axis rather than three, while electronic stabilisation works on 3-axis to provide a hybrid solution.
When it comes to safety features the Anafi only offers GPS positioning to hold the drone in position and avoid drift in wind. Unfortunately, like the DJI Mavic Air 2, there’s no collision avoidance so you have to take care during flights.
Best inexpensive toy option
Drones come in two main categories: toys and serious camera drones for shooting photos and videos, and the Ryze Tello by DJI certainly falls into the former category. But while the Tello offers extremely limited photo and video functionality with the 5MP camera producing JPEGs and 720p video, it may provide an inexpensive entry point for beginners to ‘test’ fly a drone to get a feel for how they operate without the risk and fear of crashing a significantly more expensive model.
The limited camera capabilities, lack of a gimbal and maximum flight time of up to just 13 minutes mean that you wouldn’t want to buy this drone for creating high-quality visuals. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, and as previously mentioned provide a stepping stone into the world of drone flying.
In terms of fun, the Tello can be flipped in mid-air, take-off from the palm of your hand and the propeller guards coupled with the small size and low weight of 80g means that you can safely fly the drone indoors. Flight distance is limited to 100m, and most people control the drone using the controls in the smartphone app, plus it can be programmed using Scratch making it an educational and fun device for kids.
Buying a new drone is an exciting prospect because you’re essentially buying a flying camera that will allow you to discover new and interesting views of the world. And whether you’re on a tight budget or you can afford the best model money can buy, drone technology has made leaps and bounds in the last few years so it’s unlikely that you’ll be disappointed.
DJI is undoubtedly the market leader when it comes to drone technology, value, features in general and the number of models available. It’s safe to say that there’s truly something for everyone in the DJI lineup. However, Autel, Parrot and Skydio all provide compelling alternatives and unique features that will certainly appeal to many drone pilots so they’re all worth considering.
One point you must remember is that if you’re buying a drone that weighs more than 249g, you must register as a pilot with the CAA (UK) and FAA (US). Registration is quick, easy and inexpensive, and failure to do so could result in a hefty fine so it’s worth taking the time to do so.
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