We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. For all manner of shutterbugs – from low-budget photojournalists to professional cinematographers with deep pockets – these drones are especially designed to capture visually stunning images from afar. Employing advanced navigational technology, their high-resolution cameras can take to the air or plunge into the sea to stream and share incomparable views through a distant lens. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.

10. Yuneec Typhoon H Pro

Using an intuitive navigation system to protect its payload at speeds of up to 43.5 mph, the Yuneec Typhoon H Pro has a 360-degree, anti-vibration, gimbal-mounted, 4K camera for taking vivid snapshots and filming high-resolution videos in 8 different flight modes.

  • Retractable landing gear
  • Builds a 3d model of surroundings
  • Calibration can be problematic

Brand Yuneec
Weight 19.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. DJI Phantom 4 Pro

The DJI Phantom 4 Pro has a 20MP, 1″ CMOS camera with a 24mm lens, 84° FOV, recording bit rate of up to 100 Mbps and a 6,400 maximum ISO for video – all protected from damage by a robust multidirectional obstacle avoidance system.

  • 30 minutes of flying time per charge
  • Mp4 and hevc video formats
  • Not the best value for the money

Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000488
Weight 18.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

8. UDI U842 Predator

For exceptional ease of use, the affordably priced UDI U842 Predator features a gravity induction mode for intuitive hand controls. It has a high-definition video camera, and each of its two 1,000mAh LiPo batteries provides up to nine minutes of flying time per charge.

  • Withstands impacts reasonably well
  • Replacement parts readily available
  • Not robust enough for serious users

Model U842 WIFI
Weight 8.3 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. DJI Spark

For those for whom snapping and sharing photos and videos are more than just passing fancies, gestural controls and intelligent flight modes are among the many perks of owning a DJI Spark, which also comes with top-tier image capturing and editing software.

  • Extended transmission range
  • Facial recognition
  • Limited gimbal mobility

Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000899
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Force1 U49W Blue Heron

The Force1 U49W Blue Heron may not take the highest quality photos, but if you need some practice hours to get the hang of following your target and maneuvering with FPV, it’s a great bargain that includes a bonus battery for extra flying time.

  • One-button launch and landing
  • Excellent beginner option
  • Built-in propeller guards

Brand Force1
Model pending
Weight 2.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. DJI Mavic Pro

With a frame that folds down to the size of a water bottle, portability is the hallmark of the DJI Mavic Pro, but it also boasts a 4K, 12MP camera with a high-precision, 3-axis, mechanical stabilization system for smooth, crisp videos and beautifully clear still shots.

  • Smart gestural controls
  • 27 minutes flying time
  • Multiple autonomous flight modes

Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000642
Weight 9.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Holy Stone F181W

Featuring 6-axis gyroscopic stabilization to hold it nice and steady while you hone your airborne cinematography skills, the Holy Stone F181W is a good place to start if you’re not quite ready to invest in a premium drone, just to crash it until you work out the kinks.

  • Real-time fpv streaming via wifi
  • Comes with spare battery
  • Great entry-level choice

Brand Holy Stone
Model pending
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. DJI Mavic Air

Extraordinarily intelligent navigation systems with multidimensional obstacle avoidance, active subject tracking and high-resolution videography make the foldable DJI Mavic Air a highly capable aerial imaging device that fits into the palm of your hand.

  • 43 mph top speed
  • Auto white balance and exposure
  • Panoramic image stitching

Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.00000156.01
Weight 6.2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. PowerVision PowerRay

If you’re looking for a first-person view of the waters below, the submersible PowerVision PowerRay ROV can plunge almost 100 feet beneath the surface to explore the undersea world. Additional features include a fishfinder, a bait drop and an immersive VR experience.

  • 4k uhd video and 12mp photos
  • 70-yard-long retrieval tether
  • Comes with wheeled carrying case

Brand Power Vision
Model pending
Weight 26.2 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. DJI Inspire 2

Put together a dual battery setup to power a removable Zenmuse camera and ancillaries with a forward-facing FPV and one of the most advanced obstacle avoidance systems on the market, and you’ve got the DJI Inspire 2, the gold standard of aerial videography devices.

  • High-velocity subject tracking
  • Works with more than one controller
  • Accelerates to 50 mph in 4 seconds

Brand DJI
Model pending
Weight 30 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Take Your Photos Higher

Whether your goal is to capture still photographs or stunning video, the drones on our list provide you with range, altitude, and an interface that keeps you in control of the camera as well as its flight path.

Most of the drones on this list are quadcopters, which are flying machines powered and propelled by four rotary blades situated parallel to the horizon. Two of these rotors move clockwise, and the other two move counterclockwise. If all the blades spin at the same velocity, they create a force against the air beneath the body of the quadcopter, causing it to rise. With a decrease in power, the copter can hover or decrease its altitude.

By increasing the power to the two blades moving clockwise, or to the two blades moving counterclockwise, you will spin the copter along its Y axis, or yaw, without affecting its angle of flight. By increasing the power to only one of the clockwise rotors and decreasing the power to its clockwise partner (and vise versa with the counterclockwise rotors), you can affect the copter’s pitch, providing a tilted, momentous turn. Increase the power to any of the two rotors next to each other, and the copter will move in the direction opposite them.

There are other possible rotor combinations that allow you to achieve more advanced maneuvers, but what’s important about these copters is that they all have a little mount on their underbellies to hold a camera. Whether that camera is part of the copter package – or the mount arrives empty and waiting for whatever camera you fit to it – depends entirely on the brand and model.

Once airborne, the camera interfaces with its video monitoring system while you control the copter with a handheld radio controller. Sometimes the drone controls are incorporated into the app that controls the camera, and other times the video relay for the camera is built into a physical controller for the drone.

Take Your Tests

Even the most inexpensive combination of drone and camera isn’t cheap, and the most expensive among them ought to require an insurance policy. Too many times have I heard a woeful story from a young photographer or cinematographer who got their hands on a shiny new drone, only to run it into the ground on their first flight and break the drone, the camera, and their bank.

The best thing you can do for the insurance of your gear before picking up a drone for photography is to get your hands on a cheap, tiny kid’s drone like you see those depressing salesmen playing with in the hallways of malls across the nation. These will give you an inexpensive, low-risk opportunity to familiarize yourself with the nuances of drone flight before setting aloft equipment worth a couple grand or more.

Then, once you’ve honed your skills and purchased your photography drone, if it’s the kind to which you affix a camera of your own, take it for a test flight or two (or twenty) before strapping your camera to its chassis.

When you’re ready to purchase that photography drone, the choice between a drone with a camera built into it and one with a bracket designed to receive popular models of action camera is a tough one. While the brands and models with cameras attached to them already tend to be slightly less expensive overall investments, they run the risk of becoming obsolete a lot sooner than a drone whose camera you can quickly replace.

The other major variable to consider is the control interface. If you find that you require separate controllers for the camera and the drone, you’re liable to give up hope of ever coordinating a proper shoot, unless you have a talented drone operator and a talented cinematographer working in effective concert with one another.

The far better layouts are the drones whose apps allow for total control on your smartphone or, preferably, your tablet, and the models whose physical controllers also have interactive touchscreens for camera feedback and control.

A Long, Slow Ascent

In 1907, Louis Breguet, a French designer and builder of aircraft, created a four-rotor aircraft that achieved brief flights, momentarily hovering a few feet above the ground. Repeated attempts to achieve flights greater than a few meters off the ground, without overworking the pilots on board, were largely unsuccessful for the next sixty years or so.

Then, in the late 1970s, Bell Helicopter and Boeing came together on a joint military endeavor to research the possibility of an tiltrotor quadcopter aircraft that could operate as a quadcopter during takeoff and landing, but that could also tilt its rotors into the configuration of a more traditional airplane to achieve greater speeds once airborne.

While Bell and Boeing chipped away at the project, which would eventually get shelved in the early 21st century, advances in the use of drone aircraft for military strikes began a reintroduction of radio-controlled aircraft to the public. Suddenly, radio controlled fliers seemed less like the domain of the outcast enthusiast, and more like the domain of the rugged military man, a shift that allowed a whole new market of consumers to take the technology seriously.

Once people started mounting their GoPro cameras and other action cams onto the bodies of their drones, all bets were off, and the photographic and film industries would never be the same.

The 10 Best Drones For Photographers