Just a decade ago, the only option for professional photographers and videographers to get delicious aerial shots and videos was to either hire or own a helicopter. Today, with the rise of professional-grade drones, that process is much easier and costs only a fraction of the price.
To help you choose the best drone for you, we’ve compiled a list of the five best drones for professional filming and photography.
How to Choose the Perfect Drone
Recognize Your Needs
When choosing a drone for professional use there are a lot of options to choose from. In order to choose the best drone for your specific line of work, you must first recognize your work and how it’s different from the rest.
For example: if you’re a YouTube creator and you are doing a lot of traveling, then you want to look for a portable and easy to use product. You will probably have less of a budget as you are operating as an individual.
Or, if you’re more of a commercial drone pilot and you work for a company that requires a higher production value, you might want to look at higher-end products that feature interchangeable lenses and other professional features.
Camera & Stabilization
Making the distinction between the actual usage of the drone is important as well. For example: are you using the drone for footage? If you are, are you capturing B-roll footage where you’ll need high-resolution video at 60 frames per second (fps) or higher? Or are you capturing footage for purely informational use? Where you only need high-quality video at more conventional frame rates, such as 24 fps or 30 fps.
Or, if you’re using a drone for photography, what type of photography are you in? Do you need a drone that is good in low-light situations? Or what about a drone that features different lens options, maybe even a zoom option?
You also need to keep in mind the in-flight stabilization technology of the drones too. Think about the region you’re in, what the weather conditions are and how your drone can operate within these conditions. Some drones are better at dealing with wind, rain, and snow than others and you need to make sure your drone can handle the weather of where you’re shooting. Drones are an expensive piece of gear you want to make sure your product is staying safe while you’re using it.
General Features to Look Out For
While the specific product features are important for the various uses for drones, such as camera megapixels and intelligent flight-modes, there are other general aspects that are important to look for when searching for your perfect drone. These are more generic qualities of drones that apply to all professional pilots and drones.
Battery life is an important aspect for all drone pilots, as this will determine your average flight-time and how many extra batteries you need to buy. It’s extremely annoying to keep landing your drone to turn it off and on to save battery life. It’s much better to purchase a drone that has a longer battery life, so you minimize errors in your footage and reduce cost by purchasing fewer extra batteries. Usually, projects require about 30-60 minutes to properly capture ample amount of footage and photos, so use this as a benchmark when choosing your drone and batteries.
As professional drone piloting is a relatively new line of work, there are many brands that are trying to make their way into this new market. This means that there will be varying build qualities between different brands and products. Build quality is highly important because this is what will determine the overall durability and lifespan of your drone. As drones are an expensive product, you want your drone to be a quality piece of kit. You don’t want to spend a whole paycheck on a drone only for it to break after a few uses, or worse, for it to not work at all. This is why it’s important to do ample research before purchasing a drone and to look for trusted, quality brands to buy from.
While not necessarily a drone feature, a company’s customer service and warranty policies are important things to look out for. Flying a drone is an inherently dangerous activity, and while most of the time flights are safe, sometimes there can be an occasional mistake and all of a sudden, your drone is stuck in a tree and your only option is to smack it down with a stick.
When getting into these situations, a company’s customer service and warranty programs are paramount in making sure your investment is in safe hands.
The Five Best Professional Drones for Aerial Photography
The DJI Inspire 2 is by far the best drone for commercial use. Presenting extremely high-quality video-photo, the Inspire can work for moviemakers and photographers alike. Representing the upper crust of the drone market, it touts an embarrassment of riches with features and usability.
The DJI Inspire 2 has an extremely high-end camera that’s able to capture 20-megapixel stills and is able to shoot ultra-HD 4K footage at 60 fps, allowing filmmakers to capture dramatic slow-motion footage without compromising video quality. This is all connected to DJI’s 3-axis 360-degree rotating gimbal, allowing you to capture video without needing to physically turn the drone.
The drone also has a dual-battery system, that allows it to be up in the air for about 27 minutes, allowing you plenty of time to capture the footage you need. With a max range of about 4.3 miles and a top speed of 58 mph, the Inspire can travel a long way and get there quickly.
Other features include dual operator control (allowing two operators to operate the camera and drone independently), various intelligent flight modes and multiple obstacle avoidance sensors.
Designed to provide the highest quality work possible, the Inspire 2 is made for those looking for the best of the best, and of course, are able to pay the price. The Inspire has been used in movies and TV shows and is the top option for creating the best quality footage possible. It is the cream of the crop in terms of features, abilities, and quality.
- Multiple flight modes
- Dual operator control
- Flight time & range
- Top Speed
- Multiple Avoidance Sensors
- Hexacopter stability
- Overall quality
- Bulky & heavy
DJI’s Mavic Line combined high build quality, portability and improved camera quality to disrupt the prosumer drone market. The Mavic 2 Pro is no different from the original ethos of the Mavic product line and only provides an improvement to the already impressive platform.
The Mavic 2 is a compact, high-quality drone for the lone creator or professional to use. At a considerably lower price point than its larger commercial drone cousins, its perfect for those looking to get into commercial drone piloting. Although, within the context of consumer-level drones, the Mavic 2 is in the higher-priced range.
Boasting an impressive array of specs, the Mavic 2 is 4K capable at 30 fps and 1080p at 60 fps. It also has a 20-megapixel camera that is able to capture incredibly crisp pictures. The Mavic also has an impressive 31-minute flight time with an overall range of about 5 miles, allowing drone pilots to go farther and capture more video.
Another aspect of the Mavic 2 that makes it stand out from the rest is its overall usability. Only needing to download the DJI app and connecting your smartphone up to the flight controller; you can begin to fly the Mavic on the first day. Pair the easy controls with Omni-directional obstacle avoidance sensors, then the Mavic is a beginner’s dream.
The Mavic 2 Pro is really a dream for all professionals. It’s an extremely capable drone built to perform in many situations with an interface and control setup that is intuitive and easy to learn.
- High-quality video-photo
- Portable & lightweight
- Multiple flight-modes
- High build quality
- Higher priced in the consumer-level drone market
- Can’t shoot 4K at 60 fps
Released at the same time as the Mavic 2 Pro, the Zoom is the funky twin brother of DJI’s flagship drone. The two drones are essentially the same, with the cameras and camera features being one of the few differences.
The Zoom has the same 31-minute flight time and 5-mile range that the Mavic 2 Pro does.
The Zoom has a 12-megapixel camera capable of shooting 4K video at 30 fps and 1080 at 60 fps. Geared towards a more video focused audience, carrying a 2X zoom capable camera can make for better video effects and inspection capability.
Other features of the zoom lens include a super-high res picture option when shooting at the lowest focal range, where it essentially takes multiple photographs and automatically puts them in one.
Priced at a lower price-point than the Mavic 2 Pro, the Zoom is great for commercially focused professionals who want a closer look without damaging their drone.
- High flight time
- Camera 2X zoom feature
- Lower price than Pro
- Slightly lower picture quality than Pro
- Can’t shoot 4K at 60 FPS
As you could probably tell DJI is currently the king of the professional drone markets. Providing incredibly high-quality products, but they all have one weakness in common: price. This is where a brand like Parrot comes in, providing a product that has features that DJI’s products don’t have while also having an uber high-quality camera all at almost half the price of DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro.
Parrot’s Anafi drone is a disruptor in the consumer drone market, providing professionals with an interesting option when looking for their drones. Boasting a 25-minute flight time and a whopping 4K, 21-megapixel camera capable of tilting 180-degrees, it has the ability to capture quality photos from interesting angles. The camera is also attached to a 3-axis gimbal, making for smooth footage. The camera is also zoom-capable, up to 2.8x to be exact.
The Parrot is also built in a portable design, as it’s portable and only weighs an impressive .7 pounds! You could literally carry this drone in your jacket pocket.
Clearly, Parrot created a drone built around a high-quality camera that is meant to be a competitor to DJI’s Mavic, Air, and Phantom lines. So, if you’re someone looking for a quality, super portable drone and more cash in your pocket for more gear and accessories, the Parrot is a solid choice.
- Extremely portable
- 180-degree tilting camera
- 3-axis gimbal
- 21-megapixel camera
- 4K capable
- Half the price of the competition
- Good flight time
- Limited range and speed when compared to competitors
- Lesser build quality
- Parrot’s brand image isn’t as solid as DJI’s
Perhaps the closest competitor to DJI’s Inspire 2 drone, Yuneec’s Typhoon H Plus drone is a commercial-grade drone that boasts a great camera, dual-controller capable via the transmitter and a competitive price in the commercial drone market.
What makes the Typhoon drone stand out is its vast weaponry of features: 4K camera, a 3-axis gimbal, 25-minute flight time and foldable arms. The Typhoon also has a 360-degree camera, allowing filmmakers to get smooth shots without having to physically turn the drone. It also has Intel’s Real Sense technology for obstacle avoidance.
The second generation of the Typhoon sees an upgraded camera, capable of shooting 4K at 60 FPS and a new six-rotor frame that increases in-flight stability. What really stands out about the Plus is its overall build. For a company that doesn’t have the notoriety that DJI has, Yuneec’s Typhoon is a solidly built machine. The H Plus will surely last professionals a long time while being able to shoot quality images and videos in all sorts of weather conditions.
The Typhoon is made for professionals with previous drone experience, looking for a higher-end product. When looking at the Typhoon, it’s hard to ignore its price point and just how close it is in quality to DJI’s inspire. Maybe if you’re someone who wants the commercial drone experience but wants to have a chunk of cash left over to buy more gear, then the Typhoon H Plus is an intriguing choice.
- High-end features
- Extremely stable flyer
- High build quality
- Great price
- 4K camera
- Great flight time
- Big & bulky
- Lesser known brand
Conclusion and Best Overall Drone
While it’s hard to be wrong when picking from these five, high-quality drones, we believe that the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is the best of the group. Combining all the best qualities of a drone: high build quality, long flight time, high-end camera and a great company to back it, all in a portable and relatively affordable package.
While not having the absolute best quality and most features of commercial-grade drones such as the Typhoon H Plus or the Inspire 2, the Mavic 2 Pro has almost all of their features and quality at a fraction of the price.