When it comes to purchasing the best drone under $1000 with a camera, there are a few hundred out there and your needs, skill level, usage, and budget are all different. So this article mainly covers those priced between $500 and $1000 so that you can choose the right one accordingly.
After we got an initial list of more than 10 top ones based on our expertise, we then went on to read more than 50 guides from reliable websites, analyze real users’ reviews and comments, watch a great deal of YouTube videos, ask feedback from experts, and even test a few of them, we think the following three are the best.
Best Overall: DJI Mavic Air 2
Also Great: Autel EVO
Budget Pick: Parrot Anafi
If what you are looking for doesn’t fit in this range, you can take a look at the following ones:
- The Best Drones Under $600 Review
- The Best Drones Under $300 Review
- The Best Drones Under $150 Review
- The Best Drones Under $50 Review
How did we pick?
Here are the factors we think are the most important when deciding to buy a drone at this price range.
Easy to fly
Auto takeoff and landing, ready to fly, and smart-flight modes are considered to be things that will facilitate both flying and aerial photography.
When we talk about flight performance, we are saying a drone’s flight time, speed, flight distance, and transmission.
Flight time. 20 minutes or more with one battery is a must.
Speed. The max speed a drone can go no only represents high performance but also brings you more enjoyment while flying.
Long Flight distance with reliable video transmission. 2 km (1.2 miles) or longer control distance with a real-time view is crucial, especially when flying beyond visual line of sight or you need to shoot wild animals or scenes that far away.
The ability to sense obstacles and avoid them while flying, low battery alert, and auto RTH (return to home), precise hovering is what can ensure a safe and easy flight.
A high-performance is essential for aerial photography. Here we only considered those are capable of shooting 12MP stills and 4K videos. Slow-motion and HDR are good add-ons.
Drones that adopt a 3-Axis Mechanical Gimbal allow you to take steady photos and videos no matter you are in fast-flying or strong winds.
Drones are used to be very inconvenient to take out, now the foldable design has gone mainstream which significantly enhanced the portability.
The Best Drones under $1000 Review
Best Overall: DJI Mavic Air 2
Our rating: 4.6 out of 5
- Camera: 1/2-inch sensor
- Photo & Video: 4K/60fps videos & 48MP photos
- Flight Time: Up to 34 mins/Battery
- Flight Distance: 6.2 miles (10 km) with 10800p FHD first-person view
- Max Speed: 68.4 kph (43 mph)
- Max Wind Resistance: Level 5
The Mavic Air 2 features a 1/2-inch CMOS camera capable of capturing 4K/60fps videos, 48 MP photos, and 1080p/240fps slow-motion video.
Easy to use
Just like the other DJI Mavic drones, the Mavic Air 2 is very easy to control. After you get your drone, you just need to charge the battery and the remote controller, mount the propellers, download the DJI Fly app, then you are all set. The new DJI Fly App is very beginner-friendly, you can easily take off by tapping the auto takeoff button on the screen.
When it comes to flight performance, we mainly talk about flight time, transmission range, top speed, and intelligent flight modes. Mavic Air packs a 3500 mAh battery that supports a max flight time of 34 minutes. Though the practical battery life is not this long, I can still get around 28-30 minutes every time I fly.
Mavic Air 2 comes with the Ocusync 2.0 transmission system, it allows you to fly up to 6.2 miles (10 km) away. It’s one of the few drones that have long control range. You can also get 1080p FHD live video transmission.
Mavic Air 2 features a lot of DJI’s latest intelligent flight technology, including FocusTrack, SmartPhoto, Waypoint 3.0 etc., FocusTrack includes ActiveTrack 3.0, Point of Interest 3.0 (POI), and Spotlight 2.0 which offer you different tracking features for different situations. You can easily capture cinematic aerial photos with SmartPhoto. Waypoint allows your drone circling around an object automatically so that you can create stunning videos.
Mavic air 2 packs obstacle avoidance sensors on the top, back, and bottom. The APAS 3.0 can help you avoid obstacles automatically, allowing you to focus on your flying and shooting. It also features low-battery alert and RTH (return to home) to help you fly safely.
Mavic Air 2 uses the iconic foldable design of the Mavic family. It allows you to easily pack into your backpack. You will find it very potable when taking out for hiking or traveling.
The original Mavic Air was our top choice, but the second generation has come out with the same price, so it’s not that competitive now. If you want to know more about the difference between these two models, check Mavic Air 2 vs Mavic Air.
Our rating: 4.2 out of 5
- Camera: 4K 30fps videos & 12MP photos
- Flight Time: Up to 21 mins/Battery
- Flight Distance: 4 km with 720p HD first-person view
- Max Speed: 68.4 kph (43 mph)
- Max Wind Speed Resistance: 38 kph (large trees sway, difficult to walk)
The Mavic Air packs a camera that allows you to take quality steady 4K videos and 12MP photos while ensuring you reliable, safe, and fun FPV flying experience due to its 3-axis gimbal, obstacle avoidance ability, and easy-to-control.
Easy to use.
Mavic Air features one-touch takeoff and landing, auto return to home, and intelligent flight modes like ActiveTrack, QuickShots that makes both flying and shooting insanely easy. Even beginners can learn to fly and shoot cool videos to share on social media in no time.
Many beginner users commented that it’s easier to fly than they’d thought, and are amazed by its precise hovering even in windy days, you don’t bother to or worry about flying away.
Mavic Air allows you to fly up to 4 km (2.5 miles) away with a real-time 720p first-person view. As the smallest and most compact one here, it offers up to 21-minute flight time, and the max speed can reach 68.4 kph(43 mph) in sports mode.
The excellent flight performance is one of the things most users like, but some commented that battery life is not satisfactory, the actual flight time is around 15 – 18 minutes and an extra battery is needed for long and fun flying. People also claimed that the FPV live feed is easy to interfere with when flying in cities or more complicated environments because of the WIFI transmission it uses. Though the flight time and flight distance are not the best, the price also not the highest, it’s more than adequate for most of the users.
3-Axis Gimbal and 4K Camera. The 3-axis mechanical gimbal and 4k camera not only allow you to shoot shake-free 4k videos and 12MP photos with ease, but also let you take stunning HDR Photos, 1080p 120 fps slow-motion video and 32 MP Sphere panoramas. many customers are satisfied with the image quality and how easy it is to create.
Mavic Air uses 7 sensors to help you detect and avoid obstacles in its front, back, and bottom, which removes a lot of pressure for beginners or when flying in a complicated environment. It also features a more reliable RTH (return to home) system which you can rely on when losing signal or control. Things like low battery alert and the use of both GPS and GLONASS satellite positioning systems also give you more confidence when flying.
Most of the users are impressed with its portability, saying that the 3D foldable design together with its compact small size makes Mavic Air a drone with excellent portability. It can even fit your Jacket pocket. A good company for traveling, hiking, and outdoor activities.
One thing that some people are not satisfied with is customer service, users do love the drone but complained to the customer support team for poor handling.
Mavic Air is certainly not the best when it comes to flight performance and customer service. After taking brand, reliability, price, design, safety, and other factors into consideration, we think it’s overall the best.
Our rating: 4.0 out of 5
Better video performance. More expensive. The interior obstacle avoidance system means a compromise in safety. Larger in size makes it not as portable as Mavic Air. Found gimbal stabilization issue.
- Camera: 4K 60fps videos & 12MP photos
- Flight Time: Up to 30 mins/Battery
- Flight Distance: Up to 7 km (4.3 miles) with 720p HD first-person view
- Max Speed: 72 kph (44 mph)
- Max Wind Speed Resistance: Not Applicable
Compared to Mavic Air 2, the Autel Robotics EVO acts no difference regarding easy to use and intelligent flight modes but performs better in terms of flight time, speed, flight distance, and video quality. It packs a 3-axis gimbal and a 4K camera which allows you to capture 4k 60fps videos and 12MP photos.
The remote comes with it has a built-in screen which allows you to see the view of the camera without attaching your smartphone, which is something the Mavic Air doesn’t offer.
When it comes to safety, the Autel EVO only prevents you from crashing in obstacles when flying forward, backward sensors only detect obstacles but doesn’t stop a collision, and no bottom sensors are included. Mavic Air uses front, back, and bottom sensors to ensure safe flying, and both the front and back sensors work the same on preventing crashing. Another safety concern is that it has no geofence and doesn’t recognize no-fly zones like places near the airport or military facilities, you will need to be more careful.
Although adopting a foldable design, the Autel EVO is almost 4 times bigger and 2 times heavier than the Mavic Air. It sacrifices the portability for better flight performance.
The Autel EVO costs more, and people also commented that the real flight time is only around 23 minutes other than the advertised 30. This is a common problem for all drones. There were also problems found on forums and Facebook user groups about the gimbal stabilization issue. All in all, if you are looking for something out of a DJI drone, and want longer battery life and better videos (not as good as a DSLR), EVO is something you can consider.
Our rating: 3.8 out of 5
Better camera. The most affordable. No obstacle avoidance system. Less portable. Unstable flight control system.
- Camera: 4K videos & 21MP photos
- Flight Time: Up to 25 mins/Battery
- Flight Distance: Up to 4 km (2.5 miles) with 720p HD first-person view
- Max Speed: 53 kph (33 mph)
- Max Wind Speed Resistance: 50 kph(31 mph, large tree branches move)
The Parrot Anafi was considered to be the real competitor to the DJI Mavic Air when launched. It stands out for better image quality, a 2.8X lossless zoom lens, longer flight time, and a unique 180° tilt gimbal design which offers more space for creative aerial photography.
Packed with a 3-Axis gimbal, it allows you to capture 4K videos as good as the Mavic Air and better photos that reach 21MP in resolution, but some users said the HDR mode for video tends to oversaturate colors and lose detail in some image areas.
The same foldable design makes it almost the same size as Mavic Air, which is one of the things users like the best. But some commented that the portability is not as good as that of the Mavic Air. Due to a different folding method of the drone and unremovable joysticks on the remote, it takes more space.
One of the things that impressed users is the charging, you can power the battery via USB-C cable which is easy and convenient when charging in your car or with an external battery pack.
SmartDronies is a featured smart-flight mode which allows you to take a selfie and fun cool videos that you can easily share with friends or on social media. The Follow Me mode enables the drone to track a person or an object while flying, unlike other drones, it comes with an in-app purchase for $17.99.
When it comes to safety, it only provides geofence. You will need to be more cautious when flying in no-fly zones such as places around airports or government buildings. Another major concern is the lack of obstacle avoidance, which may remove confidence when flying.
Based on its performance and reviews and feedback from users, it’s no competition to the Mavic Air at all. If you are looking for the most affordable non-DJI drone which shares most of the features of the Mavic Air, then it is the right one for you.
We also reviewed drones like DJI Mavic Pro, DJI Mavic Pro Platinum, they are very powerful and performs pretty good according to our standards, but they are too old and can’t compete with the latest DJI Mavic Air 2.
There aren’t too many choices for drones that cost $500 to $1000, and the Mavic Air 2 is what we highly recommend if you want a 4K drone that packs the latest and greatest technology.