The best drone under $1000 in 2021

best drones under $1000

When it comes to the best drone under $1000, there are a few hundred out there but 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. 

If what you are looking for doesn’t fit in this range, you can check the following articles for details:

Our Picks:

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 for feedback from experts, and even test a few of them, we think the following three are the best.

Best Overall: DJI Air 2S

Also Great:  Autel EVO, DJI Mavic Air 2

Budget Pick: Parrot Anafi 

 


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.

Flight Performance

When we talk about flight performance, we are saying a drone’s flight time, speed, flight distance, and transmission, and so on.

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.

Flight Safety

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.

Decent Camera

High performance is essential for aerial photography. Here we only considered those who are capable of shooting 12MP stills and 4K videos. Slow-motion and HDR are good add-ons.

Stabilizing System

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.

Foldable Design

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 Air 2S

Our rating: 4.8 out of 5

Key Specs:

  • Camera: 1-inch sensor
  • Photo & Video: 5.4K/30fps, 4K/60fps videos & 20MP photos
  • Flight Time: Up to 31 mins/Battery
  • Flight Distance: 7.5 miles (12 km) with 10800p FHD first-person view
  • Max Speed: 43 mph (68.4 kph )
  • Max Wind Resistance: 10.7 m/s

DJI Air 2S is the upgraded version of our top pick Mavic Air 2. It features a 1-inch CMOS sensor camera capable of capturing up to 5.4K videos, 20 MP photos, and 4-way obstacle avoidance, 31-minute flying time and comes with a number of automated camera shots.

Easy to use

Just like the other DJI Mavic drones, the DJI Air 2S 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. 

Flight performance

When it comes to flight performance, we mainly talk about flight time, transmission range, top speed, and intelligent flight modes. DJI Air 2S packs a 3500 mAh battery that supports a max flight time of 31 minutes. Though the practical battery life is not this long, I can still get around 23-25 minutes every time I fly. 

Transmission

DJI Air 2S comes with the Ocusync 3.0 transmission system, it allows you to fly up to 7.5 miles (12 km) away. It’s one of the few drones that have long control range. You can also get a 1080p FHD live video transmission.

Intelligent Flight and Automated camera shots

DJI Air 2S features a lot of DJI’s latest intelligent flight technology, including MasterShots, FocusTrack, SmartPhoto, Waypoint 3.0, etc.,

MasterShots support automatic aerial photography and post-editing.

FocusTrack includes ActiveTrack 4.0, 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 to circle around an object automatically so that you can create stunning videos.

Flight Safety

DJI Air 2S packs obstacle avoidance sensors on the top, back, front, and bottom. The APAS 4.0 can help you avoid obstacles automatically, allowing you to focus on your flying and shooting. It also features a low-battery alert and RTH (return to home) to help you fly safely.

Design

DJI Air 2S 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.

 

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Also Great: DJI Mavic Air 2

Our rating: 4.6 out of 5

Key Specs:

  • 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 

Compared to the new version DJI Air 2S, the Mavic Air 2 differs in Camera, Flight time, Intelligent flight, Obstacle avoidance, Transmission, and Price.

Mavic Air 2 packs a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor and only supports up to 4K/60fps video. The max flight time is 34 minutes which is slightly longer than that of DJI Air 2S.

When it comes to intelligent flight features, DJI Air 2S offers both MasterShots and QuickShots while Mavic Air 2 only has QuickShots.

Mavic Air 2 features a Three-directional sensing system and DJI Air 2S has Four-directional sensing.

Mavic Air 2’s OcySync 2.0 system offers you a max transmission range of up to 6.2 miles (10 km) and DJI Air 2S uses OcuSync 3.0 which has a longer range of 7.5 miles (12 km).

Most importantly, Mavic Air 2 is $200 cheaper than the DJI Air 2S.

To learn more about the difference between these two models, check DJI Air 2S v.s. Mavic Air 2: What’s the difference

 

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The Autel Robotics EVO

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.

Key Specs:

  • 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 that 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 don’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 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.

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The Parrot Anafi

Our rating: 4.0 out of 5

Better camera. The most affordable. No obstacle avoidance system. Less portable. Unstable flight control system.

Key Specs:

  • 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 DJI Air 2S, which is one of the things users like the best. But some commented that the portability is not as good as that of the DJI Air 2S. Due to the different folding methods 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 a 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 that 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 DJI Air 2S 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.

Parrot Anafi offers a few options including both consumer and professional use. You can choose from the Anafi Base, Anafi Extended, Anafi FPV, Anafi Thermal, and Anafi Work.

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DJI Mavic Air

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

Key Specs:

  • 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 make 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 on windy days, you don’t bother to or worry about flying away.

Flight performance.

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 is 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.

Flight Safety.

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.

Design.

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.

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Conclusion

We also reviewed drones like DJI Mavic Pro, Hubsan Zino 2 Plus, Yuneec Typhoon, they are very powerful and perform pretty well according to our standards, but they are too old and can’t compete with the latest DJI Air 2S and other models.

There aren’t too many choices for drones that cost $500 to $1000, and the DJI Air 2S is what we highly recommend if you want a drone that packs the latest and greatest technology.  

If you don’t have specific needs for shooting 5.4K videos, then the Mavic Air 2 is also a good choice. 

If you want a non-DJI drone, then the Autel EVO and the Parrot Anafi are what you can consider.

If you are looking for more affordable drones, you can check the following articles for details:

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