There are multiple things to consider when buying a drone. The fact that you’re on this article about the best foldable drones means that you’re likely looking for something lightweight, small and discrete to take with you on your travels or just to play around with at your local park on a weekend.
In this article, I want to discuss some of the most important features you should be looking for when purchasing your drone and then I will compare the top five foldable versions that are available right now.
What you will learn in this article:
Remember, drone technology is rapidly advancing and new features and specs are being released regularly.
If you are in a rush, here are our picks for the top 5 foldable drones:
Since you’re specifically on the hunt for a foldable drone, I haven’t mentioned some key features below like size and weight. This is because foldable drones are usually lighter and less bulky than traditional models, such as the DJI Phantom for example. Nevertheless, it’s always worth checking up on these specs prior to purchase especially if you’re limited on baggage space. I’ve included the weight and dimensions of the specific drone reviews at the end of the article.
- Ready to Fly
Whilst researching the best drone to buy, you may come across two types of drones; ready to fly (RTF) and almost ready to fly (ARF).
All the drones mentioned in this article are ready to fly, meaning you will have everything you need to get your drone in the air ASAP. You may have to plug in a battery and attach a propeller or two, but you won’t be spending hours on a DIY assembly drone like it’s some kind of Ikea flatpack.
- Video & Camera Quality
Many foldable drones now come with HD footage as standard, but you need to decide who you’ll be showing the footage to and where, so you determine the best video quality for your needs. 4K is an awesome feature, but it’s not really worth the extra money if you’re only ever going to play it back on a 1080p screen. On the other hand, if you’re a semi-pro photographer/videographer who’ll be using your drone for client videos, it’s always good to have the best resolution to hand.
You’ll also need to consider the fps options on your video. 24/30fps usually come as standard, though most newer drones are now upgrading to a 60fps rate, even for 4k footage; 60fps and higher is the frame rate that makes your videos almost look fake when you play them back. If you’re after some dramatic slow-motion shots of you doing something gnarly, you need to be able to shoot in 240fps so that the quality isn’t compromised in post-production.
In addition to video quality, you’ll also need to think about the camera quality you require. How many megapixels is the camera? One thing I’ve noticed is that many people think the megapixels are to do with quality, and to some extent they are, but really, the megapixels just show you how big you can get your picture for print before its quality is compromised. This chart explains the maximum size you should go to based on the megapixels of your camera.
- Quality of the Gimbal
The gimbal is what stabilizes your footage to give it that professional effect. As the quality of the gimbal increases, so does the price. A good gimbal helps to keep your videos looking flawless even when faced with high winds and increasing altitudes. Check user reviews to see how well the drone performs under extreme conditions.
- Battery Life
Many of you may be a little shocked when you first see the battery life of some drones; I know I was. However, after you’ve flown them a couple of times you may find that the battery life isn’t an issue, there’re few situations where there’s necessity to fly the drone for more than 30 minutes.
If you tend to go on trips, however, like hiking and camping expeditions that’ll limit you from recharging your drone for a few days, it’s worth stocking up on some extra batteries. Some drones come with add-on packs which include spare batteries so you won’t miss a moment when it comes to capturing your adventures.
The range of a drone can be the deciding factor in whether or not you want to purchase it. Obviously, the further away you can fly your drone, the more expensive it will be. Some big-name brands can go as far as 8km (5 miles) while other, more affordable options stay much closer to home.
Though the range is an important factor, consider how much you’re willing to let your drone out of sight when you’re actually flying it. Yes, it’s cool to tell all your friends that you’ve sent your drone out 6km over the ocean, but imagine if something goes wrong and you can’t see it. People have lost drones before and even though I don’t want to put you off, it’s a feature you should really consider. We always recommend that you can see your drone with the naked eye when flying.
- Follow Me Mode
If you’ve seen drone adverts, one of the things that might appeal to you is grabbing epic footage of you climbing a mountain or running along the shores of a dreamy beach resort.
Having a drone that has a follow me mode enabled allows you to get along with your activities while the drone catches you in the moment.
If you’re not really the adventurous type and you’re just flying the drone for fun, you likely won’t utilize the feature.
- Obstacle Avoidance
So, you’ve finally taken the plunge and decided to shell out some serious cash and invest in a drone, only for it to crash into a tree or a wall…or anything for that matter. Obstacle avoidance is one of the most important features to look out for. Though most drones come with it, some manufacturers do a better job than others. It’s worth combing the reviews to see which drone has the best obstacle avoidance before making a purchase.
Considering the features of the drones I’ve listed above; I’ve put together a guide of what I think are the best foldable drones right now:
Our Rating: 4.5/5
- Incredibly small & lightweight – It fits right in your pocket!
- Range of colors available
- Great price point
- The charging port/cable don’t match so you have to use an adaptor to change it
- There are 2 DJI apps and they’re not too clear on which to install for the Mavic Air
- Some users reported drops in connectivity
The battle for top-spot was particularly hard as the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro both have outstanding features. The reason I chose the Mavic Air, however, is that despite its slightly lesser battery life and range, it is incredibly small, coming in at just 998g has superb camera quality and has ActiveTrack software to follow you and up to 15 other subjects wherever you are.
The 3-axis gimbal allows for flawless footage even in tough conditions and the camera quality is excellent allowing filming of up to 4K60fps with an integrated 12-megapixel HDR camera.
The remote easily attaches to your phone and your live view is available when flying right through the DJI App. It has a 4km (2.5 miles) range, can hit speeds of 68.4 kph (42.5mph) and has 21-minute battery life.
Our Rating: 4.3/5
- Exceptional image quality
- Compatible with 4k HLG TVs which provide better color and clarity
- 48MP super-resolution imagery available
- One of the more expensive models
- DJI app can be a little overwhelming
- Rather large compared to the Mavic Air
Narrowly missing the top spot is one of the newest Mavic products the DJI Mavic Pro 2. The new 1” CMOS sensor ensures DSLR quality 20-megapixel stills that you can capture whilst film in 4k that has integrated HDR for incredible color tone and contrast.
The camera also features an adjustable aperture ranging from f2.8 – f11 meaning that you can grab crisp images during the day and clear, bright photos at night. Another night feature is their Hyperlight technology which reduces noise on the images you produce.
It features a sport mode which allows flying speeds of up to 44.7mph and has a pretty powerful battery life, coming in at 31 minutes.
The only two reasons I couldn’t rank this as first is A) the price point and B) its size compared to the Mavic Air; this drone won’t fare well in enclosed spaces.
Obviously, with so many more features, a higher cost is unavoidable, the size, however, is something DJI may look at working on for future versions. Nevertheless, if you want to take your drone photography to the next level, the features this drone comes packed with might just be what you’re looking for.
Our Rating: 4.0/5
- Very comparable to the Mavic Air at a much cheaper price
- High-quality gimbal meaning stable video footage
- Quiet flyer, you don’t get that RC car sound you can hear when some drones are flown
- No obstacle avoidance
- Issues reported with app updating mid-flight; not good as you lose visual feed
- HDR could be better
French-based drone manufacturer Parrot has managed to design a drone that is pretty comparable to the Mavic in many ways but for a cheaper price; perfect for those who are looking for a more affordable foldable drone.
You get the exact video quality as the Mavic Air; 4k30fps, though the HDR may leave a little to be desired for. Their still shots, however, are much larger than their competitors at 21MP meaning you can get crisper larger prints from your drone footage.
A great feature of this is that you don’t need to attach your phone to the remote control, you can just fly directly from your smartphone, or solely use the controller if you prefer. This app only option though is perfect for backpackers or travelers who want to watch their weight.
They don’t have as many manual operating modes as their DJI counterparts but this could be ideal if you are new to flying drones and don’t want to leave too much to yourself.
The range is 4km (2.5 miles) with a battery life of 25 minutes.
Our Rating: 3.9/5
- Mid-range priced drone
- 33-minute battery life
- Super small, compact drone
- Lack of 3-axis gimbal
- Voice control is disappointing
- No obstacle avoidance
It does shoot at 4k60fps but the digital imagine stabilization isn’t as great as those mechanical gimbals you see in competitor’s drones, meaning if you were to fly it at its top speed of 44mph, you’d be sure to get some bumpy footage.
Likely considered an entry-level drone it does pack a lot into it when it comes to still shots, however, there’s the option to shoot in scenery mode which does make the imagery pop and when flying it has some pretty impressive intelligent flight mode options.
However, a whopping problem with this drone is there’s also no obstacle avoidance, like with the Parrot Anafi. Nevertheless, if you fly it in open spaces where you have a clear vision you shouldn’t encounter many issues. I feel this drone is more tailored to someone who wants to use it for stills as opposed to videography; hence its price point is around 40-50% cheaper than DJI’s options.
Our Rating: 3.8/5
- Has removable gimbal; the Karma grip
- Shoots in 4k
- Getting 3 cameras in one essentially
- Really big compared to its competitors
- Battery life issues reported
- Users reported issues with GoPro support
The company that was pioneering when it came to action footage did have a few hiccups initially when launching the karma, likely in a race to beat DJI for their Christmas sales back in 2016, they had to do a recall and stall the official release of the drone.
However, your standard drone price point you get high-quality image stabilization with a GoPro and the removable hand grip, meaning really you have 3 toys in one with the Karma.
Depending on the GoPro model you chose to use with the karma you’ll have the option to shoot at up to 4k30fps and take 12MP stills. The footage is exceptional and has great color quality.
It has built-in tech to identify no-fly zones and a handy return to home feature to prevent it from flying off into the abyss; great for first-time flyers.
It is, however, one of the bigger foldable drones on the market, meaning if you wanted to pack small and light this probably wouldn’t be the right option for you. The battery also doesn’t last as long as its competitors; around 20 minutes.
Based on my reviews above, I think if you’re after a good, all-rounder foldable drone, the Mavic Air is a perfect choice. It has incredible features and solid camera quality. Nevertheless, if you can afford to splash a little extra cash, the sensor and high megapixels from the Mavic 2 Pro is second to none and will ensure the best drone flying experience.
For those of you who are on more of a budget and don’t have an issue with size, the Karma makes perfect sense. You can use the GoPro and the Karma grip separately for different adventures and it still fits into an average size day pack if you want to take it out and about.
The Yuneec Mantis Q is great for those not exploring the world of videography right now and has a very attractive price. I think it’s a perfect drone for beginners who are flying in wide open spaces.