DJI drones currently dominate our top picks, and there’s a good reason for that. The company is simply a few steps ahead of its competition right now.
To an outsider it might look like DJI’s only real competition is DJI itself.
DJI has a product catalog with models at various price points, which take up all slots in our top picks actually. It made huge improvements with its Phantom 3 series, and has continued to refine form and function with the Phantom 4. DJI is finally streamlining its line of product offerings, so expect to see some solid, closeout pricing on the Phantom 4, Phantom 3 Professional, and Phantom 3 Advanced in the coming weeks—all are being taken off of the US market according to DJI’s online store.
They also recently released new drones that appeal to a broader audience – Mavic and Spark. Both are smaller or foldable drones with good cameras and decent flight times that actually don’t take that much from your wallet. Both drones are awesome for travellers and travelling photographers who don’t want to carry larger Phantom or Inspire in a backpack. This caused more people getting on board – people who were interested in buying a drone, but wanted to wait for a more compact and cheaper model.
For a long time, the DJI Phantom series was about as small as you could go if you wanted to get a full-featured drone that maintains stability in the air and includes strong safety features. That’s changing. Hikers and travel photographers appreciate a small, light kit, and they can now can now get a drone that fits into a backpack. We’ve got a couple small models in our top ten, and expect to add a few more as the space develops further.
Of course, not every small drone is a top flyer. Some are barely capable of getting off the ground and require you to use your smartphone as a remote control, which makes for a sloppy control experience. Make sure to read reviews before spending hard-earned cash on a compact quadcopter.
GoPro launched its Karma drone in late 2016, but quickly pulled it from the market. Why? Karma drones were falling from the sky due to mid-flight power loss. It goes to show that making a reliable, safe drone isn’t easy, even for a seasoned hardware manufacturer. GoPro has fixed the issue and the Karma is back on the market, but it didn’t score highly enough to be included in our top picks.
Yuneec is DJI’s major competition in the consumer market. Its Typhoon series competes with DJI’s Phantom line and offers some features that Phantoms don’t provide, including a freely rotating camera on the Typhoon H. It also has a smaller model, the Breeze, to appeal to pilots who want a more user-friendly, casual drone experience.
PowerVision is a newer player in the US market. It’s announced two copters—the consumer-friendly PowerEgg and the pro-grade PowerEye. Also making headway in the US is Autel Robotics. Its line of X-Star drones look like DJI Phantoms that have been dipped in bright orange paint. We’ve not yet had the opportunity to review them, but they compare favorably with DJI models in terms of price.
3D Robotics, which took a swing with its Solo drone, has exited the consumer market—the Solo is now only on sale at closeout prices. That’s a shame, as the Solo delivers a lot of innovative features and would be a stellar choice for GoPro users if it weren’t hampered by subpar battery life and a GPS that’s slow to lock on to satellites.