Best Drones for Travel
Whether you're a drone videographer trying to capture awe-inspiring shots or just a drone enthusiast who enjoys a day out flying around, the portability of a drone can be a huge factor. Thankfully, with the explosion in drone popularity manufacturers have been able to invest in the development of more advanced drones than we've had in the past. Some of the upgrades of higher-end modern drones are increased stability, autonomy, and higher resolution cameras. Some of the most drastic improvements, however, have been to the size and weight of high-end very capable drones, as some of the best drones now are about half the size of earlier drones from even a few years ago.
Best Drones For Travel Comparison
DJI Mavic Pro
DJI rose to notoriety with the Phantom 4 drone, which was one of the first affordable and commercially available drones that was stable enough for just about anyone to pick up the controls and take incredible HD shots. The Phantom 4, however, is a behemoth of a drone that will easily fill the trunk of most vehicles and would be difficult to shove into the back seat when it's in its case. The DJI Mavic improves upon the Phantom 4 in almost every way while managing to shrink itself down to about the size of the Phantom 4's controller alone.
The DJI Mavic features a folding design that allows the propellers and the arms they are mounted on to be retracted into a position where they are flush with the drone's body. In addition to the compact form factor, the DJI comes equipped with some impressively high-tech features such as autonomous collision avoidance. It is difficult to run the Mavic into something, even if you're trying, as the onboard sensors can detect its surroundings in a roughly 50-foot radius, allowing it to automatically correct the pilot's inputs. This little drone also has an impressive range of over 4 miles, and you can see the HD video stream from the controller the entire time so even when the drone is out of sight you can still see where you're flying it.
The Mavic has exceptional range and a battery life to match of 27 minutes, as well as tons of autonomy built in allowing you to program flight paths ahead of time and have the drone execute them on its own.
The collision avoidance isn't perfect yet, so it may be prudent to wait for future updates before tempting fate and trying to fly through tree branches. Also, the drone's follow feature is an improvement over past iterations, but still imperfect and it will quickly lose an object if it takes a sharp turn or changes its speed too quickly.
- 4.3 mile range and 27 minute flight time give tons of freedom
- Folds up to become very compact
- Tracking and collision avoidance still need work
The Austel Evo is a drone for extreme camera enthusiasts who want to get the sharpest and smoothest shots possible. The drone folds much like the Mavic but features a top of the line camera and peripherals that are equipped to take full advantage of it.
The Evo has an incredible 4k camera that can record at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. This means that even at full speed with the wind at your back the drone will still be able to capture fluid movement, and the footage can even be slowed down in playback without causing choppy or stuttery frame rates. If you want extra smooth slow-motion shot the camera can be set to run at 1080p but at 120 frames per second. The controller features a 3.3-inch OLED display as well to allow the user to get a good look at what they're capturing.
The overall flight specs of the Evo is similar to that of the Mavic, with a roughly half hour of flight time and just over 4 miles of range, however, the Evo is about a tenth of an inch narrower and a tenth of a pound lighter than the Mavic.
The Autel Evo has a slightly less forgiving gimbal than the Mavic causing some shots to look less stable than others if the drone is changing directions quickly during the shot.
- Very high resolution and high frame rate camera
- Folds into a small profile and retains all the features of a top of the line drone
- Camera gimbal can jostle a bit when the drone changes directions too violently
DJI Mavic Air
The Mavic Air is DJI's new take on the original Mavic with an even smaller form factor while still retaining most of the features people loved about the Mavic's earlier iterations.
The Mavic air in incredibly small coming in at only 6.6 inches in length and a mere 3.3 inches in width when the wings and propellers are folded in. The drone also features an impressive top speed in sport mode of over 40 miles per hour. On top of all that DJI has managed to fit a 4k camera with a 3-way gimbal onto the front of this tiny powerhouse.
The Mavic air is an amazingly compact drone that retains the crisp 4k image of the original Mavic as well as much of the autonomy and collision avoidance features.
With a reduction in size comes a reduction in battery life, with the Mavic Air only able to remain airborne for about 18 minutes.
- Very compact, coming in at only 3.3 inches wide and 6.6 inches long when folded
- Very nice 4k video with comparable stability to the Mavic's original 3-way gimbal
- Shorter battery life
The Spark is where we begin to see DJI sacrificing performance for the sake of portability. This palm sized drone weighs a meager 300 grams and is super easy to take just about anywhere without the need to even put it in a specially designed carry case, however some of the features of the higher end DJI desitgns are lost.
The Spark doesn't have folding wings but is plenty small on its own without that feature. It comes in at about 5.6 inches squared and can fit in the palm of your hand. With this drop in size comes a drop in video quality as well, with the camera only able to record in 1080P and the gimbal has been dowgraded slightly from the Mavic and Air to a 2-way gimbal device.
This absolutely miniscule drone retains an impressive amount of the performance of it's DJI bigger brothers with a top speed of 31 miles per hour and a decent amount of autonomous and target tracking features.
With further reductions in size comes substantial reductions to battery life and much more so range. The battery life on the Spark is about 16 minutes, which is close to that of the Air. The range, however, drops from many miles down to about 100 yards.
- Very compact and light design
- Shorter battery life and range than other drones
- 1080p maximum recording quality.
Yuneec Breeze Flying Camera
The Yuneec Breeze is a simple drone that's not only very compact and portable, but also great for people new to drones. The Breeze comes with several autonomous modes that are ideal for most situations and has proximity sensors that even make it safe and easy to fly indoors, something that can be a very frightening experience with a faster and slightly bigger drone like the Mavic.
The Yuneec Breeze is a very affordable option for those new to drones and aerial cinematography that is not only compact but also manages to keep many of the features of higher end competitors. The drone features a 4k camera onobard that can also take gourgeous 13 megapixel still images. The onboard sensors make the drone stable enough to essentially use it like a tripod when desired taking steady pictures from a fixed position.
The Breeze is easy to control, safe to fly indoors, and comes with five preprogrammed automated flight modes. These include a follow mode, a selfie mode that keeps the camera steady while looking at you, and even an orbit mode where it circles a given object at a given distance while facing inward at whatever it is circling.
This particular drone has no gimbal whatsoever, meaning the movement of the drone is transmitted directly into the camera without any kind of stabilization. If the drone is taking a turn the camera will literally be shooting at an angle.
- Very affordable and small drone
- 4k video with 13 megapixel stills
- Easy to pilot
- Lack of any gimbal makes footage look shaky at times
Holy Stone HS160 Shadow
The Holy Stone Shadow is another folding drone that folds into a very compact 5.5 inch by 2.6 inch form factor making it easy to carry around or store in a vehicle. This one, however, is idea for those just getting into drones as it features a number of automatic takeoff and landing features that make flying easy even for first timers.
The Shadow comes with a controller that is easy to pick up and use, but can also be synced with an app on your phone over wifi. This option allows the user to control the drone from their phone and get a real time look at what the camera on the drone is capturing. Connecting the drone to your phone over wifi also allows you to connect a VR headset to get a true first person view of what the drone is seeing.
This drone is compact, affordable, and easy for beginners to pick up and use. The drone's ability to takeoff and land on its own is incredibly useful for novice pilots as these are the hardest part of drone piloting by far.
The Shadow's camera has a maximum resolution of only 720p and is not mounted on a gimbal. This severely limits the applications of the Shadow for capturing proffesional quality video and the range is also very limited. The maximum range using the included controller is only about 70 yeards, and the maximum range for the phone app is a paltry 30 yards. The drone's battery life is also comewhat anemic with only 7 to 9 minutes of flight time.
- Very easy to pilot
- VR headset compatable
- Maximum recording quality of 720p
- 7 minute battery life
- Very limited range
Best Drone For Travel Buyers Guide
There are a number of things to look for when trying to pick the ideal drone. Depending on your skill level and your intended use different features will become more or less apealing to you. The main things to keep in mind are the camera quality, range, and battery life.
The camera quality on the drones in our roundup vary from 4k resolution all the way down to 720p. While 720p may leave a lot to be desired for some, 1080p is a nice in between that will suit most people. A majority of displays and monitors still operate in 1080 and 4k is still somewhat on the horizon for most consumers. Most drones that record in 4k, however, can have their sensor downscaled to record at 1080p but with a higher frame rate. Higher frame rates will offer smoother movement and can also be slowed down without causing stuttering during playback. The best camera on this list goes to the Evo which can record at 4k at an impressive 60 frames per second or 1080 at 120 fps.
The range of a drone is subject to a variety of factors and these are important to consider. While the Mavic and Evo have an advertised range of over 4 miles it may be limited if recording in a city or other terrain where your line of sight with the drone is interrupted. It is also important to look into the local laws as piloting a drone without direct line of site may be prohibited. The need for long range is also heavily affected by your use for the device. If you're a content creator trying to get shots of areas that are impossible to access on foot then a very long range might be necesary, however if you plan to simply fly the drone around your yard for fun you probably won't need a 4 mile range.
The last thing to consider when looking at drone is their battery life. If you have carefully planned flights where you take the drone to the location you need to shoot and get your shot and pack up then a smaller battery might be fine. However if you plan to take long uninterrupted exploration shots then a longer battery life will definitely be neeeded. It's also worth looking at the recharge time on different batteries and how many batteries the drone comes with if you want to do quick swaps in the field to take multiple flights in a day.
The market for drones has exploded in recent years and the variety of drones has likewise expanded substantially. Top of the line drones are no longer exclusively for professional content creators and just about anyone can pick up a drone and record some amazing shots. Improvements to stability, autonomy, camera quality, and even size and portability have been made, making a drone a very tempting purchase even for complete novices.