Your Guide to the 11 Drones With the Longest Flight Times
In the world of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as UAVs or drones, the longer you're able to spend in the skies, the better. Although you may not need to be aloft for hours, drones with improved flight durations give you more freedom to explore.
Here are some of the top drones with longest flying time stats that we were able to find.
The Top 11 Drones From Shortest to Longest Flight Times
Although it comes in at last place with a maximum flight time of 16 minutes at 12.4 mph and 15 minutes of hovering time, the DJI Spark is still a capable drone. Designed as a consumer-level entry model, it lets you use hand gesture control in addition to a normal remote control, so you might be able to get more done in less time.
Another perk of the DJI Spark is that it's cheap. DJI introduced it for about half the price of other prosumer gear. Nonetheless, it has many of the features that the manufacturer is known for, like the ability to return home when you lose connection or the battery is about to give up the ghost.
This UAV is extremely compact, which is perfect for casual pilots who don't like carrying lots of gear. Since you can keep it in a backpack, it's quite convenient.
Hubsan H501S X4
This drone's gold-and-white appearance makes it an appealing buy, but its maximum flight duration of up to 20 minutes is even more attractive. Although it's not as aerodynamic or sleek as some other models in the same flight time range, it's significantly cheaper than most, selling for less than $250 at retailers like B&H Photo & Video and Amazon.
Like other low-end models, this drone shoots 1080p video, but the self-contained design might make up for the lack of 4K resolution. This device includes a first-person view, or FPV, transmitter and a 4.3-inch display that lets you see what you're shooting in real time without having to add extras. It also has features like GPS, so it can follow you around or return home.
This is one case where cheap doesn't mean bad quality. Hubsan packed a lot into this 400 g package, like brushless motors that offer superior performance and propellers that tighten themselves as they rotate.
Phantom 3 Standard
DJI's famous Phantom 3 Standard comes in at about the same price as its Spark, but it can fly for 25 minutes on a single charge. It also incorporates a relatively sturdy gimbal, or pivoting support, that keeps the 2.7K HD camera stable enough for professionals.
One of the biggest advantages of the Phantom 3 Standard is that it's a well-proven platform. It's known for being straightforward to fly, and its rugged controller lets you attach your smartphone to get a 720p video feed of your target.
This UAV is also easy to customize. For instance, if you're focusing on a person, then you can tell the drone to face them even as you navigate around them in circles. Or you can program flight paths that include custom stopping points and trust the drone to do the piloting while you adjust the shot.
Parrot Bebop 2
The Bebop 2 comes in at an impressive 25-minute flight time, and as Engadget notes this is twice as long as Parrot's previous version. Although the base model starts at $349, you have to pay an extra $500 for the Skycontroller 2 package that lets you fly using a compatible VR headset. If this sounds too expensive, you can use an Android or iOS phone as a controller.
This drone's crazy flight time owes a lot to its ultralight design. Its 500 g weight also lets it go from 0 to 37 mph in just 14 seconds and come to a halt in around 4 seconds.
Such maneuverability is handy when you're using the "follow" mode to film yourself on the go. The speed is also useful considering that since the 1080p-capable drone can travel almost 1.24 miles, you might want to quicken the trip.
DJI Mavic Pro
The DJI Mavic Pro creates stabilized 4K images and can fly for 27 minutes at 15.5 mph or hover for 24 minutes. In other words, you can get about 8 miles of travel out of this drone, which outpaces most models by a huge margin.
Mavic-series drones are intensely popular because they fold up into compact packages that fit in the palm of your hand or inside a large pocket. Although its 743 g maximum weight is significantly greater than some of the other models that we've discussed, this UAV seems to make up for it with a high-capacity battery and a cool cover that protects its gimbal and camera.
Don't like using the controller? You can operate this drone in Wi-Fi mode at the flick of a switch. This reduces your max speed to 14 mph from the usual 40 mph, however. Also, beware of the fact that some generations of the Mavic Pro have had problems with firmware updates and software.
DJI Inspire 2
This drone is gargantuan compared to what we've reviewed so far. With its landing gear deployed, there's more than a foot between the individual motors, and it costs around $3,000 for the basic model or $6,000 for the whole combo. Of course, the Inspire 2 can stay airborne for up to 27 minutes, and it shoots 5.2K or 4K video, which is a necessity for the serious professional.
Is such an expensive drone worth it? If you're trying to take to the skies with your favorite pro-grade camera and lens set, then this platform is definitely suitable. As a prosumer device, it moves at around 58 mph, and it has a 4.3-mile control radius. In other words, you can create intricate, well-planned shots with cinematic quality.
While this is a product for those who love creating, it's important to know that the base model doesn't get you everything. You'll need to add gimbals and cameras to capture footage, so be prepared to spend a lot. Remember that you'll have to pay for a computer that can edit all of the high-res videos that you create.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
We like the DJI Phantom 4 Pro because it costs less than options like the Inspire 2 yet packs beefier specs than the low-end models in our list. For instance, it shoots video at 60fps, 4K UHD resolution, and its built-in camera includes a mechanical shutter.
Like the Inspire 2, the Phantom 4 Pro can fly 4.3 miles away from its controller, making it one of the best drone with longest range options. It also senses obstacles in multiple directions. When it comes to maximum flight duration, however, it adds a bit more precious time to top out at 30 minutes.
The Phantom 4 lies somewhere in the middle of the hobbyist-prosumer spectrum. More of a complete package than the Inspire, it includes a remote controller with a viewscreen and slick features like automatic route selection. The advanced model with all of the bells and whistles weighs around 1388 g and sports an added backward vision system.
XK Detect X380
XK's Detect X380 may seem somewhat average compared to professional models, but it has plenty of flight time. At approximately 30 minutes per trip, you can choose from a range of models that let you get up in the sky for far less money than you'd spend on something like an Inspire or Phantom.
On the other hand, you pay for what you get, as there's no fully manual mode without GPS. This device comes in four flavors that support 1080p or HD video, and while it has basic circle hovering and return home features, its control distance is limited to around two-thirds of a mile.
Who might find this drone appealing? Its modular design means that it's a good entry-level model for anyone who wants to hack their hardware on the cheap. Even though reviewers say that the X380 can hold its position fairly well while hovering and work with 10-inch propellers, heavier gear might slice your flight time in half.
As Wired notes, this six-rotor device isn't for most people. If you're one of the world's few well-bankrolled filmmakers or photogs, however, then you might not see the $4,600 price tag as an obstacle.
The M600 can lift around 13 pounds and fly for up to 16 minutes. Without a payload and using upgraded batteries, its flight time extends to 40 minutes. You also get to work with a range of gimbals and mobile SDKs, or software development kits, which let you create your own apps.
Although this drone unquestionably caters to professionals, it's interesting to see how a few thousand dollars more can get you such a big difference in performance. Of course, some of its features, like Lightbridge video transmission and Intelligent Battery Management, are also found in DJI's more accessible devices.
FreeFly System Alta UAV
FreeFly's System Alta UAVs come in six- or eight-armed models. These drones are ready to carry heavy items like film cameras. Depending on your choice of batteries and payloads, they can fly for up to 35 minutes. They can also hoist up to 20 pounds, although maximum loading decreases their flying time dramatically.
As you might expect from such a heavy-duty piece of hardware, these drones are large. They work with 18-inch propellers, so safety is a point of concern. One of the cooler aspects of this minimalistic platform is that it includes TITH quick release fittings on the top and bottom of the drone, so you can choose where to mount your camera gimbal.
Of course, you'll pay dearly for all of these features in the cost. If you're not running a business with a need for such a UAV, you'll probably be better off buying something way cheaper and purchasing backup battery packs.
When it comes to the drones with longest flying time, it's impossible to ignore the HyDrone 1550. Unlike the vast majority of devices that use lithium batteries, this UAV features a hydrogen fuel cell and a carbon fiber airframe. In other words, it's capable of working in bad weather and dangerous surroundings while carrying payloads that weigh up to 5 kg.
This is a clear example of the potential that professional-grade drones hold. It can stay in the air for an incredible 3 hours, and it's rated to fly distances of about 55 miles at comfortable 22 mph cruising speeds. It can also reach altitudes of more than 1.5 miles.
Do you need this drone to shoot movies? Probably not, although it might help if you're delivering contraband packages via the skies, monitoring forest fires or surveying transcontinental fuel pipelines. As for pricing, the manufacturer doesn't bother listing its cost, so we won’t even speculate.
Why Look for a Drone With Longest Flight Time?
The vast majority of UAV pilots are fine with the usual 10- to 15-minute flight time standard. If you're doing anything specialized, however, then finding a drone with longest range is essential.
Suppose you're shooting a film that involves an overhead city shot. While you plan on adding audio later, you keep on having to redo your work due to the passing cloud cover. Or perhaps an actor in your epic YouTube drama just can't seem to get a take right. These types of snags are common to filmmaking, so it's important to compensate with a drone that lets you work for at least 25 minutes.
Another potential benefit of having a drone with longest flying time is their photo-taking ability. Although it only takes seconds to capture a still shot, you may find that things like wind and other challenges make it advisable to aim for something above the 20-minute mark. Longer flight times also give you more freedom for location scouting.
Picking a Balanced Set of Features
Of course, it's important to realize that there are tradeoffs. Longer time aloft may not mean better results if you buy a drone that produces poor footage. UAVs that use low-weight airframes to stretch their battery lives to the maximum possible extent may lack the power to lift the camera payload that you prefer to use.
Also be aware that some mini- and nano-size drones aren't really appropriate for much more than amusement. Unless all you're doing is sending handwritten love notes through someone's window, you'll probably want to upgrade. In practice, the actual flight time that you experience may not equal a given manufacturer's specifications, as you can see from DIY quadcopter flight time calculators.
Begin your journey towards extended flight.
What are you planning on doing after you buy an amazing drone with longest flight time? Check out our other great blogs for insider piloting news and the latest pointers on getting the most out of your drone.