Drones come in all shapes and sizes. Factor in the huge range of prices and it can be quite difficult to work out which is the best for you.
If money is going to factor heavily in your buying decision, you should also check out our guide to the best cheap drones. If you're more interested in great quality aerial video, you'll need to budget a lot more, but there are some good mid-range options such as the new DJI Mavic Mini, but don't overlook the DJI Spark which is likely to drop in price now it is officially discontinued.
What to look for in a drone
Some people just want to fly for fun, but most people want a drone to take aerial photos and videos. And if you want them to be any good, you will need to spend £300+. We've yet to see a cheaper drone achieve stabilised, great quality video.
You tend to get what you pay for with drones, so the higher price, the better the camera and the more features (such as obstacle avoidance) that are included.
Flight time and range
Flight time varies a lot, and it isn't tied to price. The Mavic Mini is DJI's cheapest drone, yet flies for up to 30 minutes on a charge. The DJI Spark, however, costs more, but has a 12-15 minute flight time.
Don't pay too much attention to range. It sounds great to be able to fly several kilometres away, but most local laws (including in the UK) say you must keep drone in sight at all times.
Very small and light drones can be blown around in the wind, which is why having GPS on board is a must: it allows the drone to automatically hover in place.
Although it's rare on most of the drones below, crashing is a distinct possibility. Almost all drones come with a full set of spare propellers, but as two rotate anti-clockwise and the other pair clockwise, you’ve got only two spares for each pair of spindles.
Check first if spare parts are easy to obtain for a particular drone, and also their prices.
Not all drones come with cameras. You don’t need a camera, since you should always have the drone in your line of sight while flying it.
At the cheaper end of the price scale you’ll be lucky to get even 720p (1280x720) video, but if you want a drone for aerial video go for at least 1080p (1920x1080). Bear in mind that - as ever - you can't trust specs alone. Read our reviews to find out how good each drone's camera is.
However, you’ll only get great quality footage if you buy a drone with a gimbal. This is a stabilised mount for the camera which keeps it steady when the drone tilts or moves around. Parrot's Bebop 2 has a fixed wide-angle camera that does a reasonable job without a gimbal, but the quality from all of DJI's drones is generally noticeably better.
Some drones record video directly to a microSD card but others record from the remote control, or even over the air to a smartphone. Direct recording is usually more reliable and better quality as the video doesn't have to be transmitted before being recorded.
Don't forget there are laws on flying drones, though, so read up on the rules for flying drones in the UK and also where you're allowed to fly. Plus, if you are in the UK, since the end of November 2019 you must register any drone weighing more than 250g.
Best drones 2020
- Reviewed on: 30 January 2018
Although you may not consider it cheap, the Mavic Air is astounding value for money. It's the most advanced consumer drone you can currently buy and shoots great-quality video and panoramic photos.
The Quickshot modes are brilliant, there's best-ever obstacle avoidance and it's small enough to carry everywhere with you.
Ultimately, this is the drone you've been waiting to buy.
Read our DJI Mavic Air review.
- Reviewed on: 4 September 2018
If you can afford a few hundred over and above the Mavic Air, the Mavic 2 Zoom is an excellent drone. Its long flight time is a real advantage, and it remains fairly portable.
Its obstacle avoidance system is also better, as is its object tracking and video transmission system. But it's the zoom lens which really makes the difference, letting you get closer to your subject.
Read our DJI Mavic 2 Zoom review.
- Reviewed on: 30 October 2019
Aimed at first-time fliers, the Mavic Mini is a cut-down version of the Mavic Air. It’s a competent drone which is easy to fly, but it doesn’t have obstacle avoidance and uses a cut-down app which has a limited feature set.
The good news is that it takes respectable video and photos, and it’s light enough to avoid needing registration in some countries.
Read our DJI Mavic Mini review.
4. DJI Spark
- Reviewed on: 1 August 2017
The DJI Spark may not offer the best photo or video quality, but as a package it's one of the best you can buy under £700. It's so small it will fit in practically any bag, it's easy to use and it has features - such as object tracking and obsctable avoidance - that you'd expect only in more expensive models.
Read our DJI Spark review.
- Reviewed on: 19 March 2018
Folding drones are undoubtedly the future. GoPro thinks so, and now that DJI has unveiled the Mavic Pro, it’s sure to become the bandwagon on which to jump. The Mavic may seem expensive, but the fact that it has even better tech inside it than the Phantom 4 means it’s actually very good value.
If there's one downside it's that you can't remove the gimbal and camera for ground-based filming as you can with GoPro's Karma. But the Mavic Pro's portability and the fantastic new controller are the real winners, though. It means you don’t have to lug a big case around as you did for the Phantom, and that it doesn’t have to be a special occasion: you can take the Mavic Pro everywhere.
Read our DJI Mavic Pro review.
6. Parrot Anafi
- Reviewed on: 17 September 2019
With a 180-degree tilting gimbal, a battery that charges via USB-C and the ability to record 4K HDR video, the Anafi is a well-priced drone. The snag is that it won't avoid any obstacles and some of the autopilot modes have to be unlocked with in-app purchases.
Read our Parrot Anafi review.
- Reviewed on: 23 May 2017
The Phantom 4 Advanced is another top-notch drone from DJI. It’s not cheap, and spare batteries are expensive, but it is very easy to fly and offers a plethora of ‘smart’ modes that will help you get decent aerial footage. For some the 20Mp camera will make it worth the upgrade from the Phantom 3 or 4, but remember it lacks the rear vision sensors of the Phantom 4 Pro, which isn’t a whole lot more expensive.
Read our DJI Phantom 4 Advanced review.
- Reviewed on: 21 February 2018
The Bebop 2 Power is really a dual-purpose drone. You can use it for shooting cinematic footage or dart around at 40mph and have fun with the FPV headset. It's large batteries mean it flies for longer than its competitors, but the downside is that it isn't as portable because it doesn't fold up.
If your main aim is to get the best possible video quality, though, then there are better alternatives.
Read our Parrot Bebop 2 Power FPV review.