Christmas is just around the corner, and this year’s must-have gift is undoubtedly a drone. Research shows that ‘drone’ is one of the most-searched for terms on Google this December, and that many people have put a drone on their Christmas list. But which are the top 5 drones on the market today, and what makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd? We take a look at the best drones out there, as decided by tech experts and real drone users.
What is a drone and why all the fuss about them?
For the uninitiated, drones are high-tech cameras which can be flown by remote control (or using software/a mobile app) and stream video or still photos back to you. Think of your old toy helicopter – but with far greater technology, and an on-board camcorder! These great pieces of kit are being used all over the world in surveying and construction, in the emergency services, in sport and in entertainment. They are also extremely popular with hobbyists.
Drones can be picked up for just a few pounds, or you can splash out and pay the price of the average family car – and then there is everything in between! You really do get what you pay for with drones. If you pay too little, you sacrifice things like high definition cameras, flight stabilising technology and durable, long-lasting casing. However, you might be surprised at what a relatively small investment can get you. There are some fantastic consumer-grade drones available on the market today, which deliver both quality and value. Take a look at our top picks.
Syma X5C/X5C-1 2.4G HD Camera RC Quadcopter with 2.0MP Camera
- 53.4 cm x 30.8 cm x 9.4 cm; 848 g
- 2.0MP HD camera
- Standard RC controls
This neat little quadcopter is the budget buy of our list, but it still delivers plenty of quality. The 2.0MP camera may not sound like much, but the HD technology ensures pictures and video clips are sharp and clear. Images are recorded to a removable memory card, and can be downloaded later. The drone has an internal gyroscope which keeps it balanced, and each fully charged battery will give you around 10 minutes of flying time. You can buy additional batteries and charging units, to ensure you get plenty of action time when you are out and about. The drone features propeller guards to prevent collision damage, which is handy as it does tend to fall quickly when power is lost. If you are concerned about crashes, this cheap but robust little drone is a good starter choice.
AICase Cheerson CX-10W 4CH 2.4GHz iOS/Android Remote Control Mini Quadcopter
- 3.2 cm x 3.2 cm x 2.2 cm; 18 g
- Android/iOS compatible
- In-built Wi-fi
- Contains 6-axis gyroscope and speed controls
If you want a drone you can control with your smartphone and fit in your bag, this cute little mini-drone is the perfect choice. Available in a slick space age silver case with white blades, the device looks great and flies well. It is lightweight and can be swayed in strong winds, but a 6-axis gyro works hard to keep the quadcopter level and stable. The 0.3MP HD camera can stream video straight to your tablet or smart phone, and the mobile device also serves as a remote control for your drone. You will need to download the accompanying app for your phone in order to use the drone. The little camera charges via USB and gives around ten minutes of flight time from a full battery.
Parrot Mambo Quadcopter Mini Drone With Accessories
- 13.2 cm x 4.1 cm x 13.2 cm; 64 g
- VGA camera included
- Comes with grabber and cannon
- Fly with mobile device or dedicated Parrot Flypad
Parrot build great drones, and this mini-drone quadcopter is no exception. It features a vertical VGA camera which picks up video and images, and also comes with some cool toys to play with. The grabber can be controlled manually, picking up and dropping off items – great for around the house or to amuse your friends! The cannon fires small balls on your command and can hold six at a time. You can control the drone with any Android or iOS device, or there is also a special Parrot controller available (sold separately). Users can expect to get around eight to nine minutes of flight time per use.
DJI Phantom 3 Professional Aerial UAV Quadcopter Drone
- 20.9 cm x 38.6 cm x 36.6 cm; 1.3 kg
- 12 megapixel camera with 4K video
- Intelligent flight system with live ground view
- Touchpad controller
If you are wanting to splash out on some high-end tech – without having to remortgage your home! – then consider this state of the art DJI Phantom drone. The hard shell is designed to withstand knocks and bumps, and to help the drone remain stable in all weathers. It features an incredible 12MP camera and can take Ultra HD 4K video, which you can view live on the controller’s screen or via your phone, tablet or computer. The drone can be flown manually or left on autopilot. It offers safe and reliable flight, and makes a stable, steady descent back to the ground without risking damage to the internal mechanism.
DBPOWER X101C FPV WIFI Drone with HD Camera
- 52.8 cm x 39 cm x 19.4 cm; 1.7 kg
- 1MP GoPro camera
- Compatible with VR headsets
- Beginner/advanced modes
- 100 metre remote control range
Strike a perfect balance between great value and advanced features with this DB Power quadcopter and GoPro camera. The camera uses shake-free technology to stablise images and give you smoother picture quality. The drone can also be combined with a VR headset for the ultimate outdoor adventure. For the brave, there is a 360 degree flip mode and the nippy little drone will pull off basic tricks in the air. You can turn on advanced controls to tweak the camera and the flight path more closely, and you can watch the video in real time on any Android or iOS device.
Prices correct at the time of writing, taken from Amazon.com
Images used under Creative Commons licence or with thanks to Amazon