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Top three drones for 2017

By Martin Pratt

A drone isn’t a cheap purchase, so we’ve picked three that are a pleasure to pilot and three that are best avoided.

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Drones are becoming a common sight in UK skies, and there are plenty to choose from if you want in on the quad-propeller action.

We've tested drones that cost from around £200 up to £1,200, so it’s important to know if the expensive drone you’ve been eyeing up online is worth the price - or if it’s a flimsy cash-in hoping to capitalise on the drone craze.

We’ve picked three that are a breeze to fly, capture incredible images and feel durable enough to survive a few knocks. We’ve also found three that are about as much use as a paper plane, so you know which to steer clear off.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?.

Top three drones for 2017

DJI Mavic Pro
Typical price £1,000.00
Which? score 82%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Best Buy
Flight performance:
5 out of 5
Camera:
5 out of 5
Battery:
4 out of 5
Ease of set-up:
4 out of 5
Weight (kg):
Member exclusive
Video resolution (lines):
Member exclusive
Method of control:
Member exclusive
Return to home:
Member exclusive
Obstacle avoidance:
Member exclusive

It’s not always the case that you get what you pay for, but it’s true with this drone. It costs a pretty penny but, with a Best Buy-worthy score of 82%, it’s the best drone we’ve tested - and worth the high price. The 4K camera mounted to its underside captures stunning, stable images, and the unit is wonderfully simple to fly. The supplied remote control makes manoeuvring an intuitive affair, and take-off and landing are easy. Battery life sounds meagre at 23.5 minutes, but that’s actually excellent for a drone, and the battery charges to full in 68 minutes. Still, it’s probably worth packing a few spares.

DJI Phantom 4
Typical price £979.00
Which? score 80%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Best Buy
Flight performance:
5 out of 5
Camera:
5 out of 5
Battery:
4 out of 5
Ease of set-up:
4 out of 5
Weight (kg):
Member exclusive
Video resolution (lines):
Member exclusive
Method of control:
Member exclusive
Return to home:
Member exclusive
Obstacle avoidance:
Member exclusive

This drone isn’t quite as good as the best model we’ve tested, but it comes pretty close. Like its pricier sibling it has a 4K camera, which takes crisp, vibrant images - it makes sense, given how this drone was designed with filmmakers in mind. Regardless of how well you make use of the camera, the drone is a doddle to pilot. The remote control is easy to use and even has a screen attached, so you can see get a drone’s-eye view of the world – brilliant, as long as you don’t have vertigo. Its battery is excellent, too. At 22.5 minutes it’s only beaten by the top-scoring drone, and even then, only by a minute.

DJI Phantom 3 Professional
Typical price £799.00
Which? score 76%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Flight performance:
5 out of 5
Camera:
5 out of 5
Battery:
3 out of 5
Ease of set-up:
4 out of 5
Weight (kg):
Member exclusive
Video resolution (lines):
Member exclusive
Method of control:
Member exclusive
Return to home:
Member exclusive
Obstacle avoidance:
Member exclusive

We couldn’t find much wrong with this drone. The responsive controls mean it’s easy to fly, and taking off and landing are simple. At the press of a button, the drone will fly straight back to where it took off. Like the other drones on this list, it has a 4K camera, which takes fantastic images during the day, but detail suffers at night. This stable drone handles wind well - even if the conditions get particularly blustery, the three-axis gimbal will keep the camera steady. This drone didn’t quite get a high enough score to be a Best Buy, but it’s still an excellent drone, and cheaper than both the other two on this list.

And here are three drones to avoid

For every drone that feels effortless to fly, with satisfying feedback and control, there’s another that feels like you’re wrestling with a kite.

The best drones cope well with a windy day, off-setting the speed of the wind and hovering on the spot with minimal drift. But our tests have found models that are buffeted off course by every gust, and keeping them on track is too difficult.

An unstable drone often leads to unstable video and blurry images. This means a poorly designed drone is neither a fun toy nor a useful tool to a photographer or filmmaker.

We’ve picked three disappointing drones that aren’t worth your money.

Three drones to avoid

EHANG GhostDrone 2.0 VR
Typical price £829.00
Which? score 52%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Flight performance:
2 out of 5
Camera:
4 out of 5
Battery:
2 out of 5
Ease of set-up:
4 out of 5
Weight (kg):
Member exclusive
Video resolution (lines):
Member exclusive
Method of control:
Member exclusive
Return to home:
Member exclusive
Obstacle avoidance:
Member exclusive

Although not a Don’t Buy, this drone pales in comparison to the best we’ve tested. Unusually for a drone, it’s tricky to set up, and takes too long to pair with the app used to control it. In total it took us an incredible three hours to get it in the air. Once it’s up there, things don’t get much better. Piloting the drone with the app is painful and fiddly to the point where we struggled to get it to turn while moving forward or backward. It’s good at hovering, though, even when the wind picks up, which plays into the one of the drone’s few strengths - the camera. It can capture in full 4K and, while the images aren’t the most vibrant we’ve seen, they do look sharp.

Yuneec Breeze 4K
Typical price £350.00
Which? score 49%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Flight performance:
3 out of 5
Camera:
3 out of 5
Battery:
2 out of 5
Ease of set-up:
4 out of 5
Weight (kg):
Member exclusive
Video resolution (lines):
Member exclusive
Method of control:
Member exclusive
Return to home:
Member exclusive
Obstacle avoidance:
Member exclusive

This drone is one of the cheaper 4K camera-equipped models we’ve tested, but it’s also one of the worst. It’s just not fun to fly. The smartphone app controls are clunky, and you don’t feel fully in control of the drone. It’s slow, too, which saps any sense of excitement. No one wants to spend hundreds of pounds on a drone to be bored while piloting it. The sluggish speed doesn’t help with battery life. We managed only 11.5 minutes of flight time on a single charge, which is less than half the flight time you could get from a better drone.

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition
Typical price £230.00
Which? score 35%
Reviewed Jun 2017
Don't buy
Flight performance:
3 out of 5
Camera:
2 out of 5
Battery:
2 out of 5
Ease of set-up:
4 out of 5
Weight (kg):
Member exclusive
Video resolution (lines):
Member exclusive
Method of control:
Member exclusive
Return to home:
Member exclusive
Obstacle avoidance:
Member exclusive

Quick set-up aside, there’s not much to like about this drone. It’s prone to drifting when the wind picks up, the smartphone app used to control it is unresponsive and slow, and the battery lasts a paltry 10.5 minutes - less than half the flight time you’d get out of a Best Buy drone. It’s not saved by its camera, either. Even if you do manage to get it steady enough to take a decent picture, there isn’t much detail and the colours are washed out. The other models in this line performed just as poorly, and we wouldn’t recommend any of them.

How to buy the best drone

It’s important to identify why you want a drone. Do you want one with a state-of-the-art 4K camera and a fancy gimbal keeping it straight and stable, or do you want something to zip around every other weekend?

You’ll be hard pressed to find a drone without a camera on it somewhere, but 4K ones make up a significant part of the price. So if you don’t need the very best camera, look for a drone that’s fun to fly, but not necessarily great at photos.

Be sure to choose one with a decent flight time. We’ve tested drones that can barely manage 10 minutes, while others get closer to 30. Extra batteries aren’t cheap and can take hours to recharge, not ideal if you’re somewhere remote capturing footage.

Pick the perfect drone by choosing from our drone reviews.

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