Top three drones for 2019
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.
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.
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Top three best drones
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.
This compact drone weighs just 430g, making it easy to transport and to pack away afterwards. It's straightforward to set up - we had ours up in the air within 25 minutes of taking it out of its box - and the controls work well. The drone has built-in obstacle avoidance sensors plus a return home feature in case it loses contact with you or runs low on power. The stills and video cameras are both excellent though battery life could be better - consider our top rated drone if you want to keep your device airborne for longer.
If you're looking for a compact drone that doesn't weigh a ton, this is a perfect candidate. Setting it up is simple, as the camera and propellers are already attached to the drone when you get it. Flying it is just as easy; it responds quickly and accurately to remote controller commands and descends to land once it hits a critical low battery warning. Where camera quality is concerned, it takes good photos but its videos are even better, producing footage with bright colours and sharp details. The only hiccup with this model is its disappointing battery life, lasting only 13 minutes of flight before a critical battery warning begins.
And here are two 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 two disappointing drones that aren’t worth your money.
Two drones to avoid
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.
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.