Why would you want to fly your consumer drone a long way from its controller? Well, there are some huge advantages with flying further and higher in first person view or FPV. It lets drone pilots see things and go to places they wouldn’t otherwise get to see or visit. That’s pretty cool when you think about it. This guide looks at some of the best high-altitude drones available this year.

Budget
Best-budget-High-Altitude-Drone
Hubsan X4 H502S
4.3/5.0
2.2 lbs
Altitude 492 feet
GPS auto-positioning system and altitude hold.
Check Amazon
Best Value
Best-value-High-Altitude-Drone
DJI Phantom 4
4.8/5.0
3 lbs
Altitude 19,685 feet
High-quality, popular drone. Great camera stabilization.
Check Amazon
Top Pick
Top-value-High-Altitude-Drone
Autel Robotics X-Star
4.8/5.0
3.2 lbs
Altitude 3,281 feet
Starpoint Positioning System and fairly long flight time.
Check Amazon

Before moving on let’s just clarify a few things about distance rules & FAA regulations.

About My Guide

OK, I’ll leave the legalities for you to check out on your own. The rest of this guide looks at some of the best high-altitude drones on the market. These capable crafts can take your photography and videography to new heights—literally. It’s an exciting world up there and my top six picks are going to give you a bird’s eye view like nothing before.

These picks look at the craft’s other capabilities as well as the maximum altitude potential. In the tech specs at the end of each piece are the operating range, flight time, and maximum speeds. I include any pros and cons for each product to help you make a better informed shortlist. I also took real user feedback and the opinions of experts into consideration before finalizing this list.

The table below shows these six high-altitude drones in the order they appear in your guide. I’ve ordered them by price starting with the least expensive model at the top.

Best High-Altitude Drones Comparison Table

Make and ModelAltitudeFlight RangePrice
Hubsan X4 H502S 5.8G FPV Quadcopter492 feet984 feetCheck Price
Traxxas Aton Quadcopter394 feet656 feetCheck Price
Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter3,281 feet2,625 feetCheck Price
DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter19,685 feet16,404Check Price
DJI Phantom 3 Professional19,685 feet6,652Check Price
Autel Robotics X-Star3,281 feet6,562Check Price

1. Hubsan X4 H502S 5.8G FPV Quadcopter

Hubsan X4 H502S 5.8G FPV QuadcopterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5

The Hubsan FPV X4 Desire is an affordable quadcopter that’s fast fun and easy to fly. It comes with some simple set-up instructions that help you to get this puppy unboxed and airborne in no time.

  • Best feature 1: Maximum altitude 492 feet (150meters)
  • Best feature 2: GPS auto-positioning system
  • Plus points: Built-in 720P HD camera, Altitude Hold, Return to Home & Failsafe, fast charging
  • Minus points: Transmitter batteries not included, average flight time, average image quality

The design of the Hubsan X4 H502S 5.8G FPV is pretty cool and the build is not bad for a drone in its class. The multi-function FPV transmitter feels a bit plasticky but it’s robust and functional.

This little quad can easily reach the FAA altitude restriction with its maximum height of around 492 feet. It may be an entry-level drone but it has lots going for it with a plethora of advanced features.

The GPS auto-positioning system gives you the much sought after Follow Me feature. The craft’s 720P HD built-in camera won’t blow you away on the quality front but it’s still perfectly adequate.

The Failsafe Features

The drone’s failsafe features are well worth a mention. It automatically returns to base (home) if the battery power gets too low or the quadcopter loses connection with the transmitter.

There’s also the one-key return for a stress-free return of the craft. This is particularly useful whena pilot feels they’re losing control or that something’s not quite right.

The Not So Good

Before you buy the X4 make sure you get four AA transmitter batteries in advance as they’re not included. And the maximum flight time is just 12 minutes so you may want to invest in an extra drone battery or two as well.

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Tech Specs
Maximum Altitude: 150m (492 ft.)
Dimensions: 8.4 x 8.3 x 6.1″
Weight: 2.2 lbs. (998g)
Controller frequency: 5.8 GHz
Operating Range: 300m (984 feet)
Battery: 7.4V (2S) 610mAh Li-Po
Max flight time: 12 minutes
Max Speed: Not specified
The Pros
High altitude FPV quadcopter
Easy to fly entry-level drone
Affordable price tag
GPS auto-positioning system
Built-in HD 720P camera
Altitude hold
Failsafe modes
Fast 40-minute charging
The Cons
Transmitter batteries not included with the product
Low average max flight time
Average FPV image quality

2. Traxxas Aton Quadcopter Drone

Traxxas Aton Quadcopter DroneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Traxxas Aton appears cute to some but looks can be deceptive. This powerful little quadcopter is a beast with a tame side. The three flight modes let any pilot—at any level—learn to tame the beast.

  • Best feature 1: Maximum altitude 394 feet (120 meters)
  • Best feature 2: Super-fast top speed (ideal for racing)
  • Plus points: Durable, 20-minute flight time, dual-mode GPS, air brakes, return to home
  • Minus points: Upgrades made it incompatible with Mac OS, vibration issues

There’s the film mode for entry-level pilots(recommended). For advanced and experienced flyers you have the Sport and Expert modes to choose from. It’s fast, fun, and furious too. The 200-meter operating range is not the most impressive feature. Even so, it can still climb almost to the FAA’s maximum altitude restriction of 122m. This flight range and altitude are ideal for drone racers.

Fast and Furious

This quadcopter can reach a maximum speed of around 50mph which is manic. Only quad racers would want to push it to such limits. It’s nice to have the extra power all the same. It’s a bit like road vehicles in that regard. To reach these top speeds you have to fly the quad in Sport mode. If things start to run away with you there are always the air brakes to fall back on.

The craft will stand up to a few moderate knocks and crash landings thanks to its durable build. A few other points worth a mention are the 20-minute maximum flight time, dual-mode GPS, and the return to home feature. It also has high-visibility colorful LED lights that users can customize.

The Not So Good

Recent upgrades rendered the Traxxas Aton defunct with Mac OS. If this is important to you then check the current status before you make a buying decision. Another drawback is with vibration as it can sometimes interfere with video transmission and image quality. Flying styles and speeds will obviously play a part here.

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Tech Specs
Maximum Altitude: 120m (394 ft.)
Dimensions: 200m (656 ft.)
Weight: 18.58 x 18.58 x 3.7″
Controller frequency: 1.39 lbs. (630g)
Operating Range: 2.4 GHz
Battery: 11.1V 5000mAh Li-Po 3S
Max flight time: 20 minutes
Max Speed: 50mph (22.4 m/s)
The Pros
Good value racing quad
Feature packed
Three flight modes
Durable build, rugged design
Long average flight time
Dual-mode GPS
Air brakes
Return to home
LED high-visibility lighting
Intuitive Traxxas Flight Link app
The Cons
Incompatible with Mac OS (at the time of writing)
Drone vibration causes occasional issues with video quality

3. Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter

Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon QuadcopterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter is a quality product that enjoys a lot of positive feedback. Its high altitude ability is mind-boggling, not that you can legally exploit this or course.

  • Best feature 1: Maximum altitude 3281 feet (1000 meters)
  • Best feature 2: 4K/30fps UHD video
  • Plus points: Built-in touchscreen, integrated 3-axis gimbal, 12MP stills
  • Minus points: Slow flyer, long charging time, not travel-friendly

You’re going to either love or loathe this high-altitude quadcopter. It soars effortlessly to the FAA’s maximum height limit enabling pilots to capture some amazing aerial footage. The flight range isn’t bad either though it’s not as good as some other drones in this class. It’s a slow flyer too, so you wouldn’t want it to travel too far in case there wasn’t enough power to bring it back to base.

Filming and Photography with the Yuneec Q500 Typhoon

This drone is a lot of fun to fly. It’s also a professional quality tool for videography and aerial photography up to 12MP. The sky really is the limit with the integrated 3-axis gimbal camera and 4k video at 30fps. It’s easy to operate and adjust the settings with a little practice. The Q500 4K Typhoon looks and performs beautifully… but it’s not all good news.

The Not So Good

The Q500 4K Typhoon might be one of the high altitude superstars but it falls short in other areas. The operating range is okay but nothing to write home about. Where it really falls short is with its maximum speed of just 18 mph or 8 m/s. That will be slow for some pilots to the point of frustration. It’s not the slowest drone out there but it’s among the slowest in its class.

The maximum flight time is not too bad at 25 minutes. This is just as well considering the battery can take up to 2-hours to fully recharge. It would be a good idea to invest in one or two spare batteries. The final gripe is with the size. It’s not the weight that’s a problem but the construction. It’s neither compact nor foldable so the Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon is not what you might call ‘travel-friendly’.

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Tech Specs
Maximum Altitude: 1000m (3281 ft.)
Dimensions: 800m (2625 ft.)
Weight: 16.5 x 22.2 x 9.4″
Controller frequency: 2.5 lbs. (1134g)
Operating Range: 2.4 GHz
Battery: 11.1V 5400mAh Li-Po 3S
Max flight time: 25 minutes
Max Speed: 18mph (8 m/s)
The Pros
High altitude flyer
Well-built, sturdy body
4K/30fps video, 12MP stills
integrated 3-axis gimbal
Built-in touchscreen display
Fairly long battery life
The Cons
High price tag
Long charging time
Not travel-friendly

4. The DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter

The DJI Phantom 4 QuadcopterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

If you thought the previous pick could fly high then think again. The DJI Phantom 4 is a popular quadcopter with a 350mm (13.8″) wingspan. It offers a lot more than just its altitude capability.

  • Best feature 1: Maximum altitude 19685 feet (6000 meters)
  • Best feature 2: Operating range: 16404 feet (5000 meters)
  • Plus points: Long battery life, fast top speed, 12MP 4K camera, stabilization technology
  • Minus points: Heavy, price tag, high cost of spare batteries, long setup time

A regular user has never reached the maximum altitude as far as I know. The Phantom 4 has the capability, in theory, but DJI uses special software to restrict these illegal limits. You can, however, soar to the FAA’s legal altitude with ease and take full advantage of the height allowed by law. The operating or transmitter range is equally as impressive.

Not Cheap But…

The DJI Phantom 4 is not cheap but it does offer incredible value. It can cost around 400 bucks less than it used to thanks to newer models coming out and special promotions. The flight time is not the longest of consumer drones but its 28-minute maximum flying time is a lot more than most. If you need extra time—and most of us do—then you’ll want spare batteries but they’re expensive.

The Phantom 4 is fast considering it’s not a purpose racing drone. It’s top speed of 45mph and long battery life will get you to where you need to be—and back—a lot faster than most of the competition. And the 12MP 4K stabilized camera ensures your footage will be sharp, smooth, and clean every time.

The simple tap control and front obstacle avoidance are other key features. There’s also the Follow Me mode and lots of other high-tech extras to explore.

The Not So Good

This is not the lightest drone on the market (see table below). And it comes with a heavy price tag as well as physical heft. The cost of a spare high-capacity Phantom 4 intelligent flight battery is also pricey. You can expect to pay 150+ bucks for a new one (DJI drones don’t accept third-party batteries). The final gripe is that the initial setup time can take a while and the instructions are poor.

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Tech Specs
Maximum Altitude: 6000m (19685 ft.)
Dimensions: 5000m (16404 ft.)
Weight: 15 x 8.7 x 12.8″
Controller frequency: 3 lbs. (1380g)
Operating Range: 2.4 GHz
Battery: 15.2V 5350mAh Li-Po 4S
Max flight time: 28 minutes
Max Speed: 45mph (20 m/s)
The Pros
High-quality, popular drone
Excellent altitude and range capability
Stable flyer
Long battery life
Fast top speed
Obstacle avoidance technology
4K 12MP camera
Camera stabilization
Powerful app
The Cons
Weight
Price
Cost of spare batteries
Awkward setup
Instructions lacking details

5. The DJI Phantom 3 Professional

The DJI Phantom 3 ProfessionalView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

Staying with DJI is the Phantom 3 Professional quadcopter. It also has an unbelievable, though restricted, altitude range. Its operating range is also good but not as far as the Phantom 4 above.

  • Best feature 1: 19685 feet (6000 meters)
  • Best feature 2: Professional f/2.8 lens with a 94-degree field of view (FOV)
  • Plus points: Good battery life, 4K Ultra-HD video, 12MP stills, intuitive app
  • Minus points: No collision detection feature, No subject tracking, costly batteries

DJI Phantom 3 has a 23-minute maximum flight time in ideal conditions. The long battery life is especially welcome for those serious about aerial photography and videography. And being able to fly high and far means you get to capture footage that a lot of competitor drones can’t reach. The professional wide-angle f/2.8 lens covers a large area without making too many maneuvers.

There’s the crisp clear 12MP stills as well as the pro-level 4K UHD video up to 30fps. DJI’s gimbal stabilization technology adds yet another quality layer that ensures expert-level footage. This isn’t a cheap drone but you do get excellent value for money in all areas. It’s a cinch to fly too.

The Not So Good

The Phantom 3 doesn’t have any obstacle avoidance like the DJI Phantom 4. It there’s a good side to this it will probably make you a better more cautious pilot. There’s not any subject tracking with the Phantom-3 either. That’s a disappointment considering the high price tag of this quadcopter. And finally, there’s the high extra battery cost. DJI Intelligent batteries are good but pricey.

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Tech Specs
Maximum Altitude: 6000m (19685 ft.)
Dimensions: 2000m (6652 ft.)
Weight: 18 x 13 x 8″
Controller frequency: 2.8 lbs. (1280g)
Operating Range: 2.4 GHz
Battery: 100V 4480mAh Li-Po 4S
Max flight time: 23 minutes
Max Speed: 36 mph (16 m/s)
The Pros
High-quality camera drone
Excellent altitude and range capability (restricted)
Professional f/2.8 lens with 94° field of view (FOV)
4K Ultra-HD video
12MP stills
Decent battery life
Intuitive DJI GO app
The Cons
No collision detection / avoidance feature
No subject tracking
High cost of spare or replacement batteries

6. Autel Robotics X-Star Quadcopter

Autel Robotics X-Star QuadcopterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

The last pick is Autel Robotics X-Star Premium. It’s another quality camera drone that can look down on earth from afar. It’s almost as popular as DJI Phantoms 3 & 4. Some say it’s a clone but it’s not.

  • Best feature 1: Maximum altitude3281 feet(1000 meters)
  • Best feature 2: Long flight time
  • Plus points: 4K Camera and removable gimbal, Starpoint Positioning System, Starlinkapp
  • Minus points: No lens cover for camera, no collision avoidance, advanced calibration tricky

A lot of people compare the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium to the DJI Phantom 4. I think a better comparison would be the Phantom 3 Pro. I also think it’s a capable quadcopter in its own right and folks should review it as such. It has an impressive 1000 meters altitude and isn’t restricted like the Phantoms. It’s the responsibility of the user to keep within the legal limits of course. The 2000 meter control range is also impressive for this competitive quadcopter.

Other Reasons to Consider the Autel Robotics X-Star

The 25 minute flight time is another good reason to consider the Autel Robotics X-Star drone. It’s not the longest out there but it’s a lot longer than many other drones in its class. Another noteworthy feature is that you can remove the camera and its gimbal. This is useful if you need to make replacements. It also means you can change things around with future upgrades.

Autel Robotics has gone to great lengths to make this drone safe and stable. This applies whether flying at low altitudes or indoors. It has an intelligent flight control system, something called GLONASS satellite navigation, and dual GPS—all helped by their Starpoint Positioning System.

The Starpoint Positioning System (SPS) measures the drone’s flying height. It then optically tracks its position. It’svery clever stuff and so much more than a gimmick.

And finally, there’s the free and intuitive Starlink App. This lets you view HD video feeds from the 4K camera to a compatible mobile device. You can also adjust camera settings; configure flight controls, and much more besides.

The Not So Good

This quadcopter comes with its own beautiful protective hard case. It would have been nice to see a lens cover to protect the glass element outside the case. Another negative is the absence of collision avoidance. And some users, especially novice pilots, complain that the advanced calibration is tricky.

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Tech Specs
Maximum Altitude: 1000m (3281 ft.)
Dimensions: 2000m (6562 ft.)
Weight: 19.5 x 19.5 x 8.5″
Controller frequency: 3.2 lbs. (1452g)
Operating Range: 2.4 GHz
Battery: 14.8V 4900mAh Li-Po
Max flight time: 25 minutes
Max Speed: 36mph (16 m/s)
The Pros
Great value, feature-packed quadcopter
Hard protective case
Flies high and far
Fairly long flight time
Fast charging time
Quality 4K removable camera and gimbal
Starpoint Positioning System
Intuitive Starlink App
The Cons
No protective lens cover
No collision avoidance
Advanced calibration can be awkward for novice pilots