8 Best Outdoor Drones of 2019

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There’s a growing demand for drones that can fly safely outdoors. Some models can fly inside and outside. Most indoor drones are lightweight toy-grade craft. They’re usually tiny and can’t fly outside because of the wind. As a result, we have written this guide to help you find the best outdoor drones.

Budget
best-budget-outdoor-drone
Syma X5C-1 Explorers Quad
4.3/5.0
Flight Range: 98 feet
Flight Time: 7 minutes
HD camera, modular design, blade protectors, 360° stunts, flashing LEDs.
Check Amazon
Best Value
best-value-outdoor-drone
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
4.7/5.0
Flight Range: 0.5 miles
Flight Time: 25 minutes
Easy to fly, quality gimbal camera, return to home, live view, mobile app.
Check Amazon
Top Pick
top-value-outdoor-drone
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
4.9/5.0
Flight Range: 5 miles
Flight Time: 31 minutes
Foldable, long flight time, long range, ActiveTrack 2.0, 1080P video transmission.
Check Amazon

The main attraction of outdoor quads is aerial photography and videography. The cameras and filming features have gotten so much better in recent years, and prices have come down. However, there’s more to consider than just camera quality, hence this introduction.

Things to Look for in an Outdoor Drone

A quick checklist can help you make better-informed decisions. The three starting points may be:

  1. Age and skill level
  2. Maximum budget
  3. Needs and expectations

Some outdoor drones are easy to fly at any level. Others are more complex and need various skills to operate. Drone makers usually have a recommended minimum age for flying their products. Knowing your budget is the quickest way to narrow down the options. Note your needs and expectations too. For example, flying for fun only, aerial filming, drone racing, business, or leisure use?

Here are ten areas to consider when looking for an outdoor quadcopter:

  • Size, weight, storage, portability
  • Ability to fly in the wind, obstacle avoidance (OA), crash resistance
  • Camera: quality, gimbal stabilization, zoom, fixed/removable
  • First Person View (FPV)
  • Beginner-friendly controls including failsafe features
  • Maximum flight time (battery life)
  • Cost of spare batteries
  • Battery charging time
  • Cost and availability of spare parts
  • Control range: distance drone can fly from the controller

Feel free to add, delete, or modify the above list as it relates to you and your needs.

The importance of Return to Home (RTH)

A lot of drone pilots have lost their precious crafts to the dreaded outdoor flyaway. These events happen when the quadcopter loses its signal and flies away never to be seen again. Some models may lose power and drop out of the sky—lost forever. These events are less likely to happen with outdoor drones that have failsafe features. The most popular of these is Return to Home (RTH).

A drone’s return to home feature typically works in one or all the following situations:

  1. Low battery RTH
  2. Signal loss or weak signal RTH
  3. One-button RTH

The first two bring the drone back to base (you) if its battery gets low or the signal becomes weak. The third option is a simple button press that brings the craft back whenever the pilot feels the need.

About this Guide

The eight picks in this guide look at some of the best outdoor drones available this year. The reviews mention any of the above features and characteristics a model has. Likewise, each piece also highlights any areas where a product falls short. You may need to compromise and break your list into needs (must-have), wants (would like), and realistic expectations.

I chose these outdoor quadcopters based on extensive research. They are the result of personal thoughts, the opinions of industry experts, and feedback from real users. The first three on the page are Best Budget, Best Value, and the Top pick. The others are in price order, lowest to high.

The table below shows these outdoor quadcopters in the order they appear on the page:

Outdoor Drones Comparison Table

Make and ModelFlight RangeFlight TimePrice
Syma X5C-1 Explorers Outdoor Camera Copter98 feet7 minutesCheck Price
DJI Phantom 3 Standard Outdoor Camera Quad0.5 miles25 minutesCheck Price
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Outdoor Camera Drone5 miles31 minutesCheck Price
Hubsan H123D X4 Jet Outdoor Racing Drone328 feet10 minutesCheck Price
Altair Tomahawk Outdoor Drone w/ Camera900 feet17 minutesCheck Price
Contixo F18 RC Outdoor RC Camera Quad1 mile20 minutesCheck Price
DJI Mavic Air, Outdoor Camera Travel Drone2.4 miles21 minutesCheck Price
Autel Robotics EVO Outdoor Foldable Quad4.3 miles30 minutesCheck Price

1. Syma X5C-1 Explorers Outdoor Quad | Best Budget

Syma X5C-1 Explorers Outdoor QuadView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5

The Best Budget pick goes to the affordable Syma X5C-1 Explorers. It’s an excellent choice for those new to the world of camera quadcopters and outdoor aerial filming.

  • Best feature 1: Build-in 6-axis gyroscope
  • Best feature 2: Excellent first-time camera drone
  • Plus points: HD camera, modular design, blade protectors, 360° stunts, flashing LEDs
  • Minus points: Short flying time, long charging, lacks failsafe features

Reasons to Consider the Syma X5C-1

Syma’s X5C-1 is a superb beginner drone for nearby flying. The quad gives new users a real feel for piloting and filming on a budget. Its 12-megapixel HD camera only produces average footage, though. Still, the quality tends to exceed the expectations of most novice pilots for the price. The bright, colorful LEDs are a nice touch that let users fly in the dark.

A built-in 6-axis gyro keeps the drone stable in the air on calm days. The elasticated blade guards help to protect the propellers and pilot’s fingers. A modular design makes maintenance and repairs super easy. And anyone who just wants the thrill of the flight can showoff with one-button 3D aerial stunts.

The Not So Good

Everything about this quadcopter is average although that’s expected at this price range. It also lacks some of the failsafe features found on costlier drones. The short 7 minute flight time and long charging time are other negatives. But the Syma X5C-1 Explorers offers exceptional value and is hard to beat for the price. Anyone with realistic expectations should find it a brilliant little training quadcopter.

amazon

Tech Specs
Dimensions: 12.2 x 12.2 x 3.1”
Product Weight: 32.3 oz.
Camera: 2MP HD
Camera gimbal: None
Max Flying Time: 7 minutes
Max Range: 98ft. (30 meters)
Battery: 3.7V 500mAh LiPo
Charging Time: 100 minutes
The Pros
Easy to fly for beginners
Build-in 6-axis gyroscope
Excellent first-time outdoor drone
Aerial camera
Modular design
Blade protectors
360° stunts
Colorful flashing LEDs
The Cons
Lacks failsafe features
Short flying time
Long charging

2. DJI Phantom 3 Standard Outdoor Quad | Best Value

DJI Phantom 3 Standard Outdoor QuadView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5

The Best Value outdoor drone is a favorite DJI camera quad called the Phantom 3 Standard. It’s easy to fly despite its sophistication, and the quality of the camera footage is striking.

  • Best feature 1: GPS assisted flight features
  • Best feature 2: Long flight time
  • Plus points: Easy to fly, quality gimbal camera, return to home, live view, mobile app
  • Minus points: Not travel-friendly, vague how-to vids

Reasons to Consider the DJI Phantom 3 Standard

The Phantom 3 Standard is a stable outdoor camera quadcopter of outstanding value. Its dedicated controller has a smartphone clamp that gives users full fingertip controls. The quad has useful GPS assisted flight features that help to manage otherwise complex flying. That gives pilots more freedom to focus on shooting 12MP aerial stills and sharp 2.7K video.

Pilots can see what the camera sees via the live video feed. The real-time feed shows on a regular mobile screen in 720P HD. DJI’s intuitive flight app allows camera functions using tap controls. There’s also the Automatic Flight Assistant that returns the quad home (RTH) with a simple button press.

The Not So Good

DJI’s Phantom 3 Standard is not a small or easily portable quadcopter. That means its suitable only for flying missions. You can’t carry it around casually like some of DJI’s foldable camera quads. The other gripe is that the how-to vids are not beginner friendly. Yes, it’s an easy bird to fly, but newbies still need initial guidance. Don’t worry; YouTube is always there to make up for DJI’s poor instructions.

amazon

Tech Specs
Dimensions: 5 x 14 x 8.2”
Product Weight: 2.68 lbs.
Camera: Built-in 12MP 2.7K
Camera gimbal: 3-axis
Max Flying Time: 25 minutes
Max Range: 0.5 miles (1 km)
Battery: 15.2V 4500 mAh LiPo 4S Intelligent Flight
Charging Time: 60+ minutes
The Pros
Easy-to-fly and film quadcopter
Stable flyer
GPS assisted flight features
Long flight time per charge
Quality gimbal camera
Failsafe return to home
Live view via mobile screen
Intuitive mobile app
Excellent value
The Cons
Size; not travel-friendly
Vague how-to vids
Average range

3. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Outdoor Camera Drone | Top Pick

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Outdoor Camera DroneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.9/5

The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom makes the Top Pick for this guide. It’s not cheap, but it is tremendous value. It’s an outdoor camera quad that excels in all areas and exceeds most aerial photographer’s expectations.

  • Best feature 1: Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing
  • Best feature 2: 2x optical zoom camera
  • Plus points: Foldable, long flight time, long range, ActiveTrack 2.0, 1080P video transmission
  • Minus points: Camera not a Hasselblad, high price tag, cost of extra DJI batteries

Reasons to Consider the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

This is the ultimate foldable, outdoor camera quad for anyone who needs to shoot like a professional. Smooth and stable footage is a given in all manner of situations. DJI’s 3-axis gimbal stabilization is first-rate. It provides steady cinematic quality video and detailed 12-megapixel stills. Best of all is the dynamic zoom perspectives. You can shoot from wide to mid-focal ranges and everything between.

The Mavic 2 Zoom delivers video transmissions in 1080P up to a range of 8km. Editing and uploading aerial footage to social media in Full-HD is both quick and easy. The 31-minute flight time is also impressive. It lets pilots take on missions that go further and last longer than most other quads. And DJI’s new Active Track 2.0 (follow Me mode) is highly accurate even for high-speed tracking.

Safer Flights, Easier Control

Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing is the Mavic 2’s incredible avoidance system. It can sense objects from all sides, i.e., left, right, up, down, forward, and back. The less the pilot needs to concentrate on flying, the more he or she gets to focus on aerial filming. And the super-resolution modes and Hyperlapse recording blow most fans away. This bird has so many features to explore and exploit.

The Zoom’s rival is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. The only noticeable difference between the two is their cameras. The Pro doesn’t zoom but has the ultimate optics for an aerial drone. Its camera is a Hasselblad. It sports a 20MP 1-inch CMOS sensor and has an adjustable f/2.8–f/11 aperture.

The Not So Good

The Mavic 2 Zoom doesn’t have a Hasselblad. It’s an incredible zoom camera, but it’s not on par—quality wise—with the Mavic Pro’s Hasselblad. And the high price tag is sure to put off many outdoor camera drone enthusiasts. The cost of spare batteries is another of the Zoom’s downsides.

amazon

Tech Specs
Dimensions: 18.2 x 12.2 x 9”
Product Weight: 32 oz. (907g)
Camera: 12MP 24-48mm optical zoom
Camera gimbal: 3-axis
Max Flying Time: 31 minutes
Max Range: 5 miles (8 km)
Battery: Intelligent Flight 3850 mAh LiPo
Charging Time: 90 minutes
The Pros
Foldable high-end travel camera quadcopter
Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing
4x zoom (includes 2x optical zoom) w/ 24–48 mm FOV
Long flight time
Long flight range
Active Track 2.0
1080P live video transmission
The Cons
Camera not a Hasselblad
High price tag
Cost of extra DJI batteries

4. Hubsan H123D X4 Jet Outdoor Racing Drone

Hubsan H123D X4 Jet Outdoor Racing DroneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5

Drone racing—quadcopters in particular—is one of the fastest growing sports right now. The Hubsan H123D X4 Jet is an excellent first-time racer for the novice.

  • Best feature 1: Fast outdoor racing camera quadcopter
  • Best feature 2: Powerful brushless motors
  • Plus points: Adjustable camera, stunt capable, live streaming, built-in RC LCD screen
  • Minus points: Low-average quality camera, long charging time

Reasons to Consider the Hubsan H123D X4 Jet

The Hubsan H123D X4 Jet uses powerful brushless motors. It can reach top speeds of around 56 mph (25 m/s). First Person View (FPV) is at the heart of all drone racing. Well, this puppy sports 5.8G real-time FPV transmission. Its feed goes directly to an integrated LCD screen on the remote controller (RC). The built-in camera is a 720P HD model with an adjustable angle of 8–45-degrees.

Hubsan’s H123D X4 Jet has a maximum flight time of just 10 minutes. That doesn’t sound much, but it’s on the high side of average for a racing quad. The 100-meter maximum flight distance is ideal for novice racers. An Acro (acrobatic) mode supports fancy aerial stunts like rolls and 360° flips. And a low-power return function stops flyaways by bringing the bird safely back to base.

It’s a cracking little quad for racing, a beginner craft for aerial photography, or both.

The Not So Good

The footage from the 720P HD camera is mediocre at best. It’s quite viewable as a racing feed, but any saved video and photos won’t win any quality awards. That said, it’s a great trainer for those who want to dip their toe into drone racing and aerial photography. The 100-minute charging time is long enough to make uses factor an extra battery or two into the cost.

amazon

Tech Specs
Dimensions: 10.2 x 8.8 x 7.4”
Product Weight: 5.11 oz.
Camera: Built-in 720P HD adjustable
Camera gimbal: None
Max Flying Time: 10 minutes
Max Range: 328 ft. (100 meters)
Battery: 7.6V 980mAh Li-Po
Charging Time: 100 minutes
The Pros
Fast outdoor racing camera quadcopter
Powerful brushless motors
Adjustable camera
Stunt capable
Live streaming
Built-in RC LCD screen
Use for racing or aerial photography/videography
The Cons
Low-average quality camera
Long charging time

5. Altair Tomahawk Outdoor Drone w/ Camera

Altair Tomahawk Outdoor Drone w/ CameraView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

The Altair Tomahawk is another outdoor camera drone that’s ideal for beginners. The makers have exaggerated some of its characteristics. Despite that, it’s still an excellent value quadcopter.

  • Best feature 1: Crash resistant
  • Best feature 2: High landing gear
  • Plus points: Easy to fly, brushless motors, prop guards, long flight time & range, 720p camera
  • Minus points: Long charging time

Reasons to Consider the Altair Tomahawk

This capable outdoor quadcopter is ready to fly (RTF) right out of its box. You don’t even need a WiFi connection or smartphone to get this puppy airborne. That already gets it off to a favorable start.

Families love the Tomahawk because it looks fantastic, is straightforward to fly, and easy on the wallet. It also has enough features to please advanced users as well as those at the entry level. Altair’s Tomahawk can stand up to a few moderate crashes and collisions too. That’s always good news for learner pilots. Its high landing gear gives plenty of clearance and safer landing opportunities.

Altitude hold is another welcome feature. Each propeller has a flexible guard to shield it from fingers and protect it from damage. The powerful brushless motors are also worth a mention. Brushless motors are quieter, more reliable, and last longer than the brushed alternatives. The drone’s flight time is 17 minutes. That’s impressive for a quad in this category, as is its 900 ft. (300m) control range.

Shooting with the Tomahawk

A 720p action camera isn’t going to impress anyone. It’s still fit for purpose and provides a viewable live video feed. There’s no stabilizing gimbal either. However, the drone has a 6-axis gyroscope that helps to keep it steady in the air. Best of all, though, is that you can attach a higher quality GoPro camera. A detachable camera option is not something most drones offer at this or any level.

The Not So Good

There’s not much to fault considering the Altair Tomahawk’s features. Its most significant setback is not with the drone or the mediocre stock camera. The main negative is the extended charging time. Five hours is long by any standards and forces new users to invest in extra flight batteries.

amazon

Tech Specs
Dimensions: 13.4 x 12.9 x 6.6”
Product Weight: 3.25 lbs.
Camera: 720p HD & GoPro-ready
Camera gimbal: None
Max Flying Time: 17 minutes
Max Range: 900+ ft. (300+ meters)
Battery: LiPo rechargeable
Charging Time: 5 hours
The Pros
Crash-resistant
High landing gear
Easy to fly
Altitude hold
Reliable brushless motors
720p camera
Long flight time for its class
Long flight range
Protective prop guards
The Cons
Insane charging time

6. Contixo F18 RC Outdoor RC Camera Quad

Contixo F18 RC Outdoor RC Camera QuadView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The Contixo F18 RC is an outdoor capable quad with a better-quality camera than the last two picks. It’s a nice kit that comes with an intuitive remote controller (RC) and a smart carry case.

  • Best feature 1: Return to home (RTH) feature
  • Best feature 2: Brushless motors
  • Plus points: Headless, altitude hold, auto hover, live video streaming, LEDs, decent flight time
  • Minus points: Long charging time, no camera gimbal, spotty WiFi

Reasons to Consider the Contixo F18

A 6-axis gyroscope helps to steady the drone in the air and makes it easier to control. Its powerful, high-efficiency brushless motors can keep it flying for up to 20 minutes. The superior motors are reasonably quiet and need no maintenance. They also last longer than their brushed counterparts.

All drones can benefit from a return to home (RTH) feature, but they don’t all have it. The F18 does, and it brings the quad back to you if its battery gets low, or if the signal becomes weak. Users can also call the drone back at any time using the one-key return. Contixo’s F18 has a GPS mode so that the craft always knows its location to the controller. These things combined give pilots full control.

Other noteworthy features include a headless mode, altitude hold, automatic hovering, and bright LEDs. The LEDs are at the front and rear to allow for night flying. The built-in camera has a 1080p HD resolution. Users can view live video broadcasts on the screen of a regular smartphone using the free flight app. That means a bird’s eye, First Person View (FPV) from the virtual pilot’s seat.

The Not So Good

The 4-hour charging time is the main con with this camera quadcopter. Extra batteries cost around 30 dollars at the time of writing, which is a significant added cost. The camera doesn’t have gimbal stabilization. That means some footage is sure to be shaky, especially during turns and in winds. The final gripe is that some users—in certain areas—experience spotty WiFi connections.

amazon

Tech Specs
Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.1 x 9.1”
Product Weight: 1 lb.
Camera: 1080p HD WiFi Camera
Camera gimbal: None
Max Flying Time: 20 minutes
Max Range: 1 mile (1.6 km)
Battery: 7.4V 2100 mAh Li-Po
Charging Time: 4+ hours (240 minutes)
The Pros
Return to home (RTH) feature
Altitude hold
1-key takeoff/landing
Powerful brushless motors
Crash-resistant for its class
Live video streaming
Decent flight time
Bright LEDs for night flying
The Cons
Long charging time
No camera gimbal
Spotty WiFi

7. DJI Mavic Air, Outdoor Camera Travel Drone

DJI Mavic Air, Outdoor Camera Travel DroneView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The DJI Mavic Air is a favorite outdoor drone for people on the go. The reasons are many. The favored ones are its small size, foldable design, and quality gimbal camera.

  • Best feature 1: Easy flying, easy transport, easy storage
  • Best feature 2: Quality 4K 12MP gimbal camera
  • Plus points: Dedicated controller, 8GB internal storage, long range, fast charging, DJI GO editor
  • Minus points: Average flight time, small phone grip on the controller

Reasons to Consider the DJI Mavic Air

People choose the Mavic Air because of its lightweight, quality, decent range, and portability. Even the dedicated controller folds away to make the setup as compact as possible. You can also leave the remote at home and fly this beauty with hand gestures for close by shoots. Or, you can operate it via smartphone if you prefer. The point is there are different ways to fly and film with the Mavic Air.

An effective 3-axis gimbal stabilizes the 12MP 4K camera even at higher speeds. The result is tack-sharp aerial photos and silky smooth video. The quad comes with a handy 8GB of internal storage. Editing and sharing footage to social media is quick and easy thanks to the DJI GO editor. DJI’s Mavic Air also has active tracking that can follow you or other moving objects.

The Not So Good

The maximum flight time is a lot better than some drones but falls short on others. The 21-minutes wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the high cost of Intelligent Flight Batteries. The phone grip on the remote controller is on the small side. It’s fiddly and it doesn’t accommodate larger smartphones.

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Tech Specs
Dimensions: 6.6 x 7.2 x 2.5”
Product Weight: 15.16 oz.
Camera: 85° FOV 12MP 4K
Camera gimbal: 3-axis
Max Flying Time: 21 minutes
Max Range: 2.4 miles (4km)
Battery: 11.55 V 2970mAh LiPo 3S Intelligent Flight
Charging Time: 55 minutes
The Pros
Easy to fly
Small size, foldable design
Quality 4K 12MP gimbal camera
8 GB internal storage
DJI GO editor
Dedicated controller
Decent control range
Fast charging time
The Cons
Average flight time for its category
Smallish device grip on the controller

8. Autel Robotics EVO Outdoor Foldable Quadcopter

Autel Robotics EVO Outdoor Foldable QuadcopterView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

Last on the list is the Autel Robotics EVO outdoor drone. It’s another foldable, highly portable quality camera quadcopter. This bird can shoot ultra-HD 4K video at 60fps (frames per second).

  • Best feature 1: Built-in failsafe features
  • Best feature 2: 12MP 4K Ultra-HD gimbal camera
  • Plus points: Foldable design, live HD, 1-touch action buttons, 3.3” OLED controller display
  • Minus points: Price tag, fiddly memory card door

Reasons to Consider the Autel Robotics EVO

The EVO camera quadcopter is quite pricey but excellent value. Failsafe and user-friendly features are welcome with any drone, but especially higher end models. Well, the EVO has dual GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning vision systems. Pilots benefit from smooth hand’s free hovering and built-in safety like low-battery or lost signal return to home (RTF). Auto takeoff and landing are two more.

Those serious about striking aerial footage may want to add the EVO to their shortlist. It’s another travel-friendly, user-friendly, outdoor filming copter. Autel Robotics says it records cleaner, smoother, and faster than its nearest rivals in the portable drone category. It’s still new on the scene—at the time of writing—so only time will tell if they’re right. So far, though, it enjoys plenty of favorable feedback.

Live HD First Person View is possible using the free Austell Explorer App. The live stream shows on the remote controller’s (RC) integrated 3.3” OLED display. The RC has an intuitive design with one-touch buttons. They perform various actions and can control the drone as far away as 4.3 miles (6.9km).

The Not So Good

At around $1000 (at the time of writing this review) the EVO’s not cheap. It’s excellent value, but the price tag is sure to put off a lot of fans. Another gripe is the annoying memory card door that seems reluctant to open. A fiddly door may be minor on the scope of things, but it’s still irritating.

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Tech Specs
Dimensions: 7.8 x 3.8 x 4
Product Weight: 1.9 lbs.
Camera: 12MP 4K 60fps Ultra-HD
Camera gimbal: 3-axis
Max Flying Time: 30 minutes
Max Range: 4.3 miles (6.9km)
Battery: Intelligent EVO, 13.05V 4300mAh LiPo
The Pros
Built-in failsafe features
Quality gimbal camera
Foldable design, compact and portable
1-touch action buttons
3.3-inch OLED controller display
Obstacle avoidance
Return to home
Easy firmware updates
The Cons
Price tag
Fiddly memory card door
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