Despite the popularity of drones used purely for leisure, their use for commercial and industrial jobs had not diminished. In fact, most industry estimates forecast that the market for drone services will increase by more than ten-fold in the next 5 to 8 years. If you would like to get in on the action, then the best time to start is now. In this list, we have compiled the very best professional drones available today and grouped them according to specific applications.
Approximate Price: $315
The Solo Drone from 3DRobotics is an easy to fly drone that boasts of the ability to stream live video from an onboard action camera. Being a “smart” drone, the Solo is powered by two 1 GHz computers that work to improve and optimize the aerial photography experience. The camera mount can accommodate a GoPro camera, which is able to stream video wirelessly to a mobile device. You also have the option of buying the compatible 3-axis gimbal that taps into the Solo’s in-flight computers to execute perfectly stable shots. Overall, the Solo Drone is a very cheap drone that delivers a great drone photography experience. It does not come with a camera of its own, so you may have to incorporate the cost of a GoPro camera if you are considering this drone.
Approximate Price: $1,185
The Mavic 2 Zoom was released alongside the Mavic 2 Pro and represents a tonally different approach to camera quality improvement. Its camera specs are basically the same as the Mavic Air – a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor that can take 12MP stills and 4K video. However, the selling point of the Mavic 2 Zoom is its 2x optical zoom and 2x digital zoom capabilities. With the Mavic 2 Zoom, you can capture tight shots of specific subjects even when you are flying at a high altitude. This drone also has a few inventive camera modes that make full use of its zoom capabilities, such as the Dolly Zoom mode and Super Resolution photo mode. Being a twin to the Mavic 2 Pro, it also comes with an omni-directional obstacle avoidance system to aid its autonomous flight functions. What the Mavic 2 Zoom lacks in camera quality, it makes up for in creative photo and video opportunities.
Approximate Price: $1500
Released just this year, the Mavic 2 Pro holds the title of having the best camera out of all the ultra-portable drones available today. The onboard Hasselblad camera of the Mavic 2 Pro has a 1-inch CMOS sensor and can capture 20MP stills and 4k video. The camera is supported by an updated gimbal that finally has a true panning function. For a drone as small as the Mavic 2 Pro, it exhibits remarkable stability even in windy conditions. Autonomous flight modes are aided by its omni-directional obstacle avoidance system, so you need not worry about the Mavic 2 Pro crashing into obstacles while it is following or orbiting a subject. Its combination of camera quality, ease of use, and portability makes the Mavic 2 Pro a one-of-a-kind drone that can rival its much larger professional-grade counterparts.
Approximate Price: $1900
The Typhoon H Plus is Yuneec’s upgrade to the very popular Typhoon H Pro which has been a big hit among professional drone photographers. This version retains the hexacopter design of the original Typhoon H, which gives it a much higher level of stability that can withstand winds up to 35mph. It also provides a redundant rotor in case of rotor failure. The Typhoon H Plus is equipped with a camera that can capture 4K video and 20MP stills, putting it near the top of the list in terms of camera quality. Another upgrade that the Typhoon H Plus has is a slightly larger frame, which contributes to a significant level of noise reduction. It comes with a flight controller with an integrated 7” touch screen and can communicate with the drone up to 1 mile. Despite its intimidating look, the Typhoon H Plus is easy to fly, especially with the aid of the Intel RealSense collision avoidance technology.
Approximate Price: $2500
The Tornado H920 Plus is one of Yuneec’s largest offerings and is designed specifically for stable and high-resolution drone photography. True to the Yuneec brand, it sports a six-rotor design with folding arms and retractable landing gear. Getting the landing gear out of the way allows the H920 Plus to maximize the scope of the CGO4 camera. Although this camera is not included with the drone by default, it was designed by Yuneec and Panasonic for use the with the H920 Plus. With the ability to capture 16MP photos and 4K video, and a 3x optical zoom lens, the CGO4 camera is a worthy professional-quality camera that goes well with the H920 Plus. Aided by GPS technology and using the ST16 ground station, this drone can capture unique stills and footage using any of the automated camera modes. The exceptional stability of the H920 Plus, partnered with an excellent camera, makes this drone an ideal choice for commercial drone photography.
Approximate Price: $2700
The Inspire 2 is considered by many to be the gold standard when it comes to professional photography drones. It retains the excellent look of the original Inspire with its retractable landing gear but is now built tougher with an aluminum composite body and carbon fiber arms. The Inspire 2 can be equipped with either of two excellent high-end cameras: the Zenmuse X4S or the X5S. In particular the Zenmuse X5S is one of the best cameras available today with its ability to capture 5.2K video at 30 fps. It also comes with a front facing FPV camera. Despite its size, the Inspire 2 is incredibly fast and agile, able to reach speeds of up to 58 mph and can go from 0 to 50 mph in just 5 seconds. The extended flight time of 27 minutes is also a boon for professional photographers who will find that they don’t need to change batteries so often. If you are looking for a professional-grade camera drone that looks and flies great, then you cannot possibly go wrong with the Inspire 2.
Approximate Price: $11,500
The first thing that stands out with the Alta 8 is its price. With a price tag that can rival that of a small car, the Alta 8 is a premium professional-level photography drone that meets all expectations. With an octo-rotor design, the Alta 8 is an exceptionally stable drone that can lift payloads of up to 20 lbs. With this kind of capacity, the Alta 8 can lift both a cinema camera and a sophisticated gimbal. The gimbal attaches to the main frame using a “toad in the hole” mechanism that allows for quick removal and installation. In addition to the standard bottom-mounting mechanism of most camera drones, the Alta 8 allows for mounting of the gimbal on top of the drone. Equipped with an IMU, GPS technology, and a barometer, the Alta 8 can execute a perfect hover even in difficult weather conditions. The drone pilot also has the option of commanding the Alta 8 to follow a pre-determined path, making it easier to capture customized footage and shots. With its build quality, the Alta 8 can feel right at home in the set of a blockbuster film
Approximate Price: $42,000
The Aerigon is a cinema-grade drone that comes with an astounding 12 rotors for unparalleled stability and a lifting capacity of up to 13.5 kg. The updated Aerigon comes with the 2.0 image stabilization technology that works with industry-standard zoom lenses such as the Canon 15.5-47 and the Angenieux Optimo 15-40. The design of the Aerigon absorbs vibration for jitter-free footage and conceals the sensitive electronics and cables for added protection. This drone bundle comes with the Aerigon gimbal that boasts cinema-grade superior precision, stability, and accuracy. It also comes with the Dominion controller that doubles as the controller for the Aerigon gimbal and camera system. In addition to controlling the drone’s movement, the Dominion controller gives full control of the camera and lens, including focus, iris, and zoom functions. The Aerigon cameras have a long history of experience of use in Hollywood films, and will prove to be an excellent choice for professional filmmakers.
Approximate Price: $4,500
In a departure from their usual drones, the Parrot Bluegrass is an exceptionally heavy and large model. The Bluegrass is a drone especially designed for crop analysis. In addition to the 14MP wide angle camera that also captures 1080p videos, the Bluegrass is equipped with the Parrot Sequoia multispectral sensor for crop health inspection and mapping. The multispectral sensor is comprised of 5 cameras that capture different wavelengths of light, eventually generating a coloration map from which crop health can be deduced. A separate sunlight sensor measures sunlight intensity at any point of the survey area to help in sunlight optimization. With a huge 6700 mAh capacity battery that provides up to 25 minutes of flight time, the Bluegrass performs very well in inspecting large tracts of land with minimum battery changes. The integrated GPS and altimeter technology allow the drone pilot to plan and execute inspection plans and flight paths for the Bluegrass.
Approximate Price: $13,500
The Agras MG-1S is DJI’s entry into the drone-based farm management market. With an 8-rotor design, the Agras can lift a payload of up to 10 kg. The Agras makes full use of this payload capacity by incorporating the ability to apply pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides using the drone, making it an invaluable tool for precision agriculture. The speed of the Agras allows it to cover up to 6000 square meters of agricultural area in just 10 minutes – more than 40 times faster than a human doing manual spraying. The amount of liquids sprayed is controlled by an intelligent spraying system that adjusts release rate according to the movement speed of the drone, ensuring that even application is maintained for the whole field. As the terrain changes, a microwave radar detects the altitude and keeps the Agras MG-1 at a constant height above the crops. The dedicated controller makes it very easy for the drone pilot to set accurate and repeatable flight paths for the Agras MG-1. As far as agricultural drones go, there is nothing in the market that compares to the Agras MG-1.
Approximate Price: $325
The Walkera F210 is a racing drone that offers functions and capabilities a step above other racing drones. This drone combines the convenience of having a ready to fly drone and the flexibility of a drone that provides dozens of customization options. The frame of the drone is made of durable and lightweight carbon fiber. All components are plug-and-play compatible, meaning that nothing is soldered and that advanced drone pilots have the freedom to swap in better components as they please. This drone bundle comes with the Devo 7 radio controller and a 700 TVL high resolution camera. Even though the F210 is not a camera drone, it is no slouch in the camera department: the camera can provide a real-time video feed, has an adjustable angle, night-vision capabilities, and a 120° field of vision.
Approximate Price: $6,500
The Phantom 4 RTK was released late in 2018 as DJI’s entry to the drone mapping industry. Its major selling point is the real-time kinetic (RTK) positioning system that is housed in a small node at the top of the drone. With RTK technology, the Phantom 4 RTK can achieve locational accuracy to a centimeter-level. Coupled with the Phantom 4’s camera with 1-inch CMOS sensor, the Phantom 4 RTK can create maps that are not just accurate, but also very highly detailed. The dedicated controller that comes with this drone is pre-installed with the GS RTK app, a mission planning software that makes survey planning and execution a cinch. The Phantom 4 RTK has the potential to decrease the time to finish a mapping survey by up to 75%, generating savings and additional income for professional survey companies. It bears mentioning that the Phantom 4 RTK is one of the most expensive drone in this list – it’s not for the casual user.
Multi-use Payload Drones
Approximate Price: $1500
The S1000+ was made for heavy lifting and looks exactly like the kind of drone that can do the job. With 8 rotors, this octocopter has a lifting capacity of up to 44 lbs. With such lifting power, the S1000+ has the flexibility to work with different kinds of payloads. For drone photographers, the payload of choice is probably the Zenmuse Z15 camera with 3-axis gimbal. You even have the option of mounting a DSLR camera or a thermal camera to the S1000+. The retracting landing gear was deliberately designed to not get in the way of the camera, giving you an unobstructed 360° field of view. Even when the S100+ is flying at the maximum speed of 45 mph, the gimbal does a great job of stabilizing the camera. With exceptional stability and lifting power, the DJI Spreading Wings S1000+ is a truly unique product that belongs in a league of its own.
2. Yuneec H520
Approximate Price: $2000
The Yuneec H520 is touted as a drone built for multiple commercial uses. It still retains the hexacopter design that Yuneec has been known for, allowing professional drone pilots to fly the drone at a remarkable level of stability. Considering that the H520 was made for inspection and survey jobs, this might be the easiest to use and most stable drone for these applications. It features a provision for a customizable payload: it is compatible with enterprise-grade cameras and thermal imaging cameras. The included ST16 ground stations also comes pre-loaded with mission planning software that can make performing surveys and inspection jobs easier and more accurate. Mission data can even be stored and recalled, allowing for repeatable flight paths. Data collected from the H520 can be processed using the DataPilot software to create 3D maps, orthomaps, and crop data imagery.
Approximate Price: $4000
The Matrice 600 is the workhorse of DJI’s line of professional-grade drones. It has a 6 kg payload capacity which can accommodate equipment for professional photography, multi-sensor imaging, thermal imaging, and other applications. In an improvement over the S1000+, the Matrice 600 is equipped with fully integrated electronic devices to store and process the data collected by the payload equipment. With the aid of LightBridge technology, the Matrice 600 can be controlled and can transmit high-quality video feed within a maximum range of 5 km. Professional drone pilots have the option of using the Matrice 600 with custom SDKs, such as Pix4D which turns the Matrice 600 into an autonomous mapping and imaging system. This capability can be extremely helpful in using the Matrice 600 for crop monitoring, wireline inspection, land surveying, and security purposes.
With drone technology constantly evolving and its popularity ever widening, commercial drone applications will continue to grow and diversify. What once were niche applications, such as crop inspection and mapping, have become industries that are big enough to capture the attention of commercial drone manufacturers such as DJI and Parrot. The industry of drone photography is also enjoying an ever-growing surge in popularity that does not seem to show signs of slowing down. If you are interested in going into commercial drone operations, then it is essential that you get the very best drones available today. After all, it is still a competitive field, and any advantage can be equivalent to higher earnings.