Professional Grade Drones 2016
Top 10 List
1. DJI Inspire 1
In my opinion, the Inspire 1 is the best drone you can purchase ready to fly right out of the box. However it's also the most expensive, and can be a quite a ways out of most holiday shoppers budgets. This monster pictured below, has been the workhorse of my aerial photography business since its initial release, and has made me thousands of dollars in just the first six months of ownership, definitely a great return on investment.
With its 4k camera, 3 axis gimbal, transforming landing gear, and many innovative features, the possibilities are limitless! Below you can see me flying the Inspire for some real-estate work, it continues to remain my favourite aerial tool, and is the most frequently flown drone in my kit. Ready to fly out of the box, all you need is an Apple or Android phone/tablet to use as a monitor!
2. DJI Phantom 3 Standard
The phantom 3 is a fantastic starter drone for those interested in getting started in aerial photography or video. Better yet, this new "standard" edition, is priced extremely competitively, and the most budget friendly way to get started in the world of professional drones. Fully equipped with GPS, Compass, Ultra HD camera, and 3 axis gimbal, the phantom 3 kit has everything you need to get in the air and look like pro! Best of all, the Phantom 3 is extremely easy to fly right out of the box. It's also backed by a huge community of users around the world, providing an all around pleasurable ownership experience. Personally I find the Phantom a great way to get into the world of drones, it was my first professional drone when the the very first Phantom 1 was released, and the newer phantom 3 is still my secondary drone of choice, attending every job I do to this day.
3. Yuneec Q500 4K
This fantastically innovative drone has been growing in popularity in the past few months. Similar to the Phantom in features and flight capability, the Yuneec Q500 4K boasts a larger wingspan with larger motors and lift capability. This makes for a faster, and more stable drone, perfect for aerial video and photography. As the name states, this drone also comes equipped with a 4K camera for beautiful vibrant video, stabilized by the 3 axis gimbal. Rest assured, Yuneec builds only the finest aircraft, with a record of building only the best in full size and remote control aircraft alike, for over 15 years, far longer than most of their competitors.
4. 3D Robotics SOLO
The 3DR SOLO is one of the most interesting drones on our list. This drone is based on an open source flight controller, with endless possibilities that are as endless as your imagination. The 3DR has many advanced functions and intelligent flight modes, making this a favourite for commercial applications such as mapping, surveying, surveillance, and exploration. But don't get it confused, its also a great all around drone thats just as much fun to fly as any other of drones on this list, and just as simple if you want it to be. The advantage being that if your tech savvy, this drone has endless capability and expansion possibilities, while still being easy to fly right out of the box.
5. Walkera X4 Scout
If you're looking for a turn key aerial video quadcopter solution, the Walkera Scout X4 is it!
Famous for their innovative models with amazing performance, Walkera has come out with one of the most full featured quadcopter for aerial photography and video on the market. Lightweight and balanced, this quadcopter is super easy to fly, and comes fully assembled, ready to take to the air! Although similar to the DJI Phantom, one advantage happens to be the Walkera's retractable landing gear, allowing for an unrestricted view when your trying to get those perfect shots, this is in addition to the overall high quality build materials. This is a great drone- if functionality, customization and being unique are more important to you than simply following trends.
6. E-Flite Blade Chroma
E-Flite is a name you can trust. The first RC helicopter I ever flew almost nine years ago was an E-Flite, and the rest was history! They have fantastic build quality, endless parts and service support, and a pretty strong community of enthusiasts. Their drones are more on the hobby side of things, and are not recommended for professional use, however the Blade Chroma I selected for this list is special, as it's offered with a 4k built in camera, and more than capable of creating beautiful videos and still images for semi-pro work.
7. 3D Robotics IRIS
The 3DR IRIS is essentially a bare bones version of the 3DR SOLO that was also mentioned in this top 10 list. It's priced extremely competitively, while still boasting a suite of features that most other aircraft on this list lack. Like the 3DR SOLO, this drone also comes equipped with advanced GPS that allows the drone to automatically fly itself, all you have to do is tell it where to go, and what path you'd like it to take. All the while, it will keep your GoPro steady with a 2 axis gimbal, allowing you to produce effortless, beautiful video. But truthfully, this drone is one of the best ways to get started in the commercial side of drone flight, with many applications in the field of surveying, mapping, and exploration.
8. Parrot Bebop
This drone is truly a unique and playful platform. With ease of use, ergonomic design, and fun being a top priority. The HD camera streams live video to the tablet monitor via an extended WiFi system with a range over 6500ft! It's also ready to fly right out of the box, and comes in various colour schemes. The price point is also competitive and makes it a prime candidate for anyone on your shopping list who would love a serious drone this holiday season. It is perfect for both hobby and light commercial work such as inspections, or real estate work.
To end this top 10 list, the last two drones are pure, professional grade, no nonsense aircraft. Capable of carrying full size DSLR and cinema grade cameras. These last two drones don't come ready to fly, and assembly is required. However, if you're serious about aerial photography or video as a career, you're going to need one of these heavy lifters. If it's time to retire from your day job, chase your passion, and money is no option, these next two drones will give you everything you need to play with the big boys!
9. DJI S1000
The first heavy lift copter to end our top 10 list is the DJI S1000, the flagship of DJI's line of aerial cinema drones. Its eight rotors provide incredible lift capacity, allowing the S1000 to carry a range of full size professional cameras such as the Cannon 5D, Lumix GH4, Black Magic Pocket Cinema, and more. DJI also offers their line of Zenmuse three axis gimbals, able to hold your camera perfectly stable no matter how aggressive you choose to fly. This drone is extremely capable and suitable for professional film & TV applications although many after market parts are available for this very capable platform, and transform it to the ultimate aircraft for any job. Being that it's a drone you have to assemble yourself, and offered in various packages, I have included a link to what I think is the best package to get started. If you need info on what else will be required to complete this build, use the contact form on this website and I'lll try to help you out.
This is not a purchase you can rush, do your research or contact me for some assistance.
10. Freefly ALTA
The ALTA by Freefly is the best of the best, if you're looking for a heavy lift platform that will push you above and beyond the competition. Its precision engineered frame provides maximum efficiency while providing blistering speed and incredible lift capacity. This monster is not for the faint of heart, only an experienced pilot should attempt to build and pilot one of these aircraft, and for that reason it had to be placed at the end of our list. But make no mistake, if you're in the drone industry and are looking to rise to the top of your game, this should be number one on your list. It is capable of carrying heavy payloads such as full size cinema cameras like the RED Epic and ARRI production cams, with a variety of lenses and accessories. Payload is supported by the Freefly Movi gimbal system, the best gimbal in the film industry. This gimbal has to be purchased separately from the frame but because the frame was built around the Movi gimbal, it's easy and painless to just snap on the gimbal and fly. This aircraft is truly the highest quality drone on the public market, and has truly limitless potential. However, it has a steep learning curve if you're new to the industry, and should not be attempted by newbies. Do your research, get your flight time in, and the ALTA may one day be your go-to drone.