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Drones were a game-changer to begin with, but mini drones have taken it a step further. These small, portable, and often foldable flight machines aren’t just fun to fly around, they’re the next evolutionary step in photography and film.
The best mini drones open up a whole new world of capturing epic shots of your trip that are entirely your own. Beautiful panoramic and overhead views are just the beginning though, as the photography features continue to grow with each new generation of drones. The newest mini drones often include things like “follow-me mode” for hands-free filming, facial recognition, and even collision detection to avoid crashes.
Best Features of a Mini Drone
If this is your first time flying one of these, or you’ll be gifting it to a newbie drone pilot, look into features such as headless mode (which always aligns the drone’s front with whatever way the controller is facing), and Electronic Image Stabilization, which compensates for the shakiness of the propellers when trying to take a stable shot.
Gimbals can also be invaluable when it comes to steady and crisp photography too. This pivoted support lets you rotate around an axis, keeping your drone camera level no matter how much it moves or vibrates.
They’ve also gotten significantly easier to fly than the early bulkier models. Drones nowadays can come with a designated controller, their own app, or a combo of both, making commanding it simpler, and similar to a video game. When you’re done, these can safely return to you with the tap of a button. And if you’ve got a set of VR goggles, some units pair with them, giving you a pilot’s view as if you were up there with it.
Flight range can vary, but they’ll often be pretty far, sometimes 500 meters up and four miles away. Don’t expect hours of flying on a single charge though. Drones aren’t like phones, they don’t last all day, and 30 minutes of air time is pretty good on a full battery. And while a light weight can be big selling point, always be aware of weather conditions – a strong gust of wind can trap a mini drone high up in a tree, or worse, carry it away.
1. DJI Mavic Mini
DJI is one of the most well-known and trusted drone makers on earth, and the Mavic Mini is a solid little machine.
The max video resolution here is 2.7k HD – more than enough to shoot some nice-looking videos, as well as 12MP photographs.
The 3-axis motorized gimbal keeps the unit stabilized in flight, resulting in clearer shots with way less blur. The hover feature holds it steady in mid-air, for you to get that perfect panoramic pic (or just an epic selfie).
This folds up to reduce its overall size, making it ideal for travel and outdoor hikes and treks. Most impressive of all, the Mavic can be controlled up to 2.5 miles away.
You won’t need to register this for flight in the US or Canada either, as its weight is just 249g. And its low weight lets it stay in the air longer than other, heavier competitors – up to 30 minutes of flight time with a charged battery. Though it flies fast, at 29mph, there’s no obstacle avoidance system here, so be careful of crashing it at high speeds.
2. Holy Stone HS510 GPS Drone
This user-friendly flight machine captures 4K videos at 16fps, and 2.7K videos at 25fps, with a wide 110º field of view. There’s no gimbal, but the camera is manually tilt-able to get the angle you’re going for.
This can take microSD cards, up to 32GB, and can be controlled up to 300 meters away.
The controller has two folding antennae (though one is purely cosmetic), with a one-button takeoff and landing command. There’s also a convenient photo/video button, along with a return-to-home button, and the expandable phone-holder keeps most smartphone models in place during flights.
An optical sensor on the bottom assists with landing, and built-in LED lights let you locate it during night flights too.
For the price point, this is a well-made quad-copter with tough plastic arms and plenty of ventilation slits all over to prevent overheating during its 16 minutes of flight time.
3. RUKO F11Pro Drone
The F11Pro picks up a strong and upgraded 5G signal that’s lag-less, with a GPS locator that can pinpoint its height and location (this can also be a major help if it gets lost during a flight).
You can create your own flight path here by simply drawing it on your phone’s screen, having the drone follow up to 16 pre-set points, with picture and video quality that’s detailed and clean.
With a relatively fast charge of 3.5 hours on the 2500mAH battery, the F11Pro can stay in the air up to 30 minutes, and fly up to 500 meters at 26.8mph.
There’s no gimbal, but even still, this does an impressive job at remaining stable and silent, thanks in part to its brushless motors and strong wind resistance.
It has a designated beginner mode, and can stand up to some light damage from crashes and collisions (plus it comes with extra propellers too).
4. Potensic A30W RC Mini Quadcopter
The A30W’s 720p camera transmits images in real-time over WiFi, and controlling the drone in flight is as easy as tilting your phone, thanks to the Gravity Sensor. Setting a flight path and stabilizing it is simple in the app, as is the single-tap button for takeoff and landing.
But the durability is a key feature here, making it ideal for kids and beginners who are inevitably going to have some rough flights. The four flexible, circular propeller guards protect the unit (as well as people and pets) from damage and injury.
It comes with a controller, and no smartphone is needed just to fly this, but you’ll need to download the accompanying app for filming, photography, and lots of other features. Two batteries nets about 15 minutes of flight time, and three fan settings give you more control for safer use indoors.