Backpacking Guides

A Buying Guide for the Best Travel Drones

Introduction

There was a time when drones were synonymous with pricey and bulky pieces of hardware and traveling with them from one country to another or even long distances was challenge. But thanks to advances in drone technology, drones have become more compact, affordable, light-weight. Many designs come with high-resolution cameras with most of them supporting built-in stabilization giving you shake-free and crisp results, all without compromising on portability. Don’t have a selfie stick to take the perfect group selfie? Your drone is there to save the day. Want to take stunning aerial shots on the go? It will fit into a carrying bag and travel the world with you, offering some unique perspective shots that simply can’t be taken without it.

That said, there is an ocean of modern drone models in the market and not all of them are fit for travel, be it a world tour with friends or solo travel. Many drones, even high-end and pricey ones are heavy and awkward to handle and inapt for travel. You’ll be investing money, effort, and space it will take up in your travel bag. You’ll be investing time in learning how to fly your drone, acquainting yourself with drone laws – where to fly and where not to, so, it’s important that you pick one that’s the right fit for you.

Here are our top 5 picks for the travel drones we think are perfect for shooting on the move.

1.    DJI Mavic Air Quadcopter with Remote Controller

DJI is famed for launching the first economical commercially viable drone that offered an intuitive design allowing any drone enthusiast even beginners to take incredible shots. Their debut design was by no means travel-friendly, it was near impossible to lug it around on your person because it was large enough to fill the trunk of your car.

Luckily, over the years, they’ve made countless improvements in their designs have managed to shrink them many folds. Mavic Air is unbelievably small and portable. With the dimensions of only 6.6×3.3 with wings folded in, its width and length are probably the same as your average smartphone. It weighs in at just 15.2 ounces making it incredibly compact and portable.

It comes equipped with a three-way triangular gimbal and gimbal dampeners which supplement image stabilization and a 12-megapixel camera that shoots in crisp 4k at 30fps. The camera also supports slow-motion, HDR and 32 MP Sphere panoramas – 25 photos stitched together to form a sharp sphere panorama.

DJI Mavic Air Quadcopter with Remote Controller
DJI Mavic Air Quadcopter with Remote Controller

You can fly your Maverick Air with the dedicated foldable remote controller, your smartphone or simply with SmartCapture – using hand gestures for controlling your drone, capturing photos and shooting videos.

The ultra-portability and the compact design come with a trade-off though. The battery life isn’t this drone’s strong suit. It promises a maximum flight time of only 18-21 minutes.

Key features and specs

  • 2 x 6.6 x 2.5 in
  • FlightAutonomy 2.0 technology to assist flight and make it safer
  • 8 GB of internal storage as well as SD card support
  • ActiveTrack for precise tracking of the selected target
  • Efficient aerodynamic design
  • Two hard cases
  • Six different QuickShots

2.    DJI Spark

DJI Spark trades off some functionality for portability. Even though it doesn’t have foldable wings, this drone is small enough to fit in your palm and weighs only an astonishing 300 grams. This makes it light-weight enough to carry with you without the need for a carrying case.

Camera quality takes a dip from Mavic Air. Spark has a 12 MP camera which shoots at 1080P with a 1/ 2.3” sensor. The results are surprisingly vivid, crisp and detailed though. The camera is supported on a 2-axis gimbal device which is equipped with gimbal dampeners to help with shake-reduction.

DJI Spark
DJI Spark

 

Spark can be controlled with its intuitive remote controller or your smartphone, making use of Intelligent Flight Modes. You can also take incredible shots in the air with hand gestures using Palm Control mode. It supports a unique feature, FaceAware, which allows it to detect your face and take off instantly.

Unlike other feature-packed DJI designs, this model is somewhat downgraded when it comes to range and battery life, for the sake of portability. However, it retains many features found in its larger counterparts, including TapFly, ActiveTrack and Power Propulsion to name a few.

Key features and specs

  • 8 x 3 x 8.2 in
  • 2-way Gimbal device
  • Flight Safety
  • Flight time of 16 minutes
  • Limited to 1.2 miles range
  • Aerodynamic and lightweight design
  • Top speed of 31 mph in sports mode with FPV gimbal mode
  • 12 MP camera with an f/2.6 lens
  • AI learning for taking selfies with hand gestures

3.    Yuneec Breeze

Breeze has one of the most intuitive, compact and convenient designs. Weighing in at less than one pound, it features a 13MP camera, which shoots in stunning 4k and transmits the flight feed live in 720P.

It has an ultralight an ultracompact design. Its wings are foldable and it comes with carrying case making it ideal for travel.

It features five different flight modes: Selfie, Orbit, Follow me, Pilot and Journey allowing even users with no prior experience to fly their Breeze right out of the box. In Selfie mode for instance just about anyone can position the drone to take a nice group selfie.

Yuneec Breeze
Yuneec Breeze

 

It can be controlled with the dedicated remote controller or with your smartphone and promises a safe to fly feature which allows your drone to return to your home with a single tap. It also features a built-in positioning system allowing Breeze to be safely flown indoors and outdoors.

A downside of Breeze is that it lacks a gimbal device, rendering the results shaky at times which might be acceptable given the features it offers at an incredibly affordable price. Its feature rich design is ideal for novice and experienced drone enthusiasts alike.

Key features and specs

  • 11 x 8.7 x 3.1 in
  • Lithium Polymer batteries
  • Ultraportable yet affordable
  • Indoor Positioning System or IPS for short
  • Travel case
  • Foldable wings and propeller guard
  • 16 GB of internal memory
  • Can ascend up to 200 feet with a range of 100 meters
  • Flight time of 12 minutes

4.    Autel Robotics EVO

If you are looking for the smoothest and most crisp results a drone can offer, Autel Evo might just be the right pick for you. It is foldable and portable while retaining an excellent camera and peripherals.

It features a 12 MP camera which shoots UHD 4K at a smooth 60 FPS and 1080P slow-motion at an impressive 120 FPS. With its real glass optics and Ambarella H2 image processing technology, it promises a more dynamic range with vivid and sharp results. It also streams the live feed directly to the remote controller in 720P.

 

Autel Robotics EVO
Autel Robotics EVO

Although lighter than the Mavic, it offers almost double the flight time, a little over half an hour within a remarkable 4 miles of range.

It is one of the most enduring and portable designs out there and boasts a dual GPS and GLONASS system. It is also equipped with redundancies. In case the battery gets critically low or the drone loses the signal, the drone flies back home and lands safely.

Its gimbal doesn’t feature gimbal dampeners which can make the shots marginally less stable and a bit shaky sometimes.

Key features and specs

  • 8 x 3.8 x 4 in
  • 9 pounds
  • Lithium Polymer battery
  • 3-inch OLED display on the dedicated controller
  • Advanced computer vision systems for effective obstacle avoidance
  • Rear and bottom sensors for better flight and landings
  • Flight time of 30 minutes

5.    DJI Phantom 4 PRO

This feature packed drone comes outfitted with an amazing high frame rate 1 inch-20 MP camera which can shoot not only 4k at buttery smooth 60FPS but also at 30FPS. It uses a mechanical shutter which minimizes distortion at high speed, ensuring the smoothest and crispiest footage. Its advanced image processing systems and sensors guarantee detailed results.

It is lightweight and portable and offers a ton of features. It can be controlled with the dedicated controller or your smartphone.

  DJI Phantom 4 PRO
  DJI Phantom 4 PRO

 

With TapFly, you can simply tap something on the screen and fly towards it, you can also lock the altitude and direction while allowing the camera to turn freely.

The Gesture Mode lets you capture selfies with convenient hand gestures. If it is disconnected from the signal or if the battery is running low, it employs a fail-safe called Return to Home mode. Return to Home allows the drone to navigate obstacles and find the best route back to the home point.

It also houses state-of-the-art Draw technology, which lets you draw a route on your screen for the drone to follow so you can focus on taking those difficult shots instead of piloting the device. The FlightAutonomy technology features five directional obstacles sensing making the flight safer.

It has an outstanding flight time of a little over 30 minutes; however, it is much pricier than previous DJI iterations.

Key features and specs

  • 16 x 14 x 9 in
  • 12 MP onboard camera with 1-inch MP CMOS sensor
  • Dual compass and dual IMUI modules
  • Controller with LightBridge HD transmission system
  • Lighter Titanium construction
  • Advanced tracking that works even with fast moving targets
  • 30 minutes of flight time with intelligent battery management to prevent overcharging an over draining

Conclusion

You are now familiar with what to look for in a drone that would be the perfect fit for your traveling needs. Portability, weight, range, battery life and camera quality should take precedence when picking a travel drone among virtually a sea of drones available in the market. Breathtaking aerial shots aren’t just the domain of professional cinematographers and travel vloggers anymore. You can carry your drone with you wherever you go and capture some outstanding shots of your adventures. However, try to keep away from cruise ships, airports, residential buildings, and large crowds and keep the altitude limited to 400 feet. We also recommend that you acquaint yourself with drone laws of the country you’re traveling to since many countries have drone restricted zones while others have a downright ban on flying drones.

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