Best drones of 2018 – from racers to cameras, why do you want to fly?

This is a shorter version of our complete Best Drones list on Drone Rush.

Ignoring for a moment the FAA’s changes to drone laws, these fun flying cameras are still great devices for capturing amazing shots from new heights. There used to only be a few machines worth choosing, but now there is more to the drone world than just toys, the Mavic Pro, and the iconic Phantom line of drones.

We explore the ins and outs of many drones over on Drone Rush, but let’s just focus on the best of the best for you today.

People buy and fly drones for all sorts of reasons, so we’re going to look at the best ones in a number of categories. If these drones do not quite fit your needs, we’ve evaluated hundreds of others on Drone Rush.

Best Nano drone for flying in your living room

Hubsan H111

Hubsan H111 nano drone with Android figure

There’s no single category for small drones, but we generally consider any machine that can fit in the palm of your hand a nano drone. One of our absolute favorites is the Hubsan H111. We respect Hubsan as a brand, we have many of their larger drones in various other categories on the site, but the H111 is one of the easiest machines to get your hands on, and safest to fly indoors.

Make no mistake, this is a toy drone. It has limited battery life and minimal flight capabilities compared to more advanced machines, but it lives on my desk and flies frequently. It’s challenging enough to hone my piloting skills and super fun. It’s also priced right to be a great holiday gift.

Check out the Hubsan H111 for just $19 on Amazon.

Buy Hubsan H111

Best toy drone, the best way to train before flying something expensive

Syma X5C-1

Syma X5C toy drone in hand

We firmly believe every aspiring drone pilot should start with a drone like the Syma X5C. This toy-class drone has limited functionality, but it is true to the piloting experience of more expensive drones. Flying this machine will help you master the basics of flight, understanding which way is forward and managing to hit the video record button at the right time in that flight. Crashing is almost inevitable, but would you rather learn how to handle crashes on a machine worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars, or a resilient and fun Syma X5C?

Check out the Syma X5C for $50 on Amazon.

Buy Syma X5C-1

Best racing drone trainer, the need for speed on a leash

UVify OOri

UVify OOri lights on a reflective surface

This one’s for those who prefer high-speed fun to silky smooth photo and video capture from the sky. The UVify OOri impressed us with its resilience and flight capabilities when we tried it at CES 2018. This small drone can safely fly inside your home with the prop guards installed. It’s stable and has enough flight assist features for most people to master it circling the couch. Machines like the Hubsan H111 and Syma X5C top out at less than 10mph — not the case with OOri. Give the UVify OOri some room to move and it’ll clock up to 60mph.

There are many trade-offs when you look at a racing drone. These machines are built for speed, extreme maneuverability and short distance operations for a race that lasts a little more than five minutes. A fun alternative to this drone is the Fat Shark 101 race trainer.

Check out the UVify OOri for $349 today.

Buy UVify OOri

Best racing drone, no leash

Emax Hawk 5

Emax-Hawk-5-racing-drone

Racing drones are like computers. You can buy great ones off the shelf, but the very best around are built from scratch with individually sourced components. Further, every race course and league offers different challenges for your drone, the winner today may be the worst possible machine for the race tomorrow. We chose our top racing drone because we’ve seen it in action. In the hands of Nytfury at the 2018 AUVSI Xponential drone convention, the Emax Hawk 5 took the win for the IDRA Challengers Cup championship.

The Emax Hawk 5 is what we call a bind-n-fly drone, meaning you’ll need your own hobby-class remote control. This is fairly standard for the racing market.

Check out the Emax Hawk 5 for $240 on Amazon.

Buy Emax Hawk 5

Best folding drone, for when portability matters

DJI Mavic Air

Red DJI Mavic Air flying in front of green trees

Few drones on the market fold as compact and offer as many advanced flight features as the DJI Mavic Air. Make no mistake, DJI’s consumer-class drones offer mostly the same capabilities in the air, but none are as portable as the Mavic Air. If you are looking for a stable 4K camera in the sky, this is where you should start. Safe for the beginner pilot and advanced enough to keep hobby and most semi-pro photographers happy, this is the sort of drone most people can get behind. It folds down to fit in your palm, easily slides into a (larger) pocket or bag for travel and soars over 40mph when you want to have some fun.

The DJI Mavic Air is probably the greatest bang for the buck you can find of any drone today.

Check out the DJI Mavic Air for $700 for the drone alone, or bump up to the DJI Mavic Air Fly More combo for $900 to get extra batteries, accessories and more.

Buy DJI Mavic Air

See also:

Best camera drone, short of the pro equipment

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic 2 Pro front close up on Hasselblad camera

Released in August 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is one of the best camera drones DJI has built. Considering DJI’s status in the industry, we’d say that makes the Mavic 2 Pro one of the best camera drones on the market, period. The Mavic 2 series includes the Mavic 2 Zoom and the Mavic 2 Pro, which only differ in their cameras. The Zoom model offers a 2x optical zoom from its 1/2.3-inch camera sensor and the Pro model rocks a full 1-inch sensor built by Hasselblad. 

The Mavic 2 Pro is one of the best camera drones on the market, period.

We’ve seen some high-end camera blogs complain that the Mavic 2 Pro cannot shoot as high of quality photos and videos as a “proper” Hasselblad camera. All I got from that was the camera on this drone is worthy enough to be compared to cameras that cost thousands of dollars. 

As for the drone itself, the Mavic 2 Pro is one of the fastest, most stable, and most agile camera-focused machines we’ve flown. The multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors make it one of the safest drones we’ve flown as well. Don’t let the name fool you, a beginner can put the Mavic 2 Pro into the sky with great success. It offers a great selection of self-piloted flight modes to help get the best shots. On the flip side, experienced pilots can take manual control of the craft and really push the camera to new heights. 

Check out the DJI Mavic 2 Pro for $1,449. Add on the Mavic 2 Fly More Kit for $319 to get extra batteries, accessories and more. If the Mavic 2 Zoom for $1249 is more your style, grab that instead.

Buy DJI Mavic 2 Pro

Best Professional drone, also one of the best camera drones

DJI Inspire 2 with Xenmuse X7 camera

DJI Inspire 2 on a pedestal at the Cendence remote launch event

The very best of the best professional camera drones allow you to put your professional camera into the sky. They are simply vessels to fly what would otherwise be a handheld camera. The DJI Inspire 2 is an alternative to that, offering its own selection of cameras. Currently, the Zenmuse X7 is the best on offer. This is a 6K camera with interchangeable lenses. Yes, I said 6K video capture. The 24MP Super 35 sensor can shoot in 6K CinemaDNG, 5.2K Apple ProRes, and more. If I kept running down the spec sheet for the camera, you’d think I was talking about a high-end DSLR, and that’s exactly my point. 

The DJI Inspire 2 is easy to fly on its own. It handles and operates very similarly to most other DJI drones. However, the best way to operate it is with two pilots, with one person controlling the craft and the other controlling the camera. It can scoot along at nearly 60mph, stick to the sky for nearly half an hour and is one of the more capable video livestream drones around, perfect for a news crew.

The best of the best has a price tag, the DJI Inspire 2 is $3,000 for a basic flight package, no camera. You’re looking at around $2,700 for the camera, $1,200 each for lenses or combo with the Inspire 2 and Zenmuse X7 camera for around $6,000. Like these drones, the sky is the limit for the Inspire 2 packages, DJI even offers an Inspire 2 Cinema Premium package for $20,349, if you want it all.

Buy DJI Inspire 2 with Zenmuse X7

Let’s get flying

Remember, there are rules to flying drones in most countries around the globe. In the U.S., the FAA can issue fines up to $20,000 and give you some jail time if you break the rules. Rest assured, the rules are easy to understand and follow, hit the link below to get started.

  • You have to register your drone with the FAA before you fly

What is your pick? Do you want a drone from this list, or is there another machine out there that will fly away with your wallet?

What’s next?

  • Best Drones of 2018
  • Drones under $1000
  • Best camera Drones
  • Best nano drones
  • FAA Registration
  • Drones under $500
  • Best racing drones
  • Best drone apps

Drone Pilot Training   |   Drone starter guide   |   Drone Manufacturers

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