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Best Drones of 2021


As with every year, the best drones of 2021 worth buying include some of the best machines from previous years as well. DJI remains a global leader in the market, particularly in the consumer drone segment.

DJI Air 2S

There are some amazing drones out there, everything from nano machines for the living room pilot, carbon fiber beasts for the commercial market and Hollywood, plus some amazing consumer rigs designed to put a camera into the sky. Here is our short list of the best of the best drones in 2021.

Note: We will update this list every month, or when new drones make the list. The DJI Mavic 3 is an instant winner! After much deliberation, we’ve removed the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 from this list.

Important: The FAA has mandated the need for a drone license for all flights. Hobby pilots now need a TRUST certificate before they fly!


Jonathan Feist, Drone Pilot
Jonathan Feist

Why trust Drone Rush?

I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.

 

 

Best drones

Let’s explore the best drones on the market today!

1. DJI Air 2S

DJI Air 2S: Best value camera drone

Drone Rush RecommendsThe DJI Air 2S is the culmination of every lesson DJI has learned with their Mavic series to date. This flying 5.4K camera has efficient flight, solid speeds, superb stability, reliable safety features, and the entirely familiar folding design and flight features many of us have come to know from other DJI drones. Considering that the Air 2S packs a camera and features that compete with drones twice the price, this is a winner for most pilots.

This is the first viable drone we’ve seen that packs a 1-inch, 20MP camera for under $1,000, and the new flight range is a class-leader at any price. 12KM of HD connectivity is more than most pilots can fly, but ensures an excellent connection at close range. Battery life is on par with the best consumer drones out there, offering up to 31 minutes of flight time.

See the full DJI Air 2S review

Why we fly the DJI Air 2S?

Considering the available drones on the market today, we are happy to recommend the DJI Air 2S to any hobby pilot whose goal is to put a camera into the sky. Make no mistake, there are better camera drones available for higher prices, and there are more affordable drones for those that do not care about the camera as much, but the value for the price is hard to beat with this little drone; We’re packing the Air 2S in our backpack the next time we go hiking.

What we like

  • 5.4K camera
  • 31 minute flight time
  • Upgraded flight features
  • Huge 7.5 mile connectivity

What we don’t like

  • No display on remote
  • Fewer safety features than larger drones

 






(9.8)

  • 31 – MIN
  • 5.4K – 20MP
  • 42.5 – MPH

April 15, 2021

Release Date


2. DJI Mavic 3

DJI Mavic 3: Best flying camera

DJI Mavic 3 Cine flying

Equipped with a powerful 20MP Micro Four Thirds camera, the DJI Mavic 3 instantly became one of the best camera drones on the market. 46 minutes of flight time and a whopping 15km (9.3 miles) of connectivity mean a stronger connection than ever before.

The Mavic 3 comes in two versions, the standard model has 8GB of internal storage, while the Mavic 3 Cine bumps up to a 1TB internal SSD. The SSD is fast enough to enable Apple ProRes 422 HQ format video, but both machines can record up to 5.1K at 50fps. There is a second camera as well, a 1/2-inch shooter that has up to 28x hybrid zoom. All-direction obstacle avoidance keeps you safe as you soar through the sky for up to 46 minutes per battery.

The optional new RC Pro remote has a built-in display, and is a solid new remote control for some Mavic drones.

See our full DJI Mavic 3 review

Why we fly the DJI Mavic 3?

The Micro Four Thirds camera on the Mavic 3 is a reason to get excited. Few drones have a camera this large and capable. The latest flight features make this drone one of the safest and easiest to fly, as well. However, a fantastic camera package comes with a cost, the DJI Mavic 3 starts at $2,199, with the Fly More combo running $2,999, and the full DJI Mavic 3 Cine with RC Pro for $4,999.

Bottom line, the DJI Mavic 3 is a serious camera drone, designed for the professional pilot. 

What we like

  • Powerful drone
  • Superb 5.1K camera
  • Up to 28x zoom
  • 15KM range with O3+ connection
  • APAS 5.0 & ActiveTrack 5.0
  • Optional RC Pro remote has a great display
  • Optional 1TB internal SSD
  • All-direction obstacle avoidance

 






(9.9)

  • 46 – Minutes
  • 5.1K – 20MP
  • 42.5 – MPH

November 4, 2021

Release Date


3. DJI Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic 2 Pro: Best overall consumer drone

dji-mavic-2-zoom-front-2

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro has been the best consumer drone on the market since it launched back in 2018 a powerful array of obstacle avoidance sensors make this one of the safest drones to fly as well. The 20MP camera with 1-inch sensor is still one of the best around, even though it only shoots 4K video. The price tag remains a deterrent to many hobby pilots, but I’ve never met a Mavic 2 Pro owner that regrets their purchase. That said, it’s probably time to start thinking about what a Mavic 3 could look like. 2018 was a long time ago.

Why we fly the DJI Mavic 2 Pro?

If you are looking for the best possible camera and your budget is around $1,500, yes, you should buy the Mavic 2 Pro. Despite its age, we still love the Mavic 2 platform. It offers more safety than the average drone, and the camera options remain some of the best aerial shooters in the sky.

What we like

  • Powerful drone
  • Superb 4K camera
  • Has a telemetry display in the remote
  • All-direction obstacle avoidance

What we don’t like

  • Getting old
  • Price
  • Biggest and heaviest Mavic drone

 






(9.7)

  • 31 – MIN
  • 4K – 30 FPS
  • 44 – MPH


4. DJI Inspire 2

DJI Inspire 2: Best professional drone

DJI Cendence Tracktenna Ronin 2 launch DJI Inspire 2

The DJI Inspire 2 is the kind of drone that was made with Hollywood action shots in mind. This high-speed drone is powerful, stable, and can carry multiple payloads. The Zenmuse series of cameras can go up to 6K video recording, the dual hot-swappable batteries mean minimal down-time during shooting, and the dual-operator controls make it possible for the pilot and a camera operator to work together to get the best shots possible. Further, the retractable landing gear with 360-swivel  camera gimbal better allow for shots from any angle.

Why we fly the DJI Inspire 2?

Let’s be honest, this is still the best camera drone you can get for around $5,000. It is really old, as far as drones go, but it was so well built that newer machines are still trying to catch up. It is a larger drone, making it tough to transport, but if convenience is not of concern, and you need a great camera drone, the Inspire 2 is still leaps and bounds better than the smaller hobby drones on the market today. 

What we like

  • Best pro camera around!
  • Great camera options
  • Fast and reliable
  • Easy to operate

What we don’t like

  • Full flight kit is expensive
  • Very large drone

 






(9.8)

  • 27 – Minutes
  • 6K – 30 FPS
  • 58 – MPH

November 2016

Release Date


5. DJI Mini 2

DJI Mini 2: Most affordable 4K drone

DJI Mini 2 flying front

For a long time after it launched, the DJI Mini 2 was the only 4K camera drone under $500 that we would consider for our personal fleet. The Mini 2 remains one of our favorite drones, capturing the allure of the Mavic series, delivering a solid camera experience, and clocking in at under 250 grams, all with an attractive price tag for what we’ve come to expect of a machine of this caliber.

Why we fly the DJI Mini 2?

While we really like the output of the 4K camera on the Mini 2, we fully recognize that it does not keep up with the more expensive camera drones out there. However, that’s not the point, the point is that we think the Mini 2 is the absolute best drone you can get for under $500. It can do everything that the more expensive drone can do, just not quite as well, and we think that’s a worthy trade-off. Regardless your budget and needs, the Mini 2 is one of the most portable drones around, making a smart choice for those that travel.

What we like

  • Under 250g
  • Super compact for portability
  • Reasonably fast, and fun
  • Easy to operate
  • 4K camera for a great price

What we don’t like

  • Very small, not very powerful
  • Not as tough as larger Mavic drones
  • No object avoidance sensors

 






(9.4)

  • 31 – Minutes
  • 4K – 12MP
  • 36 – MPH

November 2020

Release Date


6. DJI Matrice 300 series

DJI Matrice 300 series: Best commercial drone

DJI Matrice 300 RTK commercial drone flight

If you have an inspection task to perform, the DJI Matrice 3oo series may be the best machine for the job. This powerful, weather resistant, monster of a drone can carry multiple payloads, including RTK GPS, infrared cameras, and more. This isn’t the sort of drone you’re likely to fly in your backyard, but don’t be surprised to see one flying around a construction site or in use by local law enforcement in place of a full helicopter.

Why we fly the DJI Matrice 300?

Make no mistake, the M300 is a big and powerful commercial drone. RTK precision is overkill for anything but the most strenuous of inspection task, and the multi-payload configurations would rarely be fully utilized by a hobby pilot, but, the drone is super fun to work with, there are so many great things you could make it do, if you can justify the premium.

What we like

  • Powerful and capable inspection drone
  • Multiple payloads
  • Dual-operator capable
  • Weather resistant

What we don’t like

  • Large drone, tough to transport
  • Quite expensive

 






(9.6)

  • 55 – MIN
  • 4K – 30 FPS
  • 51.5 – MPH

7. DJI Mavic 2 Enterpise

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise: Best search & rescue drone

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise kit

The DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise takes everything great about the consumer-class Mavic 2 series drones, and makes it better! Flight and safety features are about the same, and the RGB camera is the same as on the Mavic 2 Zoom, but the added accessories port converts the drone into a superb search & rescue tool Lights, speakers, GPS beacons and more help you find and communicate with those that are in need.

Why we fly the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise?

For a hobby pilot, the Mavic 2 Enterprise is a reasonably affordable option to get an infrared camera into the sky, and the attachments can be used for more than just search & rescue efforts, but, to be honest, if you are not sure you need the extras, consider the hobby-focused Mavic 2 Pro or Mavic 2 Zoom instead.

What we like

  • Data encryption
  • Best of the Mavic 2 series
  • Accessories enable many uses
  • Different camera options

What we don’t like

  • Pricey, for an upgraded Mavic 2 drone
  • Good flight time, but would like more

 






(9.6)

  • 31 – MIN
  • 4K – 30 FPS
  • 44 – MPH

October 2018

Release Date


8. Hubsan H111

Hubsan H111: Best indoor drone – learn to fly

Hubsan H111 nano drone in hand

There’s not much to say about the Hubsan H111. This tiny drone should be your first drone, it’s fun, safe, and affordable, perfect for learning to fly. It’s best flown indoors, and has few flight-assist features, so this really is just for bouncing around the living room before you invest in another machine from our list here today.

Why we fly the Hubsan H111?

The H111 is a no-brainer purchase for near any pilot. I fly this little thing in my office all the time, it’s just good fun and a good way to keep up my skills. I often give this drone as a gift to the beginners in my life as well.

What we like

  • Small
  • Affordable
  • Easy to operate
  • Great for practicing

What we don’t like

  • Limited flight time
  • No flight features, no GPS
  • No camera

 






(8.2)

  • 5 – Minutes
  • No camera
  • 7 – MPH


9. DJI FPV

DJI FPV: Starter racing drone, most fun to fly!

DJI FPV camera

The DJI FPV is a unique machine that is best described as a hybrid camera-racing drone. In one mode, it operates very similarly to most Mavic drones, but when you crank it up, you get the feel and flight features of a racing drone, which includes a monstrous 87MPH top speed! In addition, the optional Motion Controller introduces a new way to fly. If you are looking for a high-speed camera drone, this might be what you want.

Why we fly the DJI FPV?

We absolutely love flying the DJI FPV. It is the most fun we’ve had in a long time. However, it is a tough drone to recommend. It’s the best of both worlds, but, it’s expensive compared to drones with similar camera capabilities, and the best racing drones cost a lot less as well. If you are not in it for the hybrid benefits, maybe consider a dedicated drone for your aerial goals.

What we like

  • Very fast and fun
  • Learn how to fly a racing drone

What we don’t like

  • Two-axis camera gimbal
  • Limited safety features

 






(9.4)

  • 20 – Minutes
  • 4K – 60fps
  • 87 – MPH


 

10. Yuneec Typhoon H3

Yuneec Typhoon H3: Best Hexacopter

Yuneec Typhoon H3

The Yuneec Typhoon H3 is easily the best hexacopter that Yuneec has put out for consumers. This is a larger drone that is powerful and versatile. The Leica camera shoots great 4K video while the hexacopter design adds to stability and safety. If you are looking for something more than a Phantom, but not as much as an Inspire, the Typhoon H3 could be perfect for you.

Why we fly the Yuneec Typhoon H3?

Like a few other large drones on this list, we’re in a tough spot recommending this drone. If you are willing to do anything to get one of the best drone cameras into the sky, the stability of six propellers is a compelling airframe, but if portability is key, or you have a smaller budget, you might consider the simpler consumer drones.

What we like

  • Reliable hexacopter design
  • One of the best cameras around
  • Retracting landing gear
  • 360 degree gimbal

What we don’t like

  • Large and heavy drone
  • Well priced, but pricey
  • Limited range

 






(9.5)

  • 25 – Minutes
  • 4K – 60 FPS
  • 45 – MPH

September 2019

Release Date


Specialized best lists


Have a specific need in mind?

DJI Mavic Pro Spark 

Your drone needs may be more personal than we’ve explored today, we have a number of drone lists that are tailored to your specific needs – if you are looking for the best nano drone, mini drone, camera drone, racing drone, and more, we have a list for you.


Before you fly

Industry update:

Drone Remote ID went live on April 21, 2021 in the United States. Drone manufacturers have a few months before all drones for sale must have built-in ID broadcast. Pilots have until October 21, 2023 to upgrade or replace their existing fleet with Remote ID transmitters.

Since then, the FAA has announced that all pilots require a drone license before they fly. That’s the TRUST certificate for hobby pilots and the Part 107 certificate for those that are compensated for their flights.

Before you flyAll you need to know before you fly!

Thank you for trusting us on your drone journey. Check back often, we’ll update this list, and many others on the site, whenever a new drone makes an impact on the industry.


What is a drone?

What is a Drone?

Before we dive in, I think it’s important to explain a few things, we need to define exactly what is a drone?

In terms of the consumer drones that we buy to fly at home or for commercial use, a drone refers to a flying machine. The definition of the word goes well beyond flying machines, however, as most robots or remote controlled machines, for land, sea or air, are accurately categorized as drones.

When we say UAV, we are limiting our scope within the drone market – an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is exactly what the name implies.

We have a dedicated post on the topic: What is a drone?

Bringing it all together, the FAA states that anything that weighs less than 55 lbs is considered a small UAV. Small UAV, or sUAV, best fits the scope of the majority of what we do here at Drone Rush. These are the drones that we can buy at the store and fly in our backyards.

The main reason we stick to this segment of drones is simple, the FAA, as with many aviation authorities around the globe, require special licensing to operate craft that are 55 lbs or heavier. They require even more certification to operate craft that carry people. In short, anyone can buy the drones in our lists, and with only a few rules to follow, head to their backyard to fly.

Learn more from our drone science of flight series:

Drone safety and FAA Guidelines

There are drone rules!

No matter where you live, no matter what licensing or registration is required of you and your aircraft, there are rules on what you can and cannot do with your drones. You need to know these rules and abide by them.

We focus on the rules in the United States. They are not the most restrictive in the world, but they have been largely adopted by many countries. Plus, we fly mostly in the United States, sometimes Canada, so these are the rules we are most familiar with.

For the most part, I’m happy to say, the flight rules imposed by the FAA are fairly common-sense and focused on safety. Almost all of the rules are based on the safety of others around you. The primary rule on that is that you cannot fly your drone where it can put passenger aircraft at risk. Then, you cannot fly over people. The remaining rules essentially stem from those.

In the United States, the FAA has authority over the air, but other departments may have rules on the ground. For example, you cannot fly in a National Park. Even if the FAA airspace is clear for you to fly, you will have to abide by the ground rules as well. These are serious as well, get caught flying somewhere that violates both ground and air no-fly rules and you could face large fines and even jail time.

Finally, never forget that even when flying by the rules, you may still be subject to civil lawsuit if your craft injures somebody.

I know what you’re thinking, this is just a toy, why so many rules? Those of you that have flown hobby RC aircraft before may especially feel the pain of all these new regulations. Thing is, these flying machines are capable of putting cameras in places they do not belong, which is another consideration altogether.

DJI Mavic Air 2 flying nose camera

The most important reason for all these limitations, the FAA does not control the design of your drone, it is on you to stay below 55 lbs. The bottom end of that is 0.55 lbs as far as previous registration goes, but again, anything smaller than that still has to follow the rules. Now, while your palm sized drone would be sucked up and spit out of a large jet engine without notice, a 54 lb metal drone would decimate a smaller manned aircraft. Accidents happen with these things as well, a 54 lb drone dropping out of the sky from a couple hundred feet would kill a person on the ground.

To this end, the only other rule we will speak of here, you should never fly your drone above 400 feet above the ground. In the metric world, they usually limit you to 120 meters. This is to protect the upper airspace for other air traffic, and to assist in one of the most policed FAA rules, you must fly within line-of-sight at all times.

FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the absolute best drone on the market?

To be completely honest, the needs of the mission dictate the best drone for each pilot. We’ve said before that camera drones do very poorly on race tracks, and there is no way a toy drone can perform commercial inspection services. If you’ll allow me the bold assumption that you are a tech enthusiast, just looking to put your first camera drone into the sky, we recommend the DJI Mavic Air 2. It has great value for the price, can shoot great images from the sky, and won’t break the bank.

If you have a larger budget, the Inspire 2 remains a fantastic offering. If you work in Hollywood, DJI has some serious gear, and maybe something from FreeFly would serve you well.

We recently got a 2021 drone calendar filled with amazing drone shots — nine of the twelve images are from a Mavic 2 Pro, I think that’s an indicator to pay attention to.

Do I need a license to fly any of these drones?

Yes, in the United States you need a license to fly any drone! Hobby flights require the TRUST certificate, while commercial flights require the Part 107 certificate.

Should I buy a used drone?

We urge you to treat a drone purchase a little like a car purchase. What we mean is that you should do a thorough inspection of the craft and accessories, ask for documentation for any repairs or services performed, and look into the available warranty for the craft. This is obviously overkill for small toy drones, but the more expensive the drone, the more it matters. Also look into the viability of a drone. Someone once showed me a batch of $1700 drones that were on sale for about $250 each, sounded like a great deal, but the drones were discontinued models, and they were designed to carry early-model GoPro cameras.

Those are not, necessarily, deal breakers, but you couldn’t buy the gimbal and mount anymore, and there were no further software updates to handle different payloads. Soon after that, the company stepped out of the business. Just because it’s a cheap price, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.

What happens to my old drone when Remote ID is required?

Luckily, the FAA has not yet specified the exact tech requirements for Remote ID — did you know that your DJI drone has been broadcasting some ID info for years now? We’re not certain yet that DJI’s Aeroscope system meets all of the FAA’s needs, but if it does, it may be that your DJI drones will be FAA Remote ID compliant with a simple software update.

If your current drone does not directly meet the FAA’s Remote ID requirements, you may attach an external module that broadcasts the info. If that also does not work for you or your drone, you will have to find a local flight club that has an approved flight area for non-compliant drones. Finally, if all that fails, sorry, it’s game over for your aircraft.

Can I use these drones for drone deliveries?

As we mentioned above, the drones on this list are the best consumer-class machines that are mostly made to put a camera into the sky. What we didn’t mention is that there are major legal restrictions on commercial usage with a drone as it pertains to delivering goods. To answer your question, though, some of the drones on this list are big and strong enough to haul some light cargo, so you could, technically, use them for deliveries.



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