Trying to figure out the best drone to buy right now? We've got good news and bad news. The good news is that in recent years, drones have evolved beyond all recognition. The bad news is that there are now so many to choose from that finding the right one can be a bit of a minefield.
This is precisely why we’ve created this guide and pulled together what we think are the very best drones available right now – or more specifically, the best camera-equipped drones. These kind of cutting-edge, feature-rich and capable models can very easily cripple your bank account. So if you're on a tight budget, head to our best cheap drones guide instead, where you'll find some less pricey options that still deliver great value for money. Alternatively, pop over to our best kids drone guide if you’re looking for something smaller that doesn’t require jumping through licensing red tape.
If you're new to the drone world, jump to what to know before buying a drone (or check out our UK drone flying regulations guide or US drone regulations) first. If not, read on for our official ranking of the best drones 2022.
What is the best drone 2022?
When it comes to the best camera drones, the brand that stands far above the rest is still DJI. This is reflected by the fact that DJI fills numerous positions in our list below, and markedly most of the top spots. We can’t help that – it’s just how it is.
The best drone right now in our opinion is the DJI Air 2S. It's everything a camera drone should be – compact, light, quiet and packing some outstanding onboard tech, plus advanced remote controls.
Popping in out of the blue at number two is the extremely impressive new sub-250g Autel Evo Nano which just pips the otherwise excellent DJI Mini 2 by dint of its better camera and three-way obstacle avoidance.
However, for the ultimate in affordable video and image quality, consider the exceptional DJI Mavic 3 or the equally well specced Autel Evo II Pro. Neither of these drones will disappoint if high-end aerial videos and photos are your chief prerequisites.
However, our list also includes drones that let you experience the thrill of first-person flight (the new DJI FPV, which is easy to use and flies like the clappers) and drones that let you take off and land on water (the PowerVision PowerEgg X Wizard). In short, there's something for every type of flier and every budget here. Let's take a look at the best drones around.
The best camera drones to buy now
Released April 2021, the DJI Air 2S is a sensational camera drone in every respect. Despite being lightweight and eminently portable, this foldable drone packs some incredible onboard tech, including a 1-inch CMOS sensor that enables you to capture strikingly sharp images and video. The Air 2S will shoot 5.4K video at 30fps or 4K at 60fps and 150Mbps, as well as 20MP stills (by comparison, the older but still worthy Mavic Air 2's half-inch CMOS sensor can manage 4K/60fps at 120Mbps and 12MP stills).
The Air 2S also flies absolutely beautifully (and quietly), comes with four-way sensors to help you avoid collisions, and boasts some impressive advanced in-flight features. Head to our DJI Air 2S review for more of what we thought of it, or see how it matches up against its predecessor in our DJI Air 2S vs DJI Mavic Air 2 comparison.
While the DJI Air 2S is very hard to find fault with, if you're looking for something smaller, cheaper and easier to license, the Autel Evo Nano and DJI Mini 2 at numbers two and three on our list, are also absolutely superb.
We never thought we’d see the day a non-DJI drone would sneak into the top three of our esteemed Best Drone guide but the diminutive Autel Evo Nano gets everything pretty much spot on and just pips the otherwise superb DJI Mini 2 to the number two spot. The key item here is the camera and its 1/2-inch sensor which punches way above its weight, shooting exceptional 4K video and amazing 48 megapixel stills with big wow factor.
Like the DJI Mini 2, the Evo Nano weighs under the CAA’s magic 250g limit which means it’s a doddle to transport and you don’t have to jump through as many legal hoops to fly it. But unlike the Mini 2, this one comes with three-way obstacle sensing – a handy safety feature for both beginners and amateur aerial videographers.
The hand controller’s well designed too and this writer adores the beautifully weighted gimbal wheel which allows for really smooth, progressive camera movement with no sudden lurches. Another cool feature is the pin-sharp 2.7K live feed to the phone’s screen, something that very few camera drones are capable of.
You can read much more about this drone in our Autel Evo Nano review but take it from us – this is the best sub-250g camera drone on the market right now. So far it seems very reliable, it’s easy to setup and fly and most important of all, its camera is a veritable cracker. Furthermore, it comes in four different colours – red, orange, grey and white. What's not to like?
The Autel Evo Nano is available on preorder from Wex as a standard package with drone, controller, battery and charger or a Premium Bundle with the addition of three batteries, a multi-charger and a natty bag to carry it all.
Despite sitting at number 3 in our ranking, the pocket-sized DJI Mini 2 is still one of the best drones for most casual fliers (and indeed, it tops our best beginner drone ranking). This titchy bird is so small when folded you can hide it behind an iPhone, and weighs a floaty 249g fully loaded. What’s especially impressive here is how DJI has managed to instal a 4K-spec camera and 3-axis gimbal in such a tiny craft and equip it with a rocksteady video transmission distance of up to 10km (6.21 miles). For the record, the camera shoots 4K at up to 30 frames per second, 2.7K up to 30fps and 1080p up to 60fps and beautifully detailed 12mp stills in both RAW and JPEG.
Despite the size and ultra low weight, the Mini 2 is equipped with Level 5 wind resistance and that means it’ll hold its own in a relatively stiff breeze. It will also fly for up to an amazing 31 minutes on a single charge. There are more surprises buried in the DJI Fly app, including a plethora of autonomous quick-shot functions – Dronie, Circle, Helix, Rocket, Boomerang, 4K Hyperlapse, and three types of panorama. True, the Mini 2 doesn't have obstacle avoidance like the Autel Evo Nano above but we don’t think this is a deal-breaker if common sense prevails.
If you’ve always longed for a top-quality camera drone but can't afford to splash out a small fortune, then this marvel of technology is a top choice. Head to our DJI Mini 2 drone review to find out more (or our DJI Mavic Mini review for a look at the – very similar – previous iteration). Alternatively, see how it compares to a larger option in our DJI Mini 2 vs DJI Mavic Air 2 dogfight.
Released in November 2021, the Mavic 3 is DJI's first compact, professional level drone, and it's absolutely outstanding, as our five-star DJI Mavic 3 drone review will attest. This foldable drone comes equipped with not one but two cameras: a next-level, four-thirds Hasselblad camera that produces the best video footage and stills you could ever hope for, plus a separate tele-zoom camera with 28x hybrid zoom, specifically for scouting far-away subjects without having to fly there. Four-sided obstacle avoidance and a maximum flight time of 45 minutes – the longest of any drone here – round out an incredible package.
Of course, for most flyers, this level of competence is overkill, as is the inevitable hefty price tag that comes with it, which is why the Mavic 3 sits slightly further down our best drone ranking. See how it compares to the other 2021 addition to the DJI lineup in our DJI Mavic 3 vs DJI Air 2S face-off.
The feature-packed and outrageously hi-tech Autel Evo II Pro does it all, although it's certainly been designed with intermediate to advanced videographers and photographers in mind. This folding drone's camera, mounted on a 3-axis stabilising gimbal, features a one-inch CMOS sensor like the DJI Air2S and Mavic 2 Pro only this camera can record razor-sharp video at up to 6K resolution (at 30fps) and shoot crisp 20 megapixel stills with huge wow factor. It’s definitely one of the best cameras we've ever seen on a drone, especially at this price point, making it easy to catch more detail and colour, even when filming at high speed and in low light.
We're also incredibly impressed with the hand controller’s colourful 3.3-inch OLED screen which provides the pilot with instant access to a raft of flight information while keeping the phone’s screen free of clutter when focussing on the visuals coming from the drone’s camera.
Moreover, a generous number of sensors (12 in all) provide full 360˚ obstacle avoidance while also making it wonderfully easy to fly, even in wind speeds up to 39mph. And like DJI’s Mavic range, the Evo II Pro features a raft of autonomous flight features including Dynamic Track 2.0 which locks the drone’s camera on to a moving subject.
With a flight time of up to 40 minutes, an impressive transmission range of 5.5 miles (8.85km) and a maximum speed of 45mph, this is one of the closest competitors yet to challenge DJI’s crown.
Despite being firmly outshone by its successor (the Air 2S at #1), the DJI Mavic Air 2 is still a great drone worth checking out, not least because its price has been considerably reduced. The camera is a cracker and sports a half-inch sensor capable of shooting 4K footage at 60fps. The Mavic Air 2’s stills taking capacity is even more impressive – up to 48mp resolution for unprecedented sharpness, clarity and detail. It also comes with a smorgasbord of extra photo and video enhancement tech, including Scene Recognition, Spotlight 2.0 which locks the camera on a subject while the pilot does the flying and the obligatory ActiveTrack for following moving subjects.
The completely redesigned hand controller is another major improvement. Yes, it’s larger than before but it’s really comfortable in the hand. The Mavic Air 2 has a long battery life too (34 minutes) and in Sport mode it rips across the sky at up to 42.5mph. It also features three-way obstacle avoidance and APAS (Advanced Pilot Assistance System) for smoother manoeuvrability around obstacles.
Although it’s a few years old, the PowerVision PowerEgg X is still a great do-it-all drone you can fly safely in inclement weather and over water without fear of it going missing. If there was an award for best looking drone, the PowerVision PowerEgg X would walk it – it looks simply fantastic when airborne. Nevertheless, with a feature set that goes beyond any other model on the market, the PowerEgg X isn’t just smart looking, it’s pretty clever too. It performs most of the aerial tasks of the DJI roster – including front obstacle avoidance and autonomous flight modes like return-to-home, follow-me, orbit and timelapse – but goes two stages further by transforming into a hand -held stabilised camera of sorts and a tripod-mounted video recorder with motion tracking ability.
The PowerEgg X is as stable in flight as the majority of DJI drones we’ve tested and it will stay in the air for up to 30 minutes. Its top speed, meanwhile, is a commendable 40mph and its video transmission range around 3.7 miles. It comes with a fixed focus 4K camera with a 1/2.8 inch CMOS sensor and on paper that sounds grand. However, while the footage it produces is very good, it’s still not up to the benchmark set by DJI.
It’s true to say that the Holy Grail of drone flying is probably some kind of waterproofing and floatation device because flying over water normally requires balls the size of Mars. Although most modern drones are exceedingly reliable in flight, there’s no telling what may happen when over water – bird strike, motor failure, exhausted battery, heavy rain, etc. Well the Wizard version we’re reviewing here comes with two robust strap-on floats and a fully waterproof housing that protects the entire body and camera. It can even land and take off from calm water and fly in both rain and snow, wind speed permitting. So, if flying over water scares the life out of you then a drone of this nature could well be your lifeline. For more info, head to our full PowerVision PowerEgg X Wizard Version review.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro has since been bumped out of the DJI lineup by the Mavic 3 (higher up our list), but it's still an outstanding prosumer drone. It's almost impossible to crash given that it has 10 obstacle sensors facing in every direction, and the three-axis gimbal-mounted Hasselblad camera comes fitted with a one-inch CMOS sensor and an adjustable aperture that goes from f/2.8 to f/11. It's capable of shooting in several video resolutions, including 4K at up to 30 frames per second, 2.7K at up to 60fps and 1080p at up to 120fps. It also takes strikingly sharp 20 megapixel RAW stills.
Flight wise, the Mavic 2 Pro is rock solid and confidence-inspiring. With large motors fitted to its four arms, the drone is capable of hitting 44mph in Sports mode and – with the aid of a larger battery – able to remain aloft for up to 31 minutes at a time. Occusync 2.0 transmission, meanwhile, offers crisp 1080p live streaming from up to five miles away.
Like most Mavic models, this one also comes with 8GB of onboard storage along with the obligatory Micro SD card slot. Heading over to the DJI Go 4 app, the Mavic 2 Pro comes with a tranche of intelligent flight modes, plus the addition of a Hyperlapse function that captures stop-frame visuals over a wide area before stitching it all together within the app.
If high-end cinematography or aerial landscape photography are your main priorities when considering a drone, then the Mavic 2 Pro is still well worth considering despite its age.
The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom has the same DNA as its stablemate the Mavic 2 Pro. Both birds are the same size and pretty much the same weight, and they’re both equipped with the same multi-directional obstacle avoidance systems and the very same internals. In fact, the only difference between the two is the camera they’re equipped with.
Where the Pro comes with a Hasselblad camera replete with one-inch sensor for professional, high quality aerial photography, the Zoom forfeits image resolution in favour of a 2x optical zoom with a 35mm format equivalent focal length of 24-48mm. However, when it comes to 4K video, both models boast the same rosy specs (4K at up to 30fps, 2.7K at up to 60fps, 1080p at up to 120fps), so this is the model to buy if you plan to shoot far more video than you do stills.
You might not use the zoom facility much, mind, but it certainly comes into its own when you want to shoot animals without scaring them or getting closer to an interesting subject without straying into private airspace. The zoom function also allows pilots to recreate the sensational DollyZoom effect as used by Hitchcock, Spielberg, et al.
If you’re more likely to shoot aerial video than still images, then this keenly-priced but slightly aged option is still a winner. Head to our DJI Mavic 2 Zoom review for more info.
Now for something a bit different: the DJI FPV is the world’s first fully-fledged, ready-to-fly 4K-quipped FPV racing drone for newbies. Unlike other FPV drones on the market, the DJI FPV is equipped with a wide range of safety measures, including smart Return-to-Home (RTH), low battery warning and forward and downward obstacle sensors that will bring the drone to a halt in an emergency.
Being of FPV origin, this drone comes with a pair of goggles that produce an exceptionally sharp image of what the drone’s front camera sees. The ultra wide 150-degree field of view is another major plus that gives the flyer full confidence when darting in and around tight, tricky spaces. It also ships with a beefy hand controller, or you can stump up for an optional Motion Controller that lets you control the drone using hand motions alone.
The DJI FPV's 1/2.3” CMOS camera is mounted to a two-axis gimbal that keeps images rock steady no matter how shaky the drone may be in flight. Like any camera drone, you can also record video up to 4K resolution and take aerial photographs. However, being of FPV origin, the gimbal’s lack of a horizontal axis means that when the drone banks to the left or right, the image follows suit – a characteristic that’s part and parcel of all FPV flying.
On the plus side, footage filmed using the FPV is arguably even more sensational to watch than that from a normal drone like the Mavic 3. Where the Mavic 3’s footage is generally slow and smooth as if viewing the world below from an air balloon, the DJI FPV’s footage dives and banks at speed like a Peregrine Falcon in full pursuit of its prey.
The DJI FPV is equipped with three main flying modes. Normal is the ideal mode for beginners and boasts a top speed of around 33mph. Sport mode (60mph) is the option to go for once you’ve got a few hours of flying under the belt, and Manual mode (86mph) is like a fully-fledged FPV racer, replete with ultra tight turns and aerobatic flips and spins. A full charge will provide up to 20 minutes of frenetic flying.
Be aware that you will likely crash this drone from time to time and any repairs undertaken by DJI won’t be cheap. But if you’ve ever tried other FPV systems, you’ll really come to appreciate just how easy this package is to get in the air and fly almost immediately, at least when using the beginner-friendly Normal mode. Head to our DJI FPV review for more info.
Like the Mavic series, the Parrot ANAFI drone collapses for easy transport but it’s not quite as pocketable due to its 244mm length when folded. Still, it comes in a great transport case that’ll easily fit in a small shoulder bag. At just 320 grams, the Anafi is about 110g lighter than the Mavic Air2S. Should it ever fall out of the sky, it is less likely to sustain major damage.
Despite it looking like a dragonfly, the Anafi was apparently inspired by the humble bee. Accordingly, it has its three-axis gimbal and 4K/21 megapixel camera mounted directly in front of the drone. This means the props will never appear in shot when the drone is moving forward at high speed. It also means the camera can be pointed 90-degrees upwards for a unique perspective that few other drones offer.
In flight, the Parrot ANAFI is not as confidence inspiring as the Mavic range – it loses quite a few points straight off by not having any obstacle avoidance. Nevertheless, it’s easy to control and stable in flight, even in a stiffish breeze. It's also so quiet you can hardly hear a thing while it’s hovering just 20 metres above your head. At 33mph, it’s pretty sprightly, too, while its battery lasts an impressive 25 minutes.
Both video and photo quality seem on par with the original now-discontinued Mavic Air and in low light shooting it’s arguably a bit better. It doesn’t offer as high a frame rate as the Mavic Air but the 4K video and 21 megapixel images its 1/2.4-inch Sony CMOS sensor produces are pretty sharp, with excellent detail and contrast.
Overall, the Anafi isn’t up to the benchmark set by DJI, but Parrot's competitive pricing makes this an affordable entry into the wondrous world of aerial cinematography. You'll find more info in our full Parrot ANAFI review.
If you’re looking to get into FPV (First Person View) flying but can’t stretch your budget to the DJI FPV reviewed above, then you might want to give this sterling package a whirl. The ANAFI FPV pack includes the drone itself (reviewed above in case you missed it), a Skycontroller 3 hand controller and a pair of Parrot's Cockpitglasses 3. All three items come packed in a small grey herringbone backpack.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, FPV is a bit similar to normal flying where the images from the drone’s front-mounted camera are streamed live to a mobile phone. However, in this instance, the phone is clipped into the supplied goggles which you wear on your head. This means you cannot see anything other than what the drone’s camera is pointing at. It’s a very strange, disorientating sensation at first but once you get used to it, it’s probably the closest you’ll get to feeling the experience of actually flying – without killing yourself in the process.
The ANAFI FPV offers pretty good value for money, but the jury’s out on the quality of the visuals the camera ports to the screen – they were bit too fuzzy and pixilated in our opinion, and that was using an iPhone 11. FPV flight is an acquired taste and this package makes a very fair fist of it. However, you do need to be aware of the pitfalls lest you spend the extra outlay only to abandon the goggles after your first few flights.
When it comes to producing the very best cinema-quality aerial footage, there isn’t much out there to touch the Inspire 2. In fact, the only reason this drone isn’t higher up our chart is because it is very pricey with a capital P and very large with a capital L. It also weighs a whopping 4.25kg, so you can forget about sticking it in your luggage.
The Inspire 2 is made from carbon fibre and magnesium and its dual battery system, four huge motors and 13-inch propellers will take it to a top speed of 58mph and a flight time of up to 27 minutes. The landing gear is retractable, allowing pilots, or a second camera operator, to shoot a full 360º panorama. It also comes with forward, downward and upward-facing obstacle avoidance sensors for extra confidence when flying in tricky locations. The Inspire 2’s pro-spec CineCore 2.0 image processing system is housed in the nose of the craft which means only the camera’s lens and sensor are attached to the gimbal.
This reduces weight and allows for easy camera swapping. And speaking of cameras, the Inspire 2 comes with a choice of two different models, from the compact Micro 4/3 Zenmuse X5S to the ultra high-end Zenmuse X7, which features a Super 35 Sensor capable of shooting in 5.2K Apple ProRes. Needless to say, the imagery this stunning cinematic system produces is of the very highest order. But, phew, it sure is costly.
Buying a drone: what you need to know
In order to figure out which is the best drone for you, it really helps to understand a bit about how different types of drones work. In a nutshell, drones rely on rotors for propulsion and control. The faster these rotors spin, the greater the upward lift. The movement of a drone can be changed by altering the speed of one or more of its rotors.
These rotors are powered by motors which can be 'brushed' or 'brushless'. The difference? Brushed motors use a mechanical process (a 'commutator') to move the magnetic field that turns the rotors. Brushless motors, which are usually found on more expensive drones, are generally preferable, and rely more on electronics, rather than additional physical parts such as the brushes in the commutators, to generate power. This means they generate less friction (and bear in mind that friction slows the motor down), produce less heat and provide better all-round performance.
Another important factor to take into consideration is skill level. Beginners should look for more rugged models, as well as features such as rotor protectors and one-touch recall controls. But don’t make the mistake of assuming smaller, lighter drones are better for beginners – these drones are often designed for those keen to perform complex aerial maneuvers, and might well be trickier to control.
Finally, remember to look for drones with the features you’re specifically keen on, and no more. Opting for a drone which boasts features you don’t need and won’t use, will mean you’ll spend more on a drone which will weigh more and won’t perform in the way you want it to.
Want to know more, a lot more? Check out our separate guide to how to buy a drone.
Drone regulations: what you need to know
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has some new regulations regarding drone ownership and flying. In a nutshell, all owners of drones fitted with a camera (even those under 250g like the DJI Mini and Autel Evo Nano) are, by law, required to register online as a drone operator. Registration costs £9 and must be renewed annually. Pilots of camera drones weighing 250g or more will also need to sit a new 40-question online education test (pass mark is 30).
For even better flying opportunities, we would suggest going for an A2 Certificate of Competence, which allows all pilots to fly in areas used for recreational, industrial, residential or commercial purposes.
Read the full guidelines, and register as a drone operator, at register-drones.caa.co.uk.
So you don't get yourself into a pickle in a public place, there are also some basic rules you need to follow:
- Don't fly near airports or airfields
- Remember to stay below 400ft (120m)
- Observe your drone at all times – stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property
- Never fly near aircraft
- Enjoy responsibly
We'd like to think that nobody needs to be told any of the above. And in truth, anyone who does fly a drone near aircraft probably deserves to go to prison. Sure, we don't know that a drone can bring down a 747, but we are very sure that we also don't want to test the theory. Ever.
If you're in doubt about drone regulations and are confused about where you can and can't fly your drone, head to the Civil Aviation Authority website and gen up on the current drone regulations. You can also check out Drone Code UK, which has a handy downloadable PDF with essential information regarding drone flying rules.
Now, with those stern words out of the way, you can head back to our expert guide to the best camera drones available right now, listed in order of excellence. Or simply peruse this handy list of the cheapest prices on those drones.
- Visit our complete guide to How to buy a drone