Prior to 2019, recreational drone flying was not as trendy and laws were essentially non-existent. Most of the “rules” were self-imposed where common sense and respect for privacy was really the most important thing to remember. As the market blew up and drone sales took off, as always the case, government regulations began to be outlined in conjunction with the FAA in the US and Transport Canada north of the border. Some other governing bodies continue to be very laid back with drone usage and recreational flying, where there’s a little more freedom.
With drones becoming more and more popular over the last few years, 2020 has definitely given hobbyists more time to enjoy their gadgets and gizmos. Personally, I’m a bit of a techie myself and when it comes to drones, I’ve just about tried most of them and can confidently conclude a clear-cut industry leader when it comes to the best of the best.
Hands down – DJI makes the absolute best product on the market. From entry-level all the way up to professional and even agricultural use – they offer the best technology on the market.
Drone-flying is a fairly easy concept to self-teach. However, starting off with a less-expensive model is definitely highly recommended so that if an accident were to occur – it won’t hurt your pockets as much as your ego. One could start off as basic as a quick Amazon “toy” drone to grasp the concept of controls or you could stick to an entry-level brand and grow within the brand so that you’re learning on similar but drastically improved technology as you advance your skills.
DJI offers a few entry level models that don’t break the bank and are great for the beginner.
DJI Mavic Mini/Mini 2
This drone is definitely not as basic in terms of capabilities vs the now discontinued DJI Spark. However, the 249g ultralight body is what makes this the best option for a beginner as its weight enables you to fly without obtaining any sort of government-issued certification/training. The Spark is a cheaper drone with more basic features, however, its weight exceeds the 249g which requires certification in order to fly. The Spark was also discontinued in 2019, but there are plenty used ones out there for sale from flyers upgrading and no longer having any use for it – of course, as always, buyer beware!
The Mavic Mini series is a fantastic little drone. In addition to it’s incredibly light weight design, it also boasts a 30-minute (31-minutes on the Mini 2) max flight time; nearly double the time you get out of the Spark. Both the Mini and Mini 2 feature vision sensor technology + GPS precision hovering with simplified recording and editing features. The Mini has a 4km (2.5mi) HD video transmission with a 3-axis gimbal and a 2.7K camera, whereas the Mini 2 has a much-improved 10km (6.2mi) HD video transmission, also on a 3-axis gimbal, however boasting a 4K camera. When it comes to speed, the Mini tops out at 46.8km/h (29.1mph) while the Mini 2 maxes out at 57.6km/h (35.8mph) – both in sport mode (S-mode) while having a max altitude at 4000m (4km/2.5mi). The Mini and Mini 2 have similar camera specs – with the obvious different being the 2.7K on the Mini vs the 4K on the Mini 2. Otherwise, both have a 12MP max photo resolution – also found in the Spark’s 1080p camera. The downfall with the Mini and Mini 2 however, is the fact that due to its light weight build – sensors are extremely limited. In fact, the Mini series only has downward obstacle sensing from 0.5m to 10m. So if you’re looking to have a drone that will avoid trees, walls, and other obstacles – this isn’t it, it will crash and fall – likely sustaining damages beyond worth repairing. These are just the quick good to know specs on this model, for more in-depth specs, I strongly recommend checking them out on DJI’s website.
Honestly speaking, I feel like if you can master control and flying with the Mini series, you should be good to go when it comes to anything further up the ladder. Especially because at this point, if you’re looking to upgrade, you’ll require certification/licensing which will cover a lot of the legal aspects as well as the entry-level aviation rules, regulations, and terms. Here is more information on FAA and TC guidlines.
DJI Mavic Air 2
The original Mavic Air was replaced by the revolutionary Mavic Air 2 in 2020. I’ve had my eyes on this one as my next toy based on all the amazing features and specs. The Mavic Air 2 not only has a 34-minute max flight time and a 4K/60fps camera, but it also features 8K Hyperlapse technology, 10km (6.2mi) 1080p video transmission, and a 48MP camera for photographs. It tops out at 68.4km/h (42.5mph) in S-mode, has a max altitude of 5000m (5km/3.1mi), and is loaded with forward, backward, and downward obstacle sensing sensors.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The Mavic 2 Pro is where things start to get more advanced and state-of-the art for a more professional flyer vs a recreational flyer. Not to take anything away from the Air 2 – as that is still my favorite model, but the Mavic 2 Pro brings things to another level when it comes to maximizing flight capabilities. Though the camera isn’t as good as the Mavic Air, the drone itself also not only features forward, backward, and downward obstacle sensing technology, but it also has side-to-side and upward obstacle sensing as well! It also soars to 6000m (6km/3.73mi) and tops out at 72km/h (44.7mph) in S-mode – that is FAST! Again, there are a lot more specs with this one that you might want to consider when comparing which drone would be the best suited for your wants and needs.
Bigger, Faster, Stronger
Of course outside of the above consumer drones, DJI also offers the Phantom series which is a larger, less conventional unit that doesn’t offer the convenience of portability similar to the others above. But as with other models, the Phantom does have it’s pros as well. In addition to the consumer series of drones, DJI also has much higher-end models in the Enterprise and Agriculture categories that truly elevate the intelligence of their equipment and services provided on a whole other level.
What about the other guys?
Of course, there are always competitors to products. But… I really don’t think there when it comes to DJIs absolute dominance in the market. I mean, in 2016, GoPro made a valiant attempt to compete. Given their incredible camera technology, it only made sense that they try to enter the market. Except, they crashed and burned – literally. Their GoPro Karma was a neat drone. It was a solid weight, nice large size yet foldable enough to still make it conveniently easy to travel with. The controller’s touch display was specially designed for improved visibility in bright outdoor conditions and was great and easy to use as well. However, GoPro got so deep into the design and money invested into building the Karma, that they simply could not keep up with DJI’s constantly improving products. And then they started falling from the sky – like, for real. Complaints starting flooding discussion boards and forums with people angrily complaining about failed communication resulting in the drones flying away and eventually dropping to their final place of rest. GoPro stopped supporting the units and eventually stopped listening to the complaints. The worst part, on top of losing the drone, people were also losing their very expensive GoPro cameras as the unit did not have a built-in camera. The cameras could potentially survive the crash landing, however, finding them was a whole other adventure.
Other smaller manufacturers do exist, however, if we’re talking competition – there are none that come close to competing with the DJI product. So, if you’re looking to just purchase a drone for fun, then you can definitely explore some of the best non-DJI units. But, if you’re looking for finesse, perfection, and professionalism – DJI is the way to go!