A High-Flying, High-Tech Gift
Rapid advances in GPS and processing technology have made drones smaller, cheaper and easier to fly than ever before. Many quadcopter (four rotor) drones on the market now feature high quality cameras on easy-to-operate platforms so you can be comfortably flying around a park after little more than an hour of practice.
Here are five drones that can get anyone in the air at any price point.
DJI Phantom 4, $1,199
As the drone that brought the machines mainstream, the Phantom has been on the market since 2013 and is now in its fourth version. Easy to fly with one of the most advanced built-in cameras on the market, the Phantom is a high quality, all-in-one tool for the budding aerial photographer. The Phantom offers an impressive 28-minute flight time with a radio range of 3.1 miles and complete control with a live 720p HD view. The advanced app also features a number of automated flight controls to enhance your flying experience.
3DR Solo, $799.95
Powerful and portable, the 3DR Solo's design makes it a great tool for capturing aerial images. The Solo has a maximum flight time of 20 minutes with a range of .6 miles. Operated by a controller that attaches to a mobile device, the Solo runs on an app that offers automated flying maneuvers such as selfie and reveal, panoramic mode and “cable cam” mode, which enables the drone to automatically fly a straight line. The orbit mode allows the user to select a point and have the drone automatically circle and video the image. Unlike other drones, though, the Solo does not come with its own camera, so you’ll need to get your own GoPro.
Parrott Bebop 2, $549
The Parrot Bebop 2 is a fun and compact quadcopter that allows for easy flight and filming both indoors and outdoors. At only 500 grams, the Bebop is relatively small with the propellers removed and can be stuffed into a small bag for transport virtually anywhere. Despite its size and lower price, the Bebop still holds its own with fully functional drone flight and high quality camera capabilities including 14-megapixel images in RAW format and 1080p video recording. The Bebop can be operated smart phone, tablet or by the Parrot Skycontroller 2 and Parrot Cockpitglasses.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0, $249
Sold at many big box retailers, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is one of the best beginner drones on the market. It features a lower price entry point, but still packs plenty of stunt drone operability and a high quality camera. AR.Drone 2.0 is controlled by a smart phone app operating system that, according to experts, makes it one of the easiest drones to fly. The AR is also designed to stand up to the occasional crashes by new pilots. The indoor hull features propeller guards that prevent the drone from crashing when hitting or brushing up against walls.
Hubsan X4 FPV, $100
As the smallest FPV (first person view) drone on the market, the Hubsan X4 offers a fully functional aerial platform that fits in the palm of your hand. The 2-megapixel camera beams a live view back to the LCD on the controller, and it’s also equipped with an SD card slot for recording. It's one of the few quadcopters that can safely be flown in the living room and is a fun way to learn more about drones. The X4 has a 6-axis gyro stabilization and a flight control system. Hubsan makes a number of small drones and also offers parts and accessories ranging from motor replacements to propellers.