Purchasing your first drone for professional or recreational use can be a daunting task. There are so many options at varying price points and it’s hard to know which is the best. Whilst we haven’t covered the plethora of available airframes we’d like to offer some helpful advice on selecting the right UAV for you. We have collated the knowledge of our team of expert pilots who regularly fly a wide variety of drones to create our guide to your first drone.
Were not hiding anything when it comes to DJI Products, they are the market leaders and for professional use reliability comes before anything else. As a result they make the bulk of the list but we’ve covered a few others that we are commonly asked about by our students.
DJI Phantom 3 Professional // $2199 AUD
DJI has been around since drones started to hit the mainstream and have remained the leader in affordable consumer UAV technology. This experience has allowed them to produce the best all-rounder drone, combining easy flight features and up to 4K video capture backed up with good, constantly updated software, all at an affordable price of $2199 AUD.
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional is easy enough for beginners to use out of the box, but powerful enough that pros use the exact same unit for their businesses. It boasts a 3-axis gimbal mounted 4K video, 12 Megapixel photo camera. It employs an easy to use, sophisticated autopilot system, and utilises GLONASS, GPS and a trio of ultrasonic sensors to achieve stable flight both for indoors and outdoors.
We use them for in our training school and for some professional work, reliability is probably the highest of any unit available.
The Best Professional Finish
DJI S900 // $5900 AUD (with Gimbal)
If you’ve already mastered the Phantom 3 and you’re ready for a new and more professional drone, then you’re best bet is the DJI S900. This hexacopter provides customisability and capability to be able to carry out a highly professional job every time. With the ability to mount a wide range of cameras and sensors, you are able to carry out a wide range a jobs with one system! The S900 perfectly combines the customisability loved by professional users with the easy to use plug and play capabilities that make it perfect for users looking to develop high value images for their customers.
As a larger airframe capable of getting over 7 kilos with payload professional pilots should obtain Type training on airframes above 7 kilos before operating.
Value for Money
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced // $1699 AUD
At a lower price of $1699 AUD, The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced has very similar features as the Phantom 3 Professional but it comes with a 1080p video feature against the 4K video camera of the Phantom 3 Professional. This quadcopter drone offers no less than its big brother, with its 3-axis gimbal, 12 Megapixel photo camera, easy to use, reliable autopilot system, and stable flight capability making it the best drone for you if you want value for money.
DJI Inspire // $4999 AUD
Compared to the DJI Phantom 3, the DJI Inspire is the more “professional” quadcopter drone. It is arguably the most sophisticated and advanced all-in-one flying camera you can buy, selling at thrice the price of a Phantom 3 Advanced. Design-wise, Inspire is beefier and more durable than the Phantom, and it comes in two versions: a single and dual controller.
The Inspire sports a swappable payload mount which is unfortunately only compatible with DJI made cameras, however, it does allow for upgrading of the sensor. Currently, there are two sensors available for the inspire. The base camera model boasts 4K video and 12 Megapixel photo camera (which also has the ability to shoot RAW files), producing super sharp still photos and videos. The professional level camera is the Zenmuse X5, is also supports 4K recording as well as 16 Megapixel stills and 12.8 stops of dynamic range. It uses an Intelligent Flight Battery which is good for an 18 to 20-minute flight time, depending on flying conditions. In general, the DJI Inspire offers higher speed, greater power and multi-controller capabilities.
3DR Solo // $1799 AUD
Unlike other drones, the 3DR Solo does not come with a camera or dynamic gimbal. It comes instead with a GoPro frame. That being said, 3DR Solo is the first widely distributed drone that offers complete integration between the GoPro camera controls and the drone itself. Right out of the box, the Solo is pretty straightforward with easy to understand instructions to get you successfully up and flying. The Solo sports a 3-axis stabilisation system and a Solo Smart Battery which is good for a 20 to 25-minute flight time, depending on flying conditions.
We’d like to see more user hours and better availability on this airframe before we get too carried away with its function.
Parrot BeBop // $799 AUD
The Parrot Bebop is the least expensive drone in this list, set at half the price of a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced or a 3DR Solo. If you are a beginner looking for an affordable drone that delivers, then this quadcopter drone is perfect for you. Its camera comes with a fisheye lens, giving you a wide, 180-degree field of and it features 6 optical elements, 14 Megapixels still photos and 1080p video resolution.
When the Parrot Bebop was first introduced, it was marketed as a tool, not a toy. The Bebop succeeds at delivering great video quality and responsive flight at a price point well below the competition. Where it will struggle is in less than ideal conditions.