The best drone 2024: top flying cameras for all budgets

Whether you’re shooting stills or video, the best drone models make it easy to shoot cinematic aerial images. We’ve flown all of the top drones for countless hours, to test everything from camera quality to flight controls in the real world. Our favorite options are ranked in the list below.

Based on our tests, we think the best drone for most people is the DJI Mini 4 Pro. Weighing less than 250g, it offers an impressive set of features for such a compact model, including a capable camera and omnidirectional obstacle avoidance. It’s also safe and easy for novices to pilot, making it one of the best beginner drones.

It’s not the cheapest option, though. That's why we’ve also tested drones in a range of different price brackets. If you’re looking for a cheap, simple choice to get off the ground, we suggest looking at the Ryze Tello, which we recommend for buyers with a limited budget.

If you’re a professional pilot with more to spend, we think the triple-camera DJI Mavic 3 Pro is one of the most versatile flying machines on the market for aerial photography and video. It even won the best camera device of the year at the TechRadar Choice Awards 2023, ahead of dedicated mirrorless cameras.

Whether you want a budget starter drone or a pro-grade model with top-flight skills, you’ll find your ideal option in our expert guide. We’ve also shared some top buying advice to help you select your perfect drone. If you’re getting airborne for the first time, take a look at our dedicated beginner’s drone guide.

Written by
Tim Coleman
Written by
Timothy Coleman

Tim is TechRadar's Cameras editor, with over 15 years in the photo video industry and most of those in the world of tech journalism. Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with all things camera related. He’s also worked in video production with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi.

The quick list

If you don’t have time to read our full list of the best drones, you can use the round-up below for a quick overview of the the best options for your needs and budget. If you find a drone that takes your fancy, use the links to skip down to our full write-up.

The best drones 2024

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Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best drones in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

Best compact drone overall

DJI Mini 4 Pro in flight at golden hour with ocean and seaside town in the background

(Image credit: DJI)
The best compact drone for most people

Specifications

Weight: 249g
Controller: Yes (two options)
Camera resolution: 48MP
Flight time: 34 minutes
Range: 10km-20km

Reasons to buy

+
Improved video features
+
Omnidirectional Vision Sensing
+
Lightweight but powerful

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a major upgrade
-
Camera has a fixed aperture
Buy it if:

✅ You want the best lightweight drone: With excellent image quality and obstacle avoidance in all directions, this is the most feature-packed sub-250g drone.

✅ You’re serious about video: Support for 4K 100fps slow-mo and the D-Log M color profile offers additional versatility and finer control of video output.

Don't buy it if:

You’re already happy with your Mini 3 Pro: While the Mini 4 Pro has some new features, many users will find that they don’t justify switching from the already capable Mini 3 Pro.
❌ You only fly in the open: Omnidirectional Video Sensing is useful, but only if you operate in complex environments with lots of obstacles.

With a lightweight build and pro-grade features, the DJI Mini 3 Pro was previously our favorite drone. The Mini 4 Pro builds on its qualities to deliver an even better experience, albeit not a radically different one. If you already own a Mini 3 Pro, it probably doesn’t justify an upgrade. But if you’re switching from a different model or buying your first Mini series drone, it’s an excellent choice. 

Its small, folding design is almost identical to the Mini 3 Pro, as is the regulation-friendly 249g takeoff weight. Also the same is the 1/1.3-inch sensor, which still delivers excellent image quality. Thanks to processing updates, we found it even better at handling noise in low light. Serious videographers will also welcome the new D-Log M color profile, which offers greater consistency with the Mavic 3.

Obstacle avoidance is now omnidirectional, meaning the Mini 4 Pro is even safer than its predecessor when it comes to operating indoors or near trees. We also found ActiveTrack 360° highly effective, making it an easy drone for beginners to fly confidently. If you can afford the DJI RC 2 controller option, you’ll have the best backpack-friendly drone bundle.

Best budget drone without obstacle avoidance

The DJI Mini 3 drone on a blue background

(Image credit: DJI)

2. DJI Mini 3

The best budget drone if you don’t need obstacle avoidance

Specifications

Weight: 248g
Controller: Yes (available without)
Camera resolution: 12MP
Flight time: 38 minutes
Range: 6-10km

Reasons to buy

+
Great image quality
+
Small, lightweight build 

Reasons to avoid

-
No collision avoidance
-
No subject tracking 
Buy it if:

✅ You’re a first time buyer: The DJI Mini 3 is a great starting point if you’re new to drones, yet still delivers the same image quality as the Pro version.

✅ You’re want the best cheap drone: If you don’t have a huge amount to spend, the DJI Mini 3 is easily the best in its price bracket, offering a lot of value.

Don't buy it if:

You require collision avoidance: Unlike the Mini 4 Pro, the Mini 3 doesn’t feature the added safety net of obstacle avoidance to keep you clear of trees.

❌ You'll fly in strong wind: The Mini 3 can struggle and drift in windy conditions; you’ll find more stability from the Evo Lite+ or larger drones.

If you're a first time buyer, the Mini 3 is the best budget drone you can buy – it's small, lightweight and much more affordable than the Mini 4 Pro. It lacks the obstacle avoidance that its pricier sibling offers, however if you're confident enough to navigate obstacles without DJI's automated safety feature, then the budget-friendly option delivers identical image quality; 4K video at up to 30fps and excellent JPEG and raw images. Its 12MP sensor also rotate to shoot in portrait – handy for social. What you don't get is log color profiles, and that will limit the Mini 3 appeal to professionals who need the editing flexibility for video files. 

Another notable absence when compared to pro drones is subject tracking. However, DJI's Quickshots feature is present and a treat for beginners, allowing them to plot an automated flight path and potential capture engaging video sequences. This is an easy drone to start your piloting journey, especially if you get it with the optional controller and with the downward vision sensors and GPS that help with precise hovering. You'll get better image quality and increased stability in windy conditions with pro drones like the Mavic 3 Classic, but the Mini 3 is the one for budget buyers.

Best all-round drone for aerial photographers

DJI Air 3 drone on a tree stump with arms and propellors in flight position

(Image credit: Future)
The best all-round drone for aerial photographers

Specifications

Weight: 720g
Controller: Yes
Camera resolution: 12/48MP
Flight time: 46 minutes
Range: 10-20km

Reasons to buy

+
Dual cameras
+
Excellent wind resistance
+
Generous flight times

Reasons to avoid

-
C1 European weight rating
-
Fixed aperture lenses
-
Large protruding camera
Buy it if:

✅ You want to keep your distance: The Air 3 has two lenses, including a 3x telephoto that lets you get close to the action to make videos from a safe working distance.
✅ You need a sturdy drone for windy conditions: The Air 3 is physically larger than the Mini 4 Pro and has better wind resistance for breezy weather.

Don't buy it if:

This is your first drone: The weighty DJI Air 3 sits in the C1 category of drones and that comes with flying restrictions that you don't get with sub-250g drones like the Mini 4 Pro.
❌ You shoot a lot of video: Both of the Air 3’s lenses have fixed apertures, which are particularly restrictive for shooting video with ND filters in variable light.

Clearly sitting between the Mini series and Mavic Pro series of DJI drones is the Air series, and the latest model is the Air 3. Novices will find a sub-250g model like the Mini 3 more manageable than the Air 3, but you can enjoy much better wind resistance with the larger model, plus a generous 46-minute flight time. We also think beginners will get to grips quickly with the Air 3's easy interface and safety features such as obstacle avoidance.

As a drone with 720g take-off weight, the Air 3 is placed in Europe’s C1 category and that comes with flight restrictions, meaning you need to keep a greater distance from people and animals and events to be safe and legal. However, you can still get close to the action thanks to the Air 3's new 3x telephoto lens. It's a significant in road from the capable but single-camera Air 2S from 2021. 

The Air 3's dual cameras are versatile and offer class-leading image quality. Its fixed aperture lenses can prove tricky for shooting video with ND filters in variable light, but the 3x zoom lens makes the Air 3 a much more versatile aerial camera than the Air 2S.

Best premium drone

DJI Mavic 3 Pro drone in flight on a intermittent cloudy day

(Image credit: Future | James Abbott)
The best premium drone

Specifications

Weight: 958g (Mavic 3 Pro Cine, 963g)
Controller: Yes
Camera resolution: 20MP (Hasselblad camera), 48MP (70mm medium tele camera), 12MP (tele camera)
Flight time: 43 minutes
Range: 15km (FCC), 12km (CE)

Reasons to buy

+
Superb Four Thirds camera
+
Triple-camera system
+
Adjustable aperture

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricier than rivals
-
Some missing features at launch
Buy it if:

✅ You need camera versatility: The only triple-camera drone perfectly balances quality and versatility.
✅ You want DJI's best safety features: DJI's most advanced collision avoidance plus advanced return to home ensure accident-free flying.

Don't buy it if:

A single camera will do: The Mavic 3 Pro's main camera  can also be found for less on the Mavic 3 Classic.
❌ You don't need all the bells and whistles: There are highly capable and cheaper drones available, while lighter models come with fewer restrictions.

DJI’s new flagship consumer drone was awarded best camera product of the year in the TechRadar Choice Awards 2023, and with good reason. It's the first consumer drone to feature three cameras, ideal for aerial photography and filmmakers who need the most versatile drone on the market.

The Mavic 3 Pro's main camera is the same one used by the Mavic 3 Classic and its 20MP Four Thirds sensor and offers the best image quality of the three cameras, together with its adjustable aperture, pro-tier video formats and frame rates. That said, if you need the extra reach from the main 24mm focal length of this camera, both 3x and 7x telephoto cameras produce excellent images.

As a pro drone, the Mavic 3 Pro is also incredibly easy to fly even in windy conditions and accessible to all users, thanks to its excellent safety features and intuitive controls, although its in the restrictive C2 European drone category because of how heavy it is. Another sticking point is its price that makes it overkill for beginners. However, it’s a more portable and less expensive option for pros than the Inspire 3, plus it's even more versatile.

The best DJI Air 2S alternative

The Autel Evo Lite+ drone flying outside in front of trees

(Image credit: Future)
A versatile rival to the DJI Air 2S

Specifications

Weight: 835g
Controller: Yes
Camera resolution: 20MP
Flight time: 40 minutes
Range: 12KM