The DJI Mavic Pro Platinum price ($1,1149) option is the best small drone you can buy. Its folding form factor stows easily in a camera or messenger bag, and it has a dedicated remote that’s also quite compact. Its flight performance is top-notch, with 4K video to match, and built-in safety features automated return-to-home and forward obstacle avoidance. It’s a fantastic choice for most aerial videographers and YouTubers, as well as our Editors’ Choice, although DJI has some options to cater to the higher end, including the Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2.
Editors’ Note: The price of the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum increased from $1,099 to $1,149 on September 4, 2019. DJI states that the increase in price is related to tariffs levied by the United States.
Dji Mavic Pro Platinum Price
The Mavic Pro Platinum ($999.00 at Amazon) is the second iteration of the Mavic drone. DJI didn’t make any changes to the basic design—aside from a lighter, silver finish, you can’t tell it apart from the Mavic Pro (which is a darker gray) by sight. When folded the drone measures 3.3 by 3.3 by 7.8 inches; it weighs about 1.6 pounds. It fits into the same pocket of my camera bag where I normally stow a small telezoom lens, like the Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS.
DJI Inspire 1
That’s a big difference from the Phantom 4 Pro, which really requires its own backpack, like the Think Tank Airport Helipak, to transport. A drone shot can add some serious production value to your vlog or independent film project. Having one that you can throw in a backpack, get up in the air in minutes, and fly in tight spaces—thanks to its size and forward obstacle avoidance—is a big deal. And the Mavic is just so much easier to travel with than a Phantom.
It’s also easier to set up. The Mavic’s propellers fold (two sets are included), so you don’t need to remove them for storage. The Phantom uses fixed props that are easy to install—they click and lock rather than screw into place—but even so, add a few minutes to the flight prep process.
The Pro Platinum promises two upgrades over its predecessor—longer flight times and quieter operation. Both are the results of refinements in motor and propeller design. It is definitely quieter—you can hear the difference in the clip above. Both drones were recorded from the same position with a Nikon D850 with manually set audio levels and a Rode VideoMic.
And it does fly longer. In our battery tests it averaged about 28 minutes of flight time on a fully charged battery. That’s a little shy of DJI’s 30-minute estimate, but a big improvement over the 23 minutes we got on average with the original Mavic Pro. A few extra minutes in the air can help ease pressure when trying to get that one last shot. It’s still a good idea to carry a spare battery (or two). Extra batteries are $89, and DJI sells the Mavic Pro Platinum Fly More bundle for $1,399. It adds two extra batteries (for a total of three), as well as a carrying case, an additional spare propeller pair, a car charger, and a charging hub. The hub can handle four batteries at once. It doesn’t charge them simultaneously, rather in sequence, topping off the least depleted batteries first.
The drone gathers information data from both GPS and GLONASS satellites. It picks up the location very quickly, and can hover in place thanks to the precision that satellite positioning provides. The Mavic can also fly indoors, without the aid of satellites. It has downward-facing sensors that read the patterns of the ground below to keep it steady during indoor flight. You should avoid flying over mirrored surfaces and give yourself plenty of room.
The Mavic cruised along at a steady 20mph in test flights with obstacle avoidance enabled. It has a Sport mode available that disables the obstacle sensors but pushes the top speed to 40mph. The Phantom 4 Pro gives you a bit more speed in the air, 31mph in its standard mode and 45mph in Sport. The extra speed can add some oomph to your aerial videos, but remember that you can always speed up video using Premiere Pro.
DJI Go App and Remote Control
The Mavic Pro Platinum ships with the same compact remote control as its predecessor. The remote is about the size of a game controller when folded. It has a monochrome LCD display (which shows connection status, battery life, and the like), and two analog sticks for flight control. Buttons include Power, Return-to-Home, and Pause. Control wheels adjust camera exposure and gimbal tilt, and there’s a small joypad on the face with custom functions assignable via the DJI Go 4 app. The remote also has video record and still photo buttons, located on the top left and right, respectively.
The remote has a bottom clip that unfolds to hold a smartphone. It can fit a big one, like the iPhone 8 Plus, with no problem. A USB cable runs from the side and through the clip to connect your phone to the remote. DJI includes Lightning, micro USB, and USB-C cables, so all modern smartphones are covered. Getting the cable threaded through and locked into position can be a bit tricky, but once it’s in place you won’t have to worry about it. A sliding rail adjusts its position, a necessity to accommodate different phones.
You can fly the Mavic without a smartphone, but you won’t get a first person view from the camera and you won’t have access to adjust a lot of its video and photo features. I recommend you use your phone with the remote; the safety benefits of seeing through the drone’s camera are reason enough.
You’ll need a phone that can run the DJI Go 4 app. I used an iPhone 8 Plus in testing, but any modern Android or iOS handset will do the trick. Android devices need to be running version 4.4 or newer, while iOS needs version 9.0 or newer.
In addition to a live feed from the Mavic’s lens (at 720p quality), the app enables use of automated flight modes, lets you configure the obstacle avoidance system, and set video and image capture settings. Automated flight patterns include Point of Interest, which flies around a point in a perfect circle, Waypoints, which can fly a preset pattern repeatedly, and Follow Me, which follows the position of the remote control.
You also get TapFly, which flies the drone by tapping on the screen of your phone rather than using the flight sticks, and Course Lock and Home Lock, which change the way the way the drone responds to stick commands based on its orientation or position in relation to your current location.
Automated subject tracking is another option. ActiveTrack lets you draw a box around a subject. The drone will track it as it moves, and use its obstacle avoidance system to prevent crashes. Remember to take care when using this one, as the Mavic only has forward sensors to detect obstacles in its path. The remote’s Pause button will stop it in its tracks, just in case it’s going backwards and about to run into a tree.
FAA regulations require you to keep the drone in your line of sight during when flying. The Mavic is capable of going much farther, in the event you’re working with a spotter or flying in a locale with less strict rules. DJI rates its transmission range in terms of miles, so you won’t have to worry about losing the video feed when flying. In the unlikely event that communication is disrupted, the Mavic Pro will automatically return to its take-off point and land itself.
Firmware and No-Fly Enforcement
There’s been a lot of noise over DJI’s firmware updates and No-Fly Zone enforcement since we last evaluated one of its products. Let’s talk firmware first.
DJI pushes out firmware updates with regularity. And because you use an internet-connected phone to run the DJI Go 4 app, it knows if there’s new firmware available. Typically you can bypass the update in the field and go flying, but some past updates have prevented flight.
But keeping up to date with firmware is a good thing. Bug fixes are implemented, new features are added—typical firmware stuff. Frequent fliers will be able to stay on top of updates in a timely fashion, but what if you only use the drone a few times a year?
If you fall into that group, you’re probably going to have to update before most flights. Schedule an hour to do so the night before flights. It’s better than getting into the field to find the Mavic Pro isn’t ready to fly. For example, I updated firmware before my test flights in late December. In the few weeks that passed before I had time to write this review, another firmware update rolled out the second week of January.
No-fly zones are another bone of contention. DJI has taken a more hands-on approach to limiting flight in order to force its customers to comply with FAA regulations. The drone won’t take off in some areas at all—DJI refers to these as Restricted Zones. These include all of Washington, DC and the immediate area around major and minor airports. If you do have authorization to use the drone in these normally verboten airspaces, you’ll need to contact DJI via email to arrange a flight.
Then there are Authorization Zones. You can unlock these via the app, assuming that you have verified your DJI account. Some of these change based on events—I’m seeing one in Manhattan for VIP Movement at press time—but others are static. DJI gives a model aircraft flying club as an example of a typical Authorization Zone; these are often situated near small airfields.
Finally there are Enhanced Warning Zones, which you can unlock without a verified account, and Warning Zones, which blanket the United States, but don’t prevent you from taking off. The DJI Go app warns me that there are unpaved airstrips near my parents rural Pennsylvania farm, my preferred testing area for first flights, which is news to me.
DJI has an interactive map that breaks down all of these areas. It’s worth a look before you buy the Mavic Pro Platinum. You don’t want to jump into drone ownership only to find that your home area is riddled with flight restrictions.
Preventing drone owners from flying where they shouldn’t is a divisive issue. Those who fall on the more libertarian side of things philosophically will see it as an overstepping of government bounds—DJI is a private entity, but the flight restrictions are based on data from the FAA.
The other side of the argument is that the app can keep you from getting into some serious trouble. Ignorance is not a defense if you’re caught flying in an area where you shouldn’t be, whether it be over a wildfire or a military base. An aerial video or photo is not worth jail time.
Video and Image Quality
The imaging capabilities of the Mavic Pro Platinum haven’t been upgraded. It uses the same nose-mounted camera, stabilized using a 3-axis gimbal. It covers a field of view about the same as a 25mm lens on a full-frame camera—a wide angle, but not an ultra-wide one—and can record 60Mbps 4K video as well as JPG and Raw (DNG) still images.
Video quality is excellent, with crisp details and a number of looks, including a flat color profile, available. The gimbal does a fine job keeping footage smooth and steady. Image quality is on par with a point-and-shoot camera (the image sensor is a 12MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS design).
It’s very good, and quite printable, in bright light. If you’re concerned about shooting at a high ISO, the 1-inch sensor used by the Phantom 4 Pro and Advanced will do a better job, and give you more resolution at 20MP.
In addition to shooting in landscape orientation, the Mavic Pro Platinum can rotate its lens and shoot in portrait mode. This is more useful for stills than for video. It’s not a feature I used that often—I tend to prefer wide landscape shots in the wider landscape orientation, and when shooting straight down it’s not required. But it’s nice to have.
Video options include UHD 4K at 24 or 30fps, DCI (the wider cinema 4K format) at 24fps, 1080p at standard frame rates up to 60fps and at 96fps for slow-motion playback, and 720p at up to 180fps. The Mavic doesn’t record sound, so we added some music to our test reel.
The Mavic camera supports focus adjustments, which isn’t the case with every drone camera—many are fixed focus, so you never have to worry about setting a focus point. If your footage isn’t looking clear, tap on a distant subject on the screen to reacquire focus.
The DJI Mavic Pro Platinum is the best small drone on the market. Its folding design makes it a go-anywhere option, easily when stowed into a gear bag. It’s a bit quieter and flies longer than the original Mavic Pro, but also costs more. Don’t rule out the first version, especially if you’re on a budget and don’t mind a few minutes less flight time.
Video and image quality are solid, as good as other DJI models with similar image sensor designs—this includes the Phantom 3 line and the first version of the Phantom 4. If you need something beyond that, the Phantom 4 Pro and Advanced models offer a 1-inch image sensor camera, like you find in high-end compact cameras, and you can configure the pro-grade Inspire 2 with an SLR-sized APS-C camera, the Zenmuse X7.
If you’re after a compact quadcopter for vlogging, video production, and photography, the Mavic Pro Platinum is what you want, but it’s expensive. DJI does sell another small model, the Spark, which is now available for less than its $500 MSRP. The Spark is OK for casual use, but its flight time is very short and video is just 1080p. It packs a lot of tech into a small frame, but it’s more of a toy than a real creative tool. So while the Mavic Pro Platinum is pricey, it’s the best of the bunch, and our Editors’ Choice.
- Compact, folding design.
- Small remote control.
- Forward obstacle avoidance.
- Automated flight options.
- Crisp 4K video.
- 12MP Raw and JPG stills.
- Up to 28 minutes of flight per charge.
- Frequent firmware updates.
- Requires a smartphone for full experience.
Types of Drones
At the lower end of the drone spectrum are toy drones, like the Parrot Mambo and the Hobbico Dromidia Kodo. These simple and inexpensive drones come in at about $100 and are more focused on fun than features. Their controls are straightforward and easy to learn, and they can be accessed through a smartphone app or included remote control.
The flight times of beginner drones and drones for kids are also more limited – generally less than 10 minutes, or even fewer than five for the very cheap models. Designed to perform some tricks, like midair flips, spare parts are available at fairly low prices if anything goes awry. Some small drones also come with video cameras, though the quality captured tends to be poor. But don’t count them out too soon – getting a cheap drone is a fantastic way to learn to fly before upgrading to a more expensive model. They also won’t cost a fortune to fix or replace in the event of a crash.
Drones with cameras – like the DJI Mavic Mini, the Parrot Bebop 2, and the GDU Byrd – are specifically designed to capture images, and range in price from $500 to $1,500. Built to provide a steady platform for the lens, which can either be an add-on or built-in, these sophisticated flying machines are more focused on recording high-quality video and still images than performing midair tricks. Because the equipment needed makes them larger and heavier, video drones need to be registered with the FAA.
Video drones often come with gimbals, which is a system designed to pan and tilt the camera – and cushion it from the motors’ vibrations – to cancel out the drone’s motion and keep the lens steady. Gimbals can either come as an electronic system built into the camera, as seen in the Parrot Bebop 2, or as a physical system made of motors and gears, like in the Mavic Air. Either way, the gimbals allow users to direct the camera at whatever angle they like, to capture beautiful pans like those seen in nature documentaries.
Bigger drones need bigger batteries, which often translates to longer flight times. A fully charged battery typically lasts a video drone around 20 minutes, and they can usually be swapped for spares to extend the session. Like toy drones, video drones are also built to be repaired, and replacement parts are generally easily available. Parts are relatively inexpensive as well, with Mavic Air’s replacement rotor blades running about $20. The quality of video these drones capture can vary widely, from the Bebop 2’s decent but sometimes choppy HD video to the Mavic Air’s super-smooth panning shots. While the videos produced by cheaper models like the Bebop 2 will be good enough for most use cases, it’s worth investing in the more sophisticated DJI drones when quality’s the main focus.
From photographing special occasions to surveying construction sites, drones are being used for an ever-expanding range of purposes. In fact, dedicated drone film festivals have popped up in major cities like New York and Berlin to showcase the creative new ways amateur moviemakers are utilizing their flying machines. Not only that, but the more innovative drones – like the Mavic Air – have built-in autonomous flight tech to make journeys on their own. They can even use cameras to detect and avoid obstacles in the way of their flight path. These more advanced drones allow users to play with their device’s autonomy by letting them navigate a predefined course on their own via GPS. Autonomous flight does, however, come with some restrictions – these drones must be registered with the FAA and have to be kept in the pilot’s line of sight at all times. The pilot must also be able to take back control of the drone at any point.
With the rise of drones came the rise of drone-based competitions – and drone racing might just be the most exciting of all. Racing drones are on the smaller side and designed specifically to offer pilots speed and agility. Users see through their drone’s lens via first-person-view headsets, navigating around a course and trying to beat other fliers. Most racing drones are adapted by hand to shed unnecessary weight or increase motor power. Cheaper models, like the Aerix Black Talon 2.0, start at about $115. Ready-to-fly drones on the higher end of the spectrum, such as the Uvify Draco, can run up to $700.
Drones can be an incredibly fun and fruitful new hobby, but they must be flown responsibly. Even a small toy drone can hurt someone if hit by it, and fingers can get injured if caught in the rotor blades. To fight this, some drones have built-in shields to protect the rotors, but even these aren’t foolproof. It’s best to fly any kind of drone, big or small, with proper care and caution. Here’s five quick tips for drone safety:
- Know the drone. Before the first flight, take the time to read through the instruction manual and get familiar with the controls.
- Check the drone before flight, looking for any damage to the motors or rotors that could fail in the air.
- Never fly near people or animals.
- Fly with caution, particularly when first using a drone or taking a new one for a spin. Always be sure to land before the drone’s battery runs outs.
- Fly with care. Drones can be noisy, annoying and even scary to those near their flight path. If someone asks to stop flying, be reasonable and courteous.
To learn more about drone safety, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is a fantastic resource on all things drone. The AMA can help connect drone enthusiasts with others in the area to share both beginner’s flying techniques, and more advanced tips and tricks. Remote-control flying clubs often meet regularly to discuss and fly drones together. But remember that with great power comes great responsibility. Make sure to update all software and firmware before any takeoff, and read the drone’s manual thoroughly before use. For FAA registration requirements and further information on drone safety, check the FAA website. Additional local jurisdiction requirements may apply, so it’s important to stay informed on the latest drone regulations for the area.
Drones & The Law
Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced registration requirements for anyone flying a drone weighing over 250g recreationally. Most drones that fall under the toy category will not have to be registered, while those built for video, racing and autonomous flight likely do. Drone registration can be done via the FAA website – and separate, more stringent requirements are applied to professional drone fliers.
Once registered, the registration number must be displayed on the drone. This can be as simple as a sticker or shipping label placed under the battery, along with the owner’s name and number in case of theft or loss. The FAA also defines restrictions on where drones can be flown. They can’t be flown higher than 400 feet, in restricted airspaces, or over emergency areas, like traffic accidents or wildfires. They’re also banned from flying through national parks and cannot be flown within 5 miles of an airport without informing the air traffic controllers. Federal, state, and local regulations can vary, so check with the organizations directly if unsure.
Drone Accessories & Add-ons
Additional hardware can be added to drones that have ample lift from their propellers and motors. Lift specs can be found via the drone manufacturer’s website. In general, drones built to support external cameras are usually equipped to carry an additional half pound or more of weight above that of the drone on its own. Added weight increases stress on the motors and can affect flight time and stability.
The most popular and useful drone accessory is undoubtedly the spare battery. Drone batteries can provide between 5 and 25 minutes of power in the air per charge but can take an hour or longer to recharge. Fortunately, most drone batteries can simply be replaced with a freshly charged one when the power levels get low. To get the most airtime out of each flying session, users should invest in several spares.
The next most useful accessories for drones are spare propellers and parts. Because occasional mishaps and less-than-perfect landings are an inevitable part of flying drones, they were designed to survive crashes. The exterior components are made from sturdy materials – such as polypropylene foam and carbon fiber – that protect the more sensitive parts, like the CPUs, motors and transmitters. The parts that break the most easily, like the propellers, are the cheapest and easiest to repair or replace. New drones often have extra propellers included, and additional spares are usually available for purchase separately as well. Remember that drones need different propellers to spin clockwise and counterclockwise for stability, so it’s wise to get both kinds of spare propellers.
Depending on use cases, other drone add-ons that may be of interest include LED bands, propeller guards and extra landing gear. For photography drones in particular, various lens filters can be added to alter saturation levels, reduce glare, and more. Getting a quality bag or case specifically designed to carry a drone is an important investment as well. Drone bundles can often be found with a number of accessories. Drone cases should have a foam interior built to fit the device and its accessories and protect them from damage during transit.
Here are some featured Drone products.
GPS Assisted Flight
2K FHD 90°Adjustable Camera
249g Ultralight + 30-min Max. Flight Time
4 km HD Video Transmission
250g can be easily put into your pocket.
4K 30P and 1080P 60P HD Video
Waypoint function choice the best flight-route.
Built-in 1080P HD camera
Things to Consider When Buying a Drone
There is a multitude of options on the market now, with each model excelling in something else. Hence, before you go ahead and buy your drone, decide what are the most important things to consider when buying one.
Drone to Learn Flying
When you just wanna try and see if it’s something for you, learn how to fly a drone and have some fun, it may be better to go for a cheap UAS. You can get one for as little as $30 and it will have all the functions you’ll need. It may lack in video quality, or it can get heavy, but you will be able to play with it without worrying as much about crashing. It’s a good idea to start with this and learn the ropes.
Here’s a list of best drones for under 200 dollars in 2020.
Drone for Hiking
You can capture some of the best videos of yourself and your friends, as well as the landscapes, when you go hiking with a quadcopter. The most important things to consider when you buy a drone for hiking are weight, flight time, camera resolution and camera stabilization. It’s also important to make sure it will fit into your drone backpack (yeah, that’s actually a thing now).
With this in mind, we created a list of the best drones for hiking in 2020.
Drone for Selfies
It’s no longer uncommon to see someone swapping a selfie stick for a selfie drone. From pocket drones that can take photos of you and your friends to machines that will follow your movement and react to voice commands/ hand gestures, there’s a whole genre of devices built to accommodate the need for us to capture each moment from another perspective.https://6a7216e4485e9de66bead7c4465a0d81.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
We created a list of best selfie drones in 2020, and there’s even one that doubles as your phone cover so it’s always with you.
Depending on how you want to use your drone, its weight is probably the most important factor to take into consideration. If you want to take it with you everywhere, heavy UAS will soon prove to be a burden. Lightweight, however, often lack the extra features and have shorter flight times. Hence it’s a trade off you’ll need to consider first.
Important! Many countries regulate the licensing and use of UAV based on their weight. Do consider your contry’s regulations before buying a drone. Many places around the world do not require licensing or registration to use drones under 250 grams.
Flight Time/ Batteries
How long you can fly your drone on each battery will determine how far you can go with it. When the first personal drones come out you had a minute or so to play with. Now there are drones that can fly for 30 minutes non-stop and then you can just swap a spare battery to continue.
Flight time of each battery charge is one of the most important things to check before making a purchase decision. Also, do not forget to see if the batteries can be easily replaced or even if the drone comes with spare ones.
Flight/ Control Range
How far you can fly without losing control can make a huge difference in the footage and fun you can get from your drone.
There are 3 main methods of communicating with your drone, which impact it’s control range:
You’ll need a controller to send and receive the radio waves to and from your drone. Depending on the size of the antenna, the range can extend up to 5 miles.
The maximum control range using Wi-Fi signals is about 650 yards (600 meters). It’s often much shorter so you’ll have to see the specs of each drone you consider. The good thing is that with some models you may not need a separate controller to fly your UAS.
It’s also possible, with some models, to define a flight path that your drone will then follow using Global Positioning System (GPS).
With the things mentioned above in mind, there is a trade off between flight range and total weight of the equipment you have to carry with you. On one hand, it would be best if we could use your smartphone to fly the drone, so that you don’t have to carry an additional controller, but on the other hand the range would suffer without it.
If you just want the drone for selfies, then lack of controller would be fantastic, but if you want to go far into the sea to capture whales, then you want to be in control at all times and from afar. Consider this before you choose your quadcopter.
Most people use drones for videos, so you should check if your new drone would capture the world in low resolution, Standard Definition (SD), 720P High Definition (HD), 1080P Full HD (FHD), or 4K. Each one is at least twice better than the one before and something to consider.
It’s also very important to check if the footage is recorded to an SD card in the drone, or sent to your smartphone before getting recorded there. If it’s not built-in, whenever you lose connection, you lose that part of the recording. Whereas, with the on-board SD card you’ll have the full footage at your disposal after retrieving your drone, even if it lost the connection with the controller.
Your drone, if it has any camera stabilization at all which you should check, will either stabilize the recording with software or mechanically.
The best for the job is a 3-axis gimbal. Thanks to which, your videos will be filmed with a steady, cinematic motion that compensates for the shakes and wind movements.
Alternatively, some models compensate for the shaky conditions with built-in software. Not as good as a gimbal but much better than nothing at all.
First Person View (FPV)
Check if it’s possible to see through First Person View directly from your drone while flying. While you can control the AUV by looking at it directly, it would be better to sometimes see for yourself if everything you want to record stays within the frame.
The importance of your drone’s speed becomes crucial when you need to fly in a strong wind. It may not be able to return back to you if you’re standing upwind, and there are places where it would not be possible to retrieve your drone by walking up to it (imagine shooting at sea).
If you just want to use your drone for fun, then speed is important as it’s just more exciting to fly it faster.