It is never too early to see what we may be dealing with this upcoming holiday season. After all, this has already been an exciting year for us drone pilots out there. We have seen some real advancements in our industry and hobby as far as drone systems go. Let’s see what’s out there for the upcoming holiday season shopping.
When the Holidays arrive, we are presented with some unique challenges. For those of us that have been flying for a while, it is the time of year when we might see some of the best pricing to be had on some of those systems on our wish list and the best time to invest in new gear.
It is also the time of year when many new pilots will get their first chance to experience the joys and pitfalls of drone flight. It is here where new pilots will either have a fun, joyous, uplifting experience or the other side of that coin, a bad, horrible, crashing, off-putting one.
It’s here that making the right choice out of all the available options is going to determine which of the above happens.
The Rumor Mill
Every year, we see new models and slight improvements come out. Sometimes the newest and coolest is a huge step up from its predecessor, and sometimes the differences are minute and hard to justify the replacement.
This year we have been treated to some new model rumors, such as a Mini 3 and an Inspire 3. These are just rumors at this time – but they will likely be real, as they’re based on patent data, and things seem to be leaking away. We’ll see.
There are also rumors that Parrot has a new Anafi consumer model coming soon, most likely this year. That would make sense since it’s been a while and they need to make their presence known again in that consumer marketplace.
Now, this is a complete rumor, with little more than hope backing it, and some talk on those interwebs.
There’s also talk that we will see a new Autel Evo this year. This might happen and does seems likely. They did just release the Nano and the Lite +. Would want to keep that momentum going. Once again though, just a rumor.
The thing is rumors are just that, rumors. I’m still waiting for that rumored Phantom 5 after all, and I will continue waiting. There will never be a Phantom 5, but it’s nice to hope. You hear me DJI, a Phantom 5 pro.?! We want it, and we want it yesterday. So, we’re not going to focus on the rumors, we’re just looking at what’s out there now.
DJI Drone Top Holiday Picks
DJI has been the market leader in the drone world for many years now. They have proven that their systems are safe and solid flying platforms that have a quality that is unequaled in many other systems found out there.
DJI was founded by Frank Wang in 2006, with the release of the Phantom to market in 2013. DJI has since then led the way for drones and their innovation.
With DJI’s latest lineup not disappointing, they have broadened not only our horizons as pilots but there are even better improvements yet to come.
DJI Air 2S
DJI Air 2S has the ability to perceive its environment in four directions: up, down, forward, and backward, allowing it to actively avoid obstacles, even in complex scenarios and at high speeds.
- 1-inch sensor camera
- Video at up to 5.4K quality
- Robust safety features
- Obstacle detection and avoidance
- Automated camera shots
- HDR, Log, and Standard video profiles
- AirSense transponder
- Half-hour flight time
- Doesn’t offer in-camera filtered looks
- 8GB internal storage isn’t much
- Remote doesn’t include EV control wheel
- App-based editing limited to 1080p output
- HDR HLG workflow for pros only
- RAW images don’t transfer to smartphones and tablets automatically
The Air 2S is hands down the best you can get for your dollars. It offers many of the advanced features found in the Mavic systems and has proven to be just a great little flyer.
Out of the entire line currently available from DJI, the Air 2S is the best buy for the cost and features package it offers.
With a premium 1-inch sensor, the ability to shoot in 5.4K, and a number of automated and safety features, it’s proven to be a true competitor to the Mavic 2 systems and has been adopted by many professionals for use.
At less than 249g, it weighs about as much as an apple and fits in the palm of your hand. Compact and convenient, this small drone is your ideal travel companion, transforming how you capture your favorite memories.
- Stabilized 4K camera
- RAW and JPG photo modes
- Automated Quickshots
- Long flight time
- Stronger motors and connection than Mavic Mini
- GPS and other safety features
- No FAA registration required
- Still no color profiles for JPGs and video
- Omits obstacle avoidance and HDR
- Doesn’t include ActiveTrack or Hyperlapse
The Mini 2 is everything the Mini wasn’t and then some. It is the only DJI drone system offered that is under 250grams out of the package, and one of the lowest-priced drones offered by DJI. (The DJI Tello Drone is their lowest cost system and is designed more towards STEM use.)
The Mini 2 has become one of DJI’s bestselling systems due to its low cost and tiny size. The Mini 2 has gotten even better recently through firmware improvements and is a real nice drone for beginners and seasoned pilots alike.
OK! Here we have to just admit it. The Mini 3 is coming, as DJI has proven lately. They are doing much of their marketing through Top Secret leaks. As we have said in the Rumor Mill heading, it’s just a rumor with no official announcement from DJI as of yet.
With that being said, if history has taught us anything, the leaks we’re seeing now will indeed lead to a released product. It is very likely the release will be soon and that these Mini 3’s are already being beta tested by the content producers out there, more leaks to come.
The Mini 2 has proven to be a very capable drone in a price range that opens the door to many new pilots. If the leaked specs we are seeing for the Mini 3 are true – wait for it! – the improvements we look to see in the Mini 3 will make the Mini 2 look like the Mini.
Camera Drone with 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad Camera, 5.1K Video, Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, 46-Min Flight, Apple ProRes 422 HQ, Max 15km Video Transmission.
- Four-Thirds camera with Hasselblad color
- Zoom lens with 7x optical and 28x digital zoom
- 5.1K50 and 4K120 video
- 20MP Raw or JPG stills
- All-around obstacle avoidance
- Long flight times
- Strong safety features
- The base model offers only 8GB of storage
- Falls shy of 46-minute battery estimate
- Some features are not ready at launch
The Mavic 3, what can be said? It is a phenomenal system and the cameras are just amazing. Yes, that’s right – cameras.
The newest flagship offering from DJI is a dual-camera system similar to what we saw with the Mavic 2 Dual but with many improvements over that system.
This is a worthy and true successor to the Mavic 2 line, it really is. It offers an unheard-of 48X zoom camera and four-thirds format sensor with the Hasselblad color science and a complete 360 obstacle avoidance system. The Mavic 3 delivers.
The Mavic 3 comes in three versions, with the Cine version being more designed for the professional filmmaker than anyone else.
The Mavic 3 has had a bit of a rocky beginning. Simply put it was released a bit early with some bugs still in the programming.
DJI has already released firmware updates to address and rectify these issues. With any luck, these updates will correct these issues so the Mavic 3 can wear the flagship crown proudly.
- Ready to fly out of the box
- Includes FPV goggles and remote
- Integrated GPS and obstacle detection sensors
- A smartphone is not required for flight
- Android and iOS app for firmware updates and Find My Drone
- 4K camera with gimbal and electronic stabilization
- Spotter required for legal use in the US
- 87mph top speed raises safety concerns
- Costs more than imaging drones
The DJI FPV is DJI’s first foray into the realm of first-person view quads. It comes as a complete kit with a drone, controller, and goggles.
This system is designed for beginners and the more seasoned pilot and has many built-in safety features such as obstacle avoidance and GPS. It is a great way to introduce yourself to FPV flying. It is appropriately priced for what is included.
It is however not quite a true FPV quad, as most of those systems lack many of the features found in the DJI model.
If you are one of those individuals that is looking for a true FPV experience, then the DJI model may not be your best option, as the DJI FPV is more of a hybrid of GPS drone and FPV drone, without really being either.
Autel Robotics Top Holiday Picks
Autel has stepped into the position lately to be a real threat to the ruling king in drone land. They have been working hard to put out a lineup that can not only rival their competitors but maybe, just, maybe usurp them. Only time will tell. However, with their most recent lineup, they are certainly well on their way.
Like many companies within the drone industry, Autel took a while to find its feet and start to run. With the release of the Evo II, they not only started to run, but they also sprinted.
The EVO II was revolutionary in the sensor it offered and is still the only system available in an 8K version. With their most recent releases in the Nano and Lite models, Autel now has a lineup that can take them the distance and only the sky is the limit for them now.
1x Autel Robotics EVO II V2 Pro 6K Aircraft - 1x Remote Controller - 1x Charger - 1x Micro-USB Cable - 1x USB-C Cable - 2x Intelligent Battery - 6x Propellers (3 Total Pairs) - 1x 32GB MicroSD Card - 1x Charging Hub - 1x Car Charger - 1x Hard Case - 1x Power Cable - Autel Robotics 1 Year Limited Warranty
- 6K video and 20MP RAW imaging
- 1-inch sensor camera
- Multiple color profiles, including Log
- 10-bit HDR at up to 4K quality
- RAW and JPG image support
- Big battery for 30-plus-minute flights
- Obstacle sensors and automated flight paths
- The default video profile is over-sharpened
- Many functions still require a smartphone app
- 10-bit Log video not available at 6K
- iPhone cable not included
The Evo II was a real competitor for DJI’s Air 2S and Mavic line. Autel broke the mold by going with a Hi-visible color choice. Bright Orange!
It offers a full 360 obstacle avoidance system and a 35 to 40-minute flight time. But it is the camera and the ability to record in 6k or 8k (depending on what model you have chosen) that really gave a place to the EVO II.
The price to benefit ratio here equals out fairly well. The 6K version is more than enough for today’s marketplace, with the 8K setting the pace for long life and staying power. Many companies are struggling to get to 6K, let alone 8K.
The Nano/Nano+ is Autel’s answer to the Mini and is a good competitor when compared to the Mini. Offering a 28-minute flight time and weighing in at 249g, it is Autel’s lightest and smallest drone.
It’s offered in a variety of colors including Arctic white, Autel Orange, Blazing Red, and Deep Space Gray. It’s one of the only drone systems to offer such a variety.
It is available in two different versions. The standard version offers a 1/2inch sensor 48mp sensor and the premium version of the Nano+ has a 1/1.28-inch sensor and additional features, putting the Nano+ more as a competitor to the Air 2S. Either choice will provide crisp imagery and a stable flying platform.
Much like the Nano and the Nano +, the Autel Lite comes in a similar two model choice, with one being a bit superior to the other.
The standard version offers the same camera as the Nano+ and its upgraded version sports a full 1-inch sensor and a variable aperture: f/2.8 to f/11, with 5.4K at 30fps.
The Lite+ is a true home run and one of my favorites.
It seems like it would be a good all-around drone for most uses and with the cameras on the Lite+, has a bit of staying power within the industry.
Skydio Drone Top Holiday Picks
Founded in 2014, by a trio of MIT graduates, Skydio has always been focused more on autonomous flying than anything else. Bringing out the R1 2018, although impressive, was out of range for most due to its high cost, bulkiness, and some other issues. It missed the mark, we’ll just say that.
While Skydio had impressed everyone with the autonomy of the craft’s flight abilities, the R1 had no controller, at all. Realizing a redesign was needed, just a short year later, they brought us the Skydio 2 and with it threw the gauntlet down on autonomous flight drones.
Since that time they have even improved on the Skydio 2 with the newest version just being released in the form of the Skydio 2+.
Skydio 2/Skydio 2+
- Portable form factor
- Amazing obstacle avoidance
- Automatic video recording
- Works with Android and iOS
- USB-C charging port
- Disappointing camera
- Short battery life
- Only works in daylight
- Remote and GPS Beacon add to cost
The Skydio 2 is an amazing self-flying craft, but as a manual flyer, well it wasn’t really designed to be flown the way you would other drones out there.
No, the Skydio 2 is really meant to be flown through its Autonomous Flight Modes, and flying it manually just isn’t as impressive as with some of the other models in this article.
Skydio has always, since its inception, had a focus on self-flying aircraft. In that regard, they succeeded. This is a drone system that is able to be a whole film crew all on its own, plus an advanced obstacle avoidance system.
Here again, we will find that there are multiple versions being offered. In the case of the Skydio 2, the different packages come as the Starter Kit, Sports Kit, and Cinema Kit. With these packages the drone stays the same, it is the accessories that change.
- 1 Battery
- USB-C Charger
- Slim Case
- 3 Batteries
- Dual Battery Charger
- Waterproof Case
- 128GB Micro SD Card
- 3 Batteries
- Dual Battery Charger
- Waterproof Case
- 128GB Micro SC Card
- Remote Controller
- Set of ND Filters
Most recently Skydio has released an improved model of the Skydio 2 in the form of the Skydio 2+. The Skydio 2+ now has an increased range and flight time, with additional features such as Keyframe. The 2+ will be phasing out the original 2’s, with the Skydio 2 no longer being available and only the new Skydio 2+ being available from Skydio itself.
Parrot Drone Top Holiday Picks
When it comes to Parrot and their drone systems, they have really focused on the enterprise-level systems lately and seem to have left the consumer market.
However, with the recent release of the Parrot Anafi Ai and it’s 4G LTE connectivity, they have proven they still have what it takes to stay competitive in the market. And if and when they come out with a new consumer model, it is sure to be innovative and impressive.
With its ultra-compact and lightweight carbon frame (320 g), this quadcopter drone unfolds in less than 3 seconds, reaches a speed of 55 km/h in sport mode, and withstands bullets up to 50 km/h.
- Very small
- Charges via USB-C
- 4K video with HDR
- 3x digital zoom lens
- Upward gimbal tilt
- Big battery for 25-minute flights
- No obstacle detection
- Digital zoom cuts into 4K quality
- Requires smartphone
- The construction feels a little flimsy
It’s easy to overlook the Parrot Anafi, but that is unfortunate. The Parrot Anafi is a nice flying system that offers a 21MP sensor that is capable of 4K video with a 2.8x digital zoom.
The Anafi is a no-frills model of drone with no obstacle avoidance system at all. The focus for this craft was on its camera and its flying ability.
With a 25-minute flight time the Anafi has been adopted by many professional pilots in the drone industry as a work drone.
With its current pricing and its proven flight capacities, the Parrot Anafi is a good option for a decently priced system with a quality camera and was one of the very first systems to offer a 180-degree vertical gimbal, which for inspections and the like is just invaluable.
Holystone Drone Top Holiday Picks
Holystone is an interesting company, and one to keep an eye on. They have come a long way since being founded in 2014. They have strived to step away from the toy drone market into a more serious role as a more serious drone manufacturer. But as that goes, they are not quite there yet.
They have achieved a state where their systems are perfect for a beginner who doesn’t have a great budget and still wants to get in the air. That’s something we can all get behind. They have a wide selection to choose from and are sure to have a model you’ll enjoy.
- The app works with Android and iOS phones
- The bundle includes a zippered carrying case
- Comes with two batteries and extra propellers
- Cable-free connection to the smartphone app
- USB-C charging for flight batteries
- Poor image and video quality
- Heavy enough to require FAA registration
- Unreliable battery life estimates during flight
- Wobbles and drifts when hovering in place
- Limited transmission range
- Low construction quality
This drone offers a 4K resolution camera system, GPS-assisted flight, and a 26min flight time. It comes complete with 2 batteries, controller and carrying case.
First Person View Drone Accessories
This Holiday season, if you’re a parent and your child, teenager, young adult, or even Dad has asked about getting into drones, more likely than not they are not referring to the above-listed drone systems. No!
They are more likely wanting to try what’s come to be known as FPV.
This type of flying is different than GPS flying that the drone systems above are capable of. FPV drone systems are faster and nimbler than the above systems and require some additional equipment. In order to be equipped for FPV, you will need a set of goggles, a quality controller, and a drone.
Shown below are some examples of goggles out there for FPV. Shown below is the DJI FPV goggles.
Next is the Fat Shark HDO 2 FPV goggles.
Next is the Emax Transporter 2 FPV goggles.
And last is the iFlight FPV headset.
The reason for the above selections is simple. It shows the vast variety of goggles that are available. Some are a digital system and some are an analog system.
Some are going to hit that budget a lot harder than others. Digital setups cost more than analog setups. With the above four examples running from $100 to $700.
When looking to invest in an FPV system, having and maintaining the link to the craft is of the utmost importance. This connection is made through the controller and with the right controller you will be able to fly worry-free and have a steady signal.
Here, just like with the goggles, you will find a vast variety of options, each with more or less to offer. Listed as shown above in order.
Radiolink AT9S Pro 10/12 Channels 2.4GHz RC Radio Transmitter and Receiver R9DS Remote Controller Long Range for FPV Racing Drone/Quad/Airplane.
FrSky 2.4G Accst Taranis Q X7 16 Channels Transmitter Remote Controller Black Battery.
Radiolink AT10II 12 Channels RC Transmitter and Receiver R12DS 2.4GHz Radio Remote Controller Airplane Voltage Monitor for RC FPV Racing Drone.
FPV Drones Top Picks for this Holiday Season
FPV drones are really making their presence known. They are fast and nimble – I already stated that I know! It’s true though.
They normally operate by an FPV camera that is in a fixed position. Most FPV flyers will add an additional camera such as a GoPro or other Action Camera for footage of their flight. They do this due to the low image quality of most FPV cameras. Most FPV cameras are designed more for the pilot’s view than for video recording purposes.
FPV drones are usually classed by their prop size. A 3” is a 3” because it has 3” props. Same for a 5”. You get the idea.
These drone systems are very durable and versatile, with many being able to be paired with any proper controller and goggles. Stemming from Drone Racing, FPV quads are designed to crash and be easily repaired and flown again.
iFlight Nazgul5 V2
The iFlight Nazgul5 V2 is a 5-inch 6S FPV Racing Drone. It is a Freestyle Quadcopter BNF Built with Tbs Crossfire Nano Rx.
This is a ready-to-go Bind N Fly quad. This means it is ready to be paired with a TBS controller. This quad features a 5mm arm design for more durability, Easy-Swap arms, LED illuminated Logo, – XING-E 2207 motors, and NAZGUL 5140 props. The 5″ version also fits 5.1-inch style propellers,- Popular True-X configuration.
EMAX TH FS FRSKY BNF 2S
The EMAX TH FS FRSKY BNF 2S Free Flying FPV Style Racing outdoor drone, racing quad features a durable aerospace-grade 3k woven carbon fiber body, RunCam Nano 2 FPV camera, more powerful VTX with 25/100/200mw power levels, Smart Audio connected, FRSKY D8 compatible, Efficient Emax 1103 7000Kv brushless motors, Avan Rush 2.5″ props.
GEPRC Crocodile Baby 4
The GEPRC Crocodile Baby 4 HD Micro Long Range 4inch FPV Drone HD Micro Long Range Drone use the latest GEP-20A-F4 AIO flight control system, and combined with DJI HD picture transmission system, has a very stable flight and provides a feeling of “easy control” that inspires confidence, especially among novices.
In the hands of skilled pilots, the Crocodile Baby can give you an extremely awesome experience as well. Extensive testing ensures that the frame and system hold up in any environment. If equipped with a GEPRC Lion VTC6 3000mAh battery, the flight time is more than 28 minutes.
When it comes to getting those bells a jingling and that mistletoe a hanging, it never hurts to start shopping and researching early, because when it comes to picking that perfect drone gift, there is a whole lot to consider.
With the market ever-changing, there may even be something else available by the time we get to the actual Holidays (Mini 3 anyone?). You just never know.
All the above-listed systems are available today and will be for the foreseeable future. Each and every one is a great drone platform and is going to get you up in the air. Which one suits you best? Well, only you can really decide that.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!