Not too long ago, unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) were commonly thought of as high-tech military machines designed for warfare, or else we imagined the futuristic notion of commercial drones dropping our packages on our doorstep from the sky.
Since that time, drones have quickly evolved and have become more affordable and easier to operate enabling the average person to take photos from the sky.
Some of the top retail drone manufacturers include DJI, Parrot, Yuneec, Holy Stone, Skydio, and EXO Drones. The retail consumer drone market is booming and there are now drones available for every experience level and price point.
When it comes to top drone manufacturers, names like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Ehang may come to mind as leaders in the development of military and passenger grade flying vehicles with price tags north of $250,000.
There is no doubt drones have revolutionized virtually every industry in the commercial market, but for the sake of this article, we will focus on some of the brands that cater to the needs of the everyday consumer.
With the availability of more user-friendly and affordable camera drones hitting the market, the UAV industry has been growing at an exponential rate over the past several years with both small businesses and drone enthusiasts alike scooping up the latest technology.
The pandemic has also propelled the drone industry as the use of consumer drones by the average household has exploded with more recreational and hobby pilots taking to the sky. Let’s face it, owning a techy gadget such as a flying camera that can take jaw-dropping photos and videos from the air is pretty appealing.
According to the FAA, as of January 2022, there are currently 861,036 consumer drones registered in the United States, and the global UAV market is estimated to reach $58.5 billion by 2026.
Why Drone Brand Matters
When choosing a drone for small business or recreational use, one of the most important factors to consider is the trustworthiness and reliability of the company.
Whether you are in the market for a small toy drone or a more advanced machine with all the bells and whistles, there are so many brands available today that the options can be overwhelming.
Not every drone brand is the same and unfortunately, there is a lot of generic and cheap junk drones on the market today which ends up being a disappointment when they fly away or break after a few uses.
A drone is an investment, and it is best to learn from the pros and choose a brand-name quad that has been tried and tested and earned its wings with consumers. Whether you’re a newbie shopping for your first drone to take amazing aerial photos of the family reunion, or an advanced pilot looking to upgrade your existing vehicle it’s important to choose the right drone for the job before takeoff.
We’ve hand-selected some of the most popular consumer drone manufacturers that will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of producing quality equipment coupled with a great reputation.
But before you take to the sky with your new gadget it is worth mentioning that you should first learn the drone laws in your country or state and read the FAA rules for operating drones in your area. In the USA all recreational drone operators must first pass the TRUST test before they take to the sky (don’t worry it’s super easy). Some drones also need to be registered with the FAA depending on weight so keep this in mind when comparing your options.
DJI, a Chinese technology company, has become the number one drone brand in the world, and has clearly soared above the competition when it comes to the design and manufacture of today’s consumer drones for aerial photography and videography.
DJI produces a wide array of high-quality machines packed with features for every range of customers in the drone market. From large, specialized UAVs for industrial use, to smaller drones that cater to the needs of the average consumer, DJI has it all.
Besides drones, DJI also designs and manufacturers camera gimbals, action cameras, flight systems, and other quality products.
Aside from their higher-end commercial drones such as the Inspire and Matrice, DJI has a slew of consumer-level camera drones available including:
- The DJI Phantom Series
- The DJI Mavic Series
- The DJI Air Series
- DJI Mini Series
- DJI FPV
DJI has such a massive presence in the drone world we could talk about them all day, but for the sake of time we’ll have to save that for another article. In the meantime, check out DJI’s newest flagship Drone in the Mavic Series, the Mavic 3.
The Mavic 3 is an impressive mid-level drone, and one of the most powerful compact folding quads DJI has ever made. With professional-grade camera features, the Mavic 3 is capable of shooting 5.1K video up to 50FPS and houses dual 20MP cameras which provide superior RAW image quality over other quads in its class.
As if that is not enough, the six fisheye sensors and two wide-angle sensors provide 360-degree obstacle avoidance. The Mavic 3 is one of the best drones on the market for capturing high-quality photos and videos.
The most popular budget drone released by DJI is the Mavic Mini 2 which has been a hit among drone pilots of all experience levels, from beginner flyers who are ready for their first ‘real’ drone, to professional photographers who consider the Mini 2 an invaluable tool when it comes to technology and portability.
Autel Robotics has been developing unmanned aerial technologies for both commercial and recreational pilots since 2014. Early on, Autel Robotics released X-Star, its first-generation UAV designed for shoppers of Best Buy. Since that time the company has grown to build a solid reputation in the consumer drone market of today.
Although they have launched a limited number of quads thus far, every product released by Autel Robotics is packed with impressive features which has earned them a spot on the radar as one of the favorite manufacturers among drone pilots.
The Evo Nano is a well-engineered foldable drone weighing less than 250grams that rivals the Mavic Mini 2 when it comes to contenders for most powerful compact drones on the market.
The Nano plus features a 50MP camera with 4K/30FPS HDR capabilities along with 3-way obstacle avoidance and a 28-minute battery life and is truly a breeze for even a beginner pilot to operate.
Comparably, the higher-end EVO II drone, which was launched in 2021, boasts a 6K/30FPS HDR video and 40 minutes of battery life along with 8GB of built-in storage. It’s easy to see why Autel Robotics has found its place as one of the top picks of consumers in today’s market.
Parrot is a French technology company based in Paris, France that has focused exclusively on drone manufacturing. Although Parrot has secured contracts to design and develop short-range reconnaissance aircraft for the United States Department of Defense, and to manufacture micro-drones for the French Army, they also have a place in the consumer drone market as well.
Parrot Anafi Base Model camera drone will get you a stellar foldable compact quadcopter with 4K HDR capabilities and 25 minutes of flight time. The latest stir in the drone world though is all about the company’s newly released Anafi AI quadcopter built for the higher-end consumer.
This enterprise-level drone is the first off-the-shelf drone with Verizon 4G LTE connectivity and is built to work. Many impressive features include obstacle avoidance in every flight direction, 48MP imaging, 4K video, and a flight time of up to 32 minutes, all packed in a lightweight folding frame weighing less than 2 pounds.
Yuneec International is a Chinese aircraft manufacturer that has had a hand in the aerospace industry since the beginning. The company originally focused on the development and production of radio-controlled model aircraft which were sold in the US under brands such as Horizon Hobby.
The company is also known for its design of the first successful electric-powered paraglider, the Epac. Yuneec made its pivot into the drone industry in 2014 with the launch of Breeze, a small drone capable of capturing 4K photos and videos before announcing its partnership with Best Buy with the release of the Typhoon drone series and Typhoon Wizard Radio Controller.
If you’re all about big drones, the Typhoon H + hexacopter is sure to please. This drone is a photographer and videographer’s dream as it comes equipped with a 1” 4K camera and PX4 based flight controller packed with intelligent flight modes.
Holystone is one of the most popular household names when it comes to entry-level quads on the market, and for good reason. Holystone has opened drone technology to the masses with the manufacture of affordable, easy-to-use beginner drones.
The Holystone HS360 comes equipped with Electronic Image Stabilization and 2-axis Gimbal, and offers 2.5K Ultra HD quality images. The small foldable drone has some decent features including altitude hold, one key start, and up to 46 minutes of flight time.
Holystone drones are perfect for those who want to try their hand at flying without investing a lot of money.
Redwood City, CA
Skydio designs and manufacturers all its products in the USA and became the first US drone company to exceed $1 Billion in value.
The company released its first drone in 2018, the Model R1, and a year later released the Skydio 2 which sold out in a single day. In 2020 the company announced it would design a drone for military use, the X2.
When it comes to the consumer market, Skydio made headlines with its newest drone release, the Skydio 2 Plus.
The Skydio 2 plus camera drone is more compact and portable than its predecessor. Unlike a conventional camera drone, the Skydio 2 Plus is completely automatic with an all-around obstacle avoidance system which makes this quad one of the more durable options available today.
Salt Lake City, UT
EXO Drones is the new kid on the block but already has a reputation for producing a lineup of easy-to-use beginner drones which are sold exclusively in the USA to entry-level consumers. The EXO Cinemaster 2 is the perfect starter drone with GPS capabilities and sophisticated features that are easy to learn and fun to fly.
EXO drones have much of their success attributed their exceptional after sales support system which allows consumers to connect with professional pilots 24/7 to help guide them with any problems related to hardware, software, or just to ask questions about flying drones. EXO drones have proven that service and support is king when it comes to consumer satisfaction.
New York City (HubsanUS)
One of the many reasons Hubsan drones are so competitive is their ability to produce very small lightweight camera drones at an affordable price point. The Zino Mini Pro Drone is a ready-to-fly out of the box quad that comes equipped with advanced features like follow me and other intelligent flight modes.
With 23 minutes of battery time and the ability to shoot 4K/30FPS the Zino Mini Pro Drone is the perfect budget-friendly quad for any adventure.
Sha Tin, Hong Kong
IFLIGHT is quickly becoming a leader in the FPV niche of drones. First person view drones (FPV) have exploded in popularity in recent years and empower pilots to create extreme experiences in freestyle racing, and intense point of view videography.
The IFLIGHT Nazgul is a consumer favorite beginner bind and fly FPV quadcopter that comes with a RaceCam R1 FPV Camera and 5” 3-blade propellers. With a budget price, it’s a great out of the box FPV drone for those FPV enthusiasts who aren’t up to building their own quad.
These are certainly not the only drone manufacturers who make quality consumer end quadcopters, but hopefully, it’s a good starting point to guide you in your drone purchase. Buying a flying camera to take photos from the sky is an exciting adventure but it’s also an investment. Purchasing the right drone for the job from a reputable company can ensure you have the best experience possible both before and after the sale. Happy Flying.