You know travel photography has changed drastically when we say that we won’t go anywhere without our drone (well, anywhere that allows you to bring them in the country anyway…). It is an essential part of our gear and something we love using to give a whole new perspective on a destination.
Finding the right drone for you can be tricky, but that’s why we’re here to help. As we’ve been flying drones for three years and used a couple of different models as well as spent hours online researching, we can give some insights into what to look for and what will be the best travel drone for you.
Best Travel Drones
First things first: DJI are the brand for drones. They are reliable and are miles ahead of any other (even forcing GoPro to drop out the market!).
DJI are used by beginners, enthusiasts and even professionals, offering drones from the tiny DJI Spark to the monster Inspire. They are quite like Canon in the sense that they have models for every level of photography.
We aren’t paid by DJI, we just have never met anyone else who has a drone other than DJI. 😂
The camera sensors and image quality have come a long way in recent years. You can shoot in Raw format, enabling you to shoot professional quality images that you can edit.
We’ve recently enjoyed shooting video with our drone as well and a lot of latest DJI drones are able to shoot 4k video like the one we put together below. We started with a Phantom 3 Advanced which is pretty out of date now and also too bulky for us to carry around with us. The newer models are much lighter, quieter and fly for longer, meaning that they are much more suitable as drones for travellers or hikers.
Our pick: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Cost: approx $1,500 USD
We love the original Mavic Pro and the Mavic 2 was a huge step forward. Getting Hasselblad (one of the best camera makers in the world and usually reserved for those who want to spend $10k+ on a camera) to make the camera and sensor has meant that the Mavic 2 Pro produces the best image quality for a light, non-professional in its class.
The Mavic 2 also has the noise reduction features of the Platinum drones, making it less awkward when there are other people around, looking for where that buzzing noise is.
The reason we chose this over the Mavic 2 Zoom (the sister model) is because of the better image quality (20 million pixels vs 12 million). Whilst the Zoom has a really beautiful cinematic quality, we love using a drone to be able to shoot big, expansive landscapes.
Pros & Cons of DJI Mavic 2 Pro
It is expensive and nearly double the price of the Mavic Air
Not as quiet as the Mavic Air
Best blend of size and quality
Conveniently fits into a camera bag
Good battery life
One of the few drones that can go to f.11 on aperture
DJI Mavic 2 Pro Specs
Size: 214 × 91 ×84 mm (so it is pretty small)
Weight: 907 grams - not the lightest, but still pretty good
Camera: 1” sensor, 20 megapixels, 4k video
Flight time: 31 minutes
The solid all-rounder: DJI Mavic Air
Cost: approx $800 USD
When the Mavic Air came out it was a game changer. The Mavic Pro 1 had been around for a few years and DJI seemed to have been focusing on the very top end with the huge Phantom drones and the beginners market with the Spark.
The Mavic Air is a great all round drone, with a decent pricetag, great size and good image quality. Until the Mavic Pro 2 was released, this was the best compact drone on the market!
The two major factors that are not as good as the Mavic Pro 2 is the significantly lower flight time (21 minutes vs 31 minutes) and the image quality (that Hasselblad camera is a huge jump up). However, you won’t regret getting this drone and the pricetag will be a lot easier to swallow. You will be able to get spare batteries and a lot more and still have change in your pocket compared to the Mavic Pro 2.
Pros & Cons of DJI Mavic Air
Low flight time at 21 minutes
Not quite as good on image quality as the Mavic Pro 2, but better than the Spark
It is tiny and the smallest drone on this blog!
The Mavic Air is less than half the weight of the Mavic Pro 2 at 430g
8gb internal hard drive, taking away the reliance on SD card space
It is significantly cheaper than the Mavic Pro 2
Much quieter than the Mavic Pro 2
Specs for DJI Mavic Air
Size: 168 × 83 × 49 mm (L×W×H) The smallest!
Weight: 430 grams
Camera: 1” sensor, 12 megapixels, 4k video
Flight time: 21 minutes
Best for beginners: DJI Spark
Cost: $400 USD
If you want a drone, but are fearing about the cost of a Mavic and want to dip your toe in the water, go for the DJI Spark. It is significantly cheaper than the other drones on this blog and still produces really good quality photos and video.
It is designed to be very simple to fly, so you won’t have to worry about controls and being overwhelmed by the technical side of flying.
It is also the lightest of all the drones on this blog and is only a bit bigger than your hand, meaning it will take up barely any space in your luggage and is only 300g in weight!
However, you will be compromising on image quality and flight time. As you can only fly for 16 minutes per battery, you’ll be in a real rush to get the photos or video you want.
But if you don’t know how confident you’ll be with a drone, this is a great first choice.
Pros & Cons of DJI Spark
The image quality isn’t as good as the other drones
The battery life is half the Mavic Pro 2 and at 16 minutes you’ll be in a rush to get the shots you want.
It does not shoot 4k video
It’s by far the cheapest drone by DJI
Small making it perfect for carry-on luggage
It’s a third of the weight of the Mavic Pro 2 (300g)
The Spark is quieter than the other drones in this article
Specs for DJI Spark
Size: 143 × 143 × 55 mm (as small as it gets!)
Weight: 300 grams - the lightest
Camera: 1” sensor, 12 megapixels, 1080p video
Flight time: 16 minutes
What to know before you buy
Buy more than one battery
This is key as the batteries don’t last long on a drone (normally 20-30 minutes) and it isn’t recommended to fly drones under 20% battery (meaning you have even less time!).
If you buy multiple batteries you can keep flying without having to find a plug socket.
Get a case
We learned this the hardway, but drones are delicate - especially the gimbal. Make sure you buy a case to stop it getting knocked and religiously put the clamp on the gimbal and any other protection you can. Repairing a drone is costly. If you need a good recommendation for a drone repair shop in the UK let us know.
Make sure you search for a case specific to the drone you buy as all the cases are customised to each model.
Filters will revolutionise your photos
Filters are a must for anyone flying a drone, especially if you plan to shoot or film over water. Not only do filters make the colours pop a bit more, a polariser will reduce the reflection and glare from the water.
We’ve always used PolarPro as they are reliable and good quality. Make sure to search for the ones specific to the drone you buy as each drone has a unique lens.
Check the laws of where you’re going to
There are no universal laws regarding drones and every country (and even state) is different. Some countries require that you cannot fly within 5km of an airport, others require even greater distances. Before you visit anywhere, look into the country’s laws.
15 countries also ban drones entirely. We’ve heard stories about people having their drones taken from them at the airport with the risk of never getting them back. The ones to not bring your drone to are:
Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
You’ll need a pilots license for some drones
You won’t need a license for any of the drones we’ve listed here, but if your drone is over 2kg, you’ll need one to fly it. The majority of drones are under this limit (and it is normally obvious which drones require a commercial license) but check before you buy, Whilst an Inspire may look amazing, you won’t be able to fly it unless you take a pricey exam.
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