Top 5 Drones to buy 2022



The best camera drones are far more than the simple toys they used to be. They're now used widely by both amateur and professional photographers because they can reach areas and shoot from angles that regular cameras can't. They allow aerial photography and videography of landscapes, buildings and events that previously required the use of a helicopter, a small plane or a crane.

The best drones have evolved greatly since the first ready-to-fly model went on sale ten years ago and a decade on drones are now everywhere. Every drone on this list  has a camera supported by a powered gimbal, which counteracts the vibration from the propellers. Sensor size is still an issue for photographers, but there are options depending on your needs. In general, the bigger the sensor, the better the low-light performance.

Piloting has also become partly optional; Tesla-like A.I. is making collision avoidance, object tracking, and automatic quick shots a common feature. The Skydio 2, with 45-megapixels of cameras devoted to its artificial brain, promises to be the most intelligent of them all but is still almost impossible to find in the shops. 

Some drones still lack a full set of smart flying features (even if fitted with landing sensors). You need to remember not all drones can see obstacles in every direction – even if they fly in any direction! Nevertheless to make this list drones feature technology allowing them to hover in place, so photographers can view using them as more as like positioning a tripod without legs than going to pilot school.

In 2021, the major excitement has been with the arrival of the DJI FPV Combo  - which brings sports drone photography using goggles to a much wider audience. And then there was the arrival of the DJI Air 2S, which proves to be much more than update. To come, we are also expecting Sony to arrive with its first Airpeak drone, whilst Ring is promising a home security camera that flies around to keep an eye on your possessions.

Oh, and while we’re talking drones, it’s worth accepting that drone rules and regulations have become part of the drone operator’s life, especially commercial users for whom insurance is likely a legal requirement. In USA, Europe and China any aircraft over 250g (8.8oz) is subject to a compulsory registration scheme (and since the start of 2021 in the UK the rules now apply to any flying camera, whatever the weight).

The best drones in 2021


NUMBER 5 - DJI Mini 2


A year after the first edition, the new DJI Mavic Mini is out. Except, instead of calling it the Mavic Mini 2, it’s now shortened to just the Mini 2 – in line with other terminology changes DJI has been making in recent products. As I have been for years, I’m always on the lookout for the right drone to get the perfect shot while out doing riding, running, or even swimming. The Mini series has theoretically been the most appealing from a size standpoint – at a mere 249g, the magic number under 250g to avoid various legal restrictions in a number of countries. However, getting a drone to that weight comes with trade-offs, most notably ditching things like obstacle avoidance sensors.

Anyway, the new Mini upgrades the video resolution from 2.7K to 4K, adds in RAW photo support, a new QuickShot mode that I use for autonomous shots while cycling or running, plus a much better wireless transmission system. And atop that, another dozen or two more minor features I outline down in the next section. I wouldn’t likely say this is a drone that existing Mini users would rush out to upgrade to, rather, it’s designed to further entice non-drone owners into the fold.

As with last year, I’ve been digging into all the nuances of the new unit – testing out what works, and what doesn’t. What’s changed, and whether those changes have been executed well. DJI is typically a company that makes excellent products, but also one where a product tends to have weird feature gaps designed to upsell you on more expensive models. So I’ll dive into where those gaps exist here, helping you figure out what unit may (or may not) make sense.

Before we get into the weeds though, note that I was sent a media loaner unit to poke at. As usual, when I’m done it’ll get boxed up and shipped back to DJI. After that I’ll go out and pick up my own (if I decide it’s worth it or not), more on that later. With that, let’s get started.

About this item

  • 【PACK LIGHT, FLY FREE】: at less than 249 g, 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.
  • 【3-AXIS GIMBAL WITH 4K CAMERA】: a 12mp camera in the sky delivers content guaranteed to impress. along with 4k/30fps video and a 3-axis motorized gimbal, mini 2 ensures stunning image quality that is consistently smooth no matter how adventurous your piloting gets.
  • 【OCUSYNC 2.0 VIDEO TRANSMISSION】: mini 2 supports up to 10km of hd video transmission and has excellent anti-interference capabilities, giving you the ability to fly farther and see clearer.
  • 【POWERFUL PERFORMANCE】: with a max battery life of 31 minutes, dji mini 2 grants more than enough time to compose the perfect shot. mini 2 can resist level 5 winds and take off at a max altitude of 4,000 meters, so your footage is stable even when flying along a windy coastline or high above an alpine forest.
  • 【4X ZOOM】: there’s no need to get so close for your dream shot. 4x digital zoom makes it safer and more convenient when transitioning between shots of varying distance and composition.
  • 【QUICKSHOTS】: with just a few taps, dji mini 2 automatically records and shoots professional-level videos to share directly on social media. whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced flyer, the dji fly app helps you produce impressive results complete with soundtracks and filters.
  • 【COMPATIBILITY】: the dji fly app requires ios v10.0, android v6.0, or above. compatible devices include: iphone 11 pro max, 11 pro, 11, xs max, xs, xr, x, 8 plus, 8, 7 plus, 7, 6s plus, 6s, 6 plus, 6, samsung galaxy s20, s10+, s10, s9+, s9, s8+, s8, s7 edge, s7, s6, note10+, note9, note8, huawei p30 pro, p30, p20, p10, mate 30 pro, nova 5, nova 4, nova 3e, nova 2, honor 8x, 10, 9, 20 pro, magic 2, mi 10, mi 8, mix 2s, mix 2, redmi note 5, oppo find x, r15, vivo nex, x27, x21, x20a, oneplus 7, 6t, 5, pixel 4, 3 xl, 2 xl, 2, lg v20, lg g6, sony xpeial 1.


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4 - DJI Mavic Air 2


Every time I review a new drone, something unexpected seems to happen. Finally, the DJI Mavic Air 2 is an exception to that trend — and it’s not a bad thing.

Hear me out: I was truly shocked by the original Mavic Pro — delighted by how small it really was and surprised to find myself wanting to carry it with me wherever I went. When I flew the Skydio with its obstacle avoidance for the first time, my heart raced as it gets harrowingly close to a tree. When I finished my first Mavic Mini flight, I was impressed by how quickly I could get my footage edited and onto Instagram — without even removing the memory card.

For people who have been flying drones for a while now (for me, it’s more than 7 years at this point) there is pretty much nothing unexpected about the DJI Mavic Air 2. And that’s a good thing.

The Mavic Air 2 promises a robust set of features, especially given the price point. For $799, you’re looking at a brilliant flying camera with a 1/2″ CMOS Quad Bayer sensor mounted on a 3-axis stabilized gimbal that can capture up to 48 MP resolution (well, sort of).

It’s got obstacle avoidance sensors on the front, rear and bottom of the aircraft, which can help it avoid crashing (though I wouldn’t call it fully crashproof).

And most importantly, the Mavic Air 2 provides the seamless experience you’ve come to expect from DJI. From start to finish, the DJI Mavic Air 2 is easy to fly. On-screen text on the app walks you through exactly what you need to do to have a successful flight — even if you didn’t read the instruction manual (but you absolutely should).

Unlike many drones that have connection issues, where you inevitably have to unplug, replug, turn on and turn off your drone to finally get it in the air, DJI’s drones as of late are reliably perfect — and the Mavic Air 2 is no exception.

You can expect the Mavic Air 2 to do exactly what it promises. It takes amazing photos. It’s easy and safe to fly. It operates without any headaches.


About the Mavic Air 2

  • 【UP YOUR GAME】: The Mavic Air 2 camera drone takes power and portability to the next level. It combines a powerful camera with intelligent shooting modes for stunning results. Push your imagination to its limits because aerial photography has never been this easy.
  • 【NEXT-LEVEL CONTENT】: Capture impressive 48MP photos with a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor while the 3-axis gimbal provides 4K/60fps video. The secret to incredible HDR video is a high-performance Quad Bayer image sensor. OcuSync 2.0 has a video transmission distance of up to 6.2mi / 10 km and can also deliver 1080p FHD resolution livestream directly from the drone’s camera.
  • 【IMPROVED FLIGHT】: An impressive flight time of up to 34 minutes allows you to pull off epic, fast-paced shots. Obstacle sensing in three directions makes it extra convenient for beginners and improves safety for your Mavic Air 2.
  • 【INTELLIGENT TRACKING】: Mavic Air 2 features intuitive shooting functions that make aerial photography easier than ever. Spotlight 2.0 keeps the camera locked on a subject while you fly freely. ActiveTrack 3.0 keeps subjects centered. POI 3.0 tracks moving subjects like people and vehicles.
  • 【APP COMPATIBILITY】: The DJI Fly app requires iOS v10.0, Android v6.0, or above. Compatible devices include: iPhone (11 Pro Max, 11 Pro, 11, XS Max, XS, XR, X, 8 Plus, 8, 7 Plus, 7, 6s Plus, 6s, 6 Plus, 6), iPad Pro (9.7’’), iPad Air 2 (9.7’’), iPad mini 4 (8’’), iPad Pro (10.5’’), iPad Pro 2018 11’’, iPad Pro 12.9’’, Samsung Galaxy (S20, S10+, S10, S9+, S9, S8+, S8, S7 edge, S7, S6, Note10+, Note9, Note8), Huawei (P30 Pro, P30, P20, P10, Mate 30 Pro, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 10, nova 5, nova 4, nova 3e, nova 2, Honor 8X, 10, 9, 20 Pro, Magic 2, Mi 8, MIX 2S, MIX 2, Redmi Note 5, Oppo Find X, R15, Vivo NEX, X27, X21, X20A, OnePlus 7, 6T, 5, Pixel 3 XL, 2 XL, 2, LG V20, LG G6, Sony Xpeial 1.
  • 【WHAT YOU GET】: Mavic Air 2 Aircraft, Remote Controller, 3x Intelligent Flight Battery, 6x Low-Noise Propellers (Pair), RC Cables (USB Type-C, Lightning, Standard Micro-USB), Control Stick, Gimbal Protector, Battery Charger, Battery Charging Hub, Battery to Power Bank Adapter, Shoulder Bag, ND Filters Set (ND16/64/256), Manuals, AC Power Cable, Type-C Cable.
  • 【VIDEO CAPTURE RESOLUTION】: 4K HD

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Hot on the heels of the DJI FPV, the drone giant shows no signs of slowing with the announcement of the DJI Air 2S. And while the name suggests only an incremental upgrade on the Mavic Air 2, there’s a lot in this new model to whet the appetite of consumer and professional drone pilots alike – most importantly, a 1-inch sensor packed inside a compact drone.

The headline feature of the DJI Air 2S is the 20MP 1-inch sensor, which improves image quality and provides an improved high ISO response compared to the Mavic Air 2. Then there’s the ability to capture 5.4K video at 30fps, alongside 4K at up to 60fps, as well as 1080p at up to 120fps, which opens up significant creative potential for capturing video. Even better, this larger sensor camera has increased the weight of the drone compared to the Mavic Air 2 by just 25g.

Another feature being hyped by DJI is the Air 2S' digital zoom, which starts at 4x with 4K at 30fps video and goes up to 8x zoom with 1080p at 30fps. This feature may not sound all that exciting from the outset, but with the laws that govern how close to people drones can safely fly (no closer than 50m, in most cases), it allows you to get close while maintaining that safe distance. For professional drone pilots, this could be an extremely useful feature, and for enthusiasts it will open the door to more creative stills and videos.

Image quality overall is excellent, and the noise levels at high ISO settings are much better than those from the Mavic Pro 2. However, images are slightly softer at the edges and the aperture is fixed at f/2.8, so the only way to control exposure during video recording is with the use of ND filters. Still, just like the Mavic Air 2 Fly More Bundle, the Air 2S Fly More Bundle also includes four ND filters, so we'd recommend going for that if you can.

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Even within the fairly exclusive hobby of drone flying FPV racing sits apart, jealously protected by a cadre of sniffy, soldering iron-toting gatekeepers.

Designed primarily with competitive racing and aerial acrobatics in mind, these are fast, twitchy drones you have to build yourself (or pay someone else to build) and fly with intense concentration – because a lack of anti-collision tech means one slight mistake can end in a costly crash.

Enter the DJI FPV to shake things up. Available fully built off-the-shelf and loaded with the kind of safety features that have made DJI the market leader in consumer ‘copters, this seems to be the drone to bring FPV antics to the masses. Can it turn an FPV noob into a seasoned racing pilot in one weekend? Let’s take to the skies and find out.

The FPV is as well packaged as any other DJI drone. Prying the lid off the box, I’m confronted with the quadcopter itself and the imposing, cyberpunk-esque FPV Goggles V2 headset nestled snugly in black packing foam. Beneath the foam is a twin-stick controller resembling a console gamepad, and a few boxes containing the manuals and the various propellers, antennae and cables required to get the drone charged, connected and airborne. Basically, everything you need is in this box – although it’s helpful to have a relatively recent smartphone handy too, for reasons I’ll explain in the next section.

The drone is a little smaller than I’d expected but exudes a quietly menacing air thanks to its forward-hunched poise and vaguely military finish. A camera sits underneath a removeable plastic gimbal guard, while the large battery slides into the back like the magazine of some bullpup assault rifle. The four propeller arms are fixed rather than folding, and the props themselves attach via a tool-free twist of your hand. It all looks very serious and sure of itself – although a lurid green body cover is also supplied if you want to make the drone easier to spot in the wild.

The FPV’s build quality is superbly solid, although I note with some alarm a number of scratches, grazes and marks on the surface; a previous reviewer has clearly pitched this thing into the ground on at least one occasion. On this evidence it’s certainly crashable, but also sturdy enough to emerge from a hot, unscripted date with terra firma suffering nothing worse than cosmetic damage.

A rubber cover below the camera pulls up to reveal a microSD card slot and a USB-C port The FPV Goggles V2 are lightweight and comfortable, even for a glasses-wearer like me. The eyepieces can be adjusted to suit your pupillary distance, while the soft head strap and foam liner make wearing it for extended periods a breeze. In terms of pre-flight assembly, all you need to do is attach the strap, screw in four small antennae by hand and then attach the battery pack via a long cable. While having a separate battery for the headset seemed strange to me at first (wouldn’t it be simpler to make it internal?), it keeps the headset nice and light on your noggin. And you want comfort when you’re flying the FPV, where a slight error can spell doom.

The headset comes with a microSD slot (you can also record footage here, although not at as high a quality as internally on the drone) and a few controls, including a “5D button” that gives you one-finger navigation of the on-screen menus. It’s here that you’ll adjust the drone’s flight, safety and camera settings; you don’t need to use the DJI Flight app on your phone at all when flying the FPV.

The controller is lightweight and sturdy too, and its removeable thumb sticks make it easy to transport in a rucksack without risking damage. There are dedicated buttons to start/stop video recording; adjust the camera pitch; return to home; toggle between the N, S and M flight modes; and engage the emergency brake. You can even pry the rubbery back covers off in order to adjust the stick resistance, should you wish.

About the DJI FPV Combo

  • 【IMMERSIVE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE】Feel the thrill of immersive flight provided by the DJI FPV Goggles V2 and DJI FPV’s super-wide 150° FOV, giving you an ultra-smooth, real-time view of your flight.
  • 【4K/60FPS VIDEO】The DJI FPV aircraft can record 4K/60fps video at up to 120 Mbps, capturing crisp details that make footage look as exhilarating as the flight.
  • 【BRAND-NEW S MODE】Get the dynamic look of FPV footage easily in S mode. This hybrid flight mode combines the freedom of flying manually with the simplified controls of previous DJI drones.
  • 【ADVANCED SAFETY FEATURES】An auxiliary bottom light, Smart Return to Home (RTH), Low Battery RTH, and forward and downward obstacle sensing are all integrated into DJI FPV to help ensure a safe flight, even at high speeds.
  • 【OCUSYNC 3.0 TRANSMISSION SYSTEM 】Enjoy crystal-clear real-time and HD Low-Latency Transmission video, even at distances of up to 6.2 miles. Note: The remote controller and accessories are located on the lower layer of the box.


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NUMBER 1 - DJI INSPIRE 2


When DJI released the original Inspire drone, it was an instant hit with filmmakers. Up until that point, if you wanted a drone that could carry a decent camera, you had to build it yourself — but then DJI came along, and suddenly anyone with $3,000 could get their hands on a pro-level 4K camera copter that was ready to fly straight out of the box.

Thing is, that was nearly three years ago. Drone technology has progressed in leaps and bounds since then, and nowadays you can get a 4K camera drone for under $500. But DJI isn’t one to be left behind. In late 2016, the company unveiled the second generation — and now that it’s out in the wild, we got our hands on one for an extended review.

Features and specs

A number of features make the Inspire 2 stand out from the rest of the pack, but generally speaking, it just has more stuff under the hood. We like to think that DJI calls it the Inspire 2 because it has two (or more) of everything.

Arguably the biggest inclusion is a dual battery setup, which gives the Inspire 2 a number of key benefits. Not only does it give the bird more flight time — it also protects it from battery malfunctions, and, more importantly, provides ample power for ancillary systems like cameras, stabilizers, sensors, and processors.

We like to think that DJI calls it the Inspire 2 because it has two (or more) of everything.

Speaking of cameras, not only does this drone rock a detachable and easily upgradable Zenmuse cam (ours came with the X5S), it also sports a forward-facing FPV camera, which allows the pilot to keep an eye on what’s ahead of the drone while simultaneously watching/controlling the Zenmuse camera.

It’s also equipped with dual inertial motion sensors, dual barometers, and dedicated processors for various subsystems — including the newly-added obstacle avoidance sensors. Hell, you can even fly it with two controllers. Together, these new additions serve to make the Inspire 2 far more reliable, stable, and safe to fly than any previous iteration.

Build quality and design

In terms of form, the Inspire 2 isn’t really a huge departure from the original model. It sports the same prop configuration, the same retractable landing gear system, and more or less the same body style. There are, however, a few small design upgrades that make the Inspire 2 more versatile and capable than its predecessors — despite the fact that it doesn’t look much different.

The most notable and noticeable design change is undoubtedly the Inspire’s new forward-facing FPV camera and obstacle-avoidance system. Both systems live in a nose-mounted sensor bar, which contains a small optical lens and two laser rangefinders. Aesthetically, it’s a fairly minor change — but in terms of functionality, these systems provide a huge benefit. Obstacle avoidance gives the drone the ability to autonomously prevent crashes, while the FPV camera allows the pilot (or pilots) to keep track of the Inspire’s heading, regardless of where the Zenmuse X5S might be facing.

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