So, you’re finally ready to become a serious content creator. That’s what we assume anyway when you consider purchasing a smartphone-controlled drone. You’re looking to create killer content without breaking the bank – quality doesn’t always cost the most.
A drone – especially one controlled by a smartphone – is an excellent tool at a doable price. You’ll unlock never before seen vantage points and give yourself a serious advantage against the competition. Oh, and you’ll do it all without wiping out your full 2020 equipment budget.
2020’s 5 Best Smartphone Controlled Drones
A few years ago, the very idea of drones was controversial – they were either war machines with no use for the public or they were going to change life as we knew it. Fast forward to 2020, and drones are chiefly used for creating exciting content across the world. But, did you know that drones even deliver packages in some cities? If you were on the fence about drones when they burst onto the scene, you should be firmly in the ‘I need a drone’ camp today. Artists and businesses have accepted them; maybe you should too.
So, now that you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that a smartphone-controlled drone would up your content let’s discuss what’s important when searching for one.
- Price point – $1000 is standard for a drone. Anything less is a budget option, and anything more is a premium offering. Don’t automatically spend more than $1000, though, because there are high-quality drone options for less. Be wary when purchasing a less expensive offering, though, as they certainly lack in terms of the working range, stabilization, wind performance, and battery life.
- Photo & Video camera specs – A high-quality drone camera can do everything that your phone camera does. At the same time, some drones give you the option of attaching your own camera (hint – Moment Anamorphic for the win?). Take the camera specs into account when purchasing your drone; otherwise, you may end up with 720p video! Who wants that when purchasing a new drone in the age of 4k?
- Drone’s working range – Some drones controlled by smartphones have working distances of miles, whereas others can’t even leave your sight. When looking into a new drone, you must consider working distance. Imagine being a surf photographer and having the wrong working distance with your drone. You’re shooting great content until you’re out of range, then – SPLASH! Don’t sacrifice on your drone’s working range unless you’re absolutely sure you can.
- Battery life – This is similar to the working range. You don’t want your drone to die while it’s in-flight, do you? Most drones have a ‘Return Home’ option that’s automatically enacted as a failsafe when the battery dies, but some don’t. It’s certainly worth finding a drone that does, though – it can be more valuable than the warranty!
- Stabilization – You probably haven’t considered it, but how are you going to keep your drone stable while it zooms through the sky? Fortunately, most offerings have a built-in gimbal. Having a gimbal included means that no matter what maneuvers you try, your content will be stable.
You know that drones are costly, right? As a result, it’s in your interest to do a lot of research before buying. If you’re going to spend $500 plus on a drone (and that’s pretty inexpensive by the way), then you should check off every box above. Find something you can afford that performs up to your standard. You’re going to be really bummed if you spend all that money and get something substandard.
The Best All-Around Smartphone Controlled Drone – DJI Mavic Mini
DJI Mavic Mini Price Point: <$500
DJI Mavic Mini Camera Specs: 12MP
DJI Mavic Mini Video Specs: 2.7k Quad HD
DJI Mavic Mini Working Distance: 4 kilometers
DJI Mavic Mini Battery Life: 30 minutes
DJI Mavic Mini Overall Score: 9.3/10
- If you’re looking for a cost-effective drone that performs with the best in the industry, then the DJI Mavic Mini is perfect for you
- New DJI Fly app is great to use – both intuitive and high performing
- DJI Fly’s Flight Tutorial teaches you to use your new drone in no time
- 360° Propeller Guard improves propeller safety and overall accuracy of flight
- In-app Creator Templates makes editing your drone footage a breeze
- Introducing drone pre-sets with DJI QuickShot modes
- DJI CineSmooth Mode is like slo-mo on your drone – slow down the machine to increase its precision
- 3-axis gimbal is excellent for stability
- Lacks the extras that other options on this list include but the performance of the Mavic Mini makes it worth it
The Best Quality Smartphone Controlled Drone – DJI Mavic Air 2
DJI Mavic Air 2 Price Point: <$1000
DJI Mavic Air 2 Camera Specs: 48MP
DJI Mavic Air 2 Video Specs: 4k @ 60 fps
DJI Mavic Air 2 Working Distance: 10 kilometers
DJI Mavic Air 2 Battery Life: 34 minutes
DJI Mavic Air 2 Overall Score: 9.5/10
- If you’re looking for the best drone for content creators bar none, then the DJI Mavic Air 2 is the drone for you
- Experience high speed with 68 kph when sport mode is engaged
- 8k Timelapse video
- APAS 3.0 Obstacle Avoidance is as good as advertised
- OcuSync 2.0 is DJI’s interface – transmits video back at 1080p and 30 fps (captures in 4k @ 60 fps)
- The D-Cinelike flat color profile is like RAW format for your drone footage
- Quad Bayer image sensor layers images perfectly for high-quality HDR
- Five categories for DJI SmartPhoto gives your drone AI-style control that works
- DJI’s FocusTrack – which utilizes pieces from Active Track 3.0, Spotlight 2.0, and Point of Interest 3.0 – makes capturing content of your subject almost too easy
- QuickShots feature makes it so you can shoot drone footage straight out of the box – NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED
- Dual-frequency communication means you can always stay connected (and out of other’s way!)
The Best Deal Smartphone Controlled Drone – Parrot Anafi 4k Portable Drone Extended Combo Pack
Parrot Anafi 4k Price Point: <$1000
Parrot Anafi 4k Camera Specs: 21MP
Parrot Anafi 4k Video Specs: 4k
Parrot Anafi 4k Working Distance: 4 kilometers
Parrot Anafi 4k Battery Life: 1 hour 15 minutes (between two batteries)
Parrot Anafi 4k Overall Score: 8.7/10
- If you’re looking for a high-quality drone plus some extras at a decent price point, then the Parrot Anafi 4k is the one for you
- Chargeable with just a USB
- How is the Parrot Anafi 4k so quiet?!?
- The front-mounted camera provides unique perspectives that other drones simply can’t get
- Folds down into a very storable size (11.3 oz weight is impressive too)
- Slight shake when ‘idling,’ but goes away when the drone is in motion
- Don’t know that the Parrot Anafi 4k can handle the 35mph winds it claims it can
The Best Budget Smartphone Controlled Drone – Fimi X8 SE Portable 3-Axis 4K Drone
Fimi X8 SE Price Point: <$1000
Fimi X8 SE Camera Specs: 12MP
Fimi X8 SE Video Specs: 4k UHD @ 30/25/24 fps, 1080p @ , 2.7k @ 60/50/30/25/24 fps, 1080p @ 90/60/50/30/25/24 fps, & 720p @ 120/100 fps
Fimi X8 SE Working Distance: 8000 meters
Fimi X8 SE Battery Life: 33 minutes
Fimi X8 SE Overall Score: 8.4/10
- If you want options when it comes to capturing different speeds of drone footage, then five the Fimi X8 SE a try
- 3-axis gimbal works great at this price point
- Features serious speed – up to 40 mph
- Both Cine Shot Mode and advanced AI tracking make shooting quality content easy
- Three different modes for panoramas and timelapses
- The Fimi flight app is just ok
- 3x digital zoom
- Gives reminders and warnings when necessary (no GPS, low battery, no-fly zone, etc.)
- Return Home feature is great (hover in place feature is effective too)
The Newcomer Smartphone Controlled Drone – Autel Robotics Evo II
Autel Evo II Series Price Point: <$1500 for Standard & <$2000 for Pro
Autel Evo II Series Camera Specs: 48MP
Autel Evo II Series Video Specs: 8k
Autel Evo II Series Working Distance: 9 kilometers
Autel Evo II Series Battery Life: 40 minutes
Autel Evo II Series Overall Score: 9.4/10
- Battlock system protects battery when crashing or moving quickly
- Autel’s Omni-Directional Avoidance Protection is ideal when shooting in cramped spaces (works up to 30 meters)
- Adjustable aperture, competitive HDR, and 8k makes the Evo II’s content pop against the competition
- Has thermo-imaging capability