best microSD card for drones

The best microSD card for drones

What’s the best microSD card for drones? Believe it or not, the SD card you choose matters.

The type of SD card you need can sometimes vary by drone (a more powerful drone will require a more powerful SD card, though a highly-powerful SD card can always work with even an entry level drone). Most (though not all drones) actually rely on microSD cards. For this post, we’ll hone specifically in on microSD cards, as that’s what you’ll find as the card needed for DJI drones, and most others including the Autel Evo Lite+ and the Skydio 2+.

The best microSD card for most drones: Samsung PRO Endurance

The Samsung PRO Endurance launched in May 2022, making it one of the newest microSD cards on the market. It’s designed for not just drones, but also other products with similarly rigorous demands including surveillance cameras, dashboard cameras, doorbell cameras and body cameras.

Some of its features:

  • Promises a lifetime of up to 16 years (140,160 hours) of continuous recording time.
  • Offers read and write speeds of up to 100 megabytes per second (MB/s) and 40 MB/s, respectively, and is rated Class 10 with video speed ratings of up to U3 (UHS Speed Class 3) and V30 (Video Speed Class 30).
  • Comes with six-proof durability. In addition to protection against water, magnets, X-rays and extreme temperatures, the card is now wearout proof and drop-proof.

It comes in four different storage capacities of 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB. Though, I recommend either the 128 GB ($34.99) or 256 GB ($54.99).

At press time, the 128GB edition is on sale on Amazon for 25% off, down to $20.99. The 256 GB edition is an even-heftier 31% off, down to $37.99.

It can also be purchased from B&H Photo and Adorama, though Amazon typically offers the most competitive prices on this particular card.

The best microSD card for drones if you’re on a budget: SanDisk Extreme microSD Card

This is the old faithful of microSD cards, capable of capturing, fast action via Full HD and 4K UHD video.

SanDisk Extreme microSDXC™ UHS-I Cards are built tough for extreme durability under challenging environmental conditions. Extreme speeds let you capture every detail of your adventure and take the wait out of transferring media between devices. Storage capacities from 128GB expand your device’s memory to let you capture every moment in incredible detail.

Some of its features:

  • Delivers 4K Ultra HD and Full HD video recording and playback.
  • Read speeds up to 160MB/s.
  • Write speeds up to 90MB/s.
  • UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) and UHS Video Speed Class 30 (V30) for 4K UHD.
  • Built for extreme conditions temperature proof, water proof, shock proof, and x-ray proof.
  • Backed by a lifetime limited warranty.

It comes in an incredible seven different storage capacities of 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, 400GB, 512GB and 1TB. You’ll want at least the 128 GB version, which is just $18.87 (and is the best value).

Other great microSD cards

I outlined two of the best, but here’s a complete list of microSD cards I would recommend for drone pilots. Check with your individual drone (the manual or specs sheet will typically list what sorts of microSD cards are compatible), but in general, any of the below are typically a good bet:

Note that many drones require a UHS-I Speed Class 3 or above. The highest-end camera drones might even require higher-end SD cards, so check with your manufacturer to be sure the microSD card you buy is a fit.

Why a good microSD card matters

The best microSD cards cost slightly more than their generic counterparts, but can offer far more power. And if that means reducing risk that your hard-earned drone footage will crash, or simply means your footage won’t skip or lag when recording high definition video, then an SD card is important. It’s a small investment to buy a slightly better SD card than the rest, but it can pay dividends.

How to pick a microSD card: 5 features to consider

While this post outlined some of the best microSD cards for drones, the exact model might not be available. Sometimes you’re out on a shoot and realized you’ve forgotten your memory card. Suddenly you pull into the nearest Target parking lot to pick up a new one. Or maybe the one we recommended on Amazon is simply sold out, so you seek out another similar one.

So what qualities should you look for in a great memory card? Here are five features to care about:

  • Seller: A good rule of thumb: Buy microSD cards (and pretty much all electronics) from reputable online retailers like B&H Photo or Adorama, or physical stores like Target or Best Buy. While there’s no guarantee all their products are going to be amazing, it’s unlikely that you’ll buy a fake product. These retailers devote enormous efforts to vetting products, as their reputation is on the line if their product is shoddy. Some fake microSD cards do work, but are much slower than advertised, or aren’t covered by warranties.
  • Storage Capacity (128 GB should be your minimum): Especially now that drone flight times continue to get longer, ensure you have enough space on your card to record footage throughout the flight. Another incentive to spring for one 128 GB card over a few 32 GB or 64 GB cards: the cost per gigabyte is almost always cheaper.
  • Speed rating: This overlooked feature is crucial to drones. Speed Class is a term from the SD Association too standardize speed ratings among cards, meaning the minimum sustained write speeds. A card with Speed Class 2 has a minimum write speed of 2MB/s), a Speed Class 4 writes at 4MB/s, Class 6 at 6MB/s and so one. Unless your drone states otherwise, a good rule of thumb is to look for memory cards with cards rated U3 or V30, which have a minimum sequential write speed of 30 MB/s. That’s enough for 4K video. In fact, with many drones UHS-I Speed Class 3 or above is required.
  • Bus mode: This is a bizarre yet important term that basically just sums up how the SD card works. You’ll typically find UHS-1 bus or UHS-II. While UHS-II cards are more expensive, you’re unlikely to need them.
  • Warranty: While SD cards are relatively cheap, you might still want to consider its warranty. The best SD cards offering 10-year limited — and sometimes even lifetime limited — warranties. Just realize that sometimes the effort involved in the warranty (replacing the card, or submitting paperwork or other proof) might not be the cost of simply buying a new one.

One more note: you’ll likely need an adapter to view the contents of your microSD card in most computers and card readers. If your card reader mandates an adapter, and the microSD card itself doesn’t come with one, add a microSD card adapter to your wish list as well.

What if my drone has built-in internal memory storage?

Many drones of late, including the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Mavic 3 have internal storage. The Mini 3 Pro has 1.2 GB of internal storage. Meanwhile, the DJI Mavic 3 provides an impressive rate of up to 8GB of internal storage.

Just understand how much that is relative to the quality of footage you’re taking. If you just want to take some pictures, then you might not need a microSD card at all, as a drone with internal storage might not necessarily even need you to rely on an external memory card. However, even 8GB of internal storage on the Mavic 3 might be insufficient on a long day of shooting, particularly if you’re shooting at high-quality.

Related read: DJI Mini 3 Pro vs Mini 2: is it worth the upgrade?

Internal storage on drones can be a great backup, but don’t rely on it. A microSD card will likely always be capable of storing more (plus you can use a different card for every flight within the same day, just to minimize risk that all footage is lost should one card or piece of tech be corrupted — which can accidentally happen.

Other drones still let you take photos without a microSD card, while also not offering internal storage For example, the DJI Mini 2 requires a microSD card to store images and footage, but still lets you take photos, which will be stored in the drone’s accompanying app. However, when a microSD card is not installed, the photos or videos you take will be of a lower resolution (720p), so you should almost certainly install a microSD card before flying your drone.

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