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) 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+.

Here’s a listing of our top picks:

And here’s how those cards compare against each other:

Samsung microSD PRO Plus (top pick)Samsung microSD PRO Ultimate (upgrade pick)Samsung PRO Endurance (best for long-lasting over speed)SanDisk Extreme microSD Card (budget pick)
Price (based on 256 GB version, no card reader)$29.99$36.95$21.99$24.75
Read speed180 MB/s200MB/s100MB/s160MB/s
Write speed130 MB/s130 MB/s40 MB/s90 MB/s
Speed classU3, V30, A2, Class 10U3, V30, A2, Class 10U3, V30, Class 10U3, V30, A2, Class 10

All of the picks for the best microSD card for drones fulfilled the following requirements:

  • U3 write speeds (which are far faster in terms of data transfer than U1)
  • V30 speed class (which simply means there is a minimum write speed of 30 MB/s, the minimum required to be selected for this guide)
  • Class 10 (which simply means that this is not one of the outdated cards that run less than 10 MB per second)

The best microSD card for most drones: Samsung microSD PRO Plus

The Samsung PRO Plus microSD line has all the best qualities in one. Designed specifically for content creator cameras, these cards have ultra-fast read and write speeds, and they’re also wallet-friendly. The microSD version is great for drones as well as other smaller tech products such as mobile devices, handheld gaming consoles, and action cameras.

This series launched in April 2023 with increased read and write speeds of up to 180 MB/s and 130 MB/s, a 12 percent and 8 percent increase, respectively, over their predecessors. In short, that means faster upload and download speeds, as well as faster read and write speeds.

You can opt to purchase a version with or without a card reader.

Among the top features of the Samsung microSD PRO Plus line:

  • Supports an application performance class of A2.
  • Samsung’s six-proof protection
  • Can withstand water, extreme temperatures, x-ray, wear-out, drops, and magnetic impact
  • Ten-year limited warranty
  • UHS-I interface
  • Speed class U3, V30, A2, Class 10
  • Certification: FCC, CE, VCII, RCM

Additionally, Samsung offers a nice cost-saver for folks who already own a microSD card reader by offering versions with and without card readers (the additional Samsung card reader supports USB 3.0 and provides backward compatibility with USB 2.0). Here’s the cost breakdown of the Samsung microSD PRO Plus:

PRO Plus microSD 

  • 128GB ($14.99 MSRP) 
  • 256GB ($19.99 MSRP) 
  • 512GB ($39.99 MSRP) 

PRO Plus microSD with Card Reader 

  • 128GB ($23.99 MSRP) 
  • 256GB ($29.99 MSRP) 
  • 512GB ($42.95 MSRP) 

Upgrade pick: Samsung microSD PRO Ultimate

best microSD card for drones
Photo courtesy of Samsung

Maybe this is a bit overkill, but this is really the best of the best — if you’re willing to pay the additional price. That’s the new flagship PRO Ultimate memory card was designed for professional photographers, videographers, and content creators. The Samsung PRO Ultimate microSD and full-size SD cards boast an industry-leading standard with read speeds of up to 200MB/s and write speeds of up to 130MB/s.

Also, with an enhanced Error Correction Code engine and multi-proof protection features, you have
safer data storage.

Among the top features of the Samsung microSD PRO Plus line:

  • The 28-nanometer controller has a 37% improvement in power efficiency compared to previous lines, meaning less recharging
  • UHS-I interface capable of transferring heavy-duty files in seconds
  • 72-hour water protection in submersion of up to 2 meters deep
  • Drop-proof protection from heights of up to 5 meters; PRO Ultimate SD card provides shock protection of up to 1,500g
  • Wear-out protection for up to 10,000 swipes
  • X-ray and magnetic protection; can operate in extreme temperatures ranging from -13°F to 185°F.
  • 10-year limited warranty

PRO Ultimate microSD 

  • 128GB ($19.99 MSRP) 
  • 256GB ($29.99 MSRP) 
  • 512GB ($54.99 MSRP) 

PRO Ultimate microSD with Card Reader 

  • 128GB ($24.99 MSRP) 
  • 256GB ($37.99 MSRP) 
  • 512GB ($62.99 MSRP) 

Also great for a longer-lasting card: Samsung PRO Endurance

Photo courtesy of Samsung

The Samsung PRO Endurance launched in May 2022 with an emphasis on, well, endurance. 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.

The Endurance line will last longer than the cards in the Pro Plus line. The tradeoff is that they aren’t as fast: PRO Endurance has read and write speeds of up to 100 megabytes per second (MB/s) and 40 MB/s, respectively. PRO Plus has 180 MB/s and 130 MB/s, respectively.

Some of the features of the PRO Endurance line:

  • 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: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB. Though, I recommend either the 128 GB ($16.99) or 256 GB ($21.99).

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 non-Samsung SD card: SanDisk Extreme microSD Card

Photo courtesy of SanDisk

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

best microSD card for drones
Photo courtesy of Samsung

The best microSD cards cost slightly more than their generic counterparts but can offer far more power. And if that means reducing the 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.

Pick a microSD card for drones: 5 features to consider

best microSD card for drones
Photo courtesy of Samsung

While this post outlined some of the best microSD cards for drones, the exact model might not be available. However, sometimes you’re out on a shoot and realize 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, Amazon 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 to 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 on. 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 a 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 just sums up how the SD card works. You’ll typically find a 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 their warranty. The best SD cards offer 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 the 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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