Well over a decade ago, the drone market exploded with the 2010 launch of the first consumer drone, the Parrot AR.drone. But not long after, DJI quickly overtook the Parrot in popularity after it launched its DJI Phantom drone, a sleek drone that was ready to fly out of the box and — at the time — had a mount to carry a GoPro (DJI now equips most of its drones with its own, in-house made cameras). But as you’ll see in this drone buying guide — the best drones are far more advanced than anything we had not long ago.
But one thing that has held true: ever since the launch of the DJI Phantom, the drone market has been mostly all DJI. At what point, DJI had a nearly 80% market share, according to an analysis of FAA drone registration numbers conducted in summer 2019 (done by drone market research and data group Drone Industry Insights. Coming in at number two was Yuneec, which had a measly 3.1% share based on that analysis. While DJI’s consumer market share has dipped (within the 60-80% range, depending on the metric), it’s still huge — particularly given its advancements in the world of drones under 250 grams.
But it’s not all DJI. There are hundreds of drones and camera systems to choose from, and while DJI tends to appear often in many of these guides, they’re not the only ones out there.
Whether you’re into photography, drone racing, starting a business, or something else, use this drone buying guide to find the right drone for you.
Here you’ll find:
The best drones for photographers of 2023
Most people intend to use a drone for photography or videography. Whether your budget is $300 or $3,000, there are plentyof options for photography drones. Most of these drones come with a camera built-in, and the drones are ready to fly out of the box so you can focus on making art and making memories, not on setting up complicated electronics.
There’s also particular interest in follow-me drones, especially for folks looking for drones with smarter sense and avoid technology, or who want to capture action sports. For that, check out my guide to the best follow-me drones of 2023.
And if you’re on a tighter budget, I have a specific guide for camera drones under $500.
The best commercial use drones of 2023
If you’re using a drone for business purposes, you may need more than your average camera drone that you can buy at Amazon or Best Buy.
If you’re a commercial drone user, then you might want a standard camera, sure, but it might also behoove you to have other features. Some commercial drones are modular, so you can swap out a standard camera with something like a thermal camera or a payload (how about a device to carry tacos, anyone)?
I also have more specific guides for some commercial industries. Check out my guide to:
- The best drones for agriculture
- The best drone for carrying a LiDAR sensor
- The best NDVI camera drone on a budget
- The best drone for roof inspections
The best drones for kids in 2023
Whether you’re getting a child a drone for learning or for entertainment (or ahem, both!), drones are a fantastic tool to enrich a kid’s life and get them interested in high-paying, vital STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) at a young age.
I also dial down on some specific drones (and drone-related content for kids). I’ve developed additional guides…
- For parents and teachers looking to use drones in classrooms: The best educational drone for a STEM program
- For indoor flying (great for rainy days or just for better keeping an eye on kids!): The best indoor drones of 2023
- For reading, rather than flying: The best drone children’s books
The best cheap practice drones for beginners of 2023, for under $100
Your first drone should not cost a lot of money. While advanced drones are easier than ever to fly, you still want to get comfortable on a drone that — quite honestly — you’d feel comfortable losing.
You’d rather crash $40 into a pool than $400. With that said here are the best drones for learning how to fly — and they all cost less than $100.
Other drone industry products that aren’t actually drones
Odds are, you’re looking to buy more than just drones. You might need Part 107 training courses, lesson plans for students, gifts that won’t break the bank, and more.
Here are some other products for drone enthusiasts that I recommend, that aren’t actually drones: