The travel drone market is starting to really heat up because technological advancements have allowed performance and intelligent flight features that used to only be possible in much larger remote controlled drones to be packed into smaller and smaller packages. This is a huge benefit for people who want to be able to take their drone with them everywhere they go and you’ll be surprised at the performance possibilities of today’s compact quadcopter drones.
The following is a summary of the major travel drone models currently available and will help you decide which model is the best one for your drone aviation aims as well as your budget.
The DJI Mavic Pro somehow packs most of the performance and camera capabilities of the much larger DJI Phantom range into a foldable package that you can actually fit into a coat pocket.
- Compact size – the foldable arm and prop design makes this quadcopter even more compact than some much lesser equipped drone options. Setup is also very quick and easy. It’s a true travel drone that you won’t ever want to leave at home
- Flight time – the 27-minute flight time and range up to 4.3 miles is the best in the travel drone category
- Precision hover – its array of vision sensors allows the Mavic Pro to hover well both outdoors and indoors
- Precision tracking and landing– its flight automation, tracking and collision avoidance capabilities are the best of any travel drone on the market right now and the precision landing system is impressive
- Video quality – while the video quality is very good and far better than the Bebop 2 or Breeze, it’s not quite as good as the GoPro
- Camera tilt – though not a major issue, the camera can occasionally tilt during flight
Quite simply it’s an incredibly well designed, feature-packed quadcopter. It gives close to professional level performance in a small package that the drone enthusiast or serious travel shooter will love. Its reasonably pricey but at around the same price as the GoPro Karma, which has far more issues and drawbacks, it still offers incredible value for money.
If you’re just looking for your first drone or something more suited to creating video or still footage to be shared with friends on social media, then maybe you might not need to spend $1000 to get the drone that you’re looking for but for anyone else looking for high quality footage from a drone with excellent collision avoidance and flight automation features, it’s hard to recommend anything else.
The GoPro Karma is back after the underwhelming launch of the model in 2016 where unfortunately the drone was found to have a tendency to drop out of the sky without warning. But GoPro is determined to prove itself as both a camera company and a drone company so we can expect them to stick around in the drone space for the long haul.
- Video quality –as we’ve come to expect from GoPro’s cameras, the picture quality is excellent and includes electronic image stabilization
- Package – the GoPro Karma actually gives you a compact drone, a high-quality waterproof GoPro and a hand-held stabilized camera package in one
- Easy to fly – it is undoubtedly one of the easiest drones to fly
- Flight automation features – the Karma lacks the flight automation features of the Mavic Pro meaning that subject tracking, obstacle avoidance, precision landing and indoor flying are all off the cards. The lack of obstacle avoidance in particular is a major drawback
- Flying time – the maximum 20-minutes flight time, which realistically is shorter than that especially in high winds, means the flight time is passable but could be longer given it is a larger drone than the Mavic Pro
- Value for money – considering its main competitor, the Mavic Pro, is sold for a similar price, the lack of comparable flight automation features means the value for money of the Karma is a little lacking
To their credit, GoPro have resolved many of the key issues with their 2016 Karma model and they do seem to be deadly serious about competing with DJI in the higher end drone market but where the Karma currently stands it still feels an iteration or two away from really being able to compete with DJI.
There’s no doubting the quality of their cameras and the removable GoPro and stabilized hand mount are definitely a plus for the Karma package but if you’ve got $1000 to spend on a drone it’s probably not worth going with the Karma until GoPro put together some better flight automation and collision avoidance technologies.
A nice little addition to the travel drone market and a definite step up from the first edition of the Bebop.
- Flight time – good battery life gives the Bebop 2 up to 25 minutes of flight time, which is excellent for the price of the drone
- Lightweight – the fiber reinforced body and non-moveable arms make the Bebop 2 fairly durable
- FPV – the first-person view goggles create a more immersive flying experience although the goggles could benefit from improved resolution
- Cheap parts – the replaceable parts are relatively inexpensive
- Memory – the drone is limited to 8gb of memory and it has no SD card slot to add additional memory
- Video quality – the maximum video resolution is only 1080p and the lack of a mechanical gimbal means the video quality is not on the same level as the Mavic Pro or GoPro Karma. The fish eye lens also won’t suit everyone
- No collision avoidance
If you’re looking for an entry level or more family-friendly travel drone, the Parrot Bebop 2 is pretty capable and comes with some decent flight capabilities. It’s a big improvement over the first edition of the Bebop but struggles to compete in any way against the two more expensive options, the Mavic Pro and the Karma. The bundled FPV package does add an immersive element to flying the drone but there are third party goggle options available for other drone models too and not everyone will prefer using the FPV goggles.
When compared to its more direct competitor, the Yuneec Breeze, it’s a much harder comparison because each has its own clear advantages and disadvantages. The Bebop 2 flies much faster, has a longer range, and a much longer battery life but doesn’t have 4K video and is lacking is some very useful flight automation features and can’t be flown indoors.
The Yuneec Breeze is a fun to fly drone that is aimed primarily at the “flying selfie camera” market but its ease of use and in-app sharing options meet that aim very well.
- Lightweight – the small footprint of the drone and its very light weight make it highly portable
- Easy to fly – one touch takeoff and landing and an emphasis on automated flight modes make flying the Breeze as straightforward as drone flying can be
- Automated modes – the great range of automated flight modes make it a highly fun and useful drone for getting useable footage to view and share
- Battery life – the 12-minute battery life is a major drawback of the Breeze
- Video quality – the lack of any mechanical image stabilization means that when shooting at 4K the image quality is very juddery, meaning you’ll probably need to stick to a maximum of 1080p resolution
- Range – it’s not as limiting as you might first think for what the drone is designed for but it does have a short flight range
While the stated range of the Breeze is only 260 feet compared to a claimed 1000 feet for the Parrot Bebop 2 without a flight controller, in real world usage the effective range of each drone is probably actually pretty similar, with the Bebop 2’s claimed range based on ideal conditions whereas Yuneec seem to have stuck to indicating a more realistic range.
The real downside to the Breeze is the poor battery life, giving it a flight time that’s too short to allow you to enjoy every flight. But the small size and weight and great automated flight modes, along with its ease of use and seamless sharing options actually make this a really great little drone that basically meets the needs of what it was designed for. If you’re looking for an entry level drone with a great feature set and can handle the shorter battery life, then the Breeze is probably a better option than the Bebop 2. If you’re not as bothered by the easy sharing options and are more interested in longer flying times, then the Bebop 2 might be a better choice.
So when all is said and done and you’re looking to buy your first travel drone or to take advantage of improvements to the latest iterations of existing models, which is the best quadcopter out there?
In terms of the best travel drone on the market right now, the DJI Mavic Pro is really a step above the rest of the competition. While there were high expectations on the GoPro Karma, the late 2016 recall was an indication that people were probably setting the bar a little too high for a camera company to nail their first drone release and even the 2017 model still leaves a bit to be desired.
The Mavic Pro’s combination of its foldable design, advanced flight automation features, collision avoidance, and excellent battery life really elevate it above the capabilities of anything else available for the price. The 2017 GoPro Karma is a noticeable improvement on the 2016 edition but for the price just isn’t as good value for money as the Mavic Pro.
The only situation where we could recommend another model in the travel drone category would be for someone looking more for an entry level drone who is more interested in using the drone just for getting footage to easily share. Despite at first glance being more limited than the Bebop 2 in many respects, the Yuneec Breeze seems to do what it was made for better than the Bebop 2, which suffers from being too expensive to be just for fun and too lacking in image quality or useful features to justify its price. It’s great to see so many feature packed and compact quadcopter with camera drones coming onto the market but for now at least, the Mavic Pro is king.