If you want to take unique aerial stills or video footage of your boat or cruising grounds you no longer need a helicopter – a drone is now the smart, affordable choice. We teamed up with TrustedReviews.com to test the latest models in detail
Drones have really advanced over the past few years, with anyone now able to try their hand at piloting a device. Mini-drones are a great first dip in the water, with plenty of fun to be had piloting. Larger quadcopters practically fly themselves now, with a raft of automated flight modes featuring on models.
Not only are drones fun to fly, many are equipped with fantastic cameras to capture stunning aerial views that would be impossible to achieve via any other device – just look at Volvo Ocean Race footage for proof of that.
However, you need to fly sensibly, so be sure to read the Drone Code, which provides all the information you need to fly safely – being courteous to those around you at anchorages is key!
DJI Mavic Pro
- Compact, foldable design
- 4K video/12MP images
- 40mph top speed
- Front collision detection
- 27-minute flight time
The DJI Mavic Pro is currently one of the best drones on the market. It is incredibly convenient to carry around thanks to a flexible design. Its arms and propellers fold down, making it barely the size of a water bottle.
That is all topped off with some advanced automated flight modes that let you capture some seriously stunning cinematic shots, plus fantastic quality 4K-video and 12-megapixel still images. Battery life of around 27 minutes is also very respectable.
If you want a combination of nimble flight and fantastic image quality then the DJI Mavic Pro is the best drone out there right now – although a more compact Mavic Air is now available too.
- Includes Remote Control and FPV Cockpit glasses
- 30-minute battery life with two batteries included
- GPS & GLONASS
- 1080P video/14MP images
The Parrot Bebop 2 Power FPV is more of an update to the original Bebop 2 than a direct follow-up. The ‘Power’ in its name is demonstrative of the fact that its battery performance has improved, with an excellent 30 minutes of flight per battery.
Two batteries are included, giving an hour of flight in total. Parrot has been generous with other accessories for the price, too, with a remote control and FPV (first person view) Cockpit glasses, which really make for an immersive experience, giving you a view from above.
There are also automated shot modes, including ‘Follow’ object tracking, which provides a more hands-off experience when you want it.
Unfortunately, image quality isn’t as good as other drones – but the Bebop 2 Power is still a great value package overall.
- Palm take-off
- Gesture controls and quick shots
- GPS & GLONASS
- 1080P video
- 13-minute flight time
DJI is adept at making diminutive drones, as the DJI Mavic Pro can attest. The DJI Spark is technically the company’s smallest drone – but only when compared to the unfolded Mavic Pro.
Its small size and light weight means it can take flight from the palm of your hand, so there’s no need to find a suitable take-off point. It also has return-to-home functions that will bring it back at the end of a session.
To make controlling the device even easier, you can use gesture controls to trigger actions such as ‘dronies’ for taking a photo and there are plenty of other automated shots for capturing great footage with minimal effort.
The standard DJI Spark package doesn’t come with a remote control, so you’ll need to use your phone for piloting. There’s a ‘Fly More’ combo pack that includes a controller and other accessories, which is worth stretching to for the best experience.
- Grabber and launcher accessories
- Bluetooth control from a smartphone
- Nine-minute flight time
While there are plenty of cheap mini-drones on the market from no-name brands, you know you are getting a quality device from Parrot.
The Mambo is tiny and lightweight, making it great for indoor fun – but it will happily fly outdoors as long as it isn’t too windy. There are two accessories included: a grabber claw and a pellet firing cannon.
Flight is controlled via your smartphone, with the remote controller being an optional accessory.
Battery life of around nine minutes is reasonably short, but it takes only 30 minutes for a full charge of the device. There’s a 0.3 megapixel camera that points downwards – so this isn’t really a drone for great photography.
- Includes Karma drone, GoPro camera and Karma Grip gimbal
- 4K video/12MP still images
- 20-minute flight time
- 35mph top speed
GoPro’s first foray into drones wasn’t without its hiccups, but fortunately the company has ironed out the kinks. A number of updates have also improved the flight, including the addition of a greater number of automated flight modes.
The GoPro Karma is also now available with the newest GoPro Hero 6 Black action camera. The Hero 6 Black is the best action camera going, so this device is capable of capturing some fantastic video and still images.
There’s also the detachable Karma Grip gimbal for rock-steady footage that you can use separate from the drone. It’s taken a while, but GoPro has finally caught up to offer features seen on other similarly priced drones.
We asked renowned marine photographer Richard Langdon for his top five drone-flying tips:
- Practise, practise, practise until all the controls are second nature.
- Never fly close to people.
- Taking off from a moving boat, however slow, presents surprises. In GPS mode the drone will instantly want to hold position and could fly directly into someone’s head, a backstay or a VHF aerial.
- Keep a good eye on battery level.
- When returning your drone, especially if you don’t have visual contact with it, fly it forwards so that you can see what’s coming up through the camera.