professional drones - best commercial

In this guide I will cover the best professional drones based on ROI, reliability, endurance, and functionality

Running a successful drone business is exciting and can be very lucrative as well. But, like any business you need a solid plan, marketing strategy and pricing structure. But most importantly you need reliable professional drones and equipment that you can depend on getting the job done.

Before we start, let me tell you how I lost over 50+ K in the drone business

I have always been the type to buy the best of the best. This works well for me some of the time, and other times it ends up becoming a very hurtful experience. When I started my first aerial photography business 6 years ago there were limited aerial systems available. Many required you to buy the airframe and parts then build, program, tune and test after the fact. This was a great way to learn all the systems and mechanics of my drones, however the parts were mostly sourced from the hobby industry. The systems were flaky and unreliable, with failed motors, exploding props and yes, even a few fly-aways.

Frustrated, I figured it would make more sense to purchase a commercial drone system that was turn-key and ready to fly. At the time this was Droidworx, Cinestar, SkyJib, DragonFly etc. All costing a wallet crushing $15-20K and thats just to get in the air. Now I won’t say which professional drones I purchased but I can tell you I ended up will a pile of crashed useless parts unable to keep up with the increase in business.  

After counting my losses I took a break, turning down new clients and sending them to my competitors while a devised a new plan. Going forward a few years, the drone manufacturing industry had started to revolutionize and new turn-key systems were popping up fast and furious. After some research I decided to get back on the wagon and pick up another “premium high priced professional system”

You guessed right, another in air-failure costing me another $25K!

Ok you must be thinking I am a terrible pilot! Well admittedly I wasn’t a superstar on the sticks but I can also assure you I am very attentive and competent. We always did pre-flight checks, had spotters, did a RF quality test, and a 10 min hover test before each project. They were just freak incidents (equipment failures) that resulted in total loss.


The moral of the story is bigger, premium, more powerful, more expensive systems are not necessarily better

I learned the hard way spending tons of hard earned cash, running the business into the ground, constantly repairing equipment and turning down customers. The one takeaway is more expensive professional drones are not always better. And in the world of aerial photography this holds very true. 

The key is to find a aerial system that is reliable but also cost effective. Don’t just buy with the “because it’s really expensive it must be really good” mentality. Purchase a system that will complete the project objective and nothing more. Had I purchased 2 smaller drones at the fraction of my 25K investment I would be well ahead of the game and with a back-up system to boot (which I highly recommend if you are doing client work).


So where is the sweet spot and what is the smartest pro system to buy this year?

Times have changed and now we have access to amazing drones at very affordable prices. Yes you can still buy “premium systems costing $10-$100K. But, like I suggested, purchase a system and sensor that will complete the task at hand and don’t get pulled into big-ticket marketing hype.

You will first need to decide what your drone will be used for? Aerial Photos, Aerial Video, Broadcast Video, Cinema Video, Mapping, Surveying, Agro? Who is your customer and what are their expectations? Do they need basic deliverables for youtube and web use, or are they using the footage for a feature film and or on Billboards? Answering these questions will help you quickly narrow down your system choices and budget.

Lucky for you many products available today offer multi-purpose capability. But to do a particular task well you may want to consider a specialized sensor (HD Camera, Thermal, IR, Zoom, etc.)


Using all our years of combined experience, and field testing, we have devised the top choices that simply rival all other options available today

Not surprisingly, our top picks comes from DJI. Now before you get excited, I am not a DJI fanboy. In-fact, if there were better options available, I would be the first to jump ship! Truth is, weather you love or hate, DJI has a very solid line of drones with competition crushing features. DJI's CEO Frank Wang says "if the competition tries to create a superior product, we will make a even better one". He is defiantly in the game to win and I have to agree they do currently have the best value products in the industry. 

The primary reason I recommend these drones is they simply offer excellent value (or in business terms, better return on investment).  DJI’s latest systems are smaller and more powerful than ever. It's no wonder they have claimed over 70% of the retail drone markets.  

So which current models are the best for professional use? Which systems will offer the best return on investment? Well I will tell you right now!

Short on time? No problem, check out the top 3 choices in the quick chart below

Mapping + Thermal

DJI Inspire V2

DJI

Positives

  • Separate Pilot FPV Cam
  • Dual redundancy components  
  • Supports DJI's range of pro cameras

Negatives

  • High price point when compared to the Mavic and Phantom series
  • High capacity batteries could be a issue if you travel by air often
  • More moving mechanical components can lead to on site failures over time

The DJI Inspire 2 is bay far one of the best professional drones you can buy for the money. It has good flight times, interchangeable camera capability, dual pilot, long range and great wind resistance. You will be hard pressed to find a better system for the money.

View Full Review

Real Estate + Photo

DJI Mavic 2 PRO

DJI

Positives

  • Excellent video quality for the size 
  • Super compact for the traveling pilot
  • Great range and end endurance

Negatives

  • Fixed camera limits this drone to photography and video only
  • Fragile front mounted front camera can be damaged easy 
  • Wind resistance is no as good as the inspire or phantom due to its weight

If you need a compact drone the Mavic should be your top pick. Shoots amazing high quality, high bitrate footage in a super compact package. Perfect for run and gun real-estate photographers and wildlife

View Full Review

Film + Youtube

DJI Phantom 4 PRO V2

DJI

Positives

  • Best all round drone
  • Excellent video quality for the size
  • Long range live HD video feed 

Negatives

  • Not small but not big either
  • Flight time could be improved
  • Undercarriage camera limits the cameras axis  

For a beginner goggle set the Eachine EV880D's a a great choice. When tested they preformed really well as the 5.8G diversity receivers kept the video feed clear, even in challenging situations with obstructions. 

View Full Review

Now Let's take a closer look at the top 3 Professional Drones of 2019

There has to be a standout product in any industry. Although I am not a fan of DJI's business practices, it's hard to argue they have the best drones for the money and I can't see that changing anytime soon. DJI has come along way from consumer, to pro-sumer, to pro, and now even offering enterprise and industrial solutions.

For the ultimate professional drone that seems to check all the boxes, I highly recommend the DJI Inspire V2

DJI Inspire V2


DJI Inspire V2

The Inspire 1 was a revelation. The first filmmaking drone in the world to integrate an HD video transmission system, 360° rotating gimbal and a 4K camera, as well as the simplicity of app control. The launches of the Zenmuse X5 and X5R cameras further cemented the Inspire as a critical tool for filmmakers around the globe.

The Inspire 2 takes everything that was good about the Inspire 1 and improves it. The image processing system CineCore2.0 has been upgraded to CineCore2.1,recording video at up to 6K in CinemaDNG/RAW and 5.2K in Apple ProRes when used with Zenmuse X7 camera. It goes from 0 to 50 mph (80 kph) in just 5 seconds and hits a maximum speed of 58 mph (94 kph) and has a max descent speed of 9m/s for unheard of speed and agility in an aircraft this size.

A dual battery system prolongs the flight time to a maximum of 27 minutes (with an X4S), while self-heating technology allows it to fly even in low temperatures.FlightAutonomy has been revised and developed specifically for the Inspire 2, providing two directions of obstacle avoidance and sensor redundancy.Increased intelligence adds multiple intelligent flight modes, including Spotlight Pro, giving even single pilots the ability to create complex, dramatic shots.An upgraded video transmission system is now capable of dual signal frequency and dual channel, streaming video from an onboard FPV camera and the main camera simultaneously, for better pilot and camera operator collaboration.

If you need a drone that can accomplish most any aerial task, this is your craft! Pair is with the x series of cameras for zoom, IR and cinema quality 5k video footage.

DJI Mavic 2 PRO


DJI Mavic 2 PRO

Our dream has always been to make a drone that exists where engineering, technology, and the needs of the aerial photographer converge. A drone that embodies all of DJI's advanced, signature technologies, and is able to redefine what is possible for the world of aerial photography.
In creating the Mavic 2, we have made this dream come true.

DJI Phantom 4 PRO V2


DJI Phantom 4 PRO V2

The new Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 features an OcuSync HD transmission system, which supports automatic dual-frequency band switching and connects to DJI Goggles wirelessly. Like the Phantom 4 Pro and Advanced, the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is equipped with a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor capable of shooting 4K/60fps video and Burst Mode stills at 14 fps. Plus, its FlightAutonomy system includes dual rear vision sensors and infrared sensing systems for a total of 5 directions of obstacle sensing and 4 directions of obstacle avoidance.