If you’re looking for a foldable drone there’s a high probability that you are interested in either a mini drone that could fit in your pocket or one with an amazing camera, and this guide has both types and more.
I can’t read your mind, but I’m pretty sure you’re looking for portability and a drone with the recent trend of drones that can fold down that is more achievable than ever.
However, not all foldable drones are portable, as there are large industrial drones whose arms and legs can fold down to make them smaller (yet far from portable).
A foldable drone is one that can fold down its arms (and potentially legs too) to make it a more compact package.
The first popular foldable drone was the DJI Mavic Pro, which now has been replaced by a wide series of other foldable drones both from DJI as well as their competitors.
These are typically consumer camera drones and they can range between beginner toy level up to professional drones.
This article is going to help you figure out what is the best drone for you as well as recommending the best drone for that respective need.
This precise classification will make it much easier to choose one than having a bunch of the same types of drones just listed together.
Camera - Most people are looking to have a camera attached to their drone. There’s also a minority that wants to use a gopro, but that’s another story. Camera resolution(4k or 1080p usually) is quite important, but a drone camera depends also on the sensor size, bitrate and the optics used, so the only way to actually find out how it records is watching a video comparison of the drone.
Gimbal - If you’re looking for a more serious result from your camera drone, you should look for a foldable drone with a gimbal. This is a stabilization system with 3 motors that stabilizes the camera on all of the 3 axes. An alternative to it would be EIS(electronic image stabilization) but that is usually inferior.
Follow me - A nice option to have but worth it only in more expensive quadcopters that have a more advanced system that allows for good active track and flight modes like circle around and such. This can actually result in amazing drone shots.
Obstacle avoidance - a very new feature in modern drones, pioneered by DJI and Intel, obstacle avoidance sensors have gotten better and better with time. Now you can pretty much get followed by your drone in the woods and at the same time it will avoid all the branches and find a pathway between them (I know because I’ve tried).
Range and Battery life - This one is pretty obvious, but It’s also important to know what to expect from a drone. It usually is directly proportional to its price and size. Smaller toy drones tend to have less battery life (with one exception that you’ll see down below). For foldable beginner drones you can expect a battery life of around 10 minutes, while for more expensive professional folding quadcopters you can expect upwards of 30-40 minutes. Range also follows this pattern, at the higher end reaching up to 10 km.
In this section we’re taking a look at the best folding drones in each category of price and use case. They all differ in some important way so I’ll make sure to underline that so you figure what’s important for you or not.
The DJI Mini 2 is my favorite foldable drone under 250 grams and frankly my most recommended drone on this website.
I have acquired it while I still own better and more expensive drones and I end up flying this the most as it’s just so fun and easy to do.
It comes with some insane specs, some of which are 4k stunning camera with a 3 axis stabilized gimbal, a 10 km range and 31 minutes, all in a folding frame that’s lighter than 250 grams.
What’s more, this is very wind resistant (had to mention this as many people are worried) having a Level 5 wind resistance.
The controller it comes with is very well made and connects to your phone via the DJI app. Inside the app you can program it to do quite a few interesting flight modes (but not follow me), including circle around, dronie, asteroid and it also returns to home by itself (since it has GPS).
Overall, my top recommendation for beginners and even people that are serious about their photography and videography but have a lower budget.
The next step from the Mini 2, the Mavic Air 2 is an absolutely stunning folding camera drone that you can get for well under $1000.
I would consider this the best camera drone for the price, frankly because it offers so much in the package.
It comes with a solid build, despite the fact that it’s foldable and is super stable in the air thanks to it’s GPS + GLONASS + GALILEO combo of satellites as well as the bottom facing sensors.
Speaking of sensors, it’s almost surrounded by them (besides sideways) and that makes it the best foldable drone with obstacle avoidance on the market for sure.
It’s equipped with a new active track 3.0 system that can make the drone follow you while avoiding obstacles.
And I know it works amazing because I have tested the active track in a forest myself.
The 4k camera can take 48mp photos and comes with an amazing 3 axis stabilizing gimbal that produces stunning results. The sensor itself is 48mp but the 12 mp stills are better as it uses the Quad Bayer technology for pixel binding.
The bitrate of 120Mbps and 4k 60 fps resolution is also quite exciting for a lot of professionals knowing how important details can be in a shot.
The Autel Evo 2 can stay in the air for 40 minutes at a time, making it the longest flying foldable drone on this list.
However, the things it does in the air are even more impressive, this being a compact drone made for professionals.
It comes with a 6k or 8k camera depending on the model you pick and can even come with a dual camera module (that also has a heat vision Infrared camera).
It is surrounded with sensors for obstacle avoidance all around and can do the standard flight modes like follow me, return to home, orbit flight and much more.
The Mavic 3 is the latest addition in DJI's foldable series of drones and by far the best foldable camera drone... but it comes at a price...literally.
The Mavic 3 comes with a micro 4/3ds sensor, which has never been used on a foldable drone before and makes it basically like you're flying a handheld camera in the sky, one with a large sensor.
While the end results are very similar to other high end foldable drones like I've shown in the comparison vs the DJI Air 2s, the specs are truly for professionals who know what to do with it and also benefit from the compact form factor.
The 46 minute battery life and 15 km range also make it top of the game in terms of raw specs. The secondary camera on top of the Hasselblad one specs a half an inch sensor and the ability to optical zoom up to 7 times (and even more though digital zoom).
Since not everyone has a huge budget for a drone, I thought I showed you a few cheaper ones, starting with the cheapest foldable GPS drone, the Eachine E520s.
Don’t expect much from the camera quality, but considering you’re getting GPS, a foldable design, and even sort of a 4k camera on it, it really makes it a great package.
It doesn’t come with a 3 axis gimbal or any stabilization ( so the footage will be shaky) but you can move the camera up and down. This also made it on my list with the Best Mini drones (alongside the more expensive DJI Mini 2).
The footage itself looks like it’s 1080p instead of 4k, but it’s really not bad for the price, considering I’ve tested a lot of cheap drones too.
It’s not a brushless motor drone, but brushed instead, which means the motors are a little bit less powerful, but considering it is a very lightweight drone, there’s nothing to fear.
Overall a great choice for anyone looking for a very low budget foldable quadcopter.
My favorite GPS drone under $200 by far, the SJRC F11 4k PRO is an outstanding folding quadcopter that comes with a 2 axis stabilized gimbal + EIS for this price which is amazing.
I’m testing it personally at the time I’m writing this article to make a video review on it and I must say I’m super impressed with it’s results.
The camera shoots in 4k, and it’s quite a good one, even though not on par with DJI drones, it makes for an outstanding video and photo result considering the price difference.
The range is quite satisfying too because at 1.2 km you’re already long beyond the line of sight and it allows for a lot of room for exploration still.
The GPS it comes with is quite precise but it doesn’t have bottom-facing sensors, just some plastic dummy replacements instead, which I found a bit weird.
In conclusion, if you’re limited by budget, this is one of the best camera drones you can get for the money, period!
The Hubsan Zino Made it on my list with the Best drones under $300 as the top recommended quadcopter. This would be the next step up in quality beyond the $200 SJRC F11 4k Pro.
It’s also 4k, but it comes with superior gimbal stabilization thanks to the 3 axis mechanical gimbal and the 4k camera achieves some really sharp footage that is almost indistinguishable for higher end drones.
It still isn’t on par with the likes of the Mini 2 or Mavic Air 2, but for the price it’s definitely unbeatable.
It can fold down in a pretty easy to carry package and the controller is also quite compact.
It comes with powerful brushless motors and a GPS module as well as bottom facing sensors for more stable flight close to the ground.
The best waterproof drone I would recommend buying, the PowerEgg X comes from a drone company with a history in weird but very capable drones.
While it isn’t waterproof by itself, it can come with a special waterproof casing and can even land on water.
This can also be used as a handheld gimbal, as the main body with the camera is detachable from the folding arms themselves. It has a 3 axis stabilized camera, GPS and a follow-me mode.
It’s quite unique in design, shape and it even comes with bottom and forward-facing sensors.
Get this drone if you’re interested in the very unique accessories and the ability to film with it on the ground too, making your footage more consistent than using a different camera on the ground.
The Xiaomi Fimi x8 Mini is a newly released drone that is almost the same as the DJI Mini 2, with just a few small differences. I have reviewed the FIMI X8 Mini here if you want to find out more about it.
It comes with outstanding specs like a 4k 60p 3 axis stabilized camera, 31-minute battery life, and the same compact foldable frame that weighs less than 250 grams.
From what I could find online the prices right now are even cheaper than the DJI Mini 2, which is outstanding, making this probably one of the best folding drones under $500.
One main point in which it differs compared to the Mini 2 is the ability to follow a subject.
While not being a reference to Harry Potter, the Dobby Drone is one of the best selfie pocket drones (that you can actually fit into your pocket).
It doesn’t have outstanding 4k and gimbal stabilized capability like some on this list, but it’s almost impossible to do that in such a flat form factor.
It can be controlled exclusively through a smartphone and it also comes with tracking capability.
The dobby has GPS and ultrasonic sensors at the bottom to keep steady both horizontally and vertically.
One downside is that you need to choose the angle of the camera beforehand, as it’s too small to have a mechanism for tilting it in the air.
It’s really made for selfies and taking videos in the park since it has somewhere between 50 and 100m in range (typical for a phone-controlled drone).
The camera is 4k and electronically stabilized, which ends up looking quite great, but for sure not as perfect as a mechanical gimbal would have been.
Gopro drones are a dying breed because it’s quite complicated to make a compact foldable drone with the recent gopros getting bigger and bigger.
However, if you want to try it out, the best result you can get is with the GoPro Karma (yes, a drone made by gopro themselves).
It’s quite a good drone in fact, but it has been discontinued by gopro since then. You can probably find it second hand at this point in time.
It can fly for about 1km in range and doesn’t have a follow me function. It’s also bigger than the main competitor ones, and these are some reasons why it didn’t make the cut with consumers.
However, it’s still the best gopro drone to this day in my opinion, as it works seamlessly with gopros and it also can be used as a handheld gimbal on the ground.
One of the most popular and newest commercial drone platforms from dji, the Matrice 200 can be indeed folded for better and easier transportation, but you can’t really call it compact.
It’s made for serious use, being able to mount up to 3 camera modules (each with their own 3 axis stabilized gimbals.
It also has sensors and an additional FPV camera that can be used by the drone pilot while another camera operator handles the camera job.
This drone operates with specially made GPS modules that increase the precision, useful for mapping, search and rescue and can fit special cameras, from thermal ones to zoom cameras and even powerful lights.
This is a powerful weather resistant drone that can handle many different environments, but its price is correspondingly high.
Let's see a few more details you should know about foldable drones before you head out and buy one.
A foldable drone is flown just like any other. The difference is that you need to unfold it before you start the motors and use the sticks to maneuver it around.
Some foldable drones also come with foldable propellers. There’s no need to unfold the propellers before flight, they will align themselves properly during flight.
Yes, foldable drones happen to be some of the best drones you can buy and in my experience they don’t come with any drawbacks in utility, specs or durability.
It’s hard to pinpoint the best foldable drone, but if I was to make a general recommendation for the public, the DJI MIni 2 is the winner. Being under 250 grams, with a stunning camera and gimbal and 10 km range there’s really not much to say about it.
Just like normal ones, foldable drones can do the same job without any compromises to the integrity of the aircraft and this makes them very desirable for pretty much everyone.
DJI seems to hold a good market advantage as they have also been the first to make such drones more popular to the public, but as you could see in the article so far, there are also very capable alternatives, depending on what you would like.