So you’re looking for a professional drone because you don’t want to mistakenly buy a cheap toy drone and get some terrible photo or video results.
Or maybe you're looking to buy the best commercial drone for specific uses like mapping, surveying, inspection, etc.
If you’re interested in using your drone to record in 4k, need it for professional photography and videography, or even for industrial or agricultural use, this article will guide you through the entire process of choosing one.
Here's an introductory table to the first 5 drones. If you scroll down you'll see details on every one of the 21 drones.
Since I have tested and reviewed anything from the cheapest beginner drones to the most expensive camera drones, I have a pretty good clue as to what the differences are and where we can draw the line between pro drones and beginner ones.
While there is a gradual improvement as your budget increases, it is typically that you will find these differences between toy drones and professional quadcopters:
If you're looking for a professional drone, you must have some commercial use in mind, and that's why we should first see what the main uses are for such drones.
After this, we’ll have a look at my top recommended drones for each one (and more)
What can commercial drones do?
Commercial drones usually cost more than regular camera drones, starting from $1000 and going up to $10,000 or more, the average industrial drone (for mapping, inspection etc.) costing around $4000.
Usually the larger the UAV and the more cameras and motors, the higher the cost.
Since the most requested type of drone is a typical camera drone that focuses on delivering good photo and video results, I’ll cover the main things to look for.
Keep in mind that many of these apply to all the other drone uses too.
In this section we’ll look at the best professional drones and underline what the best uses for each are, so you don’t have to choose between too many average ones in your particular industry.
The Mavic 3 is the most recently released Pro Drone from DJI and it's made for professional cinematic use and the specs show it.
From the huge micro 4/3rds sensor to the 46 minute battery life and the proper 15 km range, everything screams top of the range. The large sensor is suitable for photographers or videographers who want to have the best results in low light as well as capture very true to life colors thanks to the Hasselblad setup. The secondary 7x optical zoom camera can work in anything from search and rescue to gaining a new perspective in your shots.
While the side by side results won't be noticeable for most people in terms of final image quality compared to something like the DJI Air 2s, the finer adjustments, colors and low light performance make it one of the best cinematic professional drones in the compact range.
If you're looking for a professional camera drone for taking photos and videos of everything commercial, from real estate, weddings, commercials, the DJI Air 2s is the best drone for the price!
I personally tested and reviewed every DJI drone released so far and when I saw that we're getting a 1-inch sensor and all this technology in such a compact drone I just have to recommend it.
The 1-inch sensor means better low-light photography and videos as well as the ability to zoom in.
It can shoot video in 10 Bit DLog for extra precise post-processing of colors.
It's a dream for photographers, as it comes with a dynamic range of 12.6 F stops and even HDR photos.
The obstacle avoidance sensors and technology are even better than before, considering they were already some of the best in the market, now DJI has added upward sensors too.
The Air 2s can follow and track any subject with ease and you can use automatic flight modes called MasterShots.
If your budget is around $1000, you can buy a Mavic Air 2s with accessories and it will take stunning footage and photos.
It’s also super stable in windy conditions and with that 12 km range and 1080p live transmission, I don’t think you’ll be too afraid to play with it.
Overall this is a beast of a camera drone for a super affordable budget.
One of the latest releases of DJI in terms of enterprise solutions is the Matrice 300 RTK which is a monster of a quadcopter. Being able to carry up to 3 different types of payload at the same time and stay in the air for 55 minutes in total.
It also comes with a 15 km transmission range and operates in low temperatures (recommended max of -20 degrees celsius).
You can get it with different payload cameras including the Zenmuse H20 or the H20T. These can integrate the following:
It is made for special operations that require anything from inspection to mapping and search and rescue.
It can track moving objects at very far ranges and can alert you of incoming aircraft thanks to the ADS-B receiver.
It also has some of the most advanced 6 direction sensing and positioning systems.
It also has a dual battery setup which makes it very fast to land the drone and change the battery without the need to restart it when time is of importance.
While the Skydio 2 is priced and equipped for standard consumer level, the X2 is a recently released drone made specifically for industrial use.
It improves on the already incredible obstacle avoidance drone and even adds the folding capability to make it more compact.
It’s made for uses like search and rescue, inspections and public safety.
It comes with a 100x superzoom lens, a thermal camera and can be operated both during day and night.
The Skydio X2 is made from durable plastic and industry-grade carbon fiber.
The range is somewhere around 6 miles and the battery lasts for around 35 minutes. It seems to be advertised mainly for military and police use.
The RTK version of the Phantom 4 is designed for high-precision real-time aerial mapping. It uses a 1 inch 20 mp CMOS sensor which is amazing for capturing high-quality image data to transform into a precise map.
The RTK module makes this drone super precise when determining its position according to GPS satellites ( up to 1 cm horizontal positioning accuracy, compared to 1-meter standard) and a 5 cm horizontal accuracy which is also insane.
It’s also made for surveying as it offers a wide range of control schemes and accuracy.
It also comes with the DJI GS RTK app which has plenty of tools for everything from surveying to mapping with ultra-precision. This allows you to plan your flights ahead and it includes a photogrammetry program along with a waypoint flight.
The drone also comes with a controller with a bright screen included, so no need to clumsily connect your phone and not see well enough in daylight.
The Autel Dragonfish made it at the top of my list with the best fixed wing drones and for good reasons.
It's a VTOL drone, which means it can take off like a multirotor but it flies in the air like a plane, this makes it easier to use than a fixed-wing and with much longer flight times compared to any normal multirotor.
Autel is also one of the main competitors for DJI, making it on of the biggest drone companies in the US.
It's made for surveying, reconnaissance and mapping.
The standard setup comes with a 20x zoom.
If we talk about agricultural drones, especially spraying ones, we need some size to the machine. Even more, heavy lifting drones like this one tend to have more than 4 rotors, being either hexacopter or octocopters to be able to lift a larger payload safely.
The Agras T16 is a drone that can carry up to 16 liters of fluid and can spray up to 6.5 meters in width, making it one of the most efficient AG drones on the market and can cover 10 hectares per hour.
It’s also waterproof (IP 67) and dustproof while also being made from durable plastic and parts of carbon fiber.
However, in drones large as this one with such a heavy payload, battery life can be more problematic, as 18 minutes is as much as it can fly with one full tank.
IT also uses an extra precision RTK module with all the GPS satellites available, including GLONASS, BeiDOu (china satellite system), and Galileo too.
Even though it’s very large, the foldable system can reduce it to a more transportable size (getting down to 25% of the original structure).
If flight time is of utmost importance, the 40 minute air time of the Autel Evo 2 is as high-end as you’ll get for this price and size. It’s really hard to beat, especially considering the other high-end drones fly at most 30 minutes.
What’s more, this drone is created with professionals in mind.
It comes in 2 versions, the 8k and 6k camera versions (the body is the same). The 8k version has a dual-camera setup, including an IR (infrared) camera.
The Professional version comes with a 1-inch 6k camera, while the normal version has a ½ inch sensor.
Just like the Mavic 2 Pro, it specs 360 degree oriented obstacle avoidance sensors and comes with stunning obstacle avoidance and tracking modes.
Overall this is as professional as it gets, for quite an affordable price if you are to ask me.
If you’re looking for a professional mini drone, there are really few options to choose from. There are two of them I can think of, both being very similar. One is the Xiaomi Fimi x8 mini which I reviewed and the other, DJI Mini 2 which is currently my most used drone.
Being under 250 grams it’s legal to fly without registration in most countries. It’s also incredibly portable and still comes with a Level 5 wind resistance which is on par with the bigger drones.
You might wonder if such a drone is worthy in fact to include in a list with professional ones, and my answer is a clear yes!
I have actually compared the Mini 2 with an under $1000 drone, the aforementioned Mavic Air 2 and not only it stood its ground, but people couldn’t actually make the difference.
The 4k camera is as sharp as any high-end one and the 3 axis gimbal is stellar even as small as this one is.
The 10 km range and 31-minute battery life makes it top range for this price category by far.
While it doesn’t have sensors in the front or back or active tracking, it still has some interesting flight modes and manual camera settings like ISO, shutter speed, and such. You can add ND filters to it and turn it into a great cinematic camera drone.
The only downside of this drone at a glance is that if you come with this at a client's place they might not take you too seriously (because of the size).
The upgraded version from the original Mavic 2 Enterprise, now the Advanced version brings one of the most complete industrial packages in a very compact drone.
Coming with an RTK module and a few others:
This is one of the most versatile and state-of-the-art drones for everything from Mapping to inspection and surveillance.
The dual Camera includes a 49mp visual camera with 32x digital zoom and a state-of-the-art thermal camera. The 32x zoom is 4x lossless and 32 digital zoom.
It also comes with omnidirectional obstacle sensing and obstacle avoidance.
The RTK Module allows for centimeter-level precision in mapping and flight positioning in general.
The app can split the screen to see images from the two cameras side by side, making it extremely helpful in search and rescue missions for example.
The RTK module also has an important role in creating precise waypoints to conduct automated, detailed inspection missions in complex environments.
The Matrice 600 Pro from DJI is one of the best cinema drones out there made to fit natively with DJI cameras and gimbals as well as your own cameras.
It's more of a flying platform than a drone, thanks to its modular components. The robust design features large actively cooled motors, a carbon fiber hexacopter frame with foldable legs. This allows the bottom camera to turn around 360 degrees of freedom.
The octocopter design makes the drone refundable in case of motor failure and more stable in the air compared to a quadcopter
This drone is quite cheap for what it can do and it is a heavy lifting drone able to even lift heavy DSLR cameras off the ground (if it’s under 1.6kg payload).
It’s really well built and it can fly at up to 25mph (40km/h).
One of the better points of this drone is the outstanding controller, which comes with an included LCD screen that gives access to the main features as well as simply being well built.
Since it’s a hexacopter it also has a motor failure redundancy system, so if a motor fails working, the drone can still get on the ground safely.
It also has an RTK module at the top for additional precision in flight and mapping.
Overall a solid hexacopter used for cinematography.
While I still fly a cinewhoop called Diatone Taycan, it just so happens that DJI have revolutionized the FPV industry too. If you want a cinematic FPV drone, there’s a few options:
So if you’re interested in flying FPV like you see online pilots doing flips all while filming cinematic stabilized video, the DJI FPV Drone can be your easiest way to start.
It will still require days of practice in a simulator before you even make your first flight, but DJI also provides a free simulator and what’s more GPS included so even if you lose control you have a safety button that will make the drone hover in place.
The included 4k 60p EIS stabilized camera also replaces what should have been an expensive gopro so you don’t have to mess with that.
The alternative is to dive a bit deeper into the hobby and buy a protected professional FPV drone that has prop guards around it and mount a gopro on it. This will make the experience safer for the drone and people since it has those prop guards, but it means it won’t have GPS and you’ll have to do a bit of digging around until you manage to fly it. You can also use this with the DJI FPV system (which is just a camera and goggles system) that will allow digital transmission which means a clearer FPV image.
If you are looking for the best of the best in terms of cinematic results, while still at a reasonable price, the Inspire 2 is a great platform.
It features a 360 degree camera system which means that it can rotate the camera freely in every direction, since the arms and legs of the drone are lifted up in the air.
It is capable of recording RAW video at up to 5.2k and its maximum speed of 58mph (94kph) means it’s capable of following anything you throw at it.
The dual battery system prolongs the flight time to 27 minutes, which might not seem much by the standards of other drones, but considering it’s weight it’s plenty.
It also comes with an additional FPV camera that can stream video, so it makes it compatible for dual pilot operation, making it easier for each to focus on flight and video separately.
The zenmuse camera series can be mounted on it, providing a wide range of options for every type of cinematographer.
This drone is great for tracking fast moving objects or flying at fast speeds.
If you’re looking for a professional drone that can follow you wherever you go without even having to care if it ever crashes, this is it. The Skydio 2 uses cameras all around to detect and avoid obstacles in real time while keeping the subject in focus.
Although you may think this is exactly what the other drones from DJI do, it’s way better. I am impressed indeed by what DJI follow me can do and how it can avoid obstacles, but the Skydio is on a whole new level to the point where you can do sports and not care about the drone at all and it will simply never crash.
It features a 1/2.3” sensor and 4k 60FPS camera that can take HDR footage. It also has a beacon accessory that you can hold in your pocket or control the drone through it and it will improve the tracking accuracy by locating the beacons GPS location.
Overall this is a combination between a capable camera drone and a tracking dog, perfect to use for sports and adventure and especially great for beginners since it’s so hard to crash. The only downside is that it isn’t foldable so it does take up some space.
A fixed-wing drone will fly for a longer time and cover larger distances in shorter time. That's why a commercial fixed-wing is used generally for mapping and photogrametry.
The Ebee X is a solid base fixed wing drone compatible with all senseFly cameras like:
The great features and relatively affordable price (for the industry) make the SenseFly Ebee x a great choice in any of your mapping endeavors.
You don't often see a commercial tricopter drone, but it has it's advantages, believe it or not.
I wrote a separate article on tricopter drones, but long story short, tricopters are more agile and a bit more efficient compared to other drones. They have disadvantages like potential instability, but not with the proper technology.
The Atlas is made fully out of carbon fiber so it's very durable and weather resistant (IP52) and what separates it from other in the industry is that it's quite small.
You can use this drone with their ipad app. The tricotper also comes with a "nest" that can automatically change the drone batteries inside.
You can easily exchange payload cameras depending on your needs (like thermal, mapping etc)
FreeFly is one of the most trustworthy commercial drone companies in the US with tons of tests completed on their drones before flight.
The Alta X is their newest heavy lifting professional quadcopter that stands on its own as a platform for pretty much anything, from film making, to delivery or even industrial inspection or mapping.
Depending on the payload it can fly up to 50 minutes and thanks to the unique motor bearing system, the team managed to reduce vibrations considerably that are quite frequent for such large motors.
This octocopter is a hybrid between an electrigasc motor and also a gas powered drone making it very efficient in terms of flight times (especially with no aditional weight).
It has full propeller, motor and ESC redundancy, so if a motor fails, the drone will keep flying.
The drone isn't as fast as the electric ones, but it certainly compensates because it is so long enduring.
Actually, the team behind, Skyfront, has managed to break the world record with one of their drones and fly for 13 hours and 205 miles... talk about long-range and flight time.
The drone can be used for mapping, surveillance, and security as well as search and rescue.
The Vantage Vesper, probably the best recognizance drone in the world that's also super compact and with some stunning specs.
The ideal use for search and rescue, military operations, and police.
The Vantage Vesper is waterproof, comes with 3 cameras, including thermal, low light infrared and a 48x zoom one, all of these under the same gimbal.
at just 2.2lb it is quite portable, perfect for professional recon missions.
The drone is foldable and can slide down in a small rectangular tube, making it much more portable than the others with similar specs on this list.
The Airborne Vanguard is a long range professional quadcopter that can fly for extended amounts of time.
It can be used for surveillance and security, wildlife, inspection and detection, mapping, delivery, farming etc.
It comes with a dual-camera configuration, that includes a 10x zoom camera and a thermal flir boson camera.
It's one of the longest flying consumer drones I know of, and that is its strong suite.
Some more details before you decide what professional drone to actually pick!
Professional drones are usually over $1000 in price, but if there are 2 exceptions that I mentioned in this article that can start from $500 instead. However the average price for more advanced industrial drones are somewhere around $4000 or more sometimes.
Professional drone accessories differ a bit from standard ones, and here are some of them:
If you want to see what other accessories are standard for a drone, check out my article on the best drone accessories.
DJI is by far one of the most popular drone manufacturers, period. They own 75% of the market in total and have extended even more in the profesional industrial drone space.
However there are other companies that I have presented in the article, including:
The Autel Dragonfish can fly up to 30 km in range (18 miles) and maintain a live feed during this time. It can also fly for very extended periods of time because it's a fixed wing drone.
The Autel Dragonfish is one of the longest flying drones commercial drones on the market, with a battery life of 120 minutes. It can fly for that long because it is a VTOL drone, that can fly like a fixed wing while also landing like a multicopter.
While the meaning of professional commercial drone might not be the same for everyone, it’s safe to say that the more industrial-scale you’re going, the more expensive the drone. So if you happen to only need a good camera drone for things like real estate or video content creation, stick with the cheaper professional drones I recommended on the list.