The largest, strongest, fastest and most capable drones on the market are targeted toward the professional community. These are the types of machines that the movie industry puts to work, that commercial agencies use to inspect infrastructure, and search & rescue teams rely on to save lives. We’re super excited that many of our favorite smaller consumer drones can handle some of the simpler professional drone needs, but we’ll explore more of that below.
Generally recognized as one of the best camera drones on the market, the DJI Inspire 2 offers great cameras, superb flight and robust controls for…
- 27 – Minutes
- 6K – 30 FPS
- 58 – MPH
- 4.3 – MILES
Building off of the Mavic 2 platform, the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise offers new cameras and new accessories such as lights, speakers and beacons.
- 31 – MIN
- 4K – 30 FPS
- 44 – MPH
- 4.3 – MILES
DJI called the Mavic 2 Pro an iterative update over the original Mavic Pro; It may look like a simple upgrade, but the Mavic 2…
- 31 – MIN
- 4K – 30 FPS
- 44 – MPH
- 6.2 – MILES
The Yuneec H920 Plus is a large, powerful hexacopter, made to haul larger cameras. A reliable machine that masters the basics for your commercial drone…
- 24 – Minutes
- 4K – 30 FPS
- 25 – MPH
- 1 – MILE
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK packs multi-direction obstacle avoidance, advanced airspace awareness and multiple payloads for commercial drone operations.
- 55 – MIN
- 4K – 30 FPS
- 51.5 – MPH
- 9.3 – MILES
You don’t have to fly a drone for work to enjoy these machines, but most do come with a hefty price. Join us for a list of some of the best professional drones.
Best professional drones
We’ll proceed today with little rhyme or reason, I plan to lump together camera drones with search and rescue drones and more. We originally thought we might approach this from a price perspective, making this a list of drones over $2000. Truth is, just like friends, great drones come in all sizes, and your professional needs may differ from other pilots around, so we have no price limits here today.
You can fly these drones at home for fun, but please remember that if you are being paid to fly, you need to have your Part 107 license in the United States. We’re working on our content, our drone pilot training, or you can hit up our preferred training provider Drone Pilot Ground School.
DJI Inspire 2
The original DJI Inspire may have set a tone for what a professional drone should look like, but the newer DJI Inspire 2 set the tone for what it should be able to accomplish. At launch, the Inspire 2 was equipped with the Zenmuse X5, a 5.2K camera with interchangeable lenses, ready to take on tasks in Hollywood. Since then, DJI has added the Zenmuse X7 camera, a 6K shooter even more capable of professional filming tasks.
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise
After finding success with the second version of the Mavic Pro, along came the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, using the same platform as the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom, but adding mounting points for accessories. The accessories are designed for tasks such as search and rescue, with a spotlight, loud speaker, beacon and more. Available in two versions, the Zoom Edition uses the same camera as the Mavic 2 Zoom, and the Dual Edition adds a thermal camera to the mix, but removes zooming from the visual camera.
DJI did not initially display the purchase price for the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise, we understand it has a starting price of $1999, the accessories are added from there.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Introduced in August of 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro instantly became the best consumer-class folding drone that DJI had to offer. A marked upgrade over the original Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 Pro rocks a 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture at 100Mbps, multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors for some of the safest drone flight possible, and much more. OcuSync 2.0 enhances connectivity to the remote control and other accessories, now able to transmit 1080p live stream video well beyond the legal line-of-sight.
With an initial launch price of $1449, plus another $319 to get the Fly More kit with extra batteries, there is a barrier to entry with this machine, but if the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is within your budget, we think you will not be disappointed.
Yuneec Tornado H920 Plus
If you are looking for the largest off-the-shelf drone that Yuneec produces, you’ll be looking at the Yuneec Tornado H920 Plus. This is a sizable hexacopter made to haul a fair sized camera. By default, you’ll launch with the CGO4, which compares nicely to the Panasonic GH4. Was that a collaboration? Well, go ahead and install the camera gimbal to launch with the GH4 itself. In the end, the H920 Plus is an older drone, it’s still reliable and masters the basics, but runs Yuneec’s older in-house software. Their software is not bad, but their newer drones use PX4 and Dronecode software, which is more robust.
Bottom line, if you need a powerful drone for your more basic Hollywood camera flight needs, the Yuneec Tornado H920 Plus is a solid consideration.
Autel Robotics Evo II
The Autel Robotics Evo II (Evo 2) is an exciting update to the initial Evo. Sharing much of the same ideology for form-factor and flight characteristics, the newer machine is an update in almost every way. Primarily, pilots should be excited for 40 minute flight times, extended connectivity range, and an 8K camera. Sure, you can upgrade to a Pro model that has a larger sensor and only a 6K camera, but base model Evo II buyers are getting their hands on one of the first consumer products to shoot 8K video, not just drones, one of the first, period.
This orange folding drone is a machine that satisfies consumers, but also tackles commercial and professional needs. Notably, the top model of the new Evo II line comes with a dual-camera configuration, sporting an 8K sensor and a decent IR camera. The base model and the commercial model each get that 1/2-inch 8K sensor, while the pro model gets a full 1-inch 6K sensor. They can all send the camera feed back to the Autel Robotics Live Deck, for your studio and independent recording needs as well.
The Autel Robotics Evo II will be available in early 2020 starting at $1495. Exact prices and availability yet to be announced.
Things to know before you fly
- You must register your drone with the FAA before you fly
- You must affix your drone registration number to your craft
- Coming soon: The FAA will require you to pass a test before you fly your drone
- You must acquire your Part 107 certificate if you are to receive any compensation for your flight
- You must follow all of the FAA’s airspace rules if you are flying outdoors
- Hobby flights have different requirements from commercial flights
- In the eye’s of the FAA, drones are aircraft. Period.
- You need to acquire authorization to fly in controlled airspace
Intuitive Aerial Aerigon MK II
From our Best camera drones list
If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it. A full blown rig from Intuitive Aerial can set you back $25,000 or more, including Hollywood style monster video cameras. The idea of the Aerigon MK II is simple, put your camera in the sky. We’re not talking about mounting GoPro, point-and-shoot, or even your DSLR, we’re talking about monster professional camera rigs.
With an example rig costing a full quarter of a million dollars, the media team at BrainFarm shoot 4K commercials and more, and you can too, if you can afford it.
FreeFly Alta 8
Introduced on this list, also on our Best camera drones list
The FreeFly Alta 8 is a massive drone with a huge payload. Measuring almost 4 feet across, the Alta 8 can pack up to 26 lbs of gear, including the batteries and such – so only about 20 lbs of camera. While FreeFly promotes themselves as film enthusiasts, the Alta packs an optional top mount for your camera. We introduced this idea with the DJI M200 series recently, but FreeFly has had it for a time already. Commercial drone pilots will be able to inspect the underbelly of bridges with either of these options.
If you are looking for a little less payload and a smaller drone, the FreeFly Alta 6 is a hexacopter take on the same air frame.
There is a lighter Alta 6 as well, if this is too much, but drones of this caliber come at a price, look to spend about $17,495.00 on the FreeFly Alta 8 on Amazon today. The FreeFly Alta 6 is $11,995 on Amazon or B&H Photo. Less than half that if you buy used.
Intel Falcon 8+
Intel’s Falcon 8 and Falcon 8+ have been flying the skies for some fun inspection projects around the globe. These are not the sort of drones you pick up cheap and fly in your backyard, but if you are serious about inspection services, or other high flying, high-end camera needs, the Falcon 8+ could be the drone for you. More than just a drone, Intel Insight is a powerful software package that takes your images from the sky and performs magic on them. Well, maybe not magic, but creating a full 3D map out of stills is fairly slick.
3D mapping is only the start, Intel Insight is designed to assist in the inspection process. The software is able to identify and highlight any changes of an object after you collect subsequent scans. At InterDrone 2017 we watched as the drone scanned the facade of a building, changes were then made, removing screws and lights, etc. The second scan was able to identify these changes. The idea is to automate much of the menial work, place that info in front of a human who can then decide to repair or ignore the real world object.
We do not have a price tag for the Intel Falcon 8+ drone, but we’ve heard the number $42,000.00 floating around. A small price to pay if you need these sorts of tools. We found the Intel Falcon 8+ for $16,359 at B&H Photo.
We’re not saying that being in the military makes you a professional, but, it sort of does, doesn’t it? If you are looking for something more than your standard camera rig or quadcopter, maybe one of our list of military drones can help.
Professional drones Wrap-up
That’s all we have for today, I hope you can see the value in the various drone options presented. If nothing else, I hope we’ve given you a sense of the types of industries and workloads that drones are supporting today. We did not discuss passenger drones, nor did we get into law enforcement and military equipment – we tried to stick to drones that you can actually go to a store and purchase, even the ones that the average pilot can’t afford.
Is there a commercial or professional drone that you think should have been on this list? Which of these pro drones would you like to play with for a non-pro flight?
Looking for a fun consumer drone?
Frequently Asked Questions
Why don’t these professional drones have built-in cameras?
Many pilots are eager to have a fun camera installed on their drones, but the movie industry views things differently: they have their cameras, they just need a way to put them into the sky and control them. We are huge fans of the DJI Inspire 2, but it offers a very limited set of camera options for a professional camera crew.
Do I need a license to fly professional drones?
Drone licensing for most countries is determined by your type of operation, not your type of drone. If you will be paid, or otherwise compensated for your flight, or any media captured during that flight, it is a commercial operation, for which you will need your Part 107 certification. Do you need your Part 107? You can fly these drones at home for fun without license, but you are not allowed to make any money from those photos or videos.
What’s the difference between a professional drone and a commercial drone?
There is no official industry standard, that we know of, so we have chosen to follow the trends set by the manufacturers. We consider a drone that is built for the purpose of shooting professional video from the sky, to be a profession al drone. We consider a drone designed for tasks like inspection services, perhaps hauling a thermal camera, to be commercial drones. Truth is, we used to have all of these drones together on one list, we’ve only really split them up because there was enough of them to talk about.
Please note: The FAA often refers to “commercial operations,” which is identified by your flight, not by your drone. As long as you meet the hobby pilot requirements, you can fly a professional or commercial drone at home, just like you can use even a toy drone for a commercial operation. Commercial operations require the Part 107 certification.
How does Remote ID change my drone business?
While the need for Remote ID has been mandated by the FAA, the technology to make it happen is still in development. It may turn out that your aerial machine is already equipped with hardware that can broadcast the required info, so a software update can keep you going. More likely, expect to either attach a third-party Remote ID broadcast module to your drones, or prepare to update your fleet with new drones altogether. We write thins in January 20201, things are still evolving, please do not act yet.
Can I fly at night?
Until April 21, 2021, the only way you can fly at night is with a waiver from the FAA. After April 21, Part 107 certified pilots will be able to obtain their night-flight operations validation by taking some online training. Night flight operations have additional limitations and regulations, please do your research.
Can I fly over top of people?
No. At least not without a wavier from the FAA. As with night flight, the FAA is easing the restrictions on April 21 for Part 107 certified pilots.
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