There are a few drones that have paved the way for all others on the market, machines that many people identify at a glance, or are what people think of when they think of the word “drone.” We believe the DJI Phantom line is perhaps the most iconic drone around, but it is hard to ignore the presence of the Inspire, the multitude of props on the Typhoon and the extremely popular folding design of the Mavic Pro.
An icon in its time, the DJI Phantom 3 became the iconic drone that comes to mind when you hear the word drone.
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- 1080p – 30 FPS
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The DJI Inspire rapidly became a dream drone for many, with retracting landing gear and more, it is just a cool drone.
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- 4K – 30 FPS
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The Typhoon H was the initial folding retail hexacopter from Yuneec. This capable machine matched the Phantom drones at launch for camera quality and flight…
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The Hubsan H111 is one of the best nano drones for flying around the house. It is a tiny machine that fits in the palm…
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- No camera
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Introduced in 2016, the DJI Mavic Pro redefined portability for consumer drones. The folding design made for a drone that could safely slide into a backpack…
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- 4K – 30 FPS
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For now, let’s first dive into the drones that everyone knows, and then we’ll explore the newer drones that have all but replaced these iconic beasts over the years.
Original iconic drones
DJI Phantom 3
Some might call the DJI Phantom 3 the most important drone of all time for DJI. I might say that is the Mavic Pro, but there is no way to ignore the cultural significance of the Phantom drone. For a lot of the general community out there, the Phantom 3 is the drone that comes to mind when they hear the word drone. The drone itself was solid for its time, but offers the sort of specs that get laughed out of the market today. 1080p video capture, no obstacle avoidance and more, at least on the original version. DJI launched four versions total, including the Pro and 4K, with the 4K being the last out the door and first with 4K capture.
Few drones captured the reputation of being a monster of a drone quite like the DJI Inspire. We call it now the Inspire 1, to differentiate it from the newer Inspire 2, but it’s still that same killer drone that got people excited. The retractable landing gear, 360 articulating camera gimbal and design captured imaginations. Sadly, the drone gained popularity through a bunch of drone crash videos, but in the industry, it marked the beginning of being able to access a superb drone for a price that a consumer can handle.
High speeds, superb cameras, a unique drone design and more sold for a price well above double what you can snag it for today. Check out the DJI Inspire 1 for about $1229 today. As a discontinued drone, stock and prices may fluctuate.
Yuneec Typhoon H
The Yuneec Typhoon H is a folding hexacopter with 4K camera and effective flight features. The design has become iconic of Yuneec drones, offering the safety and stability of six propellers and the versatility of a center-hanging camera. The remote control of the Typhoon H is an Android powered device with built-in 7-inch display and all the controls needed to navigate the aircraft and operate the camera.
GPS connectivity and multiple smart flight modes ensure a successful flight for most pilots and operations. Basic obstacle avoidance sensors help keep things safe, with the option of the Typhoon H Pro with equipped Intel RealSense collision avoidance sensors.
The attached CGO3+ camera offers 4K video resoplution at 30 fps and still images at 12MP. As a discontinued drone, you can still find the Yuneec Typhoon H for about $950.
One of our favorite drones for flying around the house is the tiny Hubsan H111. This is an entry level toy drone that usually sells for around $20. It flies quite well, all things considered, and is a superb machine to practice on during the winter months or before you dive into a larger machine. The built in battery only provides about 5 minute of flight time, there is no camera and no fancy flight features, it’s a raw flight experience – which is what we love about it.
It’s not lost on us that it comes in Drone Rush colors as well, thank you Hubsan!
Check out the Hubsan H111 for about $18 today.
DJI Mavic Pro
The DJI Mavic Pro is a compact, folding drone that was a pioneer for portability. This quadcopter folds down to fit easily in a backpack, or large pocket, while opening up to take 4K video to over 40mph in the sky. The 3-axis stabilized gimbal offers very smooth footage and OcuSync enables long range and HD live video streaming. The Phantom line of drones may have established DJI as a leader in the consumer drone market, but the Mavic Pro made high-quality aerial photography fun and highly accessible.
Updates and replacements for the iconic drones
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
The DJI Phantom series of drones are some of the best machines on the market, every iteration makes improvements on the previous and in the case of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, we’re talking about improved motors, more efficient propellers and the first Phantom drone to rock OcuSync connectivity.
The Phantom 4 Pro series was DJI’s best drone at launch for object avoidance technology, a trend that continues and is improved upon with the V2.0 series, adding radar and more obstacle avoidance goodness. The newer drone comes with the same 20MP 4K camera as previous, still one of the best camera drones on the market.
The difference between the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 for around $1,499 and the Phantom 4 Pro+ V2.0 for $1,749 is the inclusion of a 5.5-inch built-in display on the remote of the Pro+. The bright, Android powered display is the only difference between the two machines.
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.
Yuneec Typhoon H Plus
The hexacopter design of Yuneec’s Typhoon line of drones has been quite popular, if not successful. The design has become an icon in the industry and the safety of having extra propellers has been well accepted in the commercial market. The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is a second generation model of their consumer focus. The Typhoon H Plus lands somewhere in between the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire line of drones in terms of specs and price. Packing a 20MP 4K camera on a 3-axis gimbal, folding design and market average flight times and speeds, the Intel RealSense obstacle avoidance sensor may a leading reason to consider this drone over others.
You’ll be able able to check out the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus for about $1899 from a few retailers.
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.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
If you run down the spec sheet, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the same machine, with one major exception, the camera. The folding quadcopter design offers great portability, the multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors assist in safe flight, and the new capabilities of OcuSync 2.0 add versatility for control and accessories. That is true for both of the drones, the Mavic 2 Zoom, on the other hand, rocks a 2x optical zoom lens on top of a 12MP camera. It shoots 4K video at 100Mbps and can digitally double that zoom for an impressive close-up.
DJI Mini 2
The original DJI Mavic Mini was a very important machine for the consumer hobby drone market. The DJI Mini 2 is the next generation of super-compact camera drone, it’s a solid improvement over the original Mini, especially in terms of the camera and flight capabilities. You still get a sub-250 gram drone, but now get a 4K camera, vastly improved connectivity, a more durable design, and more power.
The newer 1/2.3-inch sensor produces 12MP stills, and 4K video at 30 fps and 100Mbps data rate. For some, the most exciting update is lossless zoom. With up to 4X zoom, you can safely fly at distance from your subject, perfect for those pet photos or to capture shots of a waterfall in the distance.
DJI Mavic Mini
With a long list of drones that start with the name Mavic, DJI has launched yet another consumer machine, perhaps their most consumer friendly yet, the new, very compact, folding DJI Mavic Mini.
As the name implies, the DJI Mavic Mini is a very small machine, and in true DJI fashion, it has few compromises to make it all work. The first thing to note is that the Mavic Mini weighs less than 0.55 lbs, which means you do not need to register it with the FAA before flight. Registration is quick and easy, but not requiring it at all is a bonus.
Related reading: DJI Mavic Mini review
Don’t let the small size fool you, this drone packs a 12MP camera, shoot 2.7K video from a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal and has all of the flight features you’d expect from a Mavic drone today.
Mavic Air 2
DJI Mavic Air 2
The DJI Mavic Air 2 drone is more than just a successor to the original Mavic Air, it’s more of a transition from its own form-factor into a true Mavic drone. The Mavic Air 2 maintains its place as a mid-tier drone in DJI’s lineup. In terms of size, price, and capability, the Mavic Air 2 sits almost perfectly in between the Mavic Mini and the Mavic 2 series drones.
In the same way that the Mavic Air stepped up the camera game for small drones, the Mavic Air 2 is an exciting update in the camera department as well. You’re looking at a new 1/2-inch sensor that shoots 12MP stills, but does so from a 48MP sensor! You can capture 48MP stills as well, but the 12MP shots are better, using pixel binning managed by Quad Bayer technology. Photos are great, but the new 4K video capture at 60fps, and a data bit rate of 120Mbps, are more exciting to many users.
Check out the DJI Mavic Air 2 for a starting price of $799 for the base package, $988 for the Fly More combo at launch in May 2020.
Fun new entry: DJI FPV
This new drone is far from iconic at this point, but it is a totally new flight concept from DJI, a hybrid-racing drone that takes the best of a camera drones and blends it with the thrill of a racing drone. If you’re shopping for a new machine, this is an enticing option.
Drone racing is terribly fun, especially when you use VR goggles to enjoy the FPV video, but those drones can be tough to control. DJI’s camera drones are super easy to operate, but few are tailored to the FPV experience. DJI blended the two with the new DJI FPV.
Hold onto your controller, this drone is fast! Enjoy most of the best camera drone features that DJI produces, but in an agile machine that goes more than double the speed of the Mavic drone you are used to.
Let the 4K 60p camera capture superb video from the sky, while you enjoy a crisp experience right in front of your eyes, with the DJI FPV from $1299.00.
When you hear the word “drone” what is the first machine that comes to mind for you?
Frequently Asked Questions
Are iconic drones the best drones?
In most cases, the iconic drones are no longer the best drones you should be buying. They may have been the market leaders in their time, but newer machines have outpaced older drones in many ways. The DJI Mavic Mini, for example, is a more capable aircraft, with a better camera, than the first few generations of Phantom drones. Considering the Phantom drones hit the market at around three times the price, it’s easy to see the value of the newer machines. However, the best Phantom drone is still a superb machine, the best Mavic drones also offer superb value for the money, and the Inspire 2, despite its age, is still one of the very best drones on the market.
Should I buy an older drone?
The short answer is always that if a drone meets your needs, and is priced right, it does not matter how old it is. Many older craft are still superb flying platforms, they just won’t offer the latest in features and sensors, and will likely have a lower quality camera than some would hope for. If you do not need these things, take the Phantom line of drones as your example, the overall airframe has changed very little over the years, proving there is nothing wrong with the ‘old’ airframe.
Should I keep my iconic drone as a collector’s item?
This is a tough question, we’d like to believe that drones, like cars, will eventually raise in value. However, our best advice is to think of drones like you do smartphones. They will have some residual value over the years, they may offer some nostalgia, and they will always be able to handle some of the tasks you throw at them, but they’ll always be a depreciating asset in terms of their value as a flying machine. I have plenty of old phones that make great MP3 players, that’s reason enough for me to keep them around, but I wouldn’t try to install a modern game on them, or take photos with them.
Will remote ID make my drone obsolete?
Sorry to say, but there is a good chance that Remote ID will force many drones out of the sky. The FAA has outlined what is required of the broadcast from your drone, and slated April 21, 2021 as the official start date for the new rules, but they have not yet approved any industry tech as being compliant. It is possible that the information already being broadcast from your DJI drone will be enough for the FAA’s requirements, or we might have to look at attaching a third-party broadcast module. We’ll know more soon, we hope.