11 drones that can reach high altitudes

high-altitude-drones

Highest flying drone?

If you are planning on buying a drone and you want high altitude drone, then you have come to the right place. Many people overlook this specification or confuse it with maximum control range. Trust me, they are not the same. Heck, they are not even similar to one another… Well, perhaps they are, a bit…

Anyway, in the list down below, you’ll find how high can drones fly plus some of the highest-flying drones currently available on the market. Also, you’ll get answer to frequently asked question: How high can a drone fly? This means that if you have a sexy neighbor living on the 13th floor, most of these bad boys might just sneak a peek through her bedroom window… Not that I ever did that… Cough, cough… Well… Uhm, I believe it is time for me to cut with my nonsense and jump straight to the action!

Drones on this list

Table : High altitude drones

ImageNameCameraRangeFlight t.Price
11. MJX Bugs 3GoPro300m15 minSee best offer
10. Traxxas AtonGoPro300m15 minSee best offer
9. MJX Bugs 2w1080p1km18 minSee best offer
8. Parrot Bebop 21080p2km20 minSee best offer
7. Hubsan H501S1080p300m18 minSee best offer
6. Xiro Xplorer V4K2km20 minSee best offer
5. Yuneec Q5004K1km22 minSee best offer
4. DJI Phantom
3 Professional
4K3km23 minSee best offer
3. Autel Robotics
X-Star Pro
4K2km23 minSee best offer
2. DJI Mavic Pro4K6km26 minSee best offer
1. DJI Phantom 4P4K6km25 minSee best offer

 

FAA has rules against flying high

I already mentioned that FAA has strict rules when it comes to operating drones. These rules don’t cover all drones (miniature drones still aren’t monitored but that’s because they’re too weak to go over 50 meters, yet alone anything higher than that) but you should still take note of them.

 

For instance, the most infamous FAA regulation is the one revolving around line of sight flying. Basically, people living in the USA are only allowed to fly their drones as long as they maintain visual contact with them. If the contact ends, they’re entering the field of BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) and could face fees or even jail time. In addition to that, I’ll also remind you that you should not fly your drone above 400 feet under any circumstances… unless you’re flying for commercial purposes and have obtained a written permission from the regulating bodies.

 

Now that you know a bit about flying your drone extremely high, it’s time to tell you a bit more about the best drones for the task. Starting off at number 12 we have a potent aerial photography platform so let’s jump straight to action and see what’s it all about!


READ LATER : Drones with thermal camera / Racing drones / Smartphone controlled drones

 

11. MJX BUGS 3

Bugs 3 by MJX is one of those drones that is not getting nearly enough attention as it deserves. With a solid build quality, cool design and exceptionally affordable price tag to its name, I see no reasons why you should turn your head away from it.

When it comes to the main specifications, MJX Bugs 3 seems like a great choice for beginners. It has a solid battery with 15 minutes of flight time which is more than the average number in this price range.

Likewise, it also features electronic speed control with a built-in automatic high temperature lock protection that ensures you don’t damage your brand-new drone due to high temperatures.

When it comes to maximum altitude, you will be happy to know that MJX Bugs 3 can go as high as 300 meters (how high can a drone fly). Additionally, it is important to state that it runs on MT1806 1800KV brushless motors which provides it with great power efficiency and durability. Unfortunately, it does not come with a camera but supports a great deal of popular action cameras out there, including the ever so popular GoPros as well as Xiaomi Motions. The camera mount provides decent stabilization and ensures all of your aerial footage is as smooth as possible.

And finally, MJX Bugs 3 provides with approximately 300 meters of operating range. That number is pretty solid and exceeded my expectations by a lot. Everything taken into consideration, MJX Bugs 3 is a great entry-level drone. If equipped with a solid camera, it can serve as quite the aerial photography platform.

 

10. TRAXXAS ATON

Aton by Traxxas is another great looking drone with awesome red and black color scheme. With a top speed of above 50 miles per hour this beast can be considered as a proper racing drone just as much as a sophisticated aerial platform, just like the prior one that we have featured in this list. Is there anything more to this beauty?

In addition to its racing capabilities, Aton can also shoot outstanding aerial footage due to its fixed camera mount that supports most of today’s action cameras. If you want to take things up a notch, you can always grab the dedicated Traxxas Aton 3-axis gimbal which is bound to drastically improve the smoothness of your aerial footage. Unfortunately, it does not come with a camera but you can buy great ones on the cheap.

When it comes to its maximum height, it is able to go up to about 120 meters (drone max altitude) which is just around the FAA’s regulations. As far as airtime is concerned, Traxxas Aton can reach 15 minutes with ease and fly as far as 300 meters away from its controller. That time is slightly lowered by flying in sports mode which supports the above mentioned top speed of 50mph. Lastly, when you’re flying in photography mode, Traxxas Aton has access to GPS and a set of advanced features that will make your job of capturing great footage much easier.

 

9. MJX Bugs 2W

Here we have another one of MJX models. It’s called Bugs 2W and some call it the spiritual successor of MJX Bugs 3. However, these 2 drones don’t have a lot in common. You see, Bugs 2W is slightly smaller and actually comes with a built-in full HD camera which does pretty well in terms of aerial photography.

However, MJX Bugs 3 anti-vibration mount deals with shakiness better so don’t be surprised if you notice some jello effect in your Bugs 2W footage. Nothing too drastic though, but on windy days you’ll most likely notice it, especially if you run the stock setup with no mods.

Moving forward to the features, MJX Bugs 2W incorporates both GPS and FPV. The latter works via WiFi so you can expect a bit of latency. However, the image quality is nothing short of brilliant and will definitely come in handy for taking awesome aerial videos.

FPV range is decent too. Even though the official specifications claim it can reach 500 meters, in realistic flying scenarios that number is slightly lower. Still, I’ve reached 200-meter mark with no issues in video signal but returned my drone back as I almost lost sight of it.

When it comes to operating range, things really start looking awesome for MJX Bugs 2W. You see, with an official range being set at 1 kilometer, I was really skeptical. However, I slammed the throttle all the way down in a completely open area and reached beyond 500 meters. That’s where I lost sight of my drone and had to return it home. So, as far as the range goes, I’d say a rough number between 500 and 1000 meters.

Last but not least – airtime. MJX BUGS 2W sports the exact same battery as MJX Bugs 3 (1800mAh 2S LiPo) but due to smaller size it can fly a few minutes longer; 18 minutes to be more precise.

 

8. Parrot Bebop 2

parrot-bebop-2If you’re looking for a solid drone that won’t take away too much money from your pockets, then Parrot Bebop 2 is a no brainer. However, while the standalone drone won’t set you off by a good amount of money, its dedicated controller will do just that.

What’s worse – without the controller you will have a highly limited operating range. With that said, I highly recommend you getting the Sky Controller as it will boost the range (and the height, to a certain extent) to maximum 2 kilometers.

Apart from increasing the range, Sky Controller also brings the action at your fingertips which you would not experience with traditional smartphone controlling schematics. This way you’ll have real physical buttons that make your job of operating this birdie much easier…. And since it can fly around for up to 21 minutes, it’s safe to say there will be plenty of controlling on the line.

Furthermore, you should also know that Parrot Bebop 2 has access to GPS and even sports a slightly upgraded 14MPX camera with fish eye lens. It does make “ground footage” look a bit odd, but that’s why it simply excels at top-down footage which looks absolutely remarkable. Talking about remarkable stuff, check out the design of this beauty. With sleek curves and minimalistic appearance, Parrot Bebop 2 is surely among the coolest looking drones on this list.

 

7. HUBSAN H501S

Hubsan H501S is another relatively small drone, just a big bigger than the DJI Mavic Pro. More precisely, it’s exact proportions are 12.5 x 6 x 13.5 inches which means it falls into the smaller side of the drone market. Even though it has plenty of operating range, Hubsan has set a software limit to only 250 meters in height. But, considering it offers great value for money, it’s still a great purchase.

It runs on the 7.4V 2700mAh Lithium Polymer battery which allows for approximately 20 minutes of flight time. Judging by its price tag, I’d say this is a praiseworthy number since you (as a customer) are getting an awfully lot of value for your money.

Other than its battery, Hubsan H501S also relies on its brushless motor which can stand the test of time no matter what you put it up against. An interesting thing about this one is its excellent controller with a 4.3 inch display that offers seamless and intuitive controls.

What’s even more interesting are its functions and features. Believe it or not, Hubsan H501S comes with GPS which is amazing at this price range. It’s quite good as well, allowing the drone to support the ever so popular Follow Me feature that allows autonomous flight at the tip of your fingers. Camera is not to be taken for granted either. It does not support 4K unfortunately (it would be an overkill at this price point) but can capture solid FHD videos. All things considered, If you are looking for a great mid-tier drone that can exceed all of your expectations, give Hubsan H501S a go. It will pleasantly surprise you!

 

6. XIRO XPLORER V

You can get the V version of XIRO’s Xplorer Aerial models for around $500. It’s a beautiful looking matte black drone that comes with a full HD camera. It’s mounted on a 3-axis gimbal which will do wonders for your photos in videos. What more can this drone offer? Let’s take a closer look at it and we might just find out!

With a lot of extra features this thing is packed with, you will be happy to know that XIRO Xplorer V can go up to 300 to 400 meters in the air. However, you should also be aware that these sorts of high altitudes can be really dangerous so you should avoid flying them in urban areas directly above people. It’s dangerous, reckless so I strongly suggest you don’t do it.

XIRO Xplorer V has an excellent design too. Build quality is solid as well, but it won’t sweep you off your feet. What could sweep you is the airtime which goes up to 20 minutes. Needless to say, at this price point 20 minutes of airtime is more than a fair treat. Last but not least, the official operating range is 500 meter which is somewhat on point with my measurements. All in all, XIRO Xplorer V seems like a great drone and I don’t see any reason why you should steer away from it.

 

5. YUNEEC Q500 4K TYPHOON

Now we are moving onto the big boy drones! Yuneec Q500 is packed with a top quality 4K camera (as its name implies) mounted on its 3-axis gimbal for optimal image and video quality. Its camera is able to shoot great quality videos in 4K resolution but excels at shooting 120FPS slow motion footage.

Truth be told, it can’t record slow-motion in 4K, but it can in full HD which is still an admirable trait.

When it comes to the maximum height, the Q500 can go up to 1000 meters. Yup, you read that right – this beast can go up to 1 kilometer above you…. I actually don’t have anything else to say… I’m speechless… Combine that with roughly 25 minutes of flight time and an excellent set of features, and you’ll begin to understand why Yuneec Q500 is such a popular choice among novice drone pilots.

The build quality if this birdie is nothing short of brilliant either. Even if something breaks (propellers are most likely to be the first culprits), Yuneec made sure there are plenty of parts available for purchase. Last but not least, you should also check out their extended warranty plans which could save you a lot of nerves in the long run.

 

4. DJI PHANTOM 3 PROFESSIONAL

dji-phantom-3-professionalDJI Phantom 3 is among the drones with highest possible control range which is around 5000 meters in an unobstructed area. When it comes to the packaging, for cca $1000 you will get the drone itself along with its controller, extra battery, 4K camera and Hard-Shell Backpack.

This is quite a good deal especially considering all these extra things will set you back for much more money if you were to buy them separately.

As far as the maximum flying height is concerned, I will have to disappoint you because it has been software restricted to only 500 meters, even though the model can reach far beyond that. I am sure there are tech savvy people who are able to bypass these restrictions, but for us regular Joes… Looks like we will have to come to terms with “only” 500 meters of maximum altitude.

Luckily, there are no restrictions on this birdie’s airtime so it can hold on in the air for up to 23 minutes. Of course, the actual flight will take a little less than that since you should never leave LiPo’s to completely run out of juice since that will render them unusable. All things considered, DJI Phantom 3 Pro is still a decent drone to go for if you’re looking for extreme heights. However, the next one doubles the amount so it might interest you even more…

 

3. AUTEL ROBOTICS X-STAR PREMIUM

autel-robotics-x-star-premiumEven though the standard version of this high altitude drone will cost you about $200 below the 1K mark, you should consider buying the bundled option that gets you a lot of accessories for it for much cheaper price than if you were to buy them all separately.

With this in mind, we are talking about a high-quality drone that comes with a 4K camera and can reach distances up to 2000 meters without any sort of lagging.

When it comes to restrictions, you will be happy to hear that folks at Autel Robotics have not made a software restriction on the maximum flying height of their drone (at least not at the time this article was written), but to be honest, this is to be expected with an upcoming firmware update.

If that’s not the case, we expect it to be able to go at least 1000 meters high, which makes it one of the highest-flying drone.

With a flight time of roughly 25 minutes and a set of smart features backed by both GPS and GLONASS, there is no doubt that Autel Robotics X-Star Premium can provide with excellent performance. As a matter of fact, I’d say this is one of the most underrated drones on the market. It’s shadowed by DJI’s flagships but preserves much of the same performance but with a lot cheaper price tag. So, is it worth purchasing? Hell yes, it is!

 

2. DJI MAVIC PRO

Now we have come to the best miniature drone currently available on the market. With the only competitor being Karma by GoPro, it is not even surprising that DJI Mavic Pro is still gaining popularity. With superior specifications and outstanding set of top notch features, this little fella proves to be on par with some of the bigger, fully fledged drones available on the market.

With an incredibly compact design (11.5 x 7 x 9.5 inches) and foldable arms with propellers, DJI Mavic Pro can be carried in any bag. If it was any smaller it would fit into your jacket pocket for sure! Despite its small size, it can still hover steadily even during the strongest of winds. That’s one of the biggest issues with smaller drones and it is safe to say that DJI addressed it perfectly with their new DJI Mavic Pro.

DJI Mavic Pro specifications are nothing short of brilliant either. With roughly 27 minutes of flight time and close to 7 kilometers of operating range, this thing is quite the beast.  Same as P4 Pro, Mavic Pro also has only 400 feet by default. Luckily, by exiting beginner mode and increasing the maximum altitude settings, you can go up to 1640 feet.

Additionally, it is also important to mention its awesome built-in camera that can capture 4K footage with ease. FPV capability is there as well, making this little fella an extremely versatile and well-built model. 10 out of 10 for sure!

 

1. DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO

Here we have the absolute king among mainstream highest flying drones – the one and only DJI Phantom 4 Pro. This amazing drone is on top of all charts and is ought to stay there for quite the time. Starting off with the camera, DJI made quite the upgrade by implementing a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor which, in combination with the omnidirectional gimbal stabilization, shoots perfect aerial footage time and time again.

In addition to the awesome camera, Phantom 4 Pro can also brag with the popular obstacle avoidance system. It was brought to fame by Yuneec but, realistically speaking, DJI’s system is much better since it features 4 sensors, 1 on each side. With that being said, Phantom 4 Pro offers a worry-free experience when it comes to accidental crashes.

Moving forward, Phantom 4 Pro offers amazing 7 kilometers of pitch-perfect operating range with HD PFV capability. Unfortunately, maximum altitude is set at 400 feet (120 meters) by default to cope with FAA’s regulations. Fortunately, it’s possible to change the maximum altitude to 500 meters (1640 feet). Additionally, it’s Lithium P4 smart battery can hold up a 30-minute flight which is leading the charge across the entire industry.

Feature-wise, it comes equipped with GPS+GLONASS, TapFly and a whole plethora of additional smart features that some of you will greatly appreciate. Combine all of the above and you will realize why DJI Phantom 4 Pro is at the very top of the drone market.

Tips for flying at high altitudes

If you want to capture breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area, then flying at high altitudes is a must. However, you need to know that flying really high is a lot more dangerous than flying at normal height levels. That’s why I’ve prepared a couple of tips for you so you won’t have issues while doing this endeavor. Let’s go through them right away!

Stay away from airports

You should not fly at excessive heights if you live close to an airport. I suppose it’s OK if you’re living in a rural area which isn’t an aerial connection with frequent flights. However, even if you are living in a rural area, if you’re based in the USA there are laws which oblige you to fly under 400 feet at all times. Come to think of it, many premium drones come with software limitations which prevent them from going higher than 400 feet.

Safety of others

The higher you fly, the higher is the damage your drone might do if it falls on a person. That’s why you should make sure you are not flying directly above people no matter the altitude you’re thinking of flying on. Accidents happen and you don’t want to be the one that the lawmakers will make an example of.

Manage your battery levels

Flying too far away or flying too high away means your battery will have a lot of work to do. That’s why you should always keep an eye out for your battery level in order to land your drone safely back on the ground. In other words, as soon as your battery level goes beneath 40% it is time to stop your recording and head back to safety. You don’t want your drone to fall down from couple hundred feet high.

 

CONCLUSION

Well, I’m afraid that’s it guys. You have come to the end of my TOP 12 DRONES WITH HIGHEST ALTITUDES LIST. I sincerely hope that it was informative because it took quite an effort to come up with it. With this being said, I also hope that it helped you make up your mind about highest flying drone for your needs… and that you got yourself a proper drone for those sky-high “missions” … *wink*

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1

Jonathan! You said: "This means that if you have a sexy neighbor living on the 13th floor, most of these bad boys might just sneak a peek through her bedroom window… Not that I ever did that… Cough, cough…"

Jon, that's just creepy. Take it back! You are a wealth of information, your columns are wonderful and thorough, and you do the teenage boy peeping tom joke? Just, no. Thanks, Jonathan.

2

Q500 cannot go above 8,000 feet. I've tried it at 7,000 feet in Colorado, and it would barely hover at 3 feet above the ground. This was using the propellers that Yuneec recommended. So, unless you live at sea level, don't expect this altitude.