Believe it or not, most people believe that drones require a massive amount of training in order to be controlled properly. They’re afraid they might damage them and/or suck at piloting a drone so that they don’t really take their chances with purchasing one. But, little do they know that there are many fully autonomous drones out there nowadays. They can do all sorts of smart features without any need of manual controlling. Some of them even feature waypoints mode that allows you to precisely draw a flight path which your drone will follow.
So, how much do these autonomous drones for sale cost? Well, they fall heavily on the expensive side of the market, that’s unquestionable. But, despite that, if you’re on a strict budget, you’ll be happy to know that there are a few affordable options. Well then, let’s take a closer look at the most popular autonomous drones for sale currently available on the market.
Things you should know before looking for the best autonomous drone
What does autonomous flight mode mean?
If you did not realize by now, high-end drones come with more than a handful of specialized functions and features. Even though they are often heavily advertised, some buyers still tend to overlook them when purchasing a drone. Why is that so? I honestly do not know. But what I do know, and what I can tell you, is that one of the most helpful features is the so-called autonomous flight.
Consider autonomous flight as an autopilot feature. What it does is essentially allows you to program a flight route that you drone will effectively follow once you launch it up in the air. It’s pretty straightforward and not a nuisance to set up. All It Takes is a bit tampering around with the software… but that’s only with the very first try or two; or until you learn how to do it on your own.
By far the most popular type of autonomous flight is called Waypoints Mode. It is a wide presence in virtually all medium and high-end drones where it’s an outright must to have it incorporated in the software package. It is not overly expensive (for today’s technology standards, of course) to manufacture and implement it, plus it has many benefits which we’ll discuss more later on. With that in mind, it’s pretty obvious that Waypoints Mode will continue to flourish even with the next-gen drones where this feature will be polished even further and better than ever.
How does the “waypoint” flight mode works?
The science behind our point of interest for today is various navigational systems. More precisely, GPS and GLONASS, the two most popular ones on the market that work seamlessly no matter where you are located on the world. Basically, the Waypoints flight mode gets fed location data from GPS/GLONASS allowing it to locate itself along with its surroundings.
After that, you’ll have a chance to manually set up one or more waypoints (the number of available waypoint spaces depends on your drone) and order your drone to follow them. Aspects such as height, speed etc. are all manually adjustable for each and every single waypoint. As you can see, the Waypoint mode is highly customizable so it is able to suit everyone’s needs. When the state of the art software meets hardware to match it, amazing things like this often end up as a result.
What are autonomous drones used for?
I’m sure you all realize that drones have already established themselves across a significant number of industries. They can be found everywhere, especially autonomous ones. They just make process-automatization a lot more optimized.
With that being said, let’s see which industries are using autonomous drones:
Agriculture is heavily drone-powered nowadays. When it comes to drones in agriculture, they’re most often used for inspecting crops and searching for stray sheep.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize the potential of drones in perimeter security. Even though the entire process of implementing drones in the industry (on a large scale) isn’t down to the finest details, improvements are expected in the near future.
Environmental mapping uses not just drones but an entirely automated system that greatly helps with speeding up the task. Mapping has gained a massive boost by modern-day drone technology and seems to be flourishing at the moment.
Benefits of using various autonomous drone flight functions
In addition to the above stated commercial uses for autonomous drones, here I would like to tell you my experience (as a casual user most of the time) with them to give you a better perspective on the whole deal.
First things first, I need to say that I am using autonomous flight modes for 90% of the time on my daily driver – the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. To be completely honest with you here, I haven’t used manual flight on my drone for at least a month. I just don’t need it. I’m sure you all know that Phantom 4 Pro has everything you might want from a drone… including state-of-the-art autonomous flight modes which do all the piloting work for me. While I do consider myself a skilled drone pilot, it’s safe to say I am not practicing a lot lately. Since I am always taking aerial shots of my backyard parties, my beautiful Barksy and my roommate Steve, I like to concentrate on taking the perfect shot with autopilot rather than manually flying and sacrificing image quality.
That’s basically the number one benefit of drones – the ability to concentrate on other, more important things, than actually flying a drone. Imagine yourself at a good old family barbeque. Simply turn your drone on, set it to manually circle around your backyard and record your guests having fun… and join them. The drone will do all the work and it will even land on the preprogrammed home location (don’t forget to set this up) when it runs out of battery. If that’s not convenient, then I don’t know what is…
10 Best Autonomous Drones
10. 3DR Solo
Often, people are having difficulties with taking the perfect aerial shots. It’s understandable though since it is quite difficult to control both the drone and the camera at the same time. Things can get a lot tricky in an instance and there is a ton of stuff that can go wrong while aiming for that optimal camera angle and drone position. If this is somewhat of a common problem for you, then you should definitely check out 3DR Solo.
Made by 3D Robotics (or 3DR short), Solo has a bunch of good features going on underneath the hood. The most important ones are definitely 2 Cortex A9 computers located in the controller and the drone itself. They are designed to perform tasks related to autonomous flight which is also one of the key virtues of this drone. Talking of virtues, it is also important to mention that Solo does not come with a camera. But how is that a virtue? Well, it means you’re “free” when it comes to cameras since you’re not specifically tied to just one.
What’s even better, if you already own a GoPro (btw, 3DR Solo only supports Hero 3, 3+ and 4), you’ll save a ton of money in the process. And finally, let’s talk a bit about its specifications. While they aren’t exactly the best on the market, they can definitely set the stage up for the rest of the drone quite nicely. With 22 minutes of flight time and slightly over 800 meters of flight range, 3DR Solo has everything a great autonomous drone needs!
9. DJI Phantom 3 Pro
Due to the fact Phantom 3 Pro has been around the market for quite the time, its price is slowly starting to fall off, making it affordable to a wider variety of people. That’s one of the reasons why it has made onto this list. That and the fact that it’s one of the most feature-packed drones of its time.
Phantom 3 Pro is incredibly easy to ride even without turning on the autonomous flight modes. The construction is outstanding and drone itself seems to be perfectly steady in air even with the strong wind blowing. This steadiness and smooth flying experience is true for its aerial shots and videos too. You see, with its 20mm 4K camera, Phantom 3 Pro can take breathtaking aerial shots with ease. Moving forward, the FPV feature works seamlessly even though I noticed mild distortion around the edges, especially while moving at high speed.
Operating range is always a big plus for DJI drones (List of long range drones here). Their technology is constantly one level above the competition and they’re never afraid to show it. DJI Phantom 3 Pro easily reaches up to 2 kilometers away from its transmitter, allowing those 23 minutes of flight time to be spent with action-packed maneuvering without worries on exceeding the maximum range.
8. Yuneec Q500
This is a fairly big drone that looks rather alien-like. With its huge landing gear and sturdy central frame, Q500 looks to be set for everything you might put it up against. It comes with a removable 4K camera mounted on a 3-axis gimbal. This allows it to achieve exceptional smoothness while recording aerial footage.
In addition to that, it also helps it provide you with crystal clear and blur-free aerial images that will definitely be the talking point of your next coffee with friends and family. From an enthusiast’s point of view, Q500’s specs aren’t exactly the crème de la crème on drones’ market. Such numbers are to be expected from such a highly-priced drone, but Q500 fails to deliver. Don’t get me wrong. It still has mediocre numbers meaning that it’s not that bad overall. But still, with only 800 meters of range and up to 25 minutes of flight time, I’m guessing that folks over at Yuneec did not really bother with the specifications. Despite that though, Yuneec Q500 is still an awesome model and delivers quite the bang for your bucks.
This unique, playful looking drone holds a plethora of extremely unique features. As a matter of fact, AirDog itself is quite unique in its own right. You see, this drone is not meant for casual users who just want a simple aerial platform that can help them take a couple of perfect aerial shots. No! This drone is meant for people who enjoy extreme sports.
Only they can get the most out of AirDog and its set of features. If you did not know, a successful Kickstarter campaign is what drove AirDog to the mainstream market. They’ve been massively successful and truthfully, they’ve released a product they promised. AirDog sports a unique controller called AirLeash which is fully water-resistant.
The glamor of this drone are undoubtedly its smart flight modes. It can be programmed for a wide variety of extreme water sports which is its main selling point. One thing is certain though – AirDog is not for everyone… But, if you are an enthusiast when it comes to extreme sports and you would like something that will be able to capture those moments, then AirDog is a no brainer!
6. DJI Inspire 1
The first edition of DJI’s Inspire model was a completely innovative approach to a simplistic drone design. With the integration of several exquisite features such as the elevating side panels that hold the 4 propellers, Inspire quickly became a huge hit on the market.
But innovation isn’t the only thing that set Inspire aside from all of its competitors. You see, this huge ass drone comes with a 4K camera mounted on a 3-axis gimbal stabilization system which works wonders for its smoothness and stability. Moreover, it also brags about having roughly 1.2 miles of fluent radio range allowing it to be quite the scouting drone for everyone’s needs.
Additionally, it is also important to mention that its built-in GPS system makes up for a smooth and reliable flight experience and offers several autonomous flight modes that will allow you to concentrate more on taking the perfect aerial shot than on controlling the actual drone. If you’re still having issues with taking the perfect aerial shots even with autonomous flight modes turned on, then you might be interested in yet another exclusive feature – dual transmitter operation. This allows Inspire to have 2 controllers connected at the same time; 1 for controlling the drone and the second one for controlling the camera’s rotation and taking pictures/videos.
All things considered, DJI Inspire is an amazing aerial photography platform, and it’s no wonder DJI was so quick to come up with its successor, the DJI Inspire 2. More about that one later on…
5. Parrot Bebop 2 – Affordable autonomous drone
Parrot is another well-known drone manufacturer. Most of you would agree with me when I state that it’s probably toe to toe with DJI, at least when it comes to the sheer quality of their products. Bebop 2 is a perfect example of this. It uses a high-quality plastic for its frame which helps it survive quite the beating. 7 sensors are simultaneously used in order to ensure maximum stability while in midair.
It is always nice to see manufacturers putting in a lot of effort on the actual flight rather than developing various bells and whistles for their models. It sports a 14mpx camera, but unfortunately, it cannot record videos in 4K resolution. Still, the full HD res is still good enough and will probably leave you surprised with the end result which is bound to be as crisp as a good old bucket of KFC. This is due to its good encoding system as well as the wide-angle sensor accompanied by a state-of-the-art 3-axis gimbal stabilization system.
And last but not least, we should say a couple of words about its specifications. Things aren’t that spectacular to be honest. Without the Sky controller, you won’t be satisfied with its operating range. But, if you invest in Sky controller, you’ll end up with approximately 2 kilometers of worry-free range. When combined with 2700 mAh battery that can provide juice for roughly 23 minutes of flight, Parrot Bebop 2 still ends up somewhere in the middle of the park.
4. Autel Robotics X-Star Premium
Autel Robotics is not exactly the most well-known manufacturer out there. That’s partly because they haven’t been that active. With just a couple of released drones, it seems as though the folks over at their labs go by the good old saying: quality over quantity. Now, let’s say a few words about their high-end model called X-Star Premium.
It features a beautiful design with a powerful set of brushless motors that provide it with a hefty amount of power. Like all other high-end models, X-Star Premium also features a 4K camera mounted on a 3-axis gimbal stabilization system. This ensures optimal aerial photo/video quality each and every time. It can fly 2 kilometers away from the controller, with a flight time of 22-25 minutes.
Regarding the features, you will be happy to know it has GPS/GLONASS navigation, SecureFly magnetic interference protection, LCD display, one-touch action buttons, autonomous flight modes and more. What I’m basically trying to explain to you guys is that it’s an excellent all-around drone that could be a great addition to anyone’s fleet of drones.
3. DJI Phantom 4 Pro
DJI is the absolute king on the market. With an amazing number of top quality drones, they’ve taken the entire market by storm and are not planning to come down from their throne any time soon. Their newest installment in the Phantom series of drones is the perfect example of their hard work. It has everything you could ever wish for… and then some.
With a 20mpx 1-inch camera, you don’t have to worry about image quality – it is bound to be on the very highest level all the time. Another thing you don’t have to worry about with Phantom 4 Pro is crashing. You see, it features 5 collision avoidance sensors which will make sure even worst pilots out there don’t crash it into a tree or a wall. If you are still worried about controlling this expensive little fella, perhaps you will change your mind when I mention its wide array of autonomous flight modes.
There is something for everyone so I am sure you will quickly find your favorites. When it comes to specifications, needless to say – Phantom 4 Pro is among the best drones on the market. With just under half an hour of battery power and roughly 7 kilometers of obstruction-free range, Phantom 4 Pro is more than capable of providing you with some serious entertainment.
And last but not least, there is just one more thing worth mentioning; and that’s the controller. It has received a small redesign but now features a huge 5.5-inch full HD display for FPV and other similar purposes. All things considered, I believe there’s no need to praise this drone any further… I’m sure all of you realize it’s the pinnacle of modern-day drone technology, and many will say it’s the best autonomous drone available on the consumer market in 2017!
2. Yuneec Typhoon H
The first (and only) hexacopter on this list comes from the hard-working staff of Yuneec. Their Typhoon H drone is a perfect example of how to make an absolute beast of a hexacopter. It is finely poised with several sensors that allow flying seamlessly wherever you’d like it to.
Few of these sensors have special roles and that’s to allow Typhoon H to effectively avoid potential collisions that might occur. This collision avoidance system is one of main selling points for this drone. In addition to it, there is also the 5-rotor failsafe feature which works like a charm. It basically keeps the drone from slamming right to the ground into hundreds of pieces when one of its 6 motors shut down completely. Even if that happens, Typhoon H will continue working with its 5 rotors and manage to land safely on the nearest solid surface beneath it.
Remember the dual controller support that we saw with DJI Inspire? Well, Yuneec has the same feature with Typhoon H. All things considered, Yuneec Typhoon H is an excellent drone with a lot of potentials. With a great marketing strategy, it is safe to say that Yuneec hit the jackpot with this one!
1. DJI Inspire 2 – Most advanced autonomous drone
At last, we have reached our final destination… Uhm pardon me… our final drone. Its predecessor was already featured in this list and we said a bunch of positive remarks towards it. DJI Inspire 2 takes things one step further with more than welcome improvements.
The biggest one is definitely its range. From 1.2 miles on Inspire, DJI cranked it up to 4.5 miles on the Inspire 2. But that’s not the only change. The battery got reworked as well. This new one can last up to half an hour in the air and provides with quick charging feature that will drastically increase its overall work efficiency.
The dual controller support is still here, and it works even better. Smoothness and responsiveness are always a big factor with all drones, and DJI Inspire 2 exceeded everyone’s expectations. The big, sturdy body is still here with that absolutely gorgeous design. Pair it up with the recommended Zenmuse X5S gimbal and you’ll get a perfect aerial platform that will do wonders for you…
Most popular autonomous flight types explained :
For those of you wondering what are the best types of autonomous flight, you’ve come to the right place. You can find a shortlist of most popular ones down below:
This mode works in 2 ways: through GPS data and software recognition technology. It works in a very simple way – select an object or person you wish to focus on and your drone will follow it wherever it goes.
This allows you to program a route that your drone will follow in straight lines. In addition to standard cable cam, some drones (such as Yuneec Typhoon H) have curved cable cam which essentially does the same thing but instead of straight lines, the drone will use a curved pattern.
This feature allows you to designate a specific path/route that your drone will follow. Customizability is of utmost importance and Waypoints mode (in most cases) will allow you to configure flying speed, altitude, camera rotations, and plenty of other options.
If you want to capture that perfect selfie for all your social media followers to admire, then Selfie mode is your go-to option. This feature will order your drone to fly away from you roughly 50 to 150 feet and snap a breathtaking aerial selfie straight out of your wildest dreams!
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When you select Orbit mode, your drone will start… well… orbiting around you or an object of your choice. You can manually configure specific details such as object/person focus, flying altitude, speed and, in some cases, even more.
Return To Home
RTH is the most essential safety feature that comes with most modern-day drones. There are 2 versions – GPS powered and headless mode powered. The latter is not nearly as effective as GPS powered one since it simply instructs the drone to “flyback”. On the other hand, GPS RTH is a reliable feature that remembers takeoff location and effectively returns the drone to it in case of battery shortage or connection issues.
With the brilliant DJI Inspire 2, we have come to the end of our top 10 best autonomous drone list. Undoubtedly, this has been one heck of a journey. In the end, I want to add that the main purpose of this list was to show you guys that drones aren’t that difficult to enjoy. With any of the 10 drones listed above, you can have a ton of fun without having to manually control them. It’s that simple! So, with that said… happy piloting!