Best new drones 2017

We saw some great drones launch in the last 12 months, but there are more this year including the DJI Spark and Phantom 4 Pro, the (re-launched) GoPo Karma and even an underwater drone. Here are the best new drones of 2017.

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Best new drones

Flying cameras, quadcopters, consumer drones – whatever you want to call them – are one of the most exciting new tech inventions and are rapidly becoming mainstream. We’ve seen some great quadcopters launch this year but there’s more to come in the next 12 months.

Also see: Best Tech Deals

Here we’ve rounded up what we think are the most exciting consumer drones being developed right now.

See also: Best quadcopters to buy now and UK drone law - where are you allowed to fly?

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Next Prev best new drones 2015 2016 intro

Flying cameras, quadcopters, consumer drones – whatever you want to call them – are one of the most exciting new tech inventions and are rapidly becoming mainstream. We’ve seen some great quadcopters launch this year but there’s more to come in the next 12 months.

Also see: Best Tech Deals

Here we’ve rounded up what we think are the most exciting consumer drones being developed right now.

See also: Best quadcopters to buy now and UK drone law - where are you allowed to fly?

DJI Spark

The Spark uses a lot of a great tech (including obstacle avoidance) from DJI's top-end consumer drones, but shrinks it down into a tiny package that'll land on your palm.

You can even use your palm to control it, but if you want to take more than a selfie you'll need a tablet or phone to act as a controller. There's also a Mavic Pro-style controller for longer-range flight. 

It's not exactly what you might call cheap at £519 from Heliguy, but it's half the price of a Mavic Pro.

Read our Spark review.

GoPro Karma

After a year of build-up the Karma was unveiled, went on sale and was almost immediately recalled. It has been fixed and went back on sale earlier this year.

It's a fold-up drone which has a removable gimbal that can be used in a handheld (or mounted) battery grip.

This gives it a couple of big highlights. The bad news is that it's £150 more than when it originally launched, costing a whopping £869.99 from John Lewis (and other retailers) without a GoPro camera, and £1199.99 if you want it bundled with the Hero 5. It's compatible with the Hero 4 Black and Silver, which might save you money if you already have one.

Release date: March 2017

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DJI Phantom 4 Pro

The Phantom 4 was revolutionary in the world of consumer drones. It was the first to have a proper obstacle avoidance system so it shouldn't crash either when you're flying it yourself, or when it's on autopilot.

The new Phantom 4 Pro has an improved 4K camera which can shoot 60fps UHD video and has various other improvements including obstacle sensors on the sides.

It costs £1589 inc VAT from Heliguy and you can read our full review.

Release date: January 2017

PowerRay

It's the first underwater drone we've seen, and it's from the company that launched the PowerEgg last year.

The PowerRay finds and films fish in 4K, which is intended to help anglers find their next catch. 

It can go to 30m below the surface and use optional sonar to seek out fish. It then beams the video back to your phone via Wi-Fi, and has a light to attract fish. 

If you want to spend more, it also has VR capabilities so you can guide the drone using a VR headset. 

No price has yet been announced, but pre-orders start on 27 February

Release date: February 2017

Parrot Disco

Unlike any other drone in this roundup, the new Disco has only one propeller, so it's not a quadcopter. This fixed-wing drone is controlled from your smartphone and can reach speeds of 50mph (watch the video above to see how it flies). It has the same 14Mp camera as the Bebop 2 and can fly for up to 45 minutes!

It has 32GB of on-board storage for recording and is compatible with Parrot's SkyController.

It costs £1149 inc VAT from Maplin

Release date: On sale now

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Yuneec (Qualcomm Flight)

Yuneec is a Chinese drone manufacturer that’s hoping to follow in DJI’s footsteps. It has already launched a few quads, but has now signed up to use the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Flight board, which we’re expecting to see used in quite a few new consumer drones, the first of which will be from Yuneec.

The Flight board is significant because it integrates many components used in quadcopters that are traditionally from different manufacturers onto a single board. This should mean lighter, smaller, cheaper drones which can fly for longer – all great benefits.

It’s based on the Snapdragon 801 processor, has Adreno 330 GPU, Hexagon DSP, 2x2 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4 and GNSS (GPS) for high accuracy positioning. It will also support 4K video processing and 720p encoding for first person view. Plus, it can handle optic flow cameras and extra sensors which can be used for avoiding obstacles.

FPV racing

As well as flying cameras, there’s another type of quadcopter: the racing drone. These are more concerned about speed and manoeuvrability than capturing aerial video and photos.

Think of it as the modern remote-controlled car club, or a miniature Red Bull air race. You can fly so-called ‘agility’ courses indoors or outdoors, wearing goggles that allow you to see the view from the drone’s camera: this is why it’s called FPV as you get a first-person view of the craft as if you were on-board. That also means you don’t need to have line of sight to the quadcopter.

We expect more racing drones to launch in the next year, but you can read more about FPV racing and our review of the ViFLY R220.

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