When deciding which drone to buy, you really need to start by settling on a budget. The price range is larger than most gadgets, starting from as little as £10 / $10 for one of the best cheap drones right up to thousands for 'prosumer' models which border on professional drones.
But as you'd guess, you'll need to spend quite a lot if you're more interested in capturing amazing aerial video. However, there are some excellent mid-range options such as the new £369 / $399 DJI Mavic Mini, but don't overlook the DJI Spark which is likely to drop in price now it is officially discontinued.
Don't forget there are laws on flying drones. You can't just fly wherever you like. So read up on the rules for flying drones in the UK and also where you're allowed to fly. Plus, if you are in the UK, since the end of November 2019 it's the law to register any drone weighing more than 250g.
Scroll down below the reviews to find more in-depth buying advice.
Best drones 2020
1. DJI Mavic Air
The Mavic Air is astounding value for money. It offers a superb balance of price, features and portability. Currently, it's the best sub-£800 / $800 drone you can buy and shoots great-quality video and panoramic photos.
The Quickshot modes are brilliant, there's obstacle avoidance and it's small enough to carry everywhere with you.
Just bear in mind that there are rumours that DJI will announce a successor soon: read more about the Mavic Air 2.
Read our full DJI Mavic Air review
2. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
If you can afford a few hundred over and above the Mavic Air, the Mavic 2 Zoom is an excellent drone. Its long flight time is a real advantage, and it remains fairly portable.
Its obstacle avoidance system is also better, as is its object tracking and video transmission system. But it's the zoom lens which really makes the difference, letting you get closer to your subject.
Read our full DJI Mavic 2 Zoom review
3. DJI Mavic Mini
Aimed at first-time fliers, the Mavic Mini is a cut-down version of the Mavic Air. It’s a competent drone which is easy to fly, but it doesn’t have obstacle avoidance and uses a cut-down app which has a limited feature set.
The good news is that it takes respectable video and photos, and it’s light enough to avoid needing registration in some countries.
Read our full DJI Mavic Mini review
4. Parrot Anafi
With a 180-degree tilting gimbal, a battery that charges via USB-C and the ability to record 4K HDR video, the Anafi is a well-priced drone. The snag is that it won't avoid any obstacles and some of the autopilot modes have to be unlocked with in-app purchases.
Read our full Parrot Anafi review
5. DJI Mavic Pro
The Mavic Pro may have been superseded by the Mavic 2 Pro, but if you can't quite stretch your budget to the later model, the original is still a very impressive drone.
It was DJI's first folding drone and while not as small as the Mavic Air or Mini, you'll be happy to live with the larger size for the quality of the video and photos on offer.
Don't pay too much for it, and watch out for good deals and discounts.
Read our full DJI Mavic Pro review
6. DJI Phantom 4 Pro v2.0
Recently re-introduced after a shortage of components which meant it was out of stock for most of 2019, the Phantom 4 Pro v2.0 is one of DJI's most capable drones. The main disadvantage is that is doesn't fold, so unlike a Mavic, it's not nearly as portable.
The v2.0 was originally launched in 2018, but there's nothing to quibble about in terms of specs. It has OcuSync HD for better image transmission to the remote controller, plus obstacle detection in five directions and avoidance in four.
If you're looking for a top-quality drone for recording fantastic aerial 4K video, the Phantom is still a good choice.
7. Hubsan H501S X4
If you're looking for an easy-to-fly drone with a first-person-view camera, the Hubsan H501S is one of the most affordable options.
But don't be fooled: the video and photo quality is not up to the level of even the Mavic Mini, so if you can afford a little more, it's well worth doing so.
Read our full Hubsan H501S X4 review
What to look for in a drone
Some people just want to fly for fun, but most people want a drone to take aerial photos and videos. And if you want them to be any good, you will need to spend £300+. We've yet to see a cheaper drone achieve stabilised, great quality video.
You tend to get what you pay for with drones, so the higher price, the better the camera and the more features (such as obstacle avoidance) that are included.
Flight time and range
Flight time varies a lot, and it isn't tied to price. The Mavic Mini is DJI's cheapest drone, yet flies for up to 30 minutes on a charge. The DJI Spark, however, costs more, but has a 12-15 minute flight time. The Spark is quite old now, and the excellent Mavic Air looks like it's about to be replaced by the Mavic Air 2.
Don't pay too much attention to range. It sounds great to be able to fly several kilometres away, but most local laws (including in the UK) say you must keep drone in sight at all times.
Very small and light drones can be blown around in the wind, which is why having GPS on board is a must: it allows the drone to automatically hover in place.
Although it's rare on most of the drones below, crashing is a distinct possibility. Almost all drones come with a full set of spare propellers, but as two rotate anti-clockwise and the other pair clockwise, you’ve got only two spares for each pair of spindles.
Check first if spare parts are easy to obtain for a particular drone, and also their prices.
Not all drones come with cameras. You don’t need a camera, since you should always have the drone in your line of sight while flying it.
At the cheaper end of the price scale you’ll be lucky to get even 720p (1280x720) video, but if you want a drone for aerial video go for at least 1080p (1920x1080). Bear in mind that - as ever - you can't trust specs alone. Read our reviews to find out how good each drone's camera is.
However, you’ll only get great quality footage if you buy a drone with a gimbal. This is a stabilised mount for the camera which keeps it steady when the drone tilts or moves around. Parrot's Bebop 2 has a fixed wide-angle camera that does a reasonable job without a gimbal, but the quality from all of DJI's drones is generally noticeably better.
Some drones record video directly to a microSD card but others record from the remote control, or even over the air to a smartphone. Direct recording is usually more reliable and better quality as the video doesn't have to be transmitted before being recorded.