The Top Long Range Drones
We’ve all seen them flying about – in our neighborhoods, over sports matches, even at the office to catch a high-flying shot of the action. Personal radio-controlled drones are one of the most popular items in today’s market. Newcomers and hobbyists alike are finding ways to enjoy flight like never before. From drones with digital cameras attached to capture some truly outstanding video and photo footage to simple toys that kids can have fun flying, there is a drone for everyone.
Drone enthusiasts have probably flown just about every type out there. However, long range drones have become popular due to their advanced payload capacity and the amount of time they can stay in the sky before needing to be recharged. Since these flying machines work off radio signals controlled by you – the pilot – the question becomes: how far can a drone fly?
Drones that are rated “high-quality” to good can travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of feet from the controller. Lesser models still can get a few hundred of feet or less away from you before they lose their signal.
The price range for these drones vary, but if you want a drone that can travel a good distance, you won’t mind that price tag. Let’s take a look at some of the top drones for long distance travel and the features that come with them.
Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini
If you’ve never flown a drone or worked with any type of radio controlled toy, this drone is a great choice to learning how to control one. They retail on Amazon.com for around $40. It’s smaller than most standard drones, hence the “mini” in the name. It gets some pretty good mileage, too, for such a small drone, averaging about 150 feet of wind resistant flight. It won’t break easily so if you want to test your flying skills out before graduating to a bigger model, this is a good one to do it with.
- You can only purchase this drone through Holy Stone
- It does not hover
- Drops altitude when trying to turn
- Battery life is about 5-8 minutes
MJX X10C FPV
Coming in around $90, the MJX is a “stylized, mainly white drown drone with camera,” meaning it features four small propellers like a helicopter to make it fly. It gets a maximum flight distance of about 300 feet and it’s the perfect choice for a long-range drone without breaking your bank account.
It’s easy to fly and it comes with a camera perfect for capturing 720p resolution video, great for getting a bird’s eye view of a kid’s sports game. It is also compatible with the MJX virtual headset although it is unclear how you would use it unless it works in a similar fashion to the ones used in drone racing. The headset doesn’t come with the drone.
- Cannot adjust camera angle to get a different view while flying
- Landing gear is flimsy
- Phone app was hard to install
For under $200, this drone gives other drones some serious competition. You get altitude hole, “Follow Me” mode, headless mode, 6-axis flight control, and GPS to get it back home. It also has a 720p HD FPV camera for those shutterbugs that like to capture images from a bird’s eye view. For all that it has, this drone can only hit about 500 feet and that’s even pushing it. We haven’t seen it make it that far yet, but the manufacturer seems to think it does just fine.
- Firmware updates causes problems
- No prop guards
- RTH function doesn’t work properly and shut down the rotors
MJX BUGS 3
The second MJX drone to hit this list, the Bugs 3 gopro drone retails for around $150. The biggest downside to this drone, especially for this price, is that it doesn’t come with a camera. It has a gimbal that can handle a GoPro HERO or other off brand action camera, which is pretty easy to mount.
But the Bugs 3 has other great features that sort of make up for the lack of camera. You get brushless Mt1806 1800KV motors, known for their durability in the market, a powerful 1800mAh battery that keeps the drone in the air for a max time of 18 minutes (just 18?) and a fly distance of about 1,650 feet without losing the connection or experiencing any lag. For under $200, this is probably one of the nicest looking and well-built drones out there.
- Small parts that are a choking hazard for small children
- Does not have altitude control capability
- No spare battery available
- The blades are made from ultra-cheap plastic
DJI PHANTOM 2
The DJI Phantom 2 sees a jump into the $300 price range for radio controlled drones. It’s a quick, mobile take on DJI’s Phantom series and it’s designed for more veteran pilots. This drone has been called by users as being delicate but it has some fantastic stability when it is airborne. With a flying range of about 980 to 1,650 feet, it has a flight time hovering around 15 to 17 minutes. It doesn’t come with a camera, but you can attach a GoPro or other action camera to it and get some really good long range photos. Veteran flyers might want to get extra batteries for those longer flights.
- The batteries are faulty and can cause a fire
- Drone is unpredictable in flight when trying to disengage and return home
- Software issues
- Expensive replacement batteries
DJI PHANTOM 2 VISION+
Coming in at $448.00, the Phantom 2 Vision+ brings pilots the same high-quality photos as others in the line thanks to the 3-axis gimbal. The camera gives you photos that are crystal clear and you can view them in first person as well. It also has an HD video camera.
With the ability to stay in the air for 25 minutes due to the 5200 mAh battery, it is able to get higher thanks to self-tightening propellers. It connects to the Vision App on Android and iPhone platforms, giving you control and access from the base point. It’s a great drone for beginners and advanced pilots alike.
- Software has problems connecting to devices
- Issues getting the drone to recognize the DJI battery
- Customer support is bad
TRAXXAS ATON PLUS
Well known for the radio-controlled cars, Traxxas decided it was time to try their hands at RC drones. The Aton Plus is a professional grade drone that comes in at $440 from Amazon. It has a 2-axis camera gimbal and 5000mAh 3-Cell Traxxas iD LiPo batteries. One of the coolest functions of this particular drone is its “Air Brake.” This featured lets you stop and hover over a particular area with just pushing a button.
It will stay in its geofence area of 400 feet high and 500 feet diameter before it automatically turns for home thanks to a GPS positioning tool and shutting itself off. This is a great safety feature for mid-level pilots who are working their way towards advanced flying. It also has LED lights that make it easy to spot in the dark.
- Known battery issues
- Known to take off on its own and fly itself even with pilot control
WALKERA QR X350 PRO
Amazon is selling the Walkera QR X350 Pro for about $450 and that’s a pretty good deal considering the number of upgrades that have been put into it since the QR X350. This quadcopter is ready to fly right out of the box and it’s a good drone for learning how to fly one and practice prior to moving up to a more advanced model.
While it doesn’t come with a camera, it is equipped with a gimbal compatible with GoPro cameras and other action cameras. With 25 minutes of flying time and a maximum control range of 3.2 kilometers, this drone is a steal.
DJI PHANTOM 3 STANDARD
This offering from DJI comes in around $500 but if you want a drone that is able to hit about 1500 feet and stay up in the air for 20 minutes, every last dime is worth it. Plus, you get amazing photos thanks to the integrated aerial camera that shoots 2.7K HD video and 12 Megapixel photos. You will need to buy an extra battery for this one, as it is not included with the basic package.
- Camera has problems and the gimbal overheats
- Works for a while and then suddenly malfunctions for no reason
- Packages are shipping incomplete and customer service is hard to work with
XIRO XPLORER V
This drone is a little on the pricey side at $560 even though it has a camera. It performs well with about 20 minutes of actual flying time and hits about 2000 feet from its controller. The camera shoots 1080p video and the video transmission is pretty good. It has a very futuristic look to it and is a pretty stable FPV drone all around.
· Snap follow only works with an iPhone
· Camera mount is weak and can snap off during a crash
· Firmware uploads have trouble completing
· No live feed from the camera
YUNEEC Q500+ TYPHOON
If you are looking for a drone with impressive flight time, the Typhoon gives you about a half-hour in the sky. It also has a range of around 8,000 feet. For $700, it’s a good deal. It also has three flight modes, a CGO2-GB+ 3-axis stabilized camera and access to database of FAA no-fly zones. Considering the range of this drone, that database will be useful. Plus, the camera will give you amazing photos and high quality video.
· GPS fails and can cause the drone to crash
· Camera is not very good
· Customer support is not very supportive
YUNEEC Q500 4K TYPHOON
Priced at $799.99 on Amazon.com, this drone offers you some of the best aerial photographs and video around thanks to the three-axis precision gimbal on the camera. It can stay in flight up to 500 feet, however Yuneec claims that it can reach 750 feet. This is a good drone for both beginners and amateurs just learning how to fly. The controls are easy to use, making the drone easy to fly. It has a no-fly feature that will shut the drone down if it comes too close.
· Motor runs hot enough to burn the plastic screws
· 30-day warranty is not long enough to cover potential issues with batteries
· Too big and difficult to carry around
· No-fly zone features shuts down drone
YUNEEC TYPHOON H
Professional and hobby veterans are going to love the Typhoon H. It retails for around $1300, but it is worth it. This drone is like flying a small aircraft as it can reach up a full mile before it loses your signal and comes back to you via GPS.
You also have the ability to give this drone its own digital flight path and its obstacle avoidance system will help keep it from getting into trouble. It comes ready to fly right out of the box with 8 smart flight modes. It’s easy to transport with its quick disconnect props. But the best thing about this drone is the camera. It has 4K Ultra Definition video and 12-megapixel photo capability.
· Camera settings are not intuitive
· The camera spindle is weak and can snap easily
· Collision avoidance lowers the speed
· Collision avoidance does not see sides or backwards
· Slow boot up
· 20-minute flight time in the correct conditions
DJI INSPIRE 1 V2.0
The nice thing about DJI drones is that you can find one in any price range, especially in the long-range drone category. This one retails for about $2550 and could be considered the Cadillac of DJI’s products. It comes with a 4K video and 12-megapixel camera as well as all the needed hardware to get it into the air. This drone can fly out about 1.2 miles and as high as 1,500 feet.
· Known mechanical issues with the drone
· Batteries arrive dead or unable to charge
· Customer service difficult to work with
DJI PHANTOM 4
If the Inspire 1 is the Cadillac of DJI’s products, the Phantom 4 is the Hummer. It’s based on the Phantom 3 with everything upgraded including a 4K camera, improved battery, motors, controller and more. It also has an obstacle avoidance system that wasn’t on the previous model. You get 25 minutes of flight time with the Phantom 4 and it can reach a range of 6 kilometers. Not too shabby!
· Firmware updates makes the drone unusable
· Batteries are not charged when delivered
· Backpack doesn’t work to carry the drone
DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO
Coming in close to $2,000, the Phantom 4 Pro has all of the features as the above Phantom 4 and some nifty bells and whistles. It has the obstacle avoidance system with more sensors that lets you fly it seamlessly without worrying about it colliding or crashing into things you can’t see. The quality of the build is better and it has an operating range of 7 kilometers with around 27 minutes of flight time. Here’s something fun about the Phantom 4 Pro: it has a maximum speed of about 44 miles per hour.
· Batteries are not charged when delivered
· Firmware updates makes the drone unusable
DJI INSPIRE 2
Getting more range in a professional grade drone means paying more money. The DJI Inspire 2 is averaging about $6,000, but this hi-tech drone is pretty cool. The rotor-raising feature, similar to its predecessor, still clears the view of the 4K camera.
The camera is mounted on a Zenmuse X5S gimbal, which keeps it steady as the drone moves and gives you some phenomenal photos. With an obstacle avoidance system and dual GPS+GLONASS navigation system, you also get a half hour of flight time and 7-kilometer reach. This one is really loved by professional photographers and gives you smooth video footage.
· Batteries are not charged when delivered
· Firmware updates makes the drone unusable
DJI MAVIC PRO
Retailing at $1,299, this drone is actually a favorite among the selfie drone movement. This is a miniature foldable drone that beats out the competition on its specifications. You get about 25 minutes of flying time and a distance of 7 kilometers.
It features a great 4K camera with its own stabilization system and has a bunch of smart features, like ActiveTrack and TapFly, two features that are found in the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2. All of these features give you a professional grade drone perfect for long distance flying and fantastic photo opportunities.
· Too much reflection off of the plastic camera guard/dome
· Slightly less agile than other DJI products Phantom 4 in high winds
WALKERA SCOUT X4
The Walkera Scout X4 is what is known as a transformative done. This means, for the uninitiated, that it can be both a quadcopter and octocopter depending on the pilot’s preference. Because of the powerful motors on the Scout X4, it’s also customizable to be able to carry some heavy payload when you add four more motors.
If you don’t mind your drone flying out of your line of site, the Scout X4 can go as far as 1.5 kilometers before losing the signal or stay in air for about 25 minutes. It does have a waypoint mapping feature that allows the pilot to plan a flight route back to him via their smartphone or tablet. It also has a Follow Me mode for taking video and photos and it uses GPS to ensure it knows it’s position at all times. Retailing on Amazon for $1,425, you can use a GoPro camera with it, but since it comes with one already you might want to forego switching it out.
DJI MATRICE 100
The advanced drone pilot will love the DJI Matrice 100. It retails for about $3,300 on Amazon, which is a great price for a fully programmable drone. This drone is not for the average user with all of the high-end tech that this drone is packing. Ready for customization using the SJI SDK platform, developers have the ability to teach their drone what they want it do. The commands are even customizable, giving you the ability to tell it where to go, how you want it to fly and what to report in real time for you to reviews. This drone is able to stay up in the air for 40 minutes and has a 5-kilometer range.
· Software issue causes errors rendering drone unusable upon receipt
DJI MATRICE 600
Definitely professional grade, the Matrice 600 has been used to record car races and other events where speed is essential. This drone is considered an industrial drone thanks to the fact that it’s a hexacopter designed for mapping and carrying a heavy payload. This is not a drone designed for beginner users and you really need to have some experience in flying drones to operate it. It has six brushless motors that are powerful and durable. The downside of this $5,000 drone is that it does not come with the camera.
BLADE 350 QX2
Manufactured by HorizonHobby, the Blade 350 QX2 is affordable at $500. You get 5 kilometers of flight with this drone and about 15 minutes of flight time. Pilots would’ve liked a longer flight time, but for this price, 15 minutes isn’t too bad. It’s a small and powerful drone that is aimed for film and photographers but gives the recreational user plenty of fun.
It has an anti-vibration mount that is perfect for a GoPro 3 or Hero 3+ camera. It comes with a Smart Mode, Stability Mode, Aerial Photography mode, Agility Mode, Return Home and SAFE Technology. The camera is not the best with this drone, but the drone itself is easy to use and makes use of the Spektrum DX4 remote.
· Camera is not high quality and does not take good pictures
3DR SOLO DRONE QUADCOPTER
3D Robotics Solo Drone Quadcopter is easy to use thanks to the video game style controller, making it perfect for the professional pilot or someone just starting out. It has a range of about one mile before losing signal. Considered the “world’s smart drone with a brain,” it is capable of numerous functions on its own.
The camera is decent and the controller gives you the ability to see what the drones sees while it is in the air as well as recorded video footage you can review later. It features an Orbit mode, a Follow Me mode and a Selfie mode. It retails at $349.00
· Customer service is terrible
· Software does not update and freezes
· Does not sink with newer IOS devices
· Technology is old
· Does not come with a gimbal
With a maximum range of 35 kilometers, this drone is definitely for professional use only. The price tag is pretty steep: $29,999 to begin with. This is the big daddy of radio-controlled drones. It has a compact and portable frame making it extremely lightweight. This is why it’s able to fly for a good 74 minutes. The drone comes with a flight controller, GPS, data telemetry, 3-axis integrated brushless gimbal system, data link and ground control station. Additional features of this drone cost extra.
· The price tag
· Extra cost extra
· Can only be purchased from Airborne Drones
What can I do with a long range drone?
Long range drones are useful for more than just flying for recreational use. Since they can fly longer distances than most drones, they are great for mapping city and rural areas. They capture various geographical features of the area, such as forests, rivers, lakes, roads, trails and more. With a high-quality camera, you can capture multispectral images that will help scientists obtain knowledge of climate changes in the area.
The most popular use of the long range capability is surveillance drones. They are great for observing large groups of peoples, community activities and even military maneuvers during training and other situations.
They allow non-stationary cameras to take flight and get a better look at things from a birds-eye view. Long range drones are more agile and faster than average drones, making them perfect for surveillance usage. Add a night vision camera to the drone and you will be able to watch your target around the clock.
In high traffic areas that do not have access to helicopters or other flying devices, drones can help track how much is an area or if there any accidents. It provides up-to-date information that can help commuters find alternate routes and better safety.
From beginner user to professional user, there are plenty of long range drones on the market for you to choose from. Most of the ones on this list are designed for the experienced user but there are some here that are perfect if you want to introduce the joy of radio-controlled flight to a young family member.
Read up on the drone you are interested in buying before committing to one. Learn everything you can about it so that you know what additional equipment you may need, if you need to purchase a camera for your drone and what type of batteries it takes. Also, be aware of what type of setup your drone may require. Not all of them are ready to use as soon as you open the box. There may be some setup required.
· Long range drones can be used for more than just recreation. They are great tools for delivering items in dangerous areas, surveillance, mapping terrain and more.
· Long range drones provide you with clear still images and video from far away, giving you minute by minute information that can be used immediately or reviewed at a later date.
· Long range drones give you a more pronounced aerial view of the area you are flying them over.
· Long range drones require heavier batteries in order to keep them in the air for prolonged lengths of time.
· In many areas, you need to be aware of the no-fly zone.
Always be aware of the area you are flying your drone in and any FAA regulations in the area. Invest in FAA flight zone information so you can keep it out of any no-fly zones. Many drones are required to be registered with the FAA. Make sure you check in your area to see if you need to register it prior to use. Use your drone responsibly and always ask before videoing any type of event where others are involved.