A drone is now part of our travel equipment. With the BEST TRAVEL DRONE, you can take ingenious pictures from a bird’s eye view and look at the surroundings from a completely different perspective.
So far, we have only flown DJI products, and in our last post, we have put together useful information on traveling with drones – tips on drone buying, transport, insurance, and legal provisions for you. In this blog post, you will find out which DJI drone is the best travel drone.
There are currently three drone series from DJI in the hobby/consumer area:
We won’t rate the two DJI series in the professional sector, Inspire and Osmo, because of their high price and size.
The Mavic and Phantom series have different drone models. An exception is the Spark series, which has only one model who is targeting the young audience.
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
- DJI Mavic Air
- Mavic Pro Platinum
- DJI Mavic Pro
- Phantom 4 Pro version2.0
- Phantom 4 Advanced
We will evaluate the models for their image quality/ video quality, price, suitability for travel based on their designs, foldability, and weight.
Design is an essential factor to consider (when traveling with a drone). If your best travel drone is too big and fills more than half of your hand luggage, you might consider leaving it home.
So there is a chance of not having the drone with you and will not capture that breathtaking scenery. Therefore, the best travel drone should be as compact as possible so you can carry it practically anywhere in a small bag when hiking, exploring, traveling. It’s not just the drone that comes along. It comes along with remote control, charger, charging cable, additional batteries, and spare propellers
WEIGHT PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE FOR THE BEST TRAVEL DRONE
The value of a drone can play an essential role in more extended tours or day trips. If you have a drone that weighs 4 pounds in your backpack, it can be a burden, and it can be frustrating carrying it. In this case, you might consider leaving your drone home.
The flight time with a single battery is essential, and it can affect your vacation. You must carry additional batteries with you due to its short time in the Air. Thus, this makes buying the drone more expensive because you have to purchase extra batteries. Too light and too small drones also have disadvantages. Lightweight drones are a little more susceptible to wind and are less visible.
Propellers most often break when you travel with a drone. It is, therefore, vital to have a drone whose propellers can be easily replaced. With a DJI product, you have access to replacement propellers worldwide.
The extra batteries are necessary on the go because you are currently traveling in a harsh environment, (and) DJI batteries are easier to obtain. For example, we have borrowed a battery for our Phantom 4 Pro from a fellow traveler. These are the advantages of having a drone from the market leader and have access to a large DJI community.
THE DJI MAVIC 2 PRO AND MAVIC 2 ZOOM AS THE BEST TRAVEL DRONE
With its introduction in 2016, the Mavic series completely changed the drone market with its designs. So it was only a matter of time before DJI launched the second version of this drone.
The Mavic 2 has improved in almost all aspects, the camera, flight time, flight speed, noise level, obstacle detection, and intelligent functions (flight modes). The only thing this great drone is missing is the water resistance and the upward obstacle detection.
The Mavic 2 Pro has a camera from Hasselblad, the market leader for high-quality professional medium format cameras. Hasselblad L1D-20c is a state-of-the-art aerial camera with a 20-megapixel 1-inch image sensor.
Thus, the Hasselblad enables better shots in low light (low-light shots) than the other cameras in the DJI Mavic series. Hasselblad camera also allows a higher maximum ISO value. Thus, this can be done manually from 3200 to 12800. Hasselblad also uses Natural Color Solution (HNCS). HNCS optimizes the image and delivers high color accuracy.
The Mavic 2 Zoom already tells the primary difference by its name. This drone has a four-fold zoom, two of which are optical using the 24 – 48 mm zoom lens. The camera has a 12 MegaPixel and 1 / 2.3-inch image sensor compared to the Pro.
The ISO range is, therefore, only 100-3200 (manual). And this makes it less suitable for low-light shots. The main strength of this camera is the zoom functionality. Also, it enables you to bring more dynamism into your videos and implement more creative ideas. The zoom now allows Dolly Zoom effects to be created, a film effect that has a so-called fascinating impact on the viewer.
Both models have a video resolution of 4K, 3840 × 2160 pixels, 24/25 / up to 30 FPS, and with a maximum Video bit rate of 100 Mbps. The only difference between the two models is in the color modes.
It is not possible to take photos at the same time you are in video mode. A change from video mode to photo mode is necessary here. With the Mavic 2 Pro, you can get better pictures and more options to edit them later and correct the colors. With the Mavic zoom, you get more creative photo/video opportunities.
Both models have a proven Mavic folding mechanism. According to the DJI, this should be able to be used more than 5000 times. If you go flying every day, opening and closing once, that would be 6.8 years.
Due to the folding design and the foldable propellers, you can easily stow the Mavic 2 and take it with you wherever you go making it one of the best travel drone out there. The compact remote control with removable control sticks makes it easy to store it in your luggage.
Both models are easy to carry with a starting weight of 907 g (Mavic 2 Pro) and 905 g (Mavic 2 Zoom). Even with this low weight, the Mavic 2 models withstand wind speeds of level 5 (29 to 38 km / h on the Beaufort scale).
IMAGE AND VIDEO QUALITY:
Both models have a 3-axis gimbal, which guarantees smooth and stable photos and videos in every situation. We think the image/video quality is excellent for both models. If you have the extra money and want to rework your material, we recommend the Mavic 2 Pro. If you’re going to add more creativity or don’t have the 200$, use the excellent Mavic 2 Zoom.
Both models have omnidirectional obstacle detection, which includes the directions left and right, up and down, and forward and backward.
The obstacle detection systems to the left and right only work in specific modes. The DJI guarantee also does not cover damage caused by crashes when flying left or right. Not even if the traveling drone was in supported modes. We didn’t find that as a significant disadvantage. You should always know your flight environment. We consider the front and rear obstacle detection sensors to be perfectly adequate.
According to the DJI, the flight range under perfect conditions is 18 km at 50 km / h one way only. You will be able to achieve this range under ideal conditions. The range on the open sea is approx. 5 km, in the city, approx. 1-2 km. Most drone rules worldwide require that the UAV (unmanned, uninhabited or unpiloted aerial vehicle) be in sight.
Regardless of the rules, we think that’s a fantastic range and enables us to have more distant motifs, such as to reach an island with a lighthouse.
The hover time indicates DJI at 29 min, the maximum flight time at up to 31 minutes, at a constant speed, and under windless conditions. The Mavic is optimized for forwarding flight.
The Mavic 2 pro, therefore, consumes less energy in forward flight compared to hovering. Realistic is a flight time of 25-28 minutes, which we think is entirely sufficient to capture memorable images/videos. The empty battery can be recharged in approx—1 hour 15 minutes. With additional batteries, you can increase your independence and extend the flight time.
One important factor is speed. Both models have a max. Speed of 72 km / h (without wind). Under realistic conditions, it will be 40-50 km / h. This high speed allows you to quickly reach your intended target further away and capture fast-moving subjects. For this, you can use the intelligent image mode “ActiveTrack 2.0”.
MAVIC AIR 2 AS THE BEST TRAVEL DRONE
This drone seems to us like a cross between the Mavic Air and the smallest DJI drone, the Spark. If you are looking for a foldable and highly portable travel drone that can shoot 12-megapixel photos and 4K videos, then this drone is the right one for you.
The Mavic Air 2 is a foldable and highly portable travel drone. You cannot fold the propellers, only the arms. When folded, this drone is 168 × 83 × 49 mm (L × W × H) small.
The new Apple iPhone Xs Max has the dimensions 157.5 x 77.4 x 7.7 mm (L × W × H). Thus, the Mavic is not much larger in area than the iPhone Xs Max. Only the Spark is smaller. Since the drone is so compact, it can easily be stowed in a backpack or handbag. The Mavic Air thus qualifies as an “almost” drone.
With a takeoff weight of 430 g, the Mavic Air 2 is a lightweight drone. It weighs only twice as much as the iPhone Xs Max (208g). DJI states that Air can withstand level 5 wind speeds (29 to 38 km / h on the Beaufort scale). Tests also confirm this good wind resistance value by experienced drone pilots. The drone remains stable in the Air, even in strong winds.
DRONE NOISE: THIS DRONE IS LOUD. IT IS LOUDER THAN THE OTHER MAVIC MODELS.
We suspect the leading cause of the noise is the smaller propeller blades. Less space means less buoyancy. The propellers have to turn faster to compensate for the limited area. The higher the speed, the more chance to cause volume peaks.
This drone should not be flown in your own four walls. The resonance of the room could reach a volume of more than 100 dB. With the Air, you can fly stable and okay outside, but you will attract attention at the start of the takeoff and certain altitudes.
IMAGE AND VIDEO QUALITY:
The small Air also has a 3-axis gimbal. The Air can compensate for vibrations, abrupt movements due to wind or intense flight maneuvers, and smooth video recordings. The camera supports 4K videos at 30 FPS and has a video bit rate of 100 Mbps.
A 12-megapixel resolution for photos rounds off the small package. With the panorama image function, 25 photos are put together in a matter of seconds. The result is a panorama picture in 32 megapixels. Also, Mavic Air has more gesture control modes, new quick shot modes such as asteroid and boomerang.
It differs from the Mavic Pro. In terms of camera technology, the Mavic Air is comparable to the Mavic Pro. We think the picture quality is good.
With this drone, you don’t need to be afraid of flying into objects or losing control. The Mavic Air is equipped with forward, backward, and downward view sensors and a downward-facing infrared sensor system. Using the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS), the Mavic Air can automatically avoid obstacles in front of or behind it.
According to DJI, the flight range is 2-4 km under perfect conditions. Range tests carried out certify this drone max. 2 km in the countryside and even 3 km in the sea. It will be a little less km in the city. We think these are top values for this small travel drone. With this range, the Air is a reliable holiday companion.
The maximum flight time for Mavic Air 2 is 21 minutes at a constant 25 km / h, without wind. Mavic Air’s ultra-portability demands reduced flight time. Various tests showed a flight time of max. 18-19 min.
When the battery was empty, the Mavic Air 2 landed independently. We think this is a good thing. We recommend the Flymore package because of the shorter flight time. With the two additional batteries, you are perfectly equipped for a vacation.
In wind-free conditions, the Mavic Air 2 can fly 68 km / h. The Mavic Air 2 can actually reach this speed. Speed tests certify this. With more wind, the achievable speed is around 40-45 km / h.
CONTROL WITH SMARTPHONE:
The Mavic Air 2 can also be controlled via WLAN using a smartphone. The range is minimal because the smartphone’s WLAN network does not have a broad spectrum. We find control via smartphone to be less precise than with remote control. We consider the control via the smartphone as a pure emergency solution.
Like the Spark, Mavic Air 2 also includes gesture control. You can control the drone with hand gestures and take off, land, take selfies, or record videos.
MAVIC PRO PLATINUM AND THE MAVIC PRO
Since the Mavic Pro Platinum essentially differs from the Mavic Pro in three ways. We will compare them both. The Mavic Pro is the first generation of foldable drones as the Mavic Pro Platinum was the optimized successor.
The following three distinguishing features of the Mavic Pro Platinum:
An extended flight time of 30 minutes
An increased hover time of 27 minutes.
This drone is quieter than its predecessor, 4 dB (60% noise performance) aircraft noise reduction.
THE MAVIC PRO PLATINUM AND THE MAVIC PRO ARE THE PREDECESSORS OF THE MAVIC 2
The first Mavic generations are cheaper to buy in the DJI Shop after the Mavic 2. It is a matter of time before the remaining models are sold out, or DJI decides to stop marketing the Mavic Pro Platinum and the Mavic Pro.
We think that the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Pro Platinum are perfect drones even after the two Mavic 2 models’ appearance. Especially for beginners, these models could be attractive due to their reduced price.
The Mavic Platinum Pro and Mavic Pro are foldable drones. You can fold up the arms and propellers. When folded, the Mavic Pro / Platinum has the following dimensions: H83mm x W83mm x L198mm.
You can easily carry this drone in a backpack or a handbag. The remote control has no removable control sticks that can be stowed away on the remote control. This means that the remote control takes up more space in your luggage.
The drones weigh 743g with the gimbal protection and 734g without the gimbal protection. DJI only states in the manual that the Mavic Pro cannot be flown at wind speeds of more than 10m / s. Meaning that this corresponds to Beaufort level 5 (29 to 38 km / h). As shown by various tests, the wind resistance stated is correct.
One of the main differences between the Mavic Pro Platinum and the Mavic Pro is its noise. The propellers of the Mavic Pro Platinum have a different aerodynamic design that dampens the sound.
It reduces the aircraft noise by up to 4 dB * (60% noise performance). You notice this when you compare it with the Mavic Pro. This enables the drone to fly quieter and less noticeable.
IMAGE AND VIDEO QUALITY:
Both Mavic models have a 3-axis gimbal. The camera supports 4K videos at 30 fps, but only with a video bit rate of 60 Mbps. The camera sensor has a 12.35-megapixel resolution for photos. It takes beautiful videos and photo recordings. You will get the best results if you take the photos in RAW format and then rework them.
The Mavic Pro comes with a forward and downward vision system. It constantly searches for obstacles to avoid collisions, either flying over them or merely hovering.
The Mavic Pro manages a total distance with a battery charge of 13 km without wind. The Pro Platinum drone does 15 km. Range tests show distances of 5.3 km. The Mavic Pro Platinum even manages 6.2 km. In the U.S.A. and many other countries, however, only flights within sight are allowed.
Using the strong lithium battery, the Mavic Pro manages 27 minutes without wind at a constant 25 km / h). Twenty-five minutes is the realistic and tangible value for this drone. According to the DJI, the flight time is 30 minutes, without wind at a constant 25 km / h. Tests show a flight time of 28 min. With the Mavic Pro Platinum, DJI has increased flight time by 10-12%.
Due to its aerodynamic design, the Mavic Pro has a stable flight behavior and can achieve speeds up to 64 km / h under perfect conditions. Tests show speed between 40 and 70 km / h depending on the wind conditions.
SPARK AS THE BEST TRAVEL DRONE
The Spark is the quietest, lightest, smallest, and cheapest drone in the DJI universe, making it a great best travel drone. It is one of the most stable DJI drones due to its fixed motor arms. DJI also vouches for the stability of the drone.
Repairing it could be more expensive than buying a new drone, and this makes customers unhappy. In comparison to other DJI drones, you have to accept compromises in the photo and video quality with the Spark, but in our view, there is no other drone that delivers such pictures and videos at a similar size as this one.
GESTURE CONTROL FEATURE.
For us, gesture control is unimportant in practice, so we don’t look at it specifically. We noticed that we fly more relaxed with the Spark and dare to pass closer to objects.
It is probably the low price and the stability of Spark that motivates us to do this. We consider this an advantage because it gives us the ability to be more creative with our work.
Essential features of the Spark as one of the best travel drone
The Spark is the smallest drone and cheapest drone in the DJI portfolio. The motor/propeller arms cannot be folded up on this drone. An advantage that this small drone makes it more robust for use. It is stowed faster and more ready to go than any other drone.
The Spark dimensions are 143 × 143 × 55 mm. In terms of size, the Spark is ideal for your pocket or handbag. It is definitely the drone that is always with you on your travel adventures. In terms of size, we won’t be surprised if a drone pilot will soon have his Spark stolen from his pocket or handbag.
Since the drone is so small, it is not recommended to start it from the ground but from your hand’s palm. The landing should also be done in the palm of your hand or on a clean, stable surface.
This is the only way to ensure that no dust or other foreign materials get into the propeller motors. Just like the Mavic Pro, the Spark does not have unscrewable sticks that can be stowed away on the remote control.
This is a shame with this smallest drone because the remote control takes up a lot of space. The LED screen in the remote control has been left out of the Spark. Because the same information is also displayed on the smartphone screen and frankly I don’t find this to be a bad choice.
The Spark weighs only 300g. It is only 82g heavier than an iPhone Xs max. The small weight does not necessarily make this drone more susceptible to wind. DJI states that the Spark can withstand up to Beaufort level 5 (29 to 38 km / h).
Many youtube tests also prove this. Weight and size also change the perception of the drones in your fellow human beings. The Spark is perceived more like a toy and therefore appears to be harmless to most people. This is a huge advantage.
This is the quietest drone in the DJI portfolio. On average 87 dB volume at the start. We find the drone so quiet that we can take off, fly, and land with this drone and our neighbor in the garden next door does not even notice it. With the Spark, you can fly most inconspicuously and, therefore, undisturbed.
IMAGE AND VIDEO QUALITY:
Ultra-compactness and the price demand compromises in the camera. The image sensor is 1 / 2.3 ″ in size and provides a resolution of 12 megapixels. Spark does not posses the RAW format images only JPEG. The max. video resolution is Full HD 1920 × 1080 pixels and 30 FPS.
Spark records the videos with a max bit rate of 24Mbps. With this, Spark brings the worst video performance. One reason for the poorer video performance could be the Spark’s gimbal, which only has 2-axis stabilization.
The camera shake must be digitally stabilized, which requires processor power. As a disadvantage, we find that the Spark camera allows us fewer camera settings. A disadvantage for us, possibly an advantage for you, because it makes taking photos and videos so effortless.
The small Mavic Spark is also equipped with a front-facing obstacle detection system. This system should avoid collisions, especially in Active Track mode.
The drone tracks you in active track mode and is supposed to recognize and avoid potential obstacles thanks to the obstacle detection system. The detection seems to work so far, but the Spark often does not fly around the obstacle but floats in front of it in hover mode.
Small drones also have batteries with low capacity. As various youtube tests show, the Mavic Spark manages a 3 km range overland under realistic conditions. In the city, however, 300-500 meters are more realistic. From our point of view, it is completely sufficient. As with other DJI drones, the range is dramatically reduced if you fly with WiFi and smartphone.
DJI names the max. The Spark’s flying time is about 16 min, without wind at a constant 20 km / h. Various YouTubers show a flight time of 13 minutes. That seems like a bad value compared to the other DJI drones.
Measured by the weight and size of this drone, this is a top value for us. In 13 minutes, we flew around ourselves, took many selfies, photographed the landscape, and shot our home from above.
The Mavic Spark reaches a max. Speed of 50 km / h. Since this is its top speed, speeds around 30 km / h are more realistic in everyday life. Due to its aerodynamic design, the Mavic Spark has a similar stable flight behavior as the Mavic Air.
The Spark’s battery can be charged with a power bank. This is a critical product feature because it saves us having to take additional Spark batteries with us.
We always have a power bank with us when traveling. Now we can charge our smartphone and our drone with the power bank. Charging time of the inserted battery in the Spark is however, longer of that that is directly connected at the charging station.
The Phantom series is the largest, heaviest, and most expensive drones in the DJI consumer market. Because of its features, the Phantom 4 wants to go more towards prosumer, i.e. for users with professional demands.
Differences between Phantom 4 Pro 2.0, Phantom 4 Pro, and the Phantom 4 Advanced are smaller in our view.
We will describe the three in one section and then go into the differences in detail. Even DJI lists only a few differences between the Phantom4 drone models. As one of the main differences, DJI emphasizes that the Phantom 4 Pro V1.0 and Advanced work with the Lightbridge video transmission technology. The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 comes with an OcuSync transmission system.
This enables the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 to connect wirelessly to DJI goggles. The OcuSync transmission system is said to have fewer image losses. This is particularly interesting for drone pilots who control their drones far away.
The Phantom 4 is DJI’s largest hobby drone. Without a propeller, this measures 350 mm in diagonal; the other dimensions are 289.5 × 289.5 × 196 mm (L × W × H). The DJI Phantom 4 has no foldable motor arms but it has removable propellers.
The housing is very stable and can withstand certain accidents. With this size and bright LEDs, Phantom 4 is exceptionally easy to see in the Air. With a charging cable, propeller, remote control, two batteries, the Phantom 4 is already a chunk of drone technology that I can’t always take with me.
Due to its size, Phantom 4 is the perfect travel drone if you have a lot of space when traveling, especially if you are traveling with a motorhome or by car. Phantom 4 is also suitable for less mobile travelers.
While the Spark is perceived as a toy, people turn to look at us when we unpack the Phantom 4 from our backpacks and attach the propellers. The size of the Phantom 4 changes the perception of those around you, therefore, making it one of the top travel drones.
Including the battery and propeller, the weight is from 1368 g (Phantom 4 Advanced), 1375 g (Phantom 4 Pro V 2.0) to 1388 g (Phantom 4 Pro). Its weight makes the Phantom 4 very stable in the Air.
As always, DJI states that the Phantom 4 can withstand winds up to Beaufort level 5 (29 to 38 km / h). However, many YouTube tests prove that the drone can handle wind speeds of around 50 km / h. We fly the Phantom 4 at wind speeds of approx. 33 km / h, i.e. within the range specified by DJI, without any problems.
NOISE OF THE DRONE:
The Phantom 4 can be loud at 100 dB at full throttle. The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 flies up to 4 dB quieter with the newly designed propellers (9455S) and with special drivers for controlling the motors.
At an altitude of approx. 15 m you can hear the Phantom 4 Pro V1.0 with approx. 66 dB and the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 with approx. 62 dB. As soon as you have equipped the Phantom 4 with the new, low-noise propellers, you can lower the volume and approach the dB value of the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. So if you already have a Phantom 4 Pro V1.0 and want to fly quieter, this is our tip for you.
IMAGE AND VIDEO QUALITY:
According to the specification of the Phantom 4 Advanced, Phantom 4 Pro V1.0, and Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, all three seem to use the same camera system.
A 1-inch image sensor with 20 effective megapixels is used. The camera produces adorable pictures with a focal length of 24 mm (corresponds to 35 mm) and with an adjustable aperture of f / 2.8 – f / 11. If you also like to change the camera settings manually, the Phantom 4 camera is the right choice for you.
You also have the option to set the focus manually. 4k videos can be recorded at 60 FPS and with a video bit rate of 100 Mbps. This makes the Phantom 4 Pro the only drone that can record at 60 FPS, which can then be converted into slow motion later in post-processing.
The 4K videos have in 24, 30 or 60 FPS a breathtaking quality. While you are recording a video in 4K, you also have the opportunity to take photos. A 3-axis gimbal on the Phantom 4 secures smooth, stable photos and videos with every flight maneuver or in strong winds.
The obstacle detection system on the Phantom 4 Pro V.1.0, Phantom 4 Pro V.2.0, seems to be identical. No other DJI drone in the consumer sector has such a system.
The detection range for obstacles at the front and rear is 30 m. Also, the Phantom 4 Pro comes with infrared sensors on both sides of the aircraft. This measures the distance between the Phantom 4 and side obstacles within a range of up to 7 m.
The Phantom 4 Advanced only comes with a frontal sensor, but with the same detection range. The obstacle detection system works very well, and our drone has “survived” some critical situations.
How well this system works is impressively demonstrated by youtube videos with the title “phantom 4 obstacle avoidance”. The system makes the Phantom 4 Pro V 1.0 and V2.0 a simple and safe flying drone, especially in beginner and tripod mode.
DJI gives the maximum range at 7 km. We were unable to achieve this value because only visual flight is permitted. Various YouTube tests certify the Phantom 4, 4-5 km range over land.
DJI names the max. Flight time of the Phantom 4 Pro, without wind, to max. 30 min. Realistically we achieved flight times of max. 28 min. This is the best time value of all DJI hobby drones. With this, in our view, enormous flight time, you can manage to take any photo or video project.
Phantom 4 is extremely fast and agile in the Air. According to the DJI, it reaches a max. Speed of 72 km / h. We think it is realistic to achieve this speed. The drone whizzes past us in sport mode and has a relatively long braking distance when braking hard (reversing). But also in the other modes, the drone flies quickly to the photo or video motifs.
If you are a beginner, we recommend the Spark or the better quality Mavic Air as the best travel drone. If you want to take impressive photos, then go for the Mavic 2 Pro. For more creative video options, get the Mavic 2 Zoom.
Assuming you want to capture top pictures and the best video material, take a look at the Phantom 4 Pro V.2.0. If you can manage without the latest video transmission technology and rear obstacle detection, consider the Phantom 4 Advanced. If you want to save a few hundred dollars, then go for the quieter Mavic Pro Platinum.