In less than two years, drones have taken the professional photography world by storm.
But their biggest shortcoming — especially for travel photographers — has long been their form factor. They’re big, fragile, and cumbersome and, until recently, they’ve been virtually impossible to travel with. While GoPro’s highly anticipated foldable Karma was destined to solve that problem, its disastrous recall placed the drone’s production on indefinite hiatus. The debacle paved the way, however, for these three killer alternatives.
DJI Mavic Pro ($999)
DJI’s Phantom set the bar for what high-end drones should be. The Mavic Pro — the company’s entry into the foldable drone category — offers most of the same technology in an impossibly compact form factor. The clever design allows for folding not only the legs, but also the rotors. This allows for a collapsed footprint (height and width) that isn’t much larger than an iPhone 7 Plus. Still, the unit manages to pack five vision sensors, a stabilized 4K Ultra HD camera, and a high-tech transmission system capable of streaming crystal clear video more than four miles away. Don’t miss: a “Tripod Mode” allows pilots to operate indoors and in tight flying quarters.
GDU Byrd Premium ($999)
GoPro garnered most of the accolades as the world’s first mainstream foldable drone package. But, GDU (formerly ProDrone) was actually the first to market such a product with their Byrd foldable drones. The line includes entry-level Standard and prosumer Advanced versions. However, the flagship Byrd Premium is the real standout. With an exterior shell crafted from military grade composites, the design is sleek and durable. It also folds down into a footprint that’s easily packable in a small backpack. The 6,700mAh battery provides nearly thirty minutes of flying time and the smart, automated “return-to-home” feature ensures it’ll make it back before the power runs out. Don’t miss: the included camera is swappable for other hardware, including GoPro, infrared cameras, and other compact and DSLR options.
Hover Camera Passport ($599)
For casual users who aren’t quite ready or wanting for a premium drone, Hover Camera offers something entirely different. Their new Passport camera is equal parts drone and high-tech selfie stick. It’s designed to be fully autonomous — simply unfold the wings (to activate the rotors) and release it into the air. Built-in face- and body-tracking software allow the unit to follow your movements whether you’re walking, biking, or cliff-diving. A slick Orbit feature sets the Passport to circle around the user while filming, and a Spin mode is capable of capturing 360-degree panoramic videos. Don’t miss: the fully-enclosed carbon fiber design means no more worrying about bent rotors.