4K drones offer some of the best video capture capabilities available in a civilian UAV.
What I love about how fast the industry evolves is that specs and features that used to only be available on extremely high-priced rigs are now quite affordable for many pilots. 4K is one of those features.
This guide breaks down what 4K is (if you don't know already), how to choose the best 4K drone in 2021, and my favorite models on the market.
Table of the Best 4K Drones
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
20MP / 4K
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
20MP / 4K
Yuneec Typhoon H Pro
12MP / 4K
DJI Phantom 3 Pro
12MP / 4K
DJI Mavic Air
12MP / 4K
Fly Responsibly: If you live in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration requires many drones to be registered. This includes hobby and professional drones. Visit the FAA's drone registration page for more information.
What Is 4K?
You hear about it a lot, and you know it is something you want in your devices, but what is 4K, really? Buckle up, we are about to take a crash course in advanced technology.
HD or Not HD?
To understand what 4K is and what it truly brings to your table you have to have some understanding of pixels and resolution and how they make up your pictures.
If you look at an image with a low resolution you can actually see the individual dots of color, or pixels, that make up the image. The image will look very blocky and unrealistic. The term “Resolution” refers to the number of pixels, or dots of color, in the image or in the display medium (TV, computer screen, etc.).
The more pixels there are in an image, the higher the resolution is, making the image more clear and realistic. Of course, the device you are viewing the image on has to have a sufficiently high resolution for the image to be displayed properly. It is also sometimes referred to as “definition” or “High Definition” (HD) and UHD which is Ultra High Definition.
Now that we know what pixels and resolution are and how they work, when something is called “4K” the inference is that there are 3,840 pixels in use on the horizontal line (side to side) and 2,160 pixels in use vertically (top to bottom) on the display.
Because there can be approximately 4,000 pixels on the horizontal line of a display, saying that something is “4K” is saying that it has roughly four times the resolution of something that is 1080p.
This is generally described with the term “Full HD”and denotes the use of nearly all the available pixels.
Benefits Of These Drones
Given what we now know about 4K and how it improves image quality, here are the benefits of using drones with 4K capable cameras:
They're going to enable you to capture images with much higher quality. They will be sharper, clearer, and more realistic than images taken with cameras with lower resolution capability.
If you have ever zoomed in on a subject of a photograph and noticed that the image gets blurry the more you zoom in, then you understand the benefit to picture quality. That being said, it is not the only benefit.
When you edit an image, in any way, the overall quality of that image is compromised. The reason for this is that you are effectively re-arranging or entirely removing pixels from the image.
An image captured with lower resolution has fewer pixels to “play” with so the quality is compromised even further.
Using 4K for capture means that editing the resulting image will cause less damage to the original and the edited version because there are more pixels in play.
How To Choose A 4K Drone
Drone technology is getting better and less expensive exponentially.
Even so, you want to get the best one you can for the money you are prepared to spend.
You want to consider your actual skill set. How comfortable are you with more advanced models?
If you are a beginner, then you may want to start with models for beginners. That does not mean the technology will be less advanced, just easier to use.
Choose a model you feel comfortable using. There are many to choose from.
Next think about how you will be using it and why. There are many models suited and designed for a variety of primary activities.
Deciding what the primary use of the drone will be will go a long way in helping you choose the best 4K drone for you. There are a number of different models for a variety of activities and uses.
Uses For 4K Camera Drones
There are many uses for 4K drones, both for businesses and individuals. The most popular uses include filming, aerial photography, and information gathering.
Using a 4K drone for fantastic perspectives in films has become common practice, with good reason. This trend is only going to increase. They are also used to record and share events of all types, or even Livestream.
Aerial photography has been taken to fantastic new heights with the innovative 4K drones. Stills and burst shots can be captured from any angle now that the sky is the limit.
Sometimes, disasters strike. A 4K drone can go places humans cannot and provide valuable information on many situations.
Whether you are tracking a storm or checking for structural damage, checking your own perimeter or checking the trail ahead, a 4K drone provides accurate information in high quality and even real time.
Search and rescue missions have had greater success than ever before with the use of 4K drones.
See Also: Camera Drones: The Ultimate Guide
Who Are These Drones Best For?
Naturally, this goes back to what you are using the drones for. Parents, of course, can find numerous valuable uses for a 4K drone.
From sporting events to family vacations to safety, you can record those timeless moments in glorious HD. A 4K drone is best for anyone who wants or needs to capture virtually any situation or event in HD quality.
But these drones are probably best suited for professional pilots who want the highest quality shots possible.
You should make sure that you check the FAA website for the rules and regulations in your area before you purchase your drone. You may need to register your drone before you can fly it, and there are specific rules for certain locations.
Some models come pre-programmed with maps of the current "no fly" zones, which is another thing you need to be aware of regardless of whether you are flying your drone for work or play.
Top 4K Drones - Reviews
1. DJI Mavic 2 Pro - Best Overall
The top pick is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. This model is packed with some of the best features you will find in a UAV.
It folds up for convenient carrying and storage. The 20 MP camera and Adobe DNG RAW software provides both vertical and horizontal shot capability, and it also features 32MP sphere panoramas. You can even take rapid shots.
This model has 4K video at 30 fps and a three axis gimbal for extra stability, even at its top flight speed. You can control this drone from over 6500 feet away, and the Mavic Air Intelligent Flight lithium battery will provide up to 31 minutes of flying fun for each charge.
It comes with a remote control with detachable control sticks, but you can hook it up to your smartphone for easy set up and absolute convenience. For safety, the Mavic Pro has GPS, GLONASS, ultrasonic range finders, five vision sensors and 24 powerful computers.
- FlightAutonomy 2.0 technology
- 8GB internal storage
- 20 MP / 4K camera that takes 32 MP sphere panoramas
- Can be noisier than other models
2. DJI Phantom 4 Pro - Best for Professional Pilots
Number two on our list is the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. This amazing drone has it all for either the droning enthusiast or beginners and everything in between.
It features the latest software, like DJI Go4 and Lightbridge video transmission. The DJI Go 4 app is optimized for iOS, specifically iOS X, but can be used with Android devices just as easily.
The Phantom 4 Pro comes equipped with a camera that has been redesigned to have a one inch 20MPS Exmor R CMOS sensor. With this camera, you can take “burst” shots at 14 fps and 4K video at 60 fps. The powerful video processing supports H.264 and wows consumers with 100 mps bit-rate.
This UAV will sense obstacles in five directions and will “remember” what to avoid along a previously traveled route.
The remote for this titan of technology has a 5.5 inch touch screen which allows you to “draw” your route as you go and does not need an external device for control.
You can set two flight modes: Standard Mode which offers a fixed route with the camera facing forward or Free Mode which allows you to change your route and the camera direction as you go.
You get a 7km control range and 4db noise reduction. You also get a 30 minute flight time per battery charge.
- Offers 30 minutes of flight time
- 7 km control range
- 5 direction obstacle sensing technology
- Only the DJI Go4 app works with this model
This model offers a three axis CGO3 plus gimbal camera which features anti-vibration for super stable 4K video capture and a 360 degree range of motion.
The ST16 Ground Station all in one controller gives you absolute control over your UAV, which lets you program flight and video capture on a 7 inch screen while watching real time footage of your UAV flight. It also comes with the Wizard, a controller and homing device for your Typhoon H.
The software offers Orbit Me and Point of Interest technology which allows you to set yourself or anyone else as your photo focal point, and Journey mode to take super selfies at up to 150 feet up and away.
Intel RealSense technology is also standard with this model. The Typhoon H has retractable landing gear and folding arms, making landing and carrying your UAV a snap.
- 360 degree range of camera motion
- 5 rotor fail safe to keep it in the air
- Special sonar based collision prevention
- No cords included
This brings us to the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, number four on our list.
Continuing the tradition of the Phantom series with pride, this model introduces several innovations to enhance an already spectacular set of features. You get a stabilized three axis camera with 4K UHD video for sensational photo and video quality.
Leading the way with Lightbridge technology, you get 720p HD live video streaming, real time viewing direct from the drone and instant sharing ability with the Pilot app.
Whether inside or outside you have access to an array of integrated ultrasonic and optical sensors called Vision positioning. That means you have total control and precision even without a viable GPS signal.
You get all the features you have come to love in previous Phantom series models, like the GPS navigation outdoors and auto take offs and landings, a high powered intelligent flight battery, the powerful mobile app for iOS or Android, and a built in database of no fly zones to keep your flights as worry free as possible.
- Flight Autonomy 2.0
- 8GB internal memory
- Powerful camera
- Autonomous flight modes
- Firmware updates can be confusing
Last but not least we have the DJI Mavic Air, another DJI favorite. This jewel of the Mavic series will take your breath away with the clear photos and superb video capture.
Not only will you have vertical, horizontal, and 180 degree panorama modes, you have “burst” mode allowing up to 25 photos stitched together for 32MP Sphere panoramas. The 4K 100 Mbps video will amaze you with 30 fps recording in UHD quality and slow motion capture at 120 fps.
The Mavic Air fits amazing technology into a super compact package, folding up to the length and width of a smartphone for easy carrying and storage. Even the remote control folds up neatly and its low-profile, ergonomic design will hold your cell phone securely.
The Active Track technology lets you choose up to 16 subjects for the Mavic Air to follow simultaneously. With the DJI Go4 app you can instantly share your videos and stills with all your friends and family with just a few taps on your screen. Adding in the FlightAutonomy 2.0 software, Smart Capture and Quick Shots modes, the sleek design and three color choices makes this model an excellent choice for any activity.
You get 21 minutes of active flight time and standard in the box you will find the UAV with controller and battery, charging and power cables, four sets of propellers and guards, RC and communication cables with adapters, gimbal protector and spare control sticks and a carrying case.
- Superior technology in such a compact drone
- Foldable and completely portable
- Choice of three colors
- Cannot sense obstacles in Sport mode
Here are my favorite drones in this list:
4K is a must have for anyone who is serious about getting high quality aerial videos these days. Luckily, this tech is a lot more affordable than in previous years.