In the ever-evolving world of technology, drones have swiftly transitioned from being niche gadgets to everyday essentials for hobbyists, professionals, and tech enthusiasts alike. Whether you’re looking to film breathtaking aerial footage, embark on a new hobby, or explore the skies, there’s a drone tailored to your needs. In this article, we shall explore the 4 best drones under $1000; drones in this price range offer the perfect balance of high-end features at a reasonable price.
What Are The Best Drones Under $1000?
If you are looking to get into professional drone photography, you do not need to break the bank to purchase a drone that will meet your professional requirements.
In fact, some of the most advanced drones for capturing stunning photos are priced under $1000. When I first penned this article a few years back, the DJI Air 2S had just hit the market. Even then, it stood out as the premier choice in its price category, and it remains in 2023 the best drone under $1000.
However, while the DJI Air 2S sits at the higher end of the $1000 spectrum, it’s essential to note that other equally impressive yet more budget-friendly alternatives are available. Notable mentions include the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Mini 3, both of which pack a punch with their high-end features but come at a much cheaper price.
4 Best Drones Under 1000 Dollars
1. DJI Air 2S
Released a couple of years ago, the DJI Air 2S remains one of the best drones for photography and definitely the best drone under 1000 dollars.
The drone’s compact design, weighing less than 600 grams, makes it portable and easy to transport. The drone comes with a host of intelligent features that make it easy and fun to capture amazing videos and photos.
The DJI Air 2S’s camera is one of the best for aerial photography, equipped with a 1-inch CMOS sensor that ensures each shot is rich in detail and colour.
This larger sensor size is particularly advantageous for low-light scenarios, ensuring images remain crisp, vibrant, and noise-free. One of the standout features of this camera is its 10-bit D-Log M colour profile, which can capture a staggering one billion colours. This not only brings out the nuances in every scene but also offers a depth and vibrancy that truly immerses the viewer in the environment.
Also, for those keen on post-production tweaks, the ability to shoot in RAW format is invaluable. With a dynamic range stretching up to 12.6 stops, it ensures that every detail, whether in shadows or highlights, is captured with precision, offering unparalleled flexibility in editing.
The camera’s digital zoom feature, which provides up to 8x zoom in 1080p/30fps mode, allows photographers to get closer to their subjects without physically moving the drone.
The drone has a maximum flight time of 31 minutes, which is probably one of its flaws (most of the other drones on this list exceed this flight time) and has a video transmission range of 12km.
The drone comes with a host of intelligent features that elevate the photography experience. Its Intelligent HDR technology merges multiple shots, enhancing the dynamic range for richer images.
MasterShots, which is an evolution of the Quickshot feature, allows users to capture cinematic sequences by executing ten distinct manoeuvres at the push of a button.
The drone comes with several autonomous flight modes, such as ActiveTrack 4.0, Point of Interest 3.0, and Spotlight 2.0. These intelligent features allow users to track or circle subjects and ensure that the camera remains focused on them, delivering dynamic and cinematic shots with minimal manual intervention.
Safety is prioritised with a four-directional obstacle sensing system and the integrated ADS-B system, alerting users of nearby aircraft.
If you are in the market for a top of the range drone that is suitable for professional photography, the DJI Air 2S is your best option for under $1000.
- 1-inch CMOS Sensor: Captures detailed images with a resolution of 20 MP.
- Video recording: Records HD videos in 5.4K at 30fps, 4K at 60fps and 1080p 120fps
- MasterShots: Intelligent shooting modes for creative videography.
- Intelligent flight modes: ActiveTrack 4.0, Point of Interest 3.0 and Spotlight 2.0
- Video transmission: Uses DJI O3 for a range of 12km.
- 4-way obstacle detection: Provides safety during flights by detecting obstacles.
- ADS-B: An aviation technology for enhanced safety.
- Digital Zoom: Offers up to 8x zoom in 1080p/30fps mode.
DJI Air 2S Cinematic Footage
Pros & Cons
- HD camera with 1-inch sensor
- Features like ActiveTrack 4.0, Point of Interest 3.0, and Spotlight 2.0 allow for dynamic and cinematic shots.
- Four-directional obstacle sensing enhances safety during flights.
- Integrated ADS-B system provides alerts about nearby aircraft.
- Intelligent HDR technology enhances dynamic range for richer images.
- Automatically generate cinematic footage with the Mastershot feature.
- It might be considered expensive for hobbyists or beginners.
- While it has four-directional sensing, it doesn't offer complete 360° obstacle detection.
- Zoom recording is not available while recording in certain modes.
2. DJI Mini 3 Pro
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is the best sub-250g drone on the market today; it is my favourite drone and offers a blend of high-performance features at an affordable price.
It boasts a maximum flight time of 34 minutes, which is one of the longest flight times for a sub-250g drone and ensures you get plenty of time to capture the perfect shot.
Users can also opt for the intelligent plus battery, which extends the drone’s flight time to an impressive 47 minutes, although this does come with an additional cost.
For professional photographers, the camera specifications are impressive. The DJI Mini 3 Pro doesn’t disappoint in this regard. It houses a 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor capable of capturing 48 MP images and recording 4K videos at 60fps.
The large image sensor ensures that users can capture sharp, vibrant images, even in low-light conditions.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro comes with several photography modes that will enhance the aerial photography experience. Some of the photography modes include auto exposure bracketing, burst shooting, panorama and HDR.
There are also several intelligent video recording features such as Mastershots, Quickshots and Hyperlapse that will allow users to create professional quality videos with just a few taps.
Unlike previous drones in the DJI Mini range, the Mini 3 Pro comes with the intelligent flight modes such as ActiveTrack, Point of Interest and Spotlight, enhancing its tracking and filming capability.
Overall, I believe the DJI Mini 3 Pro is the best budget-friendly drone for professional aerial photography.
- Lightweight design weighing less than 249 grams.
- 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor with 48 MP still images.
- 4K video recording at 60fps.
- Multiple photography modes, including panorama, AEB and HDR
- Comes with ActiveTrack, Spotlight and Point of Interest smart flight modes
- Intelligent video recording modes
- Maximum flight time of 34 minutes (47 minutes with Intelligent Flight Battery Plus).
- Video transmission range of 12km
Pros & Cons
- Equipped with a large image sensor for a mini drone.
- Captures stunning videos and images.
- Comes with several intelligent features for easy video recording
- Long flight time
- Obstacle avoidance technology
- D-Cinelike colour profile
- Limited obstacle avoidance system
- Expensive for casual drone operators
3. DJI Mini 3
The DJI Mini 3 is similar to the Pro version, but there are some major differences which will likely influence a user’s decision based on their specific needs and preferences in drone technology.
The DJI Mini 3, similar to its Pro counterpart, is a foldable drone weighing less than 250g, making it convenient for packing and travel.
The drone comes with equipped with a camera that has a 1/1.3″ CMOS sensor and captures images in 48MP and 12MP, depending on the photography mode. It offers video capabilities up to 4K at 30fps but only supports H.264 codec (the Pro supports both H.265 and H.264).
One area where this drone surpasses the Pro version is in its flight time. With a standard intelligent battery, the Mini 3 has a flight time of 38 minutes, and with the intelligent plus battery, this extends to an impressive 51 minutes.
The drone comes with intelligent features such as Quickshots and an automatic return to home function. However, it does not come with autonomous flight modes such as ActiveTrack, POI and Spotlight.
It also does not have an obstacle avoidance system, which some may find disappointing.
However, overall, it is still a fantastic drone and is significantly cheaper than the Mini 3 Pro.
- 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor 48MP images and 4K HDR videos at 30fps
- Flies up to 38 minutes on one charge (can be extended to 51 minutes with an intelligent plus battery)
- Records 4K HDR videos with vibrant colours.
- Multiple photography modes
- Offers 4x zoom for detailed exploration.
- Innovative 3-axis gimbal with vertical shooting capability
- Includes QuickShots for effortless short video recording.
- Level 5 wind resistance
- Uses DJI O2 for a stable 10km transmission range.
Pros & Cons
- Ultra-lightweight and portable
- Amazing camera performance
- True vertical shooting for social media sharing
- The drone has one of the longest flight times for a consumer drone
- Long video transmission range
- Cheaper than the Mini 3 Pro
- No obstacle avoidance technology.
- Lacks autonomous flight modes
4. Autel Evo Nano Plus
The Autel Evo Nano Plus is a fantastic little drone that comes equipped with some amazing features that make it perfect for drone photography.
At the heart of the Evo Nano Plus is its camera, which boasts a 1/1.28-inch CMOS sensor capable of delivering stunning 50 MP photos. This sensor, combined with a large f/1.9 aperture, ensures superior noise reduction and the ability to produce high-quality images even in challenging lighting conditions. The drone also features a PDAF + CDAF autofocus system, ensuring fast-moving subjects are captured with precision. Its HDR mode captures multiple exposures, blending them to create images with an enhanced dynamic range.
To ensure the footage remains smooth and stable, the drone is paired with a three-axis mechanical gimbal, which effectively counters any vibrations.
Other features the drone comes with include Dynamic Tracking 2.1, 4 Quickshots for one-click videos, 28 minutes of flight time and a video transmission range of 9km.
- Lightweight design weighing under 250 grams.
- 1/1.28-inch CMOS sensor capable of capturing 50 MP photos.
- F/1.9 aperture with RYYB filter exceptional performance in low-light conditions
- Records videos in 4K at 30fps.
- Three-axis mechanical gimbal for video stabilisation.
- Autofocus system for precise tracking.
- HDR mode for enhanced dynamic range in photos.
- 28 minutes of flight time
- 9km video transmission range
Pros & Cons
- Exceptional camera with a large image sensor
- The camera is suitable for nighttime photography
- Autofocus technology.
- Choice of three colours
- Long transmission range
- 3-way obstacle avoidance system
- Short flight time compared to the other drones on this list
- Limited obstacle avoidance system
Do You Have To Register These Drones?
Only the DJI Air 2S will need to be registered with the FAA as it weighs over 250g; the other three drones are not required to be registered.
However, if you plan on using these drones for commercial purposes, you will need to register them and obtain the FAA Part 107 certificate.
Do These Drones Have Remote ID?
The FAA’s Remote Identification (Remote ID) system, effective September 16, 2023, mandates drones in the National Airspace System (NAS) to broadcast their ID and location.
According to the FAA website, the only drone that has not been approved for remote ID is the Autel Evo Nano Plus. The rest of the drones do come with remote ID technology. You can find the full list of FAA-approved remote ID-enabled drones here.
Are These Drones Suitable For Beginners?
Absolutely, these drones are suitable for beginners. However, if you’re an absolute beginner, it might be wise to start with a more budget-friendly drone. This allows you to get a feel for flying and hone your piloting skills without the worry of potentially damaging a pricier piece of equipment. Once you’ve gained some confidence and experience, you can then consider investing in one of these higher-end models. It’s always good to learn the ropes with a less expensive drone before diving into the deep end of the drone pool.
This is not an exhaustive list of the best drones under $1000; however, it does represent the best 4 drones in this price range. These 4 drones stand out for their compact design, exceptional camera performance and intelligent features. If you are looking for a good drone for photography but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, these 4 drones are a fantastic choice.