Gifts for Drone Lovers – My Top Picks for the 2018 Holiday Season – Updated!December 4, 2018 20 By Scott Hinkle
It’s that time of year again. The holidays are coming, your loved ones have been hinting and their perfect gifts and you’re looking to see what’s out there to surprise them with. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect gifts for drone lovers, look no further. Here are my top picks for the 2018 holiday season.
Traditionally, when you think of drones, you think of the drones themselves and maybe about a few accessories, but there’s so much more than that. Consider training, certification, insurance, drone club memberships and so on. Sure, you’re loved one would be ecstatic to get a new drone for the holidays, but that might be outside of your budget. Take a look at the suggestions below. If it’s a drone, great, but if you want to be a bit more creative or put a little more thought into it, you might surprise your drone lover with a gift to help them expand their drone hobby or profession in ways they may not have considered.
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OK, maybe your drone lover isn’t a drone lover yet but more of a drone dreamer or maybe he or she is a drone lover but their current drone is aging or lacking in some other way. Let’s start this gift list off with my top drone picks for the 2018 holiday season.
Consider the Fly More Combo options if you do grab one of these beauties. It will come with a carrying case, additional batteries, extra props and so on making your loved one’s experience a better one. I’ll list the drones by intended use and skill requirements.
Beginner – This is for the loved one that’s new to drones. If your loved one really wants a drone but has never had one and doesn’t have a specific use other than fun flying consider grabbing a Tello drone. This is a great beginner drone with tons of features at a great price that won’t have you crying should an incident render it unusable. One suggestion, consider getting it with a remote. There’s something about having that tactile feedback you just don’t get on the smooth screen of a phone or tablet.
Beginner to intermediate – This drone is for that special someone who needs a bit more than a play thing. The DJI Mavic Air is a great, compact flying camera that boasts several advanced features including a 4K stabilized camera, obstacle avoidance and intelligent flight modes. The price point is significantly higher than the Tello but you get a lot more for your money with this bird. Again, I recommend an option with remote controller vs just using WiFi on your phone or tablet.
Beginner to intermediate – This DJI Mavic Pro Platinum is much like the Mavic Air above but offers more flight time, quieter operation and a much larger range due to it’s OcuSync technology. It also offers a stabilized 4K camera, obstacle avoidance and intelligent flight modes. I actually have this model’s predecessor, the Mavic Pro and I absolutely love it. If you have someone who needs a compact solution that offers great range, consider the Mavic Pro Platinum.
Intermediate to professional – These next ones are basically the same drone but with two different cameras. The successors to the DJI Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum are the DJI Mavic 2 Pro and DJI Mavic 2 Zoom. They basically took notes on what people liked, disliked and wished for and came up with the new models. The pro houses a Hassleblad camera sensor with a stunning 20 megapixel resolution. This one is more for the professional photographer/videographer. The Zoom’s camera is very much like the original Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum models except if offers an optical zoom feature. It should be noted that the cameras on the Mavic 2 series can be swapped out so you can get the best of both worlds with a single drone. You just have to acquire the other camera and either use DJI’s swap service or perform the operation yourself. Check out these 2 posts for more information: DJI Mavic 2 Camera Swap Service and DJI Mavic 2 – How to Swap the Cameras. They also offer obstacle avoidance, intelligent flight modes and so on. Consider these to be the flagship portable models from DJI.
Intermediate to professional – This is the last entry in my list. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro 2.0 is the perfect drone for the photographer/videographer that doesn’t need a compact, portable solution. If you’re loved one needs portability with excellent image quality go for the DJI Mavic 2 Pro but, if they need the best possible image from their consumer level drone, look no further than the DJI Phantom 4 Pro 2.0. This drone is the perfect solution if space isn’t a top priority. The image is arguably better than the DJI Mavic 2 Pro (see my The DJI Mavic 2 Pro – Is There a Sensor Issue Affecting Image Quality? post for more info) and the drone is fast, offers obstacle avoidance, impressive flight times and intelligent flight modes.
If you’re looking at the DJI Mavic Series and still aren’t sure which one you think is right check out the following review and comparison posts:
What About the Mavic Air – This is a Site for Everything Mavic Isn’t It?
What is the DJI Mavic Pro – Only One of the Best Drones Ever!
The DJI Mavic 2 – The New Models are Finally Here!
DJI Mavic – Which One to Choose
So your loved one has the drone of their dreams but they don’t quite have everything yet. What accessories are out there that will enhance their drone flying experience? Actually, there are quite a few options here. I’ve written an Essential DJI Mavic Pro Accessories – The Must Haves post. The accessories listed there focus on accessories for the DJI Mavic Pro but, many have similar versions for other drone models as well. I’ll list a few options here with links for the various drone models above.
Sun Shade – This is one of the least expensive yet cost effective accessories you can get. It helps to reduce the glare and reflections on your phone or tablet’s screen that tend to make it difficult to see the display.
micro SD Cards – Let’s face it, your loved one is going to be taking pictures and shooting video on their drone. Storage is always a concern. Consider grabbing one or more larger capacity micro SD cards so they can stay in the air longer and not have to stop to download their content before continuing their flight.
Batteries – You can never have too many batteries. On average, it takes about an hour to charge a battery to full capacity. A full battery can provide anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes of flight time. If your loved one wants to stay in the air for long periods of time, they’re going to need more batteries.
Tello – Mavic Air – Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum – Mavic 2 – Phantom 4
Multi-Charger – Who wants to charge one battery at a time? Enter the multi-charger. These devices will charge multiple batteries at once and some even offer USB ports to charge your remote and phone or tablet too. I have one for my Mavic Pro and it’s awesome…. In about an hour I have 3 batteries, my remote and my phone/tablet fully charged and ready to go! I used to recommend a car charger too but now believe a multi-charger and inverter (if your car doesn’t have an AC outlet) is the better way to go as the car charger can only charge one battery at a time.
Tello – Mavic Air – Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum – Mavic 2 – Phantom 4
Extra Props – It’s going to happen. That little bump, slight mishap (see my Mavic vs Tree – The Importance of Situational Awareness post), etc. Eventually you’re going to need additional props. Even if you don’t have a mishap, parts wear down. It’s always a good idea to have some spares handy.
Tello – Mavic Air – Mavic Pro – Mavic Pro Platinum – Mavic 2 – Phantom 4
Launching/Landing Pad – You never know what your launching or landing site might be like. It’s a good idea to grab a pad to protect your drone from debris. Grass, sand, dust and dirt tend to swirl around when the done takes off and lands. A pad provides a protective clean surface to prevent debris from mucking up your motors, nicking your props and impeding your camera’s view.
Camera Filters/Protectors – Let’s face it, flying cameras are expensive. It only makes sense to protect your investment. Consider neutral density filters as a two-fold solution. They act as sunglasses for your camera, allowing you to adjust your camera settings to get the perfect effect, protect your lens in the process and some even have polarization to reduce reflections and glare. I usually have my Polar Pro Vivid Series ND 16 on board when I fly.
Mavic Air – Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum – Mavic 2 Pro – Mavic 2 Zoom – Phantom 4
Camera Gimbal Lock/Cover – I’ll be the first one to say that DJI’s stock gimbal lock and cover solution is a bit lacking. It can be quite cumbersome to have to install a separate lock to protect your gimbal and a cover to protect the camera in transit. Check out some of these single-piece options.
Mavic Air – Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum – Mavic 2 Pro – Mavic 2 Zoom – Phantom 4
Carrying Bag/Protective Case – If you grabbed the Fly More Combo then you probably already have a bag. That said, depending on your need/use, the included bag may be insufficient for your loved one’s needs. If they are a photographer and tend to carry around a camera, lenses and so on, then you may need a single bag solution that will carry all of it and their drone. If they have the DJI Goggles they may need a bag that fits them, the drone and whatever else is on their list. Unfortunately It’s hard to recommend bags without knowing the full extent of what will be put into them. Another option is to get a protective case that you can then put into an existing bag. In this particular instance I recommend heading on over to Amazon.com and performing a search for a drone bag or drone case and including keywords like Mavic Air, Goggles, Camera, Lenses and so on. There are many to choose from.
Cinema Tray – You know that the drone is a flying stabilized camera but did you know you can also use it as a stabilized hand-held solution? Check out these cinema tray devices. They turn your flying camera into a hand-held steady shooting system.
Mavic Air – Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum – Mavic 2 – Phantom 4
Prop Clips/Holders – Do you leave your props attached in transit? Are you concerned they may get snagged when putting them in or taking them out of your bag or worse yet, broken? Consider prop clips/holders to secure them in place.
Mavic Air – Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum – Mavic 2
Terminal covers – With multiple batteries flopping around, it’s a good idea to protect the contacts on your batteries and drone from damage and possibly bridging the contacts which can be dangerous.
Mavic Air – Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum – Mavic 2
Last, but not least…DJI Goggles Racing Edition! – These are just cool. Plain and simple. You can use these with all the drones listed above (except for the Tello). Get that first person view experience. Control the camera or even the drone’s direction with the tilt/turn of your head! Use it as a second controller to manage the camera while you have someone on the remote directing the aircraft. This is, by far, the most expensive accessory listed here but I just couldn’t leave it off the list. I actually have one of these under my tree for me this year and I can’t wait!
Training and Certification
Physical accessories aren’t the only gifts available. Is your loved one looking to use their drone professionally (or in any way other than hobbyist use)? Do they just want to increase their skills and knowledge? Consider training, certification and licensing.
Udemy.com is a great resource for finding training online. Consider checking them out and searching for your topic of interest. I’m sure you’ll find a ton of offerings. In fact, Greg Reverdiau has a couple on there for the FAA Par 107 certificate and I will give the first person to leave an engaging comment below and mention “I heard there was a free code for the UAS Remote Pilot Certificate – Test Prep for FAA Part 107 Exam to be had!” the course for free!!! Please note I only have one to give away so make your comment count.
Update! – The free course has been claimed. Don’t worry though, if you still want to take advantage of it, I have it here for $46.99 instead of the usual $189.99. To get the course at the discounted price just follow this link:
UAS (Drone) Remote Pilot Test Prep for FAA Part 107 Exam
DJI also offers great training videos on their site. Check out some of these links:
There are so many other resources available as well, including my own site here. Please check out some of my other posts that may interest your loved one:
Get the FAA Drone License – Make Money Legally With Your Mavic
Starting a Drone Photography Business – Marketing Yourself Online
Dolly Zoom Effect With Any Drone by Willie Morris – A Mini Post
Free Video Editing Software – My Top Picks for 2018
Free Music for Videos – Sources for Your Next Project
And so many more.
If your loved one is new to the drone arena, I do recommend some training in the form of online tutorials and maybe even using the DJI Flight Simulator that was recently released. You can find out more about that in my DJI Flight Simulator – Professional Pilot Training post. If they are considering making money, volunteering for search and rescue operations or anything else outside of hobbyist use, then they really should consider getting the FAA part 107 cert (or equivalent if not based in the US). See my Get the FAA Drone License – Make Money Legally With Your Mavic post for more details.
So we’ve covered the drones themselves, accessories for the drones, training and certification, what’s left? Actually there’s still more. Let’s see what else we can find:
Labels – Consider professional labels for your drone to meet identification requirements and provide a way for those who may find your lost drone to contact you.
Drone Vest – How about a snazzy vest for your pilot? Is your loved one someone who likes a little recognition? Maybe they like to be the center of attention or maybe they just want to be left alone. In any case, this vest should fit their need.
Insurance – There are many options not only for insurance providers but the type of insurance coverage. Not only should you consider protecting your loved one from financial headaches should they be involved in damaging someone’s property or injuring another but you should also consider protection for the drone itself. DJI, Verifly, even the company that you have your home/renters insurance through probably offers a policy to meet your needs. Many people (outside of California) have had great luck with State Farm. Take a look at your options and choose the solution that fits your needs best.
Clubs and user groups – There are various clubs and user groups around the globe. Consider searching for one in your area that might be beneficial for your loved one to be a member of. Groups vary in size, location and focus so make sure to look into them before making a decision. One thing to look out for is brand specificity. If your loved one is a DJI nut and you sign them up for a Yuneec group, they probably won’t get much benefit out of it so do a little homework beforehand.
Clubs and organizations are a great way to meet others with similar interests, make connections, gain valuable skills and interact with the public.
I know this post was a little long but I wanted to include everything I could think of to help you find the perfect gifts for drone lovers in your life. I hope my top picks for the 2018 holiday season helped you find something for that special someone.
I’m absolutely sure I’ve missed something so if you can think of anything else that should be included in this list, have an opinion on something I’ve mentioned here or just down right don’t like what I’ve posted, please let me know by commenting below. Remember the little freebie hidden above. I look forward to your comments.
I really didnt thing there was so much things to consider when getting a drone. This information was very helpful. I really appreciate it.
Happy to help. I know, most people think drone and remote and go to town but there really are so many more things drone related to enhance your experience.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, I hope you find what you’re looking for.
Yes!! This is exactly what I needed! My son would LOVE to have a drone. I think I will take up your recommendation to find a good club/user group in our area for now. And when I have the budget to actually buy one for him, I can come back to your post to re-read your recommendations before we make a choice. Thanks a lot! Nathalie
A club or user group would be perfect. I’m sure you could find someone there willing to share their experience and maybe even let him fly their drone to get a feeling for it (no promises but most like to share the excitement).
Please do come back when you’re ready to buy. Who knows, there may be some new model to consider by then.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
great article. I own the DJI maverick and love the clarity of the footage and the easy of use. Drones have really developed in leaps and bounds in recent times however the noise for me of the smaller drones is a little annoying and I would love to know what you think the next drone I should be looking at with the possibility of reducing the noise factor a little?
Thanks for your assistance.
The Mavic Pro is a great drone. That’s the one I have. I’ve heard you can use the props from the Mavic Pro Platinum model on the Mavic Pro and that it does cut the noise down a little but I haven’t tried it myself. That said, one of the most comment comments about the Mavic Pro Platinum model has been about how much quieter it is. It might be worth checking out and seeing if it makes a big enough difference for you to switch to that model.
This website was very interesting. Is this just for persons in the United States or is it also applicable to other places in the world like the Caribbean, Canada, Europe? I like the categories. Can you really make money from operating a drone. I really like how this site was put together.
Hello there. Thank you for reaching out.
I’m based in the US so many of my posts will refer to US standards such as my Get the FAA Drone License – Make Money Legally with Your Mavic post. That post talks about getting your 107 certificate so you can operate your drone outside of hobbyist use in the US.
Many of my posts are general in nature and will work for any location. I’ve setup my Amazon links to be multi-national so if you follow one of my links for a drone, it should take you to the relevant Amazon site for your location (i.e. UK, Italy and so on, not just the US).
You absolutely can make money with a drone. Check out the following posts:
DroneBase – Make a Little Money on the Side
DroneUp – So Much More Than A Place for Pilots to Make Money
As for how the site was put together, I used training provided at Wealthy Affiliate to help me design, build and host my site. It’s been a great tool for starting my online business. All of the content has been produced by me based on my research and experience.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment!
I am a drone lover myself and would definitely love to gift myself this time of the season and yes I would also like to get one for my loved ones that I know love gadgets. You have provided an awesome list here of drones and similar accessories.
I am not a beginner in making use of drones although I won’t call myself a professional. I am more of an intermediate drone user. Out of all the accessories you listed the micro sd card and batteries are the only ones I know I have and have not bothered about getting any of the others that were listed.
I seem to like that launching/landing pad cause it would definitely protect a drone from debris, dust, sand and similar things. It would be pretty awesome if I get one of those.
Thanks for reaching out. What drone(s) do you currently have?
The launching/landing pad is a great accessory. It’s flexible and folds up so it takes up very little room and is quite portable. I really love using it when operating from a beach. That sand can be a real pain. They are inexpensive and worth getting.
Hi Scott, I have found great information and review about different types of Drones. I thought that best drones are not available for common people and now I found this is also available with proper manual and guideline. I am planning to buy one drone for video shootout and other purposes in near future.Now I found comparison, feature and different price for different model. I like the color of DJI Mavic Air but I like the feature of The DJI Phantom 4 Pro 2.0. I am going to bookmark this page for my future reference. Thanks for sharing this information.
Thank you. Yes there are a lot of drones out there. I tried to keep this article about consumer drones as it’s aimed toward gifts for the holidays and those tend to be for consumers rather than professionals. That said, some of the drones and accessories listed here still apply to the professional but, you’re right, there are specialized rigs out there for the professional photographer/videographer and their price points show it.
When you do come back and settle on an option, please pop in and let me know what you end up getting.
Your list of tops picks for drone lovers surpassed my expectations. Wow. Unfortunately, I am almost ashamed to admit that I am the drone lover that I am shopping for. lol
I first started looking at drones to use for my rural farm and ranch real estate photography several years ago. The a divorce and the National Association of Realtors rules about drone use caused me to set aside the idea until now.
The fact that you included suggestion for extra batteries on this Christmas list told me that this website belongs to someone that really does enjoy drones. (I would rather support this type of website that one that simply trying to make a buck off of someone that just things drones have become popular and are a good way to potentially make money.)
Your list of the training courses is much appreciated also. As I am really supposed to be working on some real estate sales market reports this morning, it will be much easier and more profitable for me to book mark your page and come back to it this evening.
In all sincerity, I truly could use the free code for the UAS Remote Pilot Certificate – Test Prep for FAA Part 106. I heard there was a free code for the UAS Remote Pilot Certificate – Test Prep for FAA Part 107 Exam to be had!” the course for free!!! As I mentioned above, the National Association of Realtor’s rules/statements about real estate agents using drone footage or photos that were shot by someone that didn’t have the proper licenses deterred me from the idea getting my own drone for a while.
Originally my plan was to purchase a less expensive DJI quad-copter because it does seem like I’ve seen a ton of videos where people crashed theirs early one. I can’t quite afford that. Which drone would you recommend that is both affordable in the event it does get crashed and yet has enough features that I will be able to figure out how to quickly start using it for my real estate photography? (I will be able to play…oops I mean learn, in an area with no trees and minimal buildings. Wind issues will be one of my biggest headaches. )
Lastly, I want to check out your link for the free music for videos. (Maybe you can actually earn some affiliate marketing income off of me to support continued efforts on this great website.)
Ding ding ding! You win. I’ll get you that code for the FAA Part 107 course shortly.
Wow, I have a lot of info for you. I’m going to reply in-line if you don’t mind:
Unfortunately, I am almost ashamed to admit that I am the drone lover that I am shopping for.
– There’s no shame in that! That’s how I got started, I bought myself a gift for my birthday!
The a divorce and the National Association of Realtors rules about drone use caused me to set aside the idea until now.
– I’m sorry to hear of your divorce. I am not familiar with the NAR’s rules but I’m glad you’re looking into using a drone for your business now.
Which drone would you recommend that is both affordable in the event it does get crashed and yet has enough features that I will be able to figure out how to quickly start using it for my real estate photography?
– If you’re not going to be flying long distances, the Mavic Air might be a really good fit for you. It offers an arguably better image than the Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum at a relatively reasonable price. If distance or signal quality is a concern then go for the Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum. With it’s OcuSync technology it’s really the better choice and it’s not much more than the Mavic Air. On a side-note, grab yourself one of the cinema trays too. You can then use the drone for stabilized hand-held shots for interiors and so on.
– As for training, consider using the DJI Flight Simulator. It’s free and will work with your drone’s remote controller so you get a true simulator experience vs using a keyboard or joystick. Also check out the tutorials on Udemy.com. There’s all kinds of great info there.
Regardess of which drone you choose and which direction you go, please come back and let me know how it’s going. I’d love to see how your drone experiences progress.
Thank your for taking the time to give me a detailed response. I am also thrilled to have won the training. Thank you!!!!
I was not aware of the simulator training available. That sounds so much better than crashing the drone. I’ve heard way, way too many stories of people that did exactly that.
How are you defining long distance? The average flight for work related purposes would be covering up to 3,000 acres most likely. Most flights covering 5 to 80 acres. So I guess that is less than 5 square miles.
I will have to check out the cinema trays. Once I get good at flying the drone, then my focus will be photo and video quality to set my work apart from the competition. Certification is obviously the first order of business.
I’m happy to engage with my readers and you won it fair and square!
The simulator is relatively new, I think it was released last month. What’s nice about it is you can connect your drone’s actual controller and select your drone so it’s more like flying the real thing. I had a very small mishap myself, check out my Mavic vs Tree – The Importance of Situational Awareness – A Mini Post for the details.
Specifically, I’m talking about how far you plan to fly from your piloting position. I ask because different drones have different max ranges. For example; the DJI Mavic Air has a max distance of 4000 meters using the remote whereas the DJI Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum have a maximum range of 4.3 miles using a remote controller. All 3 models only offer a maximum distance of 80 meters using WiFi. That’s why I chose the DJI Mavic Pro over the DJI Mavic Air, the range is so much better with the OcuSync technology.
I love my Katana, although I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t use it often. Yes, get that FAA cert. Once you have that you’re on your way to making money with your drone legally in the US.
I’m very familiar with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras but never got a chance to learn about aerial photography. Apparently there’s a lot more things to consider than I thought!
Thanks for the extensive gift guide. Now… I know that you need to know the laws of your region for using drones but didn’t realize you’ll need certification/license should it be for professional use.
If I were to get the very basic, yet absolutely needed minimum with a Tello drone (for complete beginners), what would the items be?
I want to give myself a chance to learn more about drones and aerial photography, and I’m sure there’ll be great deals for Christmas holiday.
Thanks for this great post, Scott.
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
Yes, I used to be a DSLR nut but now love my flying camera setup! As for what you should get as a minimum for a Tello, I’d say the drone, remote, carrying case, extra batteries and a multi-charger. That said, the Tello is more to learn hoe to fly and get used to operating a drone. If you’re looking to take images for more than personal use, consider stepping up to the DJI Mavic Pro and then, consider adding ND filters to my previous list.
Whatever you decide, I’d love to hear what you end up getting and how you like and use it.
Someone suggested a drone race at work last Friday. It’s gonna be fun, but the company’s gonna buy the drones. I’ll refer them to this very informational article on drone gifts. They could select from this suggestions. But I already have DJI Mavic air and I’m really loving it.
Thanks for sharing.
A race can be tons of fun. That said, I recommend more “inexpensive” options over the Mavic series. There are drones that are meant to just have fun and race around with that won’t break the bank, should a mishap occur. I’m not sure what your company’s budget is, but I’m guessing they’d also like a less expensive option for such an activity.
I’m glad you’re loving your Mavic Air. Fee free to stop back by and let me know how the races went.