Most of the better drones manufactured today are GPS enabled. If you tend to think such a feature isn’t good for much except jacking up the price of a drone, think again. A GPS drone is a far more capable drone and these are just some of the reasons why:
Position Hold is becoming a must have feature on drones and for good reason. The ability to simply tell your drone to chill for a few moments wherever it happens to be allows you to get the exact shot you’re after or buys you valuable time while you consider your next move. GPS makes holding a precise position a snap.
2. Circle Around
With most GPS-enabled drones you can select any area close to your drone’s location and order it to circle to your heart’s content adjusting for altitude, speed, radius and more. This is an invaluable tool for gathering useful information in the wake of natural disasters and can be used by SWAT teams to assess threat levels at a particular location.
3. Return Home
In the past if your drone was far afield when something unexpected happened you’d have to initiate a tedious, time consuming search for your downed UAV. With Return Home (or “Return to Home” as it’s sometimes called) troublesome events trigger an automatic override of controls and the drone uses GPS data to return safely to the launch point.
4. Autonomous Flight
You can use GPS data to program waypoints into your drone before it takes to the air. Once you have your course laid in simply hit “go” and your drone will use GPS data to execute your flight plan to precision. You’re free to concentrate on other things besides navigation, like obtaining the perfect video.
The best drones even reach beyond the US-based GPS system for guidance information and embrace the Russian GLONASS system as well. The use of both systems provides virtual blanket coverage of the entire planet, even those areas in the far north where GPS can sometimes come up short.
So now that you have a better idea why satellite positioning represents such a huge leap in drone capabilities it’s time to look at the 10 best GPS-enabled drones sale collection on the market
BUT WAIT! ARE YOU SURE I NEED A GPS DRONE?
Well, that depends. If what you want is just a hunk of plastic that will fly through the air, annoy the local curmudgeon and crash into the lake when the battery unexpectedly dies then no, you don’t need a GPS drone. If on the other hand you want to see things you’ve never seen before, produce astonishing video and perhaps be of service in the event of a natural disaster all while exploring the limits of the technology then yes, you absolutely need a GPS-enabled drone.
WHAT’S “GLONASS” AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
As we mentioned briefly above the GLONASS system or “Global Navigation Satellite System” is the Russian answer to the US Global Positioning System or GPS. GLONASS development got underway in the late 70s, 3 years after the US decided to create the GPS system. It seems that folks in the Kremlin didn’t like the idea of being dependent on American technology for accurate positioning data (can’t imagine why). The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused development of GLONASS to grind to a halt with some components falling into disrepair. Under Vladimir Putin, however, the system was revived and today it competes favorably with the GPS as far as coverage and accuracy. Having a drone that is both GPS and GLONASS enabled ensures that should one go down your drone doesn’t go down with it. It also ensures you’ll never be the victim of one system’s blind spots.
Now that we’ve cleared all that up let’s take a closer look at the 10 best GPS-enabled drones on the market today starting with most expensive and ending with the less expensive but still capable models.
DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO
With the Phantom 4 Pro GPS drone DJI continues to push the envelope of drone development. From the 1 inch image sensor capable of creating breathtaking 4K JPEG stills and video to the GPS enabled Return to Home feature the Phantom 4 Pro allows you to explore the untapped potential of UVAs.
- GPS enabled
- 4K video at 60fps
- Return home capability
- An array of automation options
- Both front and rear obstacle detection
- GPS integration is seamless on the Phantom 4 and enables pinpoint accuracy in establishing waypoints for autonomous flight. The Phantom 4 is also one of the first – and still one of the only – BestDroneDose that incorporate front facing obstacle avoidance sensors. And if that’s not enough it also packs identical sensors in the rear of the craft to ensure every flight is an incident free flight. When it comes to low-altitude flight the Phantom 4 is no slouch either with its downward-oriented sensors and “Terrain Follow” mode that combine to allow your bird to hug the terrain like a cruise missile on a mission. Finally, the Phantom 4 provides up to 7 km of lag-free range and will stay airborne for roughly half an hour. Whether you’re a news gathering organization, a private security firm tasked with protecting a VIP property or an enthusiast looking to explore the boundaries of unmanned aerial flight the Phantom 4 from DJI is the answer to your prayers. Just be aware that answered prayers don’t come cheap.
AUTEL ROBOTICS X-STAR PREMIUM
The Autel Robotics X-Star Premium drone is built to last and engineered to perform. It has just about everything you want in a contemporary drone from crystal clear 4K video capability to a range of programmable flight modes, automatic takeoff and landing and satellite guidance courtesy of both the GPS and GLONASS systems.
- Full 4K capability at 30fps
- 3 programmable flight modes
- Top horizontal speed of 35 mph
- 3 axis video stabilization and 108° FOV
- 4 bright downward facing LED lights for night landings
There are more than a few people who view the Autel X-Star Premium as a more than capable alternative to the more expensive DJI Phantom 4 and it’s easy to see why. With guidance provided by both the US GPS system and the Russian GLONASS system, 2 kilometers of lag-free HD transmission and in excess of 20 minutes of flight time the X-Star will take you where you want to go, capture the images you need and want to get and return home on its own (if you wish) landing with pinpoint accuracy every time. There’s a 64 gig SD card, extra propellers in the box, 1 ¼ miles of range and a removable gimbal that allows for replacement or upgrading. The controller operates at 2.4 GHz and can be controlled via the Starlink smartphone app and there’s a built in LCD display on the controller itself that displays all relevant flight information in real time.
YUNEEC Q500 4K TYPHOON GPS DRONE
The Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon is not your father’s radio controlled airplane. It’s a state of the art UAV that aspires to the big time and does a pretty good job convincing you that it belongs there. The 4K camera hanging from the belly of this beast has a 115° field of view and is also capable of full 1080p HD slow-mo at 120 fps. Whatever you’re after, you can capture it with the Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon.
- Some of the most responsive controls in the industry
- Triple axis stabilization on the camera gimbal
- Noticeably quieter than the competition
- An array of smart operational modes
- Incredibly well balanced
The Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon provides a rock solid aerial platform from which to launch your eye-in-the-sky cinematic efforts or just to see what’s out there. But while the camera and its capabilities are front and center when it comes to this UAVs talking points it’s not the only thing the Q500 has going for it. Not by a long shot. When it comes to other notable features we could start with the GPS control that allows for effortless hovering, fail-safe return to home reliability and lengthy autonomous flight. Or we could mention the ST10+ controller and its 5 ½ inch touchscreen which frees you from dependence on your smartphone or tablet. We could also start by mentioning “Follow Me” mode by which the Typhoon utilizes a GPS signal from the controller to tag along as you move to a new control location. Mostly though we’d probably start by saying if you want a viable alternative to high-end drones costing twice as much the Q500 Typhoon will fit the bill to a T.
DJI MAVIC PRO
For the Mavic Pro the design team at industry leader DJI asked “How can we make a first-class drone that also redefines portability?” The answer they came up with was to chuck the notion of fixed arms and embrace hinged arms that fold down for carrying and snap into place for flight. That they’ve managed to pull it off without sacrificing anything of note performance wise is pretty remarkable.
- Ultra-portable design
- An array of smart flight modes
- 23+ minutes of flight on average
- 3 axis stabilization on the 4K video
- Comprehensive obstacle avoidance system
So many people will be bowled over by the intense capability of this collapsible drone that it may ultimately wind up being a game changer. For now though we’ll just talk a bit about some of those capabilities and you can judge for yourself. The camera has full 4K capability and produces 12.7 megapixel stills while also offering features like exposure bracketing and burst shooting. The same camera is also an integral part of the Mavic Pro’s obstacle avoidance system which eschew sensors in favor of just the camera and some kick ass algorithms. The Mavic Pro can do 40 mph in a flat line which will get you to where you’re going in a hurry and it also bests the more expensive (and lauded) Phantom 4 Pro (see above review) when it comes to flight modes and range. Toss in DJI’s new headset that provides an 85 degree real time view at 1080p and you have an extraordinary compact GPS drone.
The DJI Spark is a micro drone of amazing capabilities that’s easy as pie to fly and won’t attract the attention of the FAA. It’s one of the smallest full-feature drones out there with 2 kilometers of control, Panoramic and shallow focus modes, palm takeoff and a top speed of an impressive 32 mph. This is a drone even your grumpy grandpa’s going to love.
- Exceedingly easy to fly
- 1080p HD video at 30fps
- Full GPS navigational assist
- Palm launch and palm control capability
- Available in red, green, blue, yellow and white
If you ever fantasized about having the power to control matter with the flick of the wrist there’s a DJI Spark with your name on it. Few experiences will leave quite as indelible a mark on your psyche as controlling the Spark at a distance using only palm commands. It’s enough to make you believe in magic and it just may be enough to turn the Spark into the first widely accepted micro drone. But the Spark is no one trick pony. It earns respect in a number of ways beginning with the palm control and proceeding on to the generous operational window, the full HD 1080p video and a top speed of 50 kph. On top of all that you have both GPS and GLONASS positioning compatibility and an obstacle avoidance system that utilizes a 3D infrared camera on the front of the vehicle. And just to put the cherry on the cake there’s 100 meters of direct control via Wi-Fi Direct connection with your smartphone.
DJI PHANTOM 3 STANDARD
The Phantom 3 Standard from DJI comes equipped with 2.7K video capability from an f2.8 fixed lens camera with a 94° FOV for clear, distortion free images. You’re able to take full advantage of that camera due to the robust GPS integration that provides worry free autonomous control with Waypoints, Follow Me, Return to Home and other operational modes.
- Operational limit of 1 km
- 25 minutes of flight per charge
- 3-axis integrated gimbal for clear, stable images
- No-nonsense operation that’s easy to learn
- Attractive price point
While the Phantom 3 Standard isn’t going to set the world ablaze with a dizzying array of new technology it is going to please those who want HD video from a reliable, high performance platform with decent range and a reasonable price tag. The Phantom 3 Standard uses an 8GB microSD card and is capable of accommodating cards with up to 128GB capacity. It can also provide a live view stream via Wi-Fi and it moves along at up to 35 mph, which is decent for a drone this size. While autonomous operation requires more work than most other high-end quadrocopter drones it is possible and of course gets easier with practice. Optimal control requires a hybrid setup of sorts that utilizes both the remote and a smartphone running the DJI Go app. All in all the Phantom 3 Standard is a legacy UVA with some updated features that actually makes an excellent starter drone for the budding UVA enthusiast.
HUBSAN H109S X4
The Hubsan H109S X4 GPS drone distinguishes itself from the competition in at least one significant way: its 40 minute flight time. It achieves that lofty feat by way of one of the largest batteries in its class; a 7000mAh. That means you’ll be able to explore all those places at the outer edge of the 1.5 kilometer operational range that you could only skip past with other drones.
- Top speed of 23 mph
- 13MP 1080p HD camera
- Effective operational range of 1 mile
- An astonishing 40 minutes per charge
- An array of smart GPS enabled navigation options
Fully autonomous operation is just a few minutes away with the Hubsan H109S X4. With robust GPS integration and both Beginner and Expert modes you’ll never be a victim of an extreme learning curve or feel like the drone is beneath your ability. The X4 comes with an outstanding HD camera that provides crystal clear, distortion free images. It also features automatic takeoff and landing, GPS enabled pinpoint hovering as well as waypoint navigation so you can concentrate on getting the shot. The X4 also includes something you don’t see very often; a built in parachute. It’s a nifty feature that comes in handy if you miscalculated the charge on the battery or suffer some type of operational crisis mid-flight. What will hook most aviators in though is the 40 minutes of flight time per charge and at such a reasonable price that may be all that’s needed to ensure healthy sales levels.
The UpAir One is a moderately priced GPS drone with a moderately priced feature set that includes an effective operational range of just under 1 kilometer, a fairly robust 5400mAh battery that gives the device about 18 minutes in the air per charge and a standard 2.7K camera that can be upgraded for about $50 to 4K. Without a doubt it’s a good starter UVA for those testing the waters.
- Can be easily upgraded to 4K
- Headless omnidirectional operation
- Fast recharge of 5400m Ah battery
- Fully automatic takeoff and landing
- Large 7 inch monitor on controller
The UpAir One is a full feature drone that’s reliable, well-built and performs to expectations. It has robust GPS integration, a good-to-excellent camera that produces stable 2.7K video and a host of smart navigation features including Return to Home, Position Hold, waypoint mapping and Altitude Hold. While it looks a bit plasticky it’s actually reasonably durable and you should have no problems with it even when your landings don’t go exactly as planned. The controller has something we’d like to see more often; a 7” LCD screen that provides real time info on all flight operations as well as a large crystal clear stream from the camera. At 800 meters the operational limit is not what you’ll get with high-end UVAs but you didn’t buy this because it’s a high-end UVA. You bought it because it’s affordable, reliable, durable, is easy to fly and has a good-to-very-good feature set.
3DR isn’t the biggest name in consumer grade UVAs but if they keep producing high quality aircraft like this Smart GPS Drone that will likely change in the near future. The drone has a decidedly aggressive vibe that belies its user-friendly operation and the fact that you’ll get 25 minutes of air time out of a single charge reinforces that notion that the 3DR Solo is built to please.
- Incredible top speed of 55 mph
- An array of smart operational modes
- Compatible with most GoPro Hero cams
- Real time 720p video feed
- Outstanding build quality
If there’s a downside to this ultra-fast, ultra-slick UVA it’s that you have to provide your own camera. The company recommends the GoPro Hero 3, 3+ or 4 which are all good cameras but which bump up acquisition costs several hundred dollars. Range on the 3DR Solo checks in at around 1 km but there’s plenty you can do within that operational theater as the UVA boasts smart features including “Orbit”, “Cable Cam”, “Return to Home”, “Selfie”, Follow Me”, “Fly” and “Pause” which brings the vehicle to an immediate stop wherever it is. Curiously while the Solo doesn’t provide you with a camera it does provide an array of GoPro accessories including a vibration damper and a fixed mount. In the end the most notable and exceptional aspect of the 3DR Solo is that list of smart operational modes which enable you to make an entire flight without ever having to assume direct control.
AEE TECHNOLOGY AP9
The final entry on our list of Favorite GPS-enabled drones is the AEE AP9. This is a budget drone with fairly robust capabilities like a ½ kilometer range and 25 minutes of flight time per charge. Like the 3DR Solo reviewed above it does not come with a camera but is GoPro compatible. With a top speed of 44 mph and reliable GPS integration it’s a good drone to get the kids off on the right foot with UVAs.
- Full control via smartphone or tablet
- Sleek aerodynamic design
- Powerful 5300 mAh 3S battery
- Top speed of 44 mph
- Auto Return for safe operation
Unlike the AEE AP10 and AP 11, the AP9 GPS drone does not come equipped with its own camera. Why companies choose to offer UVAs like this is anyone’s guess but at least the AP9 is designed to be compatible with most GoPro Hero models. If you can get past the little bump in the road though what you’ll find is a basic UVA with some outstanding features like a 6-axis gyro, a 3D compass, position hold, hover and auto stabilization. The drone is also designed with outstanding wind resistance and comes with a powerful 5300 mAh 3S LiPo battery that’s good for up to 25 minutes per charge. With an effective operational range of 500 meters, you’re not going to lose this UVA over the horizon but you will be able to use it to get a bird’s eye view of your surroundings (once you mount the camera of your choice of course). Durable, versatile and affordable the AP9 is a great gift for the aspiring aviator on your holiday shopping list.
The number and variety of GPS-enabled drones available today is pretty astonishing. From feature laden UVAs with 2 mile operational ranges, both GPS and GLONASS compatibility and 4K cameras hanging from their bellies, to micro drones that fit in the palm of your hand, to others that can be controlled as if by magic with a few simple hand gestures and everything in between. Yes, the GPS drone is here to stay and is quickly becoming the industry standard. The best news is that there’s one to fit just about everyone’s budget so there’s no need to sit on that park bench watching everyone else having a blast. If you have a few hundred bucks you can put yourself in the game. We hope you found the above information useful and don’t forget to check out more of our drone reviews and other UVA-related content.