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Top Surveillance Drones Review: Best Models You Can Buy Right Now

DJI Phantom 3 Professional quad
Jack Brown
Written by Jack Brown

During the past years, drones have not only reached the public market but also the customer’s interest and now different types are available for sale. For example, there are surveillance drones for sale on the market when these where once available only to the military. However, you must be very careful how you use these as the privacy of others can be easily invaded with these devices and legal actions can be taken if this happens.

But let’s continue the drone discussion! Commonly known as UAVs (Unmanned Arial Vehicle), drones perform tasks such as radio jamming, radar detection, heat sensing and surveillance. Due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, these drones have gained access to public hands. The reform act enables common individuals to own their personal drone along with its legal registration in the U.S.

DJI Inspire 1 PRO in action

The ascension of drones in people’s preferences was definitely fast and nowadays various drones are widely accepted in the public market with features such as camera and GPS. Different models have different advantages and disadvantages according to how would you use them.

For instance, some use surveillance drones as a hobby, and some use it on their professional jobs. Regardless of the end users, here are the 5 best surveillance drones for sale available online right now.

Top 5 drones you can use for surveillance

DJI Phantom 3 Professional

Coming from the DJI Phantom series, this is the fourth installation of the Phantom 3 model which not only improves surveillance capabilities but also the overall performance of the drone. Phantom 3 is a quadcopter model, having 4 rotors to assist its flight making it more stable than any other types of drones. It is equipped with a 3-axis 4k UHD video camera for smooth capture of crisp videos and still images.

This drone also allows 720p HD digital live streaming straight to your mobile phone with using the DJI Pilot app and the new generation of Lightbridge technology. The app also lets you control the camera view in real-time, making surveillance easier and enlarging the range of view. There is also a built-in integrated array of sensors to complement the Vision Positioning feature, which helps you fly the drone indoors, even without GPS signal. On the other hand, GPS navigation is also possible which can aid in auto takeoffs and auto landings.

DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone

The drone comes with an intelligent high power flight battery that lets you have 25 minutes of flight time. It is manufactured to work in all kinds of weather with its Carbon Fiber Hardshell giving it more protection from outside elements.

However, this drone will not even start when inside the 15-mile radius of the White House. DJI has set this up to prevent further surveillance against the State, making the drone immobile when inside the radius, even if you are flying on your own property. If you live inside the 15-mile radius, you have no chance of flying this drone.

The standard package only includes the basic requirements for a quadcopter product, but you can also buy several accessories along with it like an extra battery, SD card and a Hardshell Backpack.

Product specs:

  • Price: $870 (quadcopter only), $1,199 (with extra battery and Hardshell Backpack)
  • Camera: 3-axis 4k UHD video camera
  • Flight time: 25 minutes
  • Dimensions: 18 x 13 x 8 inches
  • Batteries on quad: Included – 1 Lithium Metal intelligent flight battery
  • Item Weight: 9.2 pounds

If you interested you can check its price on Amazon.

Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadcopter

Another model coming from the quadcopter family, this drone can fly easily using your phone or tablet. By downloading the free AR. FreeFlight app (available on the App Store and Google play), drone control is now in your hands making it easier with the help of its self-generated Wi-Fi network. Not fond of using an app as a controller? Worry not, because this app has a user-friendly control interface position over the live streaming video feedback from the drone, smooth delivery with no lags and buffers.

You can choose the style of product you want. From desert, arctic or rainforest style, each product can bring new freshness and camouflaged aura with respect to your chosen surveillance area. Complementing this style, 2 of the propellers are also colored according to your chosen style, while the remaining two are black. It also includes one 1000mAh lithium polymer battery that gives you 12 minutes of surveillance time, and a battery charger.

It also has a Director Mode feature that can be purchased in the app. Upon activation, you can pre-determine the movements of the drone to your liking, while shooting your HD videos like a pro. You can also tweak various settings such as color saturation, white balance and exposure to deliver high quality videos while on-air.

Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadcopter

In addition to that, there is a free, brand new exclusive piloting mode for the AR. Drone 2.0 known as the Absolute Control Piloting Mode. It is designed to help beginners adjust to an app controller, making your phone the point of reference. Regardless of where the Ar. Drone 2.0 is facing, you can just tilt your phone in any direction and the drone will fly towards it. With that feature, any beginner can have the skill of piloting using an app in no time.

Weather influences are of no hindrance with the drone’s unique stability produced by sensors and navigation systems. It can withstand winds ranging to 15m/h, stabilizing its flight and will only move when you ordered it to. Perfect for beach shots and field surveillance where wind turbulence is a hindrance for most drones.

The camera is situated to experience first person flight experience, letting you see things straight from the pilot’s seat. While live streaming, you can simultaneously record it into your phone without further need for cables or SD card inserted in the drone. This is a direct way to view your crisp shots and clear photos without the need to go home and render it to PC. In case you want to view it on a large screen, you can use the USB plug in the drone to record videos straight to USB.

Product specs:

  • Price: $270
  • Camera: HD 720p camera
  • Flight time: 12 minutes
  • Dimensions: 23 x 5 x 23 inches
  • Batteries on quad: Included – 1 1000mAh Lithium polymer battery
  • Item Weight: 4 pounds

Like this amazing product? Then you can purchase it on Amazon.

Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter Drone

The Yuneec is another type of quadcopter, equipped with 3-axis stabilized CG30 4k precision gimbal camera with up to 1080p video, recording at 120 fps, and a 12MP camera. Among other drones, this model is RTF (ready to fly) which means it is already assembled and packaged for flight with no further adjustments needed.

The radio controller has a built-in android device, which is also used as a camera controller with touch screen features. You can adjust the video quality, white balance and exposure. The footage is also directly viewed from the controller, without further need of a mobile app as well as the flight data, telemetry and FPV.

Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter Drone

Users suggest upgrading the firmware once you have purchased this model to ensure maximum performance and to deliver high quality surveillance videos with an average of 25 minute flight time. However, this package does not include extra batteries and case which users assume there is when they initially bought it. If you are someone who is not looking for those items, this model is as good as the others with its recent price drop.

For quadcopter enthusiasts, the brand name may not pique some kind of interest, but this model is on par with leading brands like Phantom in terms of camera. It also comes with a hand mount to use the camera as a mini handheld stabilized system.

Product specs:

  • Price: $890
  • Camera: HD 1080p CG30 camera
  • Flight time: 25 minutes
  • Dimensions: 22.2 x 16.5 x 9.4 inches
  • Batteries on quad: Included – 1 Lithium polymer battery
  • Item Weight: 2.5 pounds

If you interested you can check its price here.

Parrot Bebop 2

The second generation of the Parrot Bebop series brings the well-received fish-eye lens to a whole new level. Considered as the little brother of the AR. Drone, its well-designed structure gives a first person experience like no other, complemented by fish-eye lens to enhance the field of view to 186°. It offers 14 megapixels video recording for up to 1080p and still image capture.

The drone itself is equipped with a fast processor, enabling it to fix image distortion due to the fish-eye effect while live streaming it straight to your phone. It also has an onboard memory of 8GB to store all your captured surveillance. You can have an average surveillance time of 25 minutes, thanks to its 2700mAh lithium polymer battery with a speed of up to 38 mph.

Parrot Bebop 2

When you are having trouble shooting in the dark, this drone’s rear LED will let you see where it goes in the dark, providing more visibility during night time. It can be controlled directly from your smart phone using a specified app or you can purchase SkyController, an optional controller which can give you an easy grip in flying your drone and increase your flying distance.

Inside the app, users recommend to purchase a GPS autonomous option which can help you set GPS tracks for the drone to fly. Users also commend its durability as they witnessed how this model went to failsafe and landed with only scratches and two broken props from a 20-feet fall.

Product specs:

  • Price: $550
  • Camera: 14MP Fish-eye lens camera
  • Flight time: 25 minutes
  • Dimensions: 15 x 12.9 x 3.5 inches
  • Batteries on quad: Included – 1 2700mAh Lithium polymer battery
  • Item Weight: 1.1 pounds

If you interested you can check the current deal for it on Amazon.

DJI Inspire 1 PRO

Coming from the same family as the Phantom 3, it is obvious to say that Inspire 1 comes up not only with price, but also in functionality. First off, the structure design will pique not just your interest but also your sci-fi personality. With the state of the art mechanical scheme, this drone’s style lives up to the next generations’ era.

All functions of the Phantom 3 are included in this model, but it comes with further enhancements. If you have set your eyes on the Phantom 3, consider this having a 360° panning gimbal which lets you control the camera independently. It requires dual-pilot operation to let you set your lens straight to where you want it to be.

DJI Inspire 1 PRO drone

In the normal version, it comes with 4k camera with 3-axis gimbal stabilization. However, this PRO version contains Zenmuse X5, the first in the world to feature Micro Four Thirds camera with 13 stops of dynamic range and a lens that is eight times larger than the normal one. This camera is built specifically for aerial shots and surveillance, giving you the next-next tier in aerial photography.

If you are looking for a more sophisticated but more expensive drone than this, then the time is right to set your eyes for the next installation of Inspire series. Inspire 1 RAW is a next generation surveillance drone that have updated features of the Inspire 1 PRO. With its Zenmuse X5R camera, you can record raw 4k video. Its hype in the film making industry is still getting higher with its upcoming release on March 29, 2016.

Product specs:

  • Price: $3,890
  • Camera: Micro Four Thirds camera, Zenmuse X5
  • Flight time: 25 minutes
  • Dimensions: 22.6 x 21 x 11.7 inches
  • Batteries on quad: Included – 1 TB47 Intelligent Flight Battery
  • Item Weight: 22.1 pounds

If you interested you can buy it on Amazon.

Who need to buy these drones?

Drones listed here are available to all common citizens with an age limit of above 13 years old for registration. These drones are commercially available for sale and do not require any additional licenses other than the FAA Drone Registration. Most drones must be registered in this protocol in order to legally fly around the U.S.

To register your drone, you can go to Federal Aviation Administration website and access the tab designed for drone registration. One registration per drone is needed and it cost $5 to validate your drone for 3 years. For other countries, you should visit your local government website to check if there are existing laws and regulations about drone registration.

Having these drones available to public market can bring great risk for terrorism and unlawful conducts, that is why drone registration is a must. However, using the said drones, surveillance can be as easy as flying it to hunt information and prepare for an upcoming terror attack. Because of it, FAA issued a Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) in Washington D.C., covering a 30 mile radius around Ronal Reagan Washington National Airport where certain conditions must be met before flying.

BEBOP Drone

The inner 15 mile radius is an absolute no-fly zone unless having a special permit from the FAA. However, between the 15 mile radius mark and the 30 mile radius, public drone users can fly it by using the accepting the following conditions:

  • Total weight less than 55 lbs
  • Must be registered and marked
  • Altitude of maximum 400 ft.
  • Fly within sight
  • Fly in clear weather
  • Stay away from other aircrafts

Once these conditions are met, a public citizen can exhibit his/her drone flying skills even if inside the 30 mile SFRA radius. If you are looking for a military-grade surveillance drone, unfortunately the latest models are not available to public market. It is still being utilized by the military to deliver peace within the country.

Buying guide: features to take into consideration

Most of the best surveillance drones are available in quadcopter style because quads give more stability compared to other types of drones, and they can lift more loads than airplane or helicopter drones. However, if you are looking to buy other type of surveillance drones, here are some points to consider:

#1: Camera

Make sure to check how good the camera is. It is the first thing to consider in buying surveillance drones. If the camera is not of high-quality, the surveillance video will also have low-quality and we all know it is a must to have a good camera for surveillance.

HD cameras are recommended with, at least, 720p of recording for clear preview. Most cameras you will encounter are made specifically to be mounted on drones, and some have further features to enhance video capturing and photo shots.

Close up on 4K camera

Some cameras are detachable and some drones don’t have built-in camera. In the case there is no camera built-in, make sure to check the maximum load limit. Usually those types of drones, specifically octocopters, have the ability to mount DSLR cameras due to its high load limit and greater thrust force.

#2: Range

In surveillance, you wouldn’t want to be on your drone’s side forever. The longer the range of control, the better the drone in surveillance. Most drones will offer large enough range to cover your surveillance area. But if by some chance that your drone gets out of your control range, it will just fly still and standby in a hover mode waiting for your further instructions. You have to walk towards it or it will drain the battery without returning to you.

FPV system

There are available accessories which can lengthen the signal transmission of your controller, making it to fly further and capture videos on a vast scale. But before engaging in longer signal transmission, you should also consider other factors such as the flight time.

#3: Flight time

Your flight time must be considered at all times when flying drones. You must plan ahead on what you will capture to maximize the performance of the drone. Without purpose, it will just fly aimlessly, capturing everything on sight without doing what it is supposed to do. In planning the overall flight scenario, be sure to make at least 5 minutes allowance in case the battery drains more quickly and to fly it back to your location safely.

Drone flight range

There are some battery enhancements used by different brands to overcome the small amount of flight time. Military-grade surveillance drones can fly for an hour or two, but commercial ones can only last for an average of 30 minutes with battery enhancement. Nevertheless, this is an ample time to direct your drone to your surveillance spot, and to return it to you safely.

#4: Stability

Drone flight stability is essential in delivering high-quality videos and still photos. Drones without enough stability will capture distorted videos and photos, even if it has an HD camera. Most surveillance drones have built-in sensors and anti-weather features, making it fly straight and capture videos without any distortions.

Drone follow-me mode

However, these features can only be suitable in a specified amount of wind. If the wind speed exceeds more than what the drone can handle, it is more likely to move unwillingly. If you are expecting to fly on a windy environment, pick one with high stability and more anti-wind sensors.

#5: Setting up

Depending on what type of drone, initial setup may be needed. Some packages provide RTF (ready to fly) drones, but some may require further tweaks before flying. It is usually indicated in the user manual on how to set up the drone before flying, and the screws and bolts needed are also included in the package.

Parrot with controller

Some examples of parts needed to be assembled first are the detachable camera, prop guards, landing gears and, in some cases, the propellers. In bigger drones, the battery is not attached to the body and it’s usually not charged. There is always a screwdriver inside the package so assembling the drone will be easy even for beginners.

Applications

Surveillance may be a broad term, but these drones can be used to more than what you can think they can handle. Here are some of the various industries that use surveillance drones:

#1: Photography and cinematography

This includes not only still images but also moving videos as well. Using your high-end cameras that are attached to the drone, you can take a snapshot from a view that is once an impossible one. Different film industries are now taking part in the drone revolution, to deliver stunning visuals to all movie goers. More about aerial photography you can read here.

Flying a drone with hd camera

#2: Hunting and anti-hunting

Using drones for hunting may be a bit new, but for some it is a good way to find prey without them noticing you. It can also give you a wide scope of the environment outside your view, making future planning more accurate.

Drone in the woods

It can also be used to observe your environment before hunting to see if there are potential predators that can go after you. This does not only prevent further disasters but also ensures your safety while hunting.

#3: Monitoring

Still in the process of accepting this reality, but drones have the potential of being the new CCTV cameras.

Drone Monitoring

Not only it gives wider range of sight, but it can also move from one place to another. Its versatility and mobility is a huge advantage compared to still CCTV cameras.

#4: Calamity rescues

In case of a disaster scenario, drones can be used to scout the area if further threat is still imminent and to look for possible survivors. It may not be as widely used today, but further innovations can lead it to be an effective asset in the safety scene.

Drone disaster management

#5: Wild-life observation

Wild-life involving dangerous animals, it is best to not be in the scene. Using drones to monitor and observe such animals can lead a safe collection of data and research. Even fast moving animals can be monitored easily with the right speed and angle of the drone. However, drone involvement in the ecosystem and lifestyle of animals may have an effect whether it is good or bad.

Wild Life Drone

#6: Personal leisure

Most citizens buy drones for their own leisure. Taking videos of you while biking or surfing from air would be so cool. For adventurers, a good way to cover all their achievements from rock climbing to horseback riding is of using these surveillance drones. None would be ashamed to watch their own satisfactions going.

Climbing with drone

Not sure what model to buy?

Even if all the listed models here are quadcopters, there are still any different styles available for you with cameras on par or greater than the ones listed in here. However, stability and flight are important features that need to be considered which is why the 5 best surveillance drones are a quad.

The first 3 in the list are available for common individuals with a reasonable price range. They have good cameras as well as good controls. But if you are looking for a high-end flight gear to be used on professional jobs, the last 2 in the list can be a good recommendation for they deliver the best performance with the highest quality cameras.

Owning one may be a big question for you, so here are some of the pros and cons on having a surveillance drone in your inventory.

Pros:

  • Good for taking aerial shots and videos
  • Help in professional jobs like film making and monitoring
  • A way to cherish your adventurous side
  • Big help monitoring your environment
  • Breath taking videos and pictures
  • High mobility and flexibility in surveillance
  • Covers a wider range of distance
  • Wide range of scope

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Needs good piloting skills
  • Must know well-enough on drones
  • Not meant for beginners

If you still have questions, just leave us a comment.

About the author
Jack Brown
Jack Brown

Jack is the Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com bringing experience, expertise and knowledge in this quite new industry. He is a graduate of the Drone/UAV Pilot Training Certificate program and member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Besides having all the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to drones, Jack and his team love to spend the time outside by the ocean, working on new features and teaching others how to pilot these amazing and exciting new robots.

  • Michael Johanson

    How about Q500 by Yuneec? It is a great surveillance drone that can be compared with DJI and Parrot models. Of course, it costs a lot less. Its 4K camera gives you a flawless picture and its batteries can last up to 25 minutes which is pretty good.

  • Yes, it is one great drone.

  • Jonathan Richardson

    Surveillance drones are what I call real deal. They have much better features than other drones. Check the Parrot Bebop 2 for instance. You have about 30 minutes of filming time, plus you can switch to fish eye lens. It has every quality a decent surveillance camera should have

    • I agree with you Jonathan, it really is a great model with a great camera.

  • Carl Thompson

    The DJI Phantom 3 Professional is an excellent machine. Very stable and easy to fly. Lots of fun. Scary letting such an expensive piece of equipment take off into the sky and almost out of site. Great pictures with the 4ķ camera. I still need to figure out how to use the camera in different settings especially in scenes with high contrast.

    • Jack Brown

      As with every other piece of state of the art technology, you need some time to figure everything out. As for the drone itself, I agree with you that the PS Pro is an excellent machine, if not the best one when it comes to price to features ratio, if I may say so myself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Phantom 3 Pro, Carl!

  • Harper Williams

    The Bebop is awesome. It’s lightweight and durable, and take’s well-stabilized videos. It’s also flexible to fly with a smart device or with SkyController for longer range. Flight time is impressive, about 25 minutes. It also has cheaper spare and repair parts compared to DJI. The leveled-up fish-eye is definitely awesome.

  • Jack Brown

    I also like the design pretty much, and the SkyController is awesome! Like something that came out of a Sci-Fi movie 🙂 Overall, a great drone with a great camera! Definitely one of my favorites as well 🙂 Thanks for the comment, Harper.

  • Adeniyi Adewuyi

    Can I get a drone that can cover 60kmroad network which will will used for security on the express, collation and census?with the longest battery life or maximum

  • Jack Brown

    Well, it all depends on how fast, or better say how slow the drone needs to cover that distance. But, I think that this model might be the right one for that job http://mydronelab.com/reviews/walkera-qr-x800.html

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