Best Drone For Travel Photography
Best Drone For Travel Photography
Time To Fly! Travel photography has quite literally taken flight with the development of next generation aerial drones. These new pieces of technological and photographic wonder are more powerful, easier to fly, and much more capable of great photography and videography than ever before. More and more travel photographers are adding a photo drone to their gear. Drones provide amazing new perspectives for travelers and photographers as they head off to exotic destinations. Not wanting to be left out, I joined the photo drone club several years ago.
My Drone History
- DJI Phantom Vision 2+
I’ve been flying and using drones for photography for several years now. My first drone was the DJI Phantom Vision 2+. It was a capable drone in many ways and I did attempt to travel with it a bit. But for me it was just a bit to big, bulky and cumbersome. It was fun. It took great photos. But I didn’t really travel with it because it was just too much of a hassle. Here I am with my Phantom Vision 2+ at the Grand Canyon. OK – don’t get all upset. Yes, I know there are rules agains flying drones in National Parks. No – I don’t break the Drone Rules. Yes – the above photo is a bit of Photoshop magic. But it does show my first drone which was fun, but a bit large. For me, it didn’t work too well for travel photography.
- DJI Spark
My second drone was the DJI Spark. I was immediately drawn to this drone due to it’s size. It was cute and fun to fly. And compared to my Phantom it was down right tiny! You can read my previous article on the Spark by clicking HERE.You can tell from the image above that the DJI Spark (red) as well as it’s controller (black) were much smaller than the Phantom gear. As such it had a size much better suited for travel. I’ve done quite a bit of travel photo work with the Spark over the past year. But it does have limitations. The battery life is short, meaning that you have limited flight time for shooting a project before needing to return and swap batteries. It’s flight range is also somewhat limited and it will not shoot 4K video which is becoming today’s minimum standard.
My Newest Travel Drone – The DJI Mavic Air
Introducing my new drone – the DJI MAVIC AIR. It’s newly arrived and I’m still in the process of checking it out. But at this point I have to say – I think this is, for me at least, the best drone currently on the market for travel photography.
Check Out The Mavic Air On Amazon
Simply Click On The Image Below
DJI has always been a leader in drone development and technology and the DJI Mavic Air continues that tradition. It’s packed with all the technology that you would want and expect. All that tech allows you to fly it with ease and confidence. Flight stabilization is accomplished with GPS satellite positioning. The range is improved over the Spark as is the battery output which allows a rated flight time of 21 minutes. Obstacle avoidance tech has been improved to include forward, rearward and downward awareness and avoidance. There are so many different modes of flight and automatic flight as well as multiple photo/video patterns that I can’t begin to list or explain them all. (OK – I admit – at this point I don’t even understand them all – I have some studying to do!) I will say, however, that the Air is a very agile and quick drone for it’s size. Weighing in at only 430 grams / .95 lbs, in Sport Mode it will climb at 4 meters / 13.12 feet per second and fly at an amazing (and thrilling) 64 kph / 40 mph with a rated service ceiling of 5000 meters / 16,400 feet. ( Keep in mind – the service ceiling indicates capability of the unit – regional regulatory bodies establish flight rules and limits for drones. Just because a drone can technically go to 5000 meters doesn’t mean it’s legal. Check local regulations. In the U.S. these regs are established by the FAA. For more information see the FAA Website at : faa drone regulations 2018 )
Mavic Air & Controller
The DJI Mavic Air is a great drone that is loaded with features. Why have I selected the Mavic Air as my travel drone and why do I feel that it is the best drone for travel photography? My selection was influenced primarily by two features – 1) Size, and 2) Camera.
.SIZE – For my type of travel photography size matters. A smaller drone is just easier to take with you. I want to be able to toss the drone in a backpack and take a hike or ride a bike trail. I want to pack it in my carry-on and still have room for my other camera gear. A smaller drone is also much less intimidating to the public and to subjects you might be photographing. People tended to be wary when I was flying my Phantom. They were cautious and a bit nervous By comparison, my Spark, and also the Mavik Air are very small and look like toys. People are curious. They walk up and talk and want to know about the small drone. Keeping the general public and also your subjects at ease and comfortable makes the photographer’s job much, much easier. The photo above shows three popular small sized drones. On the left in red is the DJI Spark. In the center in white is the DJI Mavic Air. On the right is the DJI Mavic. At first glance the Mavic Air might not seem that much different in size than the Spark. But, while the Spark has fixed arms which hold the motors, the Mavic Air’s arms fold into the body. This results in a much more compact package for packing and travel and doesn’t leave the arms and motors exposed to possible damage. This truly makes it more travel friendly.
DJI Mavic Air with arms / motors folded inward for storage
Dimensions of the Air:Folded:
168×83×49 mm (L×W×H)
168×184×64 mm (L×W×H)
Spark (left) vs Air (right) comparison – flying configuration
Spark (left) vs Air (right) comparison – folded/travel configuration
The Mavic Air comes with a cushioned carrying case which provides good protection during travel.
In the image below I have my Spark sitting on top of the Air Case. Even in its travel case the Air is still smaller than the Spark. (I gave my Spark the name “Snoopy” – hence the sticker on the top of the body.)
.Camera – The Mavic Air camera is very capable. It’s 1/2.3″ CMOS 12 megapixel sensor shoots stills with an ISO range from 100-3200 in jpg, DNG, and RAW. Multiple shooting modes are available. Video resolutions include : 4K Ultra HD: 3840×2160 24/25/30p —– 2.7K: 2720×1530 24/25/30/48/50/60p —–FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p —-HD: 1280×720 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p with max video bitrate of a whopping 100 Mbps! Video formats include MP4/MOV (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC.） The camera is mounted on a controllable gimbal providing 3-axis stabilization.
Mavic Air Camera and 3 Axis Gimbal Mount
Now that the weather has (finally) warmed up a bit, I’m looking forward to taking my Mavic Air out and getting some good flight time. It’s going to be my travel buddy this summer so stay tuned. I’ll be sharing videos and photos from my Mavic Air. For my type of travel and photography work – it’s the Best Drone For Travel Photography.
Grab Your Travel Drone ………. And Enjoy The Adventure!
View Great Travel Destination Photography
© 2018, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D. All rights reserved.