Best Surveillance Drones: A Side-by-Side Comparison


Unmanned aerial vehicles have long been used by military and law enforcement agencies for a variety of applications, including surveillance.

Thanks to a boom in UAV technology, drones that can accomplish similar tasks are now readily available to the public. Though the best of these surveillance drones cost a pretty penny, that investment results in the highest quality product.

The small size, intuitive handling, and impressive cameras of these drones makes using them for surveillance, even when piloted by relative beginners, a cinch. However, it’s essential to always keep local, state, and federal privacy laws in mind.

According to Consumer Reports, there’s been a recent push for the Federal Aviation Administration to make changes to laws regarding UAVs and privacy. The Electronic Privacy Information Center discusses current and potential future laws regarding drones in more detail.

Of course, the best surveillance drones on the market have uses well beyond surveillance. They also excel at more traditional applications such as videography, photography, research, and surveying.

Whatever your specific reason for seeking a surveillance drone, the information below will show you how to find the best of the best. We compare the top two models side-by-side to help you compare and contrast them.

Here’s everything you need to know about the best surveillance drones:

What to Look for in a Surveillance Drone

Certain drones have features/qualities that translate much better to surveillance than others. No matter the specific drone you’re looking at, keep the following characteristics in mind:

  • Size – The smaller the drone, the better it is for surveillance, as long as it can back up its small size with performance.
  • Handling – You must be able to control your drone, in all weather conditions, to perform adequate surveillance. More points go to a drone that you can easily pilot very close to another object without fear of crashing.
  • Camera – A high-quality camera is needed to catch usable video surveillance footage.
  • Flight Modes – Autonomous flight modes make surveillance easier, as they allow the drone to fly itself while avoiding collision and keeping the camera stable. A “return home” flight mode is especially important for surveillance applications.
  • FPV – First-person viewing (FPV) allows you to pilot a drone from a first-person perspective. Usually this is accomplished with the built-in video camera and a controller with an LCD display.


DJI Phantom 4 for Surveillance

The DJI Phantom 4 has always been one of our favorites here at LemonDrone.

The reason? It’s simply one of the best drones in its class. It pairs a top-notch camera with a variety of useful flight modes and a high-performance design.

The camera is the Phantom 4’s most notable surveillance feature. It’s capable of capturing 4K ultra HD video at 30fps. A f/2.8 lens and gimbal stabilization technology provide crisp, stable video and images.

Numerous flight modes make the Phantom 4 easy to use for a variety of applications. Follow Mode is particularly effective for surveillance. It uses advanced computer vision to automatically follow a selected target. Simply select the target and sit back as the drone does the rest.

For those interested in surveillance, the Phantom 4’s high-performance design and construction is also of importance. It’s capable of reaching speeds up to 45 mph (in Sport Mode) and can stay in the air for up to 28 minutes. Controlling the craft is highly intuitive and can be done with either a controller or your smartphone paired with the DJI Go App.

For roughly $1,199.99, the DJI Phantom 4 gives you everything you need in a surveillance drone and more.

This amazing Phantom 4 video gives you an even closer look at what this top-quality drone’s capabilities.

DJI Mavic Pro for Surveillance

Perhaps the only drone currently on the market that can compete with the DJI Phantom 4 is the company’s own Mavic Pro.

The DJI Mavic Pro has a lot of the same qualities as the Phantom 4, yet packs them into a much smaller frame. The already small drone folds down even smaller for the utmost in portability.

In addition to its small size, what makes the Mavic Pro so good for surveillance applications is its powerful camera, intuitive controls, and great transmission range.

Like the Phantom 4, the Mavic Pro has an absolutely phenomenal camera. The 4K full HD 1080p at 30fps camera is stabilized with a 3-axis mechanical gimbal for the best video quality possible.

Intuitive controls make piloting the Mavic Pro for surveillance applications a cinch. The drone is stable and handles with complete ease. Absolute Precision Flight Autonomy enables the drone to fly completely on autopilot, hovering exactly where you want for the best video footage.

Another feature which boosts the Mavic Pro’s effectiveness as a surveillance tool is its transmission range. The drone works up to 4.3 miles away from your location. This allows you to conduct surveillance while remaining a safe distance from your target.

At just $999.00, the DJI Mavic Pro offers a number of incredible surveillance technologies in a very small package.

Our DJI Mavic Pro – Top Questions Answered acts as a thorough FAQ guide to the drone.

So Which Drone is Best for Surveillance?

There are numerous drones on the market which get the job done when it comes to surveillance. Yet those that demand the best of the best should narrow their search down to these two models from DJI: the Phantom 4 and the Mavic Pro.

So which of the two drones is best for surveillance? There is no definitive answer to that question. It depends on your individual needs and preferences.

Our article Should You Upgrade from DJI Phantom 4 to DJI Mavic Pro? compares the two drones side-by-side for a general audience.

In terms of surveillance, the two are near equals. The Mavic Pro is slightly better if small size and ease of use are your top concerns. It’s also a few hundred dollars cheaper. On the other hand, the Phantom 4 is slightly higher performing and has a slightly better camera (including a wider field-of-view).

Final Thoughts

Whether you go with the Phantom 4 or the Mavic Pro, you’re sure to be more than happy with your new drone’s surveillance capabilities.

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