Need to Pick a Drone?

If you’re not sure what drone to get and you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money on a drone, here are some potential options. Check the New Users Guide for more suggestions:

In addition to purchasing drones directly from the manufacturer, we recommend checking B&H Photo since it’s widely available as a preferred vendor within the UC System with a substantial price discount.

Drones for Multimedia

If you are looking for a drone to take great pictures and videos, you don’t need to worry about software compatibility and instead can just focus on what has the best camera and which one is the easiest to fly.

  • Mavic 3 - The DJI Mavic 3 is a great drone. It boasts a 45 minute flight time, a great camera, zoom up to 28x and almost all the features you could want from a drone - except its not compatible with mapping software. If you’re just doing cinematography, its a good, albeit pricey option at $2,000 ($2,800 with the extra battery combo pack).

  • Mini 3 - The DJI Mini series are great, affordable and high-quality small drones. At only 249g, they pack a lot a capability into a tiny platform. It’s great as a flight trainer and good enough for some media use. The current models are the Mini 3, and Mini 3 Pro.

Drones for Mapping

If you want to use a drone for making high resolution maps and elevation models, you need a drone that is compatible with automated mapping software. These days, this functionality is exclusive to the more expensive drones.

  • Mavic 3 Enterprise - The recently released Mavic 3 Enterprise is the only one of the Mavic 3 series that is capable of conducting autonomous flight operations necessary for mapping. While it has all of the great flight characteristics as the Mavic 3, the $4,000 price tag is a bit disappointing compared to DJI’s prior offerings.

  • Skydio 2+ - The Skydio is the only non-DJI drone compatible with DroneDeploy. Starting at $999 for just the drone, it’s smaller than a Mavic, and the camera is not as high quality, but as DJI moves away from low-cost mapping functionality, it’s worth checking out for basic/simple flight missions.

  • Autel Robotics EVO II - Autel has been in the drone business almost as long as DJI, but only its recent models have begun to get mainstream attention. At only $2,500, the newer Evo II Pro is a worthy Mavic competitor and unlike the DJI drones, has mapping software functionality built-in.

High Security Drones

However, not all drones may be suitable for your needs. Specific federal agencies may require drones that are compliant with NDAA 848 or on the BlueSUAS list. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of good options.

  • eBee X - The eBee series are small foam delta-wing drones that has been around for some time. In addition to being NDAA 848 and on the BlueSUAS list, they are also Class 3 compliant for operations over people. If you’re operating in big areas with plenty of room, these are a good option. Unfortunately, the eBee basic packages start at $13,500 without a payload, which may run an additional $4,000 to $10,000 depending on your needs.

  • Skydio 2+ - The consumer grade Skydio 2+ is not on the BlueSUAS list nor has it been declared NDAA 848 compliant. But it is marketed as ‘US Made’ and that might be sufficient enough for some agency partners. We recommend the $2,000 cinematic package (with controller, hardcase and extra batteries) as the lowest cost RGB-only mapping drone.

Full Table of Drones

For more options, here is our master list of drones:


Disclaimer While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information, no guarantee is given nor responsibility taken for errors or omissions in the database.

  • MTOW - Maximum Takeoff Weight. An approximation to the relative size of the drone
  • RID - Remote ID. Only drones with Remote ID will be allowed to fly starting September 2023.
  • BLUE - BlueSUAS. Drone cleared by the Department of Defense for use.
  • 848 - Section 848. Drone is compliant with Section 848 of the NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2020

Know of a Drone not on this list? Email us at so we can add it to the list.