DJI Mavic Mini $399

Fly with ease with this lightweight drone

Yes, DJI’s Mavic Mini is a bit expensive. But it’s unbelievably easy to fly. It has great range. It does not require registration with the Federal Aviation Administration. And it has a gimbal for steady video.

The bottom line: If you want to fly drones, do yourself a favor and skip those really cheap ones. Save your money for a Mavic Mini. You won’t be sorry.

The Mavic Mini weighs in at just 8.78 ounces, or 249 grams, which is important. Drones that weigh 250 grams or more must be registered with the FAA. (You still need to follow the drone laws, so brush up.)

The Mini’s camera shoots 2.7K video (vs. 4K for the Air) and looks amazing.

The Mini does not have any forward or backward obstacle avoidance. It does have downward obstacle sensing, which will warn you if the drone senses its landing area is not safe. The downward sensing also helps to stabilize hovering.

The Mini also can’t be controlled from a smartphone alone like some larger drones. You must connect your phone or tablet to the Mini’s controller.

The Mavic Mini has a range of up to 2.4 miles (unobstructed), but it’s much better at less than a mile because of buildings and trees in the way.

Legally, you need to maintain a visual line of sight to your drone at all times. This can be challenging with a drone as small as the Mini. There will be times when you are flying solely via the video screen. Hopefully those times are brief.

Because the Mavic drones have GPS, they have a feature called Return To Home, which will bring the drone back to you with the push of one button.

The Mavic drones will also return to home if they fly too far away and lose connection to the controller for more than 20 seconds or if the battery level gets critically low.

The Mini has three flying modes, Speed (the fastest mode), Position (standard mode) and Cinematic, a very slow, deliberate maneuvering mode that is great for getting smooth videos.

These drones have sophisticated electronics inside (downward vision sensing) to make them hover quite easily, especially if you let go of the control sticks.

If you are learning to fly and you are headed toward a crash, just let go of the controls and the drone will stop and hover until you are ready to move it again.