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

Top Surveillance Drones Review
Written by Jack Brown

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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 were 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.

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.

Surveillance Drone

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

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 another type of surveillance drones, here are some points to consider:


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.

Surveillance Drone Camera

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.

Some cameras are detachable and some drones don’t have a 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.


In surveillance, you wouldn’t want to be on your drone’s side forever so, 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.

Drone Piloting Range

There are available accessories which can lengthen the signal transmission of your controller, making it 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.

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 Fly Time

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.


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 Stability

However, these features can only be suitable for 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 in a windy environment, pick one with high stability and more anti-wind sensors.

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.

Setting Up Drone

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.

Top drones you can use for surveillance as a civilian

Using a drone for civilian surveillance purposes is a great way to keep an eye on things. While they won’t be able to fly for hours at a time, if you’re curious about something happening outside and want to keep a low profile when checking it out, these drones are the way to do it.

DJI Phantom 3

Weight:  8.6 poundsDJI Phantom 3

Size:  18 x 13 x 8 inches

Camera: 2.7K HD

Battery: 4480mAh

Flight time: 23 minutes

Controller type: DJIP3-074

Special features: GPS-assisted hover, vision positioning system, automatic flight logs, Return to Home, Follow Me, Ground Station, Point of Interest

Best use: Great for those who want a quality live HD view with extended range and a good camera

The DJI Phantom 3 has everything you could want in a quadcopter drone for surveillance purposes. You can feel the power in the motors but don’t hear as much noise, which is ideal for snooping. The camera is pretty decent, coming in at 2.7K at 30fps for videos. You can reach a transmission range of up to 5km through the DJI Lightbridge Video Downlink.

The drone will connect to your smart device through the DJI Go app, where you can view a live HD feed of what your drone is seeing. It uses both GPS and GLONASS for the best of both worlds where a dual positioning module is concerned. You will definitely be able to make use of the 16GB Micro-SD card given, unless you want to save your images and videos directly to the DJI Go app, which you can easily do yourself.

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Parrot AR.Drone 2.0

Weight: 4 poundsParrot Ar

Size: 23 x 5 x 23 inches

Camera: HD 720p camera

Battery: Included – 1 1000mAh Lithium polymer battery

Flight time: 12 minutes

Controller type: smartphone/ tablet

Special features: self-generated Wi-Fi network, Director Mode feature, amazing stability

Best use: Great for first person flight experience

Another model coming from the quadcopter family, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 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 lag and buffers.

You can choose the style of product you want. From the desert, arctic or rainforest style, each product can bring a 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 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.

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 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 the 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.

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DJI Inspire 1

Weight: 22.1 poundsDJI Inspire 1

Size: 22.6 x 21 x 11.7 inches

Camera: 4K Video and 12MP Stills

Battery: Included – 1 TB47 Intelligent Flight Battery

Flight time: 25 minutes

Controller type: smartphone/ tablet

Special features: 360° panning gimbal, up to 1.2 Mile Radio Range, Live 720p HD Monitoring with Lightbridge, Vision Positioning for Indoor Flying

Best use: Professional video & photo jobs

Coming from the same family as the Phantom 3, it is obvious to say that DJI 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 a dual-pilot operation to let you set your lens straight to where you want it to be.

This version comes with a 4k camera with 3-axis gimbal stabilization. However, there is also a PRO version, equipped with 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.

Still, 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 has updated features of the Inspire 1 PRO. With its Zenmuse X5R camera, you can record raw 4k video.

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DJI Phantom 3 Professional

Weight: 9.2 poundsDJI Phantom 3 Professional

Size: 18 x 13 x 8 inches

Camera: 3-axis 4k UHD video camera

Battery: Included – 1 Lithium Metal intelligent flight battery

Flight time: 25 minutes

Controller type: smartphone/ tablet

Special features: Vision Positioning feature, GPS navigation, Carbon Fiber Hardshell

Best use: Professional video & photo jobs

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. DJI Phantom 3 Professional 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.

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.

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3DR Solo Drone

Weight:  11.5 pounds3DR Solo Drone

Size: 8.8 x 16.2 x 16.6 inches

Camera: Sony UMC-R10C

Battery: 5200mAh

Flight time: 25 minutes

Controller type: BB11A

Special features: Orbit, Follow Me, Cable Cam mode, Selfie mode, GPS mode, GoPro Hero capabilities, wireless video streaming to smart device, one-touch button capabilities, computer-assisted Smart Shots

Best use: Aerial photography and basic surveillance purposes

The 3DR Solo Drone comes with a camera that is pretty good, but you can bring your own camera into play should you wish to do so. Whether it be for better quality or whatever your reasoning, you can use one of the Hero cameras from the GoPro line. You can also make use of the high-quality HDMI port through the controller to connect a smart device, such as a phone or mini tablet, so you can see your current flight.

With just a single touch of a button you can take off, land, pause your flight, and take pictures and videos while in the air. The controller looks much like one you’d use for a video game console, without the smart device attachment, so it’s very easy to use and get used to.

The 3DR Solo application offers full features that pair with the drone itself for both Android and iOS to give you full usability and overall control.

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DJI Spreading Wings S1000

Weight:  9.7 poundsDji Spreading Wings

Size:  18.1 x 12 x 20.1 inches

Camera: DSLR compatible, no onboard camera

Battery: Your own, 1500mAh suggested

Flight time: 15 minutes with suggested battery type

Controller type: Your own, comes with flight controller installation software

Special features: Retractable landing gear, low gimbal mounting with dampening, can hold up to 24 pounds of takeoff weight, fully collapsible

Best use: Basic photography and surveillance purposes

The DJI Spreading Wings S1000 is a dream for users that like to tweak their setup. It can hold up to 24 pounds of takeoff weight, meaning that you can bring your own camera into play. It’s also the same with the controller. You can use an A2 or a WooKong-M flight controller system, which ensures that you can tweak your rig anyway you’d like. You can also choose your battery as well, but the 1500mAh comes highly recommended for the best flight time possible.

There aren’t any real features for this quadcopter, but it is designed to carry heavy DSLR cameras, it’s fully collapsible, and is basically intended to serve as a platform for the camera of your choice. You can make this drone as high quality as you’d like.

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Walkera QR X350 Pro

Weight: 2 poundsWalkera

Size:  11 x 2 x 2 inches

Camera: iLook

Battery: 5200mAh

Flight time: 25 minutes

Controller type: DEVO F7

Special features: Auto altitude control, Simple Flight mode, GPS mode, Waypoints, Loiter, Return to Launch, auto takeoff and landing,

Best use: Aerial photography and surveillance

The Walkera QR X350 Pro is one of the best beefed up and yet fully basic drones that are used for surveillance. It has a 25 minute long flight time, is a smaller size, has a high-tech controller, and comes with only features that are necessary for aerial photography and surveillance. Both the iLook camera and the G-2D gimbal are included, which makes for better and more stable shots.

It does not come with No-Fly Zone software programmed into it that restricts taking off, which is great for getting speedy surveillance and shots. The transmitter has a range of up to 2km and comes in Mode 2, but you can change it to go to Mode 1 instead if you choose to do so.

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Who needs 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.

Drone SFRA

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.

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 aircraft

Surveillance Drone

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 the public market. It is still being utilized by the military to deliver peace within the country.

Applications in the real world

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:

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.

Photography and Cinematography Drone

Different film industries are now taking part in the drone revolution, to deliver stunning visuals to all movie goers.

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.

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.


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 a 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.

Calamity resues

In the 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.

Wild life obsevation

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.

Ice Bear Drone

However, drone involvement in the ecosystem and lifestyle of animals may have an effect whether it is good or bad.

Personal leisure

Most citizens buy drones for their own leisure. Taking aerial videos of you while biking or surfing 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.

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.

Surveillance Drone

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 of having a surveillance drone in your inventory.


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

  • 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. We’ll be happy to reply!

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About the author

Jack Brown

Jack is the Chief Pilot at 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.