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Christmas Gift Guide

Shooting from the sky

DJI Phantom 3 Professional and Advanced

DJI Phantom 3 Standard

3D Robotics Solo

Yuneec Typhoon Q500

Fotokite Phi

CyPhy LVL 1

Sprite

Lily Camera

Hubsan X4 Pro

Zano

Hexo+

Ehang Ghost

AirDog

Parrot Bebop

DJI Inspire 1 (Zenmuse X3)

Zenmuse X5, X5R cameras

Parrot Minidrones

Another day, another drone.

Though that's a bit of an exaggeration, it is starting to feel as if new options pop up on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo on a regular basis. That's in addition to models from established manufacturers like DJI, 3D Robotics, Parrot and Yuneec.

As the selection grows, though, so do your chances of finding one with the features you want or need.

Whether you're interested in one to fly around your living room, out at the beach or follow you around the skate park, they're all here. And rest assured, there are more to come.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

DJI's latest Phantom is available in three versions: a Pro with a 4K-resolution camera and an Advanced and Standard with a 2.7K HD camera.

Though they look like their predecessors, the Phantom 3 Professional and Advanced have new sensors to keep them hovering in place without a GPS signal for assistance and can live-stream 720p video to YouTube, among other improvements.

A recent firmware update added Intelligent Flight Modes, which includes waypoint navigation, point-of-interest (POI) flight planning and a Follow Me function.

Priced at $799, £649 or AU$1,299 for the Standard, £899, AU$1,550 or $999 for the Advanced and £1,159, AU$1,950 or $1,259 for the Pro, they're available now.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET
£899.00 Typical Price

The Standard showed up in August and sporting the same camera as the Phantom 3 Advanced and has Intelligent Flight Modes for autonomous operation.

However, it lacks the sensors for more stable indoor flight found on the pricier Phantom 3s and has a less capable remote controller.

Caption by / Photo by DJI

If you've been waiting for a GoPro-made drone, this is the closest you'll get for the time being.

The Solo, its controller and optional Solo Gimbal -- a motorized three-axis camera stabilizer -- are the culmination of a couple of years of work and a partnership with GoPro. A partnership that has resulted in a drone with full in-flight camera control and live, low-latency HD streaming straight to mobile devices.

The 3D Robotics Solo drone and controller  is available starting at $999 (which converts to about £685 or AU$1,300). The Solo Gimbal can be purchased for an additional $400 (£275 or AU$525).

Caption by / Photo by 3DR

Yuneec got some attention recently for Intel's $60 million investment in the drone maker, but its Typhoon Q500 quadcopter has been flying around since last year, which features a full-HD video camera on a three-axis motorized gimbal for smooth, stable aerial movies and photos.

It followed it up this year with the Q500 4K, an upgrade to a 4K-resolution camera and new flying features including a follow option and geofencing, which allows you to setup invisible boundaries for the quadcopter.

The Typhoon G (pictured left) is the company's latest, which swaps the Yuneec camera and gimbal assembly for a three-axis gimbal for use with a GoPro Hero3/3+ or Hero4 camera. The drone delivers a direct video downlink from the GoPro to the Android-based controller's 5.5-inch touchscreen.

Combined with the Q500 G as well as the Q500+ and Q500+ 4K is the SteadyGrip, a handheld mount for use with the drone's gimbal. Just remove the gimbal and attach it to the SteadyGrip and an app lets you use a smartphone as a viewfinder and controller.

Prices range from $1,000 (£650, AU$1,400) for the Q500 G up to $1,500 (£975, AU$2,100) for Q500 4K. We'll have a full review of the Q500 4K soon, but you can check out Yuneec's site for more details.

Caption by / Photo by Yuneec

The Fotokite Phi is essentially a flying selfie stick for GoPro cameras. Designed by Perspective Robotics AG, the Phi doesn't rely on a controller or smartphone to pilot it, but instead has a leash that keeps it tethered to a motion controller in your hand.

The best part is the lightweight quadcopter folds down into a cylinder, letting you easily slip it into a backpack. When you want to grab some aerial photos or video, just open it up, turn it on and let out the leash.

The company, which already makes a professional version, expects it to start shipping by March 2016 and sell for $500. You can get in your order now, though, for $300 (about £195 or AU$420).

landed on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, reached its $300,000 funding goal and follows the same path as the company's professional version in use by the BBC and other news outlets by eschewing a remote controller or mobile app for a simple retractable leash. And instead of having a built-in camera, it just uses a GoPro Hero3 or Hero4 camera. Made to be ultraportable, the Phi folds down and fits entirely inside a tube roughly the size of a whisky bottle and with a camera it weighs just 350 grams (12.3 ounces). To get it ready to fly, you fold down the arms and twist a lock on top. Then you can attach a GoPro to the camera housing in front.

Caption by / Photo by Lori Grunin/CNET

From iRobot cofounder Helen Greiner, the LVL 1 hexacopter doesn't need a gimbal to stabilize video because its motors and props are positioned to keep it from tilting resulting in a level shot every time.

It's designed to be easy for anyone to pilot, too, with simple swipes on a mobile device's touchscreen. It's capable of full autonomous flight as well.

However, perhaps the biggest selling point for novice flyers will be its geofence feature. You can pace off an area while holding your smartphone and the drone won't go beyond the invisible boundary.

The prototype I saw was packing a Sony Action Cam, but by the time this ships to Kickstarter backers, it will have its own integrated full-HD camera.

Barring any delays, it's expected to start shipping in February 2016. The company isn't currently taking orders, but you can sign up on its site to be notified when they start. Pricing was set to $495 or approximately AU$635 or £320 when converted, but there's no word on what it will be once it's readily available.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Designed to be more portable and more durable than other unmanned aerial vehicles, Sprite's propellers drop to the side of its water- and impact-resistant body so you can easily take it with you in a backpack.

Completely autonomous with a push-button start, you don't need to have a transmitter, smartphone or tablet to fly it (though you can if you want to). Flight paths can be programmed via 3D Robotics' Mission Planner software for PC or Droid Planner app for Android.

It comes standard with a GoPro-compatible two-axis stabilized gimbal, but its modular design will allow that to be easily swapped out for other payloads.

And Sprite doesn't care where you land it: when it reaches the ground a brake stops its rotors and it safely touches down.

If Sprite sounds like something you can get behind, you can order one starting at $699 for delivery in the first quarter of 2016. That converts to around AU$985 or £455.

Caption by / Photo by Ascent AeroSystems

A throw-and-go drone, the compact, lightweight Lily will start its props up once you toss it in the air. It will then use GPS and object tracking to follow you around.

You can order a Lily Camera now for $699 (around AU$985 or £455), but it won't ship until May 2016. Once it starts shipping, though, the regular price will be $999. That converts to roughly £650 for UK buyers or AU$1,300 in Australia.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

It might not have the name recognition of DJI or Parrot, but Hubsan is well known to RC hobbyists.

The X4 Pro is a larger, more capable version of the company's palm-size FPV X4 and features a full HD camera stabilized by a three-axis gimbal with camera controls on its Android-powered radio control, which also has a built-in touchscreen. While it has safety features like auto-return, it also has a parachute in case it falls from the sky.

It was initially expected to start shipping in June, but it slipped to October. When it does ship, you can buy one for about $1,500  (about AU$2,100 or £975).  You can check its site for more details.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

We've been following the tiny Zano drone developed by Lantronix and Torquing Group since its ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaign

The palm-size quadcopter is controlled with your smartphone and can "avoid obstacles, hold its position and knows exactly where it is in conjunction with your smart device."

We still haven't seen one flying in person despite a big presence at CES 2015, and it still hasn't shipped to backers. But, you can order one for £200. That's about $300 or AU$430.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Another Kickstarter success story, the Hexo+ was backed to the tune of $1,306,920.

The hexacopter is capable of full autonomous flight while it follows you at speeds up to 70 kmh (45 mph). Operation is done with an app that lets you duplicate cinematic shots like crane, dolly, push in, pull out and 360-degree orbits.

The company had originally set its shipping timeframe in September, but that doesn't look all too likely at this point. but you can preorder one now for $1,299 (about AU$1,660 or £840).

Caption by / Photo by Hexo+

The Ghost is all about easy capture of aerial photos and video. Controlled with your smartphone or tablet, you pilot it by drawing a flight path for it to follow, by tilting the your mobile device or having it auto-follow you.

Available in iOS and Android versions, a basic Ghost runs about $600 (£385, AU$765) alone or with a two-axis gimbal for GoPro cameras for $730 (£470, AU$935).

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Like the Ghost, the AirDog can keep track of your movements. However, it uses an armband loaded with sensors that communicates the data back to the drone over long-range Bluetooth. The result is your own personal camera operator.

We got a good look at AirDog at CES 2015, but it looks like it will be a long time before we can get our hands on one. Originally expected to deliver the drones to Kickstarter backers in November 2014, the company still hasn't shipped.

But, if you're not discouraged by some delays, you can order one now for $1,295. That converts to around AU$1,700 or £840.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

A follow-up of sorts to Parrot's AR.Drone 2.0, the Bebop has an f2.2 fish-eye lens with a 180-degree angle of view and a 14-megapixel camera sensor. It can capture video at 1080p full-HD resolution and photos can be captured in JPEG or Adobe DNG raw format.

It can be controlled completely with a smartphone or tablet, but those who want physical controls can get the Bebop with Parrot's new Skycontroller. This gives you two sticks for piloting; discrete controls for the camera; a button for taking off and landing and one for emergency motor cutoff; status lights for the battery of the Bebop and the controller; a return-to-home button; and you can wirelessly pair a tablet or phone with it for first-person-view (FPV) flying.

You can pick one up for $499 alone, or with the Skycontroller for $899 (though I don't think it's worth the extra cost).

Those in Australia can buy from Apple and Harvey Norman. Pricing for the Bebop is AU$699 (including GST) or with the Skycontroller for AU$1,299 (including GST). Pricing in the UK is £429.99 for the Bebop and £769.99 with the Skycontroller.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

DJI billed the Inspire 1 as the world's first 4K flying camera when it became available at the end of 2014.

With carbon-fiber landing gear that lowers and lifts automatically on take-off and landing, the camera's 94-degree field of view is left unobstructed as it captures video at resolutions up to 4K at 30fps (it does 1080p at 60fps as well) and 12-megapixel stills. The camera rotates a full 360 degrees and tilts 125 degrees.

It is large and feature-packed, for sure, but comes with an equally large price tag: $2,900. Pricing for the UK is £2,380 and in Australia you'll be paying AU$4,130.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET

In September at the Interdrone Conference in Las Vegas, DJI introduced two DJI-made camera and gimbal systems that both feature a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor and lens mount for use with the Inspire 1. According to DJI, the X5 and X5R are world's first commercially available MFT cameras specifically designed for aerial use.

The Zenmuse X5 is available for preorder for $4,500, which includes the DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter and DJI's MFT 15mm f1.7 ASPH lens and is expected to ship before the month is out. The Zenmuse X5R will be available in Q4 2015 for $8,000. UK and Australia availability and pricing wasn't available, but these prices convert to £2,900 and AU$6,400 for the X5 and £5,200 and AU$11,300 for the X5R.

If you're a professional looking for a ready-to-fly solution for aerial photos and video, this is one to watch for.

Caption by / Photo by DJI

At the other end of the drone spectrum from the Inspire 1 is Parrot's lineup of Minidrones. The connected-device company Parrot says it sold more than 600,000 of its two Minidrones from last year -- the Rolling Spider and Jumping Sumo -- so it's grown the line to include five new models each in two or three designs -- 13 in all.

While they're mostly just tweaks to the original two, adding things like LED lights or more powerful motors, the Hydrofoil pictured here combines a quadcopter with a new attachable floating base. Attach the copter to a hinged mount on top of the base and spin up its propellers to glide across the water. It will sell for $179 (about £115 and AU$230) when it hits stores in October.

Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
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