8 Best Drones for Mapping | 2023 Guide & Reviews

Surveying and mapping seem to be some of the most natural uses of drones for commercial purposes. Surveyors no longer need to walk through survey areas and take manual measurements for several days or weeks when using drones. Using drones for surveying not only makes the job easier but also produces more accurate data and models.

Drone surveys, however, require more than simply buying a commercial drone. These are the best drones for mapping and surveying, but not all drones are suitable.

Drones are becoming more and more popular, and there are a lot of great options on the market for under $400. In this blog post, we’ll go over some of the best drones for under $400, so you can find the perfect one for you.

Listed below are the top drones for mapping, since not all drones are created equal.

What is the best drone for mapping?

My top seven recommended drones for mapping are as follows:

1. DJI Matrice 300 series: Versatile inspection drone

One of the best drones around is the DJI Matrice 300. There are a variety of payload options and mount options available for many different kinds of flight needs, including mapping, inspections, etc.

An enthusiast pilot might not like this, but a professional pilot can make use of the RTK and more to easily produce highly accurate maps of a large region.

Thermal imaging can capture infrared and RGB images. Dual operators make switching between pilot and photographer a breeze, and there is a lot of flight time available. Automatic mapping can also be done with self-piloted tools.

DJI Matrice 300 RTK: Should I buy it?

Once again, the Matrice 300 is designed and priced to appeal to people who intend to use the drone for commercial purposes. For mapping larger areas, faster drones are available, but the M300’s powerful payload options and RTK precision make it a viable alternative.


  • An impressive commercial building
  • Payloads with multiple components
  • Configurable payloads
  • Setup with two operators
  • Reliable and safe


  • Two operators are best for this flight
  • Mounts are more common than accessories

2. Yuneec H520: Reliable hexacopter

Designed to handle a wide range of inspection tasks, the powerful Yuneec H520 hexacopter provides stable and reliable flight. Integrated flight software makes it easy to capture overlapping images of an area or just a large image map.

What is the best way to buy the Yuneec H520?

Although the H520 remains a great hexacopter for commercial use, it does have some drawbacks. Yuneec introduces new payloads to extend the drone’s viability, but that couldn’t last forever. The airframe is as capable as it should be, and Yuneec continues to introduce new payloads.


  • Reliability and stability of hexacopters
  • Payloads that can be interchanged
  • Software and controllers that are powerful


  • Drones from the past
  • Mounts with limited payload

3. DJI Matrice 200 series: Almost as good as the M300 series

Newer DJI Matrice 300 drones were developed based on DJI Matrice 200 models. Mounting points for payloads differ between the M200 and M210, while the M210 RTK comes with a precision GPS radio. DJI decided to discontinue the M200 series since the M300 essentially does all of these things in one drone.

DJI Matrice 200: Should I buy it?

Even though buying a discontinued drone has its drawbacks, buying an M200, which is less expensive and better suited for a particular task, is a better option if you cannot commit to the M300.


  • A drone that is weatherproof and powerful
  • Providing safety and reliability
  • Option for dual operators
  • Mounting points and powerful payloads


  • Drones from the past
  • Choose wisely between the different versions

4. DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise: Search & rescue drone

An upgraded consumer Mavic drone, the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise can be equipped with an infrared camera and a top-mounted accessory. You will not benefit much from the loudspeaker in your mapping project, but you might find the lights helpful for keeping you on track.

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise: Should I buy it?

In search and rescue tasks, the Mavic 2 Enterprise is more useful than in mapping tasks, but it’s still a capable drone, capable of capturing the necessary images.


  • Data that is encrypted
  • Accessories that are interchangeable
  • Popular and familiar airframes
  • Flying is easy and safe


  • Drones from the past
  • Maps are not compatible with this product

5. DJI Mavic 3 Cine: Best consumer drone

There has never been a drone like the DJI Mavic 3 Cine. The folding form factor continues to be a favorite, but the flight time has been increased, the remote has been updated, and there is a powerful new camera system included.

With the built-in 1TB SSD, you can capture your shot in 5.1K with this Micro Four Thirds camera. Up to 28x zoom is available on the secondary camera.

Our reasons for flying the Mavic 3 Cine

A drone with this camera quality and a compact, the portable airframe is rare. On-the-go cinematography of professional quality.


  • Drone with powerful camera
  • A great camera with 5.1K resolution
  • Range of 15KM
  • Internal SSD with a capacity of 1TB
  • Flying is easy and fun


  • The price

6. Parrot Anafi: Flexible consumer drone

While the Parrot Anafi was originally intended for consumers, Parrot has since introduced versions targeted at businesses. An interesting feature of the Anafi is that it can point straight up, which may not be necessary for mapping. Looking up is a great feature for a variety of inspection tasks, and may also prove useful when mapping.

Is it a good idea to buy the Parrot Anafi?

Anafi is an older drone, which was a typical consumer drone at the time of launch. It was worth checking out the upgraded versions of the drone since it had the ability to look upwards, as well as Parrot’s experience with other mapping drones.


  • Camera can be pointed upwards
  • Easy to fly and simple to use
  • Crafts for consumers at a low price
  • Cameras allow zooming


  • Drones from the past
  • The average output of a 4K camera

7. Yuneec Typhoon H3: Best consumer hexactoper

Consumer camera drones can’t be excluded from this list if we include the high-end Yuneec Typhoon H3. Your aerial capture tasks will be handled by this powerful hexacopter, equipped with a beastly Leica camera. As far as mapping tasks are concerned, the H3 isn’t much different than other camera drones, except for its ability to fly grids with software flight techniques.

What do you think of the Yuneec Typhoon H3?

The Typhoon H3 is one of our top recommendations, but availability has been limited, and the drone is a bit pricey compared to similar camera drones.


  • Camera with 4K resolution
  • Drone with high power and stability
  • A reliable and stable hexacopter
  • Software and remote are great


  • Availability is limited

8. DJI Phantom 4 RTK: Extreme geo positioning

It is a consumer drone that provides precise mapping images from the sky thanks to the RTK GPS technology that has been integrated into the DJI Phantom 4 RTK.

DJI Phantom 4 RTK: Should I buy it?

In terms of sales, the Phantom 4 RTK has a hard time competing. Although this older drone has a similar camera capability, it is much bigger than comparable consumer drones. In terms of mapping, this drone is viable due to its RTK precision.


  • Airframe with proven reliability and familiarity
  • A great camera for 4K
  • Flying is easy and safe
  • Its size makes it agile and fast


  • Drones from the past

There are so many useful flying machines that can do so much more than just take pictures, but if you were looking for a way to capture your world from the sky, I hope we’ve helped you narrow down your options.

Drones for mapping and surveying: what to look for

Here are some qualities we should look for in a mapping survey drone in order to narrow down the vast selection of commercial drones. Aerial surveys that require large-scale data collection require drones that are both capable of collecting good quality data and are easy to operate.

1. Mechanical Shutter

Drones with mechanical shutters should be prioritized if you do drone mapping professionally. The quality of the drone model will suffer if it does not have a mechanical shutter. Also, it will take much longer to map the area if it does not have one.

Regular shutters expose the camera lens one line at a time to light. Drones in motion produce blurry pictures. A mechanical shutter, on the other hand, exposes the whole shutter at the same time in order to take a photo.

2. Fixed-wing vs Multirotor

The unique capabilities of fixed-wing drones can also benefit mapping surveys, even though multirotor drones are more common nowadays. You will need to decide which is best for you based on your budget, the size of your survey area, and your level of drone piloting expertise.

Having the ability to hover in place makes multirotor drones much easier to fly and maneuver. Compared to professional-grade fixed-wing drones, they’re also much cheaper since they are so common.

Because they rely on rotors to generate lift and propel themselves, they suffer from low battery efficiency. A multirotor drone may be the most practical choice for surveying an area that measures less than a few acres across.

Drones with fixed wings are ideal for land surveys covering several hundred hectares. Despite their fixed wings, fixed-wing drones are capable of generating lift simply by flying through the air. A single battery cycle can last far longer than a cycle of a rotor since they only provide propulsion. In addition, they need a pilot who is more skilled.

3. Autonomous flight capability

To ensure data consistency and accuracy, aerial mapping surveys often require multiple flights over an area. This can be accomplished by ensuring that the drone always follows the same flight path. In order to accomplish this manually, you will need to use a drone that can be programmed to fly autonomously.

It’s not possible to just turn on an autonomous flight on any drone. In order to create these flight paths, you’ll need another software (like Litchi) that will transmit them to the drone’s remote controller. In order to prevent human errors due to lapses in judgment, heavy pilot input can be removed.

4. Long battery time

Surveys that cover several hectares of land are not uncommon. Even with drones’ high speeds, a standard drone cannot complete an entire survey during one battery cycle. Thus, it will certainly be necessary to land the drone at a specific spot in order to swap its batteries.

Multiple landings and deployments of the drone during a single survey will take a lot of time. Ideally, you will want a drone that is capable of flying for at least 30 minutes uninterrupted, so you can maximize your field time. Modern drones usually have this number.

5. 4K camera

Aerial surveying is most commonly conducted by photogrammetry. Inferring the dimensions of ground features is achieved by taking overlapping geotagged photos using the drone. Because of its accessibility and affordability, photogrammetry is widely favored despite its limitations.

Data quality in photogrammetry is determined by camera resolution. When modeling 3D models, you should use a camera that can capture as much detail as possible so that the software can recreate these details. It is standard these days to have cameras capable of capturing 4K videos and 12 MP photos, although you can choose whichever resolution suits you best.

6. RTK compatibility

A GPS receiver is built-in to every commercially available drone today, allowing locational tracking. With this GPS feature, the drone is able to stabilize itself and track itself for autonomous flight. GPS receivers automatically geotag photos when doing mapping surveys. A 3D model can be created by stitching together photos and spatial data to create a 3D model.

GPS data can be inaccurate by as much as a few meters under several conditions. Despite the fact that this may not be significant for some applications, more accurate measures may be beneficial for fields like urban planning and construction.

RTK technology has been integrated into mapping drones in recent years in order to address this problem. In Real-Time Kinematics, differential measurements are used to improve GPS data. GPS data is constantly corrected in RTK using a fixed ground station. A centimeter-level of accuracy can be achieved using this technique.

Data accuracy can be greatly improved by using RTK drones for mapping and surveying. RTK is more expensive than standard GPS, however.

7. Interchangeable payload

It’s true that photogrammetry is the most common method of mapping, but it’s far from the most effective. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors can provide more detail in your model if you need it.

Solid objects in the survey area bounce light pulses from this sensor. With LiDAR, the size and shape of individual features are more accurately determined by calculating the return time of the pulses.

As well as being capable of combining drone mapping with other imaging technologies such as thermal imaging and multispectral imaging, drone mapping technology is capable of generating a wide variety of data maps. The method has proven useful in a variety of industries, including crop farming and utility pipe surveying.

It’s rare to find drones with LiDAR or thermal cameras. This functionality requires third-party accessories and a drone that can carry a variety of payloads. Certainly, these drones are at the top of the market and are expensive.

It doesn’t require a highly sophisticated drone to do mapping, which is a highly technical application of drones. Minimum requirements: a GPS receiver, a decent camera, and autonomous flight capabilities. You can charge premium rates if you scale up operations with advanced gear.


That concludes this article’s discussion of drones.

How do you guys feel about these drones? Do you have any experience with them? Is there anything you would like to add?

What is the best drone for mapping?

Have I missed any drones you love to use?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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