Specialty Drones: Hunting Drones and Our Best Picks

Introduction

Drones aka quadcopters or UAVs provide a bird’s-eye view of the surroundings, which can be very useful when locating or following a game. Hunters can easily miss the game when searching on foot as they cannot cover large areas quickly. Advancements in sensor and camera technologies and ever-decreasing prices have put drones within reach of almost everyone. No matter what your budget is, chances are good that you’ll find one within your range.

However, inexpensive or entry-level drones might not be a great fit for hunting as you need certain features and minimum specifications when hunting or scouting large areas. This guide aims to make it easier for hobbyists and beginners to choose a drone for hunting and includes recommendations for some of the best value-packed drones.

Legal Perspective of Using Drones for Hunting

Modern drones provide a unique perspective of the surroundings and can carry cameras that are able to capture photos otherwise not possible with smartphones. This can be a great help when hunting and scouting, but unlike fishing drones (link to fishing drones post), using drones for hunting is somewhat controversial.

You need to be aware of the local laws and UAV regulations before attempting to hunt game using any kind of aircraft (drones fall under the category of unmanned aircraft). Most states allow spotting game using drones. States including Alaska, Montana, and Colorado forbid using drones to scout/hunt deer and other game, while states such as Florida have not placed any restrictions about how you can use a drone.

Federal Regulations

The Federal Aviation Administration has regulations and bans in place, which you must know if you want to use a drone for hunting/scouting as well as for other purposes. Violating FAA rules can cause some serious trouble and you may end up getting fined up to $250,000 as well as up to three years in prison. That’s why anyone wanting to use a UAV for hunting must understand and abide by local and federal laws including (but not limited to):

  • You must be at least 14-years-old, a US citizen or a legal resident

  • You have to register your drone with the FAA (nominal fee, pretty straight forward procedure)

  • The drone must weigh less than 55 lbs. (most high-end drones are a lot less bulky than that)

  • Maximum flight altitude 500 feet and maximum allowed speed 100mph

  • You should only operate a UAV during daytime

  • You need to inform the airport if you plan on flying a drone within the 5-mile radius of an airport

  • A drone must be kept in the line of sight at all times

  • No flying a drone near manned aircrafts

  • You are not allowed to fly a drone over restricted places such as stadiums and prisons and over groups of people (without their permission)

Should Hunters Use a Drone for Hunting?

Many believe that using drones gives hunters an unfair advantage by disrupting a fair chase. Their usage also reduces dependence on human skills, which are essential in hunting naturally/traditionally. On the other hand, those who are in favor of using drones for hunting argue that drones can be of great help in flushing out the big game, which can help create easier targets.

However, we don’t have any conclusive research or evidence that verifies these claims. Using a drone in the woods or bushes can be a challenge. Most drones have a limited range so flushing out big game might not be as simple as it may seem, especially in woodlands and bushes.

A major issue that makes using drones for hunting controversial is that some hunters attach firearms, essentially turning their drone into a hunter that is also the weapon. Attaching a weapon to a drone is prohibited for safety reasons and you can end up paying a huge fine or going to prison if you do so.

Drones are primarily designed to provide a bird’s-eye view of the surroundings and capture it from a unique perspective. However, small game that remains alert of predators from above might get scared by a drone and run away. Things are not so straight forward when it comes to the big game (sometimes they become curious and other times they just ignore it), but the use of drones is still a mixed bag when it comes to hunting.

Best Drones for Hunting

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
DJI Inspire Pro 2
DJI Mavic Pro Drone Quadcopter Fly More Combo with 3 Batteries
Parrot Bebop 2
Holy Stone HS100

Things such as flight time, transmission range and camera prowess are the common denominators to consider when buying a drone. You also need to consider the durability factor and other advanced features such as autonomous flight, object lock, and automatic object avoidance when buying a drone for hunting. To make the buying process easier for beginners and hobbyists, we have carefully selected some of the best drones you can use for hunting and scouting.

DJI Inspire Pro 2

DJI Inspire Pro and DJI Phantom Pro are both among the best multi-purpose drones. But DJI Inspire Pro has certain advantages over the Phantom series drones when it comes to hunting, including detachable payloads (upgradable camera), dual-pilot operation (one person flies the drone while another works with the camera) and better stability and handling in windy conditions.

Inspire 2 became an important tool for filmmakers and photographers soon after its launch and remains one of the best drones for hunting to this day. Because of its price, the drone is suitable for enthusiasts and hunters who want to capture nature in all its glory and have a strong following to share their experiences with. Beginners and occasional hunters might want to consider inexpensive alternatives instead of spending thousands of dollars on a drone, including a good deal on DJI Phantom 3.

Key features and specifications

  • 4K or 6K camera, 360-degree rotating gimbal

  • CineCore2.1 Image Processing System

  • 0-50mph in 5 seconds

  • Up to 27 minutes of flight time

  • Up to 4.3 miles/7 KM of controllable range

  • Self-heating technology for warming batteries in cold weather

  • FlightAutonomy

  • Advanced Obstacle Avoidance system, can detect up to 30 meters ahead

  • Magnesium-aluminum shell, carbon fiber arms

  • Spotlight Pro, advanced tracking mode

  • Intelligent flight modes (TapFly, ActiveTrack, Return to Home)

  • Powerful flight performance

DJI Mavic Pro Fly more Combo

The Mavic Pro is a portable, yet powerful multi-purpose drone for enthusiasts and experienced users. Up to 27 minutes of flight time along with a maximum range of 4.3 miles (7KM) makes the Mavic Pro a great option for hunters who often have to scout large areas. Add a 4K camera, 3-axis gimbal and a variety of advanced features to the equation and you get a complete package for capturing unforgettable images and videos of your outdoor adventures.

The Fly More Kit includes extra accessories that can be very helpful when you are outdoors for days on end, including 3 batteries, cables, and adapters, carrying case and care kit.

Key features and specifications

  • Compact and portable, weight 1.63 lbs./743 grams

  • FlightAutonomy, advanced obstacle avoidance system

  • 4K camera, 3-axis gimbal

  • Up to 27 minutes of flight time and 4.3 miles / 7KM transmission range

  • Precision hovering

  • Max speed 40 miles/hour

  • Quiet operation

  • Can sense obstacles from 15 meters away

  • Adobe DNG/RAW support

Parrot Bebop 2

The Bepop 2 is an affordable, yet capable drone that covers the essentials and offers some extras. It’s lightweight @500 grams and can fly for up to 25 minutes, which is pretty impressive considering the price point. Equipped with a 14 MP camera, the drone can record 1080p videos and allows users to choose between RAW and DNG formats for professional results.

The drone ca resist headwinds of around 37 mph and can reach its top speed in just 14 seconds, making it a great option for hunters and drone enthusiasts. It even responds to movements via accelerometer and touchscreen of a smartphone/tablet and enables users to effortlessly fly the drone using their mobile devices.

Advanced features such as follow-me, Smart Flights and the mobile app for Android and iOS make it easier to take and share aerial photos/videos. However, you need to keep it close to yourself as the signal/transmission range is only around 300 meters. That’s why this drone is more suitable for close-range scouting and situations in which you don’t have to take it far away.

Key features and specifications

  • Up to 25 minutes of flight time

  • 14 MP camera capable of shooting 1080p videos, with a fish-eye lens

  • Rear flash LED

  • Lightweight and portable

  • 3-axis digital stabilization

  • Live video streaming

  • GPS-assisted flight

  • Dual-core processor, quad-core GPU

  • 8 GB internal storage

  • Transmission range of 300 meters

  • Max speed horizontal 16m/s, vertical 6m/s

  • Supports JPEG, DNG and RAW formats, H.264 video encoding

Holy Stone HS100

HS100 is one of the most affordable drones that offers a great balance between price and features. It works great for beginners and hunters who just want the essentials, including 1080p videos, GPS-assisted flight and decent battery life. Sure, it’s not as powerful and versatile as other high-end drones, but it also costs a lot less and allows almost everyone to experiment with the technology before buying expensive models.

Key features and specifications

  • Up to 15 minutes of flight time

  • Up to 500 meters transmission range

  • 1080p camera with 120-degrees FOV

  • GPS-assisted flight

  • Return-to-home, follow-me, headless and altitude hold modes

  • Live video streaming to the controller

  • One-key takeoff/landing