Best Drones for Wildlife Photography

Written by Antonio Cala.

Last updated on March 17, 2024

Table of Contents

With the advent of drone technology, capturing stunning aerial images of wildlife has become easier than ever before. Drones can provide a unique perspective on the natural world, allowing photographers to capture images that were previously impossible to obtain.

Choosing the right drone for wildlife photography can be a daunting task, given the plethora of options available in the market. However, with some research and careful consideration, one can find the perfect drone that meets their needs. 

In this article, we will explore some of the best models available, the top features to look for in wildlife photography drones, tips for capturing stunning wildlife shots with your drone, and legal considerations and ethics of drone wildlife photography. So, whether you are a professional wildlife photographer or a hobbyist, this article will provide you with the information you need to take your wildlife photography to the next level.

For a complete analysis of all wildlife cameras, not just from Sony, make sure to check out the ultimate guide to wildlife photography cameras. 

Key Takeaways

  • When choosing a drone for wildlife photography, look for features such as high-resolution camera, long battery life, and obstacle avoidance sensors.
  • To capture stunning wildlife shots with your drone, practice flying your drone, be respectful of the animals, and experiment with different camera settings.
  • When flying a drone for wildlife photography, make sure to follow all legal regulations and ethical guidelines to avoid harming the animals or the environment.

Quick Recommendations

Feel free to check out this summary with our favorite drones for wildlife photography, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

DJI Mavic 3 Pro

Absolute Best

DJI Mavic 3 Pro

Autel EVO 2 Pro

Runner Up

DJI Air 3

Best New Generation

DJI Mini 3

Best for Beginners

DJI Mini 2 SE

Best Budget

Best Drones for Wildlife Photography

Our Pick For

The Absolute Best Drone for Wildlife Photography

DJI Mavic 3 Pro

  • Max Horizontal Speed: 47 mph / 75.6 km/h
  • Max Flight Time: 43 Minutes
  • Max Flight Range: 28 km
  • Intelligent Flight Modes: Waypoint Flight, Cruise Control, Hyperlapse, MasterShots, FocusTrack, Panorama, QuickShots
  • Obstacle Avoidance: Omnidirectional sensing with APAS 5.0 technology
  • Number of Cameras: 3
  • Resolution:
    • 24mm Hasselblad Wide-Angle: 20MP, f/2.8 to f/11 aperture, 5.1K video at 50 fps
    • 70mm Medium Telephoto: 48MP, f/2.8 aperture, 4K video at 60 fps, 3x optical zoom
    • 166mm Telephoto: 12MP, f/3.4 aperture, 4K video at 60 fps, 7x optical zoom
  • Video: Supports D-Log, D-Log M, and HLG
  • Weight: 2.10 lbs

The DJI Mavic 3 Pro drone is renowned as one of the best options for wildlife photography due to its impressive features tailored for capturing nature’s beauty. With a compact design and advanced capabilities, this drone excels in providing stunning aerial shots of wildlife in their natural habitats.

Pros:

  • Impressive low-light performance for capturing wildlife in various lighting conditions.
  • Useful obstacle avoidance system enhances flight safety and prevents mishaps.
  • Handy automated flight modes simplify the process of capturing dynamic wildlife scenes.
  • Advanced sensor and camera deliver high-quality images and videos.
  • Ability to shoot D-Cinelike with 10-bit color depth offers flexibility in post-processing.
  • Digital zoom options provide versatility in framing shots.

Cons:

  • Pricier than previous models, which may be a consideration for budget-conscious users.
  • Limited battery life may require extra batteries for extended photography sessions.

In summary, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro stands out as an exceptional drone for wildlife photography, offering advanced features like low-light performance, obstacle avoidance, and high-quality imaging capabilities. While it comes at a higher price point and has some limitations like battery life, its overall performance and features make it a top choice for photographers looking to capture stunning wildlife aerial shots.

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Our Pick For

Runner Up

Autel EVO 2 Pro

  • Max Horizontal Flight Speed: 44 mph
  • Max Flight Time: 40 minutes
  • Max Flight Range: 25 km
  • Intelligent Flight Modes: Not specified
  • Obstacle Avoidance: 360° obstacle avoidance
  • Number of Cameras: 1
  • Resolution:
    • Camera Image Sensor: 1″ CMOS, 20MP
    • Video Resolution:
      • 6K at 5472*3076 p30/p25/p24
      • 4K at 3840*2160 p60/p50/p48/p30/p25/p24
      • 2.7K at 2720*1528 p120/p60/p50/p48/p30/p25/p24
      • 1080p at 1920*1080 p120/p60/p50/p48/p30/p25/p24
  • Weight: 2.58 lbs

The Autel EVO 2 Pro drone is a solid option for wildlife photography, offering impressive image quality and advanced features. Despite some drawbacks, it remains a competitive choice for capturing wildlife scenes from the air.

Pros:

  • Top-notch image quality, especially in low-light conditions.
  • Obstacle avoidance system enhances flight safety.
  • Advanced sensor and camera technology for high-quality imaging.
  • Long flight time of up to 40 minutes.
  • High visibility design with a bright orange finish for easy tracking.

Cons:

  • Pricey compared to some competitors, which may impact budget-conscious users.
  • Issues with video downlink, leading to laggy and inconsistent video transmission.
  • Limited maneuverability due to low-quality signal transmission.

In summary, the Autel EVO 2 Pro drone offers exceptional image quality and flight performance, making it a strong contender for wildlife photography. While it may have drawbacks like video transmission issues and limited maneuverability, its overall capabilities and features position it as a reliable choice for capturing stunning aerial shots of wildlife.

Our Pick For

Best New Generation Drone for Wildlife Photography

  • Max Horizontal Speed: 47 mph
  • Max Flight Time: 46 minutes
  • Max Flight Range: 32 km
  • Intelligent Flight Modes: FocusTrack, QuickShots, MasterShots, Hyperlapse
  • Obstacle Avoidance: Omnidirectional obstacle sensing with APAS 5.0 for smoother avoidance movements
  • Number of Cameras: 2
  • Resolution:
    • Wide-Angle Camera Sensor: 1/1.3 inch CMOS, 48 megapixels
    • Medium Tele Camera Sensor: 1/1.3 inch CMOS, 48 megapixels
    • Max Video Resolution: 4K at various frame rates
  • Video Transmission System: DJI O4 HD video transmission system with a range of up to 20 km
  • Weight: 1.60 lbs

The DJI Air 3 drone is a standout choice among new generation drones for wildlife photography, offering advanced features tailored to capture stunning aerial shots of wildlife in their natural habitats.

Pros:

  • Impressive low-light performance for capturing wildlife in various lighting conditions.
  • Useful obstacle avoidance system enhances flight safety and prevents mishaps.
  • Handy automated flight modes simplify the process of capturing dynamic wildlife scenes.
  • Advanced sensor and camera technology deliver high-quality images and videos.
  • Digital zoom options provide versatility in framing shots.
  • Ability to shoot D-Cinelike with 10-bit color depth offers flexibility in post-processing.

Cons:

  • Pricier than previous Mini models, which may be a consideration for budget-conscious users.
  • Issues with video downlink, leading to laggy and inconsistent video transmission.
  • Limited maneuverability due to low-quality signal transmission.

The DJI Air 3 drone stands out as one of the best new generation options for wildlife photography, offering advanced features like low-light performance, obstacle avoidance, and high-quality imaging capabilities.

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Our Pick For

Best Drone for Beginners

  • Max Horizontal Speed: 35.8 mph / 57.6 km/h
  • Max Flight Time: 38 minutes
  • Max Flight Range: 10 km
  • Intelligent Flight Modes: No
  • Obstacle Avoidance: No
  • Number of Cameras: 1
  • Resolution: 1/1.3-inch CMOS
    21 MP.
  • Video: 
    • 4K: 3840×2160@24/25/30 fps
    • 2.7K: 2720×1530@24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
    • FHD: 1920×1080@24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
  • Weight: 0.54 lbs

The DJI Mini 3 drone is a top choice for beginner wildlife photographers, offering a balance of affordability and quality features tailored for capturing nature’s beauty from the air.

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing compared to higher-end models.
  • Great image quality suitable for wildlife photography.
  • Small and lightweight design for easy portability.
  • Long flight time of up to 51 minutes.
  • Simple setup and easy flying experience ideal for beginners.
  • Impressive low-light performance for capturing wildlife in various lighting conditions.

Cons:

  • Lacks collision avoidance, requiring caution when flying close to obstacles like trees.
  • Limited video capabilities, with 4K video limited to 30fps.
  • No subject tracking feature, which may impact tracking moving wildlife.

In summary, the DJI Mini 3 drone is an excellent choice for novice wildlife photographers, offering a good balance of features, affordability, and image quality. While it lacks collision avoidance and some advanced video features, its ease of use, long flight time, and impressive image quality make it a solid option for capturing aerial shots of wildlife in their natural habitats.

Our Pick For

Best Budget Drone for Wildlife Photography

DJI Mini 2 SE

  • Max Horizontal Speed: 35.8 mph / 57.6 km/h
  • Max Flight Time: 31 minutes
  • Max Flight Range: 10 km
  • Intelligent Flight Modes: No
  • Obstacle Avoidance: No
  • Number of Cameras: 1
  • Resolution: 12 MP camera sensor
  • Camera System: 12 MP, 1/2.3″-Type CMOS Sensor with 24mm-Equivalent, f/2.8 Lens (83° FoV)
  • Video:
    • 2.7K: 2720×1530@24/25/30 fps
    • FHD: 1920×1080@24/25/30/48/50/60 fps
  • Weight: 0.52 lbs

The DJI Mini 2 SE drone is a fantastic budget option for wildlife photography, offering a balance of affordability and quality features that cater to beginners and avid photographers alike.

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing making it accessible to budget-conscious users.
  • Ability to shoot photos in RAW for detailed editing in software like Adobe Lightroom.
  • Compact and lightweight design for easy portability.
  • Long flight time of up to 40 minutes for extended photography sessions.
  • User-friendly features like Quickshots video modes and Auto Takeoff/Landing.
  • Decent image quality under correct lighting conditions.

Cons:

  • Lacks True Vertical Shooting option found in higher-end models like the DJI Mini 3 Pro.
  • Limited video capabilities, with 2.7K footage up to 30 fps.
  • No collision avoidance feature, requiring caution when flying close to obstacles.

In summary, the DJI Mini 2 SE drone is an excellent choice for wildlife photography on a budget, offering features like RAW photo capability, long flight time, and user-friendly functions. While it may lack some advanced features found in higher-end models, its affordability, ease of use, and decent image quality make it a compelling option for both beginners and experienced photographers looking to capture aerial shots of wildlife.

Comparison Table

Best Drones for Wildlife Photography

-
DJI Mavic 3 Pro
Autel EVO 2 Pro
DJI Air 3
DJI Mini 3
DJI Mini 2 SE

CAMERA

DJI Mavic 3 Pro

Autel EVO 2 Pro

DJI Air 3

DJI Mini 3

DJI Mini 2 SE

BEST FOR

Overall

Runner Up

New Generation

Beginners

Budget-friendly

PRICE

$$$

$$$

$$

$

$

WEIGHT

2.10 lbs

2.58 lbs

1.60 lbs

0.54 lbs

0.52 lbs

MAX SPEED

47 mph

44 mph

47 mph

36 mph

36 mph

FLIGHT TIME

43 min

40 min

46 min

38 min

31 min

FLIGHT RANGE

28 km

25 km

32 km

10 km

10 km

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

Top Features to Look for in Wildlife Photography Drones

When it comes to wildlife photography drones, there are a few key features to look for that can make all the difference in capturing stunning images and videos. 

Here are some of the top features to consider:

Camera Quality and Resolution

The camera is perhaps the most important feature of a wildlife photography drone. Look for a drone with a high-quality camera that can capture clear, detailed images and videos. A drone with a high resolution camera will allow you to zoom in and crop images without losing too much detail. Some of the best drones for wildlife photography have cameras that can shoot in 4K or even 8K resolution.

Flight Stability and Duration

Stability and duration are also important factors to consider when choosing a wildlife photography drone. You want a drone that can stay in the air for a decent amount of time, so you can capture as much footage as possible. Additionally, you want a drone that is stable and easy to control, especially in windy conditions. Look for a drone with features such as obstacle avoidance and intelligent flight modes to ensure a safe and stable flight.

Silent Operation

Wildlife can be easily spooked by loud noises, so it’s important to choose a drone that operates quietly. Look for a drone with a low noise level, so you can get as close to the animals as possible without disturbing them. Some drones are designed specifically for quiet operation, with features such as low-noise propellers and sound-dampening materials.

GPS and Tracking Features

GPS and tracking features can be incredibly useful when it comes to wildlife photography. Look for a drone with GPS capabilities, so you can easily track its location and ensure it doesn’t get lost. Additionally, some drones have tracking features that allow them to follow a subject automatically, which can be useful when tracking wildlife.

Tips for Capturing Stunning Wildlife Shots with Your Drone

Capturing stunning wildlife shots with a drone requires a combination of technical skill, patience, and respect for the environment. Here are some tips to help you get the best results:

Understanding Animal Behavior

Before flying your drone, take the time to understand the behavior of the animals you want to photograph. This will help you predict their movements and anticipate the best time to capture the shot. Some animals are easily frightened by drones, so it’s important to keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing them.

Optimal Weather Conditions

The weather can have a significant impact on your drone photography. Overcast days can provide soft, diffused lighting that is ideal for capturing wildlife shots. Windy conditions can make it difficult to control your drone and may cause unwanted camera shake. Always check the weather forecast before heading out to shoot.

Respecting Wildlife and the Environment

When flying your drone, always follow the rules and regulations set by the local authorities. Be respectful of the environment and avoid disturbing wildlife. Keep a safe distance from animals and avoid flying your drone over nesting sites or sensitive habitats. Remember that the safety and well-being of the animals should always come first.

Legal Considerations and Ethics of Drone Wildlife Photography

Drone wildlife photography has become increasingly popular in recent years, but it is important to consider the legal and ethical implications of using drones for this purpose.

Regulations and Permits

Before flying a drone for wildlife photography, it is important to research and understand the regulations and permits required in the area where you plan to fly. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the use of drones for commercial purposes, including wildlife photography. FAA regulations require that drone pilots obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate and follow specific guidelines for flying drones, including maintaining visual line-of-sight and avoiding flying over people or wildlife.

In addition to FAA regulations, some national parks and wildlife refuges may require permits for drone use. It is important to check with the specific park or refuge before flying a drone for wildlife photography.

Privacy and Disturbance to Wildlife

When using drones for wildlife photography, it is important to consider the privacy and disturbance of the animals. Drones can be disruptive to wildlife, causing stress and altering their behavior. It is important to maintain a safe distance from the animals and avoid disturbing their natural habitat.

In addition, it is important to respect the privacy of individuals who may be present in the area where the drone is flying. Drones equipped with cameras can invade the privacy of individuals, and it is important to obtain consent before flying over private property.

Drone Insurance and Liability

Drone pilots should also consider liability and insurance when using drones for wildlife photography. Accidents can happen, and it is important to have liability insurance to protect against damage to property or injury to individuals. Some drone manufacturers offer insurance plans specifically for drone pilots, and it is important to research and understand the coverage options available.

Conclusion

Best drones for wildlife photography

When it comes to wildlife photography, drones are an exciting and innovative way to capture stunning images from a bird’s eye view, access hard-to-reach places, and avoid disturbing wildlife.

For those looking for the absolute best options, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro and the Autel EVO 2 Pro are the top choices. The Mavic 3 Pro boasts a 20-megapixel camera with a 1-inch sensor and 4K video capability, while the EVO 2 Pro has a 6K camera with a 1-inch sensor and 10-bit HDR video. Both drones have impressive flight times and obstacle avoidance features, making them ideal for professional wildlife photographers.

For those looking for a new generation drone, the DJI Air 3 is the best option. It has a 48-megapixel camera with 4K video capability and can fly for up to 34 minutes on a single charge. It’s also lightweight and portable, making it easy to take on outdoor adventures.

For beginners, the DJI Mini 3 is a good option. It’s small, lightweight, and easy to fly, with a 12-megapixel camera and 4K video capability. It also has a long flight time of up to 31 minutes and a range of up to 10 km.

Finally, for those on a budget, the DJI Mini 2 SE is the best option. It’s an affordable drone with a 12-megapixel camera and 4K video capability, as well as a flight time of up to 31 minutes and a range of up to 6 km. Despite its low price, it still has many of the features found on more expensive drones, including obstacle avoidance and GPS.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the top drone for capturing high-quality wildlife photos?

The DJI Mavic 3 Pro is widely considered the best consumer drone for wildlife photography. It has a 20-megapixel camera with a 1-inch CMOS sensor, which captures high-quality images with excellent detail and color accuracy. Its 4K video capabilities also make it a great tool for videographers interested in capturing wildlife footage.

Can I use drones to take pictures of animals without disturbing them?

Yes, drones can be used to take pictures of animals without disturbing them. However, it’s important to be respectful of the animals and their habitats. Drones should be flown at a safe distance and not flown too close to the animals. Additionally, it’s important to check local regulations and obtain any necessary permits before flying a drone in a wildlife area.

Which drones are best for beginners interested in wildlife photography?

The DJI Air 2 SE and the Autel EVO II are both great options for beginners interested in wildlife photography. They are both easy to fly and have excellent cameras that can capture high-quality images. Additionally, they are both relatively affordable compared to some of the higher-end drones on the market.

What are the most cost-effective drones for professional-grade wildlife shots?

The DJI Mavic Air 2 and the Autel EVO II are both great options for professional-grade wildlife shots at a more affordable price point. They both have excellent cameras and are capable of capturing high-quality images and video.

Which drone models offer the ability to shoot in RAW for detailed wildlife images?

The DJI Mavic 3 ProDJI Air 2S, and Autel EVO II Pro all offer the ability to shoot in RAW for detailed wildlife images. Shooting in RAW allows for greater flexibility in post-processing and can result in higher-quality images.

What are the best drones available on Amazon for wildlife photography?

The DJI Mavic 3 ProDJI Air 2S, and Autel EVO II Pro are all available on Amazon and are excellent options for wildlife photography. Additionally, the DJI Mavic Air 2 and the Autel EVO II are more affordable options that are also available on Amazon.

Other Camera Reviews

If you would like to read more about camera options for wildlife photography, make sure you check out our Master Guide to Wildlife Photography Cameras.

For even more specific options, you can check out our other reviews below:

 

Camera Type 

DSLR Cameras 

Mirrorless Cameras 

Compact Cameras 

Drones

 

Skill Level

Cameras for Beginners 

Intermediate-Level Cameras 

Pro Cameras

 

Budget

Cameras Under $1,000 

Cameras Under $2,000

 

Brand 

Sony Cameras 

Canon Cameras 

Nikon Cameras

 
 

Planned activitiy 

Cameras for Bird Photography

Cameras for Shooting Wildlife at Night

Travel-friendly Cameras

Cameras for Safaris

Wildlife Photography Drone Reviews Online

During your research, you might want to consider checking out articles from various publications that provide insights into the best drones for wildlife available.

Below are a few resources that caught my interest.

The Best Drones for Beginners in 2024 (Plus How To Choose)conservationvisuals.com

The Ethics of Wildlife Photography: Drones Meet Animalsfstoppers.com

About the Author

Born and raised in Southern Spain, Antonio quit his job in 2013 to travel the world full-time with his wife Amanda for 10 years straight.

Their passion for adventure and wildlife encounters took them to visit 150+ countries and experience countless of wildlife experiences. They cycled 25,000km + from California to Patagonia, sailed over 10,000NM around the Caribbean & Sea of Cortez, rode their motorbikes 30,000 kms+ across West Africa (Spain to South Africa) and visited Antarctica, among many other adventure expeditions. 

Today Antonio runs Adventure Fix with Amanda, where they share their knowledge about the places they’ve visited and the ones still remaining on their list.

Antonio Cala

Co-Founder of Adventure Fix

Best Drones for Wildlife Photography
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