5 Best Drones to Buy for Surf Photography

Posted on January 8, 2015 by Marc Miller


When someone mentions drones you might first think, invasion of privacy or national security but the term “drone” encompasses a wide variety of flying remotely controlled devices. The first drone was introduced to the public in 1995 by the United States Military and was used for surveillance and soon after fixed with launch weapons and missiles. Since then, drones have gotten smaller and manageable for the public; once primarily a tool of war, the majority of drones sold are sold for personal use in photography and videography.


With affordable easy to use drone options now widely available taking that impossible aerial surf shot or video is easier than ever before. Utilizing GPS navigation to stabilize flight anyone with a small budget can be up and flying in a matter minutes and taking the kind of shots never before imaginable without a helicopter and $10,000 budget. Almost overnight as these drones hit the market surf and sup photography was forever changed. The future of regulation is unknown but one thing is certain, drones will only get more affordable and more advanced. It’s a photographers dream and besides taking amazing never before seen angles they are a blast to fly!


Ranging from under a $100 for a low end drone to up to $3000 for a top of the line professional DSLR camera capable system drones have come a long way in features and price from the early days. If you are ready to step up your photo game here are the Top 5 most popular drones available on the market.


Drones unfortunately are not waterproof (yet) and flying over water can be tricky at times so practice before you attempt. Know your battery life and get your bearings right with altitude and flight controls! We lost our first drone at Isle to the ocean and its not a good feeling watching it sink to the bottom along with all your footage!!!

There is a company called Aquacopter that makes waterproof drone kits but not ready to fly out of the box. If you like to get technical this water kits could be for you!

UDI U818A Quadcopter:

Price: $69.99

Camera: 640×480 pixels.

Battery Life: 7-9 minutes

Low-cost drone: Not all drones that record video are expensive and Quadcopter is proof of that. This drone sells for under $80 and has all the capabilities of shooting video and picture. The Quadcopter is light in body so any flight more than 10 MPH is not advised. If you are new to drones and the quality of picture isn’t that important than this product is perfect for you to get acquainted with drones. Unlike the other drones this model comes with replacement parts and is the best low-priced drone on the market today

Video Quality: Not a lot of footage I could find but here is one Test Video


Price: $800

Camera: 16 MP camera and can record 1080p with 30 fps.

Battery Life: 25 minutes

Newest Model: There aren’t any reviews on this particular drone due to its December release but for the most part all the specs on this drone make it a competitive alternative to the DJI Phantom. The Aries Blackbird offers a host of features such as, the six-axis gimbal gyro to keep it in one place during high winds, an emergency safe return auto land function and an adjustable mobile device mount for attaching a smartphone that is operated by the Aries App. This app is compatible with both iPhone and Android which gives you a first-person view.

Video Quality: As it is only a month old the only footage I could find is This Test Video


Price: $679

Camera: No Camera

Go Pro attachment: $280

Battery Life: 25 minutes

Go Pro Friendly: This particular DJI Phantom model does not come with the built in camera however it offers a Go Pro attachment for an additional price. The Go Pro has a slightly better picture quality than the Vison+ but will be higher in price unless you already own a Go Pro. With that said, if you already own a Go Pro then this model is the best choice between the two.

Video Quality: Niagra Falls


Price: $1,299

Camera: Full HD video at 1080p. Photos are shot at 14 megapixels.

Battery Life: 25 minutes

Editors Pick: What I believe to be the best overall drone, the DJI Phantom 2 with Vision+ has it all and is ready for flight when you open the box. This particular drone has a clear 1080p video mounted camera that sends a live stream back to the device of the controller. This drone has an iPhone or Android app where you can watch real time view and have the option to switch from picture to video. A couple highlights of this drone are the auto return-to-home and landing feature, the ability to have a pre-programmed flight and the 2,000 foot range. This is the most ideal drone for power, price and simplicity.

We love this model and its what we use at Isle for all our photo and video aerial shots. Check out this quick interview with Isle Cofounder discussing the Pros and Cons using DJI Phantom 2+ for the latest photo and video shoots at Isle.



Price: $2,899

Camera: Shoots 4k video and captures 12 megapixel photos

Battery Life: 18 minutes

For the professional: For the creative videographer or business professional this is the drone for you. It has the simple functions of the Phantom 2 with the professional features for the experienced flyer. A unique feature is when the Inspire takes flight the carbon fiber legs will rise above the camera which give a full unrestricted 360⁰ view rotation of video. Similar to the DJI Phantoms, this drone comes with a fully operational app that is compatible with iPhone and androids. This drone has a dual operator mode which allows one person to control the camera while another person controls the flight.

Video Quality: Maui


Posted in Gear Guides

Marc Miller's Photo

Marc Miller -

Co-Founder of Isle Surf & SUP. I started Isle back in 2004 to share my love of paddling and surfing in the ocean with others one board at a time. I love to surf, paddle , travel and write about it. When im not in the office I can be found on foreign shores searching for waves and fun.


Standard shipping is free on all orders. Items are shipped same or next day.


We offer a 60 day trial period from the date of purchase.


Every ISLE product is covered by a 2-year warranty against defects in workmanship and materials.