The Best American made drones offer reliable performance, complete feature sets, and NDAA compliance to operate in critical infrastructure environments.
In recent years, the drone industry has made a rather large pivot away from foreign drones and shifted to domestic drones.
Enterprise and government organizations operating in the US drone industry are unable to use Chinese made drones.
These organizations are required to transition away from companies like DJI and find American drones to replace their aging fleet.
American made drones are ultimately NDAA-approved drones.
In the drone industry, “NDAA compliance” is a short way of saying “ensuring supply chain security.”
NDAA compliance involves a federal law that prevents the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) from purchasing drones that fall into one of these categories:
This law, called Section 848 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), identified China as the “covered foreign country.”
Subsequently, in 2022, Congress expanded this law to include Russia, Iran, and North Korea. More recently, Congress made it even broader by including private companies as well.
Starting in October 2024, private companies won’t be able to use DJI drones for Department of Defense contracts.
However, drones on the Blue UAS Cleared list are exempt from the DoD’s policy exception requirement because they have undergone cybersecurity and NDAA compliance evaluations, and have been issued the necessary administrative documentation.
The Blue sUAS 2.0 project has incorporated the following drones into the DIU Blue UAS Cleared List:
It is important to note that the Blue SUAS list is drone-specific, not manufacturer-specific.
These drones can work in critical environments. They can be inspecting railroads, conducting solar inspections in sensitive environments operated by government entities, or even inspecting our utilities.
This list does include drones that are made in foreign countries but are in compliance with security standards.
American Drones are approved to fly in American airspace for government entities or to be flown around critical infrastructure.
While companies like DJI have vastly dominated the commercial verticals of the industry, they’re being phased out quickly and aggressively.
The evolution and transition to only domestically made drones have been accelerating.
Recently, Florida enforced a ban on Chinese made drones for public safety and public works agencies. This has caused numerous drone programs to shut down.
These departments now need to raise new funds to purchase domestically made drones.
We have a detailed drone guide for public safety that compares many domestically made drones.
While many new drones have popped up in the marketplace, few drone manufacturers are able to deliver a reliable platform to perform creative and technical tasks.
Many of these new domestically approved or U.S. made drones have been catching up in features and payload offerings, like DJI’s M30T.
There have been a few clear front-runners in the domestic space.
The best American (or domestically approved) drones are:
Let’s take a look at each of these drones and find out more about their features, capabilities, and limitations.
Freefly Astro | Source: Freefly
The Freefly Astro is a cinematic drone designed for professional filmmakers. It has a carbon fiber frame and a payload capacity of up to 20 pounds, making it ideal for carrying large cameras and lenses. The Astro also features many advanced features, such as a built-in GPS, a return-to-home function, and obstacle avoidance.
|Dimensions (unfolded, with props)||1407 mm|
|Maximum gross takeoff weight||6665 g|
|Maximum payload||1500 g|
|Flight time||Up to 37 minutes (typical flights with Mapping Payload are 25-32 minutes)|
|Battery type||Freefly SuperLight Batteries (SL8-Air) – 6S|
|Camera compatibility||Wide range of professional cinema and mapping cameras|
|Payload compatibility||Mapping Payload, Wiris Pro Payload (Thermal), and other custom payloads|
|Flight controller||Freefly Custom Designed Skynode|
|Flight controller software||Auterion Enterprise PX4 (custom for Astro)|
Parrot Anafi Ai | Source: Parrot
The Parrot Anafi Ai is a compact and lightweight drone that is perfect for beginners and experienced users alike. It features a 21-megapixel camera with 4K video recording capabilities, as well as many AI-powered features, such as automatic tracking and subject recognition. The Anafi Ai also has a long flight time of up to 25 minutes.
Anafi Ai Drone | Competitive All-in-One Commercial Drone
|Feature||Parrot Anafi Ai|
|Camera sensor||48 MP 1/2” CMOS sensor|
|Video resolution||4K UHD at 60 fps, HDR8, and HDR10 support|
|Photo resolution||48 MP|
|Zoom||6x digital zoom|
|Flight time||Up to 26 minutes|
|Range||Up to 4 kilometers|
|AI features||Automatic subject tracking, obstacle avoidance, intelligent flight modes|
Skydio 2+ | Source: Skydio
The Skydio 2+ is a professional drone that is known for its advanced autonomous flight capabilities and high-quality camera. It is a significant upgrade from the original Skydio 2, with some new features and improvements.
With two omnidirectional external antennas, the Skydio 2+ can fly up to 6 kilometers away from the controller, compared to 3.5 kilometers for the original Skydio 2. This makes it ideal for long-distance flights and aerial photography.
The Skydio 2+ uses six cameras and six AI cores to create a 360-degree map of its surroundings, allowing it to avoid obstacles even in complex environments.
|Weight (With Battery)||800 g|
|Flight Time||Up to 27 minutes|
|Max Flight Speed (Sea Level, No Wind)||36 mph|
|Operational Temperature Range||-5°C to 40°C|
|Color Video Resolution||4K / 60 fps with 3x digital zoom|
|Advanced Ai-Pilot Assistance||360 Superzoom, Close Proximity, Obstacle Avoidance, Point-of-Interest Orbit, Track-in-Place, Vertical View, Visual Return-to-Home|
Sony Airpeak S1 | Source: Sony
The Sony Airpeak S1 is a professional drone that is designed for filmmakers and photographers. It has a carbon fiber frame and a payload capacity of up to 11 pounds, making it ideal for carrying large cameras and lenses. The Airpeak S1 also features many advanced features, such as a built-in GPS, a return-to-home function, and obstacle avoidance.
|Feature||Sony Airpeak S1|
|Dimensions||700 x 600 x 220 mm (unfolded)|
|Weight||2525 g (including batteries and gimbal)|
|Max takeoff weight||4.9 kg|
|Flight time||Up to 22 minutes (with Alpha 7S III and CineAlta V1 camera)|
|Max speed||80 km/h (Sport mode)|
|Max wind resistance||45 km/h|
|Transmission system||OcuSync 3 Enterprise|
|Control range||Up to 12 km|
|Camera compatibility||Sony Alpha series, Sony Cinema Line|
|Obstacle avoidance||Yes (upward, downward, forward, backward)|
|Intelligent flight modes||Yes (CineFrame, ActiveTrack, Waypoint, etc.)|
Wingtra One | Source: Wingtra
Wingtra is a Swiss company that specializes in high-performance mapping drones. Their drones are used by professionals in a variety of industries, including surveying, construction, and agriculture. Wingtra drones are known for their accuracy, reliability, and ease of use.
The Wingtra One is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing drone that is designed for high-precision aerial surveying and mapping. It is a popular choice for professionals in a variety of industries, including construction, engineering, and mining.
|Weight||2.7 kg (6 lbs)|
|Payload||Sony RX1R II, Sony a6100, RGB61|
|Resolution||42.4 MP, 24.2 MP, 61.5 MP|
|GSD||Down to 0.7 cm/px|
|Accuracy||Horizontal: down to 1 cm (0.4 in) Vertical: down to 3 cm (1.2 in)|
|Flight time||Up to 59 minutes|
|Wind resistance||Max sustained wind: 12 m/s (27 mph) Max wind gusts: 18 m/s (40 mph)|
|Communication||Bi-directional 10 km (6 mi) in direct line of sight|
|Safety features||Obstacle avoidance, return to home, fail-safe|
Lemur 2 | Source: Bric Drones
Brinc Drones is a US drone company that specializes in heavy-lift drones. Their drones are used to transport cargo in a variety of industries, including construction, logistics, and disaster relief. Brinc drones are known for their ability to lift heavy payloads and fly long distances.
The Brinc Lemur 2 is a next-generation public safety drone that is designed to give law enforcement and first responders the eyes and ears they need to stay safe and respond to emergencies more effectively.
|Dimensions||630 x 560 x 240 mm|
|Flight time||55 minutes|
|Payload||4K visual camera, FLIR thermal camera, spotlight, night vision illuminator, microphone, and loudspeaker|
|Resolution||4K visual camera, 160×120 thermal camera|
|Video resolution||4K at 60 fps|
|Video format||MP4, MOV|
|Communication||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE|
|Navigation||GPS, GLONASS, Galileo|
|Positioning accuracy||1 cm|
|Return to home||Yes|
Raven B | Source: AeroVironment
AeroVironment specializes in small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Their UAVs are used by the military, law enforcement, and commercial customers.
AeroVironment UAVs are known for their small size, long endurance, and advanced capabilities.
AeroVironment’s drones are employed by both the military and commercial sectors across the globe, performing a wide range of missions, including:
AeroVironment is renowned for its drones’ key attributes, including their lightweight construction, portability, and user-friendly operation.
The Raven B, the company’s flagship drone, is among the most widely deployed UAVs worldwide.
Raven B | Source: AeroVironment
In addition to drones, AeroVironment also manufactures Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) and High-Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (HAPS).
UGVs are ground-based unmanned vehicles, while HAPS are high-altitude drones capable of extended flight durations.
Here are specific examples of AeroVironment’s drones and their applications:
|Payloads||Mantis™ i23: Dual 5 MP EO/IR + LWIR
Mantis™ i23 D: Dual 18 MP EO
|Speed||Cruise: 32 km/h, Dash: 81 km/h|
|Operating Altitude||100–500 ft (30–152 m) AGL, typical
Max. launch 14k ft (4,267 m) MSL
|Gcs||Crysalis™ & legacy common GCS|
|Recovery Method||Autonomous or manual precision deep-stall landing|
Harris Aerial H6 HL | Source: Harris Aerial
Harris Aerial specializes in advanced drone systems. Their drones are used by the military, government agencies, and commercial customers. Harris Aerial drones are known for their ruggedness, reliability, and advanced capabilities.
Harris Aerial H6 HL comes with a robust thrust capability of over 300 pounds. The Carrier H6 HL is well-equipped to handle the most demanding payloads.
|Operation Temperature||-20°C to 49°C|
|Max Takeoff Weight||95 kg|
|Max Payload||40 kg|
|Flight Time||45 mins. (No Payload)|
|Flight Modes||GPS Loiter, Altitude Hold, Fully Autonomous|
|GPS||Dual RTK GNSS|
|Dimensions (folded)||1000mm x 1000mm x 355.6mm|
Easy Aerial Raptor | Source: Easy Aerial
Easy Aerial was founded in 2015. The company is known for its consumer-friendly drones that are easy to fly and affordable. Easy Aerial drones are also known for their high-quality cameras and long flight times.
Raptor is a groundbreaking hybrid drone that combines the limitless flight capability of a tether with the advanced ability of up to 45 minutes of untethered free flight.
With a versatile payload capacity, Raptor can be equipped with a wide range of sensors and equipment to meet the needs of any mission.
Predominantly operating in tethered mode for prolonged situational awareness, Raptor can be quickly untethered and dispatched for free-flight ISR missions when triggered by an operator command, alarm, or onboard sensors.
Once its mission is complete, the Raptor will autonomously return to its ground station for a precision landing.
|Weight||5.5 kg (12.12 lb) w/o payload|
|Payload||3.0 kg (6.6 lb)|
|Free Flight||45 minutes|
|Speed||100 km/h (62.13 mph)|
|Distance||20 km (12.4 miles)|
|Endurance||All Weather (Rain, Snow, Fog)|
IF800 | Source: Inspired Flight
Inspired Flight is a drone manufacturing company that was founded in 2017. The company is known for its high-performance drones that are designed for professional and industrial use. Inspired Flight drones are known for their powerful cameras, long flight times, and durability.
The Inspired Flight IF800 Tomcat is a medium-lift industrial-grade drone that is designed for a variety of commercial and government applications.
It is the first NDAA-compliant industrial-grade drone to deliver a flight time of around 40 minutes while carrying some of the most popular high-resolution cameras and sensors out there.
The IF800 Tomcat can carry a payload of up to 3 kilograms, which is enough for a variety of popular cameras and sensors.
|Diagonal Size (propeller center to center)||935 mm|
|Unfolded Size (flight ready, WxLxH)||135 x 116 x 45 cm|
|Empty Weight (w/o batteries)||3.5 kg|
|Weight w/ Batteries||7.7 kg|
|Max Payload Capacity||3.0 kg|
|Max Tilt Angle||30°|
|Operating Temperature||-10°C ~ 40°C|
|Flight Controller||CubePilot Cube Blue H7|
|Operating Software||Copter by Ardupilot|
|RTL||Auto returns to takeoff location and lands|
|Land||Auto land while maintaining horizontal position|
|Altitude Hold||Holds altitude only, failsafe mode if GPS signal lost|
Skyhero Loki Mk II | Source: Sky-Hero
The SkyHero Loki Mk II is a small tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for close-quarters and indoor reconnaissance missions. It is ruggedized and can fly in dark and obstacle-rich environments. The Loki Mk II is also GPS-denied, meaning that it can operate in areas where GPS signals are not available.
|Features||Loki Mk II|
|Weight w/o battery||380gm|
|Payload max weight||150gm|
|Operating Temperature||-20°C to 50°C|
|Basic Equipment||6-axis IMU, Barometer, Sonar, Optical Flow, EO/IR Camera, HD Mic, 4x IR LEDs|
When considering the best U.S. drones that allow pilots to capture epic aerial video and flight autonomous missions for mapping deliverables, the list slims significantly.
Drone pilots ultimately want a portable, easy-to-use, and reliable drone.
Few drone manufacturers have been able to deliver that package at a reasonable price point.
Domestically developed drones have ended up costing drone pilots much higher amounts.
Albeit the pivot to American-approved drones is here to stay. The barrier to entry has gone up, but that could mean higher pay days for drone pilots.
Choosing the perfect drone is easier with our recommendations based on your needs and operations:
Parrot Anafi Ai
Parrot Anafi Ai offers a powerful solution for drone mappers. Dubbed the first 5G cellularly controlled drone, Parrot has significantly improved the Parrot Anafi platform.
The Parrot Anafi Ai looks completely different from the Parrot Anafi USA. The USA model is a significantly underpowered drone and has a very limited operating distance.
The Parrot Anafi Ai offers a 48MP camera sensor with an intuitive control application, making it easy for pilots to pick up the remote and get to work.
The drone does offer mapping capability; as we noted in our review video, the drone can fly mapping (acquisition) missions faster, but processing data took much longer to complete due to the camera being an LRS shutter.
When compared against a Phantom 4 Pro Version 2, the Anafi Ai’s map took 2 hours more time to process data.
If drone pilots are using cloud processing, the Parrot Anafi Ai does offer a speed advantage for completing orthomosaics over the network.
Paired with Pix4d Cloud, maps can be produced as fast as the data is captured. The imagery is uploaded over the 5G network right to Pix4d Cloud.
We would also say the Parrot Anafi Ai is the best portable drone solution as well.
FreeFly Astro | Source: Freefly
FreeFly Systems has developed an insanely powerful drone called the Astro.
While the Astro is a medium-sized quadcopter, it has the capability of folding and flying a 61 MP Sony camera. Freefly’s Astro drone offers an impressive 37-minute flight time, autonomous mission capability, and payload flexibility.
The Free Fly Astro operates on an Auterion Flight Controller. It is by far one of our favorite drones to fly, as it has superior handling.
Freefly Systems Astro is a great drone to consider for your enterprise operations. The Astro Mapper sells for $21,000.00
A close competitor to the Freefly Astro drone is the Sony Airpeak Drone. Specially made for cinematographers.
Wingtra Gen II
The best fixed wing mapping drone has to go to the Wingtra One by Wingtra.
The fixed wing drone offers payload flexibility and advanced geo-referencing methods.
With the Wingtra Hub workflow, pilots actually require less equipment to create geo-referenced orthomosaics.
Due to the flight characteristics of the Wingtra, the drone can map almost 400 acres per hour.
Big projects call for big drones, and Wingtra delivers a reliable mapping drone that can get the job done. The Wingtra can also fly multispectral cameras with multiple camera payload options.
The best American security drone hands down goes to Easy Aerial. Easy Aerial manufactures the SAMS-T platform.
This drone-in-a-box solution offers one of the few tethered drone solutions that can ditch the tether and fly for up to 45 minutes.
This drone can even be launched and recovered from a moving vehicle as well. It offers a powerful payload with thermal capabilities as well.
The SAMS-T system comes with the Easy Aerial Osprey drone, a multi-payload hexacopter.
These hardcore drones offer the most robust profile of all the aircraft mentioned.
To discover American approved drones and determine which ones best suit your needs, explore our Drone Guide available on our Props Public Safety Training page.
Drone U Course Library includes courses on the Anafi Ai, and the Skydio S2, coming soon. Wingtra, Airpeak and Astro trainings. These same training are available on our Enterprise Training Platform – PROPS.
Several American drone manufacturers offer a range of products tailored for consumer use. Prominent examples include the Skydio 2 and the GoPro Karma Quadcopter.
These drones boast features like obstacle avoidance and portability, making them excellent choices for recreational purposes.
No, EXO drones are not manufactured in the United States.
They are produced in collaboration with partners based in Hong Kong, while the company is legally owned, operated, and maintains warehousing within the United States.
DJI is not an American company; it is a Chinese manufacturer known for producing drones. For a significant period, DJI held a dominant position in the U.S. drone market.
The U.S. Department of Defense and numerous American lawmakers have raised concerns about DJI being a potential national security risk.
DJI holds the position of the world’s leading drone manufacturer. With a global market share exceeding 70%, DJI is renowned for its combination of top-tier quality and affordability. DJI drones cater to a diverse clientele, spanning from individual consumers to professionals and various businesses. They serve a multitude of functions, encompassing aerial photography, videography, agricultural applications, construction, and public safety.
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