The Best Case For Your Drone

best case for drones

UPDATED :  

Picking the right carry case can turn your drone from a fragile curiosity to a go-anywhere tool and take the worry out of travelling. Here we check out your options, including the latest offering from LowePro.

The question at hand? "Is there a lot you can say about bags and carry cases for drones?" The answer, of course, is yes. To expand upon the point: The right bag or carry case is the single-most important thing you can buy to go with your drone; the right bag will both extend the aircraft's life by protecting it, and in the day-to-day extend how far you can travel with the drone before you take off.

Some manufacturers do make a nod toward the bag concept in their packaging. Two popular examples are the DJI Inspire and the Yuneec Q500. The DJI Inspire 1 arrives in a big plastic briefcase that looks a little like something a low-rent assassin might carry rifle-parts in.

It's a fantastic case for shipping and storage, although there's no getting over the fact the Inspire case is bulky and inconvenient (as well as somewhat flimsy) for real-world usage.

Unzip it (yes, the two plastic shells are sealed with a zip, and early on it was the lowest-quality zip we've ever encountered) and inside you'll find the components sealed in pre-cut EPP Styrofoam which actually makes for a great travel case until the zip fails.

Owners of the original Inspire 1 that make the decision to add the X5 camera, however, are less fortunate. Not only do they need to fork out around $95 for the new camera mounting plate but they'll find it won't fit into the foam inserts.

They must then decide whether to take a carving knife to their packaging or fork out another $135 for new foam inserts for the carry case (or, if the zip has failed, a full $230 for a new case with inserts).

The Yuneec Typhoon Q500 and its monster-sized big brother the Tornado H920 both come in stunningly rugged (if slightly cuboid) flight-style cases, with lockable clips to hold the aircraft.

These EPP inserts will need to be replaced when you update your Inspire from the X3 to X5 camera mount, a stealthy $135 just to keep using your box!

They're flight-style, although they're not built to the standard a roadie might expect, but then weight is more of a factor with a multicopter and the outside of this case definitely feels like it's going to last longer than anything any of the other manufacturers simply throw in.

Neither of these, however, is especially portable in practice. They're both too bulky and too heavy to move across a field without incurring extreme discomfort, and it starts to become very apparent that a shape that makes sense when you're trying to cram as much product as you can into a shipping container is unlikely to be economically practical.

DRONE CASE OPTIONAL EXTRAS

An alternative approach - step forward the Phantom and 3DR Solo - is for a manufacturer to ship the multirotor without a decent travelling bag at all. keeping costs to a minimum, but to then offer bags of their own design. These have their advantages and disadvantages.

In the 'for' column there is the fact that it'll be designed to fit your aircraft perfectly, and obviously if you're picking up a new drone this is important since no one else will have seen those specs.

That's why it was so pleasing for 3DR fans that the company saw fit to provide a bag right out of the gate - they were the relative late-comers to the market and perhaps few other companies would have done so.

This adaptor is one way to convert the Inspire case into a backpack. It's cheap online, but prepare yourself for many minutes of fiddling with straps as you remove and re-insert the main case.

DJI also offers bags for its popular Phantom range. For the Phantom 3 there is a hard shell backpack. At $200 it is built from similar EPP as the Inspire case, with a deep insert in the case that holds the aircraft, controller and up to three spare batteries.

The accessory holes will take an iPad or battery charger and the props (which are, of course, removed). On the other side of the flap another EPP moulding protects the top of the aircraft when the case is closed (in fact it's the 'lid' that rests against your back).

Here the hard shell is given a soft underbelly in the form of soft-touch backpack materials, and it has all the trimmings you'd expect from a high-end backpack; breathable back padding and a chest strap to keep the shoulder straps in place when you're covering ground. On the downside there are no small protective pockets or places for things such as your Micro SD cards.

Solid but not easy to carry. Yuneec's flight cases are impressive and all the more so for not being restricted to their most expensive aircraft.

Pilots can also opt for the significantly larger soft backpack, which offers much more flexibility in terms of storage - there's a complete array of pockets and good quality tear-resistant fabric. Oddly at the moment this doesn't seem to be considered a Phantom 4 compatible product, even though the bays inside must be more flexible.

Pricing, however, is a truly eye-watering $430; it's huge since this is a co-branded product from camera equipment manufacturer Manfrotto who isn't known for playing in the bottom end of the market.

Lucky owners of the Phantom 4 who have decided they need more than the shipping container have not been forgotten though.

manfrotto phantom drone soft case

Designed by Manfrotto, the Phantom Soft case (above) is nearly as impressive as it is pricey.

Alongside the new aircraft DJI has brought out a kind of hybrid hard shell case that seems to offer all of the external strength of the earlier model, bolstered by a more flexible arrangement inside, with additional pockets on the outside and space for our MacBook Pro.

It looks and feels like the interior of a German car and currently sells for $230 - although early adopters may find that the Phantom 4 will reach them three or four weeks before the bag.

DRONE BAG SPECIALISTS

Manufacturer designed bags are all well and good, but there is a certain tendency for their designers to think from the brand or the product's perspective rather than the user.

Tight mouldings which are only a fit for the manufacturer's default specifications offer no room for after-market changes to the aircraft or non-approved accessories, and a great big logo on the back can draw the wrong kind of attention.

Oh, and when you make an upgrade the whole thing may no longer fit, which is hardly ideal. Step forth the dedicated bag providers, like LowePro and its recently launched DroneGuard BackPack 450.

Deceptively compact and super-rigid, this Phantom 3 case doesn't offer a lot of flexibility. At best you can sneak a snack bar into a free battery slot!

This bag is designed for a Phantom 3 or 3DR Solo sized aircraft, and is constructed with stiffened sides to give it close to the strength and security of a hard shell, without the shiny external plastic you might expect.

This moulded impact protection is what LowePro calls FormShell, and it's further bolstered by the arrangement of the two accessory holders above and below the aircraft which effectively form pillars when the bag is closed.

which case for my drone

The internal arrangement can even be tweaked to your liking, with the internal DroneGuard components (both inside and outside the rigid pillar bins) attached using Velcro, just as the internal dividers can be moved around in a professional camera bag.

Whether you're a 30R Solo owner or not, this bag oozes appeal.

Given LowePro's heritage, this is no coincidence; the company was founded in 1967 by Greg Lowe, who designed an internal frame backpack in his garage that could keep gear as close to an adventurer's back as possible, with the goal being improved stability.

Indeed when packing any backpack it's good to keep the weightier items on the side which will rest against you.

Brand agnosticism means you might not need a bag for every drone, just the ones you're stepping out with.

Props are stored individually by means of a series of elastic loops in the lid; a nicer solution than simply dumping them in a void as some hard-case bags encourage, though we'd suggest a bit of care in your choice of loop.

Phantom pilots will certainly spot some potential for the motors to connect with the props when the bag is closed, and that can't be good.

A (TRADE) MARK OF QUALITY

In addition to all that internal storage, the bag features ample space in the top flap to keep even more accessories, perhaps some sandwiches or maybe the weather shield cover (sorry, the "All-Weather AW Cover") that's included with the bag.

Below that, accessed from the inside, is space for a 10" tablet in what - in another trademarked term - is called a CradleFit pocket. There are two more zippered pockets on either side, though somehow these have escaped their own branded names.

3dr drone case for sale

Coming very soon, the Phantom 4 case (above left) looks very promising, although the LowePro 450 (above right) is another solution.

Keeping all this in place on your back is what LowePro calls the ActivZone (yes, another trademark) harness, which is one of the best we've experienced on any backpack (and we don't say that lightly - this writer is one of those Josh Lyman-like grown men who still takes a backpack to work every day rather than succumb to the stiff and traditional briefcase, so it's an area we invest in).

...inside a traditional hard case it brings a whole new raft of flexibility.

Rather than just a few areas of padding, the entire rear surface of the backpack has a system of ventilated pads so you don't need to worry about conforming to a standard body shape. The padding also continues over the straps which offer chest and belt links.

a case for dji drone

All of this is remarkably lightweight, too. "Our design and development teams are drone enthusiasts who fly, almost daily," says Tim Grimmer, LowePro's VP of Brand and Product. He also adds that design is driven "from their direct experiences and those of our expanding user community."

If the bag's interior has some appeal to you but you'd rather forego the external armoured shell, then LowePro has got you covered there, too, with a slightly unusual product for the bag space called the DroneGuard Kit.

The rigid structural elements are very much in evidence in the design of the 450.

In a world of hard cases and guarantees of strength and protection, the DroneGuard Kit seems like something of an anomaly - it looks and feels a bit like a soft old toolbox for carrying your drone parts in.

Basically that's what it is, but to consider it on its own is to miss the point. This is a relatively accessibly priced way of adding strong drone-friendly padding and pockets to any other case, as we can see when the kit is paired with a LowePro hard case.

ON THE CASE

In this day and age, tried and trusted brands are not by any means the only way to get hold of a protective case for your drone, and we won't waggle any stern fingers about how saving money now could wind up costing you more later.

Even before you put it in a box. the DroneGuard kit looks intriguing.

Personally we've wound up with a couple of bags we're not extremely happy about, and a couple that are perfectly adequate so long as they don't work their way to the bottom of the car boot!

It might simply be a 'case' of matching your needs to your budget, as different pilots may carry differing extras and accessories. Either way, choosing the right bag is an important decision for any drone owner - so consider all of your options and choose wisely.

drone bags cheap