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Best drone landing pad in 2021

Best drone landing pad - drone on landing pad on grass
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A crucial accessory for many drone operations is a landing pad. You might think they’re just for show, but showing where you’re operating from is actually quite important. Placing them effectively “bagsies” (reserves) a spot on the ground, like throwing a towel at the beach, so people know you’re operating from that spot. 

For a technology with a built-in return-to-home, it’s best that people are likely to give the drone a bit of space. Dare we say it, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded by something a little low-tech exactly where you took off either; drone pilots turn to watch their craft and perhaps cover a little distance without noticing.  

Drone landing pads provide a solution for rough surfaces, all the more important with modern folding drones which all have very short legs. Without a pad, even cut grass can reach the lens of a small drone, and dust and pebbles can strike the propellors. Neither is desirable.

The best landing pads are lightweight and feature a high contrast design. The design should be easy for a drone’s optical-flow sensors to read so landing is smooth. These kick in when near landing and help the drone make smaller, more accurate hovering movements than GPS can. That means high contrast is good; an ‘H’ is actually a fine choice which has the benefit of making sense to untrained passer-by.

Securing the pad to the ground is important too; the drone produces a decent downdraft (most at take-off and landing), so ensure you’re confident in how the pad’s secured. Usually tent pegs make a good choice.

Finally, don’t forget size matters. After years of drones getting smaller, it’d be a shame to have to carry a pad you couldn’t fit in your backpack.

Best Drone Landing Pads 2021

(Image credit: Hoodman)

1. Hoodman HDLP3

A professional choice which doesn’t need pegs

Size open: 91cm (3ft) diameter
Size Packed: 33cm (13-inch)
Ideal for: Mavic, Phantom
Weatherproofing: Zinc Coated
Bag: : Supplied
Weight: 5lb / 2.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Can be used without pegs +Bag features warning design
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively expensive-Heavier than a peg-only pad

This sprung loop pops up (and can be pushed back) in seconds, so setup is fast, while pegging it down is optional thanks to the weighted loop. We’d still recommend it, but it’s a great option to have, opening up the choice of taking off from surfaces (like rocks) a standard pop-out pad, which needs pegging down, simply isn’t going to allow.

We like the Hoodman landing pads because they’re good quality products which go a little further than needed; there is a repeat of the ‘H’ design on the outside of the bag which could be stuck on a tripod as a warning sign (or even used as a tiny pad). Another sign of that care is the addition of more than the bare minimum three peg loops on the outer ring, so if you do peg down there are choices.

(Image credit: PGYTECH)

2. PGYTECH 75cm Landing Pad

Budget choice that’ll keep the grass from the lens

Size open: 75cm (30 inches) diameter
Size Packed: 30cm (12 in)
Ideal for: Air 2 / Air 2S
Weatherproofing: Nylon fabric
Bag: : Yes
Weight: 300g
Reasons to buy
+Double-sided+Clear design
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal approach to peg loops-Stitching needs checking for lose threads

Very reasonably priced, the PGYTECH isn’t quite a no-frills fold-out pad – it does have one surprise underneath: a second color. We all like a choice, from time to time, and you might find one is better suited to the environment or even your aircraft’s behaviour (though that seems less likely). The fabric is simply nylon, keeping things very low weight, so carrying it with your gear isn’t much of a chore, though over time the stitching of the (slightly stingy) three loops for the pegs could be better and the sewing of the nylon to the zip on the bag could be better too. Nevertheless, this is a low-cost solution to the issues posed by grass or sand (anywhere you can peg).

(Image credit: STARTRC)

3. STARTRC Drone Landing Pad, 65cm

Flat-folding multi-surface drone pad

Size open: 75cm
Size Packed: 33 x 22cm (15.6 x 8.7in)
Ideal for: Air 2S, Mavic series, DJI FPV etc.
Weatherproofing: simulated leather-style plastic
Bag: : No
Weight: 800g / 1.74lb
Reasons to buy
+Ideal weighting for multiple surfaces+Easy to fold+Fits some packs batter than round pads
Reasons to avoid
-Shape less efficient than a circle-No case included

While a lot of creatives and camping enthusiasts are well used to the pop-out principles of the circular pads, lighting reflectors and the like, there are some who find them a little confusing. If you count yourself among them, then a traditional fold is a much easier alternative, which can also have the virtue of fitting into a rectangular backpack. This pad is weighted, so in low winds it can be placed on multiple surfaces – opening up rocky ground – while it also has the option of being pegged in place too. The simulated leather material is water resistant so easily cleaned, but we would have liked it to have a case to, even if it’s not a necessity – it won’t pop open like others on the list!

(Image credit: FlatHat)

4. FlatHat 16-inch

Collapsible pad for compact drones

Size open: 40cm (16in)
Size Packed: 16cm (6in)
Ideal for: Mini drones, indoor drones
Weatherproofing: Nylon material
Bag: : Yes
Weight: 100g (3.5oz)
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight pad+Strong graphic design+Racing target
Reasons to avoid
- Small target to land on--Could use more 

You might wonder what a small landing pad is good for; there are several answers. You might make it the start-and-ending point of a competition with indoor drones, or release largely indoor drones on the world on a nice day. Models like the Ryze Tello, which have optical flow sensors, will definitely appreciate this pad’s contrasty design. 40cm is also a good size for the popular DJI Mini 2  which definitely benefit from camera protection at take off. The size and weight of the pad, especially packed, is definitely not going to be a problem, and if you can’t visualize it, the diameter is roughly the same as the length of a ‘real’ computer keyboard with numeric keypad. Cautious flyers might even get airborne with a drone the size of an DJI Air 2S from here, though you’d only be protecting the camera, not the propellors.

(Image credit: Skyreet)

5. Skyreet 50cm Landing Pad

Simple folding pad for compact drones

Size open: 50cm / 20 inch
Size Packed: 26 x 18cm (10 x 7 in)
Ideal for: DJI Mini etc.
Weatherproofing: simulated leather-style PVC
Bag: : Yes
Weight: 500g / 1.74lb
Reasons to buy
+Different colours on each side+Keeps shape on rough surfaces+Contrasty ‘H’ in centre
Reasons to avoid
-No peg holes

A smaller variant of the concept seen in the STARTRC above, this folding weighted plastic pad is ideally suited to smaller drones like the DJI Mavic Mini / Mini SE series , aircraft so small they’re notoriously difficult to find a safe spot to take off with. The pad’s size means it can be rested on a rocky beach and keep enough flatness to be used and the central white H in the design is a nice touch as it adds contrast for the drone’s sensor as it gets close. The lack of peg holes means this will only be useful in circumstances you’re not expecting it to blow away; a DJI Mini won’t flip it over and they don’t enjoy very windy days either, so that’s probably OK, but it would have been nice to have the choice.

(Image credit: AURTEC)

6. AURTEC Drone Landing Pad

Quick fold pad bundled with LEDs for night landing

Size open: 80cm (32in)
Size Packed: 31cm (12in)
Ideal for: Air 2S, Mavic series, DJI FPV etc.
Weatherproofing: Nylon material
Bag: : Yes
Weight: 400g including accessories
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight pad+LEDs included
Reasons to avoid
-Reflective strips don’t stick-LEDs not green

The Aurtec is a similar product to the usually cheaper PGYTECH, a pop-out circle, and indeed you’ll find others manufactured by unknown brands. What makes this stand out is that it ships with LED lights designed to assist with night landing, assuming you have permission for night operations with your aviation authority. It also ships with reflective strips, though we’ve not been able to find much of a use for them – they might even confuse some drones as they land. We’re also surprised that the LEDs weren’t green – the color less likely to affect your night vision which you’ll see used on real helipads.

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Adam Juniper

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook