SD cards for camera drones
I am often asked by readers which SD card is best for drones. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to give a general answer to this question, which is why recommendations are made here for different price classes with regard to the memory card. In addition, I will discuss various aspects that owners of high-quality camera drones such as the DJI Mavic Pro, DJI Mavic Air or Parrot Anafi should consider when purchasing their SD card.
Why do I need an SD card?
Drones usually have an internal memory where firmware and necessary data are stored. However, if it is a drone with a camera, additional photo and video files must be stored, for which the internal memory is not used. This is where external SD cards come into play. These not only offer plenty of space for many pictures and hours of video material, but are also ideal for transferring said data to the computer.
Those who want to buy a drone and didn’t think of an SD card don’t have to be afraid: In most models a memory card is already included in the scope of delivery. Mini drones in the lower price range up to 100 or 200 Euros are usually 2 GB to 4 GB cards, which are mediocre in terms of quality. They are loosely sufficient for the return use, if you want to film more, you should upgrade.
How much storage space should it have?
Syma X5C Explorer
Parrot Bebop 2
64 GB +
DJI Mavic Pro
Who flies and films with a cheap drone with HD camera hardly needs more than 4 GB – if you empty the card regularly. The 4000 MB would be enough for 4000 photos or about an hour of video.
However, it becomes problematic with drones that record with FullHD or 4K, such as the DJI Mavic Air, DJI Mavic Pro (or even DJI Mavic 2 Pro?), phantom models or drones from Yuneec. Here, every single 12 megapixel aerial photo comes to a good 2-3 megabytes – plus RAW format, which should actually always be made for image processing. Even without video files, the cheap memory card would be full in no time, which is why good drones are strongly advised to buy a sufficiently large SD card.
There are now three choices: On the one hand a small 32 GB card, the next larger version with 64 Gigabyte or simply number safe with 128 GB. With this one is on the safe side even with long flights and does not need after each flight the data on the PC or the external hard disk store.
I bought 2 large SD cards with 128 GB for trips in which I fly a lot and cannot transfer data to hard disks. For normal Otton consumers a 32 GB card or 64 GB micro SD card thick is sufficient!
How important is write speed for drones?
Syma X5C Explorer
Class 10 to V30
Parrot Bebop 2
V30 to V90
DJI Mavic Air
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The topic of the maximum write speed of an SD card is very interesting. It is characterized by classes or often by colors (silver, gold) or terms like “ultra” or similar. The speed classes are 2-10, whereas class 10 is the fastest. Due to the fall in prices for storage media, even Class 10 Micro SD cards have become very cheap, so you shouldn’t buy any lower ones. The respective class provides information about the data rates with which the card can be written.
A Class 10 card therefore writes with a maximum of 10 MB/s, which would still be okay for a FullHD drone, but too low for a 4K video. So you have to choose an SD card that writes more MB/s than a standard Class 10 mircoSD card.
What does MB/s mean for drones? Attention source of error!
The DJI Mavic Air writes with 4K recordings with up to 100 MB/s, which many pilots mistakenly interpret as 100 MegaBYTE per second. That would be hahnebüchen a lot, which is why it should be clear that this is 100 MegaBIT per second – an eighth of that. But even these 12.5 MegaByte per second of the Mavic Air (7.5 MB/s with the DJI Mavic Pro) are too much for a standard Class 10 card.
For this reason there are the Video Speed Classes V10, V30 V60 and V90, which can write with up to 90 Megabyte/s (720 MegaBit/s).
Okay, what does that mean?
The many numbers are only to clarify: Just because you have a 4K drone doesn’t mean you have to buy a high-end microSD card!
A memory card with 64 GB and an absolutely sufficient speed costs 15 Euro*.
If you want to be absolutely sure, you should buy the larger 128 GB V30 luxury version for 27 Euro*.