With literally thousands of models to choose from, finding the best drone for you can be a challenge, and that’s where we come in. Over the years, we have had the pleasure of experimenting with dozens of drones; some geared towards more casual hobbyists and some for professionals and competitors.
That said, we’re going to review and compare the models that impressed us the most.
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- 6-Axis Gyro Stabilization System
- Wind-Resistant Control
- 3 Different Speed Modes
- Different speed levels
- LED lights for night flyers
- Bumpers for the propellers
- Short flight time
- Global Positioning System
- 1080P HD Live View FPV Camera
- Front and Rear LED Lights
- Live video streaming
- Good flight time
- Good remote control reception
- No gimbals on the camera
- 2.7K video and 12MP stills
- Live video feed gives you a 720p HD
- Radio controller
- Ideal for Aerial videographers
- 1500m Control Range
- GPS assisted flight
- Battery replacement is expensive
- 720P FPV camera and 5.8GHz LCD
- One button take off
- Headless Modes & 360°Flip
- LCD display on remote
- Real-time streaming
- Seamless speed Function
- Short flight time
- Altitude Hold
- Gravity Induction
- Custom Route mode via mobile app
- Very light
- One button take-off and land
- Great altitude stability
- Short flight time
1. Holy Stone HS170
Holy Stone has been the chosen brand of most beginners because of the low price of its products. Its HS170, for example, generally sells for less than $50, allowing drone novices to explore the hobby without serious financial commitment.
The Holy Stone HS170 boasts 6-axis gyro technology, which is a stabilization tool that can help combat altitude displacement, allowing your drone to maintain a steady course throughout its time in the air.
Although this drone is primarily marketed towards beginners, it does feature three different speed modes. This means that more experienced pilots can increase its pace to one that is both challenging and exhilarating.
Many of the more affordable drones on the market today are safe for flying only during daylight hours. The Holy Stone HS170 is designed for morning, afternoon, and night flying activities.
With colorful LED lights placed throughout its body, this drone can be tracked easily in the night sky with no risk of collision. Additionally, with its headless flight system, it can be flown in any direction at the flick of a switch, requiring no flips or turns.
For many new hobbyists, the great allure of flying a drone is the ability to explore areas by capturing aerial images and recording footages. The Holy Stone HS170 is not a camera drone, so aspiring aerial photographers will have to find another model.
It should also be pointed out that even after a full charge, which can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour, this drone has a flight time of just six to eight minutes.
2. Contixo F18 Quadcopter Drone
If you’re searching for a drone with the ability to record images while it flies, you would surely love the F18 Quadcopter Drone from Contixo. Although its price is a bit more than you plan to spend, this camera drone can be worth more than the money.
The Contixo F18 Quadcopter Drone boasts a total of four throttle modes, allowing the user to fly the device in whatever manner they are most comfortable. Among these four throttle modes, you’ll find left- and right-handed options. It is advisable though that the default mode or Mode 2, which is the most commonly used mode, should be mastered before moving on to other modes as it will make it easier for you to fly other drones you'll handle in the future.
On another note, the high-definition camera integrated can be easily connected to the Contixo’s app, granting the pilot or user real-time FPV.
Contixo designed the F18 with night flying in mind that is why it is equipped with four LED lights. It also features 6-axis gyro technology, and together with three accelerometers and three standard-orientation sensors, there is a minimal risk that the aircraft will be thrown off course.
Additionally, through its auto-return function, the Contixo F18 is capable of finding its own way home and is guaranteed to land within a 10-foot radius of its base.
Many camera drones allow the pilot to create waypoints, making for a designated flight path with specific hover times. This makes for safer flight and grants the pilot more time to capture that perfect shot.
Unfortunately, the Contixo F18 cannot do such, nor does it offer a "follow me" feature.
3. DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone
A camera drone primarily intended for experienced pilots, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone boasts all the essential features one would expect to find on a drone, along with many other features that are virtually never seen on less expensive alternatives.
Thanks to its superior navigation abilities, this drone requires little or no effort to ensure it does not collide with buildings, trees, or anything else. This allows you to focus on your photography, giving each shot the attention it deserves.
Similarly, it's integrated with "follow me" and "waypoint" modes, making it a more advanced camera that ensures each of your adventures is documented from the best possible angle.
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone comes fitted with a great battery. On a full charge, this drone can be flown for up to 25 minutes, giving you all the time you need to explore its maximum transmission distance of 100 meters.
The camera integrated boasts 2.7K video and 12MP stills and is capable of streaming live videos directly to your smartphone or tablet. When you purchase the DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone, you will receive the drone itself, along with two additional sets of propellers, an eight gigabytes micro SD card, and a radio controller.
The major drawback of the DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone is its high price tag. Although this is one of the most expensive intermediate models on the market, if you are certain you will still be passionate about drones a year from now, you may be able to justify the purchase. On the contrary, if you are a newcomer to the hobby and aren’t quite sure if it is for you, this will not be ideal for you.
It should also be pointed out that some customers have complained about DJI’s customer service, reporting long waiting periods between the initial registering of a complaint and its resolution.
4. Potensic F181DH Drone
As one of the more affordable camera drones on the market, the Potensic F181DH promises a clear live stream. But what more can this drone camera offer?
This offering from Potensic is one of the most stable the brand has ever produced. Utilizing 6-axis gyro technology, it ensures a steady flight and virtually eradicates the risk of collisions. If you should lose control of the drone, you'll have peace of mind because of its crash-resistant construction, which will help minimize the damage it might sustain.
The camera integrated provides FPV real-time transmission, and with the monitor, videos are streamed seamlessly, so you won’t have to worry about connecting the device to your smartphone.
Potensic packages the F181DH with a total of four batteries, allowing you more time to use it. Similarly, for each purchase of this drone, you get replacement components, ensuring any damage that occurs can be easily rectified.
The Potensic F181DH also boasts a sensitive 3D flip switch, allowing you to change direction and perform full 3D flips with just the touch of a button.
While the four batteries certainly prolong the product's flight time, the life of each of those batteries is not as expected. Even on a full charge, you’ll be lucky to get 10 minutes of flight time out of one battery, so you should always have a replacement battery standing by.
Similarly, each battery requires over an hour to reach a full charge; in fact, some who have purchased this drone reported that a single battery needed 90 minutes to be fully charged.
5. Force1 X5UW Thunderbolt Drone
A popular choice among children and adults, the Force1 X5UW Thunderbolt Drone is arguably the perfect introductory drone for those who wish to try miniature aviation and aerial photography.
While many drones that are geared towards newcomers feature only one speed, the Force1 X5UW Thunderbolt Drone boasts a low- and high-speed setting, allowing you to change things up as you evolve as a pilot. Its HD camera can capture real-time images and videos, making its multiple speeds even more advantageous as it may be necessary to speed up or slow down in order to get that perfect shot.
As a nifty bonus, the Force1 X5UW Thunderbolt Drone can be flown using its accompanying app, eliminating the need for the controls. Just download the Force1 app, and you’ll be able to fly the aircraft by simply tilting your phone.
The designers and developers of the X5UW Thunderbolt Drone have been mindful of the fact that children and novices would fly it. This drone features a headless mode, which allows it to fly north, south, east, and west at the touch of a button, with no change in the position needed.
Similarly, this drone features 6-axis gyro technology to ensure it remains stable in most conditions (although you may have a hard time flying it in heavy wind). To further make navigation easier, Force1 fitted it with one-key takeoff and landing modes.
The Force1 X5UW Thunderbolt Drone does not feature a return home function, which may make it a little challenging for younger pilots. While this is nothing that cannot be overcome with a little practice, you may want to accompany your child during their first couple of flights to reduce the risk of accidents.
While it is to be expected considering its low price, it should be pointed out that the drone also does not have particularly impressive flight time, as it can only remain in the air for a maximum of nine minutes.
After comparing and evaluating five of the best drones, it is but worthy to discuss some of the most important things to keep in mind when searching for the drone that matches your needs, preferences, and skills.
Types of Drones
Beginner drones are almost always the most affordable and are designed to make sure that you navigate the drone easily. Broadly speaking, camera drones and professional drones are one in the same, although beginner camera drones do exist, they generally lack the endurance and features one can expect from a professional-grade model.
On the other hand, FPV racing drones are designed to compete against each other and come equipped with cameras capable of live streaming events directly to your smartphone.
If you’re searching for a camera drone, it’s important to give some thought to the camera specs. A particularly expensive model like the DJI Phantom 3 Standard boasts a 2.7K video camera, which is capable of capturing images at 12 megapixels during mid-flight.
The less expensive ones such as the Force1 X5UW Thunderbolt is not quite as noteworthy and features a 720P camera, which is still usable, but certainly not appropriate in professional situations.
A drone lives and dies on its flight time. Most beginner drones offer a flight time of under 10 minutes, while professional models can fly as long as 30 minutes.
The range of a drone is equally important. Less expensive drones often have a range of 100 meters, while some long-range drones can be operated as far as five kilometers. You should be prepared though to spend more on such a model.
On another note, if you are a novice drone flyer, you’re definitely going to want to seek out a model that offers a headless mode to eliminate the need for turns and flips, which are surprisingly complicated.
Most professional-grade drones feature a brushless motor, which draws only what it needs from the battery in order to complete the task at hand. You will find some hobbyist drones equipped with a brushless motor, but they will require you to spend up to $100.
On the contrary, brushed motors aren’t useless, but they are far less versatile and consume more battery, which isn't ideal considering most inexpensive drones don’t have great battery life.
Each switch featured on a drone’s RC requires a coinciding channel, which is why you should always seek out a controller with at least six channels. Four-channel controllers are available, but they are recommended only to beginners and are not particularly useful.
That said, you might also find controllers with more than six channels, and those additional channels can be used for AUX controls.
The drone's weight influences the drone's performance. Ultra-lightweight drones come in at less than five kilograms, which makes them perfect for racing.
Drones in the five to 50 kilograms range are capable of holding cameras. Same goes with those weighing 50 to 200 kilograms, and they are suited for intricate cameras that require greater support.
On the other hand, professional-grade drones often exceed 200 kilograms of weight, and they are useful when it comes to carrying heavy loads, but expect that they would fly slower than the other models.
What are drones?
A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that has different applications. Drones have been infamously used by the USA government to carry out airstrikes, but smaller, less threatening drones are beloved by miniature aviation fanatics and aspiring aerial photographers.
What drone should I buy?
The answer to this question depends on what you hope to achieve as a drone pilot. Those hoping to participate in FPV racing should choose a lightweight drone designed to reach high speeds in mere seconds, while hobbyists who would use a drone for a couple of hours on the weekend can get away with an inexpensive model.
However, those who wish to use their drone to explore the area around their home should spend a little extra to get a camera model.
How do I fly a drone?
There are a couple of things you should keep in mind when flying your drone for the first time. Before raising your drone from the ground, take a moment to examine the remote control. Generally speaking, the right stick will let the front roll and pitch, while the left stick will be for yaws and throttles.
Essentially, the right stick moves your drone left, right, backward, and forwards, while the left stick controls rotation and height. Once you are familiar with the controls, begin hovering your drone a couple of inches off the ground, moving it left to right and back to front before taking it slightly higher.
Continue to gradually increase the height of your drone until you are ready to take it to its suggested altitude, at which point you can fly it at your leisure.
What is drone FPV?
Drone FPV is a form of racing for competitor pilots who use drones that are equipped with cameras, and are streamed directly to head-mounted displays. Participants are expected to complete set courses, and the pilot with the best time is declared as the winner.
Are drones waterproof?
This really depends on the quality of the drone you purchase. Generally speaking, a drone available at less than $100 is not going to survive frequent contact with water, so if you want to fly your drone in rainy conditions, it is a good idea to choose a more expensive model.
Splash-proof drones can handle slight rainfall, but they won’t survive heavy rain or contact with a deep body of water. There are fully waterproof drones that can survive those situations, but they cost thousands of dollars.
Finding the best drone for you is not going to be easy, especially when you have just been presented with five truly impressive models. That being said, we suggest those who can spare a high budget to consider the DJI Phantom 3 Standard.
It will set you back quite a bit more than the other drones featured in this article, but its many features arguably make it more than worth the extra cost. Also, although it is certainly appropriate for more experienced pilots, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard, with its GPS assisted flight and many additional accessories, is also perfect for beginners.
If you have a lower budget and if you think it's not wise to spend too much on a drone, you may want to consider the Force1 X5UW Thunderbolt Drone. Despite the fact that it is just $100, it is loaded with features designed to make the flying experience more pleasurable and less complicated than ever before.
Novice pilots will appreciate the 6-axis gyro stabilization technology, which will virtually eradicate the risk of the drone crashing or colliding with another object, while the three batteries included ensure your fun doesn’t come to an end too soon.