While DJI may be the first name you think of when it comes to drones, it isn't the only game in town. You can also look at models from Autel Robotics, Parrot, PowerVision, and Yuneec. Others have dabbled in the consumer drone space and exited quickly—GoPro pulled its Karma after a rocky launch and poor sales, and 3D Robotics tried to get in with the Solo, but also gave up the fight to focus on the industrial and enterprise spaces.
There are a number of products on the market that are sold as drones, but don't quite fit the bill. Remote-controlled aircraft have been around for ages. (Check out this clip from Magnum, P.I. if you don't believe me, or just want to see Tom Selleck in a bathrobe.) But with the recent surge in popularity, quadcopters that would simply be sold as RC products are now being tagged as drones. These don't include GPS stabilization, return-to-home functionality, and other automated flight modes that make a drone a drone.
The other reason we love this drone is that it’s not super complicated to fly or maintain, so it’s a great choice for beginners and pros alike. Even if you’ve never raced a drone before in your life, you’ll likely be able to learn the ropes with a Draco after just a few hours of practice. Alternatively, if you already have some FPV racing experience under your belt, you’ll feel right at home with this rig.
Another great feature is you can use your fingertip to chart a flight path. You do this by dragging your finger across the video image from the drone that is shown by its app on your smartphone. Then, the drone will automatically fly the flight path you have chosen. You can also teach the drone to respond to voice commands that you record with your smartphone.
There is such a wealth of options in this rapidly growing field that we wanted to share a couple more drones that we like. The first is the Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Quadcopter. This UAV offers a great feature set at an economical price, and its fast charge time (under an hour) will have you back in the air in a hurry. The Force1 U45WF Quadcopter offers features rarely seen at this price point, such as a custom route mode that allows you to trace out a path on the screen that the drone then follows. We also love that this drone ships with three batteries to greatly extend your flying time.
Likewise, ensure that your device is equipped with headless mode, which is a cheater mode that allows you to treat any direction that the drone goes as forward so that you don’t have to worry about how to flip it around safely and control it back to your location after completing a flight. With headless mode, all you need to do is just push the joystick in the corresponding direction that you want the device to travel.
The Altair AA108 is durably built and will not break easily. You can count on a solid flight time of around 10 minutes, a bit less when you’re running it FPV. However the 720p camera really works well and connects to your phone through WiFi. It’s easy to fly because it has 3 flight modes, 1 beginner, 2 intermediate and 3 advanced mode. It also has Altitude Hold which allows you to take your thumb off the control and the drone holds it’s own altitude, making it very stable because it’s not bouncing up and down as you try to maintain altitude!
Just like the 818 Hornet, the AA108 has a 720p camera and while the range (100 meters) and flight time (10 minutes) are slightly less than the 818 Hornet, you can’t go wrong for the $129.00 price tag. It is super easy to fly because it has altitude hold which maintains the drones altitude even if you remove your thumb from the control. Additionally it is stable and easy to control due to it’s 3 flight skill levels, 1 for beginners, 2 for intermediate and 3 for advanced.
The Tello is a brand new quadcopter from the world’s biggest drone company, and it retails for only $99 USD. Technically it’s a joint venture between DJI and Rize, but the important thing is that you’re getting a high-quality product for dirt cheap. A 5 Megapixel camera, 8 dimensional flips, a “throw and go” flight mode, and HD video can all be yours today – learn more by reading our full review here.