And now the bad news. You get what you pay for, and if you want an aerial video platform that can capture stunning footage, you need to be ready to spend some cash. Because drones are such pricey propositions, it pays to do your research before buying one. We've tested many of the ready-to-fly models on the market to determine what's important to look for, and the best models available.
Any drone is going to be a handful when you’re first learning to fly it, but the makers of drones in this price range largely take the novice pilot into consideration with features that make the UAVs easier to handle. A feature called headless mode (which we cover below) helps you orient the drone, while multiple speeds enable you to start more slowly and gradually go faster as you gain more experience and confidence. Another feature, called one-key landing, can also save the day (and the drone) if your flight goes completely sideways.
Many autopilot drones come with multiple flight-modes. Common flight-modes seen in autopilot drones include a follow-me mode, sport mode, and one-touch takeoff and landing modes. They all serve different purposes and create different flight experiences. Follow-me modes allow the drone to follow you as you move and keep you in the frame. This enables you to create complex shots. Sport modes all your autopilot drone to go faster and follow targets such as cars or bikes. One-touch takeoff and landing are important flight modes as they allow for smooth landings and takeoffs with the push of a button. This is a great feature for beginners and pros alike.
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.
Please note that if these drones are flown out of range so that the communication with the drone is lost, the drone can be easily lost as well. A common error is to fly the drone to its height limit and lose communication. If there is any wind, the drone may then do what is called a “fly away.” This is a sad thing for an operator because the drone will fly off to who-knows-where and unless you quickly go chase it; it can disappear forever.
The JJRC H26WM is a great drone for beginners or those who want a casual drone to zip around with. The camera is pretty decent but nothing too fancy, so don’t expect the world from it. The maximum amount of flight time you can get is approximately 7 minutes, so having an extra battery is a good idea. The camera allows for 2MP in FPV which swings around in all directions.
The Altair Aerial Outlaw Drone is one of the best GPS drones around and the absolute best that you can find for under $300. Thanks to the stabilization features in GPS flight mode, this drone will keep itself hovering in midair at whatever place you choose for it to go, making it easy to line up the perfect shot for your photo or video camera. It also has a 1000 meter flight range and a flight time of nearly 20 minutes, which is great for aerial photographers who need time for a longer shoot. If you want high definition, pro-quality photography at a price that won’t break the bank, the Outlaw is the choice for you!
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There is a wide variety of full-featured drones now available for less than $100. While you won’t get the range or feature set of a more expensive option, an inexpensive drone is the perfect choice if you’re just starting out. It’s generally easier to operate than its pricier counterparts yet sturdy enough to withstand a variety of novice pilot mishaps. The majority also pack features that you might be surprised to find at this price point.
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.
For those looking for a basic done that has FPV camera capabilities that are still pretty decent, but at a fair price, the Hubsan H502S is definitely the way to go. There are minimal features, mostly just the GPS function, which is a nice touch that makes all the difference, and you get up to 12 minutes of flying time on a single charge. You also get Return to Home, Follow Me, one-key control, the whole set.
Unlike all of the other quadcopters on this list the manufacturer, Blade, has a very strong pedigree in radio controlled aircraft and because of that, Blade uses the DSM2 radio frequency standard. This is a key difference when compared to all the other quads on this list because if you have a DSM2 capable transmitter, you can fly using that rather than a lower quality transmitter the company would throw in.
Unfortunately, this one doesn’t come with a controller, which means you’re forced to pilot Tello via virtual joysticks on a smartphone app: a control method that’s notoriously mushy and imprecise. The good news, though, is that Ryze built the drone with third-party peripherals in mind, so if you prefer to fly with physical sticks under your thumbs, you can pick up a GameSir T1d controller and link it to your bird. We think it’s well worth the extra $30 bucks!
While the Mavic 2 Zoom will still set you back £1,099, that is £250 less than its brother, which makes choosing between the two a tricky choice. While it lacks the one-inch sensor, 10-bit HDR video and adjustable aperture of the Pro, its image quality is still excellent and more than good enough for epic YouTube videos. That spare change could also be put towards a spare battery or a ‘Fly More’ bundle. Whichever way you go, the closely related Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are the best all-round drones you can buy right now.
This FPV drone focuses more on the actual drone than it does the camera aspects, however, considering you get more features and capabilities. You can use a FPV real time HD live transmission with your mobile device using the FPV WiFi feature, have Headless mode, a low voltage alarm, 360-degree flips, and gravity induction that allows you to fly at all angles and in every direction.