If you're flying within the United States, you need to take heed of FAA guidelines—or be prepared to face potential fines or jail time. There are no-fly zones set by the FAA, so don't take off if you're near an airport without notifying the control tower first. And, even if you're out in the middle of nowhere, don't take your drone above 400 feet. Most are set to obey these regulations out of the box, but controlling a quadcopter is just like driving a car—even if you missed seeing that speed limit sign, you're still liable to pay the ticket.
DJI models currently dominate our top picks, and there's a good reason for that. The company is simply a few steps ahead of its competition right now, and has a product catalog with models at various price points, which take up a good number of the slots in our top ten. It made a huge splash with its iconic Phantom series, and now makes the best small drones we've tested in the form of the Mavic series.
This guide will walk you through some of the features and capabilities you can expect to find in a drone under $100, in addition to some more general considerations when comparing UAVs. We also recommend several models, so you can spend more time learning to navigate around trees and less time worrying about finding a drone that matches your needs.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive drone that’s a little more advanced than the beginner offerings on this list, the Altair Aerial Blackhawk is an excellent choice – the perfect drone for the pilot that already has a GoPro camera or is wanting to customize their quadcopter with an action camera. This drone is extremely stable and durable, which makes it great for aerial photography. However, its best features are a flight time of 15 minutes and a range of 300 meters – otherwise unheard of at this price range. If you already have some experience with quadcopters and want something that’s fast, fun to fly, and offers long range at a low price, the Altair Blackhawk is the perfect drone for you!
The Hubsan X4 H107C has super stable flight capabilities, gives you approximately 10 minutes of flight time, includes gyro sensitivity that can be adjusted based on your personal preference, and a 0.3MP camera that can record video and take picture paired with a Micro SDHC card. The only feature that seems to exist, and is worth mentioning, is that it can do a 4-way flip, which could be fun and something interesting to add to a video.
Most still cameras are 5 megapixels or higher. Therefore, do not be fooled by the claims of HD for a camera when the manufacturer is relying on the resolution for still photos. It is true what they are saying but not the complete story. Having HD resolution for still images does not explain the possibility of also having a lower quality for video-image capture.
Some people will tell you that beginner pilots should cut their teeth on lower-end drones, but in our expert opinion, that’s nonsense. Why? Crappier drones are harder and less reliable to fly, which means that you’re far more likely to crash and destroy them. We think its a smarter idea to start out with a slightly nicer drone with reliable, responsive controls, a decent warranty, and a design that’s easy to repair or upgrade.
The included 3.7V 650 mAh battery takes about an hour to charge, and will give you up to 9 minutes of flying time. You can extend your flying enjoyment time with the purchase of extra batteries. The controller will give you up to 120m of control range, but limited to 50m when the FPV mode is active. This still allows you to take videos at fairly moderate distances.
If you are a beginner just learning to fly with these cheaper drones, take your time to learn the controls by flying in a safe area that is a wide open space, with no wind, and no obstacles. At first, fly low to the ground until you can maneuver your drone correctly. Practice flying on a single battery charge and then let the drone cool down for ten minutes before flying more.
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.
As one of the fastest growing hobbies among tech buffs, photographers, and enthusiasts alike, drones offer a unique experience unlike any seen before in the world of hobbies. I remember when I was younger, one of the coolest things to do was to go down to the hobby store, buy a model rocket, and shoot it off in a field down the road. Now there are drones with cameras that can flip, swoop, and record video. On top of all that, they are even available affordably under $100 price point.
If you’re looking for quality, the Inspire 2 is the best camera drone you can buy that comes ready to fly out of the box. The next best option is the Phantom 4 Pro and after that, the Mavic Pro. If you’re concerned about video quality, just pick one of the three drones mentioned above (which ever one matches your price point) and you’ll be more than satisfied. There are really no other drones that come close to what these three can do. Some people who shoot videos for a living will buy the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 Pro, and the Inspire 2, because each of them can be useful for different situations.
Want to keep your budget below $300, we suggest you choose one of the Altair drones we recommend. Altair is a great company (learn about Altair) out of Nebraska and provides top notch customer service! Shop the Altair Outlaw which goes 1000+ meters and costs $279. Altair also offers the AA108 as a budget option at $129 and the 818 Hornet is a great mid range for ages 10-14 and $169.
The maximum distance your quadcopter can cover, and where it can be flown, are determined by its overall weight and size, i.e., the weight after all the attachments or payload have been added. The best drones under $100 usually weigh less than 0.55lbs. Thus, they can be flown in most open areas in the US, except in airports and buildings if you have no license.
Finally, in the number five spot for this list is the Syma X11. For the drone enthusiasts who may feel a little intimidated by some of the larger drones, the Syma X11 R/C Quadcopter is a perfect alternative. This little R/C unit is 15 x 4 x 8 inches in its dimensions, and weighs just over fifteen ounces. It is a good drone for those who are more comfortable with other R/C units and want something that is easier to control with a price point that is reasonable.
But perhaps the biggest change to the field is the fact that drones have made aerial photography and videography accessible to everyone. Some of the high-end drones on this list may get a little pricey, but these are all consumer-grade products perfect for anyone with an interest in the field. We’ve hand-picked the top 24 best drones with cameras for all needs and all experience levels – and we’ve flown each one personally!
The other primary consideration is how the photos and video are stored after you take them. Drones with WiFi capabilities will work with your mobile device, letting you see and store media real-time on your phone. For those that don’t, you’ll store the media on the drone, usually on a microSD card. If this is the case, know how much storage the drone comes with and whether (and by how much) it can be upgraded.
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.