Almost all of the models featured here have some safety features. Even the DJI Spark, which isn't built for long-distance flight, includes a GPS and automatic return-to-home functionality. If your control signal is interrupted, or if the battery gets down too low (most drones can only fly for about 25 minutes on a single battery charge), you drone will start to head back to its takeoff point and land.
We test two main things when reviewing drones – their flying performance, and the camera’s video and stills quality. To test flight, we take the drone out to an approved Flying Field like the one in Richmond Park and check its responsiveness, speed, stabilisation, obstacle avoidance and the accuracy of safety features like return-to-home. We also assess the stability and quality of its video feed from its maximum distance and its battery life claims, based on real world use.
One of the cheaper options for an autopilot drone is the Hubsan H501S. It doesn’t have as many camera features as some of the more professional drones, but it is still equipped with some great auto features. It comes with a 1080p HD camera and has automatic return, altitude mode, and follow-me capabilities. It’s small, compact size makes it good for traveling and you get an average of 20 minutes of flying which is great for the price you’re paying. While more professional drone features are missing, you’re still getting a nice drone for less than $300.
If the drone we’re testing happens to have a camera capable of recording, we capture as much footage as we possibly can. We’ll shoot in dark places, light places, and places with lots of color and contrast. This footage is then compared to all the highlight reels that we filmed with other drones, which helps us get a sense of the camera’s strengths and weaknesses. We also test any accessories that accompany the camera, like lenses, filters, gimbals, or FPV goggles. Finally, we’ll also let you know if the camera setup is upgradable, so you wont be stuck with an outdated shooter in two years.
Often repainted and re-branded (sometimes at a much higher price) the Syma x5c is positioned at a competitive price for what you get in the box. For about $50+ shipping depending on where you order, you get the quadcopter itself, a transmitter, one battery, and a charger. Extra batteries are inexpensive and you’ll certainly want them if you plan to fly for longer than 6 minutes, but they charge quickly, which is nice. At 9 and a half inches diagonally motor to motor, its not small enough to fly indoors.
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.