Generally speaking, drones that cost less than $100 bucks aren’t worth your time. They’re flimsy, they lack advanced features, and they’re almost always squirrely as hell in the air. But Tello is different. Despite the fact that it retails for only $99, it boasts a boatload of high-end features and functionality. Under the hood you’ll find a 14-core Intel vision processing chip, flight stabilization tech from DJI, a 5 megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p HD video, and a battery that gets you 13 minutes of flight time.
The flying range is the distance the drone can go before you start to lose control of it. You’re not going to see a tremendous flying range with drones at this price, but there can still be considerable differences among models. These drones are generally able to fly from 15 meters to 100 meters or so. Buy a drone with the longest range you can afford to give yourself more flying and photo/video options.
Our review is 100% neutral, we do not receive products, gifts, monetary assistance or help from any part of the company that produces these devices or from the marketing company we review. Our source of income is through the placement of ads, Google, and the affiliate commission. Here you will find the top-level breakdown of our 10 best drones under $100.
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.
The blade nano qx is the closest competitor to the Hubsan. Both of them are extremely popular for beginners, and both of them are loved by enthusiasts due to their modification capabilities and excellent flight characteristics. Repairs are easy, the motors have plug in connections so you don’t have to even solder if one goes out. The price on this one is a bit steeper than the others, running about $80 for a complete, ready to fly package, but you do get a more capable quadcopter.
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.
For video quality, we shoot a variety of clips at various resolutions and frame rates, including the maximum available. We film high contrast and low light scenes, along with close-ups of people to evaluate detail and skin tones. Special automated modes like DJI’s Quickshots are also tested. These uncompressed files are then evaluated on a calibrated monitor, along with the drone’s still photos. Stills are shot at maximum resolution and, if available, in Raw. We check for colour, noise and dynamic range, and also look at other shooting modes like HDR and panoramas.
The included 3.7V 650 when fully charged, offers about 9 minutes of flying time, and you only need about an hour to refuel. If you wish to have the drone in action for an extended period, simply purchase additional batteries. With the controller, you have up to 120m of control range, but reduced to just 50m when you activate the FPV mode. Even with this, you can still conveniently take videos at reasonable distances.
This drone is built for better photos: the camera is farther away from the propellors to prevent interruption; the Phantom maintained near perfect stability even in 5+ MPH winds; and the various flights modes, such as Follow Me, worked great for getting interesting shots. We only flew the drone to 240 feet in the air, but we could have flown it much further if we had better visibility.
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.