If you're looking for a cheap drone, the Eachine E010 Nano Quadcopter is bound to grab your attention. On second glance, though, it's really just a toy, and the lack of a camera is a major restriction. It has its benefits as an introductory drone — a serious crash wouldn’t make a big hole in your pocket — but many consumers would soon grow bored of just zipping it around.
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.
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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 a good option for those looking to upgrade from a toy drone to something more like a professional racing drone. It comes with headless mode and flip mode. Plus, the remote is clearly labeled so even if you’ve never picked up a drone remote before, you know exactly what’s going on. It has a range of about 230 feet, plenty of space for a more serious race. It’s well balanced and can handle a little bit of wind.
With headless mode, you don’t need to worry which way the drone is facing because your controller is the basis for the drone’s orientation. In other words, whichever way the controller is pointing is the way the drone is pointing. This will help you master all aspects of drone flight, and as such it is one of the top features that beginners should consider.
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!
Oh, and let’s not forget about the camera. In addition to a 12-megapixel camera that shoots video in 1080p at 30 frames per second, the Spark also sports a two-axis gimbal. This lets it mechanically stabilize the camera and cancel out any jarring, shaky movements — resulting in smoother, better-looking footage. This also gives it a leg up on the competition; most selfie drones only feature single-axis mechanical stabilization.
Irrespective of the dimensions of your quadcopter, they must not go higher than 400ft above the ground. Likewise, you must always maintain a clear line-of-sight with the machine at all times. You are also expected to adequately inspect your device before each flight session, to ensure its readiness and airworthiness. This is necessary to prevent unnecessary flight accidents.
Lead camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H... See Full Bio
A. The law is a bit murky here in terms of licenses and registering of drones, and as such your best bet is to check local regulations and brush up on the latest requirements from the FAA. In general, you won’t need a license if you’re flying a drone recreationally and the drone weighs under 55 pounds. Anything heavier than that and you might need to register it. If you’re trying to earn money with your drone, you’ll need to be licensed. The FAA is more than willing to fine or even jail those who violate drone rules, so this is definitely not an area you should ignore.
The Holy Stone HS200 is the perfect drone to get started with flying with FPV functionality. This drone comes with many advanced features such as headless mode, and a life wifi camera feed. Headless mode is a good feature for those starting out flying drones. There is also a realtime FPV transmission that allows the camera view to be viewed on your smartphone. The drone creates its own wifi link, so you do not need a separate communications channel.
Tello has a range of just over 300 feet, and despite its size, it produces stable and clear videos, courtesy of its dual antenna transmission. You can get a 720p HD quality video with 30 frames per second, and conveniently capture stills of up to five megapixels. Unfortunately, users can only save the recorded videos on the smartphone and not on a memory card. While you can access these clips almost instantly, it takes up all the space on your phone.
The most recent variant, the cx10c, is another small improvement over the other two. Again, it only adds one feature, but this time its a little bit more substantial, this time, they’ve added a camera. With a micro sd card you can watch videos of your flights from the perspective of the drone. It may not be a great camera, its not even a good camera, the footage is mediocre and would never compare even slightly to a high end multirotor, but for the price ($25) and the size (roughly the same as before) its amazing that it includes one.
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.
When taking all of the specifications of the Smya X5C1 Quadcopter in mind, it is a drone best suited for the true beginner as a good starting drone. It can also be for those interested in experimenting with some light photography, or casual indoor or night flying. Other than the short battery life, this drone has it all, and remains one of the best drones for anyone interested in seeing just what drones are all about. The Syma X5C-1 a great starter drone with a camera in our opinion. The Syma is also an excellent drone to learn to fly.
As mentioned above, you will crash, and you certainly don't want to go home empty-handed. Having back-up propellers can make or break your day. Extra batteries are also a must. Current battery chemistry limits flight times to somewhere between 5 and 25 minutes for most amateur drones. Having plenty of charged spares means you can fly longer — though flying for more than 30 minutes straight can be fatiguing.
Another one of the great drone on this list with the beginner in mind, the UDI 818A HD Drone is electric powered, radio controlled, and equipped with six gyroscopes for stabilization. Although it can take a decent beating, it is recommended that this drone not be flown above asphalt or concrete, as it is still made of plastic, and can break if improperly used.