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
For both DJI drones, it's not necessary to go into depth about the basic functions, like take off, landing and navigating. You pay a premium, but these are definitely the top drones in the sky both because of their ease of use and extra features. On one battery, the Mavic flew for 21 minutes, in many different modes, speeds, and altitudes. The Tap to Fly feature on the Mavic was the biggest disappointment. The remote screen is too vague to simply place your finger where you want to go.
While it may be slightly more expensive than the previous drone we've already looked at, the Yanni Syma X5UW is quite possibly a top beginner drone currently on the market. As one of the few cheap drones with FPV capabilities, the Yanni by Syma is a great drone for the tech junkie and VR enthusiast alike. With its downloadable app, "SYMA GO", flying is both simple and fun. By drawing a route on the screen with your fingertips, the drone's autopilot will read it and follow the given path. This is possibly one of the best features of the Yanni Syma, as it is a drone that can be flown without the aid of a transmitter.
The Altair AA108 is durably built and will not break easily. You can count on a solid flight time of around 10 minutes, a bit less when you’re running it FPV. However the 720p camera really works well and connects to your phone through WiFi. It’s easy to fly because it has 3 flight modes, 1 beginner, 2 intermediate and 3 advanced mode. It also has Altitude Hold which allows you to take your thumb off the control and the drone holds it’s own altitude, making it very stable because it’s not bouncing up and down as you try to maintain altitude!
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!
Registering is easy. If you have a toy drone, you probably don’t need to register it, but for those of you buying camera drones, here’s how it works. You just go to registermyuas.faa.gov, fill out a few important questions like what model drone you have, where you live, and your email address. Then you pay a small license fee, print out your new registration number, and attach it to your drone in a place where it can be seen.
The Tello is a brand new quadcopter from the world’s biggest drone company, and it retails for only $99 USD. Technically it’s a joint venture between DJI and Rize, but the important thing is that you’re getting a high-quality product for dirt cheap. A 5 Megapixel camera, 8 dimensional flips, a “throw and go” flight mode, and HD video can all be yours today – learn more by reading our full review here.
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.
It also can’t handle itself outdoors, with the slightest breeze gusting it away (not only that, but because of how small it is, it’s easy to lose line of sight). Charging takes somewhere around 20 minutes with the usb charger, however you’ll need your own usb to wall adapter or a computer handy to plug it in. Unfortunately, unlike some other quacopters on this list, due to the size and engineering of this drone, repairs are extremely difficult, requiring a very tiny screwdriver to open it up, the solder pads for the motors are also tiny. Repairs aren’t impossible, but it is more difficult.
Flight is smooth on this drone, with an impressive climb and turning rates that meet the demands of even expert fliers. You can count on the stability of the X400W when in windy conditions – the six-axis gyros do a good job maintaining hovering with lateral winds. You can access the FPV stream on your smartphone via a WiFi connection. With the dedicated app, you can activate the camera and record sharp videos and images. It is important to note that the HD 720p camera is primarily for delivering an FPV live stream, rather than shooting pictures and videos. You can also connect this drone with a 3D VR headset if you want to enjoy a 100% immersive FPV flying experience.
The biggest downside to the Syma X11 is that it comes with no camera attachment. This is a good drone for beginners only interested in flying for fun and seeing what drones have to offer, but any hobbyist interested in taking pictures or video will want to keep looking. However those looking for an affordable drone, this one might be just what you are looking for.
To gauge flight performance, we put the drone through a number of tests to see how the manufacturer’s claims hold up. First we take it to a local football field and see how fast it can clear 100 yards, then do some calculations to get an objective reading on speed in miles per hour. After that, we do a similar test to assess ascent and descent speeds, and all the while, we’re also taking notes on how responsive the controls are, how stable the craft is, how far it can go before it’s out of range, and what the overall piloting experience is like compared to other drones.
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.