the first thing we do when we get a new drone is beat it up a little bit. We don’t kick it down the stairs or anything, but we’ll give it a few knocks, twists, and shallow drops to assess the build quality and durability. Does it feel flimsy, or does it feel like it could survive a crash landing in the park? We give each review unit a light beating (and usually a couple unintentional crash landings) before we give you a definitive answer on how durable it is.
The DJI Inspire 2 is aimed at professional cinematographers, news organizations, and independent filmmakers. And it's priced as such—its $3,000 MSRP doesn't include a camera. You have the option of adding a 1-inch sensor fixed-lens camera, a Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens model, or a Super35mm cinema mount with its own proprietary lens system and support for 6K video capture.
Speedy and nimble, the Mavic Air is great fun to use beyond its image-capture abilities – though these are stellar, too. The 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor sits on a three-axis mechanical gimbal that reduces vibrations and ensures silky smooth footage, with 4K video at 30fps offering plenty of detail. It’s only in low-light that you’ll notice it struggling.
When a new pilot tries to jump into the radio controlled aircraft scene, they may be tempted by a more expensive drone and while more expensive drones are usually easier to fly and have excellent cameras, the fact of the matter is that an inexperienced pilot just isn’t ready for all that. They aren’t ready to pilot a large, heavy aircraft, one which could very easily break, cause property damage, or even injury to another person. The smart thing to do in this situation is find a drone within a reasonable budget, so you can learn how to fly. That’s why today we’re bringing you this detailed guide of the 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 Holy Stone HS100 is another budget-friendly autopilot drone. It has one of the shorter flight times at 15 minutes but is still equipped with headless mode, altitude hold, and one-touch takeoff and landing. This would be a good drone for beginner pilots who are just learning. It has a built-in 1080p, first-person view camera that can capture some great footage. Again, there aren’t as many advanced camera features like the more professional drones have, but the Holy Stone HS100 still makes for a great flight experience.
The main thing that you will need is a relatively new IOS or android device. Usually you can use any iPad or iPhone made in the last 3 years. However, some drones don’t have controllers that were designed to hold tablets, so keep that in mind. If you’re buying the bugs 3, you won’t need a smartphone since it doesn’t have a built-in camera that you can control. All of the drones in this list come with batteries, chargers, controllers (if needed), extra propellers, and anything else you might need to go for your first flight.

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.
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.
It can take aerial shots with the altitude hold function, accessed by releasing the throttle. The drone hovers in place to get the shot. If you’re first starting out, you can operate it in headless mode to get a better idea of what it can do. It has a one-key return, and you can even perform aerial tricks and flips once you’ve mastered necessary controls.
This is the drone you start with if you're worried about crashing. Thanks to flexible plastic and propellor protectors, you could drop this on the ground or fly into a wall without too much damage. It has a camera if you are just getting into drone photography, but we prefer this model as a starter quadcopter. Beware: when it has low battery, the drone tends to lose connection with the controller. This could become tragic if you've flown the drone over water.
It can take aerial shots with the altitude hold function, accessed by releasing the throttle. The drone hovers in place to get the shot. If you’re first starting out, you can operate it in headless mode to get a better idea of what it can do. It has a one-key return, and you can even perform aerial tricks and flips once you’ve mastered necessary controls.
Despite the DJI Phantom 4 Pro being a few years old, it’s still one of the most popular auto-pilot drones amongst professional aerial photographers. The 1080p camera is great for capturing brilliant imagery. It’s larger than the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, and missing some of the extra camera features, but it’s still a solid professional autopilot drone. The Phantom has three flight modes that are easy to switch between. In Position Mode offers obstacle sensing, Sport Mode adds extra agility and higher speed. While in Sport Mode, the Phantom can reach 45mph speeds. Atti Mode is ideal for the most experienced pilots. It switches off satellite stabilization and hold’s the drone’s altitude, making for smoother footage. This a top choice for professional pilots.
Any drone is going to be a handful when you’re first learning to fly it, but the makers of drones in this price range largely take the novice pilot into consideration with features that make the UAVs easier to handle. A feature called headless mode (which we cover below) helps you orient the drone, while multiple speeds enable you to start more slowly and gradually go faster as you gain more experience and confidence. Another feature, called one-key landing, can also save the day (and the drone) if your flight goes completely sideways.
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!
Many manufacturers mount cameras inside the body of the drone. This is acceptable for casual photography, but if you want more professional results, consider adding an external camera mount, or gimbal. Gimbals allow you to place your video or still camera in front of the drone body, away from the vibrating motor and rotors. Gimbals can swivel and pivot, providing you with additional control over your imagery.
The word “drone” has taken on a few different meanings over the years. Some people think of a drone as a bee, others might think of those predator drones that the military uses. The drones that most people talk about today are simply radio controlled aircraft that have some level of autonomous features. A drone can be a plane, a helicopter, a quadcopter, or any combination in-between. Most of the drones sold today are quadcopters. They have 4 rotors and a flight controller that is used to stabilize the lift from the each propeller.
There’s one other type of beginner that isn’t looking for either of those things. Some beginners just want a drone to take pictures and videos with. They need whatever drone they get to be easy to fly and have decent specs, but not break the bank. For those people, the DJI Spark is going to be the best option. There’s no reason to buy the other two drones I mentioned if you want to shoot videos and take pictures. The Spark is actually easier to fly than the Bugs 3 and Mambo FPV, so you don’t have to worry as much about the flying part. 

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.

DJI’s latest Zenmuse cam, the X5S, is a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera made specifically for aerial photography and cinematography. It shoots in 5.2K at 30 frames per second (or 4K at 60), takes 20.4 megapixel stills, and boasts a ridiculously wide ISO range of 100 – 25,600. As an added bonus, this rig is cradled inside a vibration dampened 3-axis gimbal, so your footage comes out silky smooth no matter how crazily you fly. 
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.
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.
HD video starts at the resolution of 1080p as a minimum. For all of these drones, the video is captured at the lower resolution of 720p, even when they claim to have HD cameras. The resolution of still images is always higher than the video. With still photos, the resolution can be as low as 1 megapixel (equal to 1000p) and that resolution is considered HD for still photos. 
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 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.

×