The category is “Drones under $100,” so we already know what the ceiling is here. These drones start at less than $50, and at that price you’ll generally find models with a shorter range and flight time and fewer features. Most drones fall in the $60 to $100 range. At this price, a close examination of capabilities and feature sets will be necessary to determine which is right for you.
If a drone in this category has first-person-view (FPV) capability, you can see what the drone sees. All except one of these drones require a smartphone (not included) to be able to view and record the video. The smartphone is held in a bracket and then it is connected to the controller. Some of these drones can be flown by only using the smartphone with a downloadable app installed that controls the drone.
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.
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.
I spoke to these guys when I wrote my complete review of the Altair Aerial AA108 which you can read here. They picked up their customer service phone line on the 2nd ring, which in itself is amazing when you’re talking about drone companies. I’m so used to trying to reach a company only to find out they operate out of China!They have a great product, with specs at least as good as any other drone in this category.
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!
While each mode is unique and important to understand, most of them still provide the basic function of flight-stabilization and assistance tool. For instance, OPTI typically features an Optiflow sensor within the drone, which is a downward facing sensor capable of identifying patterns on the ground and helping the machine to maintain a straight position.
Yuneec also has a model with a Micro Four Thirds camera. Its Tornado H920 is a huge drone with six rotors and room to hold three batteries, giving it an unheard of 42-minute flight capability. Its CGO4 camera is essentially a custom version of the Panasonic GH4, a favorite of many a terrestrial videographer. It doesn't record uncompressed video like the Inspire 2, but it's less expensive.
While the Mavic 2 Zoom will still set you back £1,099, that is £250 less than its brother, which makes choosing between the two a tricky choice. While it lacks the one-inch sensor, 10-bit HDR video and adjustable aperture of the Pro, its image quality is still excellent and more than good enough for epic YouTube videos. That spare change could also be put towards a spare battery or a ‘Fly More’ bundle. Whichever way you go, the closely related Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are the best all-round drones you can buy right now.
After we’ve taken the drone out to play for a while and jotted down a few notes about how long the battery lasts, we put it on the charger and grab a stopwatch to determine recharge time. Then we take it back out and do a hover test. By flying the drone in the least demanding conditions, we can get a sense of what the maximum flight time is. And finally, we take it out a few more good, hard flights to find out how long the battery lasts (on average) under normal conditions.
While DJI may be the first name you think of when it comes to drones, it isn't the only game in town. You can also look at models from Autel Robotics, Parrot, PowerVision, and Yuneec. Others have dabbled in the consumer drone space and exited quickly—GoPro pulled its Karma after a rocky launch and poor sales, and 3D Robotics tried to get in with the Solo, but also gave up the fight to focus on the industrial and enterprise spaces.
The controller has an LCD screen that displays important information such as battery life, range, and trim adjustments. The acceleration power is also displayed in percentage form. The controller also has a return to home button. Press this and the drone flies back to you. This is not a feature commonly found on a drone at this price point. The 2MP camera on the F181 is of 720p resolution and can take images at a 1280 x 720 resolution.
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.