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.
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.
Want to keep your budget below $300, we suggest you choose one of the Altair drones we recommend. Altair is a great company (learn about Altair) out of Nebraska and provides top notch customer service! Shop the Altair Outlaw which goes 1000+ meters and costs $279. Altair also offers the AA108 as a budget option at $129 and the 818 Hornet is a great mid range for ages 10-14 and $169.
Parrot’s new Mambo is different. Unlike most other mini drones, this one is actually designed specifically for kids. In addition to a boatload of motion sensors and advanced autopilot software that keeps the drone stable, Mambo also comes with a handful of attachments that make it more fun and engaging than a basic quadcopter. Inside the box you’ll find a cannon attachment, 50 foam cannon balls, and a grabber arm that can clamp and carry small objects.
As one of the fastest growing hobbies among tech buffs, photographers, and enthusiasts alike, drones offer a unique experience unlike any seen before in the world of hobbies. I remember when I was younger, one of the coolest things to do was to go down to the hobby store, buy a model rocket, and shoot it off in a field down the road. Now there are drones with cameras that can flip, swoop, and record video. On top of all that, they are even available affordably under $100 price point.
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 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.
Small drones might be super for indoor and low-level outdoor flying, but if you’re planning to pilot your drone in more difficult weather conditions it’s worth considering how well your flying machine will fare. Petite drones are generally more affected by crosswinds than larger quadcopters, though advanced stabilisation tech can sometimes reduce the effects of a strong breeze.
Even if you have no good reason to justify buying one, you have to admit that drones are cool. Some are glorified tech toys, but most models we highlight here are fit for use in imaging and cinematic applications small and large. If you think you can use a flying camera in your next project, there's some good news—the tech has come a long way in a very short time. There are models on the market now that put earlier copters to shame in terms of video quality and stabilization.
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.

Unfortunately, this one doesn’t come with a controller, which means you’re forced to pilot Tello via virtual joysticks on a smartphone app: a control method that’s notoriously mushy and imprecise. The good news, though, is that Ryze built the drone with third-party peripherals in mind, so if you prefer to fly with physical sticks under your thumbs, you can pick up a GameSir T1d controller and link it to your bird. We think it’s well worth the extra $30 bucks!
×