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.
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.
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.
You get up to 9 minutes of flight time, have a 640x480p camera, and video capabilities that lack audio as there is no microphone. You can do flips in the air at the touch of a button on the transmitter, and there is a button that lets you share a video on social media instantly. The LED lights located at the center of each propeller and the headlight are pretty useful for flying at night, too.
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.
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.
A flight time of 15 minutes or more makes the DROCON Bugs 3 a very attractive proposition. It's not the easiest to learn, but once you've got the hang of it, performance is excellent. So why isn't it in our best five? It's designed to carry GoPro action cameras (or similar). If you've got one, it's worth the investment. If you haven't, it's an expensive toy.
Likewise, ensure that your device is equipped with headless mode, which is a cheater mode that allows you to treat any direction that the drone goes as forward so that you don’t have to worry about how to flip it around safely and control it back to your location after completing a flight. With headless mode, all you need to do is just push the joystick in the corresponding direction that you want the device to travel.
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.
The Hubsan X4 H107C has super stable flight capabilities, gives you approximately 10 minutes of flight time, includes gyro sensitivity that can be adjusted based on your personal preference, and a 0.3MP camera that can record video and take picture paired with a Micro SDHC card. The only feature that seems to exist, and is worth mentioning, is that it can do a 4-way flip, which could be fun and something interesting to add to a video.
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.
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.
Another big addition is Spark’s obstacle avoidance system. While the ability to sense and avoid objects is usually a feature reserved for larger drones, DJI went ahead and built one into the hull of the Spark. It’s not quite as robust as what you’ll find on the Phantom 4, or even the Mavic Pro, but it still serves its purpose, and helps you avoid crashes.
This guide will walk you through some of the features and capabilities you can expect to find in a drone under $100, in addition to some more general considerations when comparing UAVs. We also recommend several models, so you can spend more time learning to navigate around trees and less time worrying about finding a drone that matches your needs.
The first retail multi-rotor drones were little more than flying toys with limited range and battery power. Their small motors were charged via battery pack, and a basic RF controller moved their rotors to achieve loops, dives, and hovers. But technology has grown in recent years, and today, many people use these types of drones to perform aerobatic stunts and aerial races.
A. Drones in this price range offer a variety of features and are great for beginners, but they really can’t compete with drones priced in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. These drones offer longer flying times, faster speeds, more power, greater range (some measured in miles!), as well as more robust cameras and advanced features such as GPS and obstacle sensing.
Please note that if these drones are flown out of range so that the communication with the drone is lost, the drone can be easily lost as well. A common error is to fly the drone to its height limit and lose communication. If there is any wind, the drone may then do what is called a “fly away.” This is a sad thing for an operator because the drone will fly off to who-knows-where and unless you quickly go chase it; it can disappear forever.
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.
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!