The included 3.7V 650 mAh battery takes about an hour to charge, and will give you up to 9 minutes of flying time. You can extend your flying enjoyment time with the purchase of extra batteries. The controller will give you up to 120m of control range, but limited to 50m when the FPV mode is active. This still allows you to take videos at fairly moderate distances.
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.
Aside from its tiny and hyper-portable design, the Spark’s biggest feature is arguably its plethora of intelligent flying modes. In addition to DJI’s standard stuff, the Spark sports a handful of brand-new modes, including Rocket, Dronie, Circle, and Helix (more on those in a moment). The drone also comes with gesture recognition abilities, which allow it to be operated without a smartphone or controller.
There’s a reason you see DJI’s Inspire showing up everywhere from movie sets to Enrique Iglesias concerts — it’s a beast. The Inspire 2 boasts some seriously impressive specs: a controllable range of up to 4.3 miles, a top speed of 67 miles per hour, forward obstacle avoidance, and all the stabilization and autopilot features you could ever ask for in a drone. But the camera is definitely the star of the show.
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.
For example, OPTI has a built-in Optiflow Sensor (a downward facing sensor), which functions by picking out the patterns on the ground to ensure that the drone maintains a straight position. ATTI, conversely, works a bit differently. With the ATTI, the drone employs other techniques apart from the external sensors to keep the drone in the right orientation and altitude. Thus, the drone can hover in place, or drift slightly around with the wind serving as a push. You will also find a GPS in some drones, and they help the drone to maintain coordinated and precise flights and landings.
At that point, the advanced obstacle avoidance systems and SmartCapture features are just icing on the cake. But these high-tech features also make the drone extremely accessible to newer pilots who may not know how best to handle their first photography drone. So if you want the power of a Mavic 2 with a less frightening price and intimidating feature set, the Mavic Air is an excellent choice.
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.
There is such a wealth of options in this rapidly growing field that we wanted to share a couple more drones that we like. The first is the Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Quadcopter. This UAV offers a great feature set at an economical price, and its fast charge time (under an hour) will have you back in the air in a hurry. The Force1 U45WF Quadcopter offers features rarely seen at this price point, such as a custom route mode that allows you to trace out a path on the screen that the drone then follows. We also love that this drone ships with three batteries to greatly extend your flying time.
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.
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.
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!