The Hubsan H111 is one of the best nano drones for flying around the house. It is a tiny machine that fits in the palm...
- 5 - Minutes
- No camera
- 7 - MPH
- 150 - ft
An excellent starter drone, the Syma X5C is resilient, reliable and easy to operate. Nothing fancy here, just a simple toy-class drone to practice flying...
- 10 - Minutes
- 720p - 30FPS
- 11 - MPH
- 100 - ft
The UVify OOri is a fantastic drone for aspiring race pilots. It is stable and manageable in the living room, but can also run up...
- 5 - Minutes
- Basic FPV
- 50 - MPH
- 500 - ft
The DJI Mavic Mini is the smallest Mavic drone released to date. Offering 2.7K video and great flight features in a package small enough to...
- 30 - Minutes
- 2.7K - 12MP
- 29 - MPH
- 2.5 - Miles
Along with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, the Mavic 2 Zoom is one of the safest drones in the sky. You'll enjoy the flight with...
- 31 - MIN
- 4K - 30 FPS
- 44 - MPH
- 4.3 - MILES
We all have to start somewhere, and when it comes to drones, there are many machines to choose from. The last thing we want to do with our drones is crash, but it’s going to happen. Beginner pilots have a lot to learn; flying a quadcopter or similar drone is fairly easy, but mastering it can take some time.
We’ve discussed cheap drones, the ones that you can afford to crash, but we’re taking a different perspective here today, these are the drones, regardless price, that are the best drones for beginners.
November 2019: The DJI Spark is out, the DJI Mavic Mini is in!
Best drones for beginners
Before we dive into our list of drones, let’s talk about your pre-flight procedures, a well planned flight is often a safe and error free flight.
First up, know your local laws. In the United States all drones over 0.55lbs will need to be registered with the FAA before you fly. You will also have to follow a strict set of guidelines that ensure the safety of others. Check out the following:
Drone legal and safety
Next up, basic safety and flight procedures. We preach time and again flying safely and legally in your area. Safety is easy with a few smart decisions. From there, ensuring your drone comes back in one piece is another topic. We have decent first flight procedures and a things not to do in the following links:
- Cheap drones guide – piloting your first quadcopter
- First time drone pilot? Don’t make these mistakes
More than anything else, have some fun out there. Quadcopters and other small drones are so much fun to fly, offer an amazing camera experience and are easy to operate safely if you take your time.
One of our favorite drones for flying around the house is the tiny Hubsan H111. This is an entry level toy drone that usually sells for around $20. It flies quite well, all things considered, and is a superb machine to practice on during the winter months or before you dive into a larger machine. The built in battery only provides about 5 minute of flight time, there is no camera and no fancy flight features, it's a raw flight experience - which is what we love about it.
It's not lost on us that it comes in Drone Rush colors as well, thank you Hubsan!
Check out the Hubsan H111 for about $18 today.
January 2015Release Date
The Syma X5C was one of our first drones. A toy-class machine that is very resilient, fairly stable and easy to operate. We knew we needed something inexpensive to learn how to fly in the beginning, and this machine was our choice. The quirks of this simple drone taught us about basic flight mistakes, how to control a machine and much more.
The X5C offers two speeds. Normal speed is very stable, full tilt goes fairly slow and keeps the craft upright enough not to crash itself. Fast speed mode allows the craft to tilt enough that you must manage the throttle to keep it from hitting the dirt. That's how drones fly, these settings are excellent for learning how not to crash. The best part for us, the X5C is very light weight and made of flexible plastics. We crashed ours many, many times. We always flew over grass, and even from 100ft up, the drone would almost float back to the earth and bounce off the grass.
Related: 8 reasons to choose the Syma X5C
Keep in mind that this is a light weight drone, get it up too high and the wind can take it away. Trust me! We no longer have our Syma X5C.
The Syma X5C runs about $30 for the drone, a little more with extra batteries and parts.
Unique toys: Air Hogs drones
Please do not mistake any of these drones for high-quality fliers, however, if you have a small budget and just want to have some fun, there are some really cool ideas in the Air Hogs lineup.
All around fliers
DJI Mavic Mini
November 2019Release Date
With a long list of drones that start with the name Mavic, DJI has launched yet another consumer machine, perhaps their most consumer friendly yet, the new, very compact, folding DJI Mavic Mini.
As the name implies, the DJI Mavic Mini is a very small machine, and in true DJI fashion, it has few compromises to make it all work. The first thing to note is that the Mavic Mini weighs less than 0.55 lbs, which means you do not need to register it with the FAA before flight. Registration is quick and easy, but not requiring it at all is a bonus.
Related reading: DJI Mavic Mini review
Reminder: You may not have to register the Mavic Mini, but it's still a drone, you still have to follow the rules!
Don't let the small size fool you, this drone packs a 12MP camera, shoot 2.7K video from a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal and has all of the flight features you'd expect from a Mavic drone today.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
August 2018Release Date
If you run down the spec sheet, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the same machine, with one major exception, the camera. The folding quadcopter design offers great portability, the multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors assist in safe flight and the new capabilities of OcuSync 2.0 add versatility for control and accessories. That is true for both of the drones, the Mavic 2 Zoom, on the other hand, rocks a 2x optical zoom lens on top of a 12MP camera. It shoots 4K video at 100Mbps and can digitally double that zoom for an impressive close-up.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
August 2018Release Date
Introduced in August of 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro instantly became the best consumer-class folding drone that DJI had to offer. A marked upgrade over the original Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 Pro rocks a 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture at 100Mbps, multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors for some of the safest drone flight possible, and much more. OcuSync 2.0 enhances connectivity to the remote control and other accessories, now able to transmit 1080p live stream video well beyond the legal line-of-sight.
With an initial launch price of $1449, plus another $319 to get the Fly More kit with extra batteries, there is a barrier to entry with this machine, but if the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is within your budget, we think you will not be disappointed.
DJI Mavic Air
January 2018Release Date
DJI found great success with the Mavic Pro, they followed that up with the far less expensive Spark. The Mavic Air bridges the gap between these two, offering all the fun features from the smaller Spark as well as all the pro flight features of the Mavic Pro. Better yet, the Mavic Air introduced a 100Mbps data rate for video capture on a DJI drone under $1500. That sounds like a mouthful, suffice to say that the Mavic Air instantly took the crown for the best video at the lowest price of any drone on the market.
After the launch of the Mavic 2 series of drones, we had to recommend the newer Mavic line as the best camera on a compact drone, but the Mavic Air still remains our top pick if ultimate portability is your concern. The Mavic Air manages to pack down to almost fit comfortably in your pocket.
DJI Mavic Pro
November 2016Release Date
The DJI Mavic Pro is a compact, folding drone that was a pioneer for portability. This quadcopter folds down to fit easily in a backpack, or large pocket, while opening up to take 4K video to over 40mph in the sky. The 3-axis stabilized gimbal offers very smooth footage and OcuSync enables long range and HD live video streaming. The Phantom line of drones may have established DJI as a leader in the consumer drone market, but the Mavic Pro made high-quality aerial photography fun and highly accessible.
January 2018Release Date
UVify has a rich history in drone racing. They understand that the future racers need to start somewhere, developing the UVify OOri as a fantastic beginner's race drone. Slow and stable for practicing in your living room, this machine can open up to over 50MPH when you want to win a race. Agile, light-weight and fast, the UVify OOri is great for beginners on a budget.
There may be less expensive beginner drones out there, but if quality is of concern to you, the UVify OOri for $295 is hard to beat in the segment.
Random apps and accessories:
May 2017Release Date
The DJI Spark introduced a brand new segment for the drone company, launching a tiny machine that packs more fun features than powerful specs. This drone had everyone talking about the Jedi mind tricks you can play with the machine, using the front camera and object detection to accept hand gestures for some basic controls. All of these fun flight features made for a focus on two other features, the ability to fly without a remote control in hand and making you the object of the flight.
The DJI Spark is small enough to easily pack around wherever you might like to go. It's powerful enough to combat some decent winds and the 12MP camera can snap some fun photographs. While the camera may have a 4K sensor on the inside, it only records 1080p video. The HD video resolution allows the use of the extra pixels for image stabilization. The Spark mechanically stabilizes two-axis of movement, using the sensor cropping to handle side-to-side image stabilization. Admitting that this makes for some of the worst video capture from a DJI drone in the last 5 years, we can't deny that that is still pretty good, and the compact nature and low price of the drone make it well worth consideration.
DJI Phantom 3
April 2015Release Date
Some might call the DJI Phantom 3 the most important drone of all time for DJI. I might say that is the Mavic Pro, but there is no way to ignore the cultural significance of the Phantom drone. For a lot of the general community out there, the Phantom 3 is the drone that comes to mind when they hear the word drone. The drone itself was solid for its time, but offers the sort of specs that get laughed out of the market today. 1080p video capture, no obstacle avoidance and more, at least on the original version. DJI launched four versions total, including the Pro and 4K, with the 4K being the last out the door and first with 4K capture.
DJI Phantom 4
March 2016Release Date
Carrying the DJI Phantom line torch from early 2016 until late 2016, the DJI Phantom 4 offered a familiar flight experience and solid camera performance for pilots. It may have held only a short time in the lime-light, taking over from the Phantom 3 and being replaced by the far more capable Phantom 4 Pro, but it was a well respected drone in the series. This was the last Phantom drone to ship with a 1/2.3-inch camera sensor, all Phantom drones since are equipped with a full 1-inch sensor, but it still offered 4K video capture and 12MP photos. With a flight time of about 28 minutes and a range of about 3 miles at 45 mph, the Phantom 4 remains on par with some of the best drones on the market today.
Check out the DJI Phantom 4 for about $999, but keep in mind that the drone has been discontinued, prices may fluctuate with availability of remaining stock.
Yuneec Mantis Q
August 2018Release Date
The Yuneec Mantis Q is an easy drone to get excited about, it packs a slim, folding form-factor, it flies for longer than most drones on the market, it has DJI Mavic Air level specifications and it has a cool trick, voice commands. We must admit, the long list of flight features and modes exceeded our needs of a drone, but the things we asked it to do, it did very well. 33 minutes of flight time allows for a lot of action in the air, the voice control features make for a good time as well.
We understand that this is a first generation of the product, we really like it, but the camera is not stabilized. It's obvious that this drone was made for pilots, not for photographers. That about sums up our opinion of the machine: if you are looking for a fun drone to fly, the Mantis Q is fantastic, if you are looking for a flying camera, this isn't the drone you're looking for.
Check out the Yuneec Mantis Q for about $450 on Amazon, down from its original $499 price at launch.
June 2015Release Date
The 3DR Solo was one of the best drones in its time. This large and powerful machine was made to haul a GoPro, and it did so very well with a 3-axis stabilized gimbal (worth more than the drone itself) and quality peripherals to enhance the flight. 3DR themselves have shifted their focus greatly since the Solo began to lag behind others in the market. 3DR is almost entirely a services and software company now, offering site scan packages using drones from multiple other manufacturers, that said, these are drones that accomplish what the Solo did in the early days.
The 3DR Solo has big, powerful motors, a large battery and versatile payload mount. The machine is sturdy with a plastic housing and LED lights on each corner. The landing gear are not wimpy, but they are a little fragile feeling. Considering some of the antenna are in those legs, we recommend getting spares, just in case.
The 3DR Solo is a stable drone, hovering quite well and is fairly smooth. We don't recommend relying on the non-stabilized GoPro mount for your camera, but the results are not terrible. As mentioned, the stabilized gimbal sells for more than the drone these days, it also supports up to the Hero4 camera, so we have a really hard time recommending it at this point. Still if you are looking for a solid and reliable drone for other uses, the 3DR Solo is a great option.
We've seen some crazy deals on this discontinued drone, but you should expect to find the 3DR Solo for around $399.
Fat Shark 101 trainer
If all you are looking for is a solid kit with a fun entry level racing drone, one of the biggest players in the racing leagues has got you covered, this is the Fat Shark 101 race trainer. Included is everything you’ll need to experience the sport of drone racing. This drone will never keep up with high sped racers on an advanced circuit, but for booting around the living room or backyard, nothing is missing.
Learn how to fly a racing drone with the Fat Shark 100 trainer for $241 today. Regularly $249.
Walkera F210 3D
Let me stop you right there, if you have never flown before, this is probably not the drone for you. This is a high-speed flier, made for a race course at the hands of an experienced pilot. That being said, it is also one of the easiest racing drones to get into the air.
In the world of racing drones, most machines are highly customized or even built from the ground up. If you are just getting started, building from the ground up is a daunting task, which is why Walkera sells the F210 3D ready to fly. Just open the box and go crash into the wall.
Aside from flying fast, a lot of the racing leagues take things indoors. In this case, it is legal to fly using a FPV headset. Walkera has a headset or two to choose from, but the F210 3D will connect to most common head gear on the market. Essentially, if you are looking to race, this is one of the best drones to not only get you started, but stick with you as you advance through your skills.
Check out the Walkera F210 3D for $319 on Amazon today. Previously $420.
Also seen in our Best drones for kids list
Propel has a good thing going, they’re adding some class and excitement to a fairly simple set of drones. Their Star Wars collection drones are very well built, extremely well packaged and are not terrible little fliers to boot. They are most definitely a collector’s item more than a smart purchase for a flying machine, but they’re small enough to fly inside, and have a fun laser tag game built-in.
Check out all four of the Propel Star Wars drones for around $43 each. Previously $199 and usually around $100.
More than a paper airplane, PowerUp FPV
Have you ever thought about putting these drone motors on your own creation? PowerUp certainly has. They’ve come a long way in the last four years since I first heard of them – a few iterations later we get the PowerUp FPV. Take your paper airplane and attach this dual propeller motor assemble with FPV camera. They teamed with parrot to create the 720p shooter module, and the kit comes with a Google Cardboard type viewer, so grab your phone, fold some paper and get ready to fly.
Check out the PowerUp FPV for $80 on Amazon today.
There are so many styles of drones out there, we primarily stuck with the quadcopter setup, it is the easiest to fly and by far the most common. Although we do suggest starting with an inexpensive drone to learn the basics, we can understand how wanting to step up to your full time drone immediately can be appealing. If you take it slow, be very careful and give yourself lots of room to operate, we suspect you can get by. Just try to avoid some of the more common mistakes pilots make.
The real thing to keep in mind for any beginner out there, know your local laws, take precautions so that you don’t make any of the common mistakes most first time pilots do and give yourself lots of room to operate.
Have some fun, but always fly safe!
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