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
The DJI Mini 2 is an updated Mavic Mini, now with a 4K camera, Ocusync 2.0, and updated flight features in a package still small...
- 31 - Minutes
- 4K - 12MP
- 36 - MPH
- 6.2 - Miles
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 Ryze Tello is one of the most capable and versatile mini drones around, enjoy different designs, code your own flight features, or just fly...
- 13 - Minutes
- 720p - 30FPS
- 18 - MPH
- 100 - Meters
Serious drone pilots end up sinking hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into their rigs, building their own from parts or just picking up a ready-to-fly drone. We may look at building a custom rig one day ourselves, but for now, we’ll focus on off-the-shelf devices, the kind that keep the budget fairly low while you get the hang of things.
Best drones under $500
We have smaller budget lists as well, but let’s bump it up to half a grand today: This is our list of the best drones under $500.
The following list is in no particular order, but I’m sure you’ll find that we represent a few different categories of fliers, including toys, photography drones, and high speed racers. Without further ado, here are some of the best drones you can pick up for under $500.
DJI Mini 2
November 2020Release Date
The original DJI Mavic Mini was a very important machine for the consumer hobby drone market. The DJI Mini 2 is the next generation of super-compact camera drone, it's a solid improvement over the original Mini, especially in terms of the camera and flight capabilities. You still get a sub-250 gram drone, but now get a 4K camera, vastly improved connectivity, a more durable design, and more power.
The newer 1/2.3-inch sensor produces 12MP stills, and 4K video at 30 fps and 100Mbps data rate. For some, the most exciting update is lossless zoom. With up to 4X zoom, you can safely fly at distance from your subject, perfect for those pet photos or to capture shots of a waterfall in the distance.
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
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.
January 2018Release Date
UVify has a rich history in drone racing. They understand that 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.
Hubsan Zino Pro
September 2019Release Date
The Hubsan Zino Pro is a historic drone for the company. Until this point, Hubsan built mostly toy drones, that is, drones that may have offered some basic GPS functionality, rarely hosting anything more than a 720p camera, and nothing that had potential to stand up to a DJI Mavic series drone. The initial Zino may not have nailed it, but the Hubsan Zino Pro has a spec sheet that ticks a lot of the right boxes.
The Hubsan Zino Pro offers a 4K camera on a 3-axis stabilized, rotating gimbal, flight time similar to the DJI Mavic Air, a bunch of flight modes that most of us have come to expect of a drone, and 4KM connectivity. One of the best features is the ability to remove the camera lens and install new lenses with ND filters built in.
The Hubsan Zino Pro is $399 on Amazon today, but expect a normal price of around $439.
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.
Walkera F210 3D
As far as an out-of-the-box solution goes in the racing world, the Walkera F210 3D is one of the best drones you’ll find today. It packs both normal and night vision cameras, a sturdy build, simple customizations and a lot of thoughtful longevity features. Not saying it won’t break if you crash it, but they’ve done what they can to protect core components and make the rest easy to replace.
Best of all, you can tweak the flight characteristics directly, adjusting the flight controller to your specifications. The F210 3D is lightweight, we hear it is extremely agile, particularly in those demanding corners of technical courses, and is fast enough to keep up.
We can’t guarantee you’ll win races with the Walkera F210 3D, but if any ready to fly drone purchase was going to get you there, this may be it.
Check out the Walkera F210 3D for $299 on Amazon today.
If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.
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.
March 2018Release Date
Built using many DJI parts, and sold on the DJI site in partnership with DJI, it is a common misunderstanding that this is a DJI drone. The Ryze Tello is a fun little machine that serves many purposes. On the surface, it's a functional and capable high-end, toy-class drone. You can fly by mobile device, remote control or, in the case of the Educational versions of this machine, you can code your own functionality.
The Ryze Tello is an attractive first drone for many pilots and parents of potential pilots. There are even a few different partnerships, like the Iron Man edition Tello.
January 2018Release Date
The Hubsan H501S was one of the first GPS enabled drones from Hubsan to offer a 1080p camera and brushless motors. This sounds like a common thing, silly to celebrate by today's standards, but this was a game changer for Hubsan and the toy drone market. Looking at 2017 and earlier, most toy-class drones, which included most all of Hubsan's drones, used inefficient brushed motors and all flew in what you might call ATTI mode. While the early drones had no navigation or a tools for object avoidance or flight assist, GPS in the H501S gave it the ability to hover and even set a GPS controlled route through the mobile app on your smart device.
With RTH functionality and more, the Hubsan H501S remains one of the best drones that live in between toy-class and what we might call the premium experience of full GPS flight control. Check out the Hubsan H501S for around $168 and watch for deals as low as $150.
Bonus budget drones
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 Syma X5C runs about $30 for the drone, a little more with extra batteries and parts.
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.
Stay tuned for more great lists of best drones in different segments, different price points and more. Also stay tuned for some specific drone coverage, we’re bringing in some popular quadcopters for review and testing, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Further Reading: When budget is of no concern, here are the best drones
Do you have a drone suggestion that belongs on this list? What’s the best drone under $500 in your opinion?
Have a different budget or specific need?