When you’re shopping for a starter drone, the choices can be complicated. You have the entry-level ones that even a kid can operate, also known as budget toy drones.
Then, there are the toy drones with more advanced features – still easy to fly yet accommodating to the requirements of professional photographers and videographers.
Balancing these different priorities, we set out to pick the best drones for beginners. We factored in the developments, trends, and predictions for 2021.
Once again, we found our winner in the undisputed DJI Mavic Mini. But we also included newcomers that piqued our interest and perhaps will pique yours.
Dip into our quick review of each drone to learn more.
1. DJI Mavic Mini
As the manufacturer of the most popular drone models in recent years, including the DJI Phantom and DJI Mavic Air, DJI is considered an industry leader. But one of its latest offerings, the Mavic Mini, is an impressive starter option featuring one of the best cameras for drone and quad units.
This lightweight flycam, which weighs 249-gram, can make you feel like you’re holding your smartphone. Yet, it is packed with heavyweight features that fit the needs of professional users who aren’t expert drone pilots. Filmmakers and videographers would love the 2.7K video, made possible by the camera’s ability to render in 1080p at 60fps.
With a transmission range of 4 kilometers, you can quickly capture shareable content. The controller range is 500 meters, so you can snap precise images while you’re operating this one. Its maximum flight time is 22 minutes. Built into its body is a proximity sensor that will let you land safely. However, it does not have collision sensors that are present in the DJI Mavic Air.
Still, its GPS allows the gadget to return home and use geofencing to keep you away from airports. What can make you love it, even more, is the guided mode you can take on if you’re nervous about operating it for the first time.
The price of the Mavic Mini is under $500, which puts it in the company of relatively affordable drones. For care and maintenance, you can purchase DJI Care Refresh, a paid replacement program offered by DJI, which will provide you up to two replacement opportunities for a year.
DJI Mavic Mini is Suitable For:
Beginners who desire a more professional experience out of their drones can depend on this model. It has a reasonable price for a product that does not skimp on reliable features. Fly your drone with peace of mind even if you are not an experienced pilot with this one.
- It dishes out 1080p videos at 60fps through a high-quality camera.
- It sports a proximity sensor, GPS, and geofencing for safe and secure flight.
- It is lightweight and easy to fly.
- It has superior transmission and control range.
- Its price is reasonable and within the market average for beginner drones.
- Its app may not be compatible with all Android versions.
- It lacks the collision sensors that other DJI Mavic units have.
- It can be bundled with a replacement program, which may place an additional burden on your budget.
2. Ryze Tello
Ryze is a startup founded in 2014. Since then, it has produced the Ryze Tello, a programmable starter drone that is accessible to kids and adults alike. Its partnership with a couple of the best names in consumer technology has helped it carve a name in the drone scene. It’s powered by an Intel processor internally and a DJI controller externally.
Though it may be categorized as a cheap drone, its camera quality does not sell itself short. The 5MP resolution is matched by the Electronic Image Stabilization feature, yielding clear photos. Video transmission is made stable by two built-in antennas, with a maximum range of 100 meters.
If you think the Mavic Mini is lightweight, wait until you come across this 80-gram quad. It is simple and easy to use, with the user-friendly Tello app allowing for automatic landing and takeoff. The maximum flight time is around 15 minutes. This drone will send you an alert once it exhausts its battery life. It will also land safely when it loses connection.
Yet, its most noteworthy feature may be its programmability. Through the Scratch programming language, you can learn how to code and then create your code to customize modes and flight functions. Scratch is built for kids, so you can use the drone as a tool for teaching as well.
You can own the Tello for around $100. It’s truly a beginner drone that also caters to consumers seeking a low-cost option. Plus, its maker is one of the few that cover drone purchases with warranty.
Ryze Tello is Suitable For:
A toy drone that costs under $100, this model is meant for professionals who are beginners in drone operation. It allows you to program your own flight modes and functionalities as well. So if you fall in either category or both, you can take advantage of this lightweight and intuitive drone.
- It is a lightweight camera drone that is ideal for beginners.
- It is powered by an Intel processor and a DJI controller.
- It can generate clear and sharp footage, with a transmission range of 100 meters.
- It can last up to 13 minutes in the air.
- It is programmable using Scratch, allowing you to create your own flight modes.
- It retails at under $100.
- It may show some inconsistency in its performance.
- It may overheat rather quickly.
- The app it comes with may not be compatible with some OS.
3. DJI Spark
Best Value Runner-Up
Exhibiting the excellence that DJI is known for, DJI Spark enters the market with its own set of desirable features. It belongs to the beginner drone lineup of the leading manufacturer. It is lightweight, immersive, and agile – a portable unit for users who want to try racing or aerial photography.
Starting with the camera, you can expect a 720p real-time video transmission, with a range that can reach 2km at the most.
- Explore different flight modes when you take it outdoors.
- Reach top speed with the Sport Mode.
- And then pair the device with DJI Goggles for a more immersive piloting experience.
Capable of flying for 16 minutes tops, it does not just perform in high altitudes but also does wonders indoors and in low areas. It is equipped with facial recognition for easy takeoff: release it and let it hover in front of you for a few moments. You can command it to take your selfies with its intuitive response to hand gestures – no need for a remote control or a smartphone app.
Among the DJI offerings, this one has a lower price than the Phantom. Yet, it is still more expensive than the Mavic Mini at almost $600. On average, toy drones with more advanced features cost under $500. But while its price is not for everyone, its value can convince beginners to shell out another hundred to get their hands on a reliable drone for photography.
The manufacturer offers an add-on, called the DJI Care, which allows you to request a replacement unit for your drone twice in a year.
DJI Spark is Suitable For:
Despite its price, this drone is a treat for beginners who are looking for their money’s worth in terms of aerial photography quality and features. Its intuitive functions make it easy to control even for those who are not practiced pilots. It’s perfect for those who are beginning their drone photography career.
- It has a 720p video resolution, with a transmission range of up to 2 kilometers.
- It is lightweight and intuitive, employing features such as hand gesture detection and facial recognition.
- It doesn’t require extra batteries with its maximum flight time of 16 minutes.
- It can perform both indoors and outdoors.
- Its price may not be suitable for people on a tight budget.
- It may not last as long as the bigger DJI models.
- Some people report about the DJI app crashing from time to time.
4. Parrot Anafi FPV
Best Value Runner-Up
French manufacturer Parrot has dished out beginner-friendly and profession-oriented drones. Among these is the Anafi FPV, which delivers a powerful and immersive piloting experience for different kinds of users. It’s filled with features for you to explore, which promise to enrich the pursuit for amateur and experts alike.
It is a First-Person View type meaning it is compatible with a virtual reality (VR) headset, the Parrot Cockpitglasses 3 – as if you’re flying the aircraft itself and seeing the view from above. For those who are professional photographers but new to operating a quad, you can fine-tune your images with manual settings such as the exposure, ISO, white balance, and shutter speed.
Take 4K HD videos as well, zooming in 3x, and adjusting the tilt. Enhance the output by using one of the flight presets embedded in this unit: Film, Sport, Cinematic, and Racing. Control the camera, as well as drone movement, with the dedicated and upgraded Anafi app FreeFlight 6.6. You can check the list of compatible devices here.
Overall, it offers a quiet flight that can last up to 26 minutes. Prior to takeoff, it will only take you 20 seconds to prepare this nifty gadget. It comes with a backpack in which you can store and organize the controller, 3D glasses, propellers, battery, and accessories, among others.
This model commands a high price. But given the quality of its components, design, and features, it is so much better than what its $700+ price suggests.
Parrot Anafi FPV is Suitable For:
Beginners who find a lot of value in prosumer products may see this option as something that will pay for itself in the long run. If you’re a professional photographer with minimal exposure to drone flying before, you’ll probably appreciate the premium camera features in this one. Meanwhile, practiced pilots could enjoy the immersive FPV experience.
- This FPV drone provides an immersive aerial view by giving you the perspective of a pilot in a cockpit.
- It enriches your captures with a 4K HDR camera, as well as manual settings such as ISO and shutter speed.
- It is a promising tool for pro photographers who want to dip their toes in aerial photography.
- It can last up to 26 minutes in the air.
- It takes seconds to set it up.
- Its price may be steep for some beginners.
- It may not be suitable for use in urban areas.
5. Holy Stone HS100 Navigator
Holy Stone creates professional drones for all types of users, including beginners. If you are a professional photographer or videographer yet haven’t flown a drone before, the Holy Stone HS100 Navigator may be the best version for you. It’s a stable and easy to fly option even when you are taking your unit out in airy conditions.
The 2K photos and videos can be framed at 120 degrees wide, with 90-degree tilt settings, for varied and high-quality documentation. Be free to take control from up to 500 meters away. You can view your visuals via live feed and operate your drone using an app that syncs with this product.
We mentioned its stability earlier. It has wind-resistant modes to assist you in launching, operating, and landing your device. You can rely on its Follow Me mode in keeping you within the frame all the time, even as you are moving around. The Return-to-Home function works together with the GPS to bring it to safety when the battery is low, or the signal is weak.
While it is too much to expect, say, 25 minutes from budget drones, you can depend on the 15 minutes of flight this one serves. With such features found in more advanced toy drones, the $150 price tag is such a bargain. Holy Stone complements it with a 30-day warranty for the unit and a 90-day warranty for accessories.
Take note that this is the heaviest option on our list.
Holy Stone HS100 Navigator is Suitable For:
If the weight of this drone is not an issue, you can take advantage of its advanced features while spending a fraction of the price. Those who are not skilled in piloting drones but are veterans in photography and videography can also bet on this one.
- It can produce 2K resolution photos and videos, shot at a wide, adjustable angle, giving freedom and flexibility to pro photographers and videographers.
- It maintains a control distance of 500 meters.
- It can be stable even in breezy conditions.
- It sports functionalities that are found in more advanced toy drones.
- It is an affordable choice for beginners.
- It is a heavyweight drone, which can intimidate some beginners.
- It may not be as durable as the higher-end drones in this article.
- It has limited warranty coverage and terms.
6. Hubsan H122D X4 Storm
Best Budget Runner-Up
Hubsan is a go-to budget brand for beginners. Its appeal lies in its pricing aligned with some features and functionalities that won’t leave buyers wanting. Among its toy drones, the Hubsan H122D X4 Storm is an FPV solution for racing, recreational, or professional flying. It may not be DJI Phantom, but its specs may fit the needs of those who are starting out.
The 720p camera provides enough capturing power to deliver decent pictures and videos from a bird’s eye view. With the FPV functionality, you can watch your footage and take a photo anytime, thanks to its real-time 5.8GHz transmission. The complimentary HS001 display screen serves as your window to the world while flying.
You can enhance each flight session with the accessories also created by Hubsan. When you install the HS001 in the HV002 mask, the latter can transform into video glasses. Here’s a quick video tutorial on how you can pair the LCD with the video glasses (starting from 01:42):
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Now, for those who want to use their drone for racing, the Expert mode provides guidance to those who aren’t experts yet in piloting a quad at top speed.
At under $100, this drone is a great deal for both non-pros and pros who don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands. Some users also say that customer support is responsive. And for those whose drones sustain damage due to acceptable reasons, they may request a replacement drone.
Hubsan H122D X4 Storm is Suitable For:
You can bet on this starter drone if you’re not an experienced pilot, a learner, or a curious cat (experimenter). If you want to spend a little under $100, then this one’s a total jackpot. Professionals who want a practice drone or a secondary drone can get a lot of value with this FPV model.
- It has a 720p FPV camera that lets you take aerial photos and videos.
- You can view your footage in real-time through its powerful transmitter and dynamic LCD.
- The monitor can be paired with Hubsan’s video glasses for a more immersive experience.
- It comes with an Expert mode for flying at top speed.
- Hubsan has responsive customer support.
- It costs under $100.
- Its battery runs only for six minutes while requiring almost two hours to charge.
- It can lose lift in sharp turns, which can lead to crashes and stalls.
- It does not have GPS for safe flying.
What is a Drone Used For?
What is a Drone?
You probably heard about drones being used by the military in their missions. But the popularity of these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have shot up recently when the technology has become more accessible to consumers.
In that case, you also probably know about drones with cameras or drones that map the surroundings. These are not new functionalities for this type of aircraft. Professionals may have been using them for a while now. However, they are relatively new in the broader consumer tech space. Here, the target segments include recreational flyers, as well as beginners.
The primary purposes of drones in this regard are aerial photography, racing and recreational flying, agricultural, tactical, and commercial, among others.
How Does It Work?
So, to understand how a drone works, you need to know its anatomy.
While it seems simple to look at and operate, this device is powered internally by sophisticated technology. It is designed to work independently; hence, the term unmanned – unlike the helicopter that needs a pilot to fly. Much of its autonomy is derived from the system of multiple propellers that keep it afloat even when one of its interior motors dies down.
These propellers perform as a unit. When more motors are engineered inside the drone, they enhance elevation control for stability and larger capacity in flight. Now, this won’t matter if there is no source of movement control. A drone is still an inanimate object. So you have the radio controller to manage it according to your purpose.
A controller is an external tool that provides a communication channel between the remote device and the radio waves. You will notice that some products specify their frequency range. WiFi networks are also tapped to establish the connection. Other models allow you to launch, navigate, and then land your drone through mobile devices, such as smartphones.
To gain control over the movement of the quadcopter, another term for a drone, it is equipped with features and functionalities that allow safe and lasting flight. The most common ones are the GPS (Global Positioning System), WiFi, and sensors that make decisions about altitude, speed, motor rotation, and others.
What is It Used For?
At the most basic level, a drone is already intended to act as an intelligent unit. This is why one of its original purposes relates to military spying and intelligence gathering. Of course, most recreational drones are simply used for fun or experimentation. Aerial photography and drone racing are among the consumer-oriented purposes for drones these days.
In this regard, many of the products you will come across will have a maximum flight time of less than an hour. To be able to adopt the tech into a consumer model, manufacturers use batteries that can last for around 10 to 45 minutes. Nevertheless, 45 minutes is already significant, even for filmmaking or surveying.
Battery upgrades are also allowed should you require a longer flying time. Some drones have built-in powerful batteries to withstand the conditions in the atmosphere and deliver high-quality output.
Technicalities that Come With Buying a Drone?
Should You Register Your Drone?
If you live in the United States, you need to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is necessary to ensure easy tracking of the aircraft to the owner for security and safety purposes. It will also help return your lost unit to you.
Before you start the registration, you need to know the definition of a commercial and a recreational flyer, as well as the difference between them. You can visit this page to view this information.
Once you confirm which category you belong to, you can complete the registration process on this page.
What Rules and Regulations Should You Comply With?
Aside from registering your drone, you should also be aware of federal and state laws that govern flying unmanned aerial vehicles. This rule of thumb applies whether you are a recreational or commercial flyer.
Knowledge of federal legislation is important. Moving to state-specific ones is imperative. Take note that if you’re residing and flying your drone in California, taking your drone to Colorado on a trip means observing a different set of regulations.
Always check the conditions that apply to your situation. For an overview of each state’s laws, browse this article.
What are the Basics of Flying?
The FAA has also outlined some ground (or flight?) rules. Chief of these is the maximum altitude of 400 feet. If you’re flying near a structure, you can go beyond the limit. But you have to be within 400 feet of the structure. This usually applies to professional fliers, such as surveyors.
When flying, you must always maintain your line of sight. You should keep away from airports to prevent your drone from endangering the planes that are landing and taking off.
Know where your government facilities or national parks are. And do not fly above them.
Take note of flying etiquette as well. For example, you must respect people’s privacy and property. Just because a crowd has gathered in a park, an open stadium, or any other public area doesn’t mean it is okay to hover over them and capture their activities.
If you hear about an emergency, whether natural or man-made, you should not film it at any time.
Lastly, you should not operate your drone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
How Much Do Drones Cost?
When you hear about drones for beginners, you may automatically think of cheap drones. It’s true that some of the best models for starters are toy drones, which can cost below $100. But keep in mind that the price of more advanced toy drones for beginners can also range from $100 to $500.
Then, you have the mid-range versions, such as the DJI Spark, which retails at above $500 but below $1,000. When you hit the thousand-dollar mark, you are now looking at high-end options.
What is Good Image Quality?
Good image quality means the output is clear, sharp, and bright, among others. The higher the resolution and the more advanced the HD camera settings, the better. The drone’s camera can capture more details. And this translates to images and videos that are pleasing to look at and watch.
You should also consider the format by which your output is rendered. If it comes in RAW or DNG format, it can be easier to work on during post-production. While not all cheap drones deliver low-quality images, you are more likely to find sophisticated features in higher-end models.
How Important is Stability?
You have read about how drones work. Stability has a significant role to play in this event. While you can remotely control the movement of the drone, it has to handle the payload and its own in the air independently. And being airborne requires balancing while you’re encountering a change in wind pressure, density, and direction, among others.
This is why you need a unit that proves to be stable throughout the flight. This quality will reduce your chances of capturing blurry shots or recording shaky footage. With this factor taken care of, you can then focus on flying and enjoying the view.
What are the Types of Drones?
You read about FPV earlier in the reviews section. You also know that it stands for First-Person View, with the context clues giving you an idea of how it works. But what is this type of drone? Learn more about it and the others below:
- RTF or Ready-to-Fly
As the name suggests, these drones are already assembled when they are sold. You just have to attach the propellers, and then you’re ready to fly. Our top picks of drones for beginners can fall into this category.
- BNF or Bind-to-Fly
This type requires you to bind the body with a controller, which does not come with your purchase. You need to buy the controller separately or use your mobile device if the drone model allows it.
- ARF or Almost-Ready-to-Fly
Those who like do-it-yourself projects may like this drone type because it allows you to build your own device. You can buy the parts and put them together yourself. Among those not included in the box are controllers, receivers, transmitters, and batteries.
- FPV or First-Person-Video
Lastly, you have the FPV type. This is useful in capturing footage and transmitting it in real-time to your mobile device or headset. You need to pair the aircraft with the controller, the controller with the mobile device, the mobile device or controller with the headset, and so on.
What are the Popular Drone Brands for Beginners?
This globally recognized leader in drone technology offers consumer, professional, and enterprise solutions. Among its innovative products are the Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Mini, Spark, Phantom 4 RTK, and Osmo Pro. It continues its commitment to innovation and inspires the community of drone experts and enthusiasts around the world.
Freefly Systems has a dedicated line to filmmaking in its Alta Series. Yet, this drone manufacturer also designed the Alta models for consumer and professional use. It may be known only for a few products, but it emerges as a standout in this saturated market because of its relentlessness to deliver robotic units that prioritize precision and reliability.
Founded in 2014, Holy Stone sets out to serve a wide range of users, from beginners to advanced to premium. It focuses on R&D (Research and Development) to take advantage of the most recent materials, designs, and technologies. This brand is also known for its affordable offerings.
This manufacturer often makes it to lists of the best budget drones. Its models belong to the entry-level category. Yet, they are also equipped with features and functions that stand out from the competition. Hubsan gives access to buyers who want simple and easy-to-use options for their recreational or aerial photography needs.
This brand has been around since 1994. It creates drones for different purposes, including recreational flying and aerial photography. Some of its models are budget-friendly. Their prices may be low, but their quality is not cheap. Aside from quadcopters, it also manufactures hands-free communication and infotainment systems for vehicles.
A few of the best mini toy drones you’ll find on the market come from Potensic. This company combines years of experience and expertise in the beginner and professional drone space to deliver reliable aerial devices. There’s something to find in its lineup as the prices of both its toy drones and GPS drones are reasonable.
This tech startup was established in 2014 and has since produced its first drone offering, the Ryze Tello. It may only have one representative in the toy drone space so far. But it shows it isn’t slacking by outfitting this model with a high-quality processor and pairing it with an industry-leading controller.
Backed by a decade of creating drones and quadcopters, this brand has carved a name among beginners. Its products, like the Syma X5C, are child-friendly. But its selections do not leave adults, especially professionals, disappointed. Choose from its folding drones, smart drones, and GPS smart drones.
It also has helicopter and boat options for those who want to try something different.
What is a Good Drone For a Beginner?
Based on our list, the Mavic Mini by DJI is a portable yet powerful drone that beginners can take advantage of. It dishes out the signature DJI features and functionalities while keeping it simple for starters. The GPS and geofencing data also allow for safe and stable flying.
If the Mavic Mini is too pricey, you can also check out DJI Spark. This lightweight drone with an intuitive controller is one of the less expensive models from industry leader DJI. It may suffice for those who are looking for aerial photography or recreational flying tools to explore and experiment with.
Further down the pricing hierarchy, you can also find the Ryze Tello in the entry-level category. It has good camera quality, a stable flight performance, and a reliable controller. At the same time, it lets you code flight modes and functions to enhance your drone flying experience.
Is Flying Drones Easy?
Preluding flight, a drone crashing right after takeoff may be the worst mental picture to have. It is not an irrational fear or anxiety. After all, gravity is a strong force on Earth. And you’ve heard about flyers who lost their device in a forest, a river, or somewhere far obscure.
But given the technology that drives quads to perform well in high altitudes, you should not worry about losing control while flying one. The best models are equipped with propellers, motors, and sensors that can work together to keep them safe and stable as they float in the air.
They come with controllers that make launching, navigation, and landing easy. Consumer drones, at least the high-quality ones, are built to perform optimally and last in the air until they accomplish their mission. So, wipe those worries away and gain confidence by choosing the best drone for beginners today.
Do All Drones Have a Camera?
When you purchase a drone, you receive the drone itself and the control system. You already know how these two parts work together. If not, scroll back up to the section called “What is a Drone Used For?” for a quick review.
The drone component may or may not be equipped with a camera. Of course, many entry-level and beginner units have cameras. This feature serves as their main selling point. Aerial photography is one of the primary uses of these types. Some have better camera quality than others.
However, some drones do not include cameras in the box. You will have to purchase the camera separately, either from the same manufacturer or someone else. But these units can usually handle heavy payloads. So, for instance, you can find a drone that can carry filmmaking equipment in the air, which then allows users to capture excellent footage.
The competition has been tight as high-end and budget options clash with their respective selling points and target markets. But there’s no question that Mavic Mini by DJI rises above the rest. It’s a masterclass in excellent aerial image capture, flight control and stability, and regulatory compliance. It’s the proper introduction to achieving great heights on the market.
But for those who can’t afford Mavic Mini, Ryze Tello offers an alternative that is apt for adults and children. It’s even better because it is programmable, presenting an option for beginner flyers who can code to customize flight modes as they skill up.
We also love the overall value that you can get from DJI Spark, closely rivaled by Parrot Anafi.
And for those who don’t want a drone that breaks the bank, it’s a toss-up between the Hubsan H122R X4 Storm and the Holy Stone HS100 Navigator.
With these top picks, we hope you find a model that meets your requirements. You can also check out the 6 Best Starter Drones for 2021 for aerial photography and racing focus.