Fun and aerial photography are two primary reasons to get yourself a brand new quadcopter. Play indoor games with your kids or go out and capture breathtaking views of your neighborhood or a landscape. Budget-priced GPS drones offer enough features for you to use it both for professional and personal reasons.
I’d also like to bring your attention to the fact that premium drones are quite expensive. DJI Mavic Pro, one of the best high-end drones, is priced somewhere around $1000. Since you are going for a cheap drone under $200, there will be certain limitations. This post will help you find the best camera drone under $200.
Best Camera Drones Under $200
1. Holy Stone HS700D
Flying a drone for the very first time can be quite intimidating. When coming up with the design, drone manufacturers do not take into account the level of proficiency of the pilot. It is assumed that the user has sufficient training and skills required to fly the drone safely and efficiently. Holy Stone is one of the rare drone manufacturers to come up with user-friendly drones.
The model HS700D from Holy Stone is one of the easiest drones to fly. Usually, drones under $200 take too long to configure. Connecting the machine with the app also involves a lot of hassle as there is no thorough documentation available. Such is not the case with Holy Stone HS700D. The Ophelia app that comes with this unit is easy to use. It has a variety of view modes for the user– watching your drone fly through the air can be quite gripping.
Plus, if you ever feel like you are losing control, you can always press the “return to home” or “follow me home” button. You can use this device in unfamiliar territories as well. The Google map will help locate yourself and the device so you always know your boundaries.
This camera drone comes with a decent quality lens. Although the image or video quality is not as good as some of the premium drones, it is good enough for a beginner. You can swiftly shoot videos in 720p HD quality. The 2K camera offers the resolution of 2048*1152p. It is recommended shooting in 720p HD as there is not much difference in quality further.
Holy Stone HS700D is Suitable For –
This unit is for those who desire to pilot a drone, but still in the beginner phase of the learning curve. The “return to home” feature makes sure that you get the device back in your possession even with sub-standard piloting skills. Furthermore, you can explore the other amazing features of this product as you continue to grow your skills.
- Comes with a high definition 1080p camera.
- A high-capacity lithium-ion battery (2800 mAh).
- 22 minutes of flight time.
- One-touch take-off and landing.
- Make the drone follow you home by pressing the “Follow Me” button.
- You do need to refer to the manual to carry out some complex operations.
- The battery charging system needs improvement.
- You can’t adjust the camera angle inflight.
2. Potensic D60
Best Overall Runner-Up
Are you looking for a quadcopter to capture stunning images from the sky? D60 from Potensic is one of the best drones under $200. The 1080p camera allows you to click pictures and shoot videos while flying as slow or as fast as you desire. This unit offers a maximum speed of 40km/h, which is quite generous considering its price.
Additionally, the camera is also equipped with Anti-Shake Technology so you can capture smooth and professional quality content from the sky. This unit also comes with a 90-degree rotation adjustable lens– it auto-adjusts the focus of the lens by backward and forward motion.
Further, the 5G fluent FPV transmission ensures that there is no lag between what’s been recorded and the view at your end. This is one of the premium features–unheard of in budget-priced drones under $200.
Another major feature of this device is you can add 10 minutes of flight time by switching off the FPV transmission. Meanwhile, you can refer to the maps to navigate the drone. Although, with FPV transmission, you can expect recording time not more than 10-12 minutes of flight time –quite standard in drones under $200.
Potensic D60 is Suitable For –
This unit from Potensic can be a good trainer if you are planning to purchase a premium drone like DJI Mavic in the near future. Getting started with this drone is a breeze. Just go through the instructional manual once.
The device is ready for take-off right out of the box. Even a kid can learn to fly this drone. Whenever they feel like they are losing control of this device, just ask them to let it go. There is nothing to worry about. The drone will stay still (in the air) the moment you take your fingers off the remote control.
- The accessories are easy to connect. Paring does not take much time.
- No chance of losing the drone due to loss of connection or power outage. It returns to the base on its own.
- Camera quality is good for a budget-priced drone.
- The instruction manual needs to be more illustrative.
- The battery life is short (about 12 minutes).
- No additional battery is provided.
3. Contixo F20
Contixo F20 is a rich-featured budget-priced camera drone capable of capturing amazing images right out of the box. Just like any other budget-priced quadcopter, it comes with a 1080p camera, a 90-degree rotation adjustable lens, and high-speed wireless data transmission.
With a click of a button, this unit allows you to point the camera straight down. You can use this feature to capture yourself in action or shoot a real estate property from the top.
In short, during the flight, anytime you encounter something attention-worthy, simply press this button. The drone will point the lens downwards. You can zoom in and out at your will. This makes this drone suitable for both personal and commercial use.
Furthermore, Contixo has used Brushless Motors that are known for rotating at a breathtakingly high speed. These motors are capable of operating at more than 400 RPM. The Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs) used in the construction of Brushless Motors can also make the motor spin in the reverse direction–that too within a few seconds.
Similar to Potensic D60, this unit, too, can be flown for up to 20 minutes by switching off certain features. The more smartphone and remote control feature your turn off, the more flight time you can expect. Although, a full-powered Contixo F20 can only function for about 10-12 minutes. To shoot longer, the battery needs to be replaced periodically.
Contixo F20 is Suitable For –
Contixo F20 is one of the best drones under $200 for those planning to use it in a windy and woody region. If you have used a budget-priced quadcopter before, you would already be aware of the things to worry about.
Low-powered and lightweight drones are more likely to get blown away with the wind. Also, the lack of stability makes it difficult to navigate in a woody region. It’s not uncommon to see abandoned drones stuck on the trees. With Contixo F20, you will never encounter these two common problems.
- Collision resistant drone.
- Powerful enough to sustain low to medium pressure winds.
- Camera quality is decent.
- Various flight modes to choose from.
- Can record and save a live video.
- Flight range needs to be increased.
- No led lights.
- Low battery life (10-12 minutes).
4. Potensic D58
Best Value Runner-Up
A video shot in 720p HD with an average quality camera is more likely to appear grainy and a bit dark, mainly when recorded in bad lighting conditions. Budget-priced drones do not come with a super high-quality lens. They are intended to get the job done merely. When looking for the best drone under $200, you need to take this factor into account.
However, the Potensic D58 comes with a 120-degree wide-angle camera –which is quite a game-changer. The 1080p camera is capable of capturing detailed images even under low or adverse lighting conditions. The manufacturer recommends using a micro SD card with a minimum of 32 GB space. Also, the smartphone should have 5G Wifi capability.
This drone can also be a good trainer, primarily when used in the “Altitude Hold” mode. During the training phase, you don’t want to change the battery every 10-12 minutes. In the “Altitude Hold” mode, the device won’t rise above a set height. This helps you fly the drone without needing a map or FPV on your smartphone.
By the way, it is advised to have at least three sets of Lithium-ion batteries every time you go out to train or shoot for a long duration. The unit comes with two Lithium-ion batteries. You can purchase spare batteries online or from an electronics store. They are quite standard, so finding them won’t be an issue.
Potensic D58 is Suitable For –
Potensic D58 is one of the best drones under $200 for travel vloggers and backpackers. You can put the drone and related accessories in the aluminum carrying case provided by the manufacturer. Further, the aluminum carrying case is collision-proof. Meaning, it’s contents will remain protected during bumpy rides or minor accidents.
- Good entry-level drone.
- The controls and user-interface are quite similar in quality to that of DJI Mavic Pro.
- Easy to set up.
- Good battery life for a budget-priced drone (15 minutes).
- Comes with two batteries and a heavy-duty carry case.
- Camera quality needs improvement.
- Slow battery charging system (takes more than two hours).
- No SD card support. You need a micro SD card.
5. Holy Stone HS120D
Holy Stone HS120D is the best drone under $200 for those who are not savvy with unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs). Do you seem to run the drone into a tree every time you fly it below 100 meters? Or maybe you have trouble focusing simultaneously on the screen and the device itself?
Holy Stone has made it possible for you to own a camera drone under $200 that also comes with spare propellers and landing gears. The next time you run your drone into a tree, you will have one more chance to learn this delicate skill without incurring financial damages.
Furthermore, Holy Stone also offers a fanny pack with more than $50 to keep the drone and its accessories safely and securely. The fanny pack can be carried over the shoulder or in your hand, like a briefcase. You will also be surprised by the compactness of this device. It weighs just 220 grams– light but sturdy enough to withstand moderate winds.
No other drone in the $200 price range offers flight time more than 30 minutes. With the two Lithium-ion batteries, you can fly this device for more than 36 minutes. Needless to say, you will have to keep the fancy features turned off during the duration of the flight.
Also, the device is quite lightweight, 250 grams to be precise. This comes under FAA standards for unnamed autonomous vehicles (UAV) and will save you a trip to the local FAA office.
Holy Stone HS120D is Suitable For –
This drone is perfect for someone planning for a trip abroad. Do you intend to capture the landscape, city, and other exciting places from the top? As I mentioned before, this drone comes with a handy backpack, spare propellers, and additional landing gears. All can fit comfortably in the bag. HS120D can be a great companion on the road.
- Can use this device right out of the box. No need to assemble.
- Comes with two lithium ion batteries and a zipper fanny pack.
- The best battery life for a budget-priced drone (you can easily get 20 minutes from each cell).
- Excellent charging system. It charges both batteries simultaneously.
- The remote controller is not designed ergonomically.
- No protectors for propeller blades.
- Camera quality can need improvement.
6. Altair 818
Best Budget Runner-Up
Altair Aerial is a Lincoln, Nebraska-based drone manufacturing company. They ship all across the nation. Altair 818 comes with three levels of difficulty. From kids to older adults, everyone can enjoy and work with this fantastic device. The 720p HD camera is good enough to capture anything from a beautiful landscape to a real estate property from the sky.
The three skill levels allow you to switch from one pilot to another while the drone is still in the sky. You can also play indoor games like lego in the basement of a sufficiently large hall. I’d also like to call your attention to the fact that this drone is created by keeping users of all ages in mind. So, this product might not be for you if you are looking for something weighty.
Further, this drone accommodates two Lithium-ion batteries. Each battery lasts about 15 minutes. Hence, once the drone takes off, it can stay up for more than 30 minutes. For the safety of younger pilots, Altair Aerial 818 comes with a one-touch take-off and landing feature. It can take a while for kids to learn the correct way to fly such a sophisticated device.
To capture smooth and steady footage, this drone can be used in “Altitude Hold” mode. Even a commercial plane pilot makes use of Altitude Hold when flying in windy conditions. Although Altair Aerial 818 does not come with automatic “Altitude Hold” mode, you need to turn it on so you can control the roll, pitch, and yaw as usual.
Altair 818 is Suitable For –
Altair Aerial 818 is one of the best drones under $200 for an entire family. Everyone from your kids to the elderly in the house can use this drone without any issues. Record videos and take stunning photos from the top. The live video recorded with this drone can add considerable value to a family B-roll.
- Excellent customer service. The staff is prepared to answer all your queries on the phone.
- The built quality is quite good. The device can withstand crashes and collisions without breaking apart.
- Shoot live video with decent quality.
- Ideal drone for beginner pilots.
- Remote control is not ergonomically designed. The button placement needs to be changed.
- Camera quality is excellent for a budget-priced drone. But not exceptional.
7. Altair AA108
Best Budget Runner-Up
AA108 is another starter drone from Altair Aerial for kids and older adults who are just beginning their journey as a drone pilot. The primary purpose of this drone is to help you capture breathtaking views from the sky without hurting yourself, others, or the drone itself. This drone comes with a 120-degree wide-angle 720p camera.
You can save the 32GB worth of data in an SD card, although the manufacturer does not provide an SD card along with this product. Further, you do not necessarily need to connect this drone to a smartphone, but if you do wish to fly your drone on a specific flight line, you can do so with the help of the Flyingsee App.
The Custom Route Mode lets you draw the flight path on the smartphone so you can rest easy and let the drone do the flying. The Flyingsee App also connects seamlessly with the HD camera. Stir your emotions by watching your drone in action connected to an FPV HD camera– the excitement you feel is nothing less than a roller coaster ride.
From the various available best drones under $200, Altair AA108 is the one that has safety features like emergency landing and low battery alarm. Other budget-priced drones do come with some safety features like “return to home,” but they are not as extensive as that in the Altair AA108.
Some other exciting features include one-button take-off and landing, altitude holding, and headless mode. As I already mentioned earlier, this drone is intended to be used without a smartphone. A common question that arises here is, “how do I shoot sideways while moving in the forward direction? ”
This is where the headless mode comes into play. The headless mode eliminates the need to focus or even care about the orientation of the drone. No matter where your drone is pointing, by selecting the headless mode, you will be able to spin it in whichever direction you want.
Altair AA108 is Suitable For –
Flying a drone can be quite an intimidating experience. If you live in a neighborhood with a lot of houses and trees present and are afraid to hurt someone with your drone, this product might be the right one for you. It comes with three modes of operation.
The modes can easily be changed with a button located at the back of the remote control. It doesn’t matter if you are planning to fly this drone indoor or outdoor, it works perfectly in all weather conditions.
- Headless mode allows you to use this drone without a display screen.
- Good trainer drone for people of all ages.
- Bright red and green LED lights are located at the bottom of the drone. Easy to locate the device in poor lighting conditions.
- Can fly indoors as well.
- Low flight range.
- Can’t operate the drone without the smartphone app.
- The battery lasts not more than 8 minutes.
8. Snaptain S5C
Best Budget Runner-Up
Out of the several best drones under $200, Snaptain S5C is the one that comes with protective propeller guards and an ABS plastic body. These features ensure a user that even a slow learner can use this device safely and effectively. This drone can withstand shocks even after colliding with trees or houses nearby.
Furthermore, the 720p camera connected to this device can transmit video signals within a radius of 80 meters. The Snaptain Era App saves all the data to the SD card. You can either edit the HD videos using the smartphone (via the app) or transfer the data to another device wirelessly.
Gravity Control is another unique feature this drone has to offer. This drone does come with remote control, but you don’t necessarily need to use it. To control the drone with your smartphone itself, simply tap open the Snaptain Era App. Simply tilt the phone in the direction you want the drone to move. There is a built-in G-sensor in the drone. It receives signals from the smartphone and gets to work immediately–there is no latency.
Snaptain S5C is Suitable For –
Drones allow you to capture images and shoot HD videos from the sky. Ordinarily, drones are used by photographers or vloggers. However, since it is now possible to get the best drones for under $200, parents do not hesitate before gifting or allowing their kids to fly these mini-monsters.
With Snaptain S5C, kids can not only learn the basics of photography but also have fun by doing 360-degree flips and rolls.
- Easy to set up.
- Good charging system for a budget-priced drone. The battery takes about an hour to charge.
- Resistant to low to moderate pressure winds.
- Collision resistant.
- The Android version of the Snaptain Era App needs improvement.
- The battery doesn’t last for more than 7-10 minutes.
- Flight range is 80 meters. One hundred meters would have been perfect.
What Should You Look for When Purchasing a Cheap Drone?
If you are thinking of buying a low-investment drone to train and learn the art of drone piloting, you are not alone. As a beginner, this is what you should be doing. There is always a possibility that an accident would occur when trying something new. Drone flying is not a natural skill. Plus, when was the last time you handled an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV)?
Having said that, there are few things you need to consider when buying a budget-priced drone. Carefully go through each of the following points.
1) Return to Home
Return to Home (RTH) is a safety and convenience feature that usually comes with premium drones. However, these days even budget-priced drone manufacturers have managed to add it to their products. Why is the Return to Home (RTH) so essential in a cheap drone?
Drones are in constant communication with the controller. However, in certain situations, it becomes difficult to bring the drone back to a safe landing location. For instance, what happens if the battery is about to die your device is still far from reaching the landing base?
Without the Return to Home (RTH) mode, the drone would drop dead somewhere in its path. The Return to Home (RTH) mode makes sure that your drone retreats to safety before while there is still some power left. Plus, you can also call back your drone if you are interrupted by bad weather.
2) Flight Time
Premium drones can have a flight time of more than 20 minutes. By the way, flight time is the duration for which the unmanned aircraft lingers in the sky. In the aviation industry, it is also referred to as wheels-off time.
Ideally, you should look for a drone that offers more than 10 minutes of flight time. Also, it would be great if the drone can hold two or more lithium-ion batteries. With more batteries, you can up the flight time while keeping the drone airborne.
You should also know that budget-priced drones generally do not offer a flight time of more than 12 minutes. Hence, you should manage your expectations beforehand.
3) Flight Range
Did you know that drones are capable of covering distances of more than 100 km? High caliber drones, especially the ones used by the US military, can hop from one country to another. However, when it comes to drones for noncombatants, they do not go farther than 10 km. I am talking about premium drones here.
When buying a drone under a $200 price range, you cannot expect a flight range of more than 100 meters. A budget-priced drone can go as far as 150 meters, but not more than that. Also, I am guessing you are not interested in a toy drone with a flight range of around 20 meters. Hence, you should expect a $200 drone to fly over your house and the neighboring landscape merely.
4) Headless Mode
The Headless Mode is one of the prime features of Altair AA108. A quadcopter is square in shape, but it does have a head. The side of the drone where the camera is facing is known to be the front. One common problem most beginner pilots face is not knowing how to properly orient the drone, especially when it is far away from the eyesight.
Whether you are buying a budget-priced or a high-end drone, you must look for Headless Mode in the list of features. Drones always–by default– move with the camera facing forward. It is possible to make the drone spin in all directions while still moving in the right direction by switching on the Headless Mode.
Do I Need a Permit to Fly a Drone?
Generally speaking, a permit is only required if you are planning to fly your drone for commercial purposes. For recreational use, no certificate or license is required (as of April 2020). Having said that, this doesn’t mean you are allowed to fly your drone anywhere you want.
There are certain stipulations imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which you have to follow no matter what. I am sure you are aware of the dangers of flying a drone recklessly. Your quadcopter could hit a low flying plane or damage public/federal property. What if your drone crashes near a nuclear power plant or a federal prison?
You do not need a permit to fly a drone if,
1) You do it as a hobby or for recreational purposes.
2) You wish to capture your real estate property from the sky.
3) You always keep the drone within a visual line-of-sight.
4) The device doesn’t weigh more than 55 pounds.
5) You follow the guidelines set by the local community.
For commercial purposes, you will need to apply for a “remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.” This link will take you to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) page.
Picking the right drone can be challenging when you have so many options available. From the above list, I would suggest Altair Aerial AA108 for those looking for the cheapest yet feature-rich drone. Altair Aerial AA108 may not have the best camera (as good as Holy Stone HS700D) but has a wide range of features useful for users of all ages.