Spending hundreds on aerial photography or recreational drone flying is not possible for everyone. For those who want to buy a quad with just enough cash but without getting burned by designs with cheap quality, great options are available.
You don’t have to sacrifice your hard-earned money to enjoy the advantages of this technology. After hours of research, we found remarkable models that do not cost a fortune.
Soaring above the rest is Ryze Tello, complete with its reliable drone camera features, flight time, and programmability, offered at a low price.
The review of this unit follows below, alongside other best budget drones on the market to check out this year.
Best Budget Drones of 2021
Put your nerdy cap on to maximize the benefits provided by the Ryze Tello. From entertainment to education, this drone packs the necessary features for different purposes. Let’s start with the essentials. Your need for quality output is translated to 720p footage and 5MP resolution images. Two built-in antennas and Electronic Image Stabilization enhance the results, respectively.
Powering Tello from the inside is an Intel processor that allows it to capture visuals from above. Externally, the DJI controller ensures flights are stable. Together, they let you launch the drone with ease and perform aerial stunts with or without prior skills. Its automatic video recording via EZ Shots has 360-degree, Circle, and Up & Away modes, which you can then share on social media.
Weighing 80 grams, this drone affords you efficient startup and flight. The user-friendly Tello app is there to assist you in flying your drone without wasting its maximum flight time of 13 minutes. No need to worry over lost low battery levels as the drone will send you an alert and will land safely when the signal is lost.
Do you want to jazz up the aerial journey with your own choreographed movements? Another highlight of Tello is its programming capability. Through Scratch, a coding system developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), you can learn how to code on the app. At the same time, you can apply your learnings by designing and uploading your own flight modes.
This coding functionality is accessible to many types of users, including kids. You can set up your code to assist your teaching or give your children a chance to share your love for recreational flying with this tech. With a simple interface, the controller or app should cater to beginners.
Get this unit for a little above $100, a small investment with effects that can last long. It is pocket-friendly for parents and teachers alike, with the benefits extending to kids and teens. Professional filmmakers may consider this a toy drone, however, and not enough for their heavier technical requirements.
For after-sales information, check out this page.
Ryze Tello is Suitable For:
This simple, lightweight, and efficient drone is designed for educators and recreational drone flyers. Those who want to tinker with codes can work with this model. It is suitable for kids and adults alike. However, it is aimed at people who are recreational users.
- It delivers high-quality videos and photos.
- It can be flown with a mobile device or a controller.
- It can last in the air for 13 minutes.
- It can be programmed using MIT’s coding system called Scratch.
- It can be used by children and adults alike.
- It costs only around $100.
- It is not designed for heavy professional use, such as filmmaking.
- The Tello app may not be compatible with some mobile device OS.
- It may be prone to overheating.
Best Overall Runner-Up
Potensic was founded in the same year as DJI: in 2006. So, it’s in its teenage years now. This means it has accumulated enough time to develop expertise in manufacturing drones. The A30W Mini RC Nano Quadcopter is one of its most recent offerings. An entry-level toy drone, it is a safe and simple choice for both adults and kids.
This mini-quadcopter integrates several functionalities to give you your money’s worth. First off, its FPV camera can produce 720P HD videos and photos, which can be fed live to your mobile phone screen through WiFi transmission. With clear footage and an accurate perspective, you can come up with high-quality output for your personal and recreational use.
Next, this model employs intelligent flight modes and operation settings. For example, the altitude hold mode lets the drone hover automatically at its current height, which in turn allows you to take clear shots. The one-key operation control makes takeoff, landing, and emergency landing straightforward. These features are kid-friendly, so your child can handle it with your prepping and guidance.
It comes in a portable design as well, so it is not as intimidating to beginners as the professional and more powerful options tend to be. Further, it connects with an app that you can download on your iOS or Android device. This prioritizes a user-friendly interface that even kids can understand. This underscores the underlying commitment of its creator to make flying accessible and fun.
Once you start leveling up your skills, its three-speed settings are yours to explore. This camera drone starts at a low speed by default. But you can upgrade to medium or high, turning it into a racing drone, once you develop the capability and confidence to drive it through hoops or cause it to perform aerial stunts.
For those who seek more control, you can set a path for the quad to take with the Way-Point Flight feature on the app. Discover everything that this mini drone has to offer at around $50. You can even score a discounted price at under $50 if you purchase it online.
A30W Mini RC Nano Quadcopter is Suitable For:
This mini drone is available at entry-level rates for beginners who want a good balance of affordability and a variety of features to explore. It is also ideal for gifting to children with its fun and easy-to-operate settings. Enthusiasts of drone flying and aerial photography and videography can also use this as a practice drone.
- It can produce clear and stable 720p HD footage with real-time WiFi transmission.
- Its control settings are introduced through a user-friendly interface.
- It is targeted at beginners regardless of age.
- It has three-speed settings, with a default low speed that you can upgrade to medium or high.
- Its price range starts at around $50.
- It can only be used as a practice drone by photographers and videographers.
- Its durability does not match with higher-end drones.
- Its battery life is not long-lasting,
- Its battery may be prone to overheating.
Holy Stone has been a dependable drone brand for users at advanced, intermediate, and beginner levels. The HS100 Navigator is a large and heavyweight FPV (first-person view) model from the company. It can produce 2K (2048 x 1152) resolution images and videos, in 120-degree wide shots and at multiple angles.
Piloting this type of drone can seem challenging, especially in breezy conditions. However, this one proves to be stable and easy to fly. It is wind-resistant and has an FPV range of 150 meters and a control distance of 500 meters. You can operate it via the FPV app, even switch on VR (virtual reality) mode, to get a three-dimensional visualization of the view in real-time.
Launching and keeping your HS100 Navigator in the air can last for 15 minutes, the maximum minutes of flight time before the battery runs out. The battery is replaceable, so you can bring extra if you need to shoot longer. Activating the Follow Me mode allows the drone to place you in the frame without fail while you move.
Adding to the list of desirable features is Return to Home, which can determine the accurate positioning through the embedded GPS. You can rest assured that your drone will alert you when it has a weak signal, or the battery is low. These modes give you the peace of mind as you know your drone won’t get lost easily.
As mentioned earlier, this is not a lightweight quad. It weighs 700 grams, including the battery. This may be due to the weight of the transmitter. However, the unit balances nicely on the palm. So it’s up to you to decide whether or not this will deter you from buying this one.
With several features that set it apart from other entry-level options, this drone is a catch at around $150. Holy Stone complements this powerful offering with reliable after-sales support. You can get your quad replaced within 30 days from the date of purchase if you encounter quality-related issues. If you bought accessories as well, you have 90 days from the date of purchase to have them replaced.
Holy Stone HS100 Navigator is Suitable For:
Budding photographers and videographers should not be intimidated by this heavyweight and powerful drone. If weight is not an issue, you can have a professional drone at a pocket-friendly price. Its app is compatible with many mobile devices, so you can view your visuals and control your flight with ease and convenience.
- It can capture wide-angle photos and videos at 2K resolution.
- It is stable and easy to control, even with a heavy transmitter.
- Its control distance can reach up to 500 meters.
- It features an app that is compatible with many mobile device models.
- It activates the Return-to-Home mode when the battery starts running low, or the signal is weak.
- It can stay in the air for 15 minutes.
- It offers a lot of value at a low price.
- It is pretty heavy.
- Its durability is yet to be proven.
Best Value Runner-Up
Some people may not know that Xiaomi, the consumer electronics company, has a consumer drone line. This is the Fimi brand, which creates the Xiaomi Fimi A3, a relatively low-cost model that caters to both enthusiasts and professionals. It is not as expensive as DJI drones, but it gives buyers the chance to experience some features found typically in higher-end options.
This quadcopter sports an Ambarella ISP processor and a Sony CMOS sensor, which work together to create 1080 HD photos and videos. This is a pretty high resolution. Adding to this desirable feature is the use of 2-axis mechanical and 3-axis electronic gimbals that allow for smooth and stable capture in the air, not to mention the Electronic Image Stabilization system.
A controller with a built-in LCD screen lets you operate the unit while receiving the live feed of your footage. Adding a mobile device may not be necessary, but you can attach a monitor or a pair of VR goggles to the controller if you want to enhance your flying experience. One advantage of having a DVR capability is you don’t have to run an app, which has a tendency to crash.
Further, you can achieve full control of your drone through several flight modes and functions, such as Fixed-Wing Mode, Follow Me, Orbit, and Dronie. You can also tilt your quad up and down, forward and backward, and left and right. It is also capable of a sideward flight.
With a 1km remote control distance, 25 minutes of maximum flight time, and 5.8G real-time transmission system, this one gives you a chance to fly with more choices. It is a good buy for those who want excellent performance without breaking the bank. At a little under $300, its price range is a bit steep compared with entry-level models.
But those who want to enjoy more benefits from a reasonably priced drone are bound to get their money’s worth. Fimi also provides reliable after-sales support, according to reports from verified users. So, it’s a win-win for those who are willing to spend a little more on a durable drone.
Xiaomi Fimi A3 is Suitable For:
Beginners and professionals who don’t want to spend on a higher-end brand but appreciate the features they have may find an alternative in this model. If you don’t want to be bogged down by smartphone apps that tend to crash, you can try this one, which comes with a built-in LCD screen for viewing your live feed.
- It comes with a high-quality processor and sensor that can deliver 1080p HD footage.
- It sports mechanical and electronic gimbals for smooth and stable capture in the air.
- It comes with a controller that has a built-in LCD screen.
- It has various modes and functions that allow you to enhance your flying experience.
- Its maximum flight time is 25 minutes.
- It has a remote control distance of 1 kilometer.
- Its camera lens can turn foggy.
- It may get lost if you go beyond the allowable range.
- It may have issues with transmitter commands.
Syma has been developing drones for a decade now. Its products are targeted to users of all ages. The Syma X5C Explorers RC Quadcopter is a beginner camera drone that performs better than its price lets out. Let’s start with its 720p HD camera, which can launch your aerial photography passion at a lower-end price range that can fit many consumers’ budgets.
Perform flips with its 360-degree rolling 6-axis flight control system. This is responsible for the decent shots and aerial stunts you can perform mid-air. It also lends stability to your indoor or outdoor session. To test all of this, you can use the 2.4GHz remote controller, which deploys the Spread Spectrum Technology. It has an anti-interference ability and yields the least power consumption.
Further, you can mount propeller guards and landing pads (optional) to protect the drone. Yet, even though it is made from good-quality plastic, it may not be as durable as other competitor products or brands and won’t be able to protect its body. This may add weight and shorten battery life, which already gives you 7 to 10 minutes with a 100-minute charge time as it is. But the add-ons should be worth it.
Some battery wires may also appear to be loose, something you can troubleshoot with electrical tape. And you can boost the battery life to a whopping 45 minutes if you spend some more on those upgraded batteries.
The design features a dominant white theme, with red accents, which is reminiscent of higher-end versions. It is no DJI Mavic Mini and other DJI drones, though. So it can work best as a toy or a beginner drone.
Syma dishes out different apps to support your device. This drone, however, does not support GPS. Its controller is not-so intuitive, such as the separate takeoff and landing keys. So paying attention to what the manual says is imperative.
If you’re on the lookout for the best drone for beginners, this model is your best bet. It costs under $50, without the add-ons. After comparing this with its competitors, we can conclude that this is a bargain.
Syma X5C Explorers RC Quadcopter is Suitable For:
Consumers who are looking for their first-time, beginner, toy, or practice drone should consider this quadcopter for its decent quality at an affordable price. Even with fewer and limited features, it can be upgraded should you wish to enhance your flight experience.
- It can generate 720p HD photos and videos, which are good enough for beginners and casual users.
- It can perform flips and 360-degree rolls thanks to its 6-axis flight control system.
- It has a reliable remote controller.
- It is the best budget drone for those who are just starting their drone flying journey.
- Its features are few yet upgradable.
- Without the upgrade, its battery life is limited.
- It has no GPS functionality.
- It is made of good-quality plastic but not as durable as higher-end models.
- The remote controller, although reliable, may not be intuitive for some users.
Best Budget Runner-Up
Capping this list is an entry from Eachine, an emerging maker of affordable remote-controlled flying drones. Its representative is the Eachine E58 Foldable RC Drone Quadcopter, with its palm-fitting design, decent camera, various modes, such as the Headless Mode, and comparable performance. Made from durable plastic, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart after a few sessions.
Before we go to its drone camera capabilities, let’s touch on its foldable arms. This function reduces the drone to the size of its body, making it easy to fit in your bag while you travel. Even with a small body, it contains a 720p camera with a 90° tilt setting. You may not get commercial-quality photos and videos, but the results are clear, bright, and color-rich.
The wide-angle shooting feature lets you capture sweeping aerial views to share with friends, family, and/or followers. The 6-axis gyroscope provides distortion prevention in place of a 3-axis gimbal for your footage and electronic stabilization for your image. On top of this, the 2 MP sensor gets backup in low-light environments through the embedded LED lamps.
Inspired by the design of the DJI Mavic controller, the controller is lightweight and compatible with mobile devices. However, it has multiple buttons that may not be intuitive. It also sports two antennas that do not seem to serve any purpose other than aesthetics. You can replace it with your smartphone if you prefer. The transmission range is just around 80 meters. With FPV, it’s 30 meters.
This model has an altitude hold to allow for flying in various weather conditions. Its published maximum minutes of flight time is 12. But users on the ground report that actual time ranges from 7 to 9 minutes. That’s pretty limited yet still within the bounds of entry-level types.
You can purchase this product for a little under $100. With discounts and promos, it can retail at around $80 – not bad for a budget drone. Its limitations may not be a big deal for beginners and enthusiasts. And in this case, the accessibility and cost will matter more.
Eachine E58 Foldable RC Drone Quadcopter is Suitable For:
This quadcopter features a camera, design, and modes that can deliver decent-quality results and performance. It is one of the most affordable and accessible among the low-cost options for beginners, learners, and enthusiasts. There is no GPS capability, but it has an altitude mode that can keep your unit balanced while it hovers higher into the atmosphere.
- It has foldable arms and a palm-fitting fuselage.
- It sports a 2 MP sensor that produces 720p photos and videos.
- It has an altitude mode that works with the 6-axis gyroscope to provide image stability and prevent footage distortion.
- Its controller is compatible with mobile devices.
- It can fly in various weather conditions.
- It is one of the most affordable budget drones on the market.
- It has a limited transmission range.
- It can only fly for approximately 7 to 9 minutes.
- It does not have GPS capability.
Things You Should Know Before Buying a Drone
If you live in the United States, you need to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This applies to both commercial and recreational drones. So your toy drone is not exempt from this rule, as defined by the FAA on their site. If you want to know the difference between recreational and commercial flying, check out this page.
We strongly recommend that you get a good grasp of the guidelines to start your drone use with peace of mind. After you’ve done so, you can register your device on this page to complete the process. Take note that commercial users will have to take extra steps during registration as there are privileges they can also enjoy afterward.
State Laws and Regulations
While we understand that you may be excited to take flight, we suggest that you learn about the laws and regulations that cover drone flying in your area or state. Consider the federal laws your overall guide. Then, move on to the state-specific ones, which vary from one state to another.
So you will have to read those that apply to your place of residence and practice/work. These are pretty straightforward, with some states sharing the same rules with the FAA. You may hop on to this article, which gives an overview of the guidelines per state.
You may have heard about some of the FAA rules while you’ve been talking to friends and family about your plan or need to buy a drone. So, let’s tick off some basic tips.
- The maximum altitude for drone flying is 400 feet. This coincides with the rule about maintaining your line of sight while flying.
- Avoid flying near airports and other aircraft. The pilots manning planes may not see your drone, which can pose a danger to them and their passengers.
- Skip flying over government facilities or national parks as well. This requires you to know where these buildings and spots are.
- As part of proper flying etiquette, you must respect the privacy of people and their properties. Thus, you must not capture footage of public gatherings such as in parks, open stadiums, and such spaces.
- Also, avoid documenting any emergency situation, whether natural or man-made, such as fires and hurricanes.
- Lastly, you must never operate your drone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Whether you are a recreational or commercial flyer, you need a camera that at least takes decent visuals. Most drones are already equipped with this device. You just have to check the resolution of their video and image output. You can get 4K or 2K, yes, but usually from the higher-end models.
Some low-cost versions can also give you good-quality output. But a 4K video camera is a rarity, if not an exemption. At the same time, you may not expect them to produce photos in RAW or DNG format. So you are pretty limited with what you can do during post-processing.
Connected with taking good photos and videos is drone stability. When you launch the drone in the air, it should be able to hold itself. The multi-propeller system found in drones is in charge of this functionality. Even if one of the motors dies down, the propellers can keep the whole unit afloat and balanced.
This is important if you want to avoid getting shaky footage or crashing your drone mid-flight. Also, the atmosphere is different from the ground. Your drone may encounter heavy winds up there. The model to have is one that can adapt to these changes quickly.
We will talk about pricing in detail below. But for now, you should know that low-cost budget drones are classified not unlike smartphones. You can find a decent one at around $300 on average. Yet, those offered at below $100 also have their respective outstanding offerings. Case in point: our top picks.
At the same time, anything under $500 can still be considered low-cost. The specs, such as the features and functionalities, can overlap with the mid- to high-end versions for this price point.
Of course, the likes of DJI models can reach $1,000, with less expensive ones going under this amount but above $500.
You probably heard about FPV or read about it in this article. This is the common type of drone to find in the low-cost space. However, there are other types you can explore. Let’s check them out:
- RTF or Ready-to-Fly
This drone type arrives at consumers’ doorsteps already put together, except for the propellers. You can take the fuselage and attach the propellers as instructed. Then, charge the batteries fully before taking flight.
- BNF or Bind-to-Fly
This drone type has models that come assembled as well. There is no need to attach the propellers to the body. However, they do not include controllers yet. You will have to purchase one separately or install a controller app on your mobile device.
- ARF or Almost-Ready-to-Fly
If you want to create your own build, the ARF drone is for you. It is delivered in a kit that contains unassembled parts. These components may not be complete, though, so you have to shell out additional cost to buy controllers, receivers, transmitters, and batteries, among others.
- FPV or First-Person-Video
You may be most familiar with this one. It is popular among photographers, journalists, and filmmakers. FPV drones are also used by racing and recreational flyers. These can capture footage and images and transmit them to the LCD or LED screen of the controller, built-in or otherwise devices. You can also pair them with a virtual reality headset.
How Much Does a Cheap Drone Cost?
In consumer drone space, there are different price points to navigate. But since you’re here to find an affordable drone, let’s get the prosumer models out of the way. Prosumer types are those priced between $500 and $2,000. The DJI products with their advanced features fall into this category.
Now, we can further divide the options that you may consider cheap drones. These are your under $100 and under $500 units, like the ones on this list.
Toy drones belong to the first group. These are used to fly for fun, making them the perfect drones for beginners. They have few features and limited functionalities, including shorter battery life. They’re also lightweight and often lack GPS capabilities. This makes them prone to damage when they crash. But there are outstanding cheap drones with cameras to consider here.
On the other hand, the under $500 offerings can still be called toy drones. Yet, they have some advanced features and come with brushless motors, which make them large and heavy. Their cameras also increase in quality. They exhibit greater altitude hold and intelligent flight modes. Beginners and intermediate users can depend on these types. Pros can also add them to their collection.
What is the Best Drone to Buy for a Beginner?
Our research has led us to conclude that the DJI Mavic Mini is the best among the best drones for beginners. It still falls within the under $500 category as well. However, if you are after a budget beginner drone, its starting price can be steep.
The Ryze Tello is a good alternative with its good camera features, ease of use, flight modes, programmability, and around $100 price tag makes it the best budget option. You can also check out the Syma X5C Explorers RC Quadcopter for its under $100 cost.
This ends our roundup of the best budget drones for beginners. The entries on our list all feature drones with cameras that are decent to good quality and are easy to fly. These are all that matter primarily to beginners and casual users.
Ryze Tello is the champion in this regard. It is powered by an Intel processor and a DJI controller. It takes sharp and clear images and 720p video with its 5MP camera. It also features intelligent modes for enhanced and enjoyable operation. The Potensic A30W Mini RC Nano Quadcopter ranks second, highlighted by its controller’s user-friendly interface.
Choosing the best cheap drones for beginners still requires you to follow the FAA rules. So keep in mind the factors we shared here as you shop. You know what to expect when you buy a low-cost drone, but we hope our choices leave you highly satisfied, if not mind-blown.
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