10 Best Budget Drones | April 2017

We spent 31 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Sure to be high on every kid's list for Xmas and birthdays this year, drones give their pilots the ability to soar into the sky while taking high quality images and photos, but they can be expensive. However, our selection of budget drones includes models ideal for beginners, and won't break the bank if any damage occurs while they are learning to fly. Skip to the best budget drone on Amazon.
10 Best Budget Drones | April 2017
Overall Rank: 2
Best Mid-Range
Overall Rank: 3
Best High-End
Overall Rank: 5
Best Inexpensive
Tiny enough to launch from your fingertip, the Skeye Pico by TRNDlabs achieves superior precision with 6-axis gyroscopic flight control. It's capable of flipping, spinning and diving for 7-8 minutes per half-hour charge and has LEDs for low-light performance.
  • maximum range of 50 meters
  • lightweight body drifts easily
  • too small for camera mount
Brand TRNDlabs
Model 2621
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
With under an hour of charging, the Dromida Ominus FPV flies for up to 12 minutes at a stretch, giving operators more than enough opportunity to develop their remote piloting skills. Distinct flight modes for slow, fast, flips and windy conditions add to its versatility.
  • wi-fi enabled hd camera included
  • one-button automatic flip function
  • motor may need frequent replacing
Brand Dromida
Model DIDE02GG
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
The release of the FPV version of the Hubsan X4 makes the popular starter drone an excellent value for amateurs. Compact and easy to use, it's durable enough to survive the learning curve and flies for 7-8 minutes on less than an hour of charging time in good conditions.
  • range of up to 100 meters
  • 6-axis flight control system
  • struggles to maintain course in wind
Brand Hubsan
Model pending
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
With the combination of its innovative gravity induction mode and FPV WiFi feature, the UDI U818A gives you access to live video feed, while also allowing you to fly the drone in almost any direction in correspondence to the angle of your mobile device.
  • 2-megapixel hd camera
  • 6-axis gyro for superior stability
  • 2 lithium batteries included
Brand USA Toyz
Model pending
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
Flying indoors or outside for up to 7 minutes per 100 minutes of charge time, the Syma X5C weighs in at just over 100 grams and offers greater stability and wind resistance for aerial acrobatics and photography at a reasonable price.
  • gyroscopic stabilization on 6 axes
  • faa registration not required
  • great for beginners
Brand Syma
Model X5C-W
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0
For less than $50, the Holy Stone HS170 Predator delivers 6-axis gyro stabilization and a wind-resistant control range of between 30 and 50 meters. Anti-interference technology and a headless mode help ensure smooth operation and exceptional ease of use.
  • ideal for ages 14 and up
  • responsive and powerful motors
  • 6-8 minutes of flying per charge
Brand Holy Stone
Model F180c
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
Charging in 30 minutes or less, the Parrot Mambo comes with a playful cannon to fire projectiles at targets and a grabber to grasp light payloads in flight. Designed for fun, it's ideal for kids and young-at-heart pilots eager for some remote-operated airborne playtime.
  • does flips and barrel rolls
  • 200-foot controller range
  • flies at up to 11 miles per hour
Brand Parrot
Model PF727001
Weight 11.4 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0
Features like VR headset compatibility, altitude hold, customized routing and one-touch takeoff and landing make the UDI U45 a great entry-level option. Its sturdy construction withstands beginner flubs, and more experienced users can appreciate its HD aerial photography.
  • includes bonus powerbank and sd card
  • does 360-degree flips
  • headless mode functionality
Brand Force1
Model pending
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
With its included bonus battery, the QCopter QC1 provides up to 30 minutes of exciting flight time before having to recharge. Its HD camera also allows for bird's eye photos and aerial views for documenting your adventures. Colorful LEDs offer nighttime illumination.
  • sleek and stylish
  • lightweight and sturdy construction
  • faa registration not required
Brand QCopter
Model QC1
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
Packing the capabilities of a higher-end drone into a less costly, lightweight and durable airframe, the Holy Stone X400C features 6-axis gyro stabilization, 3D flip function and real-time HD image delivery. Left and right switchable throttle controls are easy to use.
  • outstanding maneuverability
  • 1 hour charge yields 8 minutes aloft
  • replacement parts readily available
Brand Holy Stone
Model pending
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

The Fun And Budget Friendly Drone

It will surely come as a surprise to most people that the first type of quadcopter took flight in the year 1907. It was known as the Breguet-Richet Gyroplane and was a test vehicle that completed but a few short, tethered flights.

Vehicles sporting four separate propellers would be devised, tested, and often enough crashed throughout the course of the 20th Century, with most prototypes conceived of for use by the military. Ultimately, the four rotor aircraft failed to find much practical use, and their development as large aircraft suitable for carrying humans or heavy payloads was never doggedly pursued.

With the rapid advancements in and miniaturization of electronics that was well underway at the recent turn of the century, the quadcopter finally became a viable aircraft, but not of a size so large it could carry a person; rather the popular quadcopters of the day are small enough to be easily carried by a person. Today usually referred to as drones (though the term is misleading, as most of these vehicles require human control, whereas a true drone would be independent), they are popular among hobbyists and are beginning to find commercial applications as well.

It might come as another surprise to learn that you can buy a decent drone for as little as twenty five dollars. The rapid advancement in the technology behind these devices has led to a precipitous price drop. And with a budget topping out at around a hundred dollars, you can actually get a great little machine with impressive capabilities.

To first discuss the lower end models, these drones are more akin to toys than to advanced flying machines and they lack many of the features you might expect from such a unit, but they are certainly plenty of fun. Many of the cheaper drones are also so compact as to fit in a pocket, so they can be brought along for a trip and enjoyed anywhere. Flight time is often limited to around five minutes, but this is offset by relatively short charging times of around a half hour. The range at which you can reliably control a cheaper drone is often only around fifty yards, but as these smaller drones are often used indoors anyway, this is hardly a limitation.

If you are willing to spend a bit more cash, you can get an advanced drone with an impressive array of attributes and accessories. For less than $125, you could be the proud owner (or gift giver) of a drone that can complete flights lasting nearly ten minutes, that sports a built in camera with HD quality video capabilities, and with a range of many hundreds of feet. At this price point, you can look for features like live streaming video sent to your smartphone or tablet, automatic return features that will direct the drone to fly itself back to you at the push of a button, and bright lighting that makes for safer, enjoyable nighttime flying.

Drone Flight Safety Tips

Even a small, lightweight drone can cause serious injury or property damage under the wrong circumstances. Take the time to learn how to fly your drone before it ever takes flight by reading its manual, understanding which control features handle which types of operation, and by thoroughly inspecting the unit to make sure it appears in good working order. The more you know about your drone, the easier it will be to master its use and become a safe, responsible "pilot."

Before launching your quadcopter, make sure to study your surroundings. If you will be flying inside, identify areas that are to be avoided, such as rooms with chandeliers or other prominent light fixtures, any exposed wires, and of course any fragile items such as glassware, artwork, and so forth. The best way to avoid damaging something is to never fly near it in the first place. You must also of course consider the people in the area; make sure they know a vehicle will be flying so that can stay well out of its flightpath.

When you are flying outside, the potential hazards are different. You must account for trees (the "graveyard" of many quadcopters), power lines, windows, and other obstacles, and you must factor in unforeseen potential hazards such as birds or a sudden shift in wind direction. Outdoor flight also necessitates knowing who is in the area, and often means being ready for the arrival of unexpected people in proximity to your flight area. If you ever find yourself suddenly facing new challenges during a flight, the responsible move is to end the flight at once.

And do remember that just as you need a rest after exercise, your drone needs a break after each flight. To prevent overheating (and potentially damaging or ruining) the motor of your drone, let the vehicle rest for at least ten to fifteen minutes after each flight.

A Few Rules To Know Before You Fly

The FAA regulates most aircraft in America, and that includes most UAS (or Unmanned Aerial Systems, AKA drones) as well. If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you are obliged to register it with the FAA before you ever fly it. That's true even if it's a purely recreational toy.

You must never fly your drone within five miles of an airport unless you have received specific permission to do so from an air traffic control official. And always immediately clear the airspace in front of any manned aircraft that approach, including small personal planes and helicopters.

The FAA also requires an operator to keep a line of sight connection with his or her drone. So even if you can track your vehicle using its camera or GPS, legally you have to be able to see it with your eyes while it flies.

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Last updated on April 24 2017 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with an alphabet-soup of credentials to her name, Lydia has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts, throwing herself into a broad constellation of interests. From antithetical cultural analysis to interdisciplinary combat training, she bears the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience. Reading, biking and exploring are favorite pastimes, but – with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order (not on speaking terms with a higher power) and becoming an artist (can’t even draw a respectable stick-figure) – she’d try almost anything once.