The 10 Best Budget Drones
This wiki has been updated 17 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Remote-controlled quadcopters and autonomous aircraft are a cool way for ground-based pilots to engage in high-flying antics and capture aerial photos or produce streaming video feeds of their adventures, but they can be expensive. The budget-friendly drones in our selection are great for beginners, and these UAVs won't burn a sizable hole in your wallet if they meet an untimely end. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best budget drone on Amazon.
The Fun And Budget Friendly Drone
And with a budget topping out at around a hundred dollars, you can actually get a great little machine with impressive capabilities.
If you are willing to spend a bit more cash, you can get an advanced drone with an impressive array of attributes and accessories.
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."
When you are flying outside, the potential hazards are different.
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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