The 10 Best Budget Drones

Updated April 17, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

10 Best Budget Drones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. 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 picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best budget drone on Amazon.

10. Syma X5C

The featherweight Syma X5C, which tips the scales at just over 100 grams, is a playful but tough contender in terms of affordable stability and wind resistance. It's suitable for flying both indoors and outside for up to 7 minutes of fun per hour-and-a-half of charge time.
  • built-in 2 mp hd camera
  • easy and entertaining to fly
  • image quality could be better
Brand Syma
Model X5C-W
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. QCopter QC1

With its included bonus battery, the QCopter QC1 provides up to 30 minutes of exciting flight time before having to recharge. Its HD camera allows for bird's eye photos and aerial views for documenting your adventures. Colorful LEDs offer nighttime illumination.
  • includes replacement parts
  • lightweight and sturdy construction
  • responsive and helpful tech support
Brand QCopter
Model QC1
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

8. JJRC H36

If it's no exaggeration to say that you're operating on a shoestring budget, you can still afford the basic functionality and relative expendability of the JJRC H36, which provides an introductory experience to unmanned flight at a cost even a kid's allowance will cover.
  • removable battery
  • headless mode and one-key return
  • best suited for indoor use
Brand JJRC
Model pending
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. UDI U45

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
  • does 360-degree flips
  • headless mode functionality
Brand Force1
Model pending
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

6. Hubsan X4 H107

Popular as a starter drone, the reasonably priced Hubsan X4 H107 is an excellent value for amateurs. It's compact, easy to use and durable enough to survive the learning curve, and flies for 7-8 minutes on less than an hour of charging time in good conditions.
  • adjustable gyroscopic sensitivity
  • readily available replacement parts
  • struggles to stay on course in winds
Model pending
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

5. MJX X400W

Packing the capabilities of a higher-end model into a less costly, lightweight and durable airframe, the MJX X400W features beginner and expert speed modes, 3D flip function and real-time HD image delivery. Headless operation and one-key return make it easy to use.
  • signal loss and low voltage alarms
  • solid entry-level option
  • responsive fpv within 300-ft range
Model X400W
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Blade Nano QX

The palmable Blade Nano QX has tough brushed motors that provide smooth and powerful lift. It's ruggedly built, speedy, easy to fly, and can switch from a patented gyro stabilization system, for better ease of use, to stunt mode, for pulling off flashier tricks.
  • 7-8 mins of flight between charges
  • built-in blade guards
  • suitable for indoor use
Brand Blade
Model BLH7680
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Eachine E012HW

The Eachine E012HW may not take professional-quality photos, but GPS navigation and FPV capabilities make this itty bitty quad a great choice for toying around with aerial acrobatics and streaming video entertainment without straining those tight purse strings.
  • 6-axis gyroscopic stabilization
  • altitude hold function
  • smartphone app integration
Model pending
Weight 6.7 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Sky Viper v2450GPS

The Sky Viper v2450GPS is one of the most affordable options for high-precision dual GPS/GLONASS-based autonomous flight systems, making it a worthwhile investment for learning the ins and outs of working with unmanned aircraft and remote image capturing technology.
  • adjustable wide-angle camera lens
  • anti-drifting altitude hold
  • automatic return-to-home
Brand Sky Viper
Model 01736
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. UDI U34W Dragonfly

Piloting the UDI U34W Dragonfly is about as easy as remote-controlled flying gets. The diminutive, but durable, airframe can hold its own indoors or out, and you can program customized routes on your smartphone for its 720p HD camera to capture the view from above.
  • agile and responsive design
  • one-touch launch and landing
  • spare battery for extended flight
Brand Force1
Model pending
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

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 17, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience—with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist—she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new.

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