Buying drones are all the rage these days, and it’s easy to see why. Being able to easily control something in the air with just a standard RC Controller, just like you’d see on a remote control car, makes is an enjoyable hobby.
And not only has it become cheap, but they have become incredibly practical as well. For example, on many drones you can now attach a camera. This can improve the quality of your holidays and social events. After all, everyone can take photos at a wedding, but how great would it be to have an aerial shot of all of the wedding guests together?
You can also get a view of the world that you have never seen before simply by taking photos or, in some advanced model of drones, looking through the screen of a phone or tablet.
And with the rise of virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Gear VR, it may even one day be possible to start flying a drone while constantly having a third-person viewpoint of what exactly your drone 16is seeing.
Models on the market do very though, with the most basic drones coming as low as $20, and more expensive models reaching up to $1,300 in costs. This doesn’t even include the really, really, high cost, professional drones that some people use for racing.
It can also be really daunting getting into drones for the first time, as there are a lot of terms to understand, and a lot of things to learn such as controlling them. This is why we have written this buying guide, to get you on your way to happy drone ownership. Here, we compare the five top models on the market for beginners and intermediate drone owners, to allow you to be informed during your buying decisions.
Coming in at $45, this model is on the cheaper end of beginner drones.
One problem with buying this, however, especially if you are a beginner, is that most of the time this drone doesn’t include instructions, meaning that you will have to rely on YouTube videos and on line guides to get started with your new drone.
However, unlike many basic drones, this one does come with a camera, meaning that you can get started with aerial photography straight away. Although the camera isn’t of the best quality, taking pictures and videos at only a 2 Megapixel resolution, it allows you to get started straight away as a beginner for cheap.
One problem with the Syma X5C Quad Drone is the size of the battery on it. On a full charge, you will only be able to get, at most, eight minutes of flight on it. The batteries also take about an hour to charge, meaning that you may want to look into buying extra batteries for it and keeping them at full power if you want to use the drone for any extended periods of time. If you aren’t planning on doing any photography on your test flights, you can also reduce the weight of the drone by taking off the camera. This reduction of weight will mean that the drone doesn’t need to use as much power to fly, and you can fly for longer on your charge.
It is also a very durable drone, which is important if you are new to flying drones as you are likely to be crashing it a lot. Although it can’t take very heavy damage, it will still be able to fly after a minor collision. You just won’t be able to do any drone racing with it.
All in all, if you are just getting started, and are prepared to spend $45, this makes a great first choice for your drone. But, if you have ever flown one before, and are simply looking for an upgrade, the Syma X5C is not a great choice as it is very unlikely to be much of an upgrade on your current drone.
This is one super powerful drone, costing just under $70.
It is very easy to fly, allowing you to position the aircraft exactly how you want. This kind of precision can make your first steps in learning how to fly really easy.
Just like the Syma X5C, this drone does also come with a video camera, but this one is even lower quality than the Syma X5C, with it only being able to take pictures of 640×480 resolution.
One of the cool things about this drone is that the remote allows you to automatically perform flips without having to navigate how to do it with normal controls. Once it has gone more than 10 feet in the air, you can simply press a button and it will perform a full 360 flip, giving you a very easy way to impress your friends or any on-lookers.
Something to consider with this drone though, when you start flying it, is wind. It is a very light drone, and any wind can make flying it pretty hard. On the other hand, this can also be a good thing if you are looking for a starter drone, as this is one way to get used to how to fly in harsh conditions before dropping down money on a more expensive model.
One reason to pick this drone over the Syma X5C is the greater support. As well as including instructions, the drone can easily be repaired, with many parts available both from the manufacturer and eBay. This means that any damage that does happen to the drone may be able to be easily fixed by yourself at home without needing to buy a whole new drone. This means that as a beginner you won’t be constantly buying a new drone after every large crash.
DJI Phantom 3
If the previous two drones are perfect for when you are just starting out, the DJI Phantom 3 is the drone for those who want to progress to something more professional. This is reflected in it’s price, as it costs $1,259 direct from the manufacturer.
One of the reasons for this extra cost is the camera. On the Phantom 3 Professional edition sits a complete 4K Camera. This can capture both incredibly high quality video, and 12 Megapixel photos. Furthermore, the camera sits on a specially designed axis, which allows it to remain stable while you are flying, meaning that even as the drone tilts slightly in the wind, you will have completely straight images and video.
What is most stunning about this camera is that not only can you simply take photos and record video, but you can also stream it as well. This means that you can see exactly what your drone is doing on your phone or tablet, and also, upload this footage straight to YouTube.
This is one of the most popular intermediate drones available, which also gives you another advantage as YouTube and the rest of the internet is full of useful advice on how to use the drone, and how to repair it.
With the price, you also get a much larger battery than all of the other drone quad-copters so far, with the DJI Phantom 3 being capable of flying for up to twenty minutes, far outstripping the flight times of all of the other products so far.
Despite the price, the Phantom 3 is also a great drone for beginners as it contains many features that make the process of learning to fly easy. For example, you can set a mode on the drone that prevents it from flying outside of a radius you choose, meaning that you don’t have to worry about crashing it or going too far out of bounds.
It also contains a lot of auto pilot features that can really take the hassle out of learning to fly. For example, with a press of a button, you can activate the Phantom 3 Drone’s auto take off system, meaning that it will instantly start hovering until it reaches a hight you set, waiting your next command. It can also, when its battery is low or it loses connection with your remote, start flying to where it took off, allowing it to land without damage. It is also resilient at crashing into things during it’s flight as it also comes with ultrasonic sensors, allowing it to ‘see’ it’s surroundings very much like a bat.
As part of the price, you are also paying for some of the development done on the amazing mobile app. Using the app, you can instantly adjust your flight settings, set your streaming preferences, and also completely track your Phantom 3. This means that if you start trying to fly it out of range of sight, and lose it, you can easily track it on your app, allowing you to easily retrieve your $1,259 investment.
If you want an upgrade to a previous drone, it is very easy to pick the Phantom 3. However, if you are a beginner, and you can afford it, then the Phantom 3 is also an amazing choice to start flying with.
Getting back to cheaper machines, the Hubsan X4 (H107L) is another great choice for any beginner flying. This one costs only $25, making it the cheapest drone so far (but not in total, see below!)
This model does not have a camera, although for an extra $20, you can upgrade to the Hubsan X4 H107C, but we wouldn’t recommend this, as the camera is a far worse quality than all of the other cameras featured so far, only being able to shoot pictures at 0.3 Megapixels.
If you aren’t looking to start off with a camera, the Hubsan X4 is a great choice for your basic drone needs. One amazing advantage of it is how tiny it is. When you first have it in the palm of your hand, you might be hard pressed to believe that it can actually fly.
As always the battery power on this drone is quite limited, but it does have one of the faster charging times, needing only 45 minutes plugged into a USB port to get back to full charge.
One thing to note if you do buy yourself a Hubsan X4 is that even if you do buy spare batteries for it, it is best to wait an hour between each flight. This is because it uses very tiny motors, which can very quickly over heat. This means that you want to give the Hubsan X4 Drone enough time to cool down, or risk damaging it.
If you are just started, this is the cheapest option for a flying drone, coming in at only $20.
The KiiTiys Quadcopter is the smallest drone in this article, meaning that it is also perfect to fly indoors, which can be an advantage if you are looking to spend the least amount of money as possible while seeing if this hobby is for you.
But, for the price, you do make quite a few sacrifices. For example, its flying time can be as low as five minutes, meaning that you will need to charge your quad-copter after a really short time, which might not even be enough to get you used to how to fly it. Thankfully, it can be charged very quickly with an included USB cable.
As it is so cheap, you might be tempted to get more than one so that the whole family can enjoy flying them. The remotes used for the tiny KiiToys Quadcopter Drones can be adjusted to use different bands, meaning that each remote won’t interfere with another drone.
Another thing which makes it great for multiple users is that they come in many colors, with a choice of green, orange, blue or pink, allowing each member of the family to have a custom choice that suits them.
So, which one to buy?
If you have the money to spare, and are serious about getting into Drone flying, there really is only one choice, that of the DJI Phantom 3 Drone. For the investment, you will have a drone that you can repair, and that will contain all the features you need to be a happy flyer for many years to come.
On the other hand, if this really is your first time getting into it, and you aren’t sure if it’s a hobby you want to maintain, then the KiiToys Quadcopter Drone is a perfect choice, as you can quickly find out if flying is for you. We would pick this over the Hubsan X4, as the extra five dollars don’t really get you an extra five dollars worth of value.
If, however, having a camera is important to you, then you will want to pick between the UDI U818A or the Syma X5C drone. Which one to choose depends on how important the camera is for you. If you want to just get started with a camera, but want to learn how to fly a drone properly, then the UDI U818A should be the one you pick. But, if you are really interested in taking great aerial shots for cheap, then instead pick the Syma X5C.
Whatever one you do decide to go for, you will have an engaging hobby that will last for years, as long as you can master the art of flying. What is even better is that it is a very visually impressive hobby. You will have to make sure to keep the remote out of the hands of your family and friends as they will want to have a go at flying a drone, and will risk crashing it whereas you will have all of the skills you need to pilot it properly.