Drones can be used for a number of things — photography, videography, racing, mapping, tracking wildlife, or simply flying around for fun. Before you start looking at models, though, you’ll want to think about what you’re going to use it for — this will determine the size, speed, and capabilities. Also, know that depending on the model you buy, it might not be ready to fly right out of the box. Do you want to build and code one yourself, or buy one RTF (ready-to-fly)? What about ARF (almost-ready-to-fly) or BTF (bind-and-fly), which is completely assembled, minus controller? Be sure to check the remote control drone regulations in your area too. In the US, that means registering your drone with the FAA, staying FAR away from airports, and, while tempting, don’t harass your neighbors with them — to make sure you don’t end up hovering yourself into a jail cell or massive fine.
Shop the best drones for all budgets below.
DROCON Bugs 3
This drone is not only affordable at under $100, but it’s also perfect for the beginner pilot. Drones are easy to fly, but easy to crash — the Bugs 3 is one of the best drones to learn to fly before moving onto more expensive models. It’s got a brushless motor, meaning you’ll get 15-20 minutes of mid-to-high throttle flight time without any fraying or sparking, and flies up to 1,000 feet away. It’s not the most powerful drone out there, but it has a weak signal alarm so you’ll always be able to get it back.
If you’re tight on cash, the Syma X5C is the drone for you. It's small, light, and inexpensive at around $40. It's also easy to find spare parts and extra batteries for. It has an ok camera on it, but if you’re looking to get into serious drone photography, this isn’t the model for you.
Parrot Mambo Drone FPV Kit
The super sturdy Mambo FPV is great for crashing around and playing with, and this customizable version will get you quickly familiar with all a drone can do. The kit comes with a pair of Parrot Cockpitglasses and a 720p camera. You can control the drone via an app on your phone or the Flypad controller. The flight time isn’t the longest — it’s got a 550 mAh battery which lasts 8-10 minutes, and takes 30 minutes to charge — but its movement is intricate enough that you can race, and perform acrobatic tricks, with this drone.
Despite coming at a mid-range price, the DJI Spark drone is still one of the easiest to control out there, making it ideal for serious beginners. It’s also one of the best for photos, with an f/2.6 wide-angle lens and a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor which lets you capture video at 1080p and photos at 12 MP. It can fly for 16 minutes at a transmission distance of 1.2 miles away, and flies at 50km/h speed. It’s also small enough to launch from the palm of your hand and uses FaceAware, an intelligent feature that uses facial recognition to lift and hover in the air.
DJI Inspire 2
DJI’s Inspire 2 is definitely not for the beginner, but don’t let the price completely intimidate you. Here’s what you’ll get for the cost: a powerful magnesium-aluminum-clad quadcopter, with powerful cinematic and photographic capabilities. It can accelerate to speeds of 50 mph in just 4 seconds and can reach a top speed of 67 mph. It can also fly up to 27 minutes even flying at a high speed, meaning its battery packs a powerful punch. This kit comes with everything you’ll need, including remote control, battery charger, charging hub, power cable, USB cable, 16GB memory card, carrying case, and more.
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