We all have to start somewhere, and when it comes to drones, there are many machines to choose from. The last thing we want to do with our drones is crash, but it’s going to happen. Beginner pilots have a lot to learn; flying a quadcopter or similar drone is fairly easy, but mastering it can take some time.
playing drone price
01. DJI Mavic Mini
A brilliant drone for beginners that balances cost, size, features and weight
Weight: 249g | Dimensions (folded): 140×82×57mm | Controller: Yes | Video resolution: 2.7K 30fps | Camera resolution: 12MP | Battery life: 30 minutes (2400mAh) | Max Range: 4km / 2.5 miles | Max Speed: 47kph / 29mphUS$399VIEW AT DELLUS$469View at Amazon
US$499View at AmazonSee all prices (16 found)Very portableNo registration cost Crisp 2.7K videoBeginner-friendly appSoftware a bit bare bones compared to other DJI drones
Released at the end of 2019, this drone has been deliberately engineered to come in just under the 250g cut off point for registration in the UK, USA & China. It nevertheless still packs 2.7K video (or 1080p at 60fps), GPS-based return to home and automated ‘QuickShots’ for easy (and very Instagrammable) video effects, just like some of its bigger brothers from DJI. Avoiding that registration fee does come with a potential cost though – the drone doesn’t have any collision sensors, save for a downward-facing proximity sensor it uses to land itself (though, cheekily, DJI have still put eye-like design features in the shell where the bigger Mavic’s do have collision sensors).
The claimed battery life and range are ambitious. In practice you should expect to fly for about 22 minutes in normal weather and still be able to land safely, and reaching 500m is the practical limit for the controller. That’s absolutely fine though – figures which would be praiseworthy. The software may seem a little limited to owners of much more expensive DJI drones (there is no ‘follow me’ – although manual exposure has recently been added through a firmware update) but again there is everything you need plus a nice guided tutorial mode and geofencing to avoid taking off too near an airport.
02. Parrot Anafi FPV
This brilliant drone kit comes with goggles
Weight: 310g | Controller: Yes | Video resolution: 4K HDR 30fps | Camera resolution: 21MP | Battery life: 25 minutes (2700mAh) | Max range: 4km / 2.5mi) | Max Speed: 55kph / 35mphNo price informationCHECK AMAZONSee all prices (1 found)4K camera with HDRFPV systemGreat bag includedNo collision sensorsRequires registration
Parrot have done an amazing job of straddling the fun and the functional aspect of the drone market ever since they essentially created it ten years ago, and the Anafi (especially the new FPV kit) epitomizes that.
The Anafi is a professional drone, with a 4K camera capable of zoom (at least in video mode), with a gimbal-stabilized camera. In fact some surveyors choose this over DJI products because it can tilt its camera up and down to create 3D models or, for mere mortals, get some unique angles for action shots. But, with the addition of First Person View (FPV) goggles you can also flay it from inside the cockpit. Parrot’s goggles are included in the FPV kit, and at first they were the only ones supported, but a later software update means you can use other VR headsets.
The app is fully featured and great for ‘Arcade mode’ racing or settings-obsessed photographers. The only thing missing from a much more expensive craft (and admittedly this isn’t cheap) is a collision sensing system, but it’s surprisingly robust, especially the FPV version with improved legs.
03. Ryze Tello
A bit DJI, a little Intel. Feature packed and fun
Weight: 80g | Controller: via Phone, ideally with a Bluetooth game controller | Video resolution: 720p, 30fps | Camera resolution: 5MP | Battery life: 13 minutes (1100mAh) | Max Range: 100m | Max Range with controller: 60m | Max Speed: 36kph
US$99View at AmazonUS$99View at DellSee all prices (6 found)DJI softwareVR compatibleHighly affordableNo SD card onboard
With more than half of the global market, DJI have kept their tech at the serious end of the market. However, a friendly relationship with neighboring firm Ryze has led to the Tello, a compact drone that doesn’t skimp on the tech. It beams 720p video back to a phone in WiFi range (100m), or 5mp photos, which are recoded by the App.
This data link also provides you a battery warning, and the drone is capable of taking off and hovering using its 14-core processor and in-built sensors. That power makes for fun features like the “Throw & Go” launching and flips, but also supports Scratch, a simple, block-based programming language that means literally anyone (kids included) can have fun ordering the Tello about.
If you think your kids need a little more convincing that programming drones is as cool as flying them, look out for the Ryze Iron Man Edition. Programming tech seemed to work out pretty well for Tony Stark, after all.
04. Parrot Mambo FPV
Light, easy to fly and adaptable; a drone for all
Weight: 63g+10g (camera) | Controller: Via phone or supplied controller | Video resolution: 720p 30fps | Max Range: 100m | Max Speed: 29kphhNo price informationCHECK AMAZONSee all prices (1 found)Bluetooth controller includedFPV camera can be removed Range is only 100mLive stream is 720p
Parrot’s Mambo has been around a little while now, but this top drone for beginners just keeps delivering thanks to the LEGO-like studs for clipping on extras and the FPV goggles making this a little like an indoor Anafi.
First came a version with a pellet gun for livening up office warfare. Now an FPV camera which makes it into a mini FPV racer. In all cases build quality is great; the French company essentially started the consumer drone revolution with the AR.Drone and although this is a little pricier than other mini-drones, the quality of the device and the app is impressive.
The quad has three flight modes: Easy, Drift and Racing. The first will hover when you release the controls, Drift releases the horizontal stabilization and Racing puts the onus completely on the pilot. This is a great way to learn in steps, and to easy you through the learning curve to becoming Top Gun pilot.
05. Hubsan X4 Storm (H122D)
A beginners kit for drone-racing fans
Weight: 117g | Dimensions: 157 x 157 x 62mm | Controller: Yes | Video resolution: 720p | Battery life: 6 minutes | Range: 100m | Max Speed: 36 kph / 22mphUS$269.99VIEW AT AMAZONSee all prices (2 found)Racing-inspired design Controller or FPV mode monitorBuilt-in lights for low light & indoor playVideo latency could be betterQuick for its size, but it’s tiny
Drone racing is as close as you can come to pod racing (you know, the only good bit out of The Phantom Menace), and it’s a different world to the polished products of the bigger brands like DJI & Parrot. A little like Anikin Skywalker’s jet-powered pod, pilots tend to build and refine their own from parts.
With this drone Hubsan have provided some of the aesthetic and experience of that world in a pre-configured kit so you won’t have to spend the first hours trying to tune your monitor into your quad or fiddle with PID settings. They’ve also provided a monitor which can clip onto the handset OR onto a head mount for the FPV effect that the Drone Racing League stars choose, though the drone is even more compact than a typical racing quad, so you’ll want to use it in low wind or indoors.
The frame is robust, there is a beeper in case you lose it in a field, and it’s able to record video to an on-board card so you can relive your flights later without the occasional choppiness that comes with transmitted video. Just like a real racer, as you get better, you can adjust the pilot’s view camera – the faster you fly, the steeper you’ll want it.
06. Holy Stone HS100 Navigator
GPS camera drone brings video in at a modest price
Weight: 700g | Dimensions: 500x500x175mm | Controller: Yes | Video resolution: 720p @ 30fps | Battery life: 15 minutes (2500mAh) | Range: 500m | Max Speed: 30kph
US$169.99VIEW AT AMAZONSee all prices (2 found)GPS-enabled Camera tilt via remote controlControl range of up to 500mBrushed motors won’t last long720p resolution is disappointing
This excellent drone for beginners introduces not just the experience of flying, but the basic feature set of a serious photography or videography drone for a fraction of the cost. That’s because it includes a GPS positioning system, and control is via a good quality phone app (a phone will clip into the radio controller and serve as a screen).
Together this gives higher-end features like ‘follow me’ (the drone will follow the location of the phone) as well as making the drone easy to fly – let go of the controls and the drone will just hover, at the same altitude, even in a breeze. It can also return to its launch point at the touch of a button.
The design is clearly inspired by DJI’s Phantom, right up to the 4-light intelligent battery. That said the battery has a Micro USB socket built right in for easy charging – DJI haven’t thought of that yet!
On the down-side the camera is not gimbal stabilized, so the drone’s vibrations are certainly more than visible in the adequate but gloomy video, and, sadly, it sends back its signal via wi-fi, so it tends to drop out after around 100m, but clean video is recorded to the Micro SD card on the drone nonetheless.