There are many fantastic drones on the market. Ranging from tiny quadcopters that fit in the palm of your hand like the Hubsan X4, all the way to higher end photography drones like the DJI Phantom 4. Drones are not a “one size fits all” solution.
There are three main types of drones. Photography drones used for shooting high-quality aerial videos and pictures. Toy drones, which are mainly for practice and recreational purposes. And last, but not least, racing drones which are designed to do just that… Race! Each drone has it’s purpose, and in this buyer’s guide we have taken a look at some of the best drones in each of these categories.
The Best Drones of 2016 Are…
Best Drone on a Budget: DJI Phantom 3 Standard
When there’s a discussion about the best drones, it’s hard not to mention the DJI Phantom series. At this price, there really is no option other than the DJI Phantom 3 Standard edition that has this many features.
The flight experience is seamless. Thanks to the automatic flight assistance, even novice pilots will easily be able to fly. The built-in GPS tracks your drone’s location and will automatically return your drone to you at the press of a button. Talk about convenience!
The included camera films 2.7k videos and beautiful 12MP photos. The included gimbal makes it easy to capture high-quality professional-looking photos and videos. Even for those who have never taken a photograph in their life.
The Phantom 3 is incredibly easy to setup and it’s smooth controls make it easy to fly. Spend less time fiddling with controls and more time shooting beautiful videos and still shots.
For the price, it can’t be beaten. If you want to easily take beautiful aerial photographs and videos on a budget, the DJI Phantom 3 is for you
- Ready to fly out of the box
- Simple and easy controls
- Included high-resolution camera
- Included gimbal
- Easy to take beautiful pictures and video
- HD live video feed to your smartphone (or tablet)
- Good flight time
- Great value
- Large online community – many questions already answered
- Return to home
- Lack of range
- Camera is not interchangeable or removable
Best Drone for Aerial Photography: DJI Inspire 1
The DJI Inspire 1 is an all-in-one aerial photography and videography solution for professionals. Ready to capture excellent 4K video right out of the box, the Inspire 1 does it all.
For a huge price jump over the DJI Phantom 4, the Inspire 1 does have it’s advantages. One of them being the removable camera. Upgradeable and compatible with hand-held gimbals, it can be used as a standalone camera as well.
Thanks to it’s transforming design, the landing legs and propellers can be lifted up mid-flight. This means propellers will almost never be seen in captured videos. Speaking of camera angles… The gimbal pans 360 degrees, meaning you can rotate the camera without having to rotate the drone itself. This makes for some amazingly stable still shots and video.
For added convenience, you can purchase a second transmitter for independent camera control. One person controls the camera while the other flies. While not necessary, it can make capturing footage a whole lot easier and is a feature that we haven’t seen before.
The included GPS navigation and Vision Positioning systems make this drone extremely stable and easy to fly both indoors and outdoors. When locked into the GPS satellites, your drone’s location and travel path are tracked. You can even return it to your location at the press of a button.
All in all, if you’re a commercial pilot looking for the highest quality, ready-to-fly solution on the market, the DJI Inspire 1 is the go-to option.
- Included 4k resolution camera
- 360° rotating gimbal
- Camera is removable and can be used on its own
- Extremely stable – hovers perfectly still even in most wind conditions
- Excellent range
- Excellent build quality – carbon fiber frame
- Two controller operation
- Autonomous Waypoint Navigation
- Follow Me function
- Return to home
- Short battery life
Best Indoor Drone for Beginners: Hubsan X4 H107L
Want to learn how to fly quadcopters without the risk of crashing your thousand-dollar drone? The Hubsan X4 is an excellent choice.
The X4 flies the same way as the more expensive models when their GPS is turned off. This can be very helpful in case of an emergency such as your DJI Phantom’s GPS suddenly malfunctioning.
The X4 comes ready-to-fly with everything you need out of the box. It’s also very simple for beginners.
Featuring two flight rates, beginner and expert, pilots of any skill level will enjoy this quadcopter. Beginner mode is excellent for those learning the fundamentals of flying such as hovering and maintaining your drone’s orientation.
This micro quadcopter is also great for mastering your skills indoors on a rainy day. Good luck flying inside with a DJI Phantom!
Being so affordable, the X4 is a great investment. Learning to fly a cheaper toy quadcopter like the X4 can save you money and time on repairs down the line. Not bad for a “cheap toy” if you ask me.
→Note: There is a camera version available, the H107C, for slightly more money. The camera is low quality but the option is there for those of you looking for a little camera fun on the cheap!
- Great beginner quadcopter
- Ready to fly
- Great for indoor flights
- Fast for its size
- Cheap repairs
- Replacement parts widely available
- Good range
- Can’t handle much wind
- Repairs can be difficult
- Not the most durable
Best Outdoor Drone for Beginners: Syma X5C-1
The Syma X5C-1 is a staple in the quadcopter community. It’s durability and affordability make it great for beginners.
Due to it’s larger size, it handles the wind much better than the Hubsan X4. This makes it a great choice for those wishing to learn to fly outside.
It’s very simple to setup and it’s smooth controls make it just as easy to fly. It also can take a beating!
Beginners are going to be crashing a lot and the Syma X5C-1 is one of the most durable beginner quadcopters on the market. You can crash this thing many times before even having to replace as much as a propeller. Even when you do, there are 4 spare propellers already included in the package. They’re also very easily replaced with no soldering or technical skill required.
The X5C-1 is a little too large to fly in most indoor scenarios but excels outdoors in wide open spaces. If you enjoy the great outdoors and that’s where you’d prefer to learn to fly, the Syma X5C-1 is for you.
→BONUS: The X5C-1 comes with a 2MP camera. Not the greatest camera quality but it’s a fun addition!
Good for outdoor flying
Large size makes it easy to see
Great for beginners
Easy to fly
Low camera quality
Shaky video footage
Best Drone for Kids: UDI U818A-1-P
When buying a quadcopter for a child there are two main criteria that top the rest: simplicity and durability. The UDI 818A-1-P fits the bill as the best drone for kids for a few reasons. Its circular main frame protects the drone’s body completely. The thick and sturdy propellers give it ample power and durability as well. This isn’t a quad that will need to be repaired after a single crash. If it hits a tree even at full speed it should bounce off unharmed. Just be sure not to get it stuck in any of the branches!
As an added bonus, the UDI 818A-1-P comes with a built in camera which is even slightly better than that of the Syma X5C-1’s. Like the drone itself, the camera is also very easy to use.
- Great for beginners
Easy to fly
Durable frame can withstand most crashes
Ready to fly
720P HD Camera
- Awkward camera angle – not adjustable
- Large frame gets carried by the wind
Best Nano Drone: Cheerson CX-10 Mini
Hey, you. Yeah, you. I hear you’re looking for something… Tiny. Maybe a nano drone so tiny that it fits in your pocket and you can fly anywhere. Well if that’s the case, I’ve got something for you.
It’s called the Cheerson CX-10. Formerly known as the world’s smallest quadcopter, it sure is tiny. Oh, and did I mention that it’s tiny?
At only 1.57 x 1.57 x 0.87 inches, it’s barely larger than a quarter. Even so, it still flies smoothly and is very stable. Great for flights indoors and in tight areas where many other drones simply wouldn’t have enough room.
Its battery life isn’t great and neither is its durability. Looking past that, it can be a good choice for getting a quick flight fix here and there in the office. Maybe even at school if school policy allows you to do so
Tiny enough to fly anywhere
Can fit in pocket
Smooth and stable
One of the cheapest quadcopters
- Not durable at all
- Tiny transmitter can be uncomfortable
- Internal battery not replaceable
- Short flight time
- Doesn’t handle wind well
Best Drone for Indoor Flying: Blade Inductrix
The Blade Inductrix is one of a kind. A premium quadcopter sized in between nano and micro drones, it gets the best of both worlds.
It has a unique 4-bladed design and “ducted fans” that also function as propeller guards. While not indestructible, these propeller guards circle the propellers completely and make this an extremely durable flier. Bouncing into walls and furniture, while not recommended, is no problem for this little guy to handle. In most cases, it’ll simply bounce off and continue flying as if nothing had happened. Other quads, in this instance, would likely have crashed. Hurray for ingenuity.
One of the most amazing features that separates the Inductrix from the pack is it’s Agility mode. Agility is a mode where the traditional gyro stabilization is completely turned off. This is an advanced flight mode that makes even the slightest movements completely controlled by the pilot. Agility mode, sometimes known as “Acro Mode”, can be quite difficult to master – but also quite rewarding!
This is comparable to how many FPV racing drones fly in acro mode and a great introduction. You can even add on a nano-sized First Person View camera to the Inductrix later down the line if you wish to get a taste of FPV flying first-hand. It’s also great for flying around the house!
Its price is a little steeper compared to the previously spoken about Hubsan X4. If you’re looking for something with a few more bells and whistles, the Blade Inductrix may be for you.
- Extremely durable
- Acro mode (AKA Agility mode)
- Small enough to fly anywhere
- Removable batteries
- Can upgrade to FPV setup (“Tiny Whoop”)
Best RTF FPV Quadcopter: Hubsan X4 H107D FPV
The X4 H107D flies very similarly, if not exactly like it’s younger brother, the H107L. The main difference is the H107D variant has an attached FPV camera. This allows the quadcopter to stream the camera’s video feed to the monitor on the transmitter in real time.
This is a much different flight experience than flying with your quadcopter in view, but some prefer it.
The H107D is more of a toy grade quadcopter than a hobby grade racing drone. It’s important to make this distinction. Although certainly not as fast or powerful as a hobby grade racing racing drone, the H107D is a complete package at a fraction of the price. No need to assemble your quadcopter. All parts that you need come pre-assembled and it even comes with a compatible transmitter that has a built in FPV display. This is useful since you won’t need to purchase any special FPV goggles or monitors to view the camera feed.
All in all, experienced pilots may find the lack of power a bit disappointing. It lacks the ability to fly in acro mode, but for those of you looking to dip your feet into the world of FPV, the H107D is a very capable entry to the world of FPV flying.
Cheapest RTF FPV Setup
FPV Monitor built into transmitter
Flies well – like the X4 H107L
Live video feed
Lack of durability
Can’t handle wind very well
No acro mode for manual flips and tricks
Short flight time
Video file needs to be converted to view on PC
Best Entry Level Brushless Quadcopter: Blade 200QX
If you’ve only flown toy quadcopters and want to take the next step, there are a couple of options. You could opt for an FPV racing drone setup or an aerial videography drone such as the DJI Phantom. Either way, they can be quite costly.
The 200QX is a good mid-tier option for those of you looking to continue progressing in the hobby, without going all out on the spending.
It is a very sporty flier and is much more comparable to racing drones than aerial photography drones, for much cheaper. Don’t be fooled by it’s price, however. Although the 200QX may be a much more affordable option, it doesn’t disappoint.
The powerful brushless motors of the 200QX make a significant difference when compared to any brushed quadcopter on the market. It allows you to fly faster, more nimble, and agiler than ever before. Plus you can fly in the 3D Agility mode which will allow you to fly the quad manually – even upside down!
You’ll need to provide your own transmitter to bind with the 200QX. Even a cheap Spektrum model will do the trick. Even so, it’s a very fun line of sight flying experience. You can even attach an FPV rig to this quadcopter later on down the line if you choose to do so.
- EXTREMELY fast and sporty
- Quick punch out
- Powerful brushless motors
- 3D inverted flights (upside-down)
- Acro mode
- Good flight time
- Compatible with FPV setup (not included)
- “Bind and fly” – No transmitter included
- Plastic frame isn’t very durable
- Not recommended for new pilots
Best A-RTF Racing Quadcopter: ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro
If you’re serious about quadcopter racing, none of the previously mentioned drones fit the bill. The Vortex 250 pro is a racing quadcopter designed specifically for fast FPV (First Person View) flying. Comparing this beast of a quadcopter to the previously mentioned H107D would be like comparing a Ferrari to a Go Kart – you just can’t.
The Vortex 250 certainly isn’t the only racing quadcopter on the market. Far from it. Even so, I highly recommend it for newer FPV pilots because it is one of the top racing quadcopters that comes pre-assembled. All of it’s parts were carefully chosen for their high quality and performance. The only things you’ll be missing with this package are a transmitter, battery, battery charger and a visual display such as FPV video goggles.
Choosing your own peripherals allows you to have further control and customization of your setup.
Racing drones such as the Vortex 250 Pro with a compatible FPV setup are going to give you a flight experience that no DJI Phantom or Inspire will be able to provide.
Acro mode – perform tricks manually
Capable FPV setup
Battery, transmitter and FPV display not included