I have been contemplating buying a drone.
The main reason is that I want the ability to take incredible videos and photos of landscapes and wildlife.
And let’s be honest, they look incredibly fun to fly!
It was recommended to me that before spending a significant amount of money on a pricey drone that has lots of features, I should buy something less expensive that I can practice flying. This way, if I crash the drone, I won’t be sick to my stomach, AND I’m going to find out if I enjoy flying drones.
So since I was about to put in a bunch of research on which drones would be best for a complete beginner, I thought I’d write an article to share with everyone!
Quick Links: The 8 Best Drones For Beginners
Highest Priced Beginner Drones: 2 options ( Over $200)
Mid-Priced Beginner Drones: 3 options ( Between $75 – $200)
Cheapest Drones for Beginners: 3 options (Under $75)
The price of a drone doesn’t always correlate precisely to quality, but the cost does give a reasonably good indication of the features you can expect. For example, spending $250 typically provides a lot more bells and whistles than a drone that only costs $50.
Buying Drones 101:
When you are purchasing your first drone, make sure to pay attention to the features listed below, which help determine the final cost.
- Quadcopters: This means that the drone has four motors and propeller blades and typically has an X or H square frame.
- Camera: A beginner drone may include a camera. If it does, the quality varies significantly by drone model. More expensive drones include stabilization systems for the camera which helps provide smooth and clear photos and video.
- Weight: Inexpensive drones are typically light, which is a great feature for beginners. Light drones tend not to break when they crash; they sort of bounce instead! Unfortunately, your light drone will be susceptible to the wind! (Although learning to deal with wind can improve your flying skills.)
- Battery Life: The beginner drones on this list have battery lives that range from 27 minutes down to only 6 minutes. Make sure to buy extra batteries and have them charged before any flight sessions.
- Range: Cheap drones typically have a pretty small range! The more money you spend, the farther the drone can fly away from your controller!
- GPS: Most drones under $200 will not include GPS, which is a nice feature to have for multiple reasons, including the popular “Return To Home” function.
Are you looking for a drone to buy your child? If so, please don’t confuse these beginner drones with drones for kids. There is some overlap, but they are not quite the same. For more info, check out this article that I wrote:
Lastly, if you plan on flying outside in the United States, you should register your drone with the FAA. It’s only $5 and is valid for three years. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with the places you CAN NOT fly a drone! The most important rules you need to know are don’t fly over people, near an airport, and always maintain a visual line of sight.
Highest Priced Beginner Drones (Over $200)
The two drones featured in this section are really not for beginners.
What? Then why are they on this list?
Well, there’s a particular segment of people that don’t like following the traditional learning curve. These folks would rather jump right in and figure out the necessary knowledge and details along the way. Starting with a cheap beginner drone to learn how to fly sounds like a waste of time to them. (I have a little bit of this trait in me so I can speak from experience. 🙂 )
You will also notice that both of these drones are both made by DJI, which is a world leader when it comes to creating and manufacturing drones. Both the Mavic Pro and Spark that you will read about below are incredible machines, especially when compared to their affordable prices.
Both of these fantastic DJI drones could be the first and last drone you ever need.
Features you can expect from the DJI Mavic Pro:
Extended Flight Time: Up to 27 minutes!
- The Mavic Pro camera is 3-axis gimbal stabilized and shoots Full HD 1080p at 96 frames per second so that you can create incredible slow motion, and 4K video (up to 4096 x 2160) at 30 frames per second.
- Photos can be taken as big as 12 megapixels, saved in DNG raw or JPEG, and lastly, the camera can be flipped 90 degrees for portrait shots (similar to your phone!).
- Check out this fantastic video from the Mavic Pro taken in the Philippines –> Watch on YouTube.
- View actual photographs that were taken by this drone –> View on Flickr
Flight Control System:
- Includes an incredible GPS navigation system, collision avoidance, and a sport mode which lets you fly at speeds up to 40MPH.
- When you tell the Mavic Pro to come home, it returns to the exact spot it took off from!
- You can fly with the included remote controller OR your phone using the DJI Go app. You can even edit and share the videos or pictures you just took directly to your favorite social media site.
The Mavic Pro can follow you:
Lastly, the above video provides an incredible resource for beginner flyers and anyone looking to see what they are getting themselves into by purchasing the DJI Mavic Pro drone!
2. DJI Spark
The DJI Spark seems like it was designed with the beginner drone pilot in mind. It is easy to get off the ground and fun to fly. And don’t let the picture above fool you; the Spark is relatively small and portable and can even take off and land on the palm of your hand.
DJI packs as much incredible technology for the price as possible! The drone even has a gesture control feature, which means you can use just your hands and arms to maneuver and take photos. Feeling like Luke Skywalker yet???
The Spark is a lot more affordable than the Mavic above but still offers many of the same features and gives the chance to learn how to fly a drone without breaking the bank — highly recommended for both beginners and novices.
Additional features of the DJI Spark:
Outstanding Drone Camera Features:
- Includes a 2-axis gimbal-stabilized camera that can capture up to 12MP still photos and record 1080p/30 Full HD video.
- The Spark can shoot horizontal or vertical panoramas and can take photos as single shots, 3-frame bursts, or on intervals.
- Check out this fantastic video footage taken from the Spark –> Watch here YouTube.
- View actual photographs that were taken by this drone –> View on Flickr
Flight Control System:
- Includes an incredible navigation system, collision avoidance, and sport mode which lets you fly at speeds up to 31MPH.
- As long as GPS is available, the Spark will return to the spot it took off from when the battery gets low, the controller loses signal, or you press the Return To Home (RTH) button on the app or controller.
- You can fly with either a remote controller or the DJI Go mobile app.
Finally, watch this helpful beginner’s guide video about the DJI Spark above!
Mid-Priced Beginner Drones ($75 – $200)
The next three drones probably get my vote for the BEST overall drones for beginners.
They represent excellent combinations of almost everything that newbies look for in a drone. First and foremost, they are not that expensive and don’t require a HUGE investment of your money.
But even with the affordable pricing, these drones have decent flight times, ranges, construction, and cameras that take quality photographs and video.
And best of all, they have different settings on the drone which let you start with a beginner or slow mode, and as you practice and get better, you can adjust the settings. These drones grow with your skill level!
The Altair 818 Hornet is a fun drone for both beginner pilots and those with more experience.
First, it provides THREE different flight modes depending on your skill level. The first level is perfect for beginner pilots, the second level is designed those with some experience, and the third level is for experts that have mastered the first two levels. I love the flight modes for beginners because the Hornet adapts to your comfortability and experience and grows with you.
The Hornet includes a high-quality 720 HD wide-angle camera, so it makes a great drone for beginner pilots that are also interested in photography and film. Combined with the relatively long flight time of 15 minutes, you should get a fair amount of practice before having to switch batteries.
And check out the guards around the propellers! This drone can handle the inevitable crash while you are learning to fly.
The Hornet includes a 120° wide-angle 720p High Definition Camera that can take amazing aerial photos and videos. You can line up your shot using a phone or tablet from up to 60 meters away (full flight range of 150 meters.)
- View actual video footage taken from the Altair 818 Hornet –> Watch on YouTube.
Flight Control System and Stability Features:
- One-touch Takeoff and Landing: press a single button for takeoff and landing!
- Includes Headless Mode, which is beneficial because you don’t have to worry about the orientation of the drone in the air while controlling.
- Altitude Hold: This feature allows you to take pictures and video without worrying about maintaining altitude with the joystick.
- Automatic Emergency Landings: The drone lands itself before the battery dies. It does not come “home” like the DJI Mavic Pro or Spark above because the Hornet does not have GPS.
- You can fly with either a remote controller or mobile app, whichever makes you feel most comfortable.
If you liked the Altair 818 Hornet above (Drone #3), but want something a bit less expensive and don’t mind the decreased flight time (8-10 minutes per battery), then the AA108 made by Altair could be a perfect fit.
The drone is designed for beginners and kids and is incredibly easy to fly. The included camera is not bad, and it’s a great drone to test your skills at filming and taking photographs from the air. Once you master flying the AA108, then you will know it’s time to move on to a more expensive drone.
I like that the AA108 has THREE flight modes so that an absolute beginner can get off the ground easily. And switching the mode to Level 2 or 3 allows advanced flyers the ability to have fun flying this drone.
And the drone is made of extremely durable plastic and has propeller guards, so it should be able to stand up to crashing.
- Includes a built-in 120° wide-angle 720p HD camera that takes decent photos and videos right from your phone or mobile device.
- View actual video footage taken from the Altair AA108 –> Watch on YouTube.
Easy To Fly!
- Headless Mode – If you turn this feature ON, you don’t have to worry about the orientation of your drone while flying.
- Low Battery Alarm – As the drone is running low on a charge, an alarm starts to beep so you know it’s time to bring the drone home.
- Altitude Hold – This feature ensures that the AA808 stays hovering in place while in the air without your input.
- You can fly with a controller or the Flyingsee app on your phone.
- This beginner drone has one-touch takeoff and landing, which is AMAZING for a beginner not to have to worry about.
This small drone is incredibly fun and a great way to learn how to fly!
The Tello is excellent for beginners and kids. The drone is easily controlled from your smartphone or a compatible Bluetooth controller. And to take-off, you literally just throw the drone into the air! And once you’ve mastered some basic maneuvers, you can even try FPV (first-person view) flying using a VR-headset.
Because of its small size and weight, the Tello is best flown indoors unless it’s calm outside. But flying around your home gives a fantastic opportunity to practice the various maneuvers and tricks that can be completed with the drone.
It’s hard to beat this drone for the price, and I can almost guarantee it will be the most fun you have for around $100 this year! And I didn’t even mention that the Tello is backed by DJI, who is arguably the world leader when it comes to everything drones.
- At the front of the drone, there is a camera that can stream 720pm video to your phone, along with taking 5-megapixel photos.
- View actual video footage taken in BALI from the Ryze Tech Tello –> Watch on YouTube.
Helpful Safety Features For Beginners:
- Auto Takeoff/Landing: Lift off or land with a single tap.
- Low Battery Protection: Alerts go off when your battery gets low.
- Failsafe Protection: Land safely, even if you lose connection.
- Lightweight, but extremely durable and includes guards around the propellers.
Cheapest Drones for Beginners (Under $75)
Just because a drone is inexpensive, doesn’t mean it can’t be a lot of fun to fly!
The three drones listed below are great drones for beginners.
First, since they don’t cost a lot, you don’t need to be overly concerned with ruining your drone by crashing. More importantly, they give a grasp of what it’s like to fly a drone and provide much-needed experience before investing in a higher end, larger, more powerful machine.
These drones could also be purchased for older children. And to be honest, these drones are great for anyone looking for a fun toy to fly around the house or bring out to a party.
Because of the low price, you shouldn’t expect all the bells and whistles that are standard on more expensive drones. A few features that come to mind that are typically not included are GPS (which provides for a return to home capability), cameras, long flight times, and range from the remote controller.
The Blade Nano QX is a fun, inexpensive option for a beginner looking to buy their first drone.
First, this drone is TINY as it weighs only .6 ounces and unless there is no wind, it should be flown inside. It’s small frame and weight lets you take and fly the Nano QX almost anywhere to show off to your friends.
If you are new to flying, you will enjoy the SAFE (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) technology built into the drone. This technology is great for beginners.
Here’s how it works:
The Nano QX has two modes. “Stability” mode is for beginners. While in “Stability” mode, if you let go of the joysticks, the drone will come back to a stable hover all by itself, so it’s hard to crash the drone or get yourself in trouble. Once you mastered the “Stability” mode, you can switch to “Agility” mode for faster flying and tricks.
Here are a few other things you should know:
- If you purchase the BNF (Bind-N-Fly) version, then you must buy a separate transmitter to fly the Nano QX. View Transmitter HERE
- The RTF (Ready-To-Fly) Nano QX comes with a controller, but it’s not that great. My advice is to purchase the BNF Nano QX along with the controller recommended above.
- The 150mAh flight battery typically lasts around 8 minutes. Don’t forget spare batteries!
- Weight: 0.6 oz / 16.4 g
- Because of the small size, there is no camera on the Nano QX.
- Durable with propeller guards. The Nano QX bounces off most walls and certainly handle a crash!
Check out the Nano QX in flight in the video above, along with an entire review of its features. I love watching how the drone performs!
What’s incredible about the Syma X5C is that it includes a camera! If you’re looking for an affordable beginner drone that is fun and easy to fly AND you want to mess around with aerial photography, then you have a perfect match.
Compared to the Nano QX (#6) and the Holy Stone HS170 Predator (#8), the Syma X5C is quite large, which subconsciously makes me think of it less like a toy and more like a real drone that is perfect for a beginner or older child. The X5C is small enough to fly in the house but large enough to handle a bit of wind while operating outside.
The X5C comes with a remote controller and propeller guards (not pictured above). The prop guards are great for protecting your drone when it crashes into something. It’s also inexpensive to buy replacement propellers.
- Remember that this drone is cheap and doesn’t have stabilization, so don’t expect an incredible image quality. But for the inexpensive price, it’s not that bad!
- Check out this video footage (It’s amazing what a bit of music and editing can do for a video!): Watch on YouTube HERE!
- There are also a few pictures on Flickr that demonstrate the X5C’s camera: View pictures on Flickr.
Flight Time: Only about 7 minutes. I’d recommend buying extra batteries.
Range: The X5C will fly a maximum of 164 feet / 50 meters away from the 2.4GhZ remote controller.
Dimensions: 12.2 x 12.2 x 3.1 inches / 4.8 x 4.8 x 1.2 cm
Weight: 3.8 ounces / 107 grams
Watch this helpful video about the Syma X5C that demonstrates how the drone flies and handles both inside AND outside, along with the basic controls and what’s included in the box.
The Holy Stone HS170 Predator is a popular choice for beginner drone pilots, older children, or anyone looking for a fun toy. And it’s easy to see why.
First, the price is fantastic, and you can almost always buy this drone for under $50. Because of the low cost, you don’t have to grimace every time you crash the drone!
The HS170 Predator was designed with beginners in mind:
- Three-speed modes: Start with the low default gear and work your way up to high-speed flight!
- LED color light: The drones flight status can be determined by looking at the indicator light. The lights also look cool while flying at night.
- Headless Mode: When the HS170 Predator is flying in headless mode, you can ignore the orientation of the front of the drone as you fly. When you press a direction on your controller, that is the way the drone will move.
Flight Time: 6-8 minutes.
Range: Up to 50 meters from the 2.4GHz remote controller.
Dimensions: 5.1 x 5.1 x 1.1 in / 13 x 13 x 2.9 cm
Weight: 1.1 ounces / 31.3 grams
Watch the HS170 Predator in flight! This video review shows everything you need to know about this drone, from unboxing to crashing to the maneuvers you can pull off while flying!
Conclusion: The BEST Drones For Beginners.
I hope that after reading this article, you have either selected your first drone or at least narrowed down your choices.
As a reminder, here are the most important factors to consider when you are looking to purchase a new beginner drone. Answering these questions should help you decide which machine to purchase above!
- Is your budget $50 or $500? If you tell me your price range, it’s easy to narrow down the possible beginner drones for you!
- Do you want one? If so, how important is the quality of the photographs and video?
- Do you want a drone that can fly great distances away from you? Or do you want something to mess around inside the house and backyard?
I did my best to provide a list of beginner drones, but the truth is that there are dozens of outstanding products available and way too many to ever list in one place.
So I’d love to hear from you next: