Top 13 Best Cheap Drones 2021 for beginners

Sub: Top 13 Best cheap drones 2021 for beginners

Thanks to tech innovation from the bigger drone brands, today’s best cheap drones  are better than ever before. These days, ‘affordable’ doesn’t have to mean a tiny, out of control drone that shoots across the room then explodes against a wall. Cheap drones are now more user-friendly than ever, and pack features like decent camera stabilisation, GPS locking, intelligent flight control and even 4K shooting.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST BUDGET DRONE FOR YOU

Budget drones cost a fraction of the big players from the likes of DJI and Parrot, but what do these reduced prices buy you? Up to £50, you’ll find limited features, a basic build and basic flight control. This means somewhat tricky flight without stabilisation.

Step up to the £50-£100 price bracket and features take a decent leap in quality. These drones may lack a controller, instead favouring the use of a mobile app, and the camera won’t produce the most cinematic footage you’ve seen, but flight features should be spot on.

Hit the £100-200 mark and you’ll get access to a higher resolution camera and a dedicated controllers to help you properly get to grips with essential piloting skills. The motors may also have a little more grunt and be better tuned for outdoor flight.

You’ll find more guidance if our article on what to look for in a toy drone. Ready to find the best cheap drone for your skill level and budget? These are our current top picks to get you flying today…

THE BEST CHEAP DRONES TO BUY RIGHT NOW

1/ RYZE TELLO

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

The best cheap drone overall, thanks to flight tech by DJI.

There are no drones in this price bracket that come anywhere near the specifications and flexibility of the Tello. Designed by Ryze and featuring flight technology from DJI, the comparisons with the larger craft are instantly apparent. If you own a DJI Mavic and are looking for a training drone, then look no further. The Tello is also fully programmable, so you can code in Scratch and then upload your own modes and flight characteristics, making it an ideal educational tool. The level of coding is aimed at teaching kids, but there’s plenty here for everyone, whatever the age, flight skill or coding ability.

For two years running, this quality quadcopter has picked up the T3 Award for Best Budget Drone. Head to our Ryze Tello review for more info, or see how it matches up against a similarly priced competitor in our Ryze Tello vs Potensic Elfin faceoff.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Learning the ropes

Type: Mini drone/education

Weight: 80g

REASONS TO BUY

+Flight technology designed by DJI

+Programmable

+Lightweight

2/ HOLY STONE HS100 GPS FPV

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

The best cheap drone for aerial photography beginners

Designed to introduce aerial photography novices to the world of cinematic drone photography, at the front of the Holy Stone HS100 GPS FPV is an optimised 1080p Wi-Fi camera with 120-degree field of view and 90-degree adjustable angle, ensuring you can capture quality footage or stills and experiment with shots from multiple perspectives. The drone is also suitable for use with VR or first-person view goggles. Follow Me mode is on-hand to further boost the dynamic of your shots, enabling the drone to automatically follow a subject and keep it in the frame at all times – ideal for epic selfies or shooting fast-moving activity.

The Holy Stone HS100 also comes equipped with GPS precise positioning, ensuring smooth flight and the ability to return to the take-off point at the touch of a button, or as a safety measure if the battery or signal drops. Headless Mode and Altitude Hold take the stress out of flying so pilots can focus on getting their shots in the bag.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Filming in HD

Type: Camera drone

Weight: 700g

REASONS TO BUY

+1080p HD camera

+15-minutes flight time

+500-metre range

3/ POTENSIC ELFIN DRONE

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

A well-made and robust little drone that’s easy to fly

The Potensic Elfin is a robust camera drone aimed at beginners. Potensic’s most advanced toy drone, it proves to be a rapid, responsive and highly manoeuvrable flier. We were impressed with how easy it is to fly, although you’ll only want to take it outside on very calm days – like many sub-250g budget drones, the Elfin does not like wind. If you attempt to fly it beyond its maximum range of 50m, it’ll attempt to land itself automatically, and there’s a ‘headless’ mode in which the drone will automatically align itself with the pilot’s position, no matter which way it is facing, and respond to control inputs accordingly. There are a few fun features to explore too: you can plot a course on your phone’s touchscreen for the Elfin to follow, and it will take a photo when you throw up a peace sign with your hand, or start video recording when you wave at its camera.

Where this drone falls short is in its photo and video quality. Although it’s in line with many budget drones, here the Elfin is clearly outshone by the similarly-priced Ryze Tello, with its in-built video stabilisation software. Head to our Potensic Elfin drone review for more info, or see how it matches up against a cheaper competitor in our Potensic Elfin vs Eachine E58 Pro showdown.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Easy control

Type: Camera drone

Weight: 95g

REASONS TO BUY

+Rapid, responsive flier

+Easy to control and good hovering

+Decent battery life

REASONS TO AVOID

-Very average camera

-Can’t be flown in wind

4/ POTENSIC A20 MINI DRONE

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

This budget option is a brilliant choice for kids

The Potensic A20 is a great option for kids keen to try out their drone skills for the first time. As a beginner’s drone, it does what it says on the tin, with all the features you’d expect: well-protected propellers for those inevitable bumps and scrapes, an emergency stop button for those times when your little darlings fly a little too close to the dog/oven/baby and an un-ignorable low power alarm. It’s a breeze to fly, too – one-touch take off and landing controls allow kids to grasp the basics of drone flying in record time. It comes with two extra rechargeable batteries, which is good because you’ll only get around nine minutes of airtime on one charge (it’s advertised as 10-13 minutes). The main limitation is that while the A20 is robust enough to handle a few minor collisions without falling out of the sky, it’s really too lightweight to handle being flown outdoors. Head to our Potensic A20 mini drone review for more info.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Learning the ropes

Type: Toy

Weight: 191g

REASONS TO BUY

+Very easy to fly

+From one of the world’s best drone manufacturers

REASONS TO AVOID

-No photography or video capabilities

-Too lightweight to fly outside

5/ PARROT SWING QUADCOPTER AND PLANE MINIDRONE

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

Pull off barrel rolls and vertical loops with this dinky stunt drone

Though it’s no longer officially sold by Parrot, the Swing Quadcopter and Plane Minidrone proves eternally popular with beginners and younger drone pilots. It also means you can often find it on sale for a criminally low price. One of the coolest picks in our best cheap drones for beginner’s round-up, the Parrot Swing looks a little like something out of the Star Wars franchise, and is just as thrilling in the air. This dinky drone is made for performing aerial stunts, and loves nothing more than pulling off vertical loops, half loops and barrel rolls. It’s also capable of vertical take-off and landing.

Controlling this beginner’s drone is made easier thanks to the inclusion of a Parrot Flypad, which also extends the drone’s flight range up to 196ft. However, remember that you must keep the drone in sight at all times to fly in accordance with UK regulations. As for the top speed, the Parrot Swing Quadcopter and Plane Minidrone can reach up to 18.6mph in good weather. Basically, if you want a fun cheap drone for blasting around open fields and pulling off crazy aerial stunts, this little Parrot is a no-brainer.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Aerial maneuvers

Type: Stunt drone

Weight: 1,500g

REASONS TO BUY

+Easy-to-use controller

+Looks super-cool

6/ POTENSIC D85

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

An ideal camera drone for getting started with FPV

The D85 drone is well-suited to those wanting to take some confident first steps in flying FPV (first-person view), or flying at speed. It’s easy to get started with and offers plenty of features for the low price. There are various flight modes, including Point of Interest, Return to Home and Follow Me. A futurist design instantly makes the Potensic D85 stand out among many of the others featured in our best cheap drones list. Featuring full dual GPS, this drone is ultra-easy to use and has an average flight time of 20 minutes per battery charge. An upgradable camera option enables you to swap the 1080p camera for your own GoPro, making the D85 a solid option for anyone looking to get some high-quality aerial footage from their action camera.

If it’s FPV flying you’re interested in the new DJI FPV drone is designed to be easy to fly for anyone (although it certainly can’t be considered a ‘cheap’ drone).

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Filming in HD

Type: Camera drone

Weight: 600g

REASONS TO BUY

+20-minute flight time

+Dual GPS sensors

+Comprehensive flight modes

7/ SYMA X8 PRO

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

The best cheap drone for mastering aerial photography skills

The X8 Pro is a great cheap drone for learning the aerial photography ropes. As such, stability in the air is key. Thanks to built-in GPS, the drone is capable of holding its position, even if the wind picks up. The on-board 720p HD camera, complete with adjustable angle, is more than capable of producing quality footage and stills in the right conditions. A live feed from the camera is beamed straight to your smartphone to ensure you get your framing right.

Budding Spielbergs have a range of automatic video modes at their fingertips: ‘Orbiting’ flies the drone around the person holding the controller; ‘Follow Me’ tracks the subject and keeps them in shot wherever they move; and ‘Flight Plan’ enables pilots to tap any point on the map within the Syma Fly app and the drone will automatically fly to that position. If you’re a nervous flyer, the Syma X8 Pro offer two modes which limit the flying range of the drone. Novice Mode in particular is ideal, restricting the flight radius to 30-metres from the take-off point. As your confidence grows that can be bumped up to around 70-metres.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Exploring aerial photographyType: Camera droneWeight: 1.7kg

REASONS TO BUY

+Multiple shooting modes

+720p HD camera

+Novice mode for nervous flyers

8/ EACHINE E58 PRO

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

This budget drone packs lots of features for the price

The Eachine E58 Pro makes it into our best cheap drone roundup based on the features and extras you get for your cash. The lightweight, plastic body is more robust that it first appears, and it’s a speedy flier, even on it’s slowest propellor setting. You can plot a route on your phone for the E58 Pro to follow, and there’s a ‘headless’ mode in which the drone will respond in the direction of the inputs from the controller – regardless of its orientation. It also packs a 1080P camera (our #1 rated Ryze Tello only has 720p), and the image depth and colour saturation on video is pretty good, although the lack of camera stabilisation means footage is jerky.

On the down-side, it’s one of the harder beginners’ drones to fly, and battery life is on the short side – you’ll get around seven minutes of flight time per battery. Like most drones in this list, it doesn’t cope at all well with wind, and in fact has a tendency to drift even when flying indoors. Find out more in our full Eachine E58 Pro review, or see how it differs from our #1 cheap drone in our E58 Pro vs Ryze Tello drone comparison.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Feature-packedType: Camera droneWeight: 249g

REASONS TO BUY

+Lots of features

+1080p camera

REASONS TO AVOID

-Short battery life

-Shaky video footage

 

9/ HUBSAN X4 H502S

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

The best cheap drone for GPS and stable flight

The original Husban X4 changed the microdrone market, and now several generations on the compact X4 H502S is still a formidable craft. It features full GPS which enables steady flight more akin to larger drones than one of this size. The GPS makes the X4 H502S incredibly easy to control outside. GPS also enables advanced features such as follow me where you can get the drone to track you autonomously. What makes this drone stand out for beginners is that it has an auto return to home feature, so if things do go astray or you lose control or sight of the craft then a quick push of the home button and the H502S will come back to its take-off spot.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Taking anywhere

Type: Outdoor flying/FPV

Weight: 155g

REASONS TO BUY

+Ultra-compact drone

+GPS enables steadier flight

 

 

10/ EACHINE E520S

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

Keenly-priced GPS-equipped travel drone with 4K camera

This folding budget drone from Shenzhen, China is proof positive that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a drone with GPS, high-speed wifi technology and autonomous flight modes. The E520S looks like a mini version of the DJI Mavic while the hand controller (replete with a spring mount for an Android or iOS phone) is almost identical to that of the Mavic Air. Nevertheless, it’s a great low-cost, intermediate package for those on a learning curve towards a bona fide DJI model.

The E520S is about the size of a DJI Spark and comes equipped with GPS, 5G wifi streaming up to a distance of 250 metres and a USB-charged battery that lasts about 15 minutes. It also comes with a raft of automated features including return to home, auto take off and land, waypoint, follow-me and orbit. That’s pretty darn good for a drone for such a low.

Mind, the jury’s out on the quality of the front-mounted camera which supposedly shoots in 4K. Granted, the image quality isn’t terrible but it certainly isn’t up to the same level of 4K footage that the DJI and Parrot drones produce. Perhaps more importantly, the camera isn’t attached to a gimbal and that means any video you shoot will be quite jumpy and, well, unstable. You can, however, tilt the camera by hand before take off.

Despite being really noisy, the E520S flies amazingly well for a cheap drone – it’s stable in anything bar a stiff breeze and is great fun to fly. If you can’t afford to fork out on a DJI model or don’t wish to spend a load of dough on something that may eventually crash or end up in a tree, then put this one on the list.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Value

Type: GPS and 5G equipped

Weight: 780g

REASONS TO BUY

+GPS and 5G video streaming

+Great price

+Easy to use

REASONS TO AVOID

-Hard to get hold of

 

11/ PARROT MAMBO FLY

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

Stable indoor flight doesn’t come much better than this

In the pantheon of indoor toy drones, the acrobatic Parrot Mambo is a master of stability. Like the rest of Parrot’s Mini Drone roster, this little fella hovers in one spot so perfectly that you could pop off to put the kettle on and when you return it’ll still be in the same place. You fly it using the Freeflight 3 app (Apple and Andoid) which can take a bit of getting used to since there is no feedback when your thumbs are resting on smooth glass. But hey, this thing’s so easy to fly you’ll have it mastered in seconds.

Aside from the drone-only option, the Mambo also comes with clip-on fittings that allow it to shoot tiny balls at a target or pick up items the weight of a sugar lump. Mate it to the optional Parrot Flypad hand controller for an even more accurate flying experience or grab the FPV pack for the full immersive monty.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Indoor flying

Type: Toy

Weight: 64g

REASONS TO BUY

+Cheap and cheerful

+Rock-steady indoor flight

12/ YUNEEC BREEZE

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

A compact beginner’s drone for capturing life on the go

The Breeze has been around for a while and although ageing still offers exceptional value for money. It packs in-flight features that will be familiar to all drone pilots with advanced options such as Selfie mode, Orbit and follow me. You can even program the Breeze through the app to follow a set route guide by its integrated GPS system. The Breeze is ideal for use almost anywhere, it’s great fun to use to shoot selfies with friends and the orbit and follow modes are fun additions. If you want a good quality drone that’s easy to fly, at this price you can’t go wrong with the Yuneec Breeze.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: Selfies

Type: Personal drone

Weight: 385g

REASONS TO BUY

+Capture high-quality stills and videos

+Perfect for taking selfies

 

13/ NIKKO AIR DRL RACE VISION 220 FPV PRO

Top 13 Best Cheap Drones for beginners

Take pole position with the best cheap drone for racing

If you have your eyes set on a future career as a high-flying racing drone pilot, the Nikko Air DRL Race Vision 220 FPV Pro is a great place to start. Designed in collaboration with the Drone Racing League, the Nikko Air is made to fly at high-ish speeds – up to 25mph – and can be piloted using a controller with integrated colour LCD screen, or via the included FPV goggles to give you a truly immersive drone racing experience. Granted, the view through the goggles is pretty poor but it’s good enough to see where the drone’s going.

Three flight modes limit the speed to help pilots master the controls gradually and propeller guards are supplied for complete newbies, while 16 pre-programmed stunts can be performed at the touch of a button. Up front is a 130 degree adjustable wide angle camera lens which gives you a wider field of view when racing or maneuvering around tricky obstacles.

SPECIFICATIONS

Best for: High speed flightType: Racing droneWeight: 2,180g

REASONS TO BUY

+Immersive FPV experience

+25mph top speed

DRONE FLYING SAFETY TIPS

Never fly your drone above 400ft. This isn’t an issue for some of the lower altitude drones in our selection, but don’t be fooled by the size and price, as these drones are still very advanced!

Don’t fly your drone over properties or people. Ensure you keep a distance of at least 150m.

Always keep line of sight with your drone. In fact, this is the most important rule of drone flying. This is particularly important with small drones as they can easily be lost.

If you fly too close to an airport it’s likely you’ll run into trouble with the law and possibly even end up in the news! Make sure you’re at least 1km away from the outer boundary, and use common sense when it comes to flying your drone near flight paths.

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