One of the most interesting technological trends of the past ten years has been the advancement of “drones,” specifically those used by enthusiasts and filmmakers.
These drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have a long history mostly tied to war. Yet, the best drones for beginners we’re talking about are not armed with missiles but rather cameras. These vehicles are mostly for aerial photography and videography, used by professionals and amateurs alike. What’s revolutionary about them is that for just a few hundred dollars at most, anyone can get footage that it would have taken a helicopter and professional film crew to get just two decades ago. These little marvels are great fun and have countless uses, but are not without controversy.
If you want to get into the world of drones and aerial photography, there has never been a better time to do it. Still, you will want to do your research because no matter how easy they are to use, they are still aerial vehicles. Things can go wrong, and there are pitfalls to avoid. This list of the best drones for beginners is a great place to start. Not only will we tell you about six of the highest-rated drones on the market, but we will also give you a heads-up on what you need to know to pick up this hobby.
Best Drones for Beginners: What You Need to Know
Unmanned aerial vehicles have been around a long time and have a lot of rules associated with them. Dive in below to learn where they came from, how they're used, and why some people don't like it.
History of Drones
While they may only seem like a recent invention, unmanned aerial vehicles have been around for more than 150 years. Technically. In July of 1849, Austrian forces laying siege to Venice, Italy floated hot-air balloons armed with fuse-delayed bombs over the city. While one did hit its target, the wind shifted after launch and sent the balloons away from Venice and back towards the Austrians. In World War I, radio-controlled planes were going to be deployed against zeppelins. The technology was developed but never put into use. In World War II, radio-controlled planes were used to train anti-aircraft gunners. Eventually these unmanned aerial vehicles were used both for reconnaissance and military strikes.
Most of these unmanned aerial vehicles were designed to resemble airplanes, but the hobby drones we’re focusing on use a quadcopter design. In fact, the quadcopter design even predates the helicopter. Louis Breguet’s vehicle became the first rotary wing aircraft to lift off of the ground in 1907 and 1908. A number of other four-rotor helicopters were developed, with varying rates of success from the 1920s through the 1970s. Yet, the technology didn’t really find its niche until the late 1990s and the early 2000s, when small quadcopter drones were created that could be piloted using simple controls. Today, the best drones for beginners are often as simple as pre-programming the flight path and sending it on its way.
The Controversy Over Drones
As with any technology there are bound to be people who think that it is a dangerous thing and something to fear. A lot of times complaints about technological advancements can be dismissed as simple fear of change, but when it comes to drones there are legitimate concerns. For example, unmanned aerial vehicles are used to launch airstrikes against hostile targets in war and can cause serious collateral damage. Also, some people believe that this sort of long-distance warfare makes it easier for governments to justify violent strikes. However, the drones we’re talking about aren’t armed with any weapons, at least not yet.
Still, the best drones for beginners you find listed below are also the subject of controversy. These drones are primarily cameras, so it’s possible to use these drones to “spy” on people. This led to some cities passing laws banning the devices, however in September 2017 a federal judge overturned that law. This is still a new and evolving area of law, but for now you can’t ban drones from a town. However, they are banned from certain places. For example, you can’t fly them near airports, especially since there were reports that in New York a drone hobbyist flew too close to a landing plane. You also can’t fly them near prisons or certain restricted areas, like the White House.
How Drones Are Used Today
Today, the best drones for beginners are used primarily for aerial photography. Will Smith used one for his “In My Feelings Challenge” video where he climbed up a suspension bridge to do the dance. In fact, a lot of people use drone footage for amateur or low-budget videos. With a 4k Ultra HD camera mounted on the drone, anything you film will end up looking incredibly epic. Though, you have to plan your shots within the limit of the specific drone’s flight time before it needs a recharge. Still, any would-be or practiced filmmakers can use drones to get shots that would have been impossible without them.
However, drones aren’t just for photography for fun. Some folks have used drones for altruistic civic purposes, such as capturing evidence of environmental violations. Archaeologists have used drones to discover hidden structures in previously inaccessible areas or simply for the benefit of another perspective. While it’s not yet in wide practice, we will likely become most familiar with these drones when they start making deliveries. Amazon and other retailers are developing programs whereby you can place an order online and a drone will fly your item to you in hours. Of course, there will be a limit to the size of the items these devices can carry. However, drones may be the future of delivery.
Things to Consider Before Taking Up the Drone Hobby
Before you take to the friendly skies, there are some things to consider. Not all drones are created equal. Dive in below to see what you should consider before buying your first drone.
How Much Technical Know-How You Need
If you wanted to fly the earliest quadcopter drones, you would likely have needed a lot of training in how to properly control them. Today, the technological barrier-to-entry for these drones is very low. The best drones for beginners basically fly themselves, and the user keeps track of the progress and directs one way or another via an app on a phone, tablet, or laptop. So, if you have no idea how flying works you can get a drone and have it up in the air with little-to-no trouble. Read the instructions and follow all laws and guidelines, and you should be fine. Though, just because the best drones for beginners are easy to fly, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn about this stuff.
You don’t have to go to pilot’s school, but you should probably read up a little on flight mechanics and navigating through the air. The more you know the less likely you will make some kind of mistake that results in a drone that is lost, broken, or both. You can watch videos that explain the basics, so you’ll be competent in the vocabulary of flight. However, if you’re into quadcopter drones, you’ll probably find that the more you learn about flight the more interested you become. Again, we’re only focusing on the best drones for beginners, but if you’re willing to do the work, you could find yourself piloting some complex and cool machines.
Basic Functions and Features
When it comes to the best drones for beginners, there are still some functions and parts you need to know about. The drone has four basic features: the rotary wings, the power source, the gimbal, and the camera. The wings and power source are obviously what allows it to take off, fly, and land. Inside the main body are also other components, like GPS and a gyroscope, but you don’t need to worry about those. The gimbal and camera are on the underside of the drone and are how you can capture the video. The gimbal allows you to pivot and move the camera without moving the drone. You can also lock in the gimbal in place and use the drone to move the camera around.
How Long Can They Stay in The Air?
This depends on a number of factors, including the power source, the weight of the drone, and the conditions in which you are flying. The best drones for beginners are typically able to fly for at least ten or maybe 15 minutes, even the cheaper ones. However, some of the more high-end best drones for beginners boast flight times that are a little longer. About twenty-five minutes is about the best you can really expect, though some of the pricier best drones for beginners claim that they can fly for a half hour or more. Distance is also a factor. Most drones are good for distances of five- to seven kilometers, but if they go too far away from the controller, you can lose the video feed and your drone can crash. You can usually track it with the GPS, but the chances that it survives the fall are very slim.
Don’t Forget About the Camera
While the mechanics of what keeps the best drones for beginners up in the air are vitally important, that doesn’t mean that the camera is not. In fact, the camera is perhaps one of the most important part of the drones because unless simply flying it brings you pleasure, the video is the good stuff. All of the best drones for beginners come with a pre-installed camera, and you can find very high-quality devices in some of them. However, some hobbyists like to do aftermarket upgrades, especially if their preferred drone has a sub-par camera. Unless you have electronics expertise, you will likely want to hire someone to do this for you. Also, be warned, upgrading the camera like this will almost certainly void your warranty. Still, for some hobbyists, the assemblage and upgrading of parts is part of the fun!
What Sort of Budget Do You Need?
About a decade ago, a good drone and camera set-up would cost you thousands of dollars. However, as the technology gets more prevalent, the price point on many of these things has fallen a great deal. In fact, you get can get a small drone or a mini best drone for beginners for significantly less than a hundred dollars. However, if you want a premium drone experience, it’s worth it to spend the extra money on a machine that you know is sturdy, comes from a reputable brand, and has a good track record. Again, the camera is a consideration. The best drones for beginners are simpler devices and may not have the best cameras. If you want to add an aftermarket upgrade you will need to not only purchase the new camera, but likely pay for labor if you lack the expertise to do it yourself. Still, for the most part, the best drones for beginners are fine as-is and should be easy for you take right up into the air for some great footage.
Ten of the Best Drones for Beginners to Fly
There are a lot of options for the drone hobbyist to choose from. Some of the best drones for beginners are very, very simple to use and others are more complicated. Check out the best drones for beginners listed below and click through to the product page to get even more specific details. No matter what you want to get into drones for, you will find plenty of great options below.
1. Physport RC Drone Foldable Quadcopter
Of all the best drones for beginners, this one is a great choice because it is both a high-quality machine and less than a hundred dollars. The camera is only two megapixels but does feature real-time wifi transmission. The feed will be sent to your phone screen or you can view it in virtual reality mode, using a separate VR headset. This headset does not come with the drone, but they are relatively easy and cheap to find. Takeoff and landing are both done with a single keystroke, and you fly it in “headless mode” which makes flying much easier. You can also do some tricks in the air as this drone features tumbling and 360-degree flips. When you are done, you can fold the drone up for quick and easy transport.
2. Rabing RC Drone Brushless Racing Quadcopter
The Rabing RC Drone features brushless motors and can reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour. This is much faster than most hobby drones, and Rabing has built a machine with a sturdy frame to handle that speed. As one of the best drones for beginners, it can fly for 10-12 minutes, and anywhere from 200 to 300 meters from the remote. Don’t worry, because if there is a weak signal or low battery, you will be warned to bring it in. This Rabing model has four-in-one ESC protection so the motor will not lock up in extreme conditions. What is really great about this drone is the six-axis flight control system. It helps the drone maintain stability even in rough wind, and it helps the camera keep steady, so your video isn’t too shaky.
3. Holy Stone F181W Quadcopter
As one of the best drones for beginners, this model from Holy Stone features a six-axis flight control system and has a headless mode. This drone also contains a function that allows you to hold the drone at a certain altitude. Takeoff, landing, and recalling the drone are all handled with a single keystroke. The transmitter range is limited, operating between 50 and 100 meters. The flight time also leaves a little to be desired, squeezing only seven to ten minutes of play time per charge. However, the particular listing linked below does offer two batteries, so you can double your flight time. Though, be warned, the drone gets hot so give it some time to cool off between flights. The camera is a 720p HD wide angle lens with a 120-degree field of view.
4. Altair 818 Hornet Beginner
The Altair 818 Hornet is one of the best drones for beginners, and will grow with your skill level. The drone has a number of skill settings for flyers of varying experience to use. Altitude hold, one-button takeoff and landing, and headless mode are just a few that are offered. You can set a custom flight-path but be careful to avoid obstacles. Even better, the drone comes with access to a smartphone app that can be used but is not required. This is a great option for people who enjoy both flying the drone and the video aspect. The Altair 818 Hornet comes with a detachable 720p HD camera. You can fly the drone a distance of about 150 meters, and it boasts a lengthy 15-minute flight time.
5. Potensic T35 Quadcopter
The Potensic T35 Quadcopter is one of the best drones for beginners, but the brand is not yet as well-known as some others. Still, this drone has a lot of great features often found in machines that cost twice as much. The T35 comes with not one but two GPS positioning systems. This provides you with extremely accurate positioning data. The T35 also features a “Follow Me” mode. The drone pairs with your smartphone and then follows you wherever you go. This is one of the best drone for beginners as it features all of the easy-fly features like headless mode, altitude hold, and one key takeoffs, landings, and returns. This drone has an operational distance of 300 meters and says flying time can last up to 15 minutes.
6. DJI Spark Mini Quadcopter
DJI is one of the top names in drone manufacturing and design, and the DJI Spark is one of the best drones for beginners. It is a fine example of a mini-drone. Mini drones are often small enough to be held with one hand. Mini-drones are great for kids or a goof-off gift for the office. If you’re serious about the hobby, however, they often don’t meet the standards that full-size drones do. However, the DJI Spark is an exception to that rule. This little drone is fun to fly, reaching fast speeds and staying stable in winds up to 31 mph. The operational distance is fantastic, working up to 2 km away. It also claims 16 minutes of flight time in prime conditions and at only a 20 kph speed. It also features a dual GPS positioning system. The camera is 1080p, but it’s flush with the drone’s body. This helps with stability, but limits the camera’s movement.
7. Parrot Bebop 2 FPV
The Parrot Bebop 2 FPV is one of the better drones for beginners because it comes with a set of VR Goggles that allow for both first-person viewing and control of the drone. The 14-megapixel fish-eye camera records video and takes photos in stunning 1080p. With a premium smartphone, the first-person view will be immersive and about as good as seeing what it would be like to fly you can find outside of a dream. The operational distance of the Parrot Bebop 2 is more than a mile, and they claim a 25-minute flight time. A lot of features useful to beginners are locked in their dedicated piloting app until you pay to activate them. Also, a number of reviewers complained about poor customer service from Parrot if they had a defective drone.
8. Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone
The Autel Robotics X-Star Premium ranks as one of the best drone for beginners with style and a high-quality camera. This beauty comes in a hard, orange case and has a detachable gimbal for the 4K Ultra HD camera that comes with it. You can take 12-megapixel still images as well. Operational distance of more than a mile away, the drone boasts a 25-minute flight time, but what’s more impressive is their 60- to 90-minute fast charger. The drone features a number of autonomous flight modes and the controller comes with an integrated LCD screen. Along with a dual GPS positioning system, the X-Star features SecureFly magnetic interference protection. Along with the drone you will get a 64-GB MicroSD card, the intelligent battery, and some spare parts. You can keep it all in the premium hard case, that evokes the style of a Halliburton briefcase.
9. Yuneec Breeze Flying Camera Quadcopter
As far as the best drones for beginners go, the Yuneec Breeze finds itself on this list simply because it is easy to use indoors or outdoors and has a 4K Ultra HD Camera. When this drone works, it works really well. It features five different automated flight modes to dramatic aerial images. You can also put her on manual for a while, testing your skill both outside and inside the house. The Breeze features an indoor positioning system to help it navigate indoors. If it functions the way it is supposed to, it will be a great beginner drone. However, a significant number of the reviews for this product report troubles with the batteries. It’s a fun and easy to use drone, so purchase at your own risk.
10. DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter
The DJI Phantom is the one of the most elite and best drones for beginners you can find, made by one of the top quadcopter manufacturers. However, this is a machine for a serious hobbyist. There is a beginner’s mode, which trains you to use the drone at the outset, and as you progress you will be able to do more and more with the Phantom. However, the Phantom isn’t as easy to fly as the other models. Depending on the specific model, the Phantom can have an operational distance of about five kilometers, so long as the signal is unobstructed. You can get single or dual GPS positioning systems, and about 23 minutes of flight time per battery. The Phantom also comes a vision-positioning system so you can control the drone indoors. Naturally, if anything breaks on this device it will be expensive to repair.
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The best drones for beginners can be just as good as drones for professionals.
Not to mention, it’s a fun hobby anyone who loves to see the world differently should try. Flying drones are great fun. There is just something cool about seeing the roof of your house or the sun setting behind the trees from a few hundred feet in the air. It can be a costly and involved hobby, but as the technology evolves the barriers to entry will get lower. The above ten best drones for beginners offer a variety of options and features that can satisfy your specific desire when it comes to drones. Whether you want to just get great visuals without worrying about flying, or you feel like a true pilot, we’ve got you covered. Still, these are big purchases, so dig into the specifications and the reviews yourself to make sure you know the full picture.
Let us know what you think about the best drones for beginners in the comments below. Is it for you? Which one listed above do you like the most? Also, don’t forget to share the article on social media so your friends can get in on the discussion.
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