The rise of camera drones has brought with them a new question. What are the best drones for beginners? No one wants to fork over $2K to pilot it into a tree. Been there. Done that. Luckily the drone was built well, and the results were a free pine-scented air freshener for a couple of weeks. Especially considering it was well over the $1000 threshold.
When we say beginner drones, we mean it. It’s all about cheap drones that get you in the air to learn how to fly. If you happen to crash, it’s easy to brush it off as a learning experience. In the past few years, the technology found in flagship DJI drones has started to trickle down into drones under $100.
It’s easy to stay under the $500 threshold, and not only have a beginner camera drone but one that can impress in the realm of photography and videography. Looking for more feature-rich camera drones? Have a look at our guide to the best drones.
Quick Look at Beginner Drones
|DJI Mavic Mini||Best Beginner Drone||$399|
|Ryze Tello||Best Cheap Drone||$79|
|Hubsan H501S X4||Best Drone under $200||$150|
|Holy Stone HS120D||Best Drone for Kids||$125|
|Xioami Fimi A3||Best Non-DJI Cheap Drone||$415|
Best Cheap Drone to Buy Now
DJI Mavic Mini
It costs a bit more than the others on the list, but it’s pure value for the price. The DJI Mavic Mini is easily the best cheap drone on the market right now. It’s not even close. And with a weight of 249 grams, it can avoid the various drone registration laws across the world.
Me? I’d go ahead and register it. That one gram makes for an excellent marketing slogan, but let’s be real. It’s way too close to the 250-gram level, which requires registration. It’s $5, and you have to follow all the other rules anyways. May as well register it.
The DJI Mavic Mini isn’t just about ultra-portability. It packs quite a feature set in a drone that occupies the same footprint of a few smartphones sandwiched together. You get a three-axis stabilized camera, dedicated shot modes, and absurdly long battery life at 30 minutes. Expect whatever magic DJI managed to pull off with the battery technology to make its way into the flagship camera drones in 2020.
Why Buy a Mavic Mini
Beginner Drone Questions
What is a good drone for a beginner?
For the absolute beginner, the Ryze Tello is cheap and offers a ton of educational opportunities. Having DJI technology as the backbone helps keep things simple and to the point. The $79 price point doesn’t hurt its case either.
What is the best DJI drone for beginners?
The Mavic Mini. After the DJI Spark was discontinued, the Mavic Mini took its place as the company’s best beginner camera drone. At $399, there’s not a better value on the market.
Are drones easy to fly?
Yes. With a caveat of common sense. Heading straight for the side of a building is a recipe for disaster, but if you take around 30 minutes to familiarize yourself with the controls, you can be zipping around your backyard in no time.
What is the best drone under $100?
The Ryze Tello. At $79, you won’t find a better camera drone for beginners that has DJI flight technology built right in.
2020 Drone Rules, Regulations, and Education
You’ll need to check your specific country, but the general rules in the United States have any drone weighing over 250 grams requires to be registered with the FAA. Don’t worry; it’s only $5 and a painless process. Technically, the Mavic Mini is under the threshold, but I’d do it just to cover yourself.
Seeing as this is a best beginner drone guide, let’s make the assumption this isn’t for commercial purposes. You can disregard the Part 107 requirements and default to the general FAA rules. Most are common sense, but please abide by them so we can all enjoy the skies.
- Fly your drone at or below 400 feet
- Keep your drone within your line of sight
- Be aware of FAA Airspace Restrictions
- Respect privacy
- Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
- Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
- Never fly near emergencies such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
That’s pretty self-explanatory. You’re learning the ropes, and most of the cheap drones on this list can’t exceed the FAA limits. The exception being DJI. The amount of tech the company can shove into a beginner camera drone is staggering.
Choosing the Best Beginner Drones
In the world of cheap drones and those that fall under the beginner category, you can get away with spending under $100. In fact, unless you’re opting for a DJI drone, I’d stay cheap until you learn how a quadcopter flies, and you decide the hobby is something for you.
One area to steer clear of that can be tempting as a beginner are FPV drones. They are deceptively cheap and not remotely for beginners. Racing drones and Cinewoops are a blast but learn on something that isn’t a money pit first.
Here are the best beginner drones as we enter 2020.
1. DJI Mavic Mini
Best Beginner Drone
It’s our number one pick, and you know why. For $399, you’re not buying a better beginner camera drone. It’s not the cheapest, but if you want something you can show off on social media, this is the drone for you. It borrows heavily from its more expensive cousins in the Mavic lineup with the same 12MP sensor found in the Mavic Air.
The Mavic Mini also eclipses the more expensive drones thanks to its 30-minute battery life. On a drone weighing in at 249 grams, that kind of flight-time used to be something we could only dream of. With the Mini? It’s another day in the park.
Its drawbacks are more nitpicking wishing it had more on the video and photography side when it comes to picture profiles, but at $399, it’s tough to complain.
2. RYZE Tello
Best Beginner Drone Under $100
The other end of the spectrum is the RYZE Tello, which you will find on DJI’s website. At $79, it’s the best drone under $100. The Tello comes complete with DJI flight technology, though the RYZE Tello is definitely in the league of learning the ropes of flying a drone.
If I were getting into camera drones as a beginner, this would be my trainer. It mimics the flight characteristics of the DJI flagships and offers quite an education along the way. Kids and adults will love the coding opportunities as the Tello can be programmed using Scratch.
3. HUBSAN H501S X4
Best Drone Under $200
It won’t win awards for name creativity, but the $150 beginner drone from Hubsan serves its purpose as one of the best cheap drones on the market. You’ll get a taste of everything you’d find in a professional camera drone. It shoots HD video and can range out to a max of 300 meters. Yeah, no distance records here.
The Hubsan H501S X4 has similar features you’d find in drones costing well over $1000. It has onboard GPS, a controller with an LCD screen allowing real-time video transmission, follow-me mode, and assorted shot modes. Basically, it does a bit of everything, which is what you want in a beginner drone. The idea is to get you used to controls at a price that won’t break the bank in case you fly it into a tree.
Holy Stone HS120D
Most Phantom-like Cheap Drone
If there was ever a drone that made me think of DJI’s Phantom line, it has to be the camera drones from Holy Stone. Yeah, it has nowhere near the features of a Phantom 4 Pro, but if you want to learn without tossing out $1500, then the Holy Stone HS120D is for you. Ignore the FPV naming scheme Holy Stone uses. It’s not an FPV drone.
What you get is a cheap, $125 camera drone tailored made for beginners. It comes complete with a dedicated controller you pair your smartphone with, and you can learn various features found in more expensive camera drones. Some of these include the ability of the drone to follow you, tap to fly, and gesture control. The affordable price does come with limitations. Video from the drone is limited to 1080p, and the range keeps the Holy Stony within 300 meters of the user. Still, it’s all about learning, and if you want something Phantom-esque, you’ve found it.
Another bonus of the Holy Stone HS120D is its weight. It’s under the 250-gram threshold requiring FAA registration. You still have to follow the rules while flying, but if you’re looking for a beginner drone that avoids the registration requirement, Holy Stone checks that box.
5. Xiaomi Fimi A3
Most advanced non-DJI beginner drone
Another Mavic clone in a long list of beginner drones. The Xiaomi Fimi A3 makes the list thanks to it not being in a walled garden of apps. In fact, you don’t need a proprietary app to get the camera drone in the air. At $415, it’s an affordable drone, but nowhere close to the cheapest.
It actually reminds me of the discontinued DJI Spark. The Fimi has the same two-axis mechanical stabilization coupled with three-axis electronic stabilization found on the old Sparks. On the video front, it shoots 1080p backed with a Sony CMOS sensor. Not bad for a drone just over $400. It’s loaded down with plenty of shot modes, including Follow Me, Orbit, and Dronie.