Best Drones Now
Best Drones, December 2017
What is the best drone? That seems like a simple question, but really the better question is what is the best drone for you? That depends on a few different things.
Why Do You Want a Drone?
- Do you want something to take breathtaking aerial pictures and photos?
- Do you just want something fun?
- Do you want something to race FPV like they do on ESPN?
After you have determined why you want a drone then you’ll need to determine what you want to spend on your new quad. If this seems overwhelming then you can skip ahead to our Half Chrome Drone Cipher™. You’ll answer a few questions and we’ll give you a recommendation on what we think would be best for you. Or you can keep reading and we will give you our breakdown of the top drones on the market today.
I Want to Take Awesome Pictures and Video
Most people that want a drone because they’ve seen the awesome aerial footage that one of these machines can provide. These quadcopters aren’t cheap, but they do come with an excellent array of flight modes and features to help you capture the perfect pictures. If you want tips on how to get the best aerial photos check out this article. You’ll notice that DJI dominates this category. Autel and Yuneec have some awesome products, but DJI is the clear leader. If you are interested in getting started but these price tags scare you then check out this article on how to get started. A good aerial photography drone won’t come cheap. Here are our recommendations based on price if your goal is great pictures and video.
Under $400- Phantom 3 Standard
You won’t find many of these machines under $500, but if you are lucky you can score a DJI refurbished Phantom 3 Standard for under $400. Sometimes the price even dips close to $300. Don’t shy away from the refurbished tag. DJI does an excellent job and these machines come out like new. We have experience with refurbished units from DJI. A brand new unit will cost you $499. The Phantom 3 Standard takes awesome pictures and video and still has the stability of GPS and the craftiness of DJI’s flight modes. You’ll sacrifice range and 4K, but this is the go-to beginner drone for those who want to take aerial photos and video.
|Learn more about the Phantom 3||Check the current price of the Phantom 3|
$499-699- DJI Spark
The DJI Spark technically starts under $500, but we highly recommend the Fly More package that adds a remote, extra batteries and some other goodies. The Fly More package will cost you $699 but is definitely worth it. This tiny machine is one spectacular piece of engineering. This quadcopter was designed to be easy to use and can be flown using gesture controls. You can also use your smartphone to control the Spark but we strongly recommend the added control and 2000 meter range that you get with the remote.
|Learn more about the DJI Spark||Check the current price of the DJI Spark|
$999- DJI Mavic Pro
The DJI Mavic Pro is a spectacular machine. If this article was limited to one drone, then it would probably be the Mavic. It is incredibly stable, takes 4K video and can even fold up to be about the size of a water bottle. This drone is probably the best choice for most people. The only exception is the professional pilot who needs the absolute best optics. Even pros often have a Mavic in their lineup of flying cameras because of its portability.
|Learn more about the DJI Mavic Pro||Check the current price of the DJI Mavic Pro|
Over $1000- DJI Phantom 4 Pro or Inspire 2
If you are a professional photographer or you require the absolute best then there are two great options from DJI, the Phantom 4 Pro and the Inspire 2. The Phantom 4 Pro starts around $1500 and has a spectacular camera with a variable aperture and a mechanical shutter. The Phantom 4 Pro has multi-directional obstacle avoidance and a flight time of over 30 minutes. The Inspire 2 is bigger and faster. It gives you the option of switching cameras for your specific needs and even transforms to ensure you’ll never get a propeller or landing gear ruining any of your shots. If you are looking for Hollywood-quality video then the Inspire 2 is likely the drone for you.
|Learn more about the Phantom 4 Pro||Check the current price of the Phantom 4 Pro|
|Learn more about the DJI Inspire 2||Check the current price of the DJI Inspire 2|
I Just Want To Fly For Fun
You don’t need to spend a couple hundred dollars to get a quadcopter. In fact, there are good options for less than $25. These are great for people that are getting into the hobby and do not want to spend a small fortune on a drone. These quads are ready-to-go and you won’t spend much time trying to figure out how to get them up in the air. If you want a few more options then check out our articles for best drones under $50, best portable drones and best drones under $100. Here are our top suggestions if you are flying for pure enjoyment.
Under $25- Eachine E011/RedPawz R010
The Eachine E011 and the RedPawz R010 are small quadcopters with a lot of punch. This ducted flyer can be flown both indoors and out. The E011’s best feature is that it can easily be converted to carry a camera if you decide you want to learn how to fly FPV. The ducted design makes it safer than most quads. It is an ideal drone to learn on.
|Learn more about the E011||Check the current price of the E011|
Under $100- Syma X5UW or X8
The Syma X5UW is bigger than the E011 and packs in a lot of features. It adds an HD camera, altitude hold, and FPV. That means you’ll get a more stable flyer and have the ability to take pictures and see where the drone is flying. This is a solid option for a beginner.
|Learn more about the X5UW||Check the current price of the X5UW|
The Syma X8 Series of drones are full-sized machines that can carry a GoPro or a similar action camera. You won’t be happy with the cameras that come on most drones that cost less than $300, but the easy solution is to add your own. Any of the Syma X8 models are capable of carrying an action camera and depending on which Syma X8 you choose you’ll get an array of well-executed features. We recommend one of the models with altitude hold. Our two favorites are the X8SC and the X8HG. As an added bonus the Syma X8 models are extremely durable. We’ve crashed ours (both intentionally and unintentionally) more times than we can count. The Syma X8 is the model we would recommend to a beginner looking to get a drone just for fun. However, if you are an intermediate pilot then check out the next drone on the list.
|Learn more about the Syma X8HG||Check the current price of the Syma X8HG|
Under $200- MJX Bugs 3 or Force1 F100
Most drones under $200 use brushed motors. The issue with brushed motors is that they reduce flight time, don’t have a lot of power, and will eventually burn out. The solution is to get a brushless motor drone. Typically they are more expensive (see DJI options above), but there are a couple of inexpensive options. The MJX Bugs 3 and the Force1 F100 are two of our favorites. These two quads are extremely versatile and can be used to fly FPV or carry an action camera or GoPro. They are identical machines on the inside but have different styling on the outside. The brushless motors spin pretty fast, so we would recommend the Bugs 3 / F100 to an intermediate pilot or the very cautious beginner. We give the edge to the F100 over the Bugs 3 as it is backed by a reputable American company and has sleeker styling.
|Learn more about the Force1 F100||Check the current price of the Force1 F100|
I Want to Fly FPV or Race
If you’ve seen the Drone Racing League on ESPN and you want to get into flying FPV you definitely do NOT want to start with a race quad like they use. You’ll need to work your way up. Those machines are both expensive and dangerous to fly until you understand the ins and outs of quadcopters. If you want to learn more about how to get into FPV then check out this article. If you want to learn more about racing then check out this article. Here are the best current options on the market if you want to learn how to fly FPV.
Under $100- Eachine Q90C
We’ve already mentioned the Eachine E011 as an excellent drone and if you are a DIY kind of person this little quad easily converts into an indoor flyer. If you don’t want to deal with soldering then we recommend the Eachine Q90C. You’ll get the drone, remote and FPV goggles for less than $70 from Banggood. It is an incredible deal. It is a punchy, brushed-motor quad that you can fly in stable (angle) mode or you can switch it to horizon or acro mode and fly like the pros. If you want something smaller or a little tamer then take a look at the RedPawz R011. Its a mini all-in-one version of the Q90C that you can fly indoors and it is still a great deal.
|Learn more about the Q90C||Check the current price of the Q90C|
Under $150- KingKong 90/95/110GT
Brushless micro FPV quads are probably the best option if you really want to learn how to fly FPV. They have more power than their brushed counterparts and respond a lot more like the real racers. KingKong has three awesome options the 90GT, 95GT and 110GT. You’ll need a transmitter (again we recommend the Taranis QX7) but they are fast and fun. The 90GT and 95GT are probably a little more nimble and definitely a little tamer than the 110GT. If you want to learn how to freestyle than the 110GT is the way to go. All three models can be found for $100-125, but don’t forget you’ll need your own transmitter.
|Learn more about KingKong Micros||Check the current price of the KingKong 110GT|
Under $150 and RTF– DYS Elf
The DYS Elf is probably the go-to brushless FPV quad if you want to learn how to fly like the pros, especially if you are a beginner. It is both stable and durable, making ideal for a beginner, but fast enough for advanced pilots to enjoy. It even comes with a basic remote transmitter if you don’t have your own. This makes it an RTF (Ready to Fly) quad, so you don’t need to purchase a remote. If you decide later you want to upgrade (and we recommend it) it is easy to switch to a Taranis QX7. If you have to pick one FPV racer to learn on, this would be it.
|Learn more about the DYS Elf||Check the current price of the DYS Elf|
Under $200- Ready-Made Racer: Furibee DarkMax
Once you’ve mastered the micro FPV drones you’ll probably want something bigger and more powerful. A lot of pilots build their own racing drones, but if that isn’t for you then you may want to check out the Furibee DarkMax. This is a beast of a machine that can handle 2S-6S batteries and has been clocked at over 100 mph. Be prepared, this thing is fast. It definitely isn’t something we’d recommend as your first quad. But as your second…
|Learn more about the Furibee DarkMax||Check the current price of the Furibee DarkMax|
But I Want a REAL Race Quad…
Sure micro quads are a lot of fun, but you want the real deal. The DarkMax is pretty close, but it isn’t necessarily going to put you on top of the podium. You certainly could build your own racer or you could let the pros build one for you. Good Venture Drones is a Chicago based company that builds professional quality FPV race quads. Their basic build is faster than you can imagine and their pro build will blow your mind. Check them out.
|Learn more about Good Venture Drones|
So What is Best for You?
That really is a tricky question. Hopefully, this article helped clear things up. If not, then check out our Half Chrome Drone Cipher™ and it will hopefully direct you to the right quad. For those looking for the Cliff Notes version of this article here are our top three recommendations.
- DJI Mavic– This is overall a most impressive machine. It takes spectacular pictures and is easy to travel with.
- Syma X8HG– This is one of the more versatile drones on the market today. It is incredibly durable and you can easily add a GoPro or an action camera to take great pictures and videos.
- DYS Elf– If you want to get into flying FPV this is the best place to start.
If you’ve read all of this and taken the Cipher, but still aren’t sure then feel free to contact us and hopefully we can help you out.
Do you want to search by price? Click on your menu above or we can break it down for you. Check out drones under $50, from $50-100, from $100-200, from $200-500 or over $500. Maybe you like a good Top Ten list, we’ve got you covered.
|Drones by Price|
If you want to learn more about taking great pictures or flying FPV then check out our comprehensive guides on those topics. Also take a look at our articles on how to choose the right drone for great aerial photos or for getting started flying race drones. Learn more about drones and how to get the most out of them in our Drone Academy. In the Academy we also detail some of the advanced testing we do, including our recent addition, drone thrust testing.
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