Best Portable Drone Under $500
The DJI Mavic is the best portable drone on the market today, but its starting price tag of $1000 makes it an expensive purchase. There are a lot of inexpensive portable drones under $50, but they lack features like GPS and they typically have poor cameras. There are a handful of small, portable drones with good cameras under $500 and we’ll highlight the top 6.
These cameras are all very similar. The difference between 12MP and 13MP is almost impossible to detect. While most of these small quads have 4K camera capability, the video quality is reduced to 1080-like video resolution after image stabilization. Of these drones, only the Spark has a mechanical gimbal to smooth out its 1080p video. We prefer the smoothness of a mechanical gimbal. The image stabilization on the Breeze seems to be the best in keeping the image smooth without using a gimbal but, like we said before, the image quality won’t be 4K. The camera on the PhoneDrone Ethos is only as good as your cell phone camera, but a lot of the high-end smartphones have excellent cameras and sensors. Here’s our top 4:
Flight Time and Range
The DJI Spark tops both categories, with a 16 minute flight time and a 2000 meter range, however you’ll only get that range if you purchase the $699 Fly More Package that includes a remote. Otherwise, the best range belongs to the Dobby at 200 meters. Unfortunately, the Dobby also logs the shortest flight time at 9 minutes. The Breeze has the second longest flight time at 12 minutes and it has a rather short 100-meter range. The range and flight time will vary depending on flight conditions and how you fly. The Hover Camera passport has a very limited range, but that is because it was developed to be mostly a Selfie Drone. Here are the drones ranked from best range to worst.
Each one of these drones has a very similar set of features and flight modes. They all possess some type of return home, orbit and follow me. The Hover Camera Passport has a unique propeller guard to keep your fingers safe and folds up nicely for storage. The S6 and Dobby also fold up for easy storage. Both the Dobby and the Spark have object tracking capability, but the Spark is the only drone on the list with proven obstacle avoidance. The PhoneDrone still is a wild card at this point but should have very similar features to the others. XCraft has been fairly innovative and we do expect big things when the PhoneDrone is finally released. Here are our rankings for drones based on features and flight modes.
The Zerotech Dobby in its folded up state is the smallest of the group. The Spark may not fold up, but it doesn’t need to as it is already pretty compact and is the second smallest. The Wingland S6 is just a little larger but is the thinnest of the group. The biggest is the Yuneec Breeze, but it still is small enough to fit into almost any backpack. Here they are smallest to largest.
The Dobby and the S6 are both under $300 and we also expect the PhoneDrone to check in under $300 as well. Of those the Dobby definitey has the best value. The Breeze price has continued to fall and currently is only a shade under $400, but is a solid option. The Passport and Spark are both $499. The near-$500 price tag seems to be quite expensive for the Passport. To get the most out of the Spark you’ll need to get the Fly More Package, but that raises the price to $699, which is technically out of the $500 price range limit we set here. Still at $499 with the base package Spark is the best drone of the group even without the remote.
So Which One is Right for You?
Overall the DJI Spark is probably the best drone in the group, but it is also the most expensive. The Dobby is a good deal at $295 and the Breeze is a fairly good option as well. We are excited about the potential of the PhoneDrone. If the S6 price also continues to fall it also will become a good deal. It is hard to go wrong with one of these small drones. Here’s how we’d rank them.
If you aren’t quite satisfied with these options and you want the hottest consumer drone on the market today, then the DJI Mavic is the right choice. It has a better camera, longer range, better flight time, more flight modes and is even faster than the options we described above. It even folds up to be about the size of a water bottle. If you are looking to get something less expensive but still want something portable then take a look at this article. We’ll cover some intriguing portable options all under $50.
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