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Ultimate Guide: 10 Best Drones for Beginners

Our Ultimate Guide covers are favorite budget, mid-range, and premium beginner drones.

If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best beginner drones are, then I’d recommend the following:

My opinion might be different from a lot of others out there. I think that when it comes to choosing the best drone for beginners, the cheapest drones are usually not the best option for 2 main reasons:

  • Lack of GPS or Advanced Hover Mechanism: Most drones under the $100 price point don’t have GPS or the ability to hover in place consistently. This makes it much harder to fly for the first time drone pilot.
  • Poor Video Resolution: Most drones under the $100 price range have a maximum video resolution of 720p, making it nearly impossible to capture good quality footage.

For the first time drone pilot, picking out a drone that is easy to fly is half the battle. When the drone is up in the air, the last thing you want to worry about is why the drone is drifting one way or another, which is what happens with many of the cheaper drones.

Additionally, cheaper drones usually have lower resolution cameras. As your skills improve, you will probably want to capture better and better footage, so having a drone with a camera with at least 720p resolution will be better in the long run.

Here are the beginner friendly features each drone in this article has:
  • GPS enabled or smart hover ability as this will give you a much simpler flying experience.
  • Camera able to record in minimum of 720p video resolution.
  • Headless mode or similar functionality that allows the drone to be easily flown from all orientations.
  • Can be flown in first person view (FPV).

Notes From The Field: As a heads up and to save you research time, none of the drones in this article include extra batteries.

Why Trust Me?

As with all of the Ultimate Guides I create, I have poured countless hours of research into this article to make sure you have all the information you need to make the best decision.

In my opinion, to truly understand what makes a good starter drone, you need to have used them day in and day out in a variety of different situations.

I’ve been a professional filmmaker and photographer since 2018 and have been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world with brands such as Alaska Airlines, Kayak.com, Prague Tourism, Visa, Airbnb, and many more. If you’re curious to see the full list of companies we’ve worked with, just head over to our Work With Us page.

I have used drones for both filmmaking and photography since I started and I used one to capture all the aerial scenes in my award-winning short film Spirit of Matsu

From these experiences working with drones in a variety of different situations, I think I’m in a good position to help you find the best drone for a beginner.

Most importantly, I’m just a message away. So, if you have any questions, just leave a comment below, email me at tom@witandfolly.co, or send me a DM on Instagram @tom.shu.

P.S. I answer every question that is sent

Reviews of the 10 Best Drones for Beginners

1. Ryze Tello Drone Powered by DJI

The Ryze Tello Drone is the cheapest drone in this article at around the $100 price point. It’s also the only drone in this article without GPS capabilities; however, it has advanced downward position sensors that help the drone fly like a GPS-enabled drone. 

With these sensors, the Ryze Tello is able to sense where it’s located in the air and is able to adjust itself when hovering in the wind or if you bump it.

On the camera side, it can record video at 720p resolution and take photos with 5-megapixel resolution. It also has electronic image stabilization which will give you much smoother footage than many of the more expensive drones in this article that lack image stabilization. 

What makes this drone stand out is its collection of unique one-touch flying features. Here are some of my favorite flying modes just to give you an idea:

  • Throw and Go: gives you the ability to start flying by tossing the Ryze Tello into the air.
  • 8D Flips: slide your finger on your screen to perform flips in any direction.
  • 360 Circle: tells the drone to fly around you in a 360 circle which you usually don’t find in a drone without GPS.

On the flip side, there are some negatives with this drone besides the lower resolution camera, First off, the Ryze Tello doesn’t come with an external controller so you have to fly the drone through its mobile app. You CAN connect a separate Bluetooth controller to the Ryze Tello, but that means you also have to spend extra money. 

More annoyingly, the Ryze Tello doesn’t have built-in storage and doesn’t allow you to use external storage. This means you will have to save all the video footage and photos you capture directly to your phone.

PROS

  • One of the best beginner drones because of its low price, features, and ease of flying.
  • Incredibly small, stable, and well thought out design that is a lot of fun to fly. Small enough to fit in your pocket.
  • Packed with different flying modes that you don’t see in other drones in this price range including Throw and Go, 8D Flips, and 360 Circle.
  • Also includes the features that you would expect such as FPV mode, one-touch take-off and landing, and low battery protection.
  • A great starter drone for learning how to code as it’s compatible with MIT’s Scratch programming language.
  • The camera has Electronic Image Stabilization which will allow you to capture smoother footage than drones without stabilization.

CONS

  • You can only record in 720p video resolution – the lowest camera resolution in this article.
  • It doesn’t come with a controller so you will have to fly the drone through its app. You can connect the drone to a controller through Bluetooth but that will add to the cost.
  • The Ryze Tello doesn’t have built-in storage and doesn’t accept micro SD cards. This means all your footage has to be saved directly to your phone.
  • No GPS meaning it doesn’t have a true “return to home” functionality like many other drones in this article.
  • Flight range is limited at a maximum range of 330 feet or 100 meters

2. Holy Stone HS120D

The Holy Stone HS120D is one of the best value GPS drones available, and you can usually find it at under the $150 price point. This drone is a great choice for those of you who want to save some money while also having fun flying around as it handles very well.

The drone is a fixed-wing design and is made mostly out of plastic to keep the weight down. It comes in at an overall weight of 221 grams, which means you won’t have to register it for recreational flying

On the tech side, it can capture video in 1080p resolution and includes all the GPS enabled features that you would expect in a drone at this price range, including: 

  • Return to Home (RTH)
  • Altitude Hold
  • Follow Me Mode

The biggest downside with the Holy Stone HS120D is its lack of image stabilization. Since it doesn’t have image stabilization, your footage will be pretty shaky unless you’re hovering in place or flying in a straight line. You also won’t get the best results if you’re flying in windy conditions. 

So, here’s my two cents for drones at this price range.  If you’re planning on creating videos out of the footage you capture, the Ryze Tech Tello is probably the better choice. However, if you want a GPS drone to fly for fun, you can’t go wrong with the Holy Stone HS120D.

PROS

  • GPS enabled drone at a very reasonable price point and good enough camera resolution.
  • Includes all the GPS enabled features you would expect such as RTH, altitude hold, and follow me mode.
  • Decent battery life with a maximum battery life of about 15 – 18 minutes of flight time.
  • It weighs under 250 grams so you don’t have to register it with the FAA.
  • Holy Stone has great customer service in case you have any questions or if anything goes wrong with your drone.
  • Pretty good maximum range of about 984 feet or 300 meters

CONS

  • No image stabilization The Ryze Tello is more capable of capturing smooth footage with electronic image stabilization, and it’s at a cheaper price point.
  • It’s a fixed-wing design so it’s not as compact and portable as the drones with foldable wings.

3. Holy Stone HS165

If you like what you see with the Holy Stone HS120D but would rather have a more compact foldable wing design, the Holy Stone HS165 might be a better choice for you. You can usually find the HS165 at about the same price point as the HS120D so it’s also one of the better value drones considering its camera resolution, maximum flying range, and selection of features.

The camera on the HS165 can record video at up to 1080p resolution and it includes the basic GPS enabled features such as Return to Home (RTH), altitude hold, and follow me mode. What’s nice about the HS165 is that it also has a circle fly mode which can be beneficial to have if you’re trying to capture a specific point of interest.

With that said, I’m not the biggest fan of the camera on this drone. The camera is in a fixed downward facing position which makes capturing the horizon and seeing where you’re flying more difficult unless you’re flying at a higher altitude. I think the fixed front-facing cameras are easier to use, but this is just my personal preference. 

Similar to the other drones without image stabilization, you do have to watch out for unstable footage. Since it doesn’t have image stabilization your footage will be pretty shaky unless you’re hovering in place or flying in a straight line. You also won’t get the best results if you’re flying in windy conditions. 

PROS

  • GPS enabled drone at a very reasonable price point and good enough camera resolution.
  • Includes all the GPS enabled features you would expect such as RTH, altitude hold, and follow me mode.
  • Decent battery life with a maximum flight time of about 15 minutes
  • It weighs under 250 grams so you don’t have to register it with the FAA.
  • Holy Stone has great customer service in case you have any questions or if anything goes wrong with your drone.
  • Foldable and compact design makes it easy to carry around.

CONS

  • No image stabilization.
  • The Ryze Tech Tello is more capable of capturing smooth footage since it has electronic image stabilization and it’s at a cheaper price point.
  • It has a slightly lower maximum flight range than the Holy Stone HS120D

4. Snaptain SP510

The Snaptain 510 is another fun beginner drone that has a great value proposition with its 2.7K resolution camera and its reasonable price point.  The drone has a foldable design so it’s more compact and portable than the fixed-wing design of the Holy Stone HS120D. 

Besides the better resolution of the camera at 2.7k, it is also one of the only drones in this price range with an adjustable camera that you can tilt at a 90° angle. You are able to tilt the camera remotely through the controller which is nice to have if you are trying to capture a specific shot while flying.

On the features side, it includes basic GPS enabled features that you would expect like Return to Home (RTH), altitude hold, and follow me mode. However, it also includes more advanced features that you don’t find in the Holy Stone HS120D.

These advanced features include:

  • Point of Interest: Allows you to set a point of interest and have the drone fly around it, which can be used to create unique shots.
  • Intelligent Geofence: Allows you to set a maximum range limit which is good for beginners to help prevent the drone from getting too far away.

Similar to the other drones without image stabilization, the biggest downside with the Snaptain 510 is its lack of image stabilization. Without image stabilization, your footage will be pretty shaky unless you’re hovering in place or flying in a straight line. You also won’t get the best results if you’re flying in windy conditions. 

PROS

  • One of the best value GPS enabled drones given its feature set and camera resolution of 2.7k.
  • Includes all the basic GPS enabled features that you would expect plus more advanced features such as Point of Interest mode and Intelligent Geofence.
  • Has 3 different speed ranges so you can customize what speed fits your flying style.
  • Pretty good maximum range of about 984 feet or 300 meters
  • Decent battery life with a maximum flight time of about 15 – 18 minutes.
  • Foldable and compact design makes it easy to carry around.

CONS

  • No image stabilization.
  • The Ryze Tech Tello is more capable of capturing smooth footage since it has electronic image stabilization and it’s at a cheaper price point.

5. Holy Stone HS270

The Holy Stone HS270 is a nearly identical drone to the Snaptain SP510 in both features, price range, and design, so I won’t get into too much detail. The main difference is that the Holy Stone has a slightly longer maximum range of 1,300 feet for the video transmission and close to 2,000 feet for the control range.

Of course, the maximum range of the drone will depend on where you are flying and if there are any objects between the drone and you that would interfere with the signal. So in real-life use, the maximum range between the two drones is probably much closer than it seems.

On the tech side, the Holy Stone HS270 also has a camera that can capture video at up to 2.7k resolution and can tilt at a 90° angle It includes the basic GPS enabled features such as Return to Home (RTH), altitude hold, and follow me mode, and advanced features like Point of Interest. Unfortunately, the Holy Stone HS270 does not have intelligent geofence, which may or may not be a big deal depending on if you want to set a flight limit.

The biggest downside with the Snaptain 510 is its image stabilization. Since it doesn’t have image stabilization, your footage will be pretty shaky unless you’re hovering in place or flying in a straight line. You also won’t get the best results if you’re flying in windy conditions. 

PROS

  • One of the best value GPS enabled drones given its feature set and camera resolution of 2.7k.
  • Includes all the basic GPS enabled features that you would expect plus more advanced features such as Point of Interest mode.
  • Has 3 different speed ranges so you can customize what speed fits your flying style.
  • A very good maximum range of about 1,300 feet for video transmission and about 2,000 feet for control range which is better than the Snaptain SP510.
  • Decent battery life with a maximum flight time of about 18 minutes.
  • Foldable and compact design makes it easy to carry around.

CONS

  • No image stabilization.
  • The Ryze Tech Tello is more capable of capturing smooth footage since it has electronic image stabilization and it’s at a cheaper price point.

6. Potensic D80 RC Drone

At its price point, the Potensic D80 is an appealing drone to look into if you’re looking for a drone with a better maximum flight range and one that has brushless motors. If you don’t really need these two features, the Holy Stone HS270 is the better option because of its higher resolution camera, its tiltable camera, and the cheaper price point. 

However, the longer flight range and brushless motor feature is something worth considering.

The Potensic D80 has a maximum rated flight range of about 2,600 feet, which is noticeably further than the Holy Stone HS270under the $200 price point.  Just keep in mind that having a longer flight range is only beneficial for flying in certain locations. Plus, FAA regulations state that you must keep your drone within line of sight.

As for the motor, the Potensic is1 of 2 drones in this price range with brushless motors, so you should expect higher performance out of this drone than other drones with brushed motors. Another benefit of the brushless motor to consider is that they tend to be more durable over time. (here’s a good article on the difference between brushed and brushless motors in case you want to learn more). 

On the tech side, you get everything you would expect in a drone at this price range. This drone has a 2k resolution camera, and GPS enabled features such as RTH, altitude hold, Follow Me Mode, and Point of Interest Mode.

PROS

  • Has the longest maximum flight range of 2,600 feet for control range in the under $200 price range.
  • Is one of the only drones we cover with brushless motors in the under $200 price range.
  • Includes all the basic GPS enabled features that you would expect, plus more advanced features such as Point of Interest mode.
  • Decent battery life with a maximum flight time of about 16 – 20 minutes

CONS

  • No image stabilization so your footage will be shaky unless you’re hovering in or flying in a straight line. The wind will also impact how shaky your footage is.
  • If you don’t really need increased flight range or brushless motors, the Holy Stone HS270 is a better value
  • Has a fixed-wing design making it less compact and portable than the drones with foldable wings.
  • The controller is not the most compact design

7. Snaptain SP700

The Snaptain SP700 is very similar to the Potensic D80. It features the same 2k resolution camera, same fixed-wing design with brushless motors, and same set of GPS enabled features. 

There are some slight differences between the two drones so let’s go over those first:

  • Maximum Flight Range: the maximum controller flight range for the Snaptain SP700 is around 1,600 feet versus the estimated 2,600 feet on the Potensic D80.
  • Geofence Feature: The Snaptain SP700 has a geofence feature that will allow you to set the maximum range before flying. This is good for beginners who want to make sure the drone doesn’t fly past a certain point.

As previously mentioned, the maximum range isn’t always the biggest deal depending on where you’re flying. Plus, FAA regulations state that the drone should be in your line of sight so you really shouldn’t be flying it too far anyways.

If you’re between the Snaptain SP700 and the Potensic D80, I think your best bet is to shop around to see if you can find one that’s cheaper than the other. Since the Snaptain SP700 and the Potensic D80 are so similar, the primary deciding factor will probably be the price point.

Of course, if you’re partial to the camouflage paint job of the Snaptain SP700, there’s no other choice as it’s the only drone with that style.

PROS

  • Has the second-longest maximum flight range of 2,600 feet for control range in the under $200 price range.
  • Is one of the only drones we cover with brushless motors in the under $200 price range.
  • Includes all the basic GPS enabled features that you would expect, plus more advanced features such as Point of Interest mode and Geofence mode.
  • Decent battery life with a maximum flight time of about 18 minutes

CONS

  • No image stabilization.
  • If you don’t really need increased flight range or brushless motors, the Holy Stone HS270 is a better value.
  • It’s a fixed-wing design so it’s not as compact and portable as the drones with foldable wings.
  • The controller is not the most compact design

8. Holy Stone HS720

The Holy Stone HS720 is definitely a drone to check out if you want a higher quality drone with 4k camera resolution, but you don’t want to make the price jump to the DJI Mavic Mini or DJI Mavic Air. 

On the tech side, you’ll notice that it includes many of the same features that you’ll find on the more expensive DJI Mavic Mini. It has a similar follow me mode, altitude hold capabilities, Point of Interest mode (Circle Fly on the Mavic Mini) and Return to Home functionality. More impressively, its camera can record in 4k resolution versus the 2.7k resolution with the Mavic Mini.

With that said, I think if you have the extra budget, the DJI Mavic Mini is a better value even though it’s about $100 more expensive. The DJI Mavic Mini has more complex flying modes, longer battery life, much longer range, and most importantly, a 3-axis mechanical gimbal which will give you way smoother footage. Additionally, it also weighs under 250 grams so you won’t have to worry about registering the drone.

But that’s not to say that the Holy Stone HS720 is not a good drone. In fact, it’s probably one of the highest quality budget drones available. But when you take into consideration the improved features found in the Mavic Mini compared to the Holy Stone HS720, the extra bump in price is definitely worth it.

Now if you happen to find the HS720 on sale, that would be a different story, but at its current price point, I think you’re better off with the Mavic Mini.

PROS

  • One of the highest quality budget drones available.
  • Includes all the basic GPS enabled features that you would expect plus more advanced features such as Point of Interest mode and an Optical Flow Positioning sensor which makes it hover even more stable.
  • It includes a very nice carrying case that fits the drone, controller and it’s accessories.
  • It is the only drone in this price range with a 4k camera resolution.
  • The camera has built-in shock absorption which will help you capture smoother footage.
  • Above-average battery life with a maximum flight time of about 26 mins.
  • Like the Potensic D80, it uses high-performance brushless motors, which is a plus at this price range.
  • Above-average maximum flight range of 2,624 – 3,277 feet.
  • Foldable and compact design makes it easy to carry around.

CONS

  • Does not have a mechanical gimbal so your footage will not be as smooth as the DJI Mavic drones.
  • At its current price point, the DJI Mavic is a better value even though it is about $100 more expensive.

9. DJI Mavic Mini

The DJI Mavic Mini is an even better value now after the release of the DJI Mavic Mini 2 in late 2020.

Even with the newer model available, the DJI Mavic Mini is still one of the most advanced drones and is a great choice if you want a comprehensive DJI drone at a more affordable price (it’s about half the price of the Mavic Air and only ¼ of the price of the DJI Mavic Pro 2). 

The biggest difference when you compare the cheaper and smaller DJI Mavic Mini to the more expensive Mavic Air 2 is its video and photo resolution, frame rates, the lack of obstacle avoidance sensors, and it’s overall build quality. Here is a little more detailed information on the differences between the Mavic Mini and the Mavic Air:

Don’t let the smaller size and cheaper price fool you, though. The Mavic Mini is still a powerful drone that is more than capable of capturing breathtaking cinematic videos and high-quality images. I would even argue that the Mavic Mini is actually the best value drone from DJI given its reasonable price point and the number of features it has, especially for a beginner drone pilot.

For video, it can capture 2.7k video at up to 30 FPS and for photos, you have a 12-megapixel camera. More importantly, it has a 3-axis motorized gimbal which will allow you to capture smoother footage than the other drones in this article that lack a mechanical gimbal.

Like other Mavic drones, the Mavic Mini is a nice drone to have as you grow and improve on your skill level as a drone pilot. Although it doesn’t allow you to manually adjust the different camera settings, you will still be able to set exposure compensation and have access to a wide range of one-touch-flight modes for complex cinematic shots.

PROS

  • It’s the best value DJI drone given its price and features making it one of the best choices for beginner drone pilots.
  • Small enough to fit in a jacket pocket and weighs under 250 grams which means you don’t have to register it with the FAA if you’re flying recreationally.
  • 2.7k video resolution and 12-megapixel photos is more than good enough quality share through any type of platform.
  • Has a 3-axis motorized gimbal for stabilization, allowing you to capture smoother footage than the drones without a mechanical gimbal and makes it easier to use FPV mode.
  • Is able to fly for up to 30 minutes on a full charge –  close to double the battery life of most drones in this article.
  • Advanced video and aerial photography features that will help you capture cinematic footage as you grow as a drone pilot.
  • 1-touch flying modes such as Helix, Rocket, and Cinesmooth will assist you in capturing complex-looking shots easily.

CONS

  • It doesn’t fly the best in windy conditions because of its small size and its lightweight.
  • Not really a starter drone and can be overkill if you just want a drone to fly around for fun every now and then.
  • It does not have a headless mode.

10. DJI Mavic Air 2

The DJI Mavic Air 2 is by far the most advanced drone in this article and is the best choice if you’re looking for the highest quality camera possible. It’s also a must consider if you know you might want to do some commercial drone work in the future.

Yes, there are even more expensive professional-grade drones from DJI, but I don’t think those drones make sense for a beginner drone pilot and they might be a bit overkill. The professional drones are far more expensive, and for the recreational and even semi-pro user, the quality of the video footage and photos captured from the DJI Mavic Air 2 will be more than substantial to use.

One way to look at the DJI Mavic Air 2 is that it sits in the middle ground between the professional level drones and hobby level drones from DJI. It includes almost all the features, video frame rates, and camera resolution as the professional level drones yet comes in at a reasonable price under $1,000. The professional drones like the DJI Mavic Pro 2 will give you better image quality, but the quality you get from the DJI Mavic Air 2 will more than suffice for most applications.

For video, it can capture footage in 4k resolution at up to 30 FPS. It is also the only drone from DJI that can record at a slow-motion frame rate of 240 FPS in full HD. On the photography side, this drone is no joke either. It can capture photos in both RAW and JPEG format at a mind-boggling 48-megapixel resolution, which is pretty incredible considering its small size.

The DJI Mavic Air 2 also allows you to control your camera in full manual mode so you can adjust the aperture and shutter speed depending on the flying conditions you’re in. You also have more advanced camera features such as auto exposure bracketing (AEB), HDR panorama, and D-Cinelike picture profile for video.

PROS

  • The best beginner drone option if you know you want to use it for commercial drone work as it includes many of the same features and specs found in the professional-grade DJI drones.
  • Can record video in 4k resolution at up to 60 FPS. It is also the only DJI drone capable of shooting at a slow-motion frame rate of 240 FPS in full HD.
  • For aerial photography, the DJI Mavic Air 2 camera has a 48-megapixel resolution and you can shoot in both RAW and JPEG format.
  • Has a 3-axis motorized gimbal for stabilization which will allow you to capture smoother footage than the drones without a mechanical gimbal and makes it easier to use FPV mode.
  • The DJI Mavic Air 2 has the longest battery life in this article estimated at 34 minutes of flight time on a full charge.
  • Includes the most updated APAS 3.0 obstacle avoidance technology, which makes it one of the best drones for beginners.
  • Allows you to grow as a drone pilot since it has more advanced camera capabilities such as full manual control, auto exposure bracketing (AEB), and HDR panorama.

CONS

  • A higher end drone and could be overkill if you just want a drone to fly around for fun every now and then.
  • Most expensive drone in this article.

 

By Tom Shu

Hi! I’m a Washington State-based professional photographer and filmmaker. I quit my corporate job in 2018 to pursue this passion full-time and have been lucky enough to work on projects all over the world with brands such as Visa, Airbnb, and prAna. Here are examples of the work we do in case you're wondering. My goal with all these articles is to help you out, so if you ever have any questions just send me an email at tom@witandfolly.co, DM me at my Instagram @tom.shu or leave a comment on any of the articles!

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