You may have missed out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday for major sales on electronics and other nifty gifts for the holidays, but the season of gift-giving is not yet over and we certainly doubt neither are the sales.
If you have been browsing the market for a drone for you or a loved one to try this year, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 drones to consider for beginners. The drones listed below are under the minimum weight (0.55 lbs.) required for registration with the FAA in the U.S. (except for the DJI Spark. Yes, that one may have to be registered, but the process is quite quick and simple) and also durable with price points that won’t break your bank, even if you break your UAV on your first flight.
1. Hubsan X4 H107C
Hubsan is known for its durable drones at a cheap price point (~$50), making it especially suitable for beginners looking to get into the hobby, but without the financial investment. This model comes with a 0.3 MP camera and records videos at 480p with an LCD display on it’s dedicated control. While it is also suitable for outdoor flights, because of its size, it can be easily swept up by wind. It is far from being the ideal starter drone if you’d wish to explore professional aerial photography, but it’s a great drone to start off with when learning to get a hang of flying UAVs.
2. Syma X5SC
The Syma X5SC model starts at a low price point of $50 with a 2 MP camera for still photos and 720p for videos. This is another brand of drones known for their durability for beginner enthusiasts. This drone has the same price point as Hubsan, but you get slightly better camera specs and better outdoor stability in light wind conditions.
3. UDI U818A HD+
UDI’s U818A HD+ model was released back in 2016 and is still a popular choice for cheap and sturdy beginner drones. The pricing is just around $100 and $70 for its earlier versions of this model. This quadcopter is safe to fly indoors and around people with its propellor guards, which can also be removed. While flimsy, the propellor guards absorb impact very well making this great for indoor and outdoor flights (as long as there is little to no wind). The drone features a 2 MP camera, records videos at 720p, headless mode, one-key return, and 3D flips.
4. Altair Aerial AA108
The Altair Aerial AA108 has a great build for beginner drone pilots that can be flown indoors and handles light wind outdoors under 10 MPH. It sells at a slightly higher price point (~$130) than the previous drones mentioned but comes with 3 different skill modes meant to last as the novice pilot advances their flight skills. Along with a 720p camera and 120° angle view, the drone features some extras such as altitude hover, emergency shutdown, and custom flight route so that even professionals can be entertained with this beginner-friendly UAV.
5. DJI Spark
You can’t take interest in drones without coming across DJI’s brand because of their professional UAVs, which are known for great aerial photography often costing $800 or more. Thankfully, the DJI Spark is available at a lower cost of $400 with a 12 MP camera and 1080p recordings at 30 FPS. While it does not come with as many advanced features as its more professional models, it does feature the new DJI Quickshot autonomous flying mode which means no phone or dedicated remote control necessary (goodbye, selfie-sticks!). Of course, this is the pricier beginner drone mentioned on this list, but it’s a great UAV to consider if you’ve been looking to take your photography to the skies without taking a hit to your wallet on the professional ones.
Below, we've compiled a table for quick comparison of the mentioned models.
While many of these beginner models mentioned in this list aren't stellar for professional photography, it is recommended to give drones a test try without much financial obligations and these are perfect for just that. Good luck and happy shopping!
Trang is a science teacher based in Thailand with a background in biochemistry. Since living abroad, she has taken interest in observing how traveler's and backpackers using their phones, DSLRs, and/or more recently, drones in order to create beautiful travel photography and filmography. In the world of film and photography, Trang is an absolute novice, but as she watches how her fellow backpackers can put together such creative personal works, it has inspired her to take an interest in drones and their capabilities for gorgeous aerial shots.