Drones for Beginners: A Buying Guide

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The popularity and use of drones has exploded over the last decade because they are used for so many different purposes. There are drones for all levels of users. Whether someone is thinking about drones as a hobby or a profession, there is one thing everyone has in common: they have to start somewhere. This buying guide is for drones for beginners. It will give you an overview of drone basics and some considerations to look for when shopping. We end with our Top 10 Drones for Beginners, all of which are less than $150.

Understanding Drones

What are drones?

A drone is, quite simply, an aircraft without an onboard pilot.  Instead, the “pilot” flies the drone remotely with a controller.  And while the definition is pretty straightforward, the different types of drones are huge.  There are some interesting pros and cons of drones to consider, but they are only growing in popularity. 

Drones are commonly associated with the military.  They are also used in fields as diverse as agriculture, oil and gas, map making, firefighting, and home delivery.  With all of these uses, it’s no wonder that flying drones is becoming a popular hobby as well.   Some are complicated to fly, and you can even take classes to become a certified drone pilot.  There are plenty of drones that anyone can fly for fun, though, and this guide is focused on those.

When were drones invented?

Drones were actually invented not long after the airplane itself, and the history of drones is interested.  In World War I, a pilotless aircraft was just one of many news types of weapons that were explored and developed during the conflict.  The technology continued to develop, mostly for military applications, until the 1960s. That’s when radio-controlled (RC) airplanes started to become a popular hobby for kids and adults.  These were often sold as kits.  The hobby drones that we see today started to become popular as early as 2010. The number of styles, models and options has really exploded in the last 10 years.

How do drones work?

Most hobby drones are powered by batteries.  The batteries power a motor (or motors) that spin the rotors (or propellers) to create an upward force that lifts the drone and allows it to hover above the ground.  With multiple motors and rotors, drones are able to move up and down, side to side, and forward and backward.

To fly a drone, the operator uses a control pad that often looks a lot like a video game controller.  These range from simple to complex, from kid-friendly to expert only.

How high can drones fly?

There are actually two ways to answer this question.  The first answer is about how high is it possible for a drone to fly, and the answer is very high: up to about 13,000 feet.  The more practical answer, though, for how high drones can legally fly, is 400 feet.  This blog is not a legal resource, but you can find official guidance directly from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and this fact sheet

Important features for drones for beginners

As you start to compare different types of drones, you will want to make sure you consider things like battery life, drone weight, ease of controls, and whether or not there is a camera.  The value you place on these features can vary, but they are good starting points for comparison shopping.

Battery Life

You shouldn’t expect hours of flight time on a single battery charge.  An average drone will be able to fly for about 7-10 minutes. Higher-end drones might be able to stay in flight for 20 – 30 minutes.  The good news is that you can easily get some back-up batteries and swap them out between flights to set you up for a longer session of flying.  When shopping for a drone, the cost of back-up batteries and how easy they are to change is just as important as the battery life itself. And when it comes to flight time, lengths are estimates. The time is affected by speed, wind, camera use, etc.

Drone Weight

The weight of a drone impacts both battery life and flight stability.  The lighter the drone, the less taxing it is for the battery.  Of course, a lighter battery also means a smaller battery.  A heavier drone is less impacted by wind, which can lead to a more stable flying experience.  When it comes to drone weight, it’s all about find a good balance and prioritizing flight time or flight stability.

One key thing to know about drone weight is the key threshold of .55 pounds. (That’s 8.8 ounces, or just less than 250 grams).  You do not need to register a drone that weighs .55 pounds or less if it will be flown exclusively for recreation.  That doesn’t mean that you should avoid a heavier drone if that’s what you want, though.  Just be sure to register it with the FAA.

Ease of Controls

It is common to hear the line “drones are easy to fly and easy to crash.” For a beginner, the best drone design is the quadcopter.  With 4 sets of propellers covering the front, back and each side of the drone, it provides the best stability and control of direction.  Be sure to take a look at the control pad, or remote control, itself as well.  Are you prioritizing ease of use or availability of features?  For most beginners, ease of use might he best way to go to make sure early flying experiences are positive ones.

Buying Drones for Beginners

How much do drones cost?

As you might expect, the large range of drone types means there is a large range of drone prices, too.  Experienced (or wealthy) drone operators can easily spend thousands of dollars on their flying machine.  One of the great things about this hobby, though, is that the entry price can be quite low.  For our list of drone recommendations, we stay focused on drones less than $150.  (Recommendations are based on personal use, comparisons of product features, and an overview of customer reviews.)

The 10 Best Drones under $150

Here’s our list of the 10 best drones for beginners, with a price point of less than $150. Look below for a comparison chart, and then for our Top Picks in the categories of Best Overall, Best for Photography, and Best for Kids.

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Comparison Chart

DroneMax Flight TimeWeightCamera/VideoBattery

SYMA UFO X300
20 min. per battery1.28 lbs1080p videoRechargeable 1500mAh Lithium ion (backup included)
TSRC Q830 min. per battery2.44 lbs4k videoRechargeable 2000mAh Lithium ion (3 battery packs included)
Force 1 UFO 30007-9 min. per battery.8 lbs; 12.8 oz; 363gN/A3.7v Lithium ion (spare battery and USB charge cable included)
LMRC-127-12 min. per battery1.32 lbs1080p videoModular LiPo battery (backup included)
Simrex x80015-20 min. per battery15.5 oz1080p videoRechargeable 1000mAh Lithium ion (backup included)
SYMA X5C7 min.1.6 lbs; 25.6 oz; 726g2MP photos; 720p video3.7V 500mAh Li-poly
Redrie JY0212 min. per battery4.6 ozN/ARechargeable 1200mAh LiPo (backup included)
Tomzon A24 mini8 min. per battery1.06 ozN/AModular Lithium Ion (3 battery packs included)
Dwi Dowellin D10 Blinking Drone10-11 min..17 lbs; 2.68 oz; 76gN/A800mAh LiPo (spare included)
Holy Stone Mini Drone for Kids7 min..10 lbs; 1.55 oz; 44gN/A3.7VmAh LiPo for Holy Stone (2 spares included)

Our Top Picks

Top Overall Pick for Drones for Beginners

Our favorite drone for beginners is the SYMA UFO X300 Drone, equipped with a 1080P FPV camera. This high-performance drone offers stunning aerial photography and real-time video transmission, making it an ideal gift for anyone who loves adventure and photography. With easy-to-use controls and stable flight, even beginners can capture professional-quality footage. Whether it’s for a budding photographer or a seasoned drone enthusiast, the SYMA Drone is sure to elevate their experience and create unforgettable memories. Overall, this drone strikes the right balance between ease of navigation, photo quality, and price point.

With two batteries, you can enjoy up to 40 minutes of flight time with this drone. It also has a low battery warning to guard against mid-flight power loss. And finally, if you have a pair of VR goggles, you can take advantage of an immersive VR mode for a truly unique experience.

SYMA Drone with Camera 1080P FPV,Optical Flow Positioning,Tap Fly,Altitude Hold,Headless Mode,3D Flips,40mins Flying UFO X300 Remote Control Quadcopter Gift for Kids Beginners

$89.99  in stock
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Features

  • 【Skybound Visual Journeys with SYMA Camera Drone】Embark on captivating aerial journeys with the built-in 1080P HD camera of the X300 FPV drone, offering real-time transmission. Unleash creativity as you capture dynamic scenes from diverse angles. Elevate storytelling by sharing life's marvels on social media, taking your content to new heights.
  • 【Master Aerial Precision with Optical Flow Positioning】Revolutionize Your Flight Experience with X300's Optical Flow Positioning! Soar confidently indoors and outdoors, conquering landscapes while capturing breathtaking views. Unleash the X300's advanced features for adult drone enthusiasts seeking remarkable aerial adventures.
  • 【Gateway to Effortless Drone Adventures for Beginners】Experience effortless foldable drone flying with the X300's user-friendly features. Take off and land with a single button, navigate easily with headless mode, and enjoy stable flights using optical flow positioning. Perfect for beginners seeking a smooth learning curve and enjoyable flights.
  • 【Effortless App Control and Exciting Features】Unlock new horizons with the X300 remote control drone. Seamlessly controlled via the app, it offers engaging features like Trajectory Flight, Gravity Control, and adjustable speeds mode. Experience the joy of flying for beginners and enthusiasts alike.
  • 【Fly Stronger, Explore Further】Elevate your aerial exploration with the remarkable X300 UFO Drone. Offering an extraordinary 40-minute flight time(20mins per battery), it extends your adventures. The robust design enhances durability while the propeller guards guarantee safe flights. Ignite your passion for flying today and experience the skies like never before!

Top Pick for Photography

The TSRC Q8 is our top pick among beginner drones for photography. Considering the price point of this drone, the 4k video capability is a bit of a surprise. There are certainly higher-end drones out there, but if you are beginner who is interested in drone photography, this is a great model to start with. The TSRC Q8 weighs just under 2.5 pounds, and that comparatively heavier weight means you get better flight control and stability for your outdoor photography. This drone also comes with 3 batteries supporting 30 minutes of flight time each for a massive 90 minutes of flying photo fun!

TENSSENX Foldable GPS Drone with 4K UHD Camera for Adults Beginner, TSRC Q8 FPV RC Quadcopter with Brushless Motor, 5G WiFi Transmission, Follow Me, Optical Flow, Smart Return Home, 90 Min Long Flight

$125.99  in stock
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Features

  • Ultra Clear 4K Camera: With 4K Ultra HD Camera, TSRC Q8 guarantees stunning and vivid footage in a bird's-eye view without missing any details. It’s your ticket to the sky.
  • High-tech Outdoor Performance: The super powerful brushless motors and 3 batteries for 90 minutes ensure TSRC Q8 stabler and longer flight and having enough time to compose the perfect pictures. The maximum distance for remote control reaches 1000 meters.
  • User Friendly: Multiple functions such as Automatic Take-off, Headless Mode, Altitude Hold, Optical Flow Position are devised for the novice. Being a drone pilot has never been this easy!
  • Powerful GPS Module: The GPS module and Optical Flow Positioning make TSRC Q8 safer, more reliable and have extraordinary anti-interference capabilities, offering you the ability to fly farther and more stable. You can have a blast outdoors with your kids or friends without disturbance and restrictions of distance.
  • All-Round Functions: Follow Me, Tap Fly, and Point of Interest grant TSRC Q8 performance intelligent flights, freeing your hands up. Your precious memories will start right when you switch on the TSRC Q8.

Top Pick for Kids

The Force 1 UFO 3000 is our top pick of drones for kids. This drone is small, sturdy and safe for kids. The straightforward controller helps kids learn to fly more quickly. You can lift off and land with one button, and there are two speed settings. There’s no camera on this model, but that allows a little more weight put into the body of the drone so it can stand up crashes. Kids will also enjoy the LED lights and one-button flips.

Force1 UFO 3000 LED Mini Drone for Kids - Remote Control Drone, Small RC Quadcopter for Beginners with LEDs, 4-Channel Remote Control, 2 Speeds, and 2 Drone Batteries

$29.99  in stock
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Features

  • KID-FRIENDLY REMOTE DRONE: Introduce kids to the excitement of flight with this easy-to-operate mini drone. With just a button push, they can launch, land, and execute 360° flips. Equipped with a 2.4 GHz remote transmitter and two vibrant LED colors, this drone promises an illuminating experience day or night.
  • TWO-SPEED LED DRONE: Tailored to suit the skill levels of beginners to experts, this drone operates at two speeds and flaunts 2 bright LED colors. Whether you're indoors or out, choose from medium, or high speeds to optimize your flying experience.
  • VERSATILE 360 AERIAL STUNTS: Elevate your flying game with thrilling 360 flips and rolls. Using the 2.4 GHz remote, activate Flip Mode for swift stunts or switch to Auto Rotation Mode. Plus, fly multiple drones simultaneously without interference.
  • BEGINNER-FRIENDLY FEATURES: Packed with features like Altitude Hold for stable hovering, Headless Mode for intuitive orientation, and adjustable Direction Trim, this drone is the perfect pick for newcomers.
  • LONG-LASTING FLIGHT FUN: Two rechargeable batteries ensure a total flight time of 18 minutes. This mini drone measures 5.5"" x 5.5"" and comes with spare propellers, tools, a USB charging cable, and a drone remote (requires 4 AAA batteries - not included).

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