A multirotor is basically a rotorcraft that has more than two rotors. Since the mechanics of the multi-rotorcraft are simpler than single or double-rotor aircraft (speaking about helicopters, here) they’re frequently used in remote control (RC) aircraft and UAV aircraft (drones). The single or double-rotor uses variable pitch rotors, where as the pitch varies, the pilot maintains flight stability and control. The multirotor often uses fixed pitch blades. Each rotor acts independently, and the speed and control of the aircraft is dictated by the relative speed of each rotor and the torque produced by each. There are a few reasons why we see the multirotor build in the common, commercialized drone and yet not as a military standard (we still have the helicopter, guys). To be honest, it comes down to practicality.
First, the expense! For a manned multirotor aircraft, you’d need four different propellers, connected to four independent motors. Then you’ll need a power system that can support four rotors and their constantly changing speeds and a backup system in case that fails. Then there’s efficiency. Normally a helicopter’s main propeller remains at a constant speed, where the entire flight premise of a multirotor rides on the different rotors accelerating and decelerating at separate and rapid rates. This makes the vehicle (at that size) less efficient because of the amount of energy it expends and the risk it takes to remain in the air.
That’s why we’ll stick to a remotely controlled multirotor, more commonly known as a drone. You can find multirotors for sale just about everywhere on the internet, since they are now a popular consumer product. Depending on your purpose for having a drone, there are multirotors available which are specifically tailored for recreational or commercial purposes. At these smaller sizes the RC Multirotor is simpler, more sustainable, and still quite maneuverable.
The full spectrum of multicopters available include everything from little micro drones (meant specifically for indoor recreational use) all the way to professional, high-powered machines that can shoot in true 4k and fly nearly autonomously. If you’re looking to enter into the drone hobby, it’s all about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to learn the ropes of aerial photography, or is this more of ‘I want a small little gadget to dink around with at the office?’ Do you want to fully immerse yourself in the drone experience, or do you just want something to learn to fly on? Whatever you desire, there’s a drone out there for you.
It’s often recommended that newbie pilots start with a mid-range multicopter that offers all the features you’d look for in upper-end drones (FPV streaming, a camera, autonomous features, and so forth). Although the hardware and software won’t compare to the more professional drones, you’ll still be able to experience the full flight dynamic of drones, and it won’t break your heart into pieces if you crash the drone. However, the other argument is that starting with a lower-end professional drone, loaded with tech guts that help with autonomy, is an easier, more enjoyable way to learn to fly. We’ve gone ahead and put together a list of some of the best drones of all grades here:
13 Best Multirotors
This is certainly a professional drone, and comes in under $2000 depending on what sort of package it comes with. This staple of drone engineering can fold into the size of a water bottle and still has the capacity to fly up to 45mph, capture true 4k footage, and support a wide range of autonomous features. It’s a DJI engineered machine and is quickly becoming a favorite among the community. It contains 360 degree obstacle avoidance, a 3-axis gimbal, and a flight system that can stabilize and sustain flight autonomously. Although this multicopter is certainly not a beginner machine, it can make learning to pilot a breeze. It’s engineered to be convenient and high-performing, and it achieves much more than that.
This drone is perfect for upper-level beginners that want to start taking drones a bit more seriously. It comes with intelligent Walkera technology and a stomach full of autonomous components (one key, return home, position lock). The integrated flight system makes it a walk in the park to keep it in the air, and it’s also ready-to-fly right out of the box. Since it’s a mid-grade drone, you will have to purchase a camera system separately, as the Walkera QR X350 Pro does not come with one equipped. This is a fantastic drone to learn to fly on, and with a camera added can even become an aerial photography machine.
This DJI-engineered drone is among the best value available on the market. Since DJI has released multiple drones in the Phantom series, the price has dropped for the Phantom 2, and it is often not as well regarded as its successors. Fortunately, that’s good for everyone who wants to start with a professional drone, since now it is quite affordable. This little beauty comes equipped with a 1080p HD camera which livestreams directly to a smartphone or tablet. It comes with an onboard GPS, can fly in headless mode (without orientation), and can fly for up to 25 minutes when fully charged (even when filming). This drone offers everything you could ever want from a starting machine, except for the highest-quality features. It’s the perfect machine for beginners and intermediates and it won’t empty your wallet.
This drone is a well-engineered beginner drone meant specifically for fun. It’s an entertaining way to enter into the drone hobby without dishing out the cash for the abovementioned Phantom. It comes with a 6-axis gyroscopic flight system, two different flight modes (with adjustable speed for first learning to pilot), and it can perform a multitude of different aerial maneuvers. It comes with a built-in HD camera which shoots in 720p, and it has a control range of up to 50 meters (although some users claim much greater range). Although it doesn’t offer FPV livestreaming, it’s still a great toy to introduce the drone dynamic. It’s under $100 and flies for up to eight minutes at a time.
This drone quite literally puts the nail into defines the mid-grade drone. It’s priced under $500, but is engineered to compete with larger, more expensive models. Similar to Parrot’s AR drone, the Bebop can be controlled via smartphone or tablet. However, with the Bebop, a SkyContoller is available, which incorporates joysticks, adds a significant length to the range, and contains an HDMI output. The 14MP camera has a 180 degree field-of-view and a decent shutter. It livestreams FPV directly to your phone or tablet and can record in HD 1080p (there is 8GB of removable memory onboard). This drone is a mid-grade, high-performing, dynamic machine – but it won’t compare in the realm of autonomous components or aerial photography elements as the Phantoms do. But, it’s a fun, sleek-looking drone that can do a lot for only $400 and could be a sweet way to enter the drone space.
The Vendetta was engineered to utilize FPV and flight optimization, tailoring it towards racing. Thus, it’s fast, dynamic, and exhilarating. Before, often you’d need to assemble racing drones (which took a serious element of experience and was usually reserved specifically for enthusiasts) but now you can find them RTF, or ready-to-fly right out of the box. The Vendetta is often regarded as the best RTF racing drone for its price. It comes equipped with a camera that livestreams FPV, and can hit speeds up to 70mph. It’s not as autonomous as the aforementioned drones on this list, but that’s because racing drones are all about piloting. The parts are easy to replace and it comes highly recommended by extreme hobbyists. Perhaps it’s not the best drone to learn to pilot, especially being that it’s a bit expensive (well not compared to the Phantom series) and can fly as fast as a car moving down a freeway, but if you’re ready to make that step up, or if you want to learn how to become a drone racer, then the Vendetta is an optimal choice.
At only $800, the Q500 can shoot in 4k like the top model Phantoms. It’s got sort of a weird look, but it comes with some incredible features for the cost. For one, the 4k camera is detachable and the package comes with a hand-mount that allows you to use it like a GoPro. This is a neat accessory, if you think about it, because you can film with the camera separate of the drone, so it’s like buying a camera and a drone for the price of one (usually camera systems are built-in and don’t detach). The controller comes with a built-in android that allows you to livestream FPV. Make sure when buying this drone that you don’t purchase the earlier version which came with a 1080p camera that was reviewed to be faulty. Yuneec isn’t talked about as much as other manufacturers, but still engineers high-quality drones which offer a lot for the price point. Plus, for us, the detachable camera is a selling point in itself.
XK 251 Brushless Quadcopter
This drone comes in at under $200, and as is a great choice for beginners who want to learn to pilot a semi-advanced machine. It can support a small camera (sold separately) and contains autonomous features such as a GPS unit and an auto-return home for when the drone ventures outside of control range. We see this drone as something to learn on or an upgrade from a ‘toy’ drone once you’ve become a bit more experienced as a pilot. There are no blade protectors, so fly with care. This shouldn’t be hard, since the XK 251 contains an integrated flight stabilization system and has proven to be agile.
This toy drone comes highly recommended. With its two way, 6-channel transmission system you’re sure not to have to deal with any interference. The rotor guards are removable (if you’re feeling a bit more comfortable and want to increase the speed) and it can perform aerial maneuvers such as 360 flips. This drone is considered the ultimate sparring toy for the price point (around $80), since it has infrared transmitters that flash if the fighter is ‘hit’ by another infrared shot. Grab a couple buddies, put these things in the air, and you can have drone fights. You’ll actually feel the controller vibrate when a shot has hit your drone.
This drone is THE staple of drone engineering. For its price, it has everything you could ever want from a professional machine. It’s loaded with autonomous features (TapFly, ActiveTrack, return home, position lock, waypoint following, and more), and it can shoot in true 4k. The integrated 3-axis gimbal allows for stunning control and camera stabilization. It can fly up to 45mph in sport mode and has 360 degree obstacle avoidance which makes it incredibly hard to crash when the mode is active. It flies for around thirty minutes, give or take, and maintains collision avoidance even when the other autonomous features are active (when not in sports mode). This drone is the prize of the Phantom series and it proves its value with what it offers. Most certainly a drone meant for serious intermediates and experts, it is still the drone ‘anyone can fly’ because of its intelligent capabilities. And, in conclusion, it’s DJI-engineered.
With this drone, a great number of people have developed their piloting skills, and it costs less than $40. The 6-axis gyroscopic flight stabilization system helps balance and optimizes flight. It’s ready to fly right out of the box, carries a high capacity Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery and is known to be ‘the most durable and resilient drone of its class’. The 4 channel 2.4GHz controller transmits well at close distances and the drone can perform an assortment of aerial maneuvers. If you’re looking to buy a professional machine eventually, some hobbyists recommend purchasing this toy multicopter for your home or office. After flying this one, you will transition with ease to a machine which can basically pilot itself. And besides, it’s a whole lot of fun.
This drone is one big step ahead of the Hubsan X4 - it comes with a camera that can livestream the first-person-view. This feature introduces beginners to viewing the world through the ‘eyes’ of the drone, which takes the pilot to another level. It is more expensive, but still under $100, and still very much a toy. By no means is the livestream HD of even notable quality, but it’s a perk that’ll add a new element to the hobby.
As you can see, there’s an assortment of multicopters in the market – everything from toys, to toys with cameras, to professional machines, and all the way to drones meant specifically for racing that can fly up to 70mph. Choosing the right drone depends on your intentions as a pilot, but the rule of thumb is to start simple, learn the gadget, and then graduate. One of the abovementioned drones should pique your interest.