For under $300 the types of drones available are somewhere between a toy and a highly optimized toy. Mid-grade drones are generally thought to be somewhere between $400-$800, so you’re just skimming the surface of machines that are taken a bit more seriously, or lose the connotation of a ‘toy’ completely. But with the evolution of drone technology, there’s a wide range of choices in the under-$300 category, some that even verge on training drones, or drones recommended by professionals as introductory equipment
While there is a vast difference between a $30 nano drone and a $300 quadcopter with an integrated FPV system, everything in-between is (generally) a crapshoot. You’ll find that a $100 quadcopter manufactured by an experienced company will do twice what a drone double the cost somewhere on the market claims to be. It’s really about doing the proper research, which usually leads one to a trusted brand name. In addition, there are different manufacturers which dominate different categories of drones. While DJI might be the largest and most well-known consumer drone manufacturer in the world, they are not at all in the under-$300 market.
Take a look: Here is our wide range of drones under $300 that come with our full recommendation.
Drones Under $300
at the lower end of this price range, this drone offers a lot for its price point. It’s certainly still a toy, but the features it sports well exceed most drones in the $100 range. While you’re not going to have an FPV system with the F181, you’ll still get a mini-camera that shoots in 720p, so you’re not without aerial photography. On top of that it comes with autonomous systems such as headless mode, one key takeoff and landing, return home, and altitude hold. If you don’t know what those systems are, simply put: this drone is intelligent enough to takeoff and land on its own and hover in air. If you leave the controls for a moment the drone will remain hovering in the place you left it. When you direct the drone, it will respond to the immediate direction of your controls despite its orientation in air, and it will return home if need be. The point is this drone dramatically assists pilots when they are first learning to fly. They even have a range of buttons that command the F181 to do 360 degree flips in 4 different directions. It flies for around 7-9 minutes and takes over an hour to charge (but it has a removable battery so you can have fly for longer periods). All things considered, this is a great machine for the price.
For $250 you can have a machine that livestreams FPV in high definition. Sold? What if I also said that same machine could take 720p videos, fly for over 10 minutes, up to 15mph, and that it has a one-click-flip button integrated into it? And then lets add the autonomous features that come with Parrot’s Free Flight 3 application, which include return home, automatic takeoff & landing, orbit, and position lock. Pretty impressive for a drone under $300, right? That’s the Parrot AR 2.0. Do note here, as with most of Parrot’s products, you won’t get a transmitter coming along for the ride; Parrot’s drones are piloted from a smartphone or tablet, so if that’s a deal breaker for you, then that’s that. But do consider that without the addition of a transmitter, Parrot allots more quality and features to the drone without upping the price. Also, this drone comes in a bunch of different color schemes, including army camouflage.
Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 3.0
Despite micro being in the name, this drone fits anything but the description of a micro drone. Having raised over $3million through IndieGoGo and the Crowdfunding Field Guide, this group was finally able to release the Micro Drone 3.0. What makes it the same price as a larger drone (like the two previously listed machines) is that it’s everything and more at a third the size. It comes with a transmitter, a VR headset, has three different integrated flight modes, and offers FPV in HD while making low-latency promises. Despite everything that it says it is on paper, it’s simply a capable, intuitive drone in a smaller shell. Some have had phenomenal experiences with it, others not so much, but for what it can do at the price-point, you can’t really go wrong.
Although this drone comes from a lesser known company, it’s actually a huge competitor in this bracket. Reason? Well, it’s simply better than everything else. Its camera can record in 1080p, something often reserved for drones above $300; it offers FPV livestream and is filled with intelligent flight systems. It is well-reviewed and has its own application that supports the FPV livestream. Integrated systems include headless mode, one key fly-backwards, and position lock. It flies for around 8-10 minutes, and has a control range of around 50 meters. Why this drone is about $100 less than the previously listed machines, we’re not sure, but it delivers on its promises and the engineering is sound.
This is another optimized, incredibly capable toy. Any GoPro lovers out there? This drone has a perfect gimbal for the GoPro. If you don’t own one, don’t worry, there’s a GPS and FPV system already integrated in the drone. The range is pretty ridiculous for the price, since it can fly up to 1km away, and even without a camera onboard, the machine makes up for it with intelligent features (headless mode, one-key return, automatic takeoff & landing, altitude hold). Where this drone really comes alive is with its flight systems and GPS: the drone can fly over 20mph) and the GPS system is a lot more optimized and capable than most drones of this level. Of course, for stills and videos, you’ll need a separate camera, and if you already own a GoPro, this drone is a fantastic choice.
This is the first racing drone we’ve put on this list, but it’s definitely one to consider. Although racing drones are usually more expensive and require quite a bit more upkeep, Walkera released this drone as a drone racing introduction/beginner unit. It comes with a DEVO 7 transmitter and sports powerful brushless motors. There are no real autonomous features integrated and it’s not the easiest drone to learn to fly on, but for under $300 you can have a machine that flies over 30mph. It comes with a built-in 600TVL mini camera which does support FPV (albeit at low quality) and is compatible with VR goggles, which is the immersive experience most likely looked for in a less expensive racing drone. It flies for around 7-8 minutes with all-systems-go and it takes over an hour to charge. We don’t recommend this to beginners, but if you have already learned to pilot and you’re looking at the drone racing community, rather than the industrial or aerial photography market, this is a great drone to help you dip your feet in the waters.
When looking at mid-grade drones, you’ll see the Bebop 1’s successor, the Bebop 2, just about everywhere. That’s not to say the original isn’t an incredible machine, though, and it maintains its value better, now that it experienced a hefty price drop. We put this on the under-$300 list because some retailers will sell it for below that, but do note that it can linger around the $350 range on some sites as well. Anyway, this drone shoots in 1080p at 30fps with a 180 degree field of vision (on a 3-axis-system). It’s piloted by the Parrot Free Flight 3 application through a tablet or smartphone, which also supports its autonomous features, return home, headless mode, position lock, and more. It can fly for over 10 minutes and fares well against mild outdoor conditions (it’s still small – so it can’t really take on any wind). Basically, for $300 you have an intelligent machine, taking footage in 1080p which can be uploaded directly to the cloud, and that is stabilized on a 3-axis-system with a 180 degree field of view. What you don’t have, unfortunately, is a FPV system. But with these types of drones, you really have to pick your attributes based on what you want.
You’ll see this UDI machine everywhere you look. In fact, UDI has produced some of the most well-known drones in this space. For under $200, you can have a system that livestreams FPV and takes high-definition aerial footage. It comes equipped with a 4GB micro SD card with a card reader included. It has two different flight modes (one for beginners and one for those with more experience) which greatly assist the initial learning curve. Integrated in the software are the return-home and headless mode features. Since it sports a removable battery, longer flight times are possible if you purchase additional batteries. This drone may just be the most well-reviewed drone on this list outside of the Parrot Bebop 1. All things considered, for the price point, this is certainly a drone worth considering.
This is another drone sitting in the area of $200 that offers a lot for the price-point. Its camera is HD, but only shoots in 720p. What sets it apart from its competitors is its vibration absorption mount. What you’ll see in upper-end, more professional drones is gimbals, or camera stabilizers built into the drone itself. Rarely do you see any sort of gimbal system in drones of this caliber (and that’s why the footage is often poor, because it’s so shaky). But this JRC H25 has its own version of a gimbal and in turns produces clearer images (albeit at 720p). It offers FPV and just about every intelligent feature you’d expect from a drone of this size (headless mode, return home, multiple flight modes, etc.). It can fly for around 8 minutes and takes 90 minutes to charge. The transmitter has a 5.8GHz frequency, so you won’t experience as much interference as a 2.4GHz system. Also, did we mention that this drone is ready to fly right out of the box? This is pretty much the whole package: FPV stabilized aerial photography, 5.8GHz transmission system, intelligent features. And it’s not even one of the more expensive drones on this list.
This drone barely makes the cut coming in at $299.00 on Amazon, but make the cut it does. You’ll see this drone take the #1 seat in the between toy-midgrade for many enthusiasts; it can actually shoot in 2.7k, and there are also different settings for the FOV. To find a nice camera drone that shoots in 2.7k is usually more expensive than that, let alone a fully integrated drone. If you’re familiar with the DJI Phantom series, it not only looks like a mini-phantom but performs like one too. It livestreams FPV directly to a 7” LCD display built into the transmitter. It’s capable of features like return home, position lock, and headless mode (which is to be expected in drones of this caliber). But not only that, it can fly up to 20mph and for over 20 minutes, which is literally double the flight time most of the other drones in our list. The onboard dual-compass GPS unit allows for precise and accurate flight responsiveness and data processing, and it’s all ready to fly right out of the box. Also, the transmitter is a 5.8GHz system, which means less interference. Similar to the UDI U818A FPV, this drone comes extremely well-reviewed and Upair has a reputation for excellent customer service.
This is one of Hubsan’s top-dog units that is only recently gaining traction (but for good reason). It comes equipped with 1080p HD camera that livestreams FPV to a 4.3” LCD display built into the controller. The 5.8GHz transmission system and the brushless motor pair well, allowing a full 18 minutes of flight time and to 25mph speeds with all-systems-go. Those statistics should be enough to sell you in the under-$300 range, but there’s more: the H510S X4 comes with a whole range of autonomous features. It sports return home, position lock, and it’s the only drone on this entire list to have an integrated tracking feature. The removable 7.4V 2700mAh battery gives you the option of longer flight times if you choose to purchase additional batteries. All in all, for the package and the price-point, this could very well be Hubsan’s best drone yet. And it’s also sexy and sophisticated, coming in snazzy black and gold or white and gold and looking like an electric K9 from a futuristic police force.
Flexify Drones Foldable Drone
Definitely a more dynamic and unorthodox machine, the Flexify Foldable drone is an orange unit that’s designed to take a lot of wear-and-tear and perform well in flight. While it doesn’t come with any sort of integrated camera system or autonomous components, it can easily support a GoPro or lightweight sports camera and has a maximum payload capacity of 1000g. Flying for around 22 minutes, it can also fly at speeds over 20mph, even if the payload is maxed out. It’s a foldable platform: the drone folds into itself for higher portability and it has been optimized as a flexible platform for a variety of cameras. If you are new to the drone space and looking for something easy-to-use and RTF, this is not your machine since it takes a bit of set up and skill to fly, especially if you’re looking for FPV.
This is another platform built to utilize the GoPro camera. While it doesn’t have an integrated camera system, it does contain a removable mount that can support certain cameras. The CX-20, being that it didn’t have to sport an integrated camera system, allotted its entire tech into flight-capacity. It has a VPS system, GPS unit, dual flight modes, altitude more, return home, and position lock. It can fly for around 15~ minutes and has a removable battery in case you want to stock up on juice. It’s powerful, durable, and can hit speeds up to 20mph with its payload maxed out. Throw a GoPro on this little guy and you’ll have no problem reining in some decent aerial footage.
As you can see from our list, there’s a wide range of drones in the sub-$300 category, with only a few really pressing on the mid-grade drone requirements. Most of them are highly optimal toys, with the more expensive ones features FPV livestreams and HD cameras. As with all tech, it’s important that you do your own research, read reviews, and decide what you want from your drone before purchasing.