From military UAVs to public drones, unmanned aircrafts systems have now disrupted the market and are used for both recreational and professional purposes. While some feared what sort of involvement the government was going to have with drones, it seems they’re willing to be lenient, given pilots follow the FAA regulations, become licensed pilots and register their drones.
Now, there are different types of drones on the market, and generally there are three different sizes. Nano (micro) drones can fit in the palm of your hand and are mostly considered toy drones. Mini drones are as big as your hand and attract beginning drone pilots. And full sized drones can range in various sizes, depending on the type – fixed wing, helicopter, camera drones, and payload drones – and qualify for commercial uses. The general rule of thumb for beginner pilots is to start with the mini quadcopter. They are small enough not to be too expensive, so the beginner won’t shed too many tears if the drone crashes (which, let’s face it, is a likely event), and yet they can still allow the flight experience that will help the beginner to prepare for bigger drones.
A mini quadcopter usually costs anywhere from $50 to $300, depending on flight features and camera quality. It’s usually about the size or a bit larger than a hand. With newer models, mini quadcopters have livestreaming cameras that offer the pilot an FPV, or first-person-view experience. The quadcopter structure is also an important factor.
Drones are multicopters and although quadcopters are the standard build, or what is currently used as the standard model (this could change), there are also hexacopters and octocopters. The latter two have more rotors so that if one of them fails, the drone can remain in the air. And, too, they have more stability and are easier to pilot. But it is not good to learn on hexa- and octocopters. It is better to learn to fly a drone at the minimum flight capability – four propellers.
The mini quadcopter is a less expensive learning tool and will be a lot more maneuverable and agile than a larger drone. The pilot can exercise every range of motion for the aircraft and obtain a deeper and more thorough understanding of the drone’s flight dynamic. Remember the commercial airplane pilot did not start with a Boeing 747, but with a Piper Cub or a Tripacer
Various mini quadcopters are available for purchase online, most are RTF, or ready-to-fly right out of the box. As soon as it arrives, you can open up that bad boy, get those batteries charging, and begin flying your mini quadcopter. While your mini drone won’t be able to handle the payload of larger drones, and it won’t come equipped with a professional camera, it is the perfect drone to buy when learning to fly. Are you looking to fly drones recreationally? Or do you intend on flying professionally and wish to sell your aerial footage commercially? Either way, start with a mini quadcopter, get used to the mechanics, and get started with the drone hobby!
When it comes to purchasing your first mini drone, there are a few things to consider. First, what is your budget and where will you fly the drone? Do you simply want a drone that costs under $50 which you can fly around the home? Or do you perhaps want something a bit more advanced, like a mini drone with a camera that can livestream the first person view? Is this a toy for your kid, (or for you), or is likely this will be a more serious adventure? In the mini drone space there are a plethora of drones to choose from. Everything from twenty dollar drones which fly right out of the box, to upper-end mini drones that have autonomous components and built in camera systems. Here’s a list of ten mini drones that are among the most impressive in the market.
For only $50, this drone packs an impressive punch, especially for the size. This is a drone that can use the tip of your finger as a takeoff pad. It is RTF directly out of the box so there won’t be any difficult assembly or learning curve involved with getting this thing into the air. It has a gyroscopic 6-axis flight control system that allows you to roll, flip, dive quickly, and hover in place with impressive flight balance. This drone can be stored directly inside the controller, so wherever the controller goes, the drone goes with it. There is no camera, but the intelligent technology provides optimal flight performance. This is a great toy, and it’s a great introduction into piloting a quadcopter. Note, however, it does not provide First Person View (FPV).
The market calls this the world’s smallest quadcopter, and yet this little beauty has a camera that shoots in 480p and can livestream the first-person-view directly to the LCD screen built in to the controller. It optimizes flight performance with a 6-axis flight control system and contains autonomous features like ‘automatic return.’ It maneuvers the way bigger drones can: it can roll, flip, dive, and hover. If you’re looking to fly at night or in the dark, not to worry. The built in light will help with visibility and allow you to fly at any time of the day. It works on a 4 channel system (2.4GHz and 5.8GHz) so the transmission is never interrupted and it has a flight time of about eight minutes. Some assembly is required, but it’s nothing major. With only a forty minute charging time, you can have this drone up and going in no time. At only $100, you’ll be able to experience what it’s like to see through the eyes of a drone. This drone is performance and durability consolidated into one tiny, affordable package. Once you start flying the Hubsan H107D FPV, you’re most likely going to want to advance to a more professional machine, not because the drone is inadequate, but because you’ll fall in love with the technology.
This is another drone clocking in at $100. It is a sleek, futuristic quadcopter and everything you’d expect from a bigger drone, all packed into the smaller size. The high definition camera shoots in 720p and it is ready-to-fly right out of the box. It has a 4 channel system and a controller that displays the flight status throughout the flight. The durable frame and propeller guards protect against crash damages (which are common for beginners). The compact, powerful motors allow this machine to soar through the sky. Its flight time is anywhere between 7-9 minutes and it takes around an hour and a half to fully charge. This drone has a convenient data port for exporting pictures and video as AVI or JPEGs directly to email and social media platforms. Its intelligent design integrates headless mode, meaning it can fly despite orientation. You turn that mode on and despite where the ‘front’ of the drone faces, the orientation of your controller directs where the drone will fly. If you want to become a better pilot, toggle the headless mode off and fly with more precision. This drone was designed for performance, convenience, and affordability.
At under $100, the Syma X6c manages to contain a built-in HD camera. The 6-axis gyroscopic stabilization system ensures smooth flight and integrates the professional technology of upper-end drones. It claims to be wind resistant and does a fair job at that (but obviously it is a mini drone and should not be flown outdoors in bad weather conditions). It can be quickly assembled. As soon as the battery is charged, it’s time to introduce your X5c to the skies. Its bright, flashing lights are great for night flying and it performs aerial maneuvers like rolls and flips. By all means, this is a compact, high-performing drone that serves as a great toy/introduction into the drone experience. Note: the controller does not come with AA batteries. We’d hate for you to get ready to start flying only to find that you have no batteries around the house.
This is the least expensive drone on this list, coming in at just under $30. The Protocol Neo is meant for one thing: fun. Speaking honestly, due to its size and capabilities it’s won’t give you the full flight experience of the drone dynamic, but it’ll definitely entertain you indoors and show you what it’s like to have a quadcopter in the air. It’s a bit difficult to control and will challenge you as a beginner to piloting. It comes with a 2.4GHz remote that does allow you to perform flips, rolls, and dives. It’s nimble, has a battery life of about five minutes, and has blade protectors that will help protect the rotors in case of a crash. By all means, this is certainly a toy drone, and if what you’re looking for is fun, the Protocol Neo will ensure it.
This drone is not only prestigious, it’s also simple. That is, it’s intelligent enough to be simple to fly. With a built in HD camera that shoots in 720p and livestreams the FPV, you can see through the eyes of the drone via your smart phone or tablet. If you really want the drone experience, it’s compatible with a VR Headset (purchased separately). This dynamic machine also contains an altitude hold function, which means it’ll stay in place autonomously without you having to control it. It’s tailored toward beginners, allowing for an easy learning-process for first-time pilots. The position lock feature also complements aerial photography, making it easier to capture in focus videos and still photos. It has a one touch takeoff and landing feature, which means it’ll take off and stabilize at a preset altitude. The waypoint feature (custom route mode), allows you to trace your desired flight path with the relevant application and the drone will then follow the path autonomously. This little machine is sleek and the matte-black aesthetic mixed with the intelligent technology makes this drone a bargain for $150. This is the type of mini drone beginners purchase when they want to indulge in the full flight-experience of drones. Pair it with a VR headset and you might discover a new love. This is performance, sustainability, and class all in one mini package.
This intelligent drone is another under $100 machine that contains an HD camera and can accomplish complex aerial maneuvers. It is light enough not to need to be registered with the FAA and it’s on Amazon Prime, so you can have it your hands in just two days. With this drone, you’ll be able to fly up to fifteen minutes, about double the time of the other drones listed here. It contains built-in LED lights that assist with night flying and also give it style while in air. The gyroscopic 6-axis flight system allows for stable flight and conveniently balances flight maneuvers for beginners. This little titan is ready-to-fly right out of the box and comes with everything you need to fly with the clear transmission of its four channel remote at short ranges. This quadcopter does not offer the FPV, but it can be an introduction into aerial photography since the micro SD card is easily removable and can download straight into a computer. This is a fantastic beginner drone and compares well in the mini drone space.
This drone comes in at just under $120, and contains the type of engineering seen in excellent mini drones. First, the camera shoots in HD and offers the FPV. The controller does not come with an LCD screen, but with a ‘phone holder’ that can support your smart phone, which the FPV can stream to. It has a 6-axis gyroscopic intelligent flight system that allows for easy flight. What makes this drone different and puts it ahead of its competition, is its throttle controller. The beginner can slow the drone down, then speed it up when he’s more comfortable. The circuit board has a built in cooling system which takes ten minute breaks between flights, ensuring the parts never overheat and bust. It’s the perfect beginner drone that offers FPV and the flight dynamic of larger, more professional drones.
This is a drone for $30 that contains a 2MB camera, which can both take and store pictures, has a beginner and an advanced mode for when the beginner is ready for more speed and aerial maneuvers. It’s equipped with 4LED lights that assist with night flying and give it real style. While this thing should be strictly a toy, the camera on board adds a more professional element and can serve as an introduction to aerial photography (it’s only 2MB but you get the gist). It can do the sort of aerial maneuvers you want and can fly for about eight minutes. It’s affordable, compact, and can capture aerial photography. It is by all means a toy, but it has a serious leg up on many drones with the same design but no camera.
Parrot’s MiniDrone Rolling Spider
This little drone on wheels contains blue tooth technology that allows you to connect your smart phone to it. It’s easy to use and can roll. If you want to keep the wheels on it, it will roll on the floor or the ceiling, and quite honestly, it just looks awesome. It flies up to 11mph and contains a very basic camera. It flies for eight minutes with the wheels and six minutes without them. You have a control range of up to 22 meters and flight is made easy via the application and the intelligent gyroscopic flight system. Parrot manufactures well engineered drones, and Rolling Spider lives up to their standard of quality.
It’s recommended that when first learning to pilot, beginners purchase a mini drone that can offer FPV. The above mentioned drones are great, affordable introductions into the drone world. They come with our recommendation.