We often associate the word cheap with sticky or substandard. I would have agreed to this a generation ago. But today you get a lot more for much less money than ever before. This is due to the wishes of the consumer and technological progress. Drones are no different. This guide looks at the most affordable and capable of the cheap drones available. The products here are not cheap, like in the second class. A better word to describe them would be affordable or Best Budget Drones. However, this is a comprehensive statement, and the next part deals with what it all means.
To say a drone is cheap, we have to compare it with something else. We could say that all drones are inexpensive compared to the early models. They are not only cheaper but also better. They can stay in the air longer, fly on, build better, and play more functions. The best budget drones in this guide are cheap compared to their more expensive counterparts and still offer comparable specifications.
Best Budget Drones List
We have taken into account the thoughts and opinions of other industry experts and real user feedback. The result is a good list of the most popular drones for the best prices. In other words, products with a high value that do not destroy the bank. I have also divided them into three price categories for your convenience. They start with the costliest drones at the top, followed by the cheaper ones.
My first choice from the best budget drones is the popular DJI Spark. The assessment here is presented for the affordable Fly More Combo that offers a convenient package as an impressive bundle. If you are looking for a small quality quadcopter, luggable, and easy to fly, then look no further. Thanks to the movement mode of the Spark, you do not even need a smartphone or remote control (RC) to fly with it. You can do that if you want, and controllers increase the potential, but that is not necessary. The Fly More Combo comes with a DJI RC, so it’s when you have to fly and expand options.
This is the fun part. Gesture control is both practical and a new function. You can create fantastic aerial photos and short distance videos by only making hand gestures. How cool is that? You can also launch it from the palm of your hand, which is another excellent feature. The FaceAware technology recognizes your cup and floats just before your eyes after the vessel is switched on. DJI Spark has several intuitive controls and intelligent flight modes. Using simple tap controls on a mobile device, you can create beautiful cinematic aerial photographs that are guaranteed to impress.
- Easily foldable design, lightweight easy to travel with
- The perfect selfie drone
- Smart flight modes, simple for beginners
- Hand gesture controls, mobile or DJI transmitter
- Camera gimbal-stabilized
- Obstacle avoidance (only forward-facing)
- Return To Home feature
- Dual-band GPS
- Not working well with some Android mobile devices
- No 4K option
- Short flight time for a drone in this price category
Hubsan H501S X4
My next choice in this cheap drone guide is the Hubsan H501S X4. This is an attractive HD camera quadcopter that has a lot to offer for a drone around in this price category, thus making it one of the best budget drones. The Hubsan H501S X4 is a versatile selfie drone with many impressive features. You get real-time video transfer with this complete FPV package. You do not even need a mobile device. The drone sends live video feed directly to the built-in monitor on the 4-channel remote control (RC). The 1080P HD camera captures beautiful videos and photos stored on a Micro SD card.
The brushless motors are more durable and sturdy than the brushed motors found on much cheaper drones. Keeping control over the quad is easy thanks to the controller’s built-in monitor, also shown on the screen or OSD. On display, you can determine the position, speed, altitude, battery level, and some other things of the quads. A lot is going on with this vessel, and flying can be as straightforward or as complex as you want. There is an impressive maximum flight time of 20 minutes, but less impressive 2.5 hours — loading time. You may want to invest in at least one extra battery. The distance range is a good average at 984 ft or 30m. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- Smart & affordable camera drone
- Well-built, durable quadcopter
- Easy-to-fly at any level
- Follow Me feature
- Headless mode
- Accurate return to home feature
- FPV capability
- Brushless motors
- Decent flight time
- Long charging time
- Quite noisy
- Some reports of spotty FPV transmission
If you want an aerobatic, fast, and fun quadcopter, the Traxxas Aton might be for you. There is no camera at the Aton but with a cardan to mount an action camera such as GoPro. Many people like to be able to choose their camera. It gives you more flexibility when filming and quality options. And if you want to fly for fun, you can remove the camera to make the payload lighter. The Traxxas Aton has an impressive top speed of 50 mph in Sport mode, although speed is not a priority for most drone pilots. Those who need it tend to compete in races or fly long distances. But this is more than just a fast craft with athletic flying ability.
There are different modes with which you can concentrate on other things, such as filming. There is also an Expert mode that gives the driver complete control. This is a decent UAV for every skill level. Experienced pilots can take to the air and can fully utilize their flight potential. Similarly, novice pilots can also enjoy this drone thanks to the beginner-friendly functions. There is the Return to Home operation, dual-mode GPS, and active air brakes.
The ultra-bright LEDs are also useful for night flights and look great. The flight time is an impressive 25 minutes on a single charge. The charging time of 90 minutes is average, so you may want to invest in at least one spare battery. The flight range is not the most impressive at only 500 feet, but then this is a drone that you want to keep in the line of sight. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- Great quad for any level
- Sleek design and customizable
- Easy for beginners to fly
- Fast 50mph in Sport Mode
- Air brakes
- Long flight time (battery life)
- Various safety features
- LED lighting
- Looks toy-like
- No camera included
- No FPV capability
The F18 is a good-looking FPV GPS WiFi video camera quadcopter. It even comes with its smart carrying case that is specially made to house the drone and its accessories. The craft is so cute that it is almost a flying pet once you are used to all the impressive features and functions. And you can see what the built-in camera of the drone sees on a smartphone screen with the HD FPV camera. The mobile flight app is easy to understand and available for both Android and iOS devices. You can control the air and have complete control over both flying and filming within minutes.
The brushless motors ensure minimal friction on the rotating motors and help to reduce overheating. Yet it is always a good practice to let engines cool down between flights for a drone. New pilots can benefit from the four gas control modes. These are useful as you get used to the profession and work on developing your skills. The bright LED lights help with orientation and give confidence when flying at night. There is no chance to lose this puppy, thanks to advanced GPS mode. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- Lightweight & robust
- Easy to fly
- Intuitive CONTIXO F18 App
- Decent flight time
- FPV Capability
- Full high definition 1080p camera
- Advanced GPS assisted hovering
- Long charging time
- Footage can become slightly pixelated when flying too fast
Force 1 U49W
This is another Amazon’s Choice camera with the flying drone from Force1. Many of the U49W BLUE Heron specifications are in line with the U49C RED Heron. The reason for the price difference is because of the possibility of First Person View (FPV) of the Blue Heron. With FPV, you can enjoy the free Android or iOS app on a smartphone screen. The Blue Heron controller also has a clamp for most popular smartphones. The quality of the HD camera is acceptable on the high side. This consumer drone is a fantastic little flying camera quad for every experience level. It has flight stabilizing technology, but it is a far cry from a mechanical gimbal bracket.
Yet it works pretty well in stabilizing the vessel that is important for shake-free footage. Drone stabilization is not something that all cheaper camera quads offer. Flying with this quad is easy and enjoyable thanks to a Headless mode for a hassle-free orientation. The customized route mode, altitude limitation function, and lift and land with one key also check the ‘easy to fly’ boxes. The flight time is 15 minutes or 30 minutes if you use the bonus battery. It is always wise to let this drone cool for 20 minutes after a battery change. The charging time of the battery is a disappointing 120 minutes or 2+ hours. In general, however, there is little to complain about. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- Headless mode
- Bonus battery doubles flight time
- WiFi First Person View (FPV)
- Custom route mode
- Altitude hold
- 1-key takeoff/landing
- Average camera quality
- Average range
- Long charging time
Holy Stone F181W
Holy Stone sells many affordable consumer drones. The company has an excellent reputation for delivering quadcopters packed with features that are fun and easy to fly. Their F181W WiFi FPV Drone is no exception. The Holy Stone F181W drone has a 720P HD WiFi camera with a 120 ° wide-angle lens. The video and photos are more than acceptable for a cheap drone, but they will not win any prizes for quality.
The built-in WiFi function is cool and offers pilots real-time transmission with First Person View (FPV). In other words, you can see exactly what the flying camera sees on your smartphone screen. Flying the Holy Stone F181W is easy to understand and fun. Headless mode means that the quad will fly forwards or backward while you use the controller. It does not matter in which direction the nose points. Just this one thing makes flying a lot easier, but it is not something that all drones already have.
The quads 6-axis gyro system helps to keep the vessel stable during the flight, so it has a real advantage for filming. Every drone pilot likes to perform a few nice moves, and the F181W has covered you. One-key 3D flips and rolls make complicated movements easy to do and yet impressive to look at. This capable small quad is even delivered with a one-key Return-To-Home function, despite the low price tag. The flight time is only 9 minutes, but you will get a bonus battery. The charging time is, on average, 1.5 hours. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- A seller, high ratings
- Easy and safe beginner craft
- Protection frames
- Bonus battery
- Multiple speed control
- Short flight time
- Smartphone mount won’t accommodate larger phones and phablets
- Low warning light challenging to see in daylight
The F100 Ghost is an Amazon’s Choice product (at the time of writing) and takes drones on the entry-level to the next level. This model even comes with its own FORCE1 HD action camera. The F100 Ghost is a beautiful quadcopter that you can customize with different shells. The 1080P HD drone camera is a step higher than the previous picks. As a removable action camera, it can fly without the load to increase flight time. Sometimes it’s just fun to fly.
And if you want an even better camera, you can use a custom holder to keep a GoPro HERO Session. This is an excellent entry quad with two-speed modes for different experience levels. The Ghost has powerful and quiet brushless motors. These ensure smoother flying with fewer vibrations and less sound distortion. Performing stunts is also fun and easy. And the remote control fits nicely in the hands, but the markup and markings are not as proper or as clear as they could be. The 15-minute flight is on the low side of the average.
The good news is that the Ghost comes with a bonus battery that effectively doubles its flight time to half an hour. Always remember to let a few minutes cool down between new launches. The other good news is the fast charging time of 60 minutes. The range of 500 meters (1640 ft.) It is also impressive. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- Bonus battery
- Detachable action camera
- GoPro mount for HERO4/5
- Decent range
- Extra shells (black and white)
- No return home function (RTF)
- Not water resistant
- RC buttons not marked
Despite its low price, the Explorer is equipped with a 2 MP high-quality camera. If you’ve never flown a drone from a camera, but you want to try it, add the X5C-1 to your shortlist. It is a simple quad to work at the beginner’s level. It even comes with several brightly flashing LEDs, so you can see it against a cloudy sky or fly in the dark. It is also easy to assemble and maintain thanks to its modular design. Best of all is that this cheap little drone comes with a lot of extras. The drone is small, light, and safe to fly indoors and out. It is an excellent choice for younger first-time pilots, but everyone will enjoy it.
The vessel is reasonably wind resistant and stable despite the specifications. The integrated 6-axis gyro stabilization helps with this. The maximum flight time is only 7-8 minutes. That does not sound much, but it is pretty average for a quad for this price. There is also a bonus battery to increase the fun. The charging time of 90 minutes is also average. The flight range is about 154 ft. Again, this is normal for a small flying camera quad. The 2.4 GHz remote control or RC uses something called spectrum technology. This latest technology improves flight range, power consumption, and anti-interference. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- Bonus batteries
- Great beginner drone
- Two flight speed modes
- Fun to fly
- Decent range
- Inbuilt camera
- Short flight time
- Instructions could be clearer
- No headless mode
The next is the Force1 X5UW quadcopter. It is again a cheap RTF camera that deserves a place here. This little drone may not look that much at first sight, but it will take a lot of money for your money. Many of the functions on the X5UW Camera Quad are similar to those on much more expensive crafts. The quality is average compared to more costly quadcopters, but then it is a fraction of the price. Flying the Thunderbolt in First Person View (FPV) is a breeze. The start and landing with one key is a high selling point, but it is in the air where this baby stands alone.
To control the plane, tilt your Android or iOS smartphone entirely in your hand. You can perform impressive stunts such as 360 ° flips with the touch of a button. The flights are smooth and stable thanks to the Altitude Hold and the 6-axle gyro. Headless mode means that pilots do not have to worry about how the vessel has to fly it. This allows you to concentrate more on flying and filming without having to worry about orientation. The 720p HD camera is more than enough for optics in this class. The videos and photos are clear enough to enjoy and share with others. The maximum flight time is only 8 minutes, but this quad comes with three batteries.
- Popular beginner drone, excellent user feedback, and ratings
- Easy to fly, stable in normal conditions
- Two extra batteries (3 total)
- First Person View (FPV) capable
- Fly using smartphone movements
- Short flight time but does have two bonus batteries
- Range and charging time not specified on public specs
- Not good in the wind
The U49C Red Heron is a dignified little craft and an Amazon’s Choice product at the time of writing. There are not many flying camera drones that offer so much for so little money. The Force1 U49C looks good, flies well outdoors (on windless days), and is easy to operate. The 720P HD camera will not win quality prizes, but the images are in perfect order and offer an excellent intro for aerial shots. The flight time is 15 minutes on a single charge, that is good. The bonus battery increases your flying pleasure to about 30 minutes, which is even better.
And you can fly this puppy to about 650 ft from the controller on a clear day. The beginner experience cannot be more straightforward, thanks to the simple controller. User-friendly features include starting with one key and landing, altitude, and headless mode. The headless mode removes the problem of drone orientation, which often confuses young pilots. There are even three-speed modes to help novice users find their way in while building flight skills and self-confidence. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones to buy. Overall, this is one of the best budget drones.
- Easy to fly at any level
- Beginner-friendly flight modes
- HD camera
- Stable in calm skies
- Durable (can take a few knocks)
- Bonus battery and extra motors
- Slow flyer even at speed 3
- Lacks thrust
- Not stable in windy weather
How To Pick Best Budget Drones
Price is also subjective and depends on the pilot, his needs, and expectations. For example, a preteenager will not want the same kind of UAV as a teenager or an older adult.
There are also different types and categories of best budget drones, including:
- Entry-level micro, mini and nano drones (ideal for younger children)
- Cheap toy or toy-like drones
- Fly-only drones (no camera) that can occur in any category
- Camera drones
- Drones with FPV capabilities
- Racing with drones
If you know what kind of drone you want, it’s essential to think about its features and functions. Once you have a good idea of your budget, wishes, and expectations, it’s time to shop.
Online Reviews and Ratings
There will always be a few bad drone reviews in online stores such as Amazon, but they are not still justified. Some complaints are reasonable, but many others are not. For example, someone may have bought something blindly or in ignorance. They loved the look of a product, it was cheap, it enjoyed a high star rating, and so they took it. Then they complain in a review that the battery lasts only six minutes. Why do not others complain about the short flight time? It is because they knew about the battery life and other important details before they bought the drone. This is just an example of many. It is also the reason why product reviews such as these are so valuable to online consumers.
Things To Consider Before Buying Best Budget Drones
Read the rest of this introduction if you do not yet know what your wishes and expectations are. And if you still have doubts, read a few of the easy-to-follow reviews below. This simple approach allows you to put together your checklist and thus pick the best budget drones for you.
Here are a few things you might want to add to your checklist (in random order):
- What type of drone do you want and why (see bullet-list above)?
- Do you need an entry-level UAV with intuitive flight modes and failsafe functions?
- What is your maximum budget?
- How long can the drone fly on a single charge?
- How far can it fly from the controller (if an outdoor area is essential to you)?
- If it is a camera source, how is the quality of video and photos?
- What can we/cannot do with the camera?
- Does the camera have image stabilization?
- How affordable are extra batteries and spare parts?
- Everything else that you can think of
Best Budget Drones Comparison Table
Best Budget Drones Drone Name Camera Flight Time DJI Spark 1080p HD 15 minutes Hubsan H501S X4 1080p HD 20 minutes Traxxas Aton Mount only 25 minutes Contixo F18 1080p HD 16 minutes Force 1 U49W 720p HD 15 minutes Holy Stone F181W 720p HD 9 minutes F100 Ghost 1080p HD 15 minutes SYMA X5C-1 2MP 7 minutes Force1 X5UW 720p HD 8 minutes Force1 U49C 720p HD 15 minutes