I still remember the first time that I saw a drone flying in the sky. I was 12 years old and I was fascinated by the fact that there were people seeing the world the way birds do, without even having to board an airplane. In the early 2000s, I never imagined that I would be able to afford a drone. Luckily for us, drones are like many technology-based items: they continue to advance in abilities and features while dropping in price. Today, everyday people are able to purchase a drone for an affordable price and get a lot of bang for their buck. So, how much do drones cost?
You can buy a very small toy drone for about $30. As you go up into more professional drones, expect to spend upwards of $1,700+. This price is quite reasonable when you consider everything that today’s higher quality drones can do.
This post dives into three categories of drones: toy drones, camera drones, and FPV drones. We will provide a couple of examples for each category along with descriptions of each to highlight their strengths.
What is the Cheapest Drone?
If you are looking for a toy drone to fly around your house or backyard, you can kick-off your drone piloting career for less than $15. The best budget drone we recommend is the EACHINE E010 Mini UFO at just around the $20 mark. This is the cheapest drone we found to purchase (that is able to actually remain airborne) and it has the best reviews of all drones in the $20 price range.
Toy drones are built for fun and make great gifts for both kids and adults. Anyone who wants to tinker with drones while they do further research and decide on which the big-kid drone they really want should begin with an accessible toy drone.
In fact, we recommend purchasing one of the drones in the toy section before investing in a Phantom 3 or 4. Be aware that these drones are very simple, yet offer bigger challenges in flight due to their lack of sensors and GPS to keep them in the desired spot.
Parrot Mambo Fly
The Parrot Mambo Fly drone may look like a drone you’d give to the kids, but don't let the inexpensive price tag fool you. While the price point may seem high for a quadcopter that is not equipped with a camera, it is cool to fly- directly from your smartphone!
Along the top, you will notice connectors, which allows you to mount a grabbing arm or ball shooter. If you are buying this for your kids to tinker with, it even has a Lego mount, so they can turn this drone into any contraption that they can think up. The only limitation will be the number of Legos that it can carry.
The Mambo is much easier to fly than other toy drones due to its onboard processor, bottom camera, and ultrasonic sensor. It can hold its position in the air without correction and you can see the bottom facing camera footage right on your phone. And to top everything off, you can program the drone, which can be a great learning experience for you and your kids.
- 8 minutes of flight time
- 0.1 km control range
- Learn to code
- Compatible with iOS and Android devices
Learn more about the Parrot Mambo Fly here.
The Ryze Tello (equipped with DJI tech) is a drone appropriate for children, but don’t be surprised by adults whisking it out of a child's hand too. This drone is similar to the Parrot Mambo, but better. Equipped with two cameras, a longer sky time, and a high-quality build, takeoff and hovering is easy. With the Intel processor, you also have access to a camera that faces forward which enables you to stream live video on your smartphone.
If you and the kids want to learn how to program, then the Tello is the perfect drone to learn, too. You can program utilizing blocks, Apple Swift, or Python. This allows you to start from scratch with no coding expertise and use libraries of existing code to do just about anything your imagination dreams up. This is amazing for a toy drone that is just under $100!
- 13 minutes flight time
- 0.1 km control range
- Digital gimbal
- Shoot quick videos
- 1280 x 720 video resolution
Learn more about the DJI Tello here.
Read the hands-on review that Trevor from Let Us Drone wrote on the Tello here.
Hubsan X4 (H501S)
If you’re seeking a toy drone that tip-toes over the line into a fully functioning camera quadcopter, then the Hubsan X4 should be on your consideration list. This drone has a ton more features than comparable toy drones.
Where do we start? With a built-in GPS, 6-axis flight control system, and altimeter to keep your copter stable, this drone is equipped with features like follow-me, return home, and hold position. It is simple to fly, even if you live in places with walloping wind.
Video footage from the 1080P HD camera can be transmitted wirelessly from up to 300 meters away and there is an SD card option to record directly on the camera. As you can imagine, you get what you pay for regarding the camera and video footage, which makes it an amazing starter drone for complete beginners who want a variety of features without breaking the bank.
Just keep in mind that the Hubsan X4 is not equipped with all of the features that a more expensive video quadcopter has, such as low video compression, control over camera settings, or stabilized video.
- 18 minutes flight time
- 1 km control range
- 2000 x 1500 camera resolution
- 1920 x 1080 video resolution
- Can fly FPV
- Can use Hubsan Goggles
- 5.8G wireless video
You can learn more about the Hubsan X4 drone here.
Camera drones are quadcopters that are equipped with stabilized cameras and are ready-to-fly. They are the most popular option for photographers and videographers who desire to level up their videos and images.
Camera drones have been used in a variety of ways in countless industries, from agriculture, search and rescue, video production, and more. The majority of buyers use their drones to fulfill many intentions. Some popular reasons to own a drone are to explore the world at new heights, seeing what it is like to fly, and capturing memories with a new perspective.
Below is a list of popular camera drones, starting with our top recommendation. Pricing may change with time, so be sure to click on the included links to see what current pricing is available.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
This DJI drone is loved by pros around the world who are seeking to up the quality of their cinematic footage. The Mavic 2 Pro is perfect for travelers who desire to shoot in a range of harsh lighting conditions.
- 31 minutes flight time
- 8 km control range
- 3-axis gimbal
- LED fill light
- Obstacle avoidance
- 2688 x 1512 slow-motion resolution
- 3840 x 2160 video resolution
- 5472 x 3648 camera resolution
Check out the DJI Mavic 2 Pro details here.
DJI Mavic Air
All of DJI’s Mavic drones are amazingly designed. The Mavic Air is similar to the Mavic Pro, but smaller, smarter, and more budget-friendly. This drone may appear like a mini sports car that is able to take to the skies, but it’s functionality is what makes it a popular purchase among many first-time serious drone pilots.
There are small drones, and then there's the Mavic Air, which might go as far to be called pocket-size. DJI seriously went all out with this powerful mini drone. Now, even those on a budget are able to create their unique and personalized cinematic videos and images.
- 21 minutes flight time
- 4K video capability
- ND filter support
- 4 km control range
- 3-axis gimbal
- 60FPS 2.7k slow-motion resolution
- 3840 x 2160 video resolution
- 4056 x 3040 camera resolution
Check out the DJI Mavic Air details here.
Autel Robotics EVO
Autel Robotics is giving DJI some steep competition with their EVO drone. This drone can compete with other drones in the DJI Mavic series on many comparisons. Autel Robotics style their drones quite different from others. This drone can fold up into a small package and is equipped with a 3-axis gimbal, like the Mavic.
If you’re a fan of the Mavic 2 Pro or Zoom, you know that their 4K video capability is what sets them apart. However, EVO goes further by shooting 4K at 60FPS, which is an amazing feature for pilots looking to capture action and sports footage. Another great feature is the EVO controller that has a built in OLED screen, which allows pilots to see live video feed without needing their smartphone.
While the EVO doesn’t have all the cool features that the Mavic 2 or Mavic Air do, it has features that are very useful for the average drone pilot. If you need a drone that can fold up into a small package and create 4K footage, the EVO is one to consider.
- 30 minutes flight time
- 7 km control range
- 4K 60FPS video
- 3-axis gimbal
- 4000 x 3000 camera resolution
Check out the Autel Robotics EVO details here.
FPV Racing Drones
Fast paced drone racing and freestyle flying doesn’t just happen in the movies. In fact, there are thousands of drone enthusiasts out there who partake in the intense sport of drone flying. Racing a drone is a lot like racing a car: it takes a lot of time to learn how to fly competitively, and with experience, drone flying is unlike anything else imaginable.
Drone racing is a real sport with prize money up for grabs. As technology advances, this sport continues to grow in popularity. If you are intrigued by this unique, fast paced sport, then you should start now by learning about our FPV racing drone recommendations.
ImmersionRC Vortex 180 Mini
The Vortex 180 Mini is a well-built ready-to-fly racing drone by ImmersionRC that is equipped with all the necessary features for both beginners and pros alike. This mini drone is built clean to ensure nothing slows it down. It includes a camera wrapped in a protective, tough plastic case.
The carbon fiber design of this drone is called Synergy and is made up of duel F3 processors with fast 8KHz update rates. It also has Batafight firmware installed, which allows the drone to fly locked in with an easy-to-use flight controller.
While screen displays are standard with the majority of ready-to-fly racing quadcopters, this drone is more simplified. The video transmitter and OSD have been intelligently integrated into the flight controller to reduce weight.
- 2 km control range
- Durable design
- Advanced flight characteristics
You can learn more about the ImmersionRC Vortex 180 Mini here.
Video footage from a typical racing drone looks worse than the broadcast of your parents 1980’s television. Luckily, Connex has built a solution to the problem that most professional racing pilots face. Meet the Connex Falcore HD racing drone.
This drone set is one of the only ready-to-fly racing drones on the market that has everything you need to begin flying. You can thank Connex for this, since they designed and built their own battery and controller to provide pilots with a streamlined experience when flying. The only thing users are expected to purchase are FPV goggles and/or a monitor equipped with an HDMI input. You even have the capability of using DJI Goggles if you own a pair!
- 0.5 km control range
- Streams 720p 60FPS video to controller
- Ultrasonic sensors
- Ability to fly using one control stick
- Stop and land button for landing assistance
- Quick release arms for easy transportation
- Great for beginners and intermediate pilots
You can learn more about the Connex Falcore drone here.
Lumenier is a renowned brand in the drone racing world and they make some of the best FPV drone components on the market. The QAV-R drone is one of those high-quality results of great engineering. Within the 5-inch professional grade freestyle drone frame lies the best of electronic technology.
Flying this quadcopter is seamless thanks to it’s solid frame that decreases vibration and allows for better flight characteristics. Since the overall design is not long nor fat, it is easy to fly with props such as a GoPro camera.
There are multiple configurations of the QAV-R drone you can purchase. The option we recommend allows you to start flying pronto, equipped with batteries, the controller, FPV goggles, and battery charger.
You can learn more about the Lumenier QAV-R drone here.
With today’s advanced technology, anyone can get their hands on a good drone without going broke. As you have read, there are many factors that go into researching the drone that is right for you before you make a purchase. There are many budget drones out there that would make great gifts for your aviation-intrigued kids or become just the investment you need to up level your video and/or photography business.
Are you a drone enthusiast seeking the best up-to-date drone information? We encourage you to browse around the Let Us Drone blog to learn more!