Are you looking for the best beginner drones with camera features for you? Our expert team has shared some cool beginner drones after testing and researching the top drones.
What is a drone?
When you hear the word “drone”, you probably picture a quadcopter with four spinning blades, maybe with a camera. That falls under the definition, but in reality, just about any unmanned aircraft is legally considered a drone, regardless of size.
Likewise, that means that any drone is a real-deal aircraft, and there are certain rules and precedents to follow. You’ll also need to build up skills to properly fly a drone. They tend to be sensitive pieces of kit that can be wholly compromised from a single crash.
Aspiring drone pilots may read that sentence and despair, but there are models out there that cater to beginners. Whether you’d like to get your feet wet in recording dramatic, beautiful aerial footage or you want a holiday gift that will knock your kids’ socks off, the five drones in this list won’t disappoint.
How about safety and laws?
Your location will affect what laws you have to worry about, but basic drone safety is a no-brainer around the world. Whether you’re flying a toy quad-copter the size of a peanut or a car-sized commercial drone, you’ll want to steer well clear of populated areas, unprotected people, and other potential injury hazards. You also can’t fly a drone in or near protected airspace, within a few miles of an airport, or near places like schools, churches, and government buildings. There are also altitude limits.
Keeping the drone itself safe is all about awareness. Even the best beginner drones will usually need some fixing after a minor crash, or may even cease to function entirely. As you may have guessed, these machines also don’t play well with water. As a rule of thumb, drones should stay in your sight at all times so that you can navigate them away from obstacles.
The exact figures for everything will vary with region. Regional authorities that track and deal with drones and other aircraft are going to be your first stop for safety information and local laws. In some cases, such as the United States of America and its Federal Aviation Administration, you actually have to register drones before flying them.
Where do I start?
Choosing a drone is all about features, features, and features. When you’re just starting out, you’ll need different features to prop up different parts of the flying experience as you take your shaky first steps. The best beginner drones with cameras are the ones that are built around that but don’t slack enough on the more hardcore features to really put a damper on your experience.
Some of the key features you’ll want to look for when it comes to ease of use are a durable build, simple controls, and automation of certain processes. One example of automation is the headless mode, a feature that figures out which way the drone is facing so that your inputs always direct it relative to where you are. This means that the head of the drone could be facing toward you, but pressing left on the joystick will still move the drone to your left.
Another key consideration is price. Since drones can be difficult to fly at first, there is a range of price points considered “beginner”. These run the gamut from cheap toys that you could smash into a tree or wall without worrying, up to drones nearing and exceeding $100 that begin to resemble their flagship cousins. This list of the best beginner drones with cameras will stay in the low end.
You’ll notice that the list starts with the cheapest model and goes up from there. That’s entirely by design because this list is meant for absolute beginners and can help you build up to the more expensive stuff. Even the most expensive drone you’ll see here has protections in place, and the price point doesn’t even begin to head in the direction of the $3,000 and up that premium models can demand.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll be seeing a list of featureless drones that lack some of the key reasons one would even want to fly. For under $100, and even less, you can get a drone with a camera that can feed live footage to your smartphone, stabilize itself, and more. Without further ado, here are the top five best cheap drones with cameras for beginners.
List of Best Beginner Drones With Camera
This unique drone starts out in an egg shape, and four arms fold out from the main body when it’s time to fly. The dirt-cheap machine boasts a surprising feature set for its incredibly modest price point and will serve extremely well as a learning drone.
The unique shape makes it easy to transport without fear of damaging it, but that’s far from the best feature. Thanks to sensors on board the drone and the way it communicates with the included remote, this one is capable of the aforementioned headless mode.
You can also choose different speed settings, meaning that handling the thing can be made easier for the younger crowd without having to dumb things down for those who have gained some measure of proficiency. Tricksters are given a nod with this model, even if they lack the skill to trick out manually, by way of a button on the remote that initiates a quick loop-de-loop.
As an additional safeguard, setting the remote down will throw the drone into an automatic hover mode. In this mode, it’ll chill in mid-air for as long as its battery allows, then land as gently as possible if it’s still unguided when the battery starts to run low.
The machine’s design has perks beyond portability. For starters, the arms extend longer than the propellers, giving a bit of extra protection against crashes. The top and bottom of the drone are also toughened up for a bit more impact protection on those fronts.
The 2.5-inch tall drone can fly for a measly six minutes per charge. Given the price point, that’s not terrible. The range is also passable, with the drone able to wander up to 100 feet away from its operator. Thanks to this extensive feature set for its bargain-barrel price point, the eggy little drone has managed to drum up a serviceable 3.5-star rating on Amazon. Check it out at the link below.
FQ777 Pocket Mini Drone With Camera
You can find plenty of drones with some type of onboard camera for under $20, but this is one of the few in that price range that sports a Wi-Fi-enabled camera for live video. It also has a ton of other features that make it a winner, including the ability to fold up its aerofoils and arms to go into a portable, pocketable puck shape.
Adding to the portability, this drone doesn’t have a controller. Instead, you control it through a companion app on a paired smartphone. While this may not be as precise as a controller, it’s plenty serviceable once you’re used to it. As a bonus, the muscle memory involved in learning to control a drone with a smartphone will carry over to all models that have that capability. That list, as you can imagine, is pretty long, and includes some high-end kit.
In the case of the FQ777, what you’re looking at is decidedly not high-end. Even so, it includes a number of creature comforts that make it extremely easy to use and are typically seen on more expensive drones. It’s able to take off and land with a single command, and can even be steered by tilting your phone if you’re into that sort of thing.
Headless mode is also on board, a standard for most drones that are only lacking in some truly dirt-cheap models. That basic navigational feature is about all you’ll get on that front; otherwise, you’re on your own.
The FQ777 can be flown from up to 80 meters away, though the video feed on your smartphone will cut out around the 30-meter mark. You can take advantage of that extended range for up to 10 minutes before the 3.2-ounce drone ends up needing to charge, which can take around 50 minutes.
The camera onboard has no stabilization whatsoever, so expect the video to be jumpy and judder. Additionally, the resolution of that camera is only .3 megapixels, roughly equivalent to the selfie cams of the last decade’s flip phones. Don’t expect YouTube-worthy video or a beautiful ride through your city’s nights-cape with the FQ777.
Thanks to the low expectations set by its price, the FQ777 managed to get a 3.5-star rating on Amazon as of this writing. The general consensus of the reviews is that the thing is easy to use and has more features than people would typically expect, though defective models get shipped out every now and then. To check it out, hit the link below.
LBLA FPV Drone
This one sits at a price point not too much higher than the previous entrant, and brings in a more traditional size and form factor, along with game-changing new features.
Take a look at the picture, and you’ll notice that the LBLA FPV Drone comes with a controller, and can also pair to your smartphone. While live video feed is all well and good, that’s not unheard of at this price range. The real killer here is compatibility with a VR headset.
Pair the drone up and start the companion app, grab the controller, and slot your phone into a VR headset to be thrust into the cockpit. Since there’s not much going on with the software end of things, it doesn’t matter what VR headset you’re using, or what phone for that matter. All that’s happening is that the live video feed is being split in two, offset, and spaced out.
Even so, it produces an incredible effect that flings you into an entirely new drone piloting experience. This is about as close as you’ll get to the incredible sensation of being one with your flying machine without getting into an actual jet.
That’s not to say that VR compatibility is the only cool feature. This drone also has headless mode, a key feature for beginners on non-VR flights. Additionally, there’s a one-key return feature that sends the drone in a beeline straight back to you with the press of a button. Naturally, a hover mode that engages when you let go of the controller is also present.
This one’s larger body weighs in at 4.8 ounces and has a wingspan of just over 13 inches. This is not the kind of drone you want to stuff into your backpack and hope for the best. That bigger form factor opens up more technical flight capabilities, but also reduces flight time, with up to 8 minutes in the air on a single charge.
Speaking to the camera, the one here is capable of 720p video. That’s more than twice as clear as the previous entry on the list, but still not quite enough for a great view. With little in the way of stabilization, you’ll also end up with a shaky picture.
Being on par with the competition and introducing VR flight puts the LBLA FPV Drone at a cool 4-star rating on Amazon. Give it a look at the link below.
The X101 does one key thing to justify the extra $5 over its rival; it includes a gimbal. That’s a camera stabilizer that uses bearings to keep the camera from being jarred about, or affected by vibrations from the running of the motors.
The difference between drone footage with a gimbal and without is truly night and day, which makes VR flight with the X101 a good bit better than the LBLA model, if only because of less VR sickness. The extra-smooth video comes in at 720p resolution, much like the LBLA FPV Drone.
Aside from the gimbal, the X101 gets a leg up on the LBLA FPV Drone with a fancier controller that allows you to monitor some of the basics and control more flight variables than the more game controller-like remotes that have been seen in the list until now.
This one makes itself easy to use by giving users throttle limiters, different control modes, headless mode, one-key return, and easy takeoff and landing controls. Given its more detailed controller, the extra modes and throttle control are a blessing for newbies. More experienced pilots, meanwhile, can strut their stuff and produce incredible VR-ready video. Axis stabilization for smoother flight is a nice bonus.
The X101 can be controlled from about 100 meters away, though the live video feed will give out well within that range. The battery inside this drone can net you about 15 minutes of flight time per outing. Charging the unit can take up to 2 hours.
The fairly large chassis stretches to a 50-centimeter wingspan and weighs in at a hefty 3.2 pounds. That extra weight, however, translates to decent build quality. The X101 sports a robust design, complete with propeller protectors to reduce the chance of breakage in case of a crash. Also, read 10 Best Drone Cameras in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide
This drone’s stellar feature bump and passable build quality won’t sway the Amazon crowd, who demand a bit more at this price point and within this category. Thus, the X101 boasts a 3-star rating. If you’d like to grab one of your own and see the difference a gimbal can make, hit the link below.
The Ryze Tello puts us right at the knife’s edge of the dirt-cheap territory and brings a huge number of improvements to justify doing so. Put simply, this is one of the best beginner drones you’ll find for under $100.
Highlights include a sharp 5-megapixel camera, capable of pictures and video at 720p resolution. The Tello also sets itself apart with an immersive 82-degree viewfield when used with a VR headset. You can even program custom control functions for the little drone. Finally, the Tello one-ups the competition with a single fatal feature – flight tech engineered by flagship drone maker DJI.
The DJI tech is really the star of the show here and makes everything else possible. DJI’s flight tech gives the Tello a smoother ride, better battery life, and faster flight than most of its peers. The machine’s ultra-responsive controls bring you into the experience, making this the best-feeling flight on the list, hands-down.
The programming aspect of the Tello is a nice addition that caters mainly to kids learning to code but is more than accommodating for control freaks. The default suite of tricks, of course, is already pretty incredible. This beast built its software around that ultra-smooth, ultra-precise DJI flight tech, and it shows.
Ease of use is the name of the game. You can control Tello through your smartphone or a controller, and both have multiple modes that make things less risky for less experienced pilots. Naturally, you can also cut loose and gain full control, allowing you to pull off sick tricks or get the drone up to full speed.
You can have the Tello pull off awesome tricks just by swiping at the easy-to-use companion smartphone app and direct it to use various video functions like Circle, 360, and Up & Away.
Naturally, this one also includes basics like headless mode. All of this, along with image processing for photos and videos, is handled by a mobile processor from PC chipmaker Intel.
Tello can be controlled from either your smartphone or a controller, and in either case, is loaded with flight features. The little drone can bounce on your hand, for example, or take off just by being tossed gently into the air.
The list goes on and on, and you can use MIT’s very own Scratch programming language to expand Tello’s capabilities in any way you imagine.
This lightweight drone tips the scales at 2.88 ounces, pulling the size back from the previous entry on the list. This, of course, is part of the reason that it demands a much more premium price.
It’s also part of the reason that the tiny thing manages to run for up to 13 minutes per charge, As an added perk, the small size, lightweight, and good build quality all go hand in hand to ensure that the Tello will survive crashes and other mishaps that may destroy lesser drones.
The Tello’s reasonable price point, more than decent build, and a massive repertoire of software tricks earn it a solid 4.2 stars on Amazon. Check it out at the link below.
These are the five best beginner drones out there at the bottom of the barrel. If money is no object or you’re not an absolute beginner, there may be better options out there, though many of the ones listed here are awesome choices either way.
The drones on this list were selected with price in mind, but more as an aside than a hard line. Mostly, they were chosen for ease of use, their feature sets, and how well they represented the top end of features and quality in their particular price neighborhood. Of course, everything comes down to your personal use case and what you plan on doing with your drone.
The quirky Tenergy TRD is a dirt-cheap toy that’s easy for youngsters to keep up with, while also boasting a decent feature set beyond “it flies” for the price point.
The FQ777 is one of the best drones you’ll find with a camera at its price range and has a number of quality-of-life features that make it easy to use.
The LBLA FPV drone brings in a more traditional form factor, making it better for learning, and adds VR to the mix. The X101 changes the game by adding a gimbal. Finally, the Tello brings it all together with a glut of software features.
The five drones on this list represent a wide spectrum of choices under the $100 mark and are all wonderful options for somebody who’s just getting into the world of drone flying. Go with whichever one is in your budget, and you won’t regret it.