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Best Overall: Ryze Tello at Amazon
"Offers an amazing balance of features, performance, and price for a beginner drone pilot."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Parrot Bebop 2 (FPV pack) at Amazon
"You can take comfort continuing to fly it even after you’ve become a more experienced pilot."
Best Budget: GoolRC T32 at Amazon
"You’ll be able to really go wild while learning to fly this drone."
Runner-Up, Best Budget: Syma X5C at Amazon
"A good and affordable learning drone."
Best Camera Drone: DJI Spark at Amazon
"Strikes a good balance of camera features and accessibility for beginners."
Runner-Up, Best Camera Drone: ZeroTech Dobby at Amazon
"As a great selfie companion, it’s also a highly portable drone."
Best for FPV: Parrot Mambo FPV at Amazon
"Has a number of features helpful for beginner pilots."
Runner-Up, Best for FPV: Drocon U31W at Amazon
"You can get this drone, extra batteries, and still stay under $100."
Courtesy of Amazon
DJI is one of the biggest names in drones, and while Ryze’s Tello may not be a DJI drone, it’s built with some of DJI’s flight tech inside. It comes at a price that’s a fraction of the cost of DJI’s own drones, but the technology inside is smart enough to make flying the Tello drone exceptionally easy.
The Tello drone can be piloted with a remote control or smartphone, and it includes a lot of handy features for first-time pilots. It can automatically take off and land with a single tap, and it can even automatically land if it loses connection with you. A vision position system helps it maintain its altitude, and a low battery indicator will help you make sure it doesn’t drop out of the sky.
An HD camera on the front of the drone allows you to take photos and record videos, with automatic flight paths making this extra easy. You can fly the drone in first-person or even with a smartphone VR headset. The Tello is powered by a battery offering a decent 13 minutes of flying time which can be helpful when you’re just learning to fly. The Tello offers an amazing balance of features, performance, and price for a beginner drone pilot.
If you’re less afraid of an accident and want to step up to a better drone, the Parrot Bebop 2 is a relatively affordable drone with enough quality that you can take comfort continuing to fly it even after you’ve become a more experienced pilot.
The Parrot Bebop 2 can be flown with a smartphone, but we recommend the FPV pack, which comes with a controller and a mount for a smartphone or tablet so you can see what the drone sees in real time, as well as Parrot’s CockpitGlasses for an immersive first-person perspective.
The Bebop 2 offers a competent 1080p camera for recording videos and shooting 14MP photos, and that resolution also means clearer video for you to fly by. Built-in GPS can help the Bebop 2 keep track of where it is and where it launched from, and built-in smarts can allow the drone to automatically follow you while recording video. With flight times up to 25 minutes on the battery, you’ll also be able to spend plenty of time practicing while you learn to fly on the Bebop 2.
For such an affordable drone, the GoolRC T32 really has a lot of features. And, thanks to its low price, you won’t have to worry so much about damaging it. You’ll be able to really go wild while learning to fly this drone, and with its support for first-person flying, you’ll probably have a fun time doing it.
The T32 has foldable propeller arms, and each propeller has a bumper to protect it from hitting objects. The front of the drone also has a 720p camera so it can wirelessly transmit its view to your phone, letting you fly in first-person. If you don’t want to fly in first-person, you can also fly easily with the headless mode, which makes the drone go in whichever direction you’re pressing on the control stick, rather than directing it based on the direction the drone is facing.
The T32 can automatically hold its altitude, which is handy for beginning pilots, and it has one-key takeoff and landing. The flight time offered by the T32’s battery is just 6 to 8 minutes, but you can get extras. This drone also comes with a controller included, so you won’t have to deal with clumsier touchscreen controls on your phone.
The Syma X5C is another affordable drone with plenty to like. The design leaves a little to be desired, especially since the shape doesn’t help much for figuring out which direction is forward, made slightly worse by the lack of headless mode. The colored lights can help though, and included propeller guards will help protect the blade from hitting objects.
Still, the Syma X5C is a good and affordable learning drone. It can automatically do flips, but otherwise doesn’t have much automation, so you’ll really be learning how to manually pilot this drone, and you’ll be forced to think about the orientation of the drone while you control it. Fortunately, it’s stable so you can learn without worrying about it wildly drifting around.
The X5C comes with a full controller so you won’t have to use smartphone touchscreen controls. This model also includes a 720p camera for recording footage from your flight, though it doesn’t support a first-person view on a remote display. The included battery offers seven minutes of flying time, but extras are available at affordable prices, letting you increase your flying session length however long you want.
Getting a really good camera on a drone doesn’t come cheap, but the DJI Spark offers an option that’s on the affordable side while still packing higher-end features. You’ll still want to make sure you take it easy while you’re learning to fly, but once you get comfortable, the Spark can be a great sidekick for shooting video.
Front and center on the Spark you'll find its 12MP camera capable of shooting 1080p video at 30fps. Now, 1080p video is good, but it can quickly be ruined by a shaky camera. For that very reason, the Spark has a two-axis stabilized gimbal that can make for much better footage and offer better camera control while you’re flying.
Beyond the camera, the Spark is also a great flier. It has plenty of smarts built in, like GPS, vision-based tracking systems, object detection, and gesture controls. It can also reach max speeds up to 31mph and has a battery life up to 16 minutes. This one definitely strikes a good balance of camera features and accessibility for beginners.
If you want a camera-focused drone that’s still on the more affordable end, then Zerotech’s Dobby drone is a great place to start. On top of its positioning as a great seflie companion, it’s also a highly portable drone. It only weighs 199 grams and with a collapsible design that allows you to fold up its propellers, you can tuck into a backpack and carry it with ease.
The Dobby features a 13MP camera that can record 1080p video with three-axis electronic image stabilization (EIS). EIS isn’t quite as good as optical stabilization that a physical gimbal would offer, but it’s substantially better to have than no stabilization at all. While the Dobby can be flown using a few different control modes on the smartphone app, some of its features make it usable without even needing to learn how to fly.
The Dobby features automatic takeoff and landing controls. It can also take off and land from your hand. Once it’s airborne, you can also instruct the Dobby to fly certain pre-programmed routes, such as one that sees it fly up and away while recording a video. Or, it can even automatically track a subject for a short video.
If you’re interested in getting into first-person flying with or without a headset, the Parrot Mambo is a capable and fairly affordable option. The Parrot Mambo FPV pack includes the drone, a controller, a camera that mounts to the top of the drone, and Parrot Cockpit glasses for mounting a phone to show the drone’s first-person perspective.
The Parrot Mambo can be piloted with either the controller or a smartphone, and it has a number of features helpful for beginner pilots. It protects the propellers from crashes with guard rails at each corner. It also has an automatic cut-out system to stop the motors if there’s a crash. The smartphone app can also let you do a number of tricks with the Parrot Mambo, likes flips and barrel rolls.
Thanks to the Parrot Mambo’s lightweight build, it’s easy to bring with you and safe to fly indoors, where there won’t be challenging wind make it hard to practice for beginners. The drone offers up to 10 minutes of battery—a decent amount while learning to fly—though the battery is removable if you’re inclined to buy multiple batteries for extended flying sessions.
For an extra affordable drone that still features a front camera for real-time, first-person flying, the Drocon U31W is definitely worth checking out. The front camera has a 720p sensor behind a wide-angle, 120-degree lens, letting you see plenty with decent clarity. It also comes with a controller with a smartphone holder, making it easy to fly and see what the drone sees.
Learning to fly on the Drocon U31W is also easy. It features one-button takeoff and landing controls. The automatic altitude hold will help you keep controls of the drone while you’re learning or taking pictures. And, this drone supports headless mode, which lets you control the drone more simply without having to worry about which direction the drone is facing.
The seven-minute battery life of the Drocon U31W isn’t great, especially since short flying times don’t help much while learning to fly, but you can buy additional batteries to increase the length of your flying sessions. For the price, you can get this drone, extra batteries, and still stay under $100, which is a great value for beginning pilots.