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Best Cheap Drones Under $250 for Beginners and Hobbyists

If you’ve caught the drone flying bug and skimmed across the internet, you’re probably shocked at the prices for some of the drones out there. There are quite a few cheap drones too, but filtering them to find the best ones is a needle in the haystack kind of a situation.

Whether you’re looking for the best drone for beginners or one for adults for recreational purposes, you’ll want to limit your expenditure and not go for anything you don’t need.

Best Cheap Drones Reviewed

Most high quality drones you’ll come across will cost you anywhere between $600 to a grand. That’s not a price anyone who is buying one for recreational purposes will be willing to pay. That’s why cheap drones are a thing now.

Over the past few years, the number of affordable drones has grown rapidly in the market. It’s an overwhelming amount of choice for the consumer, and it’s very confusing. We went through the trouble of selecting the best ones for you though, doing hours of research to finely pick the best cheap drones you can buy and reviewing each one.

Our Top Pick

Our Top Pick

Force1 F100 Ghost

Best Cheap Drone without a Camera

The Force1 F100 doesn’t have any camera, but it comes with a mount for the GoPro Hero 3 and 4. This drone has great battery life among cheap drones, great range, and a very quiet operation.

If you already own a GoPro Hero 3 or 4, or simply don’t need a drone with a camera, then the F100 is the best choice among cheap drones.

Best Upgrade Pick

Best Upgrade Pick

Holy Stone HS100

Box Subtitle

The Holy Stone HS100 is the more expensive than other budget drones, but it’s also the one with the most features. This is a mid-ranged price drone with VR support, FPV, GPS, and WiFi which makes it the most feature rich in its price category.

We believe the Holy Stone HS100 is the best mid-priced drone on the market right now because of its large set of features and great performance.

Force1 F100 Ghost

F1F100

  • Camera: None (Comes with mount for GoPro)
  • Battery Life: 19 minutes
  • Range: 500m

The Force1 F100 Ghost doesn’t come with any camera but features a mount that is compatible with GoPro Hero 3 and 4 to allow video shoots of up to 1080p at 60fps.

It is sturdily built and quite nimble thanks to its smooth brushless motors. The brushless motors allow for noiseless videos with the GoPro mounted. The controls are precise, and the flight times are some of the best out there for cheap drones, lasting up to 19 minutes. The range is also incredible at 500m, well beyond what you’ll find in other cheap drones.

This budget drone is also equipped with a high/low speed mode to easily control the speed of your flight. It is great for hobbyists and those who already own a GoPro Hero.

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Great range
  • Good control
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • No in-built camera
  • RC design isn’t great

Syma X5C

  • Camera: 2MP 720p camera
  • Battery Life: 8-9 minutes
  • Range: 50m

This may be the best beginner drone due to its combination of affordability and sheer fun to use. The Syma drone comes with a basic forward facing 720p, 2 megapixels camera that records at 30fps. It also has headless mode and can do one-button flips and barrel rolls for stunts and entertainment.

It comes with an extra battery to effectively double your flight time, though the time on a single battery is limited to only 8-9 minutes. The Syma quadcopter also comes with a 2GB microSD card to store the pictures and/or videos you take with it.

The frame is lightweight, and the build quality is decent for the price. It does have a slightly long charging time for how much run time it offers though, taking anywhere between 1.5-2 hours.

Pros

  • Great value
  • Fun to use
  • Headless mode
  • Return function

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Takes a while to charge

Force1 U49C Red Heron

  • Camera: HD 720p
  • Battery Life: 14 minutes
  • Range: 200m

Force1 makes some great cheap drones, so it’s no surprise they have multiple products listed in this article. The U49C Red Heron is one of their most popular cheap drones because of its features and affordable pricing.

This highly rated drone comes with an HD 720P wide angle camera.. The camera’s output is average, which is what you’d expect given the resolution and price point, but it does the job well and provides good aerial filming.

The battery run time is quite good at 15, and it comes with an extra battery pack in the box. The range of this quadcopter drone is also decent at 200m or 650 feet. It also features one-key takeoff and landing, altitude hold, and has headless mode. All these features make it one of the best drones for beginners and intermediate drone flyers for less than $100.

Pros

  • Good value
  • Altitude hold
  • Headless mode

Cons

  • Flies a bit slow
  • Unstable in windy conditions

Ryze Tello

  • Camera: HD 720p
  • Battery Life: 7 minutes
  • Range: 100m

You could be forgiven if you thought this was a high-end DJI product. Ryze is a separate company, but they are sold by the DJI store, so the confusion is understandable. The Ryze Tello is one of the most popular drones out there because it offers the DJI level experience at a lower price.

The tiny toy class drone comes with a 5MP camera that records at 720p. The video and picture quality of the Ryze is quite good, though it still obviously can’t compete with higher end drones.

The drone has a great launch gimmick. You can toss it in the air to launch it. This is primarily a toy drone, so you shouldn’t expect anything more than a fun little experience for a short while. Even though it says it has a battery life that can last up to 13 minutes, the actual run time is just a little more than 7 minutes.

Pros

  • Great design
  • Decent quality pictures
  • Fun toss-in-the-air gimmick
  • Good control

Cons

  • Lacks higher end features
  • Disappointing battery

Force1 U49W Blue Heron

  • Camera: HD 720p
  • Battery Life: 15 minutes
  • Range: 200m

The popular Blue Heron by Force1 looks quite similar to the Red Heron, but it comes for 50 bucks more due to added features. It has a similar camera to its younger brother but adds mobile app compatibiltiy and has various intelligent flight modes.

The feature that sets it apart is FPV. You can use your smartphone for FPV flying, and the app is available for free on both Android and iOS. This is one of the few cheap drones that offers FPV flying and mobile compatibility.

There is also flight stabilization technology integrated into the Blue Heron, which is a welcome addition. It’s not as good as a mechanical gimble, but there is a noticeable difference between this model and cheap drones without one.

Other features Headless mode, custom route mode, altitude hold function, and one-key takeoff and landing, which combine with the price to make it one of the finest quadcopters on the market for under 200.

Pros

  • Headless mode
  • Plenty of smart features
  • Drone stabilization
  • FPV

Cons

  • Average camera quality
  • Long charging time

Holy Stone HS100

HolyStoneHS100

  • Camera: HD 720p
  • Battery Life: 15 minutes
  • Range: 500m

The Holy Stone HS100 is the most expensive product on this least, but it is also the most feature-packed. In the world of drones, this price range is considered “mid-priced”. For our cheap drones article, this is a higher end price.

The Holy Stone HS100 is an excellent transition from beginner-friendly drones to professional quality ones that can cost up to a thousand bucks. It is one of the highest rated drones on Amazon because of its incredible set of features.

The camera on this drone is a 720p HD wide angle one. The camera is stabilized and takes much better shots and videos than the other drones reviewed in this article.

There is also built-in GPS in this Holy Stone drone. The FPV in this drone utilizes an app that also has built-in VR support, though you need to purchase VR goggles separately. The range is also really good.

This product also has additional features like GPS, barometer, gyroscopes, headless mode, and one-key takeoff and landing. It also has the follow me mode which is rare to find in mid-ranged drones. All these features makes it one of the best drones under 300 bucks.

Pros

  • Packed with features
  • VR compatible
  • Great range
  • FPV

Cons

  • Very long charging time

Buyer’s Guide

    The flight time of the drone directly depends on the battery capacity and the design of the aircraft. The flight time varies from product to product. Most cheap drones average 13 to 15 minutes of flight time, with a few reaching up to 20 minutes.

    Almost all drones come with one or two spare batteries that can be quickly swapped out. How much flight time you need is restricted by what you’re willing to pay and how serious you are about drone flying.

    The range of a drone is the limit from how far you can control it. Range is highly product specific and depends on the quality of the embedded receiver and remote control. For cheap drones, the range is usually around 100 meters, though some high quality models offer up to 200 meters.

    The range you want your drone to have should depend on where you’re flying it. There’s no need to deeply search for a 500-meter range drone if you’re only flying in your backyard; even a 50 meter one will suffice.

    You’ll find it extremely difficult to find a cheap drone that offers 1080p recording, let alone 4K. Most drones below the $250 are limited to 720p video recording with a few megapixels for picture taking.

    The resolution isn’t the most important thing though. You should also consider the frame-rate of the video recorded and overall quality. Make sure to watch YouTube videos of the drones you’re interested in to get an idea about the quality of the video before you purchase.

    Many drones have a defined front side and a back side. When you and your drone are facing the same direction, the controls are easy as pushing the directional stick to the right will fly the drone to your right.

    However, things get tricky when the drone faces the other way. If your drone is facing towards you, pushing the stick to the right will fly it to its right, which will be your left. This can be confusing and is one of the biggest challenges in learning how to fly drones.

    To counter this problem, there is a special mode called Headless mode integrated into some drones. Turning it on will turn the drone to the same direction as your stick no matter the orientation of the drone.

    This is a handy feature, but we recommend flying a drone without Headless Mode if you want to upgrade to a bigger and better one in the future.

    What is FPV?

    FPV stands for first-person view. It allows you to see the live footage from your drone’s camera on your display. This display can either be built into the remote control or be your smartphone’s screen through an app.

    What does the return home function do?

    As the name suggests, the return to home function returns your drone to its home point (the individual flying the drone) with the press of a single button. It’s a great feature to have if you lose sight of your drone.

    Do I need a high quality drone over a cheap drone?

    A high quality drone will have mechanical stabilization, a more robust build, and offer video recording in 1080p or 4K at a high frame-rate. If you are a professional video record or an enthusiast drone flyer, a high quality drone can be a great investment. High quality drones however can cost four to five times (and sometimes more) than most of the drones listed in this article.

    For recreational purposes, cheap drones serve a much better function than higher priced ones. Flying a quadcopter needs a bit of practice and skill, and you don’t want to learn straight on a thousand-dollar drone.

    What is a good battery life for a drone?

    For cheap drones, an average battery life is between 13-15 minutes. Anything above that is a good battery life. More expensive drones utilize larger batteries and offer longer flight times.

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