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While the holiday seasons bring cold weather for so many of us, drones are HOT right now.
Racking your brain about what drone to buy this holiday season?
Everyone from gadget geeks to photography enthusiasts to business owners is having fun learning to fly, and some are even choosing to get certified by the FAA to make some money as a professional drone pilot.
Below are our top drone picks for every gift-giving price range.
It goes without saying that this list is not all-encompassing. There are dozens of quality drone manufacturers and dozens more model variations to consider.
This list is loosely organized by price, with cheaper models at the top, and the more expensive, professional drone models toward the bottom. In case you’d like to see the full list here without having to scroll down, here it is:
Some things to keep in mind when you’re buying a drone for under $60 just to set your expectations:
Why is the UFO 3000 LED quadcopter our top pick in the under $60 price range?
Because the retailer, Force1 RC, includes an extra battery with this model, doubling your flight time! They’re also U.S. based and from personal experience provide great customer support.
This model in particular comes with precision steering that allows for tight, controlled flying. And the lights are pretty fun too. 🙂
It’s really kind of amazing how much smarter the flight software is in models like this than it was this time last year, and it’s so much smarter than it was just two years back.
The Syma X11 Quadcopter is another awesome drone available for less than $60.
This drone comes with a 2MP HD camera for high def aerial photos. It’s great for beginners, in part because of its 6-axis gyro direction stabilizer flight control system. Add on the blade protector for enhanced anti-drop and anti-collision functions.
The Syma X11 Quadcopter is one of the most affordable quadcopter options a beginner UAV pilot has. With its 6-axis gyro direction stabilizer flight control system, 3D lock to help for more precise flying, and blade protector to help with minor crashes, this is a great inexpensive quadcopter for beginners.
Another feature to note for the X11 is the 360-degree rolling that lets you continuously roll the quadcopter in the air, do flips, and perform other fun tricks.
The Hubsan X4 107L is an upgraded version of the model I learned to fly on back in 2014. This particular package comes with propeller guards and an easy USB charger.
Hubsan is a tried-and-true Chinese manufacturer. I’ve flown the vast majority of their cheaper models, and I’ve been impressed with how they’ve slowly been improving the X4 over the last few years.
This blue 107L model comes with LED lights, fits in the palm of your hand, and is a great trainer for someone looking to get into small unmanned aerial systems as either a hobbyist or aspiring professional. Also a great drone for kids.
I’ve been teaching my dad how to fly on the UDI Blue Jay U45. One of great features here is “Altitude Hold,” or the ability to take your left thumb off the throttle and have the drone hover at the same altitude.
This makes controlling the drone a LOT easier for beginners and those looking to truly master multirotor orientation.
You’re also going to get a one-touch take off and landing, and a custom route mode that allows you to trace your desired flight path on your phone or tablet screen. These features were previously reserved for higher end RC drones, but now we’re starting to see them in the $60 to $150 range.
The U49C Red Heron quadcopter looks sleek and is a great gift for the newbie drone pilot.
Like the Blue Jay above and the U818A below, the retailer Force1 RC includes an extra battery in this model, which doubles your flight time and is great for folks logging those first few hours of flight. The Red Heron also comes with spare motors, which is a great value add, especially for beginner drone pilots.
Finally, to round out this price range is the UDI U818A.
I also learned to fly on an earlier version of this drone back in 2014. It’s bigger than the other two models in this section but has similar features, like VR headset compatibility and an extra battery, and actually comes with a free VR headset (although there’s no video function on the transmitter, so you’ll need to use the app on your phone or tablet to capture video).
The Spark is a selfie drone that takes off from the operator’s hand and automatically enters “Gesture Mode”, which lets users send it into the air and shoot a video with pre-defined flight paths, like circling, following, or filming from straight up.
With it’s gesture recognition and obstacle avoidance technology, it’s not an exaggeration to say that DJI’s Spark is probably the most user-friendly drone on the market.
If you want to fly longer distances with the Spark you have the option of using a smartphone app for flights over 100 yards away, or you can use a remote control (the Spark can fly a distance of 1.2 miles). The Intelligent Flight Modes available with more professional DJI drones—such as TapFly and ActiveTrack—can also be found on the Spark.
It’s pretty wild that you can get a DJI Phantom 3 for less than $500. There are a few different variations of the Phantom 3, and while the “Standard” model is technically their version with comparably less features than their 4K, Advanced, or Professional models, don’t let that hold you back from taking a serious look at the Standard.
25 minutes of battery life and an 8GB micro SD card lets the beginner aerial photographer or videographer take advantage of a camera that shoots HD video up to 2.7K at 30 FPS, or still photos at 12 MP.
For a serious hobbyist or aspiring commercial pilot who’s looking to dip his or her toes into the waters with a professional system that won’t break the bank, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is a great choice.
Mantis Q is an adventure-ready drone that features voice control technology and is small enough to tuck away inside a bag. The Mantis Q also features foldable arms for optimal portability and convenience, up to 33 minutes of battery life and autonomous flight modes with top speeds over 44 miles per hour. Due to its portability, ease-of-use, and superior flight time, the Mantis Q is ideal for professionals, adventurers, families, and drone enthusiasts.
The voice control feature will most set this drone apart, but that’s not all Yuneec wanted the Mantis Q to be capable of. In order to compete in an increasingly competitive market, Yuneec equipped Mantis Q with all the bells and whistles. Using an integrated camera, the Mantis Q records high resolution photos and videos. Pictures with a resolution of 4800×2700 (16:9) or 4160×3120 (4:3) pixels are saved in JPEG or DNG format on the included MicroSD card; the same goes for up to 4K of recorded videos. For cinematic camera flights, the Mantis Q also comes with automatic flight modes such as Journey, Point of Interest, and Orbit Me.
The affordability of this drone is also an attractive feature, retailing at less than $500, which is about half the price of similar drones from other leading drone manufacturers. With those savings, you may want to add on the Mantis Q Propeller Pack as well to keep your drone flying efficiently for longer.
Compatible w/ GoPro Hero 3 and 4; 1080p60 and 720p60 video
Hobbyists, FPV Racing
The F100 Ghost GoPro Drone is an amazing value for the price.
The F100G rc quadcopter is both tough and nimble, and comes with a mount for a GoPro Hero 3 or 4, which means you could get professional quality shots. As you can see in the video below, it can be flown in windy weather and still allow for a controlled flight.
The brushless motors on the F100G not only make for a smoother, quieter flight, but allow for precise control while flying and longer flight times—at 19 minutes, this drone has one of the longest battery lives of drones on the market for this price point.
The F100G is also a good beginner/intermediate drone for still photography and aerial videography. It comes with High/Low Speed modes, which allow for greater control when it comes to getting the perfect shot.
If you decide to buy the F100G, make sure to register your drone with Force1 to get your free extra battery (value of $25).
The DJI Mavic Pro is a game-changer for aerial photographers and filmmakers.
Originally marketed as a professional (and portable) aerial media system, it’s small size actually hides a pretty high degree of complexity and sophistication, and it’s priced in a range that makes it available for the novice aerial cinematographer.
The DJI Mavic Pro boasts obstacle avoidance, sensor redundancy, and runs vision positioning paired with GPS and GLONASS to ensure precise positioning during both indoor AND outdoor flights.
The latest update to the Mavic Pro is the Mavic Pro Platinum, which flies much more quietly than the Pro, and for much longer.
The Mavic Pro Platinum is 60% quieter than the Mavic Pro, and has 11% more battery life, bumping its average flight time up from 27 minutes to 30 minutes.
The DJI Phantom 4 is one of the top drones on the market right now.
It’s the fastest Phantom so far, capable of reaching top speeds of 45 miles per hour. It also gets an excellent flight time of 28 minutes—great for pro pilots to get the shots they need and minimize downtime.
The Phantom 4 also has a built-in camera that can record video at 4K, 2.7K, 1080p and 720p. But one of it’s most notable features is the obstacle avoidance system. The drone can intelligently position and maneuver itself around obstacles mid-flight.
Couple all of this with a Tap to Fly system, DJI’s reliability, and robust software, and you’ve got a tough drone to beat.
These extra parts are available for the DJI Phantom 4:
DJI recently released the Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian, which comes with a magnesium shell and anti-fingerprint coating, not to mention the super cool-looking matte-grey obsidian coloring.
Check it out:
You can buy the Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian now on the DJI website.
If you haven’t heard of Yuneec, you’re missing out on some high-quality aerial camera platforms that may very well be the perfect fit for your recreational (or business) needs.
The H520 is equipped with six rotors, a 360-degree gimbal camera, and retractable landing gear, and comes with Yuneec’s standard of being ready out of the box, easy and safe to fly, with stunning Ultra HD 4K video and stills.
Yuneec’s H520 was built for both industrial use and ambitious professionals. It comes with long focal-length lenses that allows the drone to fly at a greater distance when inspecting an object, and data storage that may be shared instantly from the ST16S Ground Station or delivered directly in 4K/2K/HD video or 20Mp still images.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is the latest and greatest camera drone from DJI, with a professional-grade camera from Swiss camera manufacturer, Hasselblad. The 1-inch CMOS sensor Hasselblad camera offers 20-megapixel photography with enhanced HDR and color sensitivity.
A new feature debut to come along with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is omnidirectional obstacle sensing—it can sense obstacles from five directions (forward, backward, downward, left, right). Plus, it’s equipped with upgraded versions of Active Track, Waypoint, and Point of Interest modes, so professional photographers and videographers never have to place a cap on their creativity.
The Mavic 2 Pro is great for professional photographers, videographers, and content creators. Its portable design makes it an essential companion for travel bloggers, documentary compilers, and commercial drone pilots in any industry. Check out more drones for professionals as you continue to shop for the tech- and drone-enthusiast this holiday season.