Drones. They are one of the fastest growing tech on the market at the moment – for both individuals and businesses. The possibilities for their use are endless. However, with so many options out there – from mature brand through to imports and start-ups – how do you know what’s going to be your best value for your money?
We’ve done the research for you, narrowing down the best and most reliable drones on the market for less than $500.
We’ve tried and tested more drones than we can count, weighing up the capabilities, cost and functionality to put together this list of the top budget drones.
The criteria for this entry level category is that the drones are durable, efficient in their battery life and importantly, easy to fly.
Don’t have time to read the full review? Here is a quick summary of our top 3 picks of drones for less than $500 in 2020:
our top 3 picks of drones for less than $500 in 2020
An exceptional masterpiece
|The DJI Mavic Mini has revolutionized the drone industry. This remarkable masterpiece is small, light and full of incredible features. This mighty but mini drone brings high quality video along with impressive stability, which, given its featherweight, foldable and compact design, is impressive to say the least. The DJI Mavic Mini is a cut above the rest of the competition on the market, outperforming them in quality, convenience, price, and now size. |
|The Potensic D60 drone is a stand out against its competitors. It’s is one of the easiest to use, making it ideal for beginners who want to learn how to fly a quadcopter. However, its features are both advanced nad precise, lending itself to those who specialize in auerial photography. The one-axis gimbal uses an anti-vibration feature to help keep the video footage steady, even in windy conditions, providing great quality videos. As well as this, this drone’s intelligent features include Follow Me, Orbit and Waypoint modes. The Potensic D60 drone is an exceptional piece of technology, providing hours of entertainment for drone pilots of all ages and experiences.|
Holy Stone HS720
Advanced GPS capabilities
|The Holy Stone HS720 is a popular model, known for its filming and video capabilities. But that’s not all. You’ll be impressed by its advanced GPS features. The Holy Stone HS720 has an onboard GPS module allows smart features – this includes follow me, circle around me, return home, and Tap Fly. Impressively, the GPS will lock in over 20 satellites in under 1 minute. This drone makes for a great system for all user experiences and has excellent precision in all of its commands.|
What do you need to know before buying a drone?
While they might seem like a fun little gadget that may not necessarily ‘break the bank’, it’s important to understand that the features on an entry level drone will vary quite significantly to one professionals would invest in for aerial surveying and the likes.
Here is what you can expect of many of the specifications and features of an entry level drone that’s under $500.
- Average Flight Time
- Average Control Range
- Average Performance
- Average Features
- Average Camera Quality
For most entry level drones, you can expect to see an average flight time greater than 10 minutes, however, usually no more than 18 minutes. In saying this, some brands will specialise in extended flight times as a key point of difference. Often, the size of the drone (and therefore the size of the battery) will indicate its average flight time.
One of the novelty features of a drone is that you can fly it up where you would otherwise not be able to see. However, it’s important for these to remain in the operator’s visual line of sight. This is why most entry level recreational drones are limited to just 200-500 metres distance.
We expect that a drone under $500 would still deliver great, steady performance, including being able to hover easily, control on a windy day and utilize accurate navigational controls.
We expect that most quality drone you’re able to pick up for under $500 should come with GPS, waypoint flight, follow me, orbit mode, headless mode, auto-return, auto take-off and landing, low battery alarm, altitude hold, LED lights and 360 degree aerial stunt mode.
We have found quite a big difference in the camera quality between brands of drones under $500. While many include camera and live video transmission, the quality isn’t always great. However, for the most part, many drones are strong enough to carry a GoPro camera, which will enable you to take HD and 4K quality video and photo footage.
With this in mind, let’s now get into the information you’ve been waiting for – what are the best drones you can buy for less than $500.
DJI have taken everything they have learned about drones, cameras and technology and crammed it into their smallest drone yet, the Mavic Mini. At just 249 grams and about the size of your palm, this quadcopter is incredibly portable, while still delivering exceptional performance during its flights.
It may have compromised on some of the higher end features a professional photographer or highly experienced drone pilot may be after, but for the most part, this drone ticks all of the boxes in what it has to offer the general user, all at an exceptional price. It is extremely easy to carry around in a backpack or your pocket and is ideal for holidays, filming outdoor events and vlogging
The reputation and quality of DJI products are second to none, and the Mavic Mini is what I consider a remarkable masterpiece.
The camera on the DJI Mavic mini isn’t what the pros would be after since the output of the images are in jpeg only, not the raw image file, but for an everyday vlogger or budding photographer, you won’t be disappointed. The camera is mounted on a 3-axis stabilized gimbal. It captures 12MP images and captured videos at 2.7K Quad HD resolution, with a 30fps frame rate. This provides similar quality photos and videos to other Mavic products if you have ever tired others, such as the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro Platinum.
The Mavic mini has a maximum of 2.7K/30p or 1080/60p footage, captured at a bitrate of 40 Mbps using the H.264 codec. When I use this drone for photography and vlogging purposes, I tend to adjust the exposure compensation settings to avoid blowing out sensitive areas in the sky. This is because the DJI does not have the ability to adjust the shutter speed like some of the other models it has released.
It’s great to see that the Mavic mini can easily transmit Live Video in high-quality, real-time with no delay or latency – it really is one of the best FPV experiences you can get from a drone for under $500.
The DJI Mavic Mini uses two vision positioning sensors located on the bottom of the drone in place of obstacle avoidance sensors. These make it ideal for flying this quadcopter indoors, giving it the ability to hover in place, even without GPS.
The Mini’s battery is certainly a stellar feature, allowing you to fly the drone for an impressive 30 minutes at a time. This is very good considering the small size of this drone, with it outlasting other models such as the Spark and Mavic Air. While DJI’s Mavic Mini can fly up to 500 meters above ground level and boasts a range of up to 4 kilometres, I personally am not comfortable flying it more than about 1,000 - 1,500 feet away.
There is no internal storage within this drone, instead, housing a MicroSD card which is located just beneath the battery portal.
The DJI Mavic Mini is the type of drone that is likely to appeal to beginners looking for a budget-friendly option to kick-off their flying experience, and hobbyists who are seeking a portable and simple drone to capture their experiences.
#2 – Potensic D60 Drone – best all-rounder
There’s a reason why the Potensic D60 GPS drone is ever so popular. We believe it’s one of the most advanced drones crafted for under $500. If you are in the market for a high quality camera drone that includes an anti-vibration camera plus is easy for operators of all experiences to control, then this is the one!
There’s not a lot on the market that can compete with the features and performance of a drone in this price range. The Potensic D60 GPS drone is a super intelligent camera quadcopter, equipped with brushless motors on the arms. This means it has great propulsion, without drawing too much power – leaving you with a longer lasting battery.
The Potensic D60 drone features a powerful 1080P HD camera on a single-axis gimbal. This makes it an ideal camera drone for taking breathtaking and high quality aerial photographs and videos. The camera shoots at 1920x1080 footage and at 30 frames per second using advanced 5G Wi-Fi technology. Overall, it’s a great feature and definitely a standout from other camera drones.
The Potensic D60 drone is packed with intelligent features that make it stand out from others in the same price range. One of these includes an integrated GPS module which provides precise positioning and stability for users of any experience. Some of these intelligent flight modes include follow me, orbit and waypoint modes, as well as the ability for the Potensic D60 drone to return home when the battery life is very low or where the signal is lost; some incredibly useful features that will ensure your drone is not lost.
Not only does the Potensic D60 drone deliver extreme precious and stability, making it a popular choice for users regardless of whether they are using it for recreation or photography, there’s even an in-build Micro SD car slot included in this drone if you’d like to store any of the videos and images.
#3 – Holy Stone HS720 - Best GPS
The Holy Stone HS720 is a sleek little quadcopter which is a great option for inspired and amateur videographers to start off with. This reputable drone, in our opinion, is a great all-rounder for its price. It not only performs well and is easy for basically anyone to fly, it also has some great features included.
One of the points of difference with the Holy Stone HS720 drone is that it produced good quality videos on its 12MP camera. This drone also has enough power to carry a GoPro, should its operator wish to produce HD of 4K quality videos and photos.
The feedback of the Holy Stone HS720 drone is increasingly positive online, with users blown away by its performance and ease of use. What’s particularly impressive about this small but mighty drone is the brushless motors it uses. This enables it to travel further with ease, therefore a compelling option for many enthusiasts.
The Holy Stone HS720 is a standout from its competitors for its high quality 2K 5G camera resolution and impressive image stabilization feature. It provides great footage in calm and clear weather conditions, which can be slightly impacted in particularly windy weather. What’s more is that the video is easily transmitted to the operator’s smartphone screen or monitor in real time, even at its maximum range of 3000 feet, allowing the operator to easily adjust what it is doing and recording. If this and its 90 degree adjustable lens isn’t enough oomph for you, the Holy Stone HS720 is also strong enough to carry a GoPro device for 4K quality videos.
The Holy Stone HS720 is packed with advanced features that makes it suitable for everyone to fly. Some of the advanced technology in this drone means that the operator can focus on taking quality videos and photos rather than being absorbed by trying to control the drone at all times. These intelligent flight mode features include custom flight path, follow me, orbit mode, one-key return home. These smart features are all incredibly precise and are definitely a standout and make drone flying easy for users who’ve never flown before.
Not only is the Holy Stone HS720 clever, features a superior camera, impressive flight time and excellent range, the set-up is simple. It’s definitely a standout from its competitors.
#4 – Contixo F24 pro drone – best bang for your buck (value for money)
Interested in buying a high quality drone that’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg? Look no further than the Contixo F24 pro – a compact drone that’s not only stylish in its design, but it’s also foldable, making it easy to travel with. This little gadget is incredibly advance in its features, in particular its camera. The Contixo F24 pro dons a 4K Ultra HD 90° Adjustable Camera and 5G FPV Transmission which provides incredibly high quality visuals and detail I video and footage, without any vibrations.
The Contixo F24 pro is certainly an upgrade from the original model, in particular, thanks to the high quality camera that provides a much clearer, crisp image and video while in flight. The Contixo F24 pro allows you to fly the drone at 90 degree angles and 120 degree FOV angle to extend your view. As well as this, it has a 5G transmission to enable the quick and high quality real time imagery to your smartphone (once the app has been installed).
Some of the incredible features packed into this drone include Follow me, Orbit mode, Gesture selfie mode, Headless Mode, Auto Hover, First Person View as well as 1-Key Take-off and landing. These make the drone appropriate for all sorts of skill levels, creating a bit of fun, while making the operator’s job a little easier to control.
A standout feature for many is the battery life of the Contixo F24 pro which gives you a 30 minute flight time and a control range of 3800 feet. It also gives you a low-power alert, letting you know the drone will need to be charged shortly.
The portable nature of this drone and the foldable wings allows you to take your drone with you anywhere anytime. It has an impressive built-in feature which also allows you to keep track of your drone at all times. This impressive GPS feature also assists with its ability to hover steadily and accurately.
#5 – Hubsan Zino 4K Drone
The Zino 4K drone is the latest model from Hubsan, boasting an impressive 4K camera and exceptional flight features. This foldable drone comes in at a lower price tag than some of its main competitors like the DJI Mavic and Parrot Anafi, however it has not compromised on quality and performance. Featuring advanced flight modes such as waypoint, tracking and line fly, the Zino can be flown for about 23 minutes thanks to its quality and intelligent battery. This drone is suitable not just for professional aerial photographers, but we also recommend it to those who are still learning to fly.
The noticeable standout feature of this drone is its camera. Hubsan have invested in this feature and it definitely goes to show!
The 4K camera is unmatched in quality for both video and photographs, attracting professional photographers to this drone. It uses a state-of-the-art image processor and also has an advanced 3 axis gimbal to ensure your image capture exactly what you want to without any distortion.
The camera can shoot videos at full high definition and 30FPS, taking crystal clear aerial footage. You can also make use of the FPV capability, which allows you to stream live video footage straight your mobile phone using the innovative 5G technology, making it ideal for pilots to view and share their content easily and quickly!
Made from high quality polycarbonate, the Hubsan Zino 4K drone is durable and does not become easily damaged. This makes it a great option for new starters who you may expect to crash land it a few times. The downside of this though is that it does not feature obstacle avoicdance sensors, meaning it can easily crash into things if you’re not careful. It features LED lights underneath the rotator, making it an ideal option for night time flying.
The intelligent flight modes included in the Hubsan Zino means just about anyone can fly this drone with ease. These include Panorama, Waypoint, Tracking and Line Fly Modes which are all easily accessible via the X-Hubsan app. When using these flight modes, you can also use the camera to record and stream these movements to your smartphone.
And for those first-timers, this drone is practically fool-proof. The Hubsan Zino comes with one button take-off and landing, making it easier for you to get started. It also comes back after losing signal and when the battery is low, ensuring you don’t lose it accidently.
Like most drones, the Zino includes accurate GPS tracking to help keep your drone safe and ensure stability during your flight. The Hubsan Zino drone is a great option for beginners through to acid photographers and is a favorite on the market at the moment thanks to its good price point and impressive features.
#6 – Altair Outlaw SE drone
The Altair Aerial Outlaw SE is reputable and quality drone that also features a built-in 1080p HD camera. This Altair quadcopter is known for its GPS-capable all-skill-levels drone, which includes features like Return Home & Follow Me, making it an ideal option for new pilots. It is housed in a sleek white plastic body, looking like something you see in a Sci-Fi movie with its built-in camera positioned out the front. Flying this drone is a lot of fun as it has a lot of power thanks to its brushless motors, and it moves fast!
Like many, the Altair Aerial Outlaw SE drone includes a built-in camera which takes 1920x1080 still pictures. This image quality is good, but not outstanding when compared to others that have attachments for GoPro and other external cameras. Some of the video and images can be slightly distorted possibly due to lack of stabilisation or the use of a wide-angle lens. While it does the trick and is a nice feature to have on a drone, I simply wanted to reiterate that this isn’t the type of drone an avid photographer will use and does not compare to image quality on your smartphone.
The Altair Aerial Outlaw SE is easily connected to your smartphone via WiFi, allowing you to see exactly what the camera is seeing; this makes it easier to fly and take photos. An additional perk of the Outlaw SE is that you can save photos and videos directly to your phone, which saves you from having to buy a micro SD card.
There are many built in features on the Outlaw SE which will grow with you as a pilot while you improve your skills. It’s easy and effective to use the beginner features like taking off and landing at the push of a single button, however, as you become more confident, you can experiment with some of the more advanced features. This is a great feature of a drone that I don’t see too often.
The GPS flight mode in the Outlaw SE means it will hover in the air by itself once in position. The GPS features work incredibly well and makes it easy for people of all skill types to use without too much extra guidance.
#7 Holy Stone HS100G drone
The Holy Stone HS100G drone is recommended for intermediate and experienced drone pilots since it’s such a large quadcopter. It is well known for its well-crafted design and build, excellent specifications and impressive stability. It is used frequently to film sporting events and holidays, thanks to its high resolution camera and incredibly sturdy design. This type of drone is required to be registered with the FAA in the US due to its size.
The 1080p FHD camera features a 120-degree field of view lens with a 90-degree adjustable angle for capturing every worthy aerial moment you see. The 5G FPV WiFi transmission allows the pilot to see exactly what the drone sees; this removes the worry of crashing, as well as being able to capture the ultimate in clear video feed from as far as 1,600 feet away. The Holy Stone HS100G camera captures an inspiring bird’s eye view and allows you to easily share this with your family and friends.
The HS100G drone is a good upgrade from its predecessor, with many significant improvements to its previous features. Not only does the HS100G have a great GPS module incorporated into the build, making it incredibly easy to learn how to fly, but it also has multiple intelligent flight modes such as Orbit Mode, Waypoint Mode and Follow Me Mode. These features are good for pilots who want to create their own flight paths, capture aerial footage above the pilot or follow the pilot wherever they may go, all made possible thanks to the advanced GPS technology. The HS100G includes a GPS auto return home feature which ensures your drone won’t be lost when the battery is low or the signal is week.
#8 - Walkera Rodeo 150 drone
If you’re a racing enthusiast, take note! The Walkera Rodeo 150 is a high-performing racing drone that has redefined light weight drone racing thanks to its speed and responsiveness. Importantly, it’s not just for outdoor use, this racing quadcopter can also be used indoors thanks to its versatility and size.
We often see the Walkera Rodeo 150 drone used for both racing and amateur videography purposes. It produces 5.8GHz video recordings from a HD camera, providing a reasonable quality output considering its slim build and light design.
The Walkera Rodeo 150 drone has an in-built 600TVL FPV camera which is designed to capture photos and videos in close range (like during a sporting event) rather than high quality professional, aerial photographs. The Walkera Rodeo 150 is an excellent choice for capturing these special moments. The high performing image transmission of this particular drone means it can capture a wide angle of 110 degrees and performs well in low light conditions. It’s also a bonus that with the Walker Rodeo 150 you can easily and readily transmit the video from your drone to your smart phone easily and without any delay.
For beginners using the Walkera 15 drone, I recommend you start your flight with the stabilised mode enables before moving onto the intermediate features – this quadcopter is certainly zippy and highly responsive! This flight performance creates for a very exciting flight for users of all skills.
One of the unique features of this drone is the hard plastic canopy which protects the electronics internally. As well as this, the landing gears have rubber bumpers for hard landings on the ground. Not only does this create a sturdy frame for a quadcopter that will often crash at high speeds during a race, but it also means owners can pick the colour and design of their drone which is available in black and gold or white and back colours.
The Walkera Rodeo 150 drone’s light weight means that it can fly quickly, but also turn effectively and accurately in the sky. And if you’re racing during low light conditions, you can rest assured that you’ll stand out from the crowd. The drone has both LED headlamps and taillights that improve its visibility, helping to avoid collisions during racing.
How long you’ll be able to fly the Rodeo 150 for will depend very much on the battery. Typically you’ll only be able to get up to 8 minutes out of this drone though with its 7.4V 850mAh 30C 2S Li-Po battery. Replacement batteries which need to be purchased separately will allow you to get a little bit more time each session, but it’s important to note that the depleted batteries take around an hour to recharge so we recommend investing in some back-up batteries so you can get the most out of your training or racing session.
#9 – Hubsan H5O1S X4 drone
The reputable Hubsan’s H501S X4 was released in 2015, but is still a standout in the market today. Why? We can safely assume this is because of its many rich features which subsequently enable a very high quality performance when flying a drone, all at an affordable price. Some of the standouts of this model include a built-in GPS in both the quadcopter and the remote. This allows for the very popular ‘Follow Me’ mode which is used by drone enthusiasts to take ‘selfies’.
The Hubsan H5O1S X4 drone has four powerful brushless motors that ensure direct and effective positioning of the drone. As well as this, while it does have a very good battery life lasting up to about 20 minutes, it does also have an automatic return to home feature to ensure your drone remains safe at all times, even when the battery is low or it is flying in poor range.
If you are seeking a good quality camera, than the Hubsan H5O1S X4 might just be for you! It’s one of the stand out features of this drone, featuring real-time video transmission to the monitor’s remote control. This is made possible since it works in 5.8 Ghz frequency and 4 channel remote controller in 2.4 Ghz.
Coming with a complete first-person view (FPV) package, this drone captures 1080p resolution from its HD camera. The Hubsan H5O1S X4 takes photos and record videos and saves them directly onto Micro-SD card.
The H501S X4 has an impressive battery life, giving it a lengthy flight time of about 20 minutes. This is above average for a drone in this price range, so is definitely a standout for many users. This drone’s control range, however, on the lower side of average, only flying up to about 300 meters from the pilot.
The Hubsan H501S X4 drone features GPS, which enables a variety of intelligent controls such as Return to Home (RTH), Orbit and Follow Me modes. However, what’s good about this drone is that you can easily configure many of the flight modes and commands to your piloting experience, making it a suitable quadcopter for people of all skill levels. In fact, some of the best fight characteristics of the Hubsan H501S X4 compared to many other drones on the market include its waypoint-guided flight modes and return functions; these are definite standout features.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are these the most suitable for people learning to fly drones?
Yes – this list is ideal for most beginners. Most of the drones on this list have some great features including auto return, making them difficult to lose. This list has looked extensively at the drones on the market for under $500, and narrowed down those with the best features, responsive controls, and fun to fly, making them ideal for newbies, as well as those who have some previous skills in flying drones.
Are these drones just for outdoor use?
Most of these drones on this list are recommended for outdoor use, yes, however, there are a couple of smaller ones which have made this list which are suitable for indoor flights such as the Walker Rodeo 150 racing drone.
Do I have to register my drone?
If your drone weighs more than 250 g, you will need to register it with the FAA if you live in the US, regardless of whether you are flying it for fun or professional use. Registration will be quick and easy and last for 12 months.
Do these drones support GoPro and other action cameras?
We have mentioned which drones support external camera attachments like GoPro and other add-on cameras.
Do I need a license to fly a drone?
No, as long as the drone is under 250g in weight and you follow the FAA air navigation requirements.
Are these drones difficult to fly?
Thanks to GPS position hold which comes standard on most drones these days, along with a range of other technology and features, drones are quickly becoming a lot easier to fly. For first timers, we recommend learning and practicing in large open spaces, keeping the drone at a safe height. This list is a great start for many people learning to fly drones.