Earn your drone pilot wings by starting small and mastering the basics.
Sure, we all want to get our hands on the latest and greatest drones. Those commercials always make them so easy to use, and that's true to an extent... until things go sideways and your drone takes off into the sunset (sorry, Mr. Mobile!).
The fact is, accidents happen — especially when you're relatively new to drones. If you've never flown a drone before, you need to spend some good time just understanding how to keep a drone in the air, make minute mid-air adjustments, and "become one with the drone" before moving on to bigger and better drones. Fortunately, there's no shortage of good training drones available for under $50!
Here are your best bets for snagging a fun drone to practice on. They're ideal for anyone interested in owning their first drone and learning how to fly for aerial videography, drone racing, or simply picking up a new hobby. Note that these drones are all recommended for ages 14 and up.
- AUKEY Mini Drone
- EACHINE E10 Mini Quadcopter
- Hubsan X4 Quadcopter
- Holy Stone HS170 Predator Quadcopter
- UFO 3000 LED Drone
- Cheerwing Syma Quadcopter w/ HD WiFi Camera
AUKEY Mini Drone
AUKEY has created a drone that's truly pocket-size and designed with features included to make it perfect for first-time drone pilots.
For starters, it features one-button takeoff and landing, because most crashes from early drone flying occur just getting the thing into the air or back onto ground. Its size means you can take it out and practise it practically anywhere, with a controller that also lets you pull off tricks as your skills improve.
Best of all, you can get over 10 minutes of flight time per battery charge, which is pretty great. You'll probably want to stock up on a ton of replacement blades, since they'll be prone to getting damaged or lost when you crash.
EACHINE E10 Mini Quadcopter
The EACHINE E10 Mini Quadcopter is a perfect first drone for someone interested in learning the basics of drone flight. This drone is a great option for kids, too, with a simple, kid-size controller and everything you'll need to practise drone flying.
This drone has some impressive features, including one-button 360-degree rolls and a return home function built into the directional control stick. There're also 4 LED lights on the underside of the drone, which help with visibility in low-light conditions.
Best of all is the price — at under $25 for the standard version and under $40 for the E10C with a 2.0MP camera, these are ideal little drones for novice pilots still learning the basics. They are super portable and quite durable, and if they stop working after an epic crash, it's not the end of the world.
It's worth noting that you'll want to give the battery some time (at least 20 minutes) to cool down before recharging after a flight, otherwise you risk drastically shortening the lifespan of the battery and the drone.
Hubsan X4 Quadcopter
The Hubsan X4 Quadcopter is a basic, palm-size drone that's a great option for beginners and kids. It features all the standard features you'd expect, including a 6-axis gyro system to help with flight stability and LEDs to help you keep the drone properly orientated while in flight.
A fully charged battery will deliver about 5 minutes of flight time, so you're probably going to want to invest in a set of spare batteries. If you buy the drone and the extra batteries, it'll still come out to about $50, except you'll get 5 times the flight time by swapping in fresh batteries.
Holy Stone HS170 Predator Quadcopter
If you're looking for a cheap and reliable drone to practise with that avoids FAA registration or Canada's new drone laws, the Holy Stone Predator is a great option. It comes with its own controller that's simple enough for beginners to pick up and fly and is capable of pulling off stunts and withstanding light winds for outdoor flights.
The real bonus here is the size — it's small enough to allow for practice indoors if you've got the space, with blade guards built in for protection. A fully charged battery supplies 6 minutes of flight time; with replacement batteries really cheap and easy to swap in and out, this is a cheap drone with affordable accessories.
UFO 3000 LED Drone
When you're learning how to fly a drone, crashes will happen. The UFO 3000 LED Drone helps to mitigate that by keeping the blades fully protected. Any novice pilot can bump into walls and whatnot while they learn how to zip around on low and high speed modes, as well as perform flips with the simple press of a button.
Oh, and then there's how cool this drone is, with its blue and green LEDs creating four brilliant rings of light — it'll really look out-of-this-world when you fly it at night. Two batteries ship with this drone, with flight time averaging around 7 minutes on a full charge.
Cheerwing Syma Quadcopter w/ HD Wi-Fi Camera
The Cheerwing Syma offers the best value if you're after something a little more macho than a mini drone. Featuring a pretty archaic camera for photos and video (fun for practicing but nothing you'd want to put on a demo reel), this is one of the cheapest camera drones you'll find.
This kit comes with everything you'll need to get flying and is probably a better place to start for someone who aims to own a drone like the DJI Phantom and wants to start off learning how to control bigger drones. Flight time is still under 7 minutes, which is standard for drones in this price range. Despite the low-res camera, you are able to test out some FPV flying if you're keen and have your own Google Cardboard headset.
Another benefit of this style of drone is the modular nature of the landing feet and blade guards. Once you've become confident with your piloting abilities, removing the guards will reduce the overall weight and allow for a decent boost of speed and maneuverability for practising enhanced maneuvers.
What's your favorite?
Got a favorite drone for under $50? Let us know in the comments below!
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