The day of the drone is here. In the last few years, these awesome pieces of kit have exploded on the market – they’re now cheaper, more versatile and cooler than ever.
Drones have come a long way in the last couple of years, and we can expect them to become more common in our day to day lives. Amazon are using them to deliver packages, but drones could have hundreds of beneficial uses, including delivering medical supplies to hospitals, helping in search and rescue missions, and policing.
Currently though, they’re still most used in the world of aerial photography, where they can take absolutely stunning videos and photos mid-flight. However they’ve always been on the pricier end of the market with drones costing thousands of pounds, until now. There are now a number of cheaper – but no less fantastic – drones available on the market for the public to get excited about.
Business Insider have put together an impressive breakdown of the best drones to buy, but we’ve broken it down to our favourites.
Blade Nano QX
The Bladed Nano QX is perfect for people who want to learn how to fly a drone, it’s inexpensive, coming in at just £89, and pretty tough considering the price. Best of all, if you do accidentally break it, a repair job will be cheap.
The reason why this is such a good drone for beginners is because it has a quadcopter design which makes it super easy to fly. It also has simple controls, similar to a console controller, which won’t confuse new users. It also comes with a ‘stability mode’ which makes it even easier for beginners to fly.
The downside is that because it’s so cheap, it has a poor battery life – only lasting eight or so minutes before needing a charge, it’ll also struggle in bad weather.
Hubsan X4 (H107L)
The Hubsan X4 is easily the best drone for learning to fly indoors thanks to its small size. The drone’s even cheaper than the Blade Nano, costing just over £22, making it a great entry model for someone who’s just learning about drones. Even experienced ‘pilots’ can use it to get to grips with flying indoors, because if you damage it, parts are cheap. It also has a simple controller similar to the Blade Nano QX.
The downside is that it’s not as stable or quick as other models. It comes with a few of the same problems as the Blade Nano as well, such as a poor battery life and problems flying on blustery days. Worst of all, it has no propeller guards so if it hits something it’s most likely going to break, meaning you may find yourself replacing parts more frequently than you’d like.
If you’re looking to start taking videos with a drone then you can’t go wrong with the UDI U818A-1. This drone comes with a 720p camera and is cheap at around £70. Thanks to its quadcopter design, it’s stable in the air and is able to take some impressive aerial shots with its HD camera. It’s also got a really cleverly designed frame that allows the device to bounce off things it crashes into, although it’s not the sturdiest of drones so don’t deliberately crash it thinking it’ll be fine.
The lightweight plastic design means that it can get blown about on windy days but when the weather’s good it will fly brilliantly, if a little slowly. It even has a button on its controller that makes it do flips. On the downside, its effective flying range is pretty naff and it’ll only last for around 10 minutes in the air, depending on camera use. It does come with two spare batteries though, which is nice.
Blade Nano QX FPV
Have you ever dreamed of flying and thought how great it’d be to be able to do that in real life? Well thanks to the Blade Nano QX FPV, you can! The drone is basically the same as the Blade Nano QX, but with a bit of a price bump. It costs around £360 but it’s got an incredibly cool feature that makes it worth it. This model comes with a headset and camera which allows you to see a first person view of what the drone sees as it flies, which is really cool.
The only real issues with this model is that the camera and headset don’t have the best resolution, leading to grainy footage. Also as it’s very similar to the Blade Nano QX, it has all the same design problems, but an even worse battery life due to the camera draining it quicker.
The Lumenier QAV250 is wonderfully customisable. Users reportedly modify them with their own propellers, motors, and HD cameras, making them extremely versatile. It can be used as a flying camera or a stunt copter, as long as you have the know-how to modify them. Really it’s the perfect middle ground between building your own machine and a pre-bought drone. Out of the box it flies well and is very durable.
Unfortunately, if you’re a beginner this is not the place to start. It’s complicated to fly and you may find yourself lost. It also doesn’t come with a camera, which is disappointing considering it costs upwards of £200. Also, if you’re going to get into modding the drone, prepare to pay a fair bit for parts.
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
The Phantom 3 is probably the best drone on the market and reportedly flies like a dream, although it’s best to have some previous experience flying drones before investing in one. Reviewers have commented on its stability in the air and the responsiveness of its controls.
Its controller has been improved from the last design, and now uses a rechargeable battery instead of the annoying replaceable ones. The designers have even added a ‘return home’ button that will bring the drone back to a home point, or as close as it can get. Best of all you directly hook your phone or tablet into the controller to use as a viewfinder, instead of relying on WiFi, that can have issues connecting.
While the Phantom 3’s camera may not be as good as a professional 4K drone, it’s still very good. The drone shoots in 1080p and its stability means that footage is nice and clear. The camera is held in a 3-axis gimbal that allows it to be flexible as well. Its camera is stuck in the gimbal though and can’t be removed, which is a bit of a let-down.
The downside is that the Phantom 3 isn’t cheap. It comes in a number of models ranging from £899 to £1,339, so it’s not a small investment, but in fairness you’re buying quality and when you consider the drone market, it’s actually good value. Unfortunately, it is let down by its battery, the Phantom 3 has a standard battery life for a drone of its class, that’s about 20 minutes and although it charges quickly, new batteries cost £124, a pop so it can soon start getting expensive.
DJI Inspire 1
The Inspire 1 is an incredible bit of kit, but you’d expect that when you’re paying over £2,000 for a drone. The Inspire has a brilliant controller which is beautifully simple and has a similar set up to the Phantom 3, allowing you to use your tablet as a viewfinder.
The drone can fly at up to 40mph, automatically take off and land using the companion app without the pilot having to control it. It also has a ‘Beginner Mode’ that creates invisible barriers for the device to stop it crashing.
It’s basically the Phantom 3’s bigger more expensive brother. The only problem with it are the price and it’s got a woeful battery life, lasting only 15 minutes even when fully charged.