The best cheap drones for beginners 2018: take to the skies without taking out a big loan

Autonomous flying drones built for fun, selfies and repeatedly crashing while you learn the ropes

TODO alt text

Those new to drones should be looking at affordable, easy-to-fly drones, which come fully set up with all the required parts for immediate take-off.  These cheaper drones are more like toys, compared to the full-fat, more expensive drones which are for more experienced flyers.

But even when it comes to operating a recreational drone, there are strict rules and regulations in place that must be followed to ensure you’re flying the drone in a safe and legal manner. 

For example, if you’re taking your drone to the local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to catch that misty morning sunrise shot, you’ll need to make sure that your drone is always in sight - this will certainly decrease your chances of colliding it with a tree. 

Staying below 400ft is also important, otherwise you’ll run the risk of smashing your drone into a manned aircraft- then you’ll have a criminal lawsuit on your shoulders. 

To respect people’s privacy and personal space, your drone must be kept 150m away from an individual and their property. 

Finally, use common sense and stay away from airports. 

Now you’re fully aware that there are rules to follow, let’s take a look at the best budget-friendly drones for beginners. If you’re looking to spend a minimal amount of money on your drone, be prepared for the basics - small, zippy and perhaps a little flimsy. 

Extend your budget to £100 and you’ll manage HD camera capability. Boost your budget to £200 and you’ll end up with the full works that may take careful practice to master fully. 

Here are the 5 best cheap drones:

1. Parrot Mambo Quadcopter Mini Drone

A zippy drone with some great fun features

Best for: Durability
Type: Mini Quad
Weight: 64g
Reasons to buy
+Easy to fly+Control using the app
Reasons to avoid
-Very light  

If you want your drone to offer up more than just aerial footage, the design features of this one should make it the number one choice for playing around. There’s a cannon accessory which allows you to fire up to 6 pellets at a target, giving you ammo for a competitive game. There’s also a claw that can grab objects up to 4g and it's suitable for internal use. Parrot say that beginners should get on with flying the drone via the app, which provides operation through a virtual joystick or you tilting your phone. 

2. OKPOW 2MP Wide Angle Selfie Drone

A great little gadget for taking quality pictures and videos

Best for: HD Aerial Footage
Type: Aerial photography
Weight: 699g
Reasons to buy
+HD camera for quality imagery+Flight modes for indoor and outdoor use
Reasons to avoid
-Hard to fly in windy weather because it’s light

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced drone that promises fantastic picture quality, this OKPOW boasts a HD camera to capture stunning photos and 720p videos. Flying this gadget should be as simple as it gets when it comes to getting to grips with your first drone. The reviewers rave about its stability in the air, with the advanced barometre maintaining flight altitude and a 2.4 4CH transmitter offering easier control. You can connect your smartphone to the controller to receive real time flight imagery during the 10 minutes it’s in the air. 

3. Parrot Swing Quadcopter & Plane Minidrone

A stunt drone that offers up 2 different flight modes

Best for: Outdoor flying
Type: Plane/mini-drone
Weight: 73g
Reasons to buy
+2 flight modes for better control+Perform cool stunts
Reasons to avoid
-No picture or video capabilities 

What the drone lacks in camera technology, it more than makes up in coolness. Offering vertical take-off and landing and loop the loop and barrel roll technology, whizzing this 'drone come plane' around promises to be exciting and hair-raising. With the Boost Mode, you can achieve high speeds, while the user-friendly interface viewed on your smartphone aims to make the drone easy to control. There’s also a landing button which you can press at any point you think it’s heading into a tree. The negatives are it’s 7 minute flight time and its light build means it’s not suitable to fly in high winds. 

4. Wizard X220 Freestyle FPV Quadcopter

A robust drone designed to cope with a few slightly rough landings

Best for: Freestyling
Type: Acrobatic
Weight: 484g
Reasons to buy
+Protective motor barrier+Can be flown in FPV
Reasons to avoid
-Lucid purple design not for everyone

While Wizard have magicked up a strong shell to protect the motor from damage, you should still err on the side of caution when initially learning to fly. Reviewers commend its ability to take a knock, which should make it a great racing drone as well as one for viewing some quality aerial footage through FPV goggles (extra, but needed). The bright LED lights at the end of each arm can guide you in limited visibility.

5. Hubsan FPV X4 Mini RTF Quadcopter

A petite drone that offers up recordable first person view technology

Best for: FPV Learning
Type: Freestyle
Weight: 354g
Reasons to buy
+Video camera for real time viewing +Easy to control
Reasons to avoid
-Basic technology

If you’re looking for a fairly cheap drone to build your flight skills, this palm-sized gadget should do the trick nicely. There’s no bells and whistles; just an FPV camera, which transmits real time imagery to the screen on the controller. Thanks to its 6-axis flight control system, it offers reasonable stability, which means flying the drone should be fairly forgiving. This drone is ready to fly as soon as it’s taken out the box and once in the air, lasts for up to 10 minutes. A common complaint among reviewers is the AA batteries in the remote only last an hour or so, and unlike the drone, they’re not rechargeable. 

Liked this?