Best cheap drones for beginners 2020: take to the skies without a sky high price | T3

Best cheap drones for beginners 2020: take to the skies without a sky high price

The best cheap drone for beginners – camera drones and remote control planes anyone can afford and use

best cheap drones for beginners: Ryze Tello
(Image credit: Ryze)

Thanks to tech innovation from the bigger drone brands, the best cheap drones have become far more feature-packed and way easier for beginner drone pilots to fly than ever before. Decent camera stabilisation, GPS locking and intelligent flight control are just three of the most common features in this budget price bracket now.

The best drones as a whole are far more advanced now than even a few years ago, which means budget drones have upped their game too. So you can now find genuinely decent 4K and 1080 camera drones without spending a fortune. In fact, you can get some beauties for a couple of hundred pounds.

These affordable drones are a superb choice for getting your pilot wings before moving on to more advanced drones, and for exploring how to capture great aerial videos and stills. The world's top drones also now include the Parrot Anafi FPV, a camera drone that puts you in the cockpit for a truly immersive flight experience.

These days, ‘affordable’ doesn't have to mean a tiny, out of control drone that shoots across the room then explodes against a wall. Cheap drones are now a genuinely good way for beginner pilots to learn. And if you want a drone for your child, there are plenty of options there too, as you'll discover in our best kids' drones guide.

All of the quadcopters featured in our best cheap drones buyer's guide present a great way to learn essential flight skills and control, before progressing onto a larger drone with more advanced features. So whether you're just starting out or are looking to improve your skills before upgrading to a bigger and better model, rest assured there's an affordable drone for you.

Top brands you can expect to see cropping up time and again in this category include Ryze, Holy Stone, Syma, Eachine and Hubsan.

Before you take to the skies, there are a few bits of housekeeping you'll need to take care of. Make sure you read the new consumer drone regulations, and pay heed to these drone safety guidelines.

The best cheap drones for beginners 2020: person flying drone into sunset

Choosing the best cheap drone for you

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Budget drones cost a fraction of the big players from the likes of DJI and Parrot, but what do these reduced prices buy you? Up to £50, you'll find limited features, a basic build and basic flight control. This means somewhat tricky flight without stabilisation.

Step up to the £50-£100 price bracket and features take a decent leap in quality. These drones may lack a controller, instead favouring the use of a mobile app, and the camera won’t produce the most cinematic footage you’ve seen, but flight features should be spot on.

Hit the £100-200 mark and you'll get access to a higher resolution camera and a dedicated controllers to help you properly get to grips with essential piloting skills. The motors may also have a little more grunt and be better tuned for outdoor flight.

Ready to find the best cheap drone for your skill level and budget? These are our current top picks to get you flying today...

The best cheap drones to buy right now

Ryze Tello

(Image credit: Ryze)

1. Ryze Tello

The best cheap drone overall, thanks to flight tech by DJI

Specifications
Best for: Learning the ropes
Type: Mini drone/education
Weight: 80g
Reasons to buy
+Flight technology designed by DJI+Programmable+Lightweight

There are no drones in this price bracket that come anywhere near the specifications and flexibility of the Tello. Designed by Ryze and featuring flight technology from DJI, the comparisons with the larger craft are instantly apparent. 

If you own a DJI Mavic and are looking for a training drone, then look no further. The Tello is also fully programmable, so you can code in Scratch and then upload your own modes and flight characteristics, making it an ideal educational tool. The level of coding is aimed at teaching kids, but there's plenty here for everyone, whatever the age, flight skill or coding ability.

For two years running, this quality quadcopter has picked up the T3 Award for Best Budget Drone. Browse all the T3 Award 2020 winners. 

Best cheap drones for beginners: Holy Stone HS100 GPS FPV

2. Holy Stone HS100 GPS FPV

The best cheap drone for aerial photography beginners

Specifications
Best for: Filming in HD
Type: Camera drone
Weight: 700g
Reasons to buy
+1080p HD camera+15-minutes flight time+500-metre range

Designed to introduce aerial photography novices to the world of cinematic drone photography, at the front of the Holy Stone HS100 GPS FPV is an optimised 1080p Wi-Fi camera with 120-degree field of view and 90-degree adjustable angle, ensuring you can capture quality footage or stills and experiment with shots from multiple perspectives. The drone is also suitable for use with VR or first-person view goggles.

Follow Me mode is on-hand to further boost the dynamic of your shots, enabling the drone to automatically follow a subject and keep it in the frame at all times - ideal for epic selfies or shooting fast-moving activity.

The Holy Stone HS100 also comes equipped with GPS precise positioning, ensuring smooth flight and the ability to return to the take-off point at the touch of a button, or as a safety measure if the battery or signal drops. Headless Mode and Altitude Hold take the stress out of flying so pilots can focus on getting their shots in the bag.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Potensic A20 Mini Drone

(Image credit: Potensic)

3. POTENSIC A20 MINI DRONE

This budget option is a brilliant choice for kids

Specifications
Best for: Learning the ropes
Type: Toy
Weight: 191g
Reasons to buy
+A budget, kid-friendly option+From one of the world's best drone manufacturers
Reasons to avoid
-No photography or video capabilities

The Potensic A20 is a great option for kids keen to try out their drone skills for the first time – and call us fickle, but we love the five different colours, which include an American-flag themed option for patriotic types. As a beginner's drone, it does what it says on the tin, with all the features you'd expect: well-protected propellers for those inevitable bumps and scrapes, an emergency stop button for those times when your little darlings fly a little too close to the dog/oven/baby and an un-ignorable low power alarm.

It's a breeze to fly, too – the altitude hold function helps keeps the drone stable – inside or outside – and one-touch take off and landing controls allow kids to grasp the basics of drone flying in record time. We also love the fact that it comes with two extra rechargeable batteries, minimising the risk of meltdowns when the drone's power levels start to flag.

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Best cheap drones for beginners: Eachine E520S

(Image credit: Eachine)

4. Eachine E520S

Keenly-priced GPS-equipped travel drone with 4K camera

Specifications
Best for: Value
Type: GPS and 5G equipped
Weight: 780g
Reasons to buy
+GPS and 5G video streaming+Great price+Easy to use

This folding budget drone from Shenzhen, China is proof positive that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a drone with GPS, high-speed wifi technology and autonomous flight modes. The E520S looks like a mini version of the DJI Mavic while the hand controller (replete with a spring mount for an Android or iOS phone) is almost identical to that of the Mavic Air. Nevertheless, it’s a great low-cost, intermediate package for those on a learning curve towards a bona fide DJI model.

The E520S is about the size of a DJI Spark and comes equipped with GPS, 5G wifi streaming up to a distance of 250 metres and a USB-charged battery that lasts about 15 minutes. It also comes with a raft of automated features including return to home, auto take off and land, waypoint, follow-me and orbit. That’s pretty darn good for a drone costing less that £150. 

Mind, the jury’s out on the quality of the front-mounted camera which supposedly shoots in 4K. Granted, the image quality isn’t terrible but it certainly isn’t up to the same level of 4K footage that the DJI and Parrot drones produce. Perhaps more importantly, the camera isn’t attached to a gimbal and that means any video you shoot will be quite jumpy and, well, unstable. You can, however, tilt the camera by hand before take off. 

Despite being really noisy, the E520S flies amazingly well for a cheap drone – it’s stable in anything bar a stiff breeze and is great fun to fly. If you can’t afford to fork out on a DJI model or don’t wish to spend a load of dough on something that may eventually crash or end up in a tree, then put this one on the list.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Potensic D85

(Image credit: Potensic)

5. Potensic D85

An ideal camera drone for getting started with FPV

Specifications
Best for: Filming in HD
Type: Camera drone
Weight: 600g
Reasons to buy
+20-minute flight time+Dual GPS sensors+Comprehensive flight modes

The D85 drone is well-suited to those wanting to take some confident first steps in flying FPV, or flying at speed. It’s easy to get started with and offers plenty of features for the low price. There are various flight modes, including Point of Interest, Return to Home and Follow Me.

A futurist design instantly makes the Potesic D85 stand out among many of the others featured in our best cheap drones list. Featuring full dual GPS, this drone is ultra-easy to use and has an average flight time of 20 minutes per battery charge. An upgradable camera option enables you to swap the 1080p camera for your own GoPro, making the D85 a solid option for anyone looking to get some high-quality aerial footage from their action camera.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Eachine 511

6. Eachine e511

A stylish, portable drone designed for life on the go

Specifications
Best for: Photography and fun
Type: Portable camera drone
Weight: 880g
Reasons to buy
+Foldable design is ideal for traveling+Decent 1080p camera+Stable flight

•Buy the Eachine e511 in the USA from Amazon

This DJI Mavic Air clone delivers good budget aerial photography performance in a compact package. The drone and controller can be folded down for easy stowing in a suitcase or backpack and can be ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

On-board is a 1080p HD camera with 120-degree field of view, capable of capturing impressively high quality video and stills for the money. This is mainly due to the drone’s aerial stability, thanks to a 6-axis gyro and Altitude-Hold Mode which help maintain a steady hover.

Trajectory Flight Mode is on-hand to add greater control and creativity to your shots. Plot a flight path on the map on your smartphone screen and the Eachine e511 will fly along it, or add VR or FPV goggles to enjoy immersive flight in 3D VR Mode.

But this isn’t just a photography drone. Within the Eachine Fly app you’ll also find 3D flip and stunt modes to explore, while three speed modes can help you learn the ropes or put your piloting skills to the test.

The included 7.4V 1200mAh Lipo Battery battery can power up to 17-minutes of flight per charge, but it’s worth noting that the transmitter requires 3x AA batteries, so you’ll need to stock up if you’ll be flying regularly.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Syma X8 Pro

7. Syma X8 Pro

The best cheap drone for mastering aerial photography skills

Specifications
Best for: Exploring aerial photography
Type: Camera drone
Weight: 1.7kg
Reasons to buy
+Multiple shooting modes+720p HD camera+Novice mode for nervous flyers

The X8 Pro is a great cheap drone for learning the aerial photography ropes. As such, stability in the air is key. Thanks to built-in GPS, the drone is capable of holding its position, even if the wind picks up.

The on-board 720p HD camera, complete with adjustable angle, is more than capable of producing quality footage and stills in the right conditions. A live feed from the camera is beamed straight to your smartphone to ensure you get your framing right.

Budding Spielbergs have a range of automatic video modes at their fingertips: ‘Orbiting’ flies the drone around the person holding the controller; ‘Follow Me’ tracks the subject and keeps them in shot wherever they move; and ‘Flight Plan’ enables pilots to tap any point on the map within the Syma Fly app and the drone will automatically fly to that position.

If you’re a nervous flyer, the Syma X8 Pro offer two modes which limit the flying range of the drone. Novice Mode in particular is ideal, restricting the flight radius to 30-metres from the take-off point. As your confidence grows that can be bumped up to around 70-metres.

Best cheap drones for beginners: DJI SPARK

8. DJI SPARK

The best drone for selfies

Specifications
Best for: Selfies and autonomous flying
Type: Camera drone
Weight: 699g
Reasons to buy
+Takes great selfies and 1080 video+Flies exceptionally well+DJI reliability
Reasons to avoid
-Propeller arms don’t fold-Gesture mode can be hit and miss

DJI’s cute little Spark is a bit ruffled round the edges now but still a worthwhile punt – mostly because it’s made by DJI, the Chinese company that knows more about drones than anyone else. The Spark is roughly the size of its closest cousin, the DJI Mavic Mini. However, because its propeller arms don’t fold, it won’t fit in a jacket pocket like the folded Mini will. Even so, this air-snap gizmo is still incredibly portable and one of the smartest selfie drones in existence, available in five lush colours.

The Spark comes with front obstacle avoidance and is rock steady when flown indoors or out. Its camera shoots very acceptable 1080p video and 12-megapixel photos and is equipped with a two-axis mechanical stabiliser for relatively smooth video footage. The battery provides around 16 minutes of flight time, which can be considered quite decent for a drone of this size.

The Spark can be operated in three ways: using hand gestures, a mobile device or, for much greater range (up to 1.2 miles), a dedicated hand controller. While not designed for high-quality videography, it still shoots excellent footage. 

It’s also reassuringly tough as nails, as was aptly demonstrated at a DJI event when one was accidentally flown at full speed – that's 50kph – into a tree. The only thing damaged was a prop; everything else, camera included, worked perfectly. Another great reason to consider snapping one up.

The best cheap drones for beginners: Hubsan H502S X4

9. Hubsan X4 H502S

The best cheap drone for GPS and stable flight

Specifications
Best for: Taking anywhere
Type: Outdoor flying/FPV
Weight: 155g
Reasons to buy
+Ultra-compact drone+GPS enables steadier flight

•Buy the Hubsan X4 H502S from Amazon

The original Husban X4 changed the microdrone market, and now several generations on the compact X4 H502S is still a formidable craft. It features full GPS which enables steady flight more akin to larger drones than one of this size. 

The GPS makes the X4 H502S incredibly easy to control outside. GPS also enables advanced features such as follow me where you can get the drone to track you autonomously. What makes this drone stand out for beginners is that it has an auto return to home feature, so if things do go astray or you lose control or sight of the craft then a quick push of the home button and the H502S will come back to its take-off spot. 

Best cheap drones for beginners: Parrot Swing Quadcopter and Plane Minidrone

10. Parrot Swing Quadcopter and Plane Minidrone

Pull off barrel rolls and vertical loops with this dinky stunt drone

Specifications
Best for: Aerial maneuvers
Type: Stunt drone
Weight: 1,500g
Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-use controller+Looks super-cool

Though it’s no longer officially sold by Parrot, the Swing Quadcopter and Plane Minidrone proves eternally popular with beginners and younger drone pilots. It also means you can often find it on sale for a criminally low price. 

One of the coolest picks in our best cheap drones for beginner’s round-up, the Parrot Swing looks a little like something out of the Star Wars franchise, and is just as thrilling in the air. This dinky drone is made for performing aerial stunts, and loves nothing more than pulling off vertical loops, half loops and barrel rolls. It’s also capable of vertical take-off and landing.

Controlling this beginner’s drone is made easier thanks to the inclusion of a Parrot Flypad, which also extends the drone’s flight range up to 196ft. However, remember that you must keep the drone in sight at all times to fly in accordance with UK regulations.

As for the top speed, the Parrot Swing Quadcopter and Plane Minidrone can reach up to 18.6mph in good weather. Basically, if you want a fun cheap drone for blasting around open fields and pulling off crazy aerial stunts, this little Parrot is a no-brainer.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Parrot Mambo

(Image credit: Parrot)

11. Parrot Mambo Fly

Stable indoor flight doesn’t come much better than this

Specifications
Best for: Indoor flying
Type: Toy
Weight: 64g
Reasons to buy
+Cheap and cheerful+Rock-steady indoor flight

•Buy the Parrot Mambo Fly from Amazon

In the pantheon of indoor toy drones, the acrobatic Parrot Mambo is a master of stability. Like the rest of Parrot’s Mini Drone roster, this little fella hovers in one spot so perfectly that you could pop off to put the kettle on and when you return it’ll still be in the same place. 

You fly it using the Freeflight 3 app (Apple and Andoid) which can take a bit of getting used to since there is no feedback when your thumbs are resting on smooth glass. But hey, this thing’s so easy to fly you’ll have it mastered in seconds. 

Aside from the drone-only option, the Mambo also comes with clip-on fittings that allow it to shoot tiny balls at a target or pick up items the weight of a sugar lump. Mate it to the optional Parrot Flypad hand controller (£39.99) for an even more accurate flying experience or grab the FPV pack for the full immersive monty.

Best cheap drones for beginners: SeeKool UFO Flying Ball Mini Drone

(Image credit: Flybiz)

12. SeeKool UFO Flying Ball Mini Drone

Cool little UFO-style indoor flier for kiddies

Specifications
Best for: Younger children
Type: Toy
Weight: 100g
Reasons to buy
+It spins like a UFO+You can control it with your hands+Stable indoor flight

Here’s a safe indoor model for kiddies that doesn’t require official registration (see above). Although the rotors are inside a cage, they could still easily snatch long hair and cause a monumental tangle – and tears! So warn your child to keep hair out of the way.

The Flybiz doesn’t come with a hand controller because it doesn’t need one. Simply fire it up, lob it into the air and it’ll spin around like a UFO using sensors to keep it from bashing into walls. You can also control it by putting your hand underneath or to the side of it.

The Flybiz is a pretty cool piece of cheap kiddie kit that’s easy to use and, hair tangles notwithstanding, safe for kids of most ages. By the way, you may find other companies are selling the same model under a different brand name – they're pretty much all the same so take your pick.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Yuneec Breeze

13. Yuneec Breeze

A compact beginner's drone for capturing life on the go

Specifications
Best for: Selfies
Type: Personal drone
Weight: 385g
Reasons to buy
+Capture high-quality stills and videos+Perfect for taking selfies

The Breeze has been around for a while and although ageing still offers exceptional value for money. It packs in-flight features that will be familiar to all drone pilots with advanced options such as Selfie mode, Orbit and follow me.

You can even program the Breeze through the app to follow a set route guide by its integrated GPS system. The Breeze is ideal for use almost anywhere, it's great fun to use to shoot selfies with friends and the orbit and follow modes are fun additions.

If you want a good quality drone that's easy to fly, at this price you can't go wrong with the Yuneec Breeze.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Zerotech Dobby

(Image credit: Zerotech)

14. Zerotech Dobby

Pocket-sized selfie snapper

Specifications
Best for: Selfies
Type: Pocket sized
Weight: N/A
Reasons to buy
+Takes very decent still images+Easy to fly

This impressively built folding pocket drone is smaller than an iPhone 11 and is a lot  cheaper than the DJI Spark, but then it doesn’t sport nearly as many features and its digitally stabilised camera can’t be tilted remotely. Nevertheless, you probably won’t find a better-equipped personal selfie drone at this size and price.

The Dobby can fly up to 100 metres away using a wi-fi enabled iOS or Android device and is capable of shooting 4K video, but only when digital stabilization (EIS) is off. As soon as you switch EIS on, the image is cropped to 1080p. Also, because the camera’s angle can’t be controlled from the ground, you’ll need to tilt it manually to your preferred angle before take off. 

The Dobby takes pretty decent 13 megapixel stills but, because its camera doesn’t have a gimbal, you do get an awful lot of rolling shutter (wobbly jelly-like movement) when shooting videos. Nevertheless, this is still a great pocket-sized model for taking basic selfie snaps and short video bites.

Best cheap drones for beginners: Nikko Air DRL Race Vision 220 FPV Pro

15. Nikko Air DRL Race Vision 220 FPV Pro

Take pole position with the best cheap drone for racing

Specifications
Best for: High speed flight
Type: Racing drone
Weight: 2,180g
Reasons to buy
+Immersive FPV experience+25mph top speed

If you have your eyes set on a future career as a high-flying racing drone pilot, the Nikko Air DRL Race Vision 220 FPV Pro is a great place to start.

Designed in collaboration with the Drone Racing League, the Nikko Air is made to fly at high-ish speeds - up to 25mph - and can be piloted using a controller with integrated colour LCD screen, or via the included FPV goggles to give you a truly immersive drone racing experience. Granted, the view through the goggles is pretty poor but it's good enough to see where the drone's going. 

Three flight modes limit the speed to help pilots master the controls gradually and propeller guards are supplied for complete newbies, while 16 pre-programmed stunts can be performed at the touch of a button.

Up front is a 130 degree adjustable wide angle camera lens which gives you a wider field of view when racing or maneuvering around tricky obstacles.

New consumer drone regulations

Given the regularity of news about wayward drone operators flying their craft in an irresponsible manner, it was only a matter of time before the authorities considered ramping up the regulations. As a result, all owners of drones weighing between 250g and 20kg (that’s basically all the drones on this page bar the Ryze Tello, Parrot Mambo and possibly the Zerotech Dobby) are, by law, required to register online as a drone operator, and take and pass an online education test. Registration costs £9 and must be renewed annually.

Here’s the full brief from the Civil Aviation Authority’s website:

CAA Drone and model aircraft registration and education scheme

The UK's new Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme went live on 5 November 2019. There are two elements to the online system.

  • Anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg will need to register as an operator. The cost for this will be £9 renewable annually.
  • Anyone flying a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg will need to take and pass an online education package. This is free and renewable every three years.

Both of these requirements became law on 30 November 2019. You can register your details at register-drones.caa.co.uk.

Stay safe when flying your beginner's drone

  • Never fly your drone above 400ft. This isn’t an issue for some of the lower altitude drones in our selection, but don't be fooled by the size and price, as these drones are still very advanced!
  • Don't fly your drone over properties or people. Ensure you keep a distance of at least 150m.
  • Always keep line of sight with your drone. In fact, this is the most important rule of drone flying. This is particularly important with small drones as they can easily be lost.
  • If you fly too close to an airport it’s likely you’ll run into trouble with the law and possibly even end up in the news! Make sure you’re at least 1km away from the outer boundary, and use common sense when it comes to flying your drone near flight paths.