Top 5 Drones for Beginners | 2017
Drones have taken over our skies as well as our imagination. Whether you’re looking for something to play with, or a drone that can execute more sophisticated tasks, you’ll definitely find what you need among the various models currently on the market. However, if you’re a beginner, it might be more useful to get a bit familiar with what to look for when picking your first drone. We are here to help you how to choose best drone for a beginner.
If you're complete beginner and never flown any RC Drone we would recommend buying toy drone for start, just to get the sense of controls and flying a machine. They are cheap, can take alot of hits and stay in one peace. Beginner drone pilots should get used to crashing, it’s going to happen sooner or later. Don't let few crashes demotivate you, it happens to all of us. We also made guide on the basics of how to fly a drone, where you can check the fundamentals behind piloting a multirotor drone.
QUICK COMPARISON: TOP DRONES FOR BEGINNERS
More expensive drones in camera segment; such as DJI Phantom / Mavic are breeze to fly, because you have all those stabilization modes and obstacle avoidance features. But again if you’re just starting, picking up a good toy drone is good idea to develop initial orientational skills, and get a feel how multirotors work.
Besides camera segment, you might have a idea to try flying FPV (First Person View). In contrast to camera segment drones, where you have all hight tech stabilization modes, FPV Racing and Freestyle requires acro flying. In acro flying there’s no stabilization at all, so you’re controling all axis.
On the other hand if you want to continue into FPV you need a plan. Those are covered in our separate guides on FPV and Camera Drones.
BEST DRONES FOR BEGINNERS
Hubsan x4 (H107L)
Hubsan - the Chineese manufacturer that became synonim for beginner drone. X4 H107L quadcopter provides excellent balance. The sturdy built body can endure a lot if you stick to the given flight environment. Flying it outside may cause some problems if you're fighting with strong wind. The motor and the rotors of this model are exposed, which makes this model very delicate if used outside. If you stick to the instructions, however, you will have a nice model on your hands for a long time to come.
The charging time of 40 minutes and the flying time of 6-8 minutes makes a fairly standard ratio, and gives beginners the opportunity to have enough flying sessions to develop their skills. The control range is 50-100 meters, which is enough for playing around until you develop some flying skills. This model is not equipped with a camera, which is not that big of a deal because those small camera's in beginner models are not of high quality. Here's a Hubsan X4 H107L detailed review.
This quadcopter model is equipped with a HD camera that will let you shoot high-quality videos and photos, while performing amazing maneuvers. The drone has an incredible balance to it, and lets beginners learn even more complicated stunts in a matter of a few flying sessions. The intuitive learning curve this model provides is simply one of the best in its category. High capacity battery that makes this model very power efficient. 4 channel function enables the user to have a stable flying experience.
A flight time of 7-9 minutes makes this model great for everyone who wants to spend as much time as possible in the air. The decent charging time of about 90-120 minutes is excellent in regards to the flight time. 3D maneuvers are incredibly easy to grasp with this model. Might be overwhelming at first for beginners, although it’s promoted as being an entry level drone. When starting with toy quad make sure to have at least a couple of spare batteries and propelers. To conclude UDI 818A provides stable flight performance, durable construction and it's really simple to fly.
JJRC H16 TARANTULA X6
It offers a great power efficiency ratio and will make the most of your time. If you get a spare battery with this model, there’s almost no reason why this model couldn’t be a long-time friend of yours. Flying time of 8 minutes; charging time: 90 minutes. A lot of spare parts which will help extend the live-span of this model. High-intensity LED lights that help you orient yourself even in low-light conditions.
A 5MP 1080p camera will let you take some photographs while buzzing around. We didn't like that the battery compartment has to be screwed off in order for you to change the batteries, but in the end not such big hassle. There’s no on/off button.
We covered 3 toy drones that we used and crashed, learned the basics and moved on. At this point you'll know if this is for you or not. Well I got hooked on them, and continued on more sofisticated models. Next 2 are best for beginners in segment of FPV and camera drones:
Blade Inductrix FPV
If you already have some experience with flying RC quads and you’re interested in FPV flying, best beginner model in this segment would be Inductrix model aka Tiny Whoop. Before engaging in FPV we would recommend spending some time in simulator to get a feel of flying through Drones’ camera. Tiny Whoop is excelent choice as it has strudy body - that can take all kinds of hits, decent battery time around 4 mins and wast community of users that can help you get around questions you might have.
For immersive FPV experience you will need a pair of googles, we made indepth guide you can check here. This lightweight tiny whoop is a great indoor model that can give you great pleasure for a long time. The sturdy built frame is great for making beginner mistakes, as it can handle even unexperienced pilots very well. It is fairly sturdy and will compensate for any beginner mistakes almost everyone makes. The quadcopter is easy to assemble and there’s no soldering necessary for RTF model.
DJI PHANTOM 3 STANDARD
You’re hesitant on purchasing something for long term use, and you’re interested in aerial photography - then P3S is the best choice. It’s excelent drone for beginner drone pilots. The price range is acceptable if you want to stick into this long-term. Also if you ever decide this is not for you, you can easily sell it - DJI’s products are always in demand. With Phantom 3 standard you’re gonna get stabilazied camera in the air. Drone is excelently reacing to controls, you have GPS programing.
What are quadcopters?
Of course you already know what quadcopters are, but it doesn’t hurt to get a bit more knowledgeable about them anyways. Drones or quadcopters have commercially not been around for too long, so every bit of information could be helpful when picking your starter drone.
Quadcopters are technically defined as multirotors. In a sense they work on the same principle as helicopters do, except they use (usually) four smaller, instead of one big rotor, to lift off of the ground.
Why would I need one?
Why wouldn’t you? They’re fun. Jokes aside, quadcopters can be great for recreational use. Many of the quadcopters currently flying around are used for exactly that. Playing around with them is great fun, and, in the technology consumed world we live today, it’s always a good idea to find something you can do outside. And they sound awesome 🙂
Besides this fun aspect of quadcopters, they’re also a great tool for many creative people. Furthermore, many models currently available on the market come with a camera already in the package. They’re used to take great shots of landscapes, events or anything else you can think of.
This is done from a perspective that until a few years ago was only reserved for those who could afford a helicopter to hover over their subjects. So, if you’re passionate about photography or videography, a quadcopter could get you a fresh perspective and inspire you to new milestones in your art.
Where can I fly quadcopters?
As we mentioned before, you have to let your common sense guide you for now. Sure, there are strict NO DRONE FLY ZONES which you have to consider. If you’re outside flying your drone, keep in mind that it’s best to find a big open space where your device will pose no threat to anyone’s safety.
This brings us to two major distinctions of all quadcopter models. Indoor and outdoor capabilities. If you’re restricted to the four walls of your apartment or house, but still want to buy a drone, you have to make sure to pick one that has indoors capabilities. These are usually smaller ones that are safe for indoor use.
However, if you intend to use your drone only for outside, you don’t have to take into account any indoors abilities. It all depends on the circumstances in which the drone is going to be used, so keep that in mind.
Do I need a special permission to fly a quadcopter?
Yes. If your craft weights more then 0.55lbs or 250 grams you must obtain FAA registration. If it weights less you don't need any permission. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no consequences if something bad happens while you fly them. Think of it as riding your bicycle, there is nothing preventing you from driving your bike, let’s say, on the highway. But, would you really do it? Probably not.
Common sense is key here. There are some notions in many countries that promote the registration of quadcopters and giving out licenses, like we have for cars, but that’s to a large extent planned for bigger commercial quadcopters.
Quadcopters are relatively new, and the rules regarding them have yet to be defined. Until then, listen to your common sense when operating a quadcopter in the open.
Do I need special skills to assemble my new quadcopter?
My recommendation with every new technological device is to spend first some time reading through the manual the manufacturer provided with the model. There are drone models out there marked with an RTF feature. RTF stands for ready to fly, and basically means that there is nothing that prevents you from flying your drone right after unpacking it. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be charged first.
These RTF drones, are great for beginners as they don’t demand much attention at the start. Other, mostly professional drones, will often require a bit more attention and skill to make them ready for flying. That’s why I would recommend, if you’re a beginner, to look out for models that are marked as RTF.
How do I operate the drone?
Drones are usually controlled through a transmitter. However, some drones don’t come with a transmitter, but rely on an app for your smartphone. This is sometimes a great way of keeping everything in one place, but for beginners it is not so wise to buy a drone without a transmitter.
Having the transmitter will teach you everything you need to know about how the drone operates and how it feels in the air. The basics of all drone transmitters is the same. You have two sticks (one left stick and one right stick). The left stick controls the throttle (up/down movement of the drone) and the yaw for rotating left and right. The right stick controls the pitch (forward/backward movement of the quadcopter) and the roll (side to side movement of the quadcopter).
If you want to know more about operating your drone, we made a step by step guide just for that.
How long do the batteries last?
This is different from model to model. Usually the flight time of drones is 5-20 minutes. The most important thing here is to find a model with a longer battery life in order to give you enough time to practice your maneuvers in the beginning. There are not a lot of drones which offer more than 20 minutes flying time, so another good tip here would be considering to buy a spare battery for your drone.
FPV vs. Line of Sight
LOS and FPV are basically two modes in which you can fly your quadcopter. LOS stands for Line of Sight. As the name suggests, it is a mode which requires you to operate your quadcopter by watching it from the ground as it ascends into the air. The LOS mode of flying your quadcopter is considered the standard way to control your quadcopter.
FPV stands for First Person View, and obviously gives you the possibility to watch through the camera attached to your quadcopter like through an airplane cockpit. In order to fly in LOS mode, you have to have a quadcopter that already has a camera or the possibility to have a camera attached to it. Of course, if you have such a quadcopter with a camera, you still can fly simply in the LOS mode.
While comparing these entry level beginner quadcopter models, we invested a lot of time into figuring out all the aspects a beginner pilot needs. My own experience played a great role, and I tried to put myself in the position of a beginner.
In the end, I was left with a difficult choice of choosing the clear winner in this category. I can safely say that the Hubsan X4 (H107L) is our recommendation for complete beginners on this list.
Why? Not only does it provide everything a drone has to offer to all kinds of pilots, but it manages to keep it at a very basic level as well. The great power efficiency of this model makes it simply wonderful in regards of flying hours, which are desperately needed and crucial for beginners.
If I was to start out my drone piloting experience right now, but with the knowledge I have now as a more experienced pilot, I would have no doubts in choosing this model as my first drone. Hopefully, my experience can shed some light on this matter for future drone pilots that are having a hard time in choosing their entry level model.