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Top Drones Under 500$ in 2018 | DroneNodes

When it comes to consumer drones, there used to be just two categories that you could choose from: the really cheap ones, with limited flight time and durability, and the feature packed models that cost thousands of dollars. Nowadays however, you can find a lot of consumer drones priced somewhere in-between, offering good value without busting your budget.


Here we’re going to take a look at the top drones under $500. They don’t have the features of the more expensive drones of course, but they’re very capable and should suffice for the needs of beginners. Along with the reviews, we’ll also provide information about these drones first time buyers might appreciate.

Budget Drones

This guide is part of 'Budget Drone' series




Flight Time



DN Rating *

12 MP

25 minutes

1000 m

1216 g


14 MP

25 minutes

500 m

1220 g


14 MP

25 minutes

300 m

500 g



20 minutes

1500 m

1400 g


* DN Rating calculates tech specifications and includes various review scores from Amazon, Wired, PC Magazine, PC Advisor, CNET

We are looking on next categories for under 500 budget:

Best Drones Under 450 $

Some models are in the price range around 400 bucks. If you're on the budget and looking some decent models, but price is important to you - then you can check our guides in lower price models. I bet you'll find what you're looking for to suit your current needs. 


Best FPV Drone Under 500 $

FPV is getting more and more popular, and drone racing is becoming a new sport. There are hundreds of races organized around the world, and it's no brainer why is this happening. FPV is so good and addictive - and once you try it you're hooked for life. In this budget range you can find some fast models to satisfy your need for speed.


Best Drone Under 500 with Camera

Now we're entering some really high quality drones that you can use to make amazing photographs and videos. DJI is still dominating the market, and you can get entry level Phantom 3 Standard for under 500 dollars. We would really recommend this model as it's perfect for beginners in aerial photography, or even 3D mapping.

What is a Section 333 Request?

This request grants exemption from the current FAA rules. You can apply for this if you want to use your drone for business purposes like the situation mentioned above. This situation mostly applies to proffesional multirotor systems, as most consumer models don’t have the specs needed for commercial applications.

For your drone to be granted exemption:

  • Your Section 333 request must be approved.
  • Your drone must be registered with the FAA.
  • You must have an FAA Airman Certificate
  • A COA authorization certificate is required
  • The COA certificate (Certificate of Authorization) gives the pilot permission to operate the drone
drone pilot certification


The Phantom 3 Standard is aimed at beginners and anyone who wants a reliable, cost effective drone. It has a flying time of 25 minutes, so you have lots of time for live, HD video streaming. The video quality is good for up to 2.7k / 30 FPS, and transmission can reach 1000 m so coverage won’t be an issue. If you want to focus on videos and images, turn on GPS assisted flight, and with this mode you can focus on the video and photos. You can also change the camera’s view with the Waypoint, Follow Me or Point of Interest. No matter the view mode, you’ll always get 2.7 HD videos and 12 MP images. An 8 GB micro SD card is included for photo and video storage.

RTF Drone

Best Budget RTF Drone

Phantom 3 Standard

The Phantom Standard has an automated flight assistant, by pressing a button the P3 returns to predifined location. With this feature you don’t have to worry about the drone losing power in midflight. DJI Go app lets you view the video stream from your mobile device.


Video streaming quality is excellent, Responsive controls, Charging time takes only 60 to 80 minutes


Extra batteries price

The Xiro Xplorer has an HD camera that lets you shoot videos at 720p / 30 fps or 1080p / 30 fps, giving you greater flexibility. You can snap photos up to 14 megapixels for crisp, clear images, and you can also use timed capture or shoot in burst mode. The 1080 resolution is clear, and the controls make it easy to adjust wide angle shots. The Xplorer lets you hook up your smartphone on the controller and then check the flight status and get live previews. The drone also has a 3-axis camera stabilization system so video recording and photo capture is stable.

RTF Drone

RTF Drone

Xiro Xplorer

The Xplorer is built to run out of the box: you just need to charge the unit, hook up the propellers and turn the remote controller on. You will need to calibrate the compass, but it’s easy to do.

The Xplorer also has Circle Around Me and Follow Me modes, both self-explanatory. When the drone is in Follow Me mode, you just set the distance and altitude and the drone will follow your movement. The drone has a range of 500 m and if connection is lost, the Xplorer automatically returns to its original landing spot.


Stable video and image recording, Long battery life, Has separate settings for pros, beginners and intermediates


Cannot record in your smartphone, so you need to transfer the SD recording

The Parrot Bebop has 14 MP fish eye lens camera, allowing you to shoot 1080p images and video from high above. The camera has also been revamped so images capture more land than sky. You can also adjust the controls and snap 90 degree images, and the built in fish eye lens enhance video quality.The Bebop has a 25 minute flight time on a full charge, so no need to get frustrated with limited flight times. The propellers have also been designed so they shut down in case of a crash, and its return home button means the Bebop will always be able to locate you.

RTF Drone

RTF Drone

Parrot Bebop 2

The Bebop also has a rear flash LED, so it’s visible even at night. The body is durable and doesn’t have any components that break off easily. The drone weighs just 1.1 lbs. so it is very light, and the app provides all the control you heed.


Stable flight, Can take low light images and videos, Has LED light for night time flights


May lose signal at 600 feet outwards

The H109S X4 Pro has a 1080P HD camera for high res images, and it has real time FPV so you can see from your drone’s feed. It also has a single axis gimbal rotation and adjustable gyro so the videos and images don’t get affected by the drone’s motion. If you want to video record a particular spot, use the altitude mode. The picture quality is good, though you have to calibrate the drone for the best results. For beginners, the best thing about the X4 Pro is that it is already assembled. All you need to do is install the camera, propellers and propeller guards, and you just need to charge it up. The X4 Pro has a return home function which allows it to return to its landing spot.

RTF Drone

RTF Drone

Hubsan H109S X4

The drone also has a headless mode for simplified navigation. Its 2.4 GHz receiver and 5.8GHz transmitter FPV work well together, and its USB port makes it easy to update the firmware.

There is a safety feature built in the X4 Pro so if the Wi-Fi signal fails to resume in 3 seconds, it’s programmed to land. Charging time is 30 to 60 minutes, and the flight time is approximately 30 minutes.


Short charging time, Flight time good for up to 30 minutes, Responsive


Remote control battery not included

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do These Drones Compare with the Cheaper Models?

You will pay more for these drones, but you will also get more out of tech in terms of features. Specs vary per model, but you can expect something along these lines:

  • Flight Time: cheaper drones can fly 5 to 10 minutes on average, while these drones can stay up the air for 25 to 30 minutes. For many drone users, this is the only incentive they need. A 5 or 10 minute flight is fine if you’re learning the controls. But that flight time is just too short for shooting videos and photos. With a 25 to 30 minute flight duration, you have plenty of time to shoot photos, stream videos or just fly the drone around and enjoy the FPV.
  • Quicker Charging Time: many of these drones can do a full charge in an hour, a major improvement over $100 and $200 drones that usually take more than two hours. When you combine the long flight time and quick battery charge, your drone gets to spend more time in the air with less downtime.
  • Enhanced Durability: these drones are made with more durable frames and propellers, enabling them to withstand falls. Cheaper drones are notorious for their flimsy parts and often rendered useless after a single crash.
  • These drones also have collision detectors: if the drone collides with an object, its landing mechanism is triggered and sends the drone to be original landing spot. The return home function is standard in consumer drones, but it is more responsive.

Are These Drones Easy to Fly?

Yes, they are easier to fly than cheaper drones because the flight controls are more refined. Features can vary per drone, but these controllers give you more options for flight navigation. Here are some of the reasons why these drones are easier to control.

  • Stability: these drones have a 3-axis stabilization system that keeps the flight stable even with wind turbulence. This stabilizer is also responsible for keeping video and image output clear.​
  • More Control Options: you can control these drones with the radio controller like a traditional drone, or download an app to your mobile. These apps have more sophisticated control systems than those on cheaper drones, allowing you to make minute adjustments to the controls and see the results in flight.
  • Pre-Planned Flights: some of these drones like the Bebop 2 give you the option to create flight plans. Using the drone’s app, you create a flight plan and the drone follows it automatically. This is a useful feature if you want to focus on taking images or videos.
  • Multiple Flight Modes: these drones have the usual headless modes found in all models, but they also have a Follow Me and Circle Around Me, great if you want the drone to follow your around. If you want the drone to record a video of the path you’re traveling, just use the Follow Me mode.

What is the Camera Quality?

Drones in this price range are equipped with 1080p HD cameras. There is also support for live video streaming on the controller or app. You have probably seen lower priced drones with HD cameras, but these cameras have superior features.

These cameras have a stabilizer for more consistent results, and there is support for higher megapixels for better image quality. Some even have special lens and control adjustments so you can take shots at different angles.

Is it Easier to Fly a Cheaper Drone Than These Models?

Some novices believe that it is easier to fly the cheap drones, as they are not complicated. In fact it is the opposite. A drone that sells for less than a $100 or $200 is harder to navigate than these models. These models are easier to learn because their controls are more refined. While they’re more expensive, you get more precision controls.

What Can I Do with These Drones?

  • Recreational Activities: these drones are not toys, but that should not stop you from having fun with it. The extended flight time means you can have fun with your friends watching the drone fly around taking pictures and snapping images.
  • Drone Racing: with FPV standard in these drones, it gives you the opportunity to race with your friends. Racing is only possible if your drone has the speed and power, and that’s what you get with these models.
  • Other Activities: the HD camera offers plenty of opportunity for professional quality videos and images, and these drones make it easy to share these with their apps. Because of their extended flight time and solid specs, these drones can do a lot more than the cheaper models.

Can These Drones be Used for Surveying and Infrastructure Inspection?

Technically these drones are capable, but those tasks are best left for professional models. Also, the FAA does not allow consumer drones to be flown near commercial establishments. The drones used for mining and search and rescue are also specialized models and have different specs.

Is There Any Way I Can Use These Drones for Commercial Purposes?

One of the more practical values of a drone is the ability to take aerial photographs or do a flyby over a given area. This can be useful if you have a property you want to sell and want to impress a prospective buyer. Consumer drones, including those in this price range, cannot be used for business purposes. The only exception is if you apply for Part 107.

How Do I Keep My Drone From Crashing?

Drones on this level are more stable than their cheaper counterparts, but it can still be a challenge to keep it up in the air. Here are some tips:

  • ​Read the instruction manual or watch tutorial videos online. While these drones are more intuitive, you’ll still benefit from going through the manual and the troubleshooting section.
  • Keep things simple: if you have experience with drones, it’s okay to try the other flight modes. Otherwise, start slow. Fly low and practice basic maneuvers.
  • Some of these drones can go as high as 1,000 feet, but stick to the FAA imposed limit of 400 feet.

How Do I Prepare These Drones for Flight?

Aside from reading the manual, you should also make sure the drone is fully charged. Always inspect the drone for damage before and after each flight. When you first take the drone out of the box, you need to attach the propellers first. Make sure they fit properly and the rest of the body doesn’t have any dents or cracks.

Calibrate the control before takeoff. If it’s your first time to fly the drone, stick with the default settings for now. Once you’ve mastered the basic maneuvers, go into the settings (on the app or radio controller) and look over the options. These drones can be customized at a deeper level than before.

How Does the Follow Me Technology Work?

The Follow Me mode works by tracking the GPS on your mobile or the controller. The remote control or mobile app transmits your location so technically, the drone isn’t following you, but the map coordinates.

However, some new drones have Intelligent Flight modes that actually see you. The new technology also makes it easier to shoot videos of moving objects. With some new drones, a user just has to draw a box around the object he/she wants to track and the drone follows it. This technology can also distinguish the human form so they are kept in the center of the camera even if they are constantly on the move.

The benefits of auto tracking are obvious: if you’re using the drone to film a documentary for instance, you don’t have to keep making adjustments. If you set the drone to track you, there is no need to use the controller.

Why Do These Drones Have Camera Gimbals?

To be more accurate, these drones have a 3 – axis camera gimbal. A gimbal is used to keep a device level, and in the case of drones, it functions as a stabilizer and anti-vibration. A camera gimbal is equipped with motors that modify the camera’s position (up, down, left right, backward, forward).


All of these drones have something to offer the enthusiast, but the Phantom 3 Standard, well, sets the standard. The video and image qualities are exceptional, and its stabilization is as good as advertised. Even with constant movement, the video and images are clear. Plus, performance is reliable and the controls are intuitive.

There’s a reason why this drone is known as an intelligent flying camera, because that’s exactly what it is. From the controls to the app to the navigation, the Phantom 3 Standard is easy enough for novices but with advanced features that longtime drone buffs will appreciate.

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