Best cheap drones in 2021: When it comes to drones, it wasn’t that long ago that you would have to spend over a thousand of your hard-earned money to take to the skies with a decent drone. Today, however, there is a great selection of drones available at much lower prices. If you just find pleasure in flying a drone through the sky, want to find something for your kids, or start your hobby of aerial photography, we have a fantastic option for you. The Ryze Tello is the best option because it has all the features you need and won’t do much damage to your wallet. Keep reading to learn about the best cheap drones you can buy without breaking the bank, and let’s get up in the air!
Are you looking for the best on the market, regardless of price? Be sure to check out our in-depth guide to the best drones you can buy to find even more great options. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the world’s most expensive drones, and for those who want to save money, check out our selection of the best deals on drones on Black Friday.
At a glance
Best: Ryze Tello.
Why you should buy it: Thanks to flight technology from DJI, the leader in the drone revolution, you can take to the skies with smart features and no worries.
Who it’s for: Those who want the best drone flight experience you can buy without breaking the bank.
Why we chose the Ryze Tello:
When we saw Ryze team up with DJI to create an affordable drone, we immediately knew we were in for some amazing things. With the same smart software as drones 10 times more expensive, the Tello can take to the skies with smart features including automatic takeoff and landing, an intelligent vision positioning system, and a crash protection mode that will ensure a safe landing if you lose communications. Want to start doing stunts? Throw the Tello in the air to start, and click on the smartphone screen to perform somersaults and other stunts in the air.
If you’re interested in photography, the Ryze Tello can take 5-megapixel (MP) photos. Video recording isn’t forgotten, either, as DJI technology allows for EZ Shots so you can press a single button to capture unique shots, including one in which the drone does a 360-degree flyover or goes up in the air while recording. The Ryze Tello has a flight time of 12 minutes and can range up to 100 meters (m) from your smart device while staying in touch. If you want to take it a step further, Tello even offers an SDK that kids, teens and adults can use to create programs for the drone.
The winner: the Snaptain S5C.
Why you should buy it: This is an impressive drone for its price, complete with accessories to create an even better flying experience.
Who it’s for: Those who are looking for a fantastic cheap drone that can be controlled with a smartphone or controller, and plan to fly it for a long time.
Why we chose the Snaptain S5C:
The Snaptain S5C provides quality flying at a shocking price – most drones in this price range would be quickly rejected for their cheap build. However, Snaptain stands above the rest with the S5C, providing a product that we happily recommend. With technology we didn’t expect to see on a drone in this class, the S5C can perform stunts, take off and land with the touch of a button and even respond to gesture controls. The Snaptain mobile app is also supported by VR headsets, giving you a real-time, first-person view of your drone.
We especially like the accessory kit that Snaptain comes with the S5C. For those who don’t want to control the drone with a smartphone touchscreen, the S5C comes with a hardware controller. Also, since short battery life tends to be the enemy of most drones, Snaptain includes two batteries so you can stay in the air longer. Underneath the S5C’s exterior is a 720-pixel (p) camera for taking photos and videos that can be easily shared on social media. Each battery lasts up to 16 minutes on a single charge, and the drone can fly up to 80 meters.
Best Miniature: Simrex X300C
Why you should buy it: It’s a great portable mini drone that can fold up for travel and features a 1080p video camera with a wide 110-degree viewing angle.
Who it’s for: Anyone looking for an affordable pocket mini drone or anyone who wants to fly indoors with minimal problems.
Why we chose the Simrex X300C:
There are plenty of mini drones on the market, and the Simrex X300C is the best one you can buy. At under $50, this miniature drone is great to put in your backpack for your next adventure, and is easy to store thanks to its folding design. The X300C is also great for indoor use, thanks to its small size and the use of extra protective propellers so your drone won’t be ruined if you hit something. You can control the X300C either via your smartphone or with the included remote control. The phone app also provides real-time viewing and is compatible with virtual reality goggles.
For such a small drone, the Simrex X300C still has technology such as an altitude hold function, the ability to automatically return to the takeoff point and a collection of fun tricks available at the touch of a button. The X300C can fly up to 45 meters and boasts a battery life of up to 10 minutes. We would recommend purchasing additional batteries as the flight time is quite limited. Simrex recommends taking a 10-minute flight break between battery recharges to prevent the drone from overheating.
Best for kids: Snaptain H823H
Why you should buy it: It’s a great drone that can be launched indoors without using a smartphone, and it has propeller guards for added safety.
Who it’s for: Kids who have been begging their parents to buy them a drone ever since they saw it at the local park.
Why we chose the Snaptain H823H:
Snaptain is releasing another great drone, the H823H, a fantastic option for kids who want to start flying and for parents who don’t want the house to be ruined. Thanks to a design in which the drone’s propellers are completely enclosed, the H823H poses less danger in the event of a fall. Parents can sleep better knowing that the flying plastic blades of this device won’t crash straight into anything. In addition, the drone can be controlled directly from the included controller, without the need for an expensive smartphone. However, that doesn’t mean that the drone isn’t interesting – the Snaptain H823H has a ton of features that we didn’t expect from a drone at such an affordable price.
The Snaptain H823H can operate at three different speeds, making it easy for novice pilots. To make takeoffs and landings easier, the H823H can automatically perform both functions as well as return to the original takeoff point. There is also a built-in altitude hold mode, as well as the ability to perform multiple somersaults. The H832H’s flight time can reach an impressive 21 minutes for extended gaming sessions. While Snaptain doesn’t specify an official flight range for the device, we’d keep it close and indoors, as it can be difficult outdoors in strong gusts of wind.
Best for aerial photography: Eachine E520S
Why you should buy it: The E520S has an impressive 4K camera which can be used with waypoints to create great aerial shots.
Who it’s for: Those who are just starting to use drones and want to get into aerial photography.
Why we chose the Eachine E520S:
For those familiar with drones, we know what your first thought will be: The Eachine E520S looks like a copy of the DJI Mavic. To this we will reply, “Yes, you are right.” However, if you look at the design that doesn’t look like a copy, the E520S turns out to be an impressive drone with a 4K camera and GPS, all at a great price. The 4K camera is a great place to start for those looking to get into aerial photography, and the built-in GPS helps determine waypoints. Waypoints are great for shooting video or creating images, and they allow you to set automatic flight paths for the drone while you take care of the camera controls. The E520S can even orbit around you, capturing an amazing 360-degree view of itself.
The downloadable camera app for iOS and Android lets you control the drone as well as give smart commands. Our favorite feature is Follow Me mode, which allows the drone to follow you as you move – great for capturing quick action in open terrain. Otherwise, the Eachine E520S is packed with other smart features we’ve come to expect, including altitude hold and automatic takeoff and landing. The E520S has a flight time of up to 16 minutes and can travel up to 300 meters. After completing its flight, the E520S can be folded up into a neat package for backpack storage, which is very convenient for outdoor enthusiasts.
How we test drones
Flight time and distance
We made sure that once you get to where you want to go, you can launch your drone into the sky and start flying. We’ve made sure that none of our best cheap drones will die quickly after a few minutes of flight time. All of the drones we’ve included in our guide have a minimum flight time of 10 minutes, and most have an external battery that can easily be replaced with another. Drones are no fun when you can only fly for five minutes and then you have to charge the battery for an hour.
Depending on the purpose of use, not every drone needs to have a 4K Ultra HD camera, but we expect all of the drones we selected to broadcast in HD. The drones we have chosen must support a decent HD video feed while flying, so you know what’s going on. For all of the drones we selected with top-of-the-line 4K cameras, we made sure they were suitable for novice photographers and videographers, so you can take to the skies and start capturing beautiful aerial images. For photo-oriented drones, we’ve made sure they have more advanced features like digital waypoints – more on that below.
It wasn’t that long ago that most drones were “dumb” – they had no “brains” behind the wiring and relied entirely on your flight instructions. We wanted to make sure you were getting off to the best start, so all of the drones we selected have at least a minor set of smart features, such as automatic takeoff and landing, the ability to hover in one position, and a return-to-home feature. Some of our choices even include the ability to track waypoints or perform stunts, so you can take your drone to the next level, even if it’s inexpensive.
Controlling a drone can be fun, but it can also be challenging if you don’t have the right tools at hand. In selecting drones, we made sure that most of them have a hardware controller so you can control your new drone without taking your eyes off the sky. Those options that don’t have a hardware controller included can either be added or use the appropriate app without any add-ons. We’ve also eliminated any options that offer controls that seemed cramped or uncomfortable during use.
When we consider products, one of the most important aspects is cost. We know you’re hard up for your money, and we want to make sure it’s not wasted. We compare the features each drone offers and consider what should be discarded and what is worth putting above the rest. In our selection of the best cheap drones, we needed to find the optimal value for each of the drone categories. Whether you want to get started in aerial photography or buy a drone for your child, our options ensure that you get the most for your money and won’t regret your purchase decision.