12 Best Drones You Can Buy for Under $500 (2022).
Drones are now commonplace everywhere you go. Drone pilots use them for everything from filming sports to fishing or taking amazing selfies. You used to have to spend at least $1,000 to get a decent drone like the DJI Mavic 2 or Mavic Air 2, but these days you can get some serious gear for $500 or less.
We have compiled a list of the best drones you can buy for less than $500 in various categories. We think you’ll be surprised how affordable it is to own a good drone without having to spend hours looking for it on Amazon!
What to Look For in a Drone
Drones are designed with different tasks in mind, so an important factor when choosing a drone is what kind of work you want it to do. There are no drones that are good at everything, so it is more important to find a drone that is good at what you need, and it can just be good at everything else.
Most people who want a drone are specifically looking for a drone with a camera, so camera quality is an integral part of the equation. If possible, it would be nice to get a drone with a UHD 4K camera, but this is not critical. Most people still don’t have 4K TVs, and 4K video gets lost on small mobile devices.
However, in addition to making your drone safe from the future, small footage in 4K essentially gives you a 4x increase in post-processing if you output HD 1080p video without losing image quality. 720p HD video is almost obsolete at this point, even for everyday social media use.
You will also want the camera to be stabilized. In most cases, this will be a combination of mechanical stabilization with a 3-axis or 2-axis gimbal and software electronic image stabilization (EIS). Some drones, such as racing drones, do not have a gimbal and rely only on EIS.
Flight time is key. After all, you can’t get far or shoot long shots if you have to land and change batteries every five minutes. As of 2022, 30 minutes of flight time is the gold standard and range remains at the top of the drone market. Intelligent Flight Modes help save battery power depending on the type of photography or video you are taking.
How many rotors?
Almost all drones are quadcopters in this price range, but hexacopter and octocopter models get cheaper over time. For now, this budget rules out adding extra motors and rotors, but more common will be the extra speeds, payload, and redundancy of multi-rotor drones beyond the classic quadcopter design.
Should you choose a foldable drone?
Finally, we live in the age of foldable drones. These drones are widespread, they are small, light and easy to take with you anywhere. The main disadvantage of foldable drones is that they can cost more because they are more complex, and of course, the more moving parts you add to any machine, the more points of failure you create.
The last thing you need to be aware of is that when flying drones, you will likely need a permit or license from the US Federal Aviation Administration to fly a camera drone or its local equivalent, depending on the country or region where you live. . Find out the legal requirements for owning a drone where you live!
1. Best Camera Drone Under $500: DJI Mini 2
Support 4K 30 FPSFoldableHigh wind resistanceOcusync transmission technology
The DJI Mini 2 fixes all the complaints about the first Mavic Mini. DJI has redesigned this little wonder, making it much more wind resistant and slightly longer battery life than the original.
The main camera records 4K, though you’re limited to 24, 25, or 30fps at the highest resolution. The Mini 2 has significantly better wind resistance: wind resistance level 5 up to 10.5 m/s.
Perhaps the most significant upgrade is the removal of WiFi for video transmission in favor of DJI’s unique Ocusync technology. This means you never have to worry about live video tearing or running out of control range in most cases.
Honestly, the Mini 2 is as close to premium drones as the Air 2 at this price and in this size. Its biggest drawback is its lack of obstacle avoidance. Unlike more expensive DJI drones, the Mini 2 doesn’t have the sensors needed to avoid hitting a tree or a wall.
Given the budget and target weight, this isn’t all that surprising. However, this means that you must be very vigilant. You also don’t have features like Active Track or Follow Me that was present in older budget DJI Spark drones.
The final reason the Mini 2 gets the nod, as our top pick comes down to the software. This goes for every other DJI drone on the list below, but the DJI mobile apps and software are just as reliable and easy to use. It is very easy to plan a flight path and set waypoints. Easy access to advanced features and tutorial videos are available to teach you everything from flying to taking better pictures.
2. Best Bang for Buck: DJI Mavic Mini Fly More Combo
Includes numerous accessories (batteries, propellers)Foldable2.7K camera
This is the original Mavic Mini that boldly circumvented laws requiring drones weighing over 250g to be licensed. Even though this DJI drone only weighs 249g in flight, this is a very serious drone, not a toy.
The 2.7K camera captures great footage better than a standard HD camera. The drone can fly in light to moderate winds and at very comfortable ranges. You should note that the Mavic Mini is no longer in production, so this is pretty much a “while supplies last” case. That’s why this “Fly More” combo is available at such a great price.
However, as a Fly More package, the first generation DJI Mini offers a heck of a lot for under $500. You get a carry case, spare rotors, two extra batteries, a triple charger, and a roll cage for indoor flights.
The Mini’s main problem has always been using WiFi instead of DJI’s excellent OcuSync for video transmission. However, as long as you are conservative about how far you fly, this is not a problem. In most countries, you are still not allowed to go any further where you can see the drone with the naked eye!
3. Best Budget Camera Drone: DJI Mini SE
Mavic Mini internals Better wind resistance $200 less than Mini 2 Compatible with Mini 2 batteries
The DJI Mini SE is a curious product, but it makes sense when you understand exactly what you get for the money. Since the original Mavic Mini has been discontinued and stocks will run out at some point, it makes sense to have a more affordable Mini-class drone to fill that gap. The Mini SE is significantly cheaper than the Mini 2, but don’t let that put you off.
Inside, the Mini SE has for the most part the same hardware as the first generation Mavic. Same processing power and camera system. So you get a 2.7K camera with the same quality footage as the original model.
However, the SE has significant improvements over the original Mavic Mini. In particular, it uses the same more powerful yet lighter batteries as the Mini 2. This means you can be sure you have a battery, and if you ever upgrade to a Mini 2, your batteries will work.
DJI also gave the SE a shell similar to the Mini 2 and increased the wind resistance of the SE compared to the Mavic Mini. Unfortunately, you’re still stuck with WiFi image transmission, but other than that it’s a great drone for a great price.
4. Best Camera: Hubsan Zino 2 Plus
Mavic 2s-like specs (but no obstacle sensors)Fantastic Sony image sensor33 minutes flight time
DJI is undoubtedly dominating the drone industry right now, but there is no shortage of capable drone makers aiming for the crown. Hubsan is probably best known for making great toy drones, but the Zino 2 Plus is not a toy drone at all.
The Zino 2 Plus is just a dollar under our budget and offers 4K shooting capability and a solid 33-minute endurance rating. This puts the Zino 2 Plus in direct competition with $1,000 drones like the Mavic Air 2s.
One major difference between the Zino 2 Plus and Air 2S is that the Hubsan cannot avoid obstacles. You need to be careful when flying the Hubsan, but the Ambrella H22 processor and Sony image sensor mean you get great low-light results and drone-like footage for twice the price. If image quality and basic flight performance are your top priority, the Zino 2 Plus is a great option at this price point.
5. Best Educational Drone: Ryze Tello
Minimum price720p HD cameraProgrammabilityDJI software technology
You will often hear these days that one of the most important skills to learn is programming and coding. Ryze Tello has been designed, at least in part, as an accessible educational platform.
It has quite powerful built-in processing hardware, especially when it comes to intelligent image processing. This is a Ryze Robotics drone, but it uses DJI technology, which gives it flight capabilities that surpass those of its available hardware.
The camera is also inexpensive, with a maximum resolution of 720p. However, thanks to improved image processing and built-in EIS, Tello can capture good footage despite the lack of IS.
One of the reasons Tello is so affordable is that it doesn’t come with a dedicated controller, but you can purchase one later. The flight is controlled using your smartphone, or you can pre-program the behavior of the flight.
Whether you’re looking for a good affordable selfie drone or want to start a career in programming or robotics, Tello is a unique and impressive solution.
6. Best Mini Toy Drone: Potensic A20 Mini (Upgraded )
Tiny drone perfect for hand training only three batteries
In the past, if anyone asked us for toy drone recommendations, we would suggest Hubsan 111 or Cheerson CX10 nano drones. Unfortunately, these tiny nano-drones are no longer for sale, so a new toy drone must take the throne.
While the Potensic A20 Mini has more value than a nano drone, we think it is the recommended option for anyone who wants to learn how to fly a drone manually or just wants a small, nimble drone to keep you entertained for a few minutes.
This mini drone has quite a few advantages over the old nano drones. First, you get three batteries with the drone, while nano drones tend to have batteries that you can’t remove. So you don’t need a dead battery to get in the way of your fun.
There is also an automatic takeoff, landing, and hover function. For users who cannot master absolute directions, there is also a headless mode in which the drone moves relative to the position of the transmitter.
Whether you’re buying a drone for a child or for yourself, it promises to be a smooth learning experience. The only drawback is that the A20 does not have a flip function, unlike other drones in this class.
7. Best Budget Beginner FPV Drone Kit: BetaFPV Cetus Pro FPV Drone Kit
Cheapest FPV kit we could findBrushless motorsMultiple crash safety features
These days, first-person drone flights are becoming more and more popular. With these drones, you put on your goggles and feel like you’re flying through the air.
FPV drones don’t need a gimbal. You don’t need image stabilization when the drone is bobbing and rolling. Some gimbaled drones, including those from DJI, offer an FPV mode in which the axis of rotation of the gimbal is locked.
The Cetus Pro FPV is one of the cheapest FPV kits we’ve seen, but based on customer reviews, it’s also a good drone on its own. This professional model offers a drone with brushless motors, which is preferable to a non-professional kit with brushed motors. Brushless motors work better and last much longer.
You can fly for 4-5 minutes at a time, and with the auto-shutoff feature during a crash, as well as the built-in rotor protection, we think you’ll probably be able to subject the Cetus to a lot of punishment.
8. Best RTF Racing Drone Under $500: ARRIS X-Speed 280 V2
Ready to fly, no assembly required fast, durable and inexpensive racing
Drone racing is a growing sport with leagues and even cash prizes emerging as people realize how exciting it can be. In the past, participating in drone races meant you had to build your drone from scratch.
Fortunately, it is now possible to buy an RTF (Ready To Fly) racing drone such as the Arris X-Speed. You still need to buy a set of goggles and a charger to fly, but it’s a lot easier than building the drone itself. It’s normal for drone racing and RC flight enthusiasts to have a balance charger to safely manage to charge and work with batteries from multiple aircraft.
Arris is a great combination of power and price. If you’ve never flown a racing drone before, you might be surprised by the speed, power, and agility of these machines. Unfortunately, you don’t have the benefit of GPS hovering or anything to prevent your drone from colliding with things. Just you and the powerful machine.
The Arris is a great drone to start your racing career, but we don’t recommend it as your first drone. If you want to learn how to fly manually first, the A20 Mini is a great place to start.
9. Best Beginner Camera Drone: Holy Stone HS100
2K camera GPS moduleHeadless flight control
When DJI and Parrot released their first camera drones, it was hard to imagine that there would ever be something like a sub-$200 camera drone with GPS and 2K video. However, Holy Stone’s HS100 is a GPS drone that can do all these things and it usually sells for around $180. That’s amazing on its own, but there’s fierce competition at this price point these days. Therefore, it should also be good, and not just have a list of good features on paper.
The good news is that the Phantom-inspired HS100 is indeed a very competent drone, and we think it’s especially good for beginners. There are several reasons why you might want to buy the HS100 as your first drone. Most importantly, the prospect of crashing a $180 drone is far less worrying than crashing a $1,000 or even $500 drone.
In addition, the HS100 offers the headless operation, altitude hold, GPS hovering, and auto return to home. Wait, the DJI Mini SE has similar beginner-friendly features and is “only” $120 more expensive.
It’s true, the SE is a good option for beginner drones, but its small size can make it difficult to fly. The HS100 is a 700g drone, compared to the Mini’s 249g. This makes it more predictable and, in our opinion, suitable for absolute beginners. Also, again, you can buy two HS100s for almost the price of a Mini SE.
10. Best for Getting New Angles: Parrot Anafi Extended
Unique upward gimbal4K HDR camera extra batteries and SD card included in the advanced package
Parrot is one of the early pioneers of camera drones with their classic augmented reality drone. It was a product that would be laughable by today’s standards, but it showed us the future of personal camera drones. Companies like DJI eventually surpassed parrots, but they’re still in the drone business. Not only that, Anafi does what no other consumer drone can: it looks up!
While we usually think that a drone’s camera angle can be anything from low to the ground to high in the sky looking down, Anafi allows you to fly under things and shoot them from below. This opens up so many creative possibilities, not to mention the possibility of impromptu checking with a drone, which is not possible with a standard gimbal.
It doesn’t really matter if the camera isn’t great, but Anafi’s 4K HDR camera captures great footage, and this foldable drone can fly for 25 minutes. What’s more, this extended package includes extra batteries, an SD card, a spare remote control, and controllers.
It’s crazy value for money and a significant discount over the starting price of this package. The sad truth is that while the Anafi is a perfect drone even at its original price, it doesn’t sell well. The good news for us consumers is that you can buy a drone for less than $500, which is impossible at this price. The downside is that it is not known how long Parrot will support Anafi or even how long the company will exist.
11. Yesterdayâ€™s Flagship: Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon
Dedicated ground station high-quality optics
You should know that the Q500 4K Typhoon is a 2015 drone that launched for $1,500. Since then, the price of it has been reduced several times, and now it is well within our budget.
The downside is that Yuneec no longer makes the Q500, so this happens when the existing stock sells out. You will also no longer receive firmware updates unless some critical bugs are found at some point. On the other hand, it also means that this is the most stable and error-free state this drone has ever been in.
Even though it’s seven years old, a lot of the technology in the Q500 is still better than a modern $500 drone. Its camera still captures fantastic high-quality footage thanks to its huge size and the quality of its optics.
You also get a professional-grade ground station (remote control) that doesn’t require a smartphone, so you never have to worry about app support to keep using your phone. People are still flying Q500 drones. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial and high quality for aerial photography and videography, this is a serious contender in the sub-$500 budget segment.
12. A Smarter Mini?: Upgraded Hubsan Zino Mini SE
Advanced AI flight features6 km transmission range significantly cheaper than Mini 2
Let’s not pretend Hubsan isn’t directly copying the DJI Mini family of drones here. They even named this drone Zinio Mini SE. However, the Zinio Mini SE is not a direct competitor to the DJI Mini SEÂ but is a mini 2 performance drone priced between the DJI Mini SE and Mini 2.
You get two batteries, a 6km transmission range, a long list of trendy AI flight modes, active tracking, a bag, and more. It seems like a much better value proposition than the Mini 2, although Ocusync is still the industry leader, and it certainly helps to have the after-sales support that DJI is known for.
Since Hubsan is the underdog here, they are also trying out some cutting-edge features here, such as the drone’s ability to identify its landing pad and land accurately in its center. We also encourage you to check out the DJI Mini 2 vs. Zino Mini SE comparison footage and decide for yourself if the Mini 2 is worth the slight price increase. Remember that you get more accessories with this bundle than with the basic Mini 2.
Is Spending More Than $500 Worth It?
Sure, there are plenty of fantastic drones out there for less than $500, but if you decide to spend more money, what do you get? Drone technology is constantly evolving, and many of the features we see here in these sub-$500 drones were previously only available in much more expensive products.
This means that if you stick to this budget segment, then these high-end features will eventually make their way into future drones. It’s mostly about much better camera technology, better flight, and smarter obstacle avoidance.
More expensive drones tend to have extra autonomy and are easier to fly. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you spend more, you will most likely end up with a drone that requires less skill and training to operate. However, the $500 drone segment now has all the basic features you need to create great content or fantastic flights for most people.
12 Best Drones You Can Buy for Under $500 (2022)
12 Best Drones You Can Buy for Under $500 (2022)