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10 Best Video Drones for the Money

10 Best Video Drones for the Money

Daniel Horowitz
Did you just watch some stunning drone video footage on YouTube and think, “Hey, I could do that!” Well, you can, because drones have made it possible for the everyday photography enthusiast to get some amazing shots from the skies. While it was expensive and difficult to create those shots in the past, drones can come with professional-quality cameras for reasonable prices with simple controls.
Before we tackle our list, let’s take a quick look at some useful things to know when purchasing a video drone.

What is a video drone?

There are multiple types of drones, but the kind that most photographers and hobbyists gravitate toward are video drones. These allow you to both take pictures and capture video from the air. By connecting to your drone with your phone or another wireless device, you can direct it to areas previously unreachable by foot.
Of course, there are a number of different types of video drones, and finding the right one depends on your budget and the type of photography you do. Some are easier to fly than others, too, so choosing the right one for your skill and comfort levels are major considerations before you make a purchase.
Drones were created for a number of different hobbies and interests, including racing, play, and even delivering items. Before you purchase your own drone, it’s crucial to know how it flies, the type of camera it uses, and if it’s easy to fly for beginners or if it requires some practice.

Are there any rules for flying drones?

There are rules you need to know before you begin flying your new drone. If you are in the U.S., then you may need to register your drone with the FAA. It’s a simple process that requires you to know your drone’s serial number and includes a small fee. However, you’re less likely to get in trouble with the authorities if you do this beforehand.
Here are some other rules to keep in mind when flying your new drone:
  • Stay at least 5 miles away from an airport
  • Do not fly over any government facilities or crime scenes
  • Do not fly more than 400 feet above the ground
  • Do not fly in national parks

Will my drone be ready to fly right out of the box?

Whether or not your drone can immediately take to the air depends on the type and the model you purchase.
  • An RTF (Ready-to-Fly) drone means that your drone will come almost fully assembled, although you will have to charge the battery and install the propellers.
  • BNF (Bind-and-Fly) and ARF (Almost-Ready-to-Fly) drones require a bit of assembly up to having you install the receiver and transmitter.
An RTF drone is the best option for beginners, though you can move on to the other types after you gain some experience.

How difficult it is to fly a video drone?

It’s actually quite simple to fly a video drone, and if you know your way around your cell phone, you shouldn’t have a problem flying one yourself. However, landing them can be a bit more difficult because of a multitude of interference-related factors. Flying a drone by a building, cars, or even metal in the ground can affect your compass, for example, which is why flying in an open area is the best way to practice.
Camera drones can be a bit easier to fly than other types of drones. Toy drones and racing drones require constant input from the controller, while a camera drone will simply hover in one spot until you direct it elsewhere. Most will also automatically return to the spot where it launched from when the battery gets low or it has flown out of range.

10 best video drones for the money

The drone you choose depends on your planned usage and budget. Professional photographers may want to invest in a model that has a higher-quality camera, while hobbyists may want a more basic device. You should also think about the size that works best for you and whether you need a more portable model.
Here are our top choices for video drones that not only work great but are also affordable.

1. DJI Phantom 4 Starter

DJI Phantoms have become popular because they’re easy to control and offer fantastic video quality. While you can invest in more expensive Phantom models, the Phantom 4 Starter is a great option if you want a solid device without paying too much.
The f/2.8 lens has a broad field of view, allowing you to capture professional-looking shots. It also has Gimbal stabilization, which can be a big deal when you are shooting video. It comes with video editing software as well, so you can make your own awesome-looking videos at home.
DJI Phantoms can get a bit expensive, so it’s worth looking into another drone on this list before moving on to the Phantom Pro. However, the Phantom 4 Starter is the way to go if you want a high-quality beginner model.
Additional features:
  • Flight time of 20 minutes
  • Manual tilting feature for the perfect photo
  • Obstacle avoidance sensor
  • Fast charge time

2. U49WF Blue Heron

The Blue Heron is one of the best options for beginners. With easy flight modes and altitude hold controls, this drone makes it possible for anyone to learn how to fly. You can also stream video directly from your drone to your phone, so you can see everything you’re capturing.
With a 150-meter range, this drone also comes with protectors for the propellers so you are prepared for a crash landing. Its best feature, though, is its compatibility with specific virtual reality headsets.
Additional features:
  • Capable of 360-degree flips
  • 1-Key lift and land for easy take-off and landing
  • 720p HD video drone camera
  • Flight time of 15 minutes

3. Force1 Mini Drone U34W Dragonfly

This drone is perfect if you plan to take your drone abroad. It’s not much bigger than a smartphone, but it still has a 720p HD camera to record live video. It’s also easy to start flying with the 1-Key lift/land function - even in an indoors area. With the included VR functionality, you can connect a headset and experience views from an entirely new perspective.
Additional features:
  • Comes with two rechargeable batteries
  • Flight time of 15 minutes
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Includes several modes: headless, altitude, and gravity

4. Holy Stone HS100

For a variety of camera functions, you can’t beat the Holy Stone HS100. This drone allows you to control your camera with adjustable angles of up to 90 degrees. The real-time viewing on your phone allows you to see all your footage, including selfies and bird’s-eye perspectives.
The 1080p HD camera provides professional quality footage. It also comes with a number of unique features that are ideal for beginners, like the Follow Me Mode, which makes sure you’re in the frame at all times. It also has a Return to Home function, so you don’t have to worry about conducting a smooth landing.
Additional features:
  • Flight time of 15 minutes
  • 500 meters of control distance
  • 1-Key lift and land to make landing easy
  • Excellent transmission range

5. Potensic T25

The Potensic T25 offers advanced GPS functions so you can keep track of your drone, even if there is no transmission signal received. With an automatic return when it reaches low power, you can rest easy knowing you won’t lose it. You also have remote control for a distance up to 300 meters, and you can connect a compatible VR headset for amazing views from the 1080p HD camera. The T25 also gives you the option of disconnecting the included camera and attaching your own, like a GoPro.
Additional features:
  • Flight time of 20 minutes
  • Return to Home function
  • Easy to fly
  • Maintains control during high winds

6. JJRC H68G

For a reasonably-priced drone, you get plenty of features with the JJRC H68G. It includes 5G transmission, which makes this video drone incredibly responsive. It also has a 3D flip feature that lets the drone perform tricks on its own. If you enjoy being in your videos or photos, this drone is a great choice because of its hands-free Follow Me mode. And with 30 minutes total of flight time, you can experiment in Headless Mode or take over as the pilot.
Additional features:
  • 1-Key lift and land to make landing easy
  • Headless mode for altitude hold
  • Return to Home function
  • 720p HD camera

7. Potensic D50

Another great model from Potensic, the D50 has a 5G transmission and the unique Draw the Dot feature. This allows you to create dots on your phone screen within an app that the drone will then follow. The 1080p HD camera takes high-quality pictures, and the drone transmits for up to 300 meters before returning home. With the Follow Me function, you can create some action footage at three different speeds: 18km, 24km, and 36km per hour.
Additional features:
  • Flight time of 15 minutes
  • Easy to control for beginners
  • Headless mode for altitude hold
  • 1-Key lift and land to make landing easy

8. Super Joy FPV

If you’re completely new to drones, the Super Joy FPV is an inexpensive option designed to handle multiple crashes. With built-in instruction, you can get off the ground in a matter of moments, while the Gimbal helps to make the 720p HD camera ideal for taking quick videos.
It also has three speeds, so you can try out different speeds and techniques when you’re more experienced. Plus, with an Automatic Return function, you won’t lose your drone even if you’re just starting out.
Additional features:
  • 120-degree adjustable camera
  • Emergency landing function
  • 9-axis gyro allows for stability in heavy winds
  • Tap Fly function for filming desired locations

9. Holy Stone HS160

This drone can be taken nearly anywhere thanks to its foldable arms that help it fit it into any bag. It also includes a bonus battery so you can fly for longer. The included app makes it simple to record video and take photos, and it even automatically sorts them for you into albums by date.
With an Altitude Hold feature, you can keep your drone’s camera focused on one object or at a certain altitude for clearer shots. Because this device is so compact, you don’t need to register it with the FAA.
Additional features:
  • 6-axis gyro
  • 1-Key lift and land to make landing easy
  • LED navigation lights
  • Compatible with certain VR headsets

10. Snaptain S5C

One thing that makes this drone different from the others is the fact that it can be used with voice control. This makes it a great choice if you’re starting out and not yet comfortable using a traditional controller.
You can also connect your social media accounts and upload your new photos and videos instantly with this drone. It has protective propeller guards, too, so it can survive a sudden drop or crash. As a bonus, the Snaptain includes a comprehensive information guide within its app for beginners.
Additional features:
  • Hover function for stabilization
  • 3D flip feature
  • Flight time of 10 minutes with an extra battery
  • Reasonable price

In summary

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to find the right video drone for you. There are plenty of options on the market that can allow you to explore your new hobby without breaking your budget or overwhelming you with features.

About the Author

Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.

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