If you’re looking for the easiest drone to fly with the most flight time, features and great video quality, the Phantom 3 is the only option that I would recommend to just about anyone. There are a few other drones that have similar functionality to the Phantom 3, but nothing else is going to give you a great all around experience with all of the most popular features for the same price.
The Phantom 3 comes in four different models. At the top of the food chain, DJI’s Phantom 3 Professional comes standard with follow-me, GPS waypoints, point-of-interest, optical-flow and ultrasonic sensors (for hight and position hold when no GPS signal is available), 4K video recording, 20 minute flight times and more. The Phantom 3 Advanced will do everything that the Phantom 3 Professional can do, but at 2.7K instead of 4K. At $499, the Phantom 3 Standard is the cheapest Phantom 3 you can buy. It has a cheaper controller design (taken from the older Phantom 2), no optical-flow or ultrasonic sensors, but it still has follow-me, GPS waypoints and shoots 2.7k video. With the Phantom 3 Standard, you’re basically getting something comparable to a 3DR solo with a GoPro Hero 4 Silver and gimbal for half the price. The last model which came out a few weeks ago is the Phantom 3 4K. It has a lot of great features like 4K but at the same price as the Phantom 3 advanced.
For more detailed info about the model differences, head over to the comparison article where I talk about the strengths and drawbacks of all four Phantoms.
When I flew the Phantom 3 for the first time, all I could think was “this thing flies like a mini Inspire 1!”. It’s much more stable than the Phantom 2 and the video quality is exactly the same as the inspire 1, however there are some big differences between the Phantom 3 and the Inspire 1. If you aren’t sure which one to buy, read this article comparing the two.
Right now, the Phantom 3 is what I fly the most (when I’m not flying the inspire 1). I use to tell people to buy a smaller drone so that they could learn how to fly before investing in a Phantom, but now with better flight characteristics and the built-in flight simulator, there really isn’t a reason to do that anymore.
One possible negative thing that actually has nothing to do with the Phantom itself, is DJI’s customer support. In the past with the Phantom 1 and early phantom 2, they had a hard time keeping up with questions and complaints. The good news is that their support started getting much better after the inspire 1 was announced back in 2014. I actually called them when I had issues with my inspire 1 and it was returned to DJI in California and fixed under warranty.
Recently DJI has expanded their customer support team and now they even have DJI Care, which is like a damage protection plan. With DJI Care, you can send your Phantom into DJI and they will fix it for free even if the crash was your fault. If you want to know more about DJI care, check out the DJI Care article.
On a positive note, the amount of YouTube videos, websites and people in general talking about the Phantom 3 is huge. Any questions that you might have, there will always be someone out there who knows the answer. You can also find after-market accessories for sale like carrying cases.
Right now, the Phantom 3 is priced at $999 which is pretty amazing considering that you’re getting almost all of the features of the inspire 1.
Let me just start off by saying, if you ever get a chance to see this drone in person, you’re going to want one for yourself. With a design that looks like it came from a sci-fi movie, the inspire 1 is the most professional ready-to-fly drone you can buy.
The DJI Inspire 1 is probably one of the most advanced quadcopters I’ve ever seen. There isn’t much that the Inspire 1 “can’t” do. it comes standard with all of the features of the Phantom 3 Professional, but with a much bigger, cooler and higher quality design. It’s almost twice as big and twice as fast as the Phantom 3 and with it’s transforming design, the propellers will almost never be seen in your videos. Additionally, the Inspire 1 comes with a 4K camera on a 360 degree panning gimbal, which means that you can control the motion of the camera completely independently of the Inspire 1. This makes it great for dual pilot operation, but also for getting locked in shots in almost any wind conditions.
For Professional video use, the Inspire 1 comes in two other variants with superior Image quality to even the most expensive aerial platforms in it’s size. If you need a high quality camera for shooting pro quality video The Inspire 1 pro is a version of the inspire 1 that features a micro-four-thirds 4K camera with 13 stops of dynamic range, interchangeable lenses and a sensor that’s 8 times larger than the standard Inspire 1 camera. If you’re looking for an even higher end solution, DJI will also be coming out with the Inspire 1 Raw, featuring a 500GB SSD and 4K Raw video recording for working in Professional post-production environments.
I can’t cover everything about the Inspire 1 in this article, but one thing that I will talk about is that this is not something that you would buy your 10 year old son as a gift. The inspire 1 costs about $2900 and is mainly for people who want an amazing tool for aerial photography, videography, search and rescue, 3D mapping, or any other professional application. That being said, the inspire 1 is actually one of the easiest drones to use and fly out there. So whether you have a real use for this drone, or you just want something that will impress all of your friends, the Inspire 1 is definitely something worth looking into.
Compared to DJI and 3D robotics, Yuneec is a relatively unknown company, however that hasn’t stopped them from competing. The q500 4K is the newest model from Yuneec and as the name implies, it shoots 4K video just like the Phantom 3 and Solo. Although the Yuneec looks like a pool vacuum cleaner (in my opinion), it has lots of great features for the price. For example, it comes with two batteries and a hand mount that allows you to take the camera (and gimbal) off the quadcopter to use it as a mini handheld stabilized camera system.
At $1300, it’s definitely a good price for what your getting especially compared to the solo, though it’s not as cheap as the Phantom 3. Because the Q500 4K isn’t super popular compared to the other models, you won’t find a lot of information and videos about it yet, nor will there be any third-party accessories available, but that shouldn’t stop you from considering it as an option. The most interesting feature of the Q500 4K is that it has a android device built into the controller, so there’s no need to use your tablet or smartphone, although the quality of the screen on the controller is definitely subpar compared to an iPad. If you do plan On buying the Q500, make sure that you get the new silver and black 4K version, because the original Q500 had a 1080p camera and it wasn’t all that great.
#4 3DR SOLO
The 3D robotics Solo is extremely functional, yet easy to use. It has many features similar to the Phantom 3 but instead of using a built-in camera, it uses the GoPro Hero 4. This means that you have the ability to take the camera off and use it for whatever you want. The biggest difference between the Solo and almost any other ready-to-fly camera drone is that it’s modular/upgradable but still easy to use. It has a gimbal bay and an accessory bay, meaning that third-pardy companies can easily make new gimbals along with other accessories (No accessories or gimbals are currently available though).
You can get the Solo for only $999, however this price does not include the GoPro or 3 axis gimbal. If you want to get the Solo with the 3DR gimbal and a GoPro Hero 4 Black Edition, The total cost will be around $1900. Basically, there are other cheaper options out there like the Phantom 3 and the Yuneec q500 4K that can produce videos with the same great quality, but if you can afford it and you like the options that the solo has to offer, it’s not a bad choice.
#5 HUBSAN X4
The Hubsan X4 is personally my favorite (small) beginner drone. It’s about the same size as the Nano QX, but roughly half of the price. There’s 4 different versions of the Hubsan X4.
The cheapest version is about $45 USD (including the controller). It doesn’t have an Agility mode like the Nano QX so you can’t fly with complete manual control, but it’s pretty fast and maneuverable (even with auto leveling). It also has 6 LED lights which can be turned on and off from the controller. Speaking of controllers, the controller that comes with the 3 cheaper Hubsan models is actually pretty nice. I like it better than what comes with the Nano QX and the Proto x).
The next 2 versions of the Hubsan X4 have cameras. They’re slightly bigger and heavier than the cheaper version of the X4, but the flight time is about the same. The H107C is the version with a standard definition camera and the 61170-02 is the one with a 720p camera. The Hubsan X4 with the standard camera is ok, but the 720p camera takes much better video. The only problem with the HD version is that it’s more expensive and the flight time is slightly less.
The most expensive version of the Hubsan X4 is the H107D. It’s mainly for FPV, which allows you to see everything that the drone can see in real time. The design is slightly different from any of the other models and it has a black antenna on the bottom. Although FPV is really cool, This is probably my least favorite version of the Hubsan X4, mainly because the flight time isn’t as good as the other models and the FPV range is only a couple hundred feet. It’s also about 2 times more expensive than the Hubsan with the HD camera.
#6 BLADE NANO QX
The nano QX is a lot like the LaTrax Alias but smaller. Because it’s a few inches smaller than the Alias it doesn’t have as much yaw authority, but it’s still a lot better than the tiny Proto X.
It has two flight modes, stability and agility. In agility mode, you have full control over the quadcopter to learn how to fly manually (it will not auto level itself). In stability mode, it will automatically level itself when you let go of the controls.
The nano doesn’t have the auto flipping functions that the Alias does, but that isn’t a problem since you can do flips manually and it’s more fun. Since the Nano QX is smaller than the Alias, it’s only $90 instead of $150. The only annoying thing about having a smaller quadcopter like the Nano QX is that it’s harder to see when flying far away, so it’s easier to lose orientation, but in general, it’s still a good quadcopter to learn with, especially since you can also use it with any DSMX RC transmitter.
#7 PARROT BEBOP
The Parrot Bebop is one of the more technologically advanced drones for sale right now. It’s the AR Drone’s smaller, smarter, faster and more expensive little brother.
Just like the AR Drone, you can control the Bebop with your iPhone or Android device. But with the Bebop, there’s an optional SkyController which will allow you to have real joystick controls, extended range, HDMI output and a few other cool things.
The Bebop has a lot of improvements over the AR Drone 2.0, but the most interesting feature is the video system. It has a 14 megapixel camera with a 180 degree field-of-view fisheye lens. Since the camera lens has such a wide field-of-view and a really fast processor, the Bebop is able to take the full 14 megapixel image, fix the image distortion (eliminating the fisheye effect), stabilize the image, then send the live video back to your phone. What all that means is that you’ll be getting a digitally stabilized standard definition video feed straight to your phone. At the same time, It also records digitally stabilized 1080p video to the 8GB of onboard memory.
The Parrot Bebop is a really cool drone, but there’s a few issues that I have with it. The first is that the video stream seems to have a lot of lag, making it unusable for really fast and precise FPV (first-person-view) flying.
The second problem is the price. The price for the Bebop is $499 USD. It’s not a bad price, but you have to use your smartphone to fly it, which means that you won’t have precise controls unless you buy the optional $400 SkyController (making it $899 USD total). A lot of people are also having reliability problems with the Bebop. Take this review from The Verge for example.
Over all, I think that the Bebop will be very popular “as a cool tech gadget” for the Christmas season, but I can’t see it being used for professional video in the same way that people use the Phantom 2 and Phantom 3. On the other hand, it’s a pretty good price (not including the SkyController), so I guess it wouldn’t be a bad gift idea.
#8 TBS GEMINI
The TBS GEMINI is a tiny little hexacopter designed specifically for FPV (first person view) racing. It’s actually one of the only FPV racing drones for sale that comes ready to fly.
The first thing that you’ll notice when watching videos of the GEMINI is the fact that it hovers with the nose tilted up. This is because all of the motors are tilted forward by about 10 degrees. Doing this will actually improve the performance of the drone by decreasing drag and increasing speed in forward flight. Another cool feature of the GEMINI is the modular design. If you were to look on the inside of this little hexacopter, you would notice it’s not like a typical hobby grade drone. Everything has a place. Nothing is just slapped on to the frame and hanging there. Components like the flight controller and ESC’s can even be replaced just by pulling them out of their sockets (kinda like an Arduino shield).
Like the QAV400, the GEMINI isn’t for everyone though. It’s mostly intended for people who want to get into the hobby side of drones (or are already there) and just want something really small and fast for FPV.
As far as price goes, it’s about $600 (which is pretty normal for a drone this size with all of the features that it has). Availability for the GEMINI is pretty good, so you shouldn’t have a super hard time getting one.
Out of all the drones for sale, (other than the AR Drone) the IRIS has the biggest list of features. In a nutshell, the IRIS is for people who have never owned a drone before, but want something that they can tinker with and modify.
It has a lot of auto-pilot features such as auto takeoff and landing, GPS waypoint flight (with a computer or android device), live data telemetry and more. You can also order the IRIS with a brushless gimbal for the GoPro (made by a company called Tarot) for shooting aerial video, although in my opinion, shooting video was just an after thought when 3D Robotics was designing the IRIS.
The IRIS is an interesting quadcopter, especially for people who want to learn about flight controllers and how auto-pilot systems work, but for the rest of us out there it’s a bit hard to justify spending $750 which is how much it costs to have something that isn’t very user friendly.
The 3D Robotics X8+ is like the tank of ready-to-fly drones for sale. it has 8 motors that turn large 11 inch propellers. With all that power, it’s able to lift over 800g (about 2 pounds) of payload, making it a great option for lifting large cameras, lidar systems, or even bottles of water.
Basically, the X8 is like the bigger brother of the IRIS. It has the same flight controller, but the electronics are just bigger and better. One good thing about having 8 motors in this configuration, is that you get extra redundancy. For example, one motor or ESC could completely shut off and the drone would still hover in the air without any issue.
Another feature that both the X8+ and IRIS+ have is the popular “follow me” feature that everyone talks about. In this mode, the drone will try to follow you around by getting GPS position information from your smartphone.
#11 QUANUM NOVA
If you’re on a budget and want a lot of features for your money, the Quanum Nova is probably the best option. It has a similar shell design to the DJI Phantom 2, but it’s running the same software as the 3D Robotics IRIS, which means that it has almost all of the features of the IRIS (with the exception of data telemetry) at a fraction of the cost.
The Quanum Nova is only $300 which is very low for what it can do. You have to buy the battery and charger separately, but even when adding that to the full cost it would only be about $400 for everything ($350 less than the IRIS). Just like the IRIS, the Nova also has an optional brushless gimbal for the GoPro that costs $100 extra.
The main thing to take into consideration with the Quanum Nova is that it’s a very cheap quadcopter. There aren’t many videos out there or documentation on how to use it, or problems that it could potentially have in the future. So far, all of the reviews I’ve seen have been ok, but some people are having problems with the ESCs and motors being defective.
#12 LATRAX ALIAS
If you want to learn how to fly a quadcopter manually, the LaTrax Alias is a great way to start. The reason why it’s a good quadcopter to learn with is because it has a full manual flight mode and it’s extremely durable. This means that you can learn how to fly without worrying too much about crashing.
Since it’s about 7 inches wide and has big propellers it also has great yaw authority, so doing bank turns, pirouette maneuvers and more would be no problem. It’s also big enough to carry a small camera like the 808 keychain camera. I’ve even seen people instal video transmitters and do FPV.
The only down side about the Alias is the price which is about $150. It might seem a little bit pricy at first, but at the same time it’s built well and even if you do manage to break it, all of the parts are replaceable. This is not the type of quadcopter where you end up throwing it away after a month of use.
#13 PARROT AR DRONE 2.0
When the AR Drone 2.0 first came out, it was one of the coolest drones for sale on the market. It has a 1GHz 32 bit processor, 1GB of ram, gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers, a pressure sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, 2 cameras and more. Even though it’s over 2 years old, the AR Drone is still one of the most advanced quadcopters available in its price range which is $299.
The biggest feature of the AR Drone is that it can be controlled from your iPhone. You can also see a live video feed from the phone screen and record video. It’s even running Linux and there’s an AR Drone open API platform, so you can program it to do whatever you want.
Like the other multirotors on the list, this is “not” a perfect quadcopter. The biggest feature of this Drone is actually one of it’s biggest problems. The AR drone can only be controlled with your phone, meaning that you can’t use a normal RC controller with real control sticks. That also means that there’s no way to fly manually.
If you’re planning on learning how to fly so you can operate a more advanced model in the future, you won’t learn anything with the AR Drone.
The QAV400 is a quadcopter designed for sport flying and FPV (first person view). It’s actually just a frame that’s sold so people can add their own electronics to it, but you can get a ready-to-fly version with all of the electronics installed if you’re willing to pay extra.
The feeling you get when flying FPV with this quadcopter is absolutely amazing. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend buying anything like this unless you already have experience with RC planes or helicopters. This is truly a hobbyist type of multirotor and all of the parts and components are high quality, customizable and made by completely different companies. So getting it set up and fixing it when you crash would be a lot harder than most of the other ready-to-fly options out there.
The price for this quadcopter is $970 which is normal for ready-to-fly multirotors in this category.
The Proto X is one of the smallest drones for sale on the planet. It has 3 gyros, 3 accelerometers, 4 motor speed controllers and a radio receiver all shoved into a tiny PCB board about the size of a quarter.
The price for this little drone is only about $38. It’s one of the cheapest quadcopters you can buy (but cheap isn’t necessarily a good thing). It’s vary fast for how small it is, but at the same time since the rotors are so small and close together, people have found that it’s a bit hard to do bank turns with it. Since the Proto X is so cheap, there is a chance that you could buy a defective one, but you can always just send it back.
I can’t really recommend this quadcopter if you’re serious about getting into the hobby, but it’s definitely a good toy if you just want something to bash around the house.