Drones have come a long way. Initially, you could only find two kinds of drones. An extremely cheap drone with a flight time of only five minutes on a full charge. Secondly, a higher quality drone that was more expensive but came packed with all the features you needed, including GPS, HD Camera, and long-range controllers.
Now, the market has diversified, and there are a lot more inexpensive options with cool features. The best drones under $500 offer a wide range of great features, including 4K cameras, user-friendly apps, obstacle avoidance systems, and GPS features.
This article outlines the top drones under $500 in the market and factors to consider when buying them.
Best Drones Under $500
1. DJI Mavic Mini
- The compact yet powerful Mavic Mini camera drone is the perfect creative companion, capturing your moments in a way that effortlessly elevates the ordinary
- Weighing less than 0.55lbs by 250 grams, Mavic Mini is almost as light as the average smartphone. In the United States and Canada, you can fly this camera drone without the need to register your drone with the government
- Mavic Mini supports 12MP aerial photos and 2.7K HD videos. A 3-axis motorized gimbal provides superior camera stability and ensures clear, Ultra-smooth footage
- Mavic Mini’s weight allows it to stay in the air longer than similar consumer FlyCams on the market. Enjoy up to 30 minutes of flight time with a fully-charged battery
- DJI Fly App requires iOS v10.0, Android v6.0 or above. Compatible devices include: iPhone 11 Pro Max, 11 Pro, 11, XS Max, XS, XR, X, 8 Plus, 8, 7 Plus, 7, 6s Plus, 6s, 6 Plus, 6, Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, S10, S9 Plus, S9 , S8 Plus, S8, S7 edge, S7, S6, Note9, Note8, Huawei P30 Pro, P30, P20, P10, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 10, nova 5, nova 4, nova 3e, nova 2, Honor 8X, 10, 9, 20 Pro, Magic 2, Mi 8, MIX 2S, MIX 2, Redmi Note 5, Oppo Find X, R15, Vivo NEX, X27, X21, X20A, OnePlus 7, 6T, 5, Pixel 3 XL, 2 XL, 2, LG V20, LG G6
Weighing less than 0.55lbs / 250 grams, the drone is almost as light as the average smartphone. It is the smallest and lightest in the DJI range.
It's the best drone for first-time buyers looking for easy controls and reliable performance. It is also ideal for casual hobbyists interested in DJI technology as it comes in a small and relatively affordable package.
The DJI Mavic Mini boats quite several advanced features.
The drone features a foldable design, making it one of the highest tech portable drones on the market. Its weight allows it to stay up in the air longer; hence you can enjoy up to 30 minutes of flight time with a fully charged battery.
The DJI Mavic mini supports 12MP aerial photos and 2.7K HD videos. The drone features a 3-axis motorized gimbal which provides superior camera stability and ensures clear Ultra-smooth footage.
You have the choice of four pre-programmed flight maneuvers: Rocket, Circle, Dronie, and Helix. The drone is equipped with GPS receivers and downward visual positioning sensors, making it easy to operate with precise hovering.
The small drone can be flown in the United States and Canada without registering it with the government. However, when in other countries, it would be advisable to first check with the local government regulations before flying it.
The DJI Fly app (for iOS and Android) makes it easy and quick to launch your Mavic mini. The app features easy presets and quick-tap commands that will have you taking expert photos and videos like a seasoned pro. If it’s your first time flying and controlling a drone, the app also features a Flight Tutorial mode for walking you through the basics of commanding your winged companion. The control range is up to 2.5 miles, and you’ll get about 25 minutes of airtime from the Mini’s battery.
2. Holy Stone HS720
- 4K UHD Camera with Image Stabilization: The optimized full HD Camera built with Shock Absorption holder ensures shooting 3840 x 2160 high resolution images and videos without camera vibration. 5GHz FPV transmission and 90°adjustable lens enables you to see the word from different angle.
- GPS Assisted Intelligent Flight: Never lose the drone. It returns automatically whenever battery is low, signal is lost or you press one key return. Also, it is so smart to fly at your will, following you automatically, flying along a path you set, or fly around a point in circles. You may focus on your photography and creation.
- Configuration Upgrade: The 2 intelligent batteries works for 26 Mins/per battery for each charge; 52 Mins in total with 2 batteries; the long-life Brushless Motors have lower power consumption and give you a quieter flight; the foldable design and well-fitted carrying case make it easy to take the drone outdoor. DON'T use batteries from other brands, which may cause product issue or safety concern! PRODUCT SUPPORT AVAILABLE!
- Simple Operation: Equipped Multi Sensors guarantee hovering with great stability and high quality pics taken under different flying environment; Optical Flow Positioning makes great effect when GPS signal is lost or weak. Functions, like one key start/stop, emergency stop, altitude hold and electric fence, keep it simple to control for even beginners.
- Considerate Controller: The control range of 2.4GHz transmitter reaches to 3000 feet high range; battery level and GPS signal shown on the LED screen; a button to turn on or off the drone light is added; right hand throttle mode is available for left-hander. Remember to remove the scratch-proof film from the controller and the camera before use.
The Holy Stone HS720 is the best drone under $500 for hobbyists and professionals. It features the same foldable design as the DJI Mavic Mini, making it compact and portable.
The drone offers 26 minutes of flying time and is equipped with a military-grade intelligent battery that is safe and durable, allowing for a longer flight time. It comes with a Dual Balance Charger.
The Holy Stone Hs720 features a 4K camera with shock absorption. This allows you to capture high-resolution images and videos without any camera vibration. The drone is equipped with 5G connectivity, FPV transmission, and 90°adjustable lens, enabling you to see the world from a different angle.
The Holy Stone features GPS-assisted intelligent flight; hence you don't have to worry about losing your drone. The drone returns automatically when the battery life is running low, the signal is low, or you press the key to return. It can also fly at your will, following you automatically, flying along a path you've set or around circles.
The Holy Stone drone comes with a dedicated controller that connects via the Ophelia GPS app. The controller has a built-in LCD, displaying key information like battery level, speed, and GPS data.
3. Ruko F11 Pro
If you enjoy capturing scenic imagery and aerial photography, then this the best drone under $500.
The Ruko f11 Pro features a 120°FOV lens and 90°adjustable camera that takes 4K Ultra HD picture quality and 2.9k videos. The drone offers a full suite of intelligent flight modes, including Automatic Return Home, One-key Landing/Takeoff, Orbit, Follow Me, and Custom Flight Path.
The Ruko f11 Pro provides up to 30 minutes of flight time. The drone package includes an extra battery which extends your flight time to 60 mins. It takes about 3.5 hours for the drone to charge hence allowing you to enjoy it more.
The Ruko f11 Pro Drone can reach live video transmission of 300-500 meters and up to 500 meters (1614FT) image transmission distance(Outdoor and unobstructed). With a strong GPS signal, the drone can hover stably to capture clearer images.
It's ideal for both beginners and experienced fliers.
4. DJI Spark
- Intelligent Flight ModesSmart, reliable, and incredibly intuitiveQuickShotVideos with a Tap
- High-Performance CameraAmazing images and stabilized videoMechanical Gimbal StabilizationShake-Free Shots
- Flight PerformanceAwesome potential, immersive experiencesPowerful Propulsion Speed and Precision Control
- Flight SafetyWorry-free flight in the palm of your hand ; Propeller guards are recommended when using these functions.
- 2-Axis Stabilized Gimbal Camera. Voltage - 100-240 V
The DJI Spark ranks highly as another great choice for beginners.
The drone features a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor, allowing you to shoot stabilized video at 1080p and stills at 12 MP. It has a flight time of 16 minutes and a range of 2000m.
The drone features intelligent flight modes while also adding a couple of cool features such as Circle, Helic, Dronie, and Rocket modes. It's the best drone under $500 if you're interested in capturing cinematic footage.
The drone offers gesture recognition, allowing you to operate its flight without the controller. Its equipped with two-axis stabilization, plus a robust obstacle detection system. Generally, the drone is easy to fly and boasts the functionality of the company's higher-end drones.
5. Force1 F100GP GoPro-Compatible Drone
- GoPro Compatible Camera Drone for Adults: The F100GP RC drone is built for adventure with a 1080p HD action camera and GoPro action camera mount compatible with GoPro Heroes 3 and 4; expertly capture HD photos and video footage with this drone for GoPro
- High-Powered Brushless Drone Motors: Tougher, more powerful brushless motors give you a long flight range of up to 500 meters; this drone with 30 minutes long flight time races in 2 speeds and includes 3 swappable RC drone shells (white, blue, and black)
- 1080p HD Wide-Angle Drone Camera: Enjoy panoramic view and perfectly capture moments from the sky in vivid colors; this video drone can be set to record from above during its flight; high landing gear protects your quadcopter drone camera when landing
- Complete GoPro Drone Accessories: This remote control drone is an MJX Bugs 3 model that smoothly flies with a 2.4 GHz remote (requires 4 AA batteries - not included); drone kit includes (2) 1800mAh Li-Po drone batteries, balance charger, 4 extra propellers, and 4 propeller guards
- Quality Assured: The F100GP Ghost GoPro-ready drone with camera for adults comes in original F100 Ghost drone packaging; We’ll provide a full refund if you’re not completely satisfied with this elite brushless drone with camera
If you prefer a classic controller over an app on your phone, this is the best drone under 500.
The Force1 F100GP features a GoPro action camera mount compatible with GoPro Heroes 3 and 4. The drone allows you to capture HD photos and video footage with the included 1080p drone action camera. The lens is well balanced and light adaptive, allowing for clear and stable images and videos. The drone also features two LED headlamps which are perfect for nighttime shots.
It's perfect for Go Pro enthusiasts, and you can be sure that your GoPro will snap right into the chassis.
The Force1 F100GP comes inclusive of two batteries, each with a flight time of up to 30 minutes. The drone also features efficient brushless drone motors that power it at 2 speeds.
Factors To Consider When Buying Best Drones Under $500
a) The Material Used
Drones can be range from affordable to expensive. When searching for the best drones under $500, ideally, you're looking for a drone that will last you a while.
Cheaper drones tend to be made from plastic. Though this material is light and cheap, it's not necessarily durable. If looking for a cheap drone, you're better off with ABS plastic which is tougher than regular plastic.
Other drones are made from fiberglass and carbon fiber which tends to be more resilient. These are generally more expensive. It may be worth an investment if you see you're using your drone regularly.
You'll want to stay away from aluminum drones as the metal is lightweight and doesn't stand up well to accidents.
b) Range of Drone
Generally, when flying drones, the further you can fly from the transmitter, the better.
It's best to consider the range when searching for the best drones under $500. Cheap drones will ideally have a range of about 30 meters, whereas the highest quality drones, which tend to range on the more expensive scale, can travel for miles without losing contact with the transmitter.
Choosing the best drones will depend on your interests. If you're using the drone for photography or videography, then the range will be key since a longer range allows for the drone to reach the human pilot can't.
On the other hand, if it's a drone for fun, then a long-range may not be a priority.
c) Flying Time
Flying time is one of the key determinants when deciding on the best drones under $500.
The drone's battery limits how long it can fly, with popular drones having 20 to 30 typical flight times.
Some of the cheapest drones can only stay aloft for about 5 minutes.
Ideally, it would help if you searched for a great drone that will give you the highest flight time and the lowest wait when charging.
Regardless, it's always advisable to purchase extra batteries and keep them charged when you go out flying. This way, when your drone runs out of power, you can swap the battery and double the flight time.
Something else to note is that if you do run your battery to exhaustion, consider letting the drone rest for at least 10 minutes after you swap in a new battery. This will prevent the motors from overheating.
d) Camera Quality
For most drone pilots, camera quality is an essential factor. This is especially true if you enjoy cinematic or aerial-style photography.
When considering the best drones under $500, one factor to look into is if the drone comes with its own camera or you can onboard an external one. Though the external weight may reduce the flight time, it does pay off for the high-quality images and videos you're able to capture. This is especially important for those specific about their photography and how they like capturing and recording their videos.
If the drone features a main camera, it's essential to pay attention to the specifications such as the shutter speed, aperture, frame rate, and image stabilization. All these will affect the quality of images you want to take.
e) Live Feed
A drone with a live video feed allows you to not only capture amazing aerial shots and record videos but gives you a glimpse of what the drone is seeing as you're there with it. This makes the whole experience easier and safer.
When shopping for the best drones under $500, look for one with a built-in camera that can transmit a live feed to an LCD screen built into the transmitter or to your phone screen/ tablet.
If you select one with an onboard camera, ensure to use any camera that has the capability to transmit a live feed.
f) GPS Features
i) GPS Navigation
A great drone knows where it's going. Having a drone with built-in GPS navigation is key as it ensures that your drone can find its way around. Some drones have the option to pre-program routes and let your drone navigate for itself.
ii) GPS Home Function
The GPS signal can be interfered with easily, be it tall buildings, trees, or other radio signals.
Drones featuring a GPS home function record where they began flying from and will automatically return if there's a problem. This saves you from the worry of your drone flying off and getting lost.
The home function is a great emergency feature. However, it's not a feature that should be relied on all the time. It's advisable to keep your drone in sight and under control; that way, you can bring it back if there's a problem.
g) Headless Mode
If you're a beginner pilot searching for the best drones under $500, this feature is pretty essential. A drone with headless mode makes flying much easier for novice pilots.
For instance, if you start your machine and you and the drone face the same way. Pressing your controller left will make the drone go to the left, while pressing it right will make it go to the right. This can get confusing if your drone gets turned around, especially since it can be hard to tell with the design of most drones which end is the front and which is the back.
Headless mode solves the direction problem by setting a specific direction for the drone to stick to. Hence, regardless of the direction, the drone is facing, steering it to the specified direction will mean it will always fly in that direction.
h) 3-Axis Gimbal
This is another great feature that ensures your camera remains a steady drone and lets it pivot with the drone's movements. The three axes – pitch, roll, and yaw – refer to the different motions a flying machine can go through. This axis ensures your camera remains in place while your drone is in flight which is essential while recording video footage.