Find The Right Drone For Your Purpose & Budget
Welcome to the world of quadcopter flight!
Today’s advances in technology have made quadcopter flying a fun, reliable, and affordable hobby. Dedicated flyers can do amazing tricks and consider RC ‘copter flying a sport. Others have mastered the art of capturing images and videos from a bird’s eye view. Below I will be reviewing a variety of full-size and micro quadcopters including those with cameras, first person view (FPV), and GPS. Whether you are looking for a new hobby, a leisure activity you can enjoy with the kids, or a gift for someone else, keep reading to learn all about quadcopters!
QUADCOPTERS WITH CAMERAS
Available for $$$, the UDI is recommended for anyone 14 years or older. Weighing in at just one pound, the drone is feather light and will start to drift in winds of 5mph or stronger. The UDI is remarkably sturdy, however, and is capable of catching great videos.
Notable features include “headless mode,” A.K.A. Intelligent Orientation Control (IOC). Headless mode eliminates the need for adjustments prior to flying, making this model perfect for beginners.
The U818A’s single best feature is the HD camera. The drone’s 2MP HD camera allows users to take high-resolution images and videos.
The flyer itself is 13 x 13 x 3 inches and has a battery life of 7-10 minutes depending on what you’re doing. Wind and other weather conditions can affect max flight time. Don’t worry if you lose sight of your drone; this model comes with a handy “return home” function.
When you open the box, you’ll also find:
- 2 LiPo batteries to extend play time (charging time is 90-120 minutes)
- A 2200mAh power bank that allows you to switch out batteries in the field
- A 4GB micro SD card
- SC card reader
- Easy to operate controller
- USB charger
- 4 extra blades
The UDI boasts gyro stability with a 6-axis flight control system that guarantees precise positioning of the ‘copter and makes it super easy to control. Speaking of control, there are two modes. Flight Mode 1 is great for beginners. Flight Mode 2 gives flyers more maneuverability that allows for sick tricks like rolls and 3D flips!
User Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars
The U8181A’s outer plastic ring protects the propellers, but also makes the aircraft more susceptible to wind.
Users love Flight Mode 2 and report the UDI‘s capability to perform insane acrobatics. Advanced flyers recommend this product for beginners, but advise novice flyers to watch YouTube videos about pitch, yaw, and roll, before they start.
Advanced flyers do not consider this model a “sport flyer.”
Users agree that the best feature is video-taking capability. That being said, video quality seems to be much better than picture quality since the drone is in constant motion.
When the drone’s battery life is low, warning lights will appear and the device will beep. Users reported that even though they couldn’t see the warning lights while the drone was flying, they could hear the beeps.
Beware of counterfeits! Only buy from USA Toyz.
Similar in operation to the previous product, the X5C costs about half as much ($$$). This ‘copter is easy to fly, great for beginners, and has stable flight characteristics.
At 1.4 pounds, Syma’s quadcopter is a little more wind resistant than the U818A. The X5C gets its power from 4 lithium ion batteries and has a max flight time of 8 minutes (max distance is about 164 feet).
Flyers can maneuver the X5C backwards, forwards, left, right, up, down, and sideward. It handles well in windy conditions.
User Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars
Flyers who purchased this product complained that the camera’s resolution wasn’t great (2mp). Plus, the propellers are quite noisy and the X5C doesn’t come with instructions (you’ll have to figure it out yourself or look it up on YouTube)!
Users reported Syma’s ‘copter to be durable and appropriate for beginners. Flyers recommend writing your name and phone number on a brightly colored piece of tape and sticking it on the ‘copter’s body just in case it gets lost during flight.
The X5C comes with blade guards; while they necessary for beginners, they can prove to be a nuisance.
This product is made in China.
Overall, you aren’t going to get a better ‘copter than the X5C for the price. If you want to save $50, purchase this model. If video quality is important to you, however, go with the UDI. If you’re purchasing the drone as a gift for a kid, definitely go with the Syma. He or she won’t mind the noisy propellers and the less-than-perfect image quality.
QUADCOPTERS WITH FIRST-PERSON VIEW (FPV)
The Phantom 3 Advanced is the newest, most improved version of the original DJI Phantom. This ‘copter features a sleek design and goes for $$$ on Amazon.com. The Phantom boasts an amazing 1080p HD camera and stable 3-axis gimbal. With Lightbridge 720p HD digital streaming and the DJI Pilot app, users can view the action live in first person view (FPV) on their phone or tablet.
With the vision positioning system, flyers can safely operate the drone inside. Ready to go right out of the box, the Phantom comes with a micro SD card, a rechargeable remote control, and a flight battery.
The Phantom is 8.6 pounds with the following dimensions: 8 x 13 x 18 inches.
The DJI comes with GPS navigation, including options to set auto landings and takeoffs, an intelligent high power flight battery, and even a safety database for no-fly zones.
The battery life for this bad boy is between 15-17 minutes. Extra batteries can be purchased for about $180 each.
User Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars
Flyers who purchased the DJI love the improved features and aerial platform. Users reported that this quadcopter is basically ready to go straight from the box.
Users reported taking clear videos even during gusts of wind up to 20 mph.
The following quote sums up most of the user reviews and comes from a flyer who purchased the Phantom 3 in May 2015: “You also have the ability to select preset modes or customize the controls yourself. This is great and makes flying become second nature so that I can focus on the camera. The camera, which includes stills and video, is awesome. The quality is just superb. It helps a great deal with the camera controls built right into the controller.”
Flyers report that the Phantom 3 is easy to fly and that the auto hover feature allows for easy use of the camera. Of much higher quality than your average “hobby-grade” quadcopter, you simply can’t beat the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced.
Compared to the previous ‘copter, this one sells for a more reasonable price of $$$. Made in Hong Kong, the X4 drone includes 4 spare blades, a USB charging cable, a U wrench, a Li-Po battery (3.7V 380mAh), a 1 x 5.8g transmitter with LCD screen, a protective cover for the blades, a USB charging wire, and a user manual.
Enjoy live, zero-delay video on the X4’s transmitter. This quadcopter is lightweight (less than a pound!), durable, and features a 6-axis flight control system and gyro sensitivity. It can be used inside and outside and features rubber feet for safe landings.
Hubsan is considered a “micro” ‘copter and is only 60 x 60mm. The H107D has two modes (normal and expert) and can flip four different ways. Max flight distance is about 328 feet.
With it’s brilliant LED lights, you’ll be able to see this ‘copter in the dark. You’ll notice a warning light when the battery is low. Expect to fly for about 8 minutes. Charging a dead battery takes about 30 minutes.
The Hubsan is equipped with a .3mp camera but doesn’t come with a micro SD card. The camera’s resolution is 640*480.
User Rating: 3.7 out of 5 stars
“I started out looking for a project or hobby that I could enjoy with my Grandchildren and this one sure hit the mark,” wrote a reviewer who purchased the Hubsan in February 2014.
Others reviewers note that this is the tiniest quadcopter currently available in “ready to fly” form. The H107D can take a surprising amount of abuse without breaking.
One delighted customer reported that he used it to inspect his gutters without having to climb a ladder!
Disappointed users had issues changing the battery. Flyers recommend installing the rotor shield if you’re a beginner or if you like to crash. Without the shield, propellers are likely to fall off when you crash the ‘copter.
Due to the narrow view angle, flying totally by FPV is difficult (the view is angled and straight forward; not peripheral). At about 4” square, the Hubsan is ideal for indoor flying.
This model does come with a manual, but flying a quadcopter is a learning experience for all beginners. Don’t get frustrated if you’re not a pro on day 1.
In comparing the Hubsan to the Phantom 3, the Hubsan is more of an entry-level device. If leisure time with FPV is what you’re looking for, save money and purchase the Hubsan. If you’re serious about flying and want to catch some amazing pictures and videos, I suggest you invest the money and go for the Phantom – it has more features, a better FPV, and an app so you can watch live feed on your phone.
QUADCOPTERS WITH GPS
For $$$ you can get your hands on the CX20 ‘copter by Cheerson. This model boasts a control distance of nearly 1,000 feet. With 2.4G ISM frequency and anti-interference feature, you can expect a reliable connection.
Achieve amazing flight performance with the following features:
- Integrated flight dynamics system
- MX + GPS multi-rotor autopilot system
- 2 GPS control modes
- IOC function
- LED lights (for help with orientation)
- 4GHz frequency
- 15-minute flight time
- 2 hour charging time for battery
- 1V 2500mAh lithium battery
- Dimensions: 30 x 30 x 20cm
- Max vertical speed is 6 m/s
- Max horizontal speed is 10 m/s
- External camera mount (removable) for GoPro and other accessories
- 2212KV motor (same as the original DJI Phantom)
- 8 pounds
User Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars
Buyers recommend reading all instructions before beginning. The Cheerson provides stable flight and is easy to assemble. Flyers complained that there aren’t enough holes for gimbals and the landing gear is inadequate.
This product is not for beginners and cannot tolerate crash landings.
A big plus for the CX20 is the Mission Planner Mode. There are lots of customizable options and the open-source interface allows for GPS way-point programming and accurate compass calibration.
While users agreed that this model has similar function to the original DJI Phantom, it requires much tweaking and calibration. If you are the type of person who likes open-source devices and likes to experiment with settings, this is a great buy. If you want a product that is ready to go and easy to understand, this is not a good choice.
Beware of counterfeits! Only buy from Olym Store and partners.
MICRO QUADCOPTERS FOR BEGINNERS
The cheapest product on the list, X12 is only $$$ and provides a great introduction to the world of quadcopters. The image at left shows just how tiny this micro quadcopter really is. Because it utilizes 2.4Hz technology, you won’t have to worry about your remote interfering with other remotes. This sturdy model is 3.03 x 3.03 x 1.06 inches, weighs only 10.7 ounces, and is easy to maneuver indoors and outdoors.
The X12 features 3D 360 rotating ability and is perfect for beginners. The product includes a guard for safety during crash landings. Expect flight time to be about 4 minutes. Max flying distance is about 65 feet. The battery takes approx. 40 minutes to charge.
A handy warning signal will let you know when it’s time to land.
Recommended for flyers 8 years and older, the X12 really is a toy. With no camera or GPS, the only thing you can do with this little guys is fly. And there’s nothing wrong with that! The user reviews below describe just how fun flying can be:
User Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Users loved this little ‘copter! The body is a flashy red color and the remote has a “flip mode” button for easy flipping. The controller looks big compared to the aircraft, but is easy to use. There are 2 speed options.
Finally, users report that the X12 has a very slow yaw rate despite a great “hands off” stability and great “low speed” setting for use indoors. Overall, tons of fun for under $20!
The tiny 4406 Proto X is great for flying at night with its front and back LED lights. For just $$$, you can enjoy a micro aircraft with great stability and a high-quality remote control.
Flashing lights warn when the battery is about to die.
The package includes a 2.4Hz radio, USB charge cord, LiPo battery, user manual, and 4 spare blades. It doesn’t not include the triple A batteries you’ll need for the transmitter.
- 4 ounces
- Dimensions: 45 x 45mm
- Recommended for flyers 14 years or older
- Plastic body
- 7V LiPo battery
- 90 day warranty
This tiny ‘copter is recommended for indoor use only and comes with one battery that is not replaceable. That means you’ll have to charge the battery after every flight, which lasts only 4-6 minutes. Charge time is approx. 40 minutes.
User Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars
Be ready for props to fly off the aircraft if you crash into furniture. Some people had a hard time stabilizing the 4406 Proto X, but experienced flyers reported this mini to be loads of fun and quite fast and stable for its size.
On the downside, if you break it you’ll have to buy the entire product again as replacement parts are not readily available.
From a user who purchased the ‘copter in January of 2014 and experienced a broken motor on day 3: “I’m very disappointed…I can only say that this is one of the coolest toys I’ve ever owned, but it was entirely too short-lived to earn its price tag with the limited use I got from it, and not getting any help regarding the 90 day warranty from Hobbico, Estes, nor the seller is beyond frustrating. I’d love to have another of these, but I won’t drop another $40 for a potentially frail product.”
Mini quadcopters are a fun indoor toy appropriate for nearly everyone. They are inexpensive and are a great way for beginners to experience quadcopter basics. If you’re deciding between the Estes’ mini ‘copter and Syma’s, I definitely recommend the X12 Nano. It costs less and seems to be of higher quality.