A few years ago, finding quality drones under $500 may have seemed impossible. Today, however, more and more drones sell for much less than you would believe.
A good drone can be priceless for recording breathtaking landscapes and panoramic views of nature. Drones also work as racing toys for hobbyist drone pilots who like to race their friends. Some purchase drones for their kids, both to teach them drone photography and just for fun.
Whatever the reason for your drone purchase, you’ve come to the right place. The drones on our list will serve a variety of users. Whether you’re a hobbyist, amateur cinematographer, drone racer, or are just looking for the best drones under $500 for your kids, there’s a drone for you.
While looking for reliable budget drones, what should you keep an eye out for? The basics. Flight time, camera resolution, drone speed, and flight range are our top four priorities. Depending on your needs, you may also want a smaller drone, water-resistant options, or extra durability for flying in windy weather. Extra features which may be rare in less expensive drones include hover accuracy, face detection, and voice controls.
1. DJI Mavic Mini
DJI is known for making drones that work hard. Although most people know their more expensive options, our top recommendation today is not to be overlooked. The DJI Mavic Mini drone is an exquisite work of design, but more importantly, it has features that live up to the DJI name.
This drone fits in the palm of your hand, literally. Weighing almost the same as a smartphone, the Mavic Mini is small, but mighty. I would recommend this option for amateurs who want to document their memories whether in vlogs or just to thrill their young children. It would also make an excellent gift for teens who are drone enthusiasts.
Remember all those fun extra features I mentioned earlier? DJI has included several safety features in this device, but my favorite is the propeller guard that protects the propellers. I will always be a fan of technology that protects my investment. With its advanced sensors, this mini drone is able to hover steadily for a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. All the while, this beauty will be shooting stunning 4K video without missing a beat.
If you’re a beginner drone pilot, the DJI app is intuitive and easy to wrap your head around. It makes flying enjoyable and even provides a flight tutorial that will help you kick things off on the right foot. The three-axis gimbal camera on this drone also makes it a breeze to pilot. When you’re done, you can create a quick video using one of the templates on the DJI Fly app.
To find out even more about the DJI Mavic Mini, head on over to our complete DJI Mavic Mini review.
2. Hubsan Zino Pro
Here’s another budget drone that serves up quality photography and videography. This Hubsan Zino Pro drone also has 4K video and three-axis gimbal stabilization that is crucial for shooting both video and photography. We love how compact this drone is. It’s the perfect drone for traveling creatives, as it folds up into 7.36×4.09×3.54 inches.
The camera on the Zino Pro is surprisingly good, with a wide-angle view of f/2.2. You’ll never miss anything during your flight. Speaking of flying, forget ever losing this drone. Its built-in GPS has a trusty “return to home” feature that ensures that your drone returns to its start point before its battery is drained. That is, after 23 solid minutes of flying.
You can steer your drone just right using either the remote control or connecting via the app on your smartphone. Plus, if the drone loses signal for longer than three seconds, it will automatically return to home just like it does with a depleting battery. This is certainly a noteworthy contender for anyone looking for heavy-duty drones under $500.
3. RUKO F11 Pro
Ruko seems to be a fairly unknown brand in the marketplace, but make no mistake, this brand makes reliable drones and they have the customer reviews to prove it. The F11 Pro drone is an excellent drone for kids and teens. For a reasonably-priced device, this drone is packed with useful features.
First off, the 90-degree, adjustable camera produces 2.9K-quality videos and has a remarkable 30 minute flight time. Better yet, this drone comes with an extra battery. With both charged, you can be sure of 60 minutes of flight time. Although the flight range of 300-500m isn’t the best we’ve seen in this price range, you can be guaranteed a fairly stable hover as you capture images and videos.
This is one of those drones that teens and hobbyists would be thrilled to have. With newbie-friendly features like auto-return, FPV, tap fly, headless mode, and one key take-off and landing, they’ll have no issues getting off the ground. Finally, it’s reassuring to note that Ruko offers 30-day returns and exchanges if you are unsatisfied with the product.
4. Holy Stone HS720
Holy Stone, Cheerson, Drocon, Eachine, and Force 1 are popular mid- and low-budget drone manufacturers and they’re famous for a reason: the drones work. This Holy Stone HS720 is well under $500, but still shoots video in stunning 4K resolution. I love that it’s built with a shock absorber because we all know that even the best drones crash sometimes. At least, you don’t have to worry that your drone will fall apart if it hits the ground.
This drone also has GPS-assisted flights, ensuring that you never lose your device. The Holy Stone HS720 promises 26 minutes of steady flight time so you can get your fill of breathtaking scenery or just beat your fellow drone racer to the finish line. It can fly as high as 3000m above the ground and boasts multiple features to support rookie drone pilots.
If you like to get technical about your hardware, it will please you to know that this drone also has brushless motors, which are known to be more effective and durable than brushed ones. Finally, it comes with a hardcore carrying bag to keep your investment safe.
If Holy Stone tickles your fancy, see our guide to the top Holy Stone racing drones.
5. Altair Aerial Outlaw SE (Budget Winner)
Our budget option is the Altair Aerial Outlaw SE drone. This is another option highly recommended for new drone pilots and pure hobbyists. It does not shoot 4K video, but 1080p which isn’t too shabby for a drone this affordable. It is, however, GPS and Wi-Fi supported for safe, well-routed flights.
This Altair can be flown by teens 14 and older, and will stay in flight for 15 minutes (much shorter than our other recommendations, but still pretty reasonable). With a 600m flying range and several flight-supporting features like headless mode, altitude hold, and one-touch take-off and landing, this drone was made for fun.
I would not recommend this for budding photographers or cinematographers, as the photo quality is easily outdone by other models on this list. However, if you fly for fun or your kids have been bugging you for a drone and you don’t mind spending under $500, this is a worthy investment.
Budget Drones with Impressive Features: The Best Drones Under $500
Could we go lower? Definitely! There are several drones under $200, and yes even under $100, but these mid-range drones are a sweet spot for individuals who are a mix of hobbyists and budding drone pilots. With these picks for the best drones under $500, you’re sure to find options with durable hardware, useful apps, and intuitive features that make flying more enjoyable.