Best drones to buy in 2015
OK, you’ve heard about quadcopters and drones, you’ve seen wonderful footage on the internet and you are sold, you want one of those too! But what are the best drones ? You go on Google, type “drone” and get thousands and thousands of different models, reviews and videos. How are you going to choose the right one for you? No worries, we have written this article to help you. In a brief and concise form, you’ll find useful information to let you choose the right model, depending on your skills and your budget.
The main things to look for, when buying a quadcopter are the price, the photo/video capability, the flying time and distance, the extra features (autonomous flight, “follow me” modes etc.), and the repairability. We’ll examine most of these aspect in this introductory article, to help you choose the best drone to buy.
Money, money, money…
For many, the first decision constraint is their budget. Fortunately, you can learn and enjoy flying syfrom around 20 to 25 USD. That’s pretty cheap! You can’t expect a camera for this price and you get only a micro drone, but it is useful to learn the basic skills before moving to most expensive models. The safest way to progress in this hobby is to start with the cheaper models in this section and the progressively move up in the quality/price category as you understand better what type of quadcopters you like to fly and what is the preferred use of your quadcopter (e.g. landscape photography, sport photography, racing, aerobatics, etc…). First of all though, you need to learn the basic flying skills. We are going to cover flying skills and techniques in future articles.The first category you should get into, if you are a novice are the micro drones. In the micro drones/beginners category, we’d like to suggest the following models.
[accordion_item title=”KiiToys® Quadcopter Drone”]
KiiToys® Quadcopter Drone
This is a nano quad with 6-axis design for stability and a size of 40 mm, perfect for practicing indoors. It also offers the ability to perform stunts easily and displays colourful LED lights, for hours of entertainment at a very affordable price.
[accordion_item title=”Xpace Top Selling X6″]
Xpace Top Selling X6
This micro drone is slightly more expensive but still pocket-sized and perfect for flying indoors. However, it is already powerful enough for some outdoor experiences. Also this model offers 6-axis stabilisation with adjustable gyros, for good stability in flight.
[accordion_item title=”Estes Proto X Nano R/C Quadcopter”]
Estes Proto X Nano R/C Quadcopter
This micro drone gets pretty good reviews on Amazon, 3.9/5. It’s small, cheap and easy to fly. It’s the perfect companion for beginners.
Smile, you’re on camera
Once you add a camera to the quad, prices go up, and this takes us to the next section of this guide, cameras! Which is the best drone with camera?
There are two different types of camera use to consider. Firstly, you might want the ability to take images and videos from the drone. This feature can be found even in cheaper models though image quality is variable. Wind and vibrations will also affect the image quality. For best video quality, you should get a drone with a gimbal. This device stabilises the camera using a gyroscope and keeps it steady when the drone tilts or rolls. Only relatively expensive models offer this device though.
The second use is FPV or First Person View, which is a real-time video stream from the quadcopter, as if you were on it looking down in real time. This feature is needed in order to fly the drone without line-of-sight and is offered only in more expensive models.
Cameras can record video or stills on a microSD card, the same as you can find in many phones or tablets. Some other cameras, though, record on the controller or on a connected smartphone.
Let’s see some suggested models with cameras.
[accordion_item title=”Syma X5C Quadcopter Drone”]
Syma X5C Quadcopter Drone
This model comes with an HD camera that records on an SD card. It is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. The camera might not be professional quality, but with this model you can still get some fun videos and practice your skills.
[accordion_item title=”UDI U818A 2 Drone”]
UDI U818A 2
This quadcopter has an attractive design, a six-axis gyro and a video camera with FPV, which at this price point is fantastic.
[accordion_item title=”Hubsan H107D FPV X4 Mini RTF”]
Hubsan H107D FPV X4 Mini RTF
This model comes at a slightly higher price point than the Syma and the UDI, but the build quality is better. You can record videos on SD card, and for the FPV, images are transmitted to the controller which has a display. These features are very similar to those you can find in more expensive models, albeit not at the same quality.
[accordion_item title=”WLtoys V666″]
This visually attractive colourful drone can take good quality FPV video thanks to an anti-vibration mount and the 1080p HD resolution of the camera.
Time after time
Next thing you should consider is the flight time. How long can my loved quad hover in the sky before running out of juice? The models suggested so far, whilst feature rich, can hardly reach the 10 minute point. For longer flying times, you’d need a bigger model that can accommodate a larger battery. And the price goes up…
At a (declared) 15 minutes flight time we find the
[accordion_item title=”MJX X300″]
This 6 axis gyro quadcopter includes FPV features when connected to your smartphone, in a similar way to other more expensive models.
[accordion_item title=”Pathfinder RC Quadcopter CX20″]
Pathfinder RC Quadcopter CX20
For just 5 minutes more (declared) this drone comes with a much higher price tag but offers more professional build quality. It also offers a GPS, which is not found in beginner models.
At 25 minutes flight-time and above we suggest the
[accordion_item title=”DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ 3.0″]
DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ 3.0
We cannot recommend this model enough, read the full review, this is definitely one of the best drones out there.
[accordion_item title=”Q500 Typhoon”]
Another excellent model. Read the full review.
[accordion_item title=”Parrot AR.Drone 2.0″]
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0
This is a very well known model that offers a different piloting method. You control it with your smartphone or tablet. The manufacturer claims 36 minutes of flight time with one charge.
[accordion_item title=”3D Robotics Iris+”]
3D Robotics Iris+
This model has the ability of flying autonomously and follow predefined paths. Read our full review.
Fly me to the moon
How FAR can you fly your drone and how high? These are two aspects to consider. Some manufacturers claim a range of over 2000 ft, but you probably wouldn’t want to fly it further than 1000 ft. Moreover, it might get difficult to fly it back to you, unless your drone has automatic piloting capabilities, so it can fly back “home” automatically. How high can you fly? Remember that you can safely fly only in relatively windless conditions, and up there it is windier than down here on the ground!
Both the DJI Phantom and the Typhoon offer a range longer than what you might need in normal circumstances, they are amongst the best drones, after all.
Another model with a long range to consider is the:
[accordion_item title=”Walkera Scout X4 GPS”]
Walkera Scout X4 GPS
This advanced quadcopter with a military look comes with no camera, but can host your GoPro. It’s fully packed with advanced features such as FPV on the controller, GPS with follow me mode, real-time telemetry, and hyper-intelligent orientation control, to fly the quadcopter in any orientation.
Controller or “phonetroller”
It’s not only important to choose the best drone, but also the right controller. This will already be included in the box if the quad you are buying is a ready to fly model, but better controllers with additional functions can be purchased separately. If this is your plan, remember to check that your quadcopter is compatible with the controller you intend to buy. Some quadcopters can also be controlled using a smartphone or a tablet. Whilst this will help to keep the cost down, we cannot recommend it. In fact, you cannot control the drone accurately without a mechanical control, and the quadcopter’s behaviour can be erratic when controlled with a touchscreen. This can cost you dear if you lose control of the quadcopter. Furthermore, you won’t be able to learn the basic RC flying techniques. So get yourself a proper controller, you won’t regret it.
Spares and DIY jobs
OK, nobody ever said that drones are super strong, in fact, the opposite is true, unfortunately they are quite fragile. Whilst you are still learning to fly, you WILL crash them. That is why you’d better start with sub $100 models until you are confident. Even then, something WILL go wrong, and there will be parts that need replacing, the propellers for examples, need to be replaced fairly regularly. That is easy. It is much more difficult to replace the motors. That might require some soldering skills. If you want to avoid doing this, you’d better opt for a quadcopter with brushless motors, that will last much longer. Models with brushless motors include the DJI Phantom and the Parrot AR. In general you are advised to buy a model that allows you to find spares easily.
Self build models
Some people find it more satisfying to build their own drone. Some models are relatively easy to build. These are called ARF (Almost Ready to Fly). You can buy this models in kits that contain most of the parts that you need, normally excluding the radio controller, the camera and the gimble. Thie building process might involve some soldering and assemblying skills. The best models are:
[accordion_item title=”DJI F450″]
The DJI F450 ARF quadcopter is the most popular multi-rotor kit quadcopter. Optionally it comes with NAZA autopilot system. Using this, it can achieve hovering, cruising, even rolling and other flight elements. It can be used for entertainment, aerial photography, FPV and other aeromodelling activities. Many consider this as the best drone that comes as a kit.
[accordion_item title=”Hobbypower X525″]
The Hobbypower X525 is another popular kit. It is cheap but the built quality is not as good as the DJI F450.
[accordion_item title=”ARRIS FPV250″]
If you’re into drone racing, this is the kit for you. The Arris FPV250 is mad of a is made of carbon/glass fiber composited material and has a video transmitter with zero delay, perfect for FPV. It is also quite small, perfect to fly in tight space.
Stay up to date
This field moves quickly, maybe not as quickly as mobile phones and tables but things do change quickly and new models come out regularly. We advice to check when the release date of the model you intend to buy. If the model is old and a new one has just come out, you might be able to grab a bargain, if you go for the old model. Alternatively, if you hare happy to pay more, then new model will have updated features, generally both better software and hardware. When we first wrote this article, for example, the Parrot Bebop and the DJI Phantom 3 had not been even announced and currently are 2 of the best selling models. Let’s see what the most recent models are:
[accordion_item title=”DJI Phantom 3 Professional”]
DJI Phantom 3 Professional
This model preservs all the goodies found in the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+, but adds 4k UHD video recording, 720p FPV and a vision Positioning system that allows stable flight indoors. Is this going to be the best drone ever?
[accordion_item title=”Parrot Bebop”]
This is the latest model from the manufacturer Parrot. Read our full review of this model. In summary it is a very good quadcopter, let down only by the below-par battery life.
[accordion_item title=”New Version Syma X8c”]
New Version Syma X8C
We previously mentioned the Syma X5C. THe X8C is the latest model, offering better flight stability, low price, and appealing design. It is another good entry-level quad with the ability to record video albeit the image quality is not great.
There would many more things to add to this guide, but it should be enough to get you started. For more guides, stay tuned!
Good luck in finding the best drone for you; let us know which one you went for and why. We want to let other readers know, your personal experience might be useful.