From state parks to national news broadcasts, drone photography and videography is becoming a regular activity, giving us glimpses of our world that were once reserved for the birds. But even if you’re a skilled photographer, incorporating a drone into your work is an entirely new skill set. Fortunately, the best drones for beginners can be easy to use, with safeguards like automatic landings to protect against crashes. Still, finding the right drone with the right set of features can be even more daunting than that first flight. But chin up! Here’s what you need to know when shopping for a flying camera that looks down.
- Best drone for most beginners: DJI Mini 2
- Best drone for travelers: Parrot Anafi
- Best drone for beginners on a budget: Ryze Tech Tello
- Best drone for professional photographers and videographers: DJI Air 2S
- Best drone for kids: Snaptain S5C Drone
What to consider when shopping for the best drones for beginners
Whether you need a long-range drone to fly far away or a drone with a longer flytime to capture more footage, you can find the right drone for you. The best drones for beginners can shoot in 4K and travel four miles away. They can also land on their own or track a subject automatically. But not all drones are the same. Here are some key features to consider when shopping for the best drones for beginners.
Do you need a beginner drone with a longer flying time to set up the perfect shot?
On average, drones can only fly for about 20 minutes, with the range spanning between five minutes and 30-plus minutes. Lightweight batteries simply don’t exist to support more sustained work in a flying device. The flight time you need depends on whether you’re looking to send the drone up for a quick aerial shot of the family barbecue or whether you need some time searching for the right panoramic of an alpine lake.
Do you need a drone with a long range?
A drone’s range is determined by the quality of the radio transmission, which is essentially the invisible connection between you (or the controls) and your drone. While some drones can only travel a few dozen meters away from the base, some of the best drones for beginners are capable of shooting high-definition video from more than seven miles away.
What kind of camera should your beginner drone have?
The bird’s-eye angle alone all but guarantees that drones will capture amazing video and take compelling photos, but the onboard technology could make it a certainty. The best drones can shoot in crystal-clear HD video (8K is possible with top-of-the-line models) and produce 20-plus megapixel photos. Many camera drones also feature zooming and panoramic modes to let you see clearly both near and far. Camera drones with gimbals are designed to keep the lens steady by activating motors on different axes as the drone flies through the air.
What kind of control are you looking for?
While some drones come with their own controllers, other drones can be flown using a sync-ed smartphone. The handheld controllers are more reliable and provide a more accurate response than smartphone controls, but they can also have a steeper learning curve or add to the price point—or may only be available as an accessory purchase. Other control features also exist. Some drones can take off and land with the press of a button, while others automatically come back to you or land safely when their battery is low. In addition, you can find drones that sync with virtual reality headsets, drones that can lower at the sound of your voice, and ones that can take photos with the wave of your hand.
Do you want a smart drone?
Most of the best drones for beginners are enabled with a GPS that allows for some amount of autopiloting. But others are also equipped with sensors that read the environment and help the drone avoid obstacles on its own. Some drones are also designed to track a moving subject, taking the controls—and the worry—out of your hands, which lets you focus on finding the perfect shot.
The best drones for beginners
Whether you’re a professional photographer looking to “up” your game, or you’re a hobbyist who loves to travel, here are some of the best drones for beginners.
Top pick overall: DJI Mini 2
This model can fly for more than 30 minutes, even in windy conditions. DJI
With a maximum flight time of 31 minutes and Level 5 wind resistance that can withstand gusts up to 25 mph without knocking the camera off-kilter, this DJI drone is built to help you get the shot—even from the top of a 13,000-foot peak. A 3-axis gimbal responds to the turbulence, ensuring that the camera captures steady 12mp photos or 4K video.
But what makes this one of the best drones for beginners is just how easy it is to use. On the piloting side, it features automatic takeoff, accurate hovering, and a system that will send the drone back down to you when the battery gets too low. On the photography side, the camera automatically starts recording with just a few clicks. Additionally, the DJI Mini 2 drone supports 10km of HD video transmission that syncs to your app for nearly instant editing or sharing. At less than 250 grams (8.8 ounces), the small drone weighs about as much as an apple. It’s also a foldable drone that can pack into the pocket of your climbing pack. So, hit the trails and head on up—the views always get better the higher you go.
Runner up: Parrot Anafi
Take powerful photos in any environment or location with this ultra-packable pick. Parrot
Either of the DJI drones listed above could work well for travelers, but the Anafi drone is an excellent option for those on the go, parroting similar camera steadiness seen in the DJIs—3-axis stability—while showcasing features all its own. Its gimbal can support 180 degrees of tilt, and at one pound and a half and 9.4 by 6.9 by 2.6 inches, the Anafi is a portable, foldable drone that packs nicely into its case. It’s also technologically robust, shooting in 4K with an f/2.4 wide-angle aspheric lens that offers 2.8x digital zoom and captures 21mp photos. The 4km transmission range means the drone can travel a long distance from you, and the battery provides an ample 25 minutes of filmed flight time, recharging in 1.5 hours via a USB-C cord.
Budget pick: Ryze Tech Tello
High Quality Images
A spunky gadget for just under one hundred bucks. DJI
You don’t have to throw money away to find the best drones for beginners. Especially not when you consider the fun features that come standard in the $100 Tello, including “throw and go” launching that lets you start flying by tossing the 80-gram (2.8-ounce) drone in the air. This Ryze Tello drone can also flip in eight directions, is compatible with VR headsets, and can be operated with your smartphone. It has piloting support that will help the drone land safely before running out of battery or losing the signal. But what makes this one of the best drones for the money is how well-equipped it is to capture high-quality images. No, you don’t get 4K, but you do get 720p video and 5 megapixel photos that can be instantly uploaded to social media through the app. The 13-minute flight time is decent for the price, as is the 100 meters (328 feet) of flight distance. So, no, the Tello can’t quite go the distance for all your drone photography needs, but it can absolutely keep the party going.
Premium pick: DJI Air 2S
Upgrade to this model for a greater range and higher-quality images. DJI
The Air 2S is a DJI drone that gives you even more than the Mini 2. Of course, it also costs more than twice as much (almost $1,000 vs. under $500). For that extra money, you get two kilometers (1.24 miles) of additional video transmission (up to 12km of range), 10k digital zoom (up from 4k zoom in the Mini 2), 5.4K high-definition video, and a 10-bit Dlog-M color profile that lets you capture the world in all its glory. The camera also records photos at up to 12.6 stops for detailed original images and features intelligent HDR that automatically merges multiple shots. Other smart technology includes tracking that lets you better follow a subject on the move and environmental sensing that helps prevent you from flying the drone into walls and trees.
Great for kids: Snaptain S5C Drone
Operate this drone with the push of a button, wave of your hand, or a sound. SNAPTAIN
This Snaptain drone is one of the best drones for kids because they’ll have an absolute blast flying it. The WiFi drone features voice control that lets pilots move it left and right, backward and forward, land, and take off with simple calls. Users can also gesture to snap photos or start recording videos. This Snaptain is a drone with a camera that can record in 2k. This lightweight 135-gram (4.76-ounce) drone can land on its own with the press of one button, meaning playtime can safely and quickly come to an end.
Q: What drone has the longest range?
The DJI Air 2S drone has the longest range. It’s capable of shooting high-definition video while up to 7.5 miles from its base.
Q: What happens if I don’t register my drone?
If you don’t register your drone, you may face criminal penalties. According to the FAA, failing to register a drone can result in civil penalties up to $27,500, as well as criminal penalties—including fines up to $250,000 and/or up to three years in prison.
Q: How do I practice flying drones?
Practice flying drones at eye level. Work on replicating circles and turns and repositioning the camera with the drone right in front of you before you raise the altitude to 400 feet—or whatever the legal limit is in your jurisdiction. The internet is filled with tutorials that include specific exercises you can try.
The final word on shopping for the best drones for beginners
From the best drones for pros to the best drones for kids to the best drones for your buck, you can find many different drones that will work for your particular needs. High-definition video, autonomous features, and easy-to-use controls are all attainable, even without spending a grand for the truly top-of-the-line model. Shopping for the best drones for beginners is a matter of matching the feature set you desire to the best product to help you capture the most eye-catching footage from way up high.>