With drones being all the buzz right now, it’s no surprise that they’ve landed on a million holiday wish lists this season. You may be overwhelmed by the heavily populated market of consumer drones, and that’s why we’ve listed the best drones in our 2015 holiday drone guide. There’s a perfect drone for everyone here.
Starter drones for the rookiest of pilots.
The UDI U818A quadcopter is a perfect match for the beginner. It’s inexpensive for those who are just getting started with drones and don’t want to drop a few hundred bucks on something they may crash. It features a durable shell, on-board camera (don’t expect HD quality though), and propellor guards. Typical flights range from 7-10 minutes, and recharge time is around an hour.
Hubsan’s X4 micro quadcopter is a favorite of ours. It’s cheap, fast, and pretty darn stable. Flight time is about 8 minutes, and charging time is around 30 minutes. It can perform flips, sharp turns, and achieve altitudes well above 100 feet. If you’re gifting this for a first time flyer, you may want to go ahead and order the additional crash kit just incase the drone has a bad crash.
Parrot, a pioneer in the consumer drone market, released the original AR Drone back when consumer drones weren’t even that big, and it was so successful that they launched the
AR Drone 2.0 Elite, shown above, shortly after. This larger-sized quadcopter is capable of recording 720p video, sharing aerial videos directly to your smartphone over Wi-Fi, and flying up to 12 minutes on a single charge. It’s not exactly a drone you would use for any real drone photography or action sports recording, but it’ll do the trick if you’re just looking for a more advanced and app-enabled drone for fun flying. Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite is available in three colors: jungle, sand, and snow.
The Cheerson CX-10 is one of the smallest drones out there. It weighs in at 29 grams and is about the size of a US quarter. But don’t let this drone’s small size fool you. The Cheerson CX-10 can perform flips, easily maneuver around obstacles like walls and furniture, climb to altitudes of over 100 feet, and return to base 8 minutes after takeoff for a recharge. Being such a small drone does have its disadvantages though. The Cheerson CX-10’s small design leaves it vulnerable to even the slightest gusts of wind, so the Cheerson CX-10 is best suited for indoor flying. Nonetheless, this drone’s novelty size makes it a great fit for anyone’s drone collection.
Cheerson’s CX-10C is the smallest camera drone available. Being such a small drone, don’t expect to get HD video quality and a long-lasting battery life. This little drone can record standard definition video and stay airborne for about 5 minutes or so before needing a recharge. The average customer complaint is in regards to the drone’s chassis or propellors breaking, so you may want to pick up some spare parts if you’re looking to keep this drone in flying condition. Sure, it’s not the best out there, but it’s included in our list as it breaks the record for the world’s smallest drone with a camera.
The Hubsan X4 107C is the camera version of the Hubsan X4. This drone’s considerably larger compared to the Cheerson CX-10C drone above, and this brings multiple advantages. For one, the Hubsan X4 107C sports a 720p camera that can record video and save it to an onboard Micro SD card (not included). Secondly, max altitude and battery life are pretty decent for this size of a drone. The Hubsan X4 107C can easily climb to altitudes of over 100 feet without losing connection, and its battery lasts an average of 8 minutes before needing a 40 minute recharge. An overall good gift for anyone wanting a cheap, entry-level camera drone.
Take the Hubsan listed above, add basic FPV (first person view) functionality, and you’re left with the Hubsan X4 FPV. This palm-sized quadcopter features a built-in 720p camera that can live stream video directly to the controller for FPV. It’s far from that smooth and crisp footage you’ll get with a DJI Phantom, but this drone costs a fraction of the price and is a great starter drone for those first time flyers looking to get their feet wet with FPV flying.
The Syma X5C is one of the best selling drones on Amazon. Its design
rips off is similar to that of the DJI Phantom, and it makes for a great practice drone for beginners. A standard definition camera is attached to the bottom of the Syma X5C and an included 2GB Micro SD card records video for playback. The drone also comes with detachable landing gear and propellor guards.
Not much is to be said about this little drone. Slightly larger than the Cheerson CX-10 but smaller than the Hubsan X4, the UDI U839 is for those who want a cheap, mid-sized quadcopter that won’t break the bank. It’s durable, extremely maneuverable (can even perform flips), and can last 5-7 minutes on a single charge. Three levels of flying can be set via the transmitter, and each level increasingly affects the drone’s sensitivity and responsiveness to the controls. A great drone for those asking for something a bit bigger than a nano drone but a tad bit smaller than a micro.
A nice sporty-looking quadcopter for those willing to pay a little more than your micro quadcopter counterparts. The Dromida Ominus is made of a durable and lightweight plastic, but this also makes it very susceptible to wind. Outdoor flights aren’t recommended, but its larger propellors do provide stability for indoor flights. And if you are going to be flying indoors, be sure to leave enough room where the drone can’t crash into anything and break. Replacement parts, however, are on the cheaper side so fixing a broken Dromida Ominus shouldn’t be too big of a problem. All in all, a more expensive but sportier-looking quadcopter that’s easy to fix.
Smarter drones for the more seasoned pilots.
An obvious pick in our list. DJI’s entry-level Phantom 3 Standard is a perfect fit for those looking to dive right into high-quality aerial photography and video. Phantom 3 Standard features a 2.7K camera and gimbal, GPS tracking, and a companion app. Its camera can record up to 2.7K resolution at 30 frames or 1280p resolution at 60 frames while the 3-axis gimbal keeps everything buttery-smooth. GPS tracking allows the Phantom 3 Standard to accurately position itself according to the pilot’s choosing, and it can also return to home (takeoff location) in the event of a connection problem or low battery. An overall good pick for more novice pilots that have had some previous flying experience but want to take their flying and aerial recording to the next level.
Standard not good enough? Then you may want to take it up a technological notch with the
Phantom 3 Advanced. This version of the Phantom 3 sports the same 2.7K camera as the Standard, but adds some additional technology to enhance the overall flying experience. Notable differences include ultrasonic sensors for stability, GLONASS GPS, and DJI Lightbridge. Sensors located on the belly of the drone add necessary stability to indoor or low-altitude flying. GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), Russia’s version of GPS, adds precise tracking capabilities, and DJI’ s Lightbridge technology extends the drone’s range to 3.1 miles. Phantom 3 Advanced starts at $999, but DJI does have some sweet Black Friday/seasonal deals going on.
Included on our list for its killer bundle deal, Yuneec’s Q500+ has everything you need to get off the ground and into the air. The drone is ready-to-fly, records at 1080p/60fps, and lasts 25 minutes on a single battery. The bundle it comes in includes an aluminum carrying case, extra propellors and batteries, a handheld camera stabilizer, and a 32GB Micro SD card. This bundle can be found on Amazon for $1,099 and the reviews for it are overwhelmingly positive.
A follow-up to the popular Bebop drone, Bebop 2 is Parrot’s finest drone available. Bebop 2’s improved frame accounts for its impressive 25 minutes of flight time and 37 mph speeds. The camera hasn’t been upgraded and it still records 1080p video. Parrot has even replaced the original mechanical gimbal for a digital one that uses advanced algorithms to digitally stabilize video in real-time. Bebop 2 will be available to consumers on December 14 and will retail for $549.99.
Advanced drones for the rest of the crowd.
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional is at the top of its lineup. Features found in the Phantom 3 Advanced are present in this model, but the McCoy here is the included 4K camera. Pilots in need of a professional yet affordable drone will be amazed by the 4K recording and the wallet-friendly price tag of this drone. Order today and receive everything needed for flight for just $1200.
HEXO+ is your personal cameraman. It’s an autonomous hexacopter that turns your GoPro into a flying camera that communicates with your smartphone. Auto-follow technology allows the HEXO+ to track and follow its user based on their location in real-time. There’s no piloting needed so users can focus on whatever they’re doing and let the HEXO+ do all the recording. A perfect gift for those who love drones and outdoor activities.
AirDog is another auto-follow drone built for action sport junkies. Instead of relying on a user’s smartphone though, AirDog follows its proprietary wearable called AirLeash. Users wear the AirLeash like a watch while performing whatever it is they want recorded, and AirDog follows the leash and keeps it in the camera’s frame. AirDog can fly for about 10-15 minutes before needing a recharge, and its maximum range is a little over 800 feet. It’s available for purchase right now and expected delivery is sometime in January. Perhaps the best, late holiday gift?
At last, the DJI Inspire 1. The DJI Inspire 1 is the king of all consumer-available drones. Featuring a design of its own, it sets itself apart from the rest of whats out there. DJI’s Inspire 1 has a detachable 4K camera and gimbal, a comprehensive pilot app, and the option for dual-pilot flying. The 4K camera and gimbal found on the Inspire 1 are similar to that of the Phantom 3, but they’re detachable so more experienced pilots can add upgrades like the Zenmuse X5. The DJI Go app adds some serious functionality and usability by letting pilots view the Inspire 1’s video feed, flight path, battery life, and more. Lastly, Inspire 1 can connect to two different remote controllers at the same time; one pilot can fly the drone while the other controls the camera to record those beautiful aerial shots. The Inspire 1 will run you about $2600, and it’s recommended you only purchase this for someone that actually knows what they’re doing.
Gear, accessories, and useful apps for those who already have the drone.
- DJI Phantom 3 Carrying Case – Keep your Phantom safe when on the go.
- UDI U818A Spare Batteries – Get some spares for that extra flight time.
- Hubsan X4 Crash Kit – A quick fix kit to get your Hubsan X4 back in the air.
- GoPro HERO4 – Not all drones come with a camera.
- Shootly App – On-demand drone photography.
- Hover – Know where you’re allowed to fly and not.
What to know before you fly.
As excited as they’ll be when they unbox their first (or second) drone, it’s important to understand the safety and rules of drone flight. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) already has some mandatory drone guidelines that every pilot should be aware of. Here they are.
- Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
- Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
- Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
- Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
- Don’t fly near people or stadiums
- Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
- Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft
You can always fine-tune your flying skills, and the folks over at UAV Coach have put together an online course for anyone looking to become a better drone pilot. Happy holidays and happy droning.