UPDATED 4/2015 – We update regularly as new products are released and reviewed.
Here are some best bets for drones and quadcopters this upcoming gift-giving season – whether looking to gift yourself or a family member/friend.
Please read notes in ALL CAPITALS
Note – these quadcopters can vary in cost depending on vendor, options, etc. but the following will give some idea of the price ranges.
Also note that many of these are not for beginners! Rather they are upgrades after you’ve learned the basics of flying and know exactly what features you desire. Quads best for beginners are marked with an *
We do not suggest the very tiny “nano” thumb size quadcopters for learning or beginners! Here is why.
We do not suggest the new Parrot Rolling Spider – as our review of it showed it to be buggy and not ready for the market.
*Blade Nano QX – Micro Quad with great features
Amazon Link Blade Nano QX
Red Rocket Hobbies – Blade Nano QX RTF
*Hubsan X4 H107L – updated version of the most popular micro- beginners should purchase the option prop guard.
Amazon Link – Hubsan X4
*Syma X5 – Inexpensive, reliable, good parts and knowledge availability (lots of owners!) – the model with a X5c designation includes a camera.
Amazon Link to Syma X5 – Amazon Link to Syma X5c
Syma has recently introduced the X 11 – which is sized right in-between a micro and a mini. We did a review on it and really enjoyed it, so we feel comfortable suggesting it for a 1st or 2nd quadcopter.
*WL Toys v959 (new) – This is a classic Quadcopter updated with a better stabilization system. It comes with a camera which can take video or stills. New pilots can remove the camera until they are comfortable with flying the v959. Here is a Banggood worldwide link.
They are also available on Amazon under various names.
*Dromida Ominus – Another advanced toy grade quadcopter which is getting very good reviews! This is somewhat similar to the WL Toys v636, but perhaps a step up in total quality.
Link to Dromida Ominus on Amazon
WL Toys v262 – Larger version of a 212 series with decent payload capacity (see our review)
Amazon Link for v262
WL Toys V262 Cyclone UFO 4 Channel 6 Axis Gyro Quadcopter 2.4Ghz Ready to Fly (Green)
Note- mid-2014 price of under $70 is a great bargain and if you have a large open outdoor area to learn in, it can be a great first or, better yet, second quadcopter. The weak point is that the motors burn out quite quickly….buy some spares and learn how to keep the machine flying!
NOTE – ALL OF THE ABOVE QUADCOPTERS USE “BRUSHED” MOTORS WHICH WILL NEED REPLACING AFTER A COUPLE HOURS OF FLIGHT. Keep in mind that a couple hours of flight can easily mean 15-30+ total flights as each flight is approx. 8 minutes.
Eye One Extreme – Brushless quadcopter (Approx. $150)
Link to Buy – USA
Link to Manufacturer for Worldwide Purchases
NOTE: Not for beginners – read reviews and become familiar with spare parts, etc. you might need. Lots of extra accessories for camera flying, larger payloads, sport flying, etc.
Blade 200qx – a very nice “sport quadcopter” – although a little pricey. You will need to buy a Horizon Hobby Spectrum Transmitter along with the quadcopter (if you don’t already have one).
Amazon Link to Blade 200qx
Skyartec Buttefly – is in this size range – never became very popular, but those who own them like them
This would be the “mode 2″ for USA customers:
Amazon Link to Skyartec Butterfly (good price – but you need to add or have battery and charger)
Parrot A.R.Drone 2.0 with new GPS add-on and flight recorder
AR Drone Link
GPS and Flight Recorder Link
NOTE: The AR Drone operates differently than most quadcopters and drones in that it uses a tablet or smart phone for control. This is not as exacting as the standard R/C controllers. It also has a much shorter range than other, more standard, models.
Note – Parrot has recently released the BeBop Drone which is much more advanced than the AR Drone. It sells for about $500 and can be found at Best Buy, the Apple Store and select other retailers. NOTE: do not buy this without doing your research around the web AND having a 30 day return period. This would be our recommendation on most brand new products as the reviews are not yet in! Most early reviewers are saying that the BeBop really needs the Skycontroller (total $899 for package) for decent range and operation.
BeBop Link at Amazon
NOTES ABOUT MORE ADVANCED CRAFT BELOW:
Most of the quadcopters listed below feature GPS and other stabilization features, making them purpose built for photography and aerial video. Still photography is quite easy to do with a low priced setup – as is amateurish video. However, decent video requires a camera gimbal – which is a device that keeps the camera level and vibration free. In general, fully equipped quadcopters with a gimbal and camera start at about $1000.
The best value in an RTF (ready-to-fly) video package is probably the DJI Phantom series which provides everything you need except for a smartphone or tablet – for about $1000 US. As of April, 2015 DJI has announced the new Phantom 3 line – which provides even more for less! The only reason to buy the “2” models at this point would be if they were available for a great price (about $900) or if you need the “bare” 2 models for using with a GoPro or your other choice of camera or payload. All available models can be found easily at this link.
Note- it will probably be about 60 days before you received a newly ordered Phantom 3 (late May as of this writing in early April).
In summary – decide exactly what you want to do with your quadcopter or drone before purchasing. Surf around the net, check out our books or join our (or other) forums and ask questions.
DJI Phantom 2 (bare) – this is an advanced machine with a decent payload capacity but in this price range does not include a camera. You can add a GoPro or other similar camera of your choice and be up and running and taking decent still photographs.
However, if you want stable video you need a gimbal to keep the camera level and vibration-free. In this case you need to step up to the more advanced DJI model(s), the Phantom 3.
Phantom 2 page at DJI Link.
Blade 350 QX3 – Advanced Quadcopter with GPS, Altimeter and more – be sure to buy version 3 – which has a white battery door (earlier versions are available from some vendors and should cost much less). Blade also sells a more expensive version (about $1000) with a cameral and stabilized gimbal.
Blade 350 QX3 Quadcopter at Amazon
Blade 350QX3 with Camera and Gimbal at Amazon
The Phantom 2 Vision (with camera, but no video gimbal) is a complete solution in a ready to fly Quadcopter – includes a high quality still and video camera, FPV, telemetry and much more. The price has been greatly reduced and it can now be had for about $800.
Amazon Link to (older – no gimbal) Phantom Vision
DJI Vision (older- no gimbal) – Banggood Worldwide Ship
3DR Iris+ – Advanced programmable expandable quadcopter from 3D Robotics
(this should not be a first quadcopter for most – very advanced and capable – do your research on it!) it’s available on Amazon and from various other vendors.
About $1300 (with two batteries)
The Phantom 2 Vision+ is packed with most every feature that a aerial photographer wants, including GPS with waypoints, stable gimbal for smooth video, camera, long lasting battery and more. Check out our recent review.
We never suggest buying any expensive quadcopter as your first! Mess around with the toy grade models until you get the hang of operation.
This new quadcopter is a strong competitor to the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ – it has comparable specs and the camera quality is excellent. It is made by a company which is serious about electric aviation.
They are currently in short supply, but Amazon may have some at this link.
Or, check this dealer in the USA:
From a Dealer – Red Rocket Hobby
If you are a serious enthusiast who wants to take the highest possible quality 4K video…AND, your wallet is quite fat, the new DJI Inspire is the very top end of current hobbyist and “prosumer” lever Quadcopters. It is just starting to ship now, so you may or may not receive it before the holidays – however, both Amazon and DJI are taking orders.
Amazon Link for the Inspire below:
Discuss, ask questions and add your comments on our forum thread.