Which are the best drones and quadcopters to buy as the Start of 2017? Read on!
UPDATED January, 2016 – We update this “best drones” listing regularly as new products are released and reviewed.
If you are looking for a ($400-$1500) “stabilized camera drone with GPS” – we have another article comparing the popular 2016/2017 models here.
Please note – one of the top pics in the 1K range, the DJI Mavic Pro, has been far backordered since launch in Oct, 2016 but is now available for quick shipment direct from DJI – click the banner below for current lead times:
Here are some of suggested best drones and quadcopters at the start of 2017
Please note that some 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 currently DO NOT recommend the following brands – 3D Robotics, Walkera, OnagoFly, GoPro. Also, we have had poor luck with Parrot models in the past – however, we are going to look at more current models soon to see if reliability has changed. Also, be wary of ANY crowdfunded (Kickstarter, etc.) models.
Be sure to pick up at least one extra battery and any spares you may want to have on hand (motors, etc.)
Micro-Sized – generally the size of your open hand including the propellers
*Hubsan X4 H107L – updated version of the most popular micro- beginners should purchase the option prop guard.
Banggood Link (worldwide and/or US Shipping).
Read the Entire Article by clicking —>>
*Dromida Verso – built in prop guards and a good reputation
We’ve recently flown the JJRC 1000 and are very impressed by it – it’s a perfect size and reasonable price. Here is a banggood US link to the model. Note – it’s possible that some of the smaller batteries you have for other micro machines will fit it – also, it can sometimes be found without the TX – as it can be flown with many existing WL Toys TX models (we had one that worked with it, so found the bare machine for $15).
Mini-Sized – about 10 inches square – lightweight
*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.
*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 – ON SALE FOR ONLY $29.99 (Dec. 1)
*Syma X8C Venture
This is a larger “toy grade” units which has become quite popular due to it’s reliability and larger payload capability. It comes with a camera that is of poor quality – but still is good for initial learning. The camera can be easily removed and replaced with something of much higher quality like the RunCam or Mobius. This allows decent aerial photography for about $150 total.
The larger size means this is an outdoor-only machine.
Amazon Link to Syma X8C Venture
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. 6- 8 minutes.
Stepping up in price you find quadcopters with brushless motors (read about them here) which last much longer and are MUCH quicker. That can be a problem for complete beginners as the lower priced brushless models do not have GPS and RTH (automatic Return to Home if too far away).
We recently spent some time flying the XK 251 Brushless Quadcopter and feel it is a GREAT overall machine for the price. This would make a great 2nd machine…maybe for someone who got the hang of the toy machines and wanted to step up to some more exciting and skilled flying. It is very reliable and handles crashes well and can easily carry a small camera. Here is the Banggood link for worldwide purchase. Make sure you buy at least one extra battery and perhaps some spare props and prop nuts.
The lowest priced Brushless Quadcopter is the JJRC X1 available at this Banggood link. As of this writing it seems to be stocked for both US (direct) shipping as well as worldwide.
Eachine 250 FPV – if you think racing is in your blood, this complete machine provides a bargain – as well as a built-in camera, full FPV (you see what the drones see on an included screen) and more.
As with the others here – this is not for a first quadcopter…but it’s a nice machine. It’s sold by Banggood at this link.
For a slightly higher cost you can get it through Amazon – which may provide faster shipping and a better return policy.
If you are in the $400 range and your eventual goal is to shoot stable video – then perhaps you should spend a bit more and get the Phantom 3 Standard at about $400-500 (see below). This machine can shoot almost perfect video and good still photographs and has many of the same features as the big boys.
Note – this model is down to about $450 and can be found “refurb” for less than $350.
NOTES ABOUT MORE ADVANCED CRAFT (Camera Drones) 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 – except for the new Phantom 3 Standard which is available at $499 or less. (see our review).
The best “everyday value” in an RTF (ready-to-fly) video package is probably the DJI Phantom 3 series (currently 3 models, Standard, Advanced and Pro) which provides everything you need except for a smartphone or tablet – for a price range from $450-$900 US.
NEW – THE PHANTOM 3 STANDARD MODEL IS FULL FEATURED AND ONLY $499 – HIGHLY RECOMENDED FOR THOSE WHO ARE ON A LOW BUDGET BUT WANT A STABILIZED CAMERA/GIMBAL – however, if you have the money you should move upwards to the Phantom 3 Advanced or Pro models or the Phantom 4.
You can also (worldwide) order Direct from DJI –
NEW – PHANTOM 3 STANDARD – $499
The Phantom 3 Advanced and Phantom 3 Professional are available to order immediately.
In summary – decide exactly what you want to do with your quadcopter or drone before purchasing. Surf around the net, check out our ebooks (our Phantom3/4 books are now free and on this site) or join our (or other) forums and ask questions.
New for 2016 – DJI now has 4 Models in the Phantom 3 line starting at $499 for the Standard Model. Here is our article comparing all 4 models (late 2016, Phantom 3 4K is slated to be discontinued but is still available)
Other Deals – In addition to the DJI lower prices, Yuneec has also lowered the price of the Q50
NEW – The Phantom 3 Standard for $499 should provide the most for the money for those who desire a camera quadcopter capable of taking stable video and are on a budget (first camera quad, etc.)
This new model may not be for every pro or semi-pro (or “prosumer”), but for those moving up to an advanced camera/gimbal/quadcopter you certainly cannot beat it.
Here is our recent review on the Phantom 3 Standard.
Direct Link to DJI site and P3 Standard
Note – as mentioned above, the Phantom 3 (3 models now!) is now taking over most of the sales of camera equipped quadcopters in the 1K price range. See our recent articles and reviews in the DJI Product section.
If you are interested in aerial video they provide the most bang for the buck, however you may want to also check out the Yuneec Q500 4K and the Blade Chroma models which have their own advantages – specifically a built-in screen on the Remote so you don’t have to use your smart phone or other device (this can be a negative also as the screen is small and not positioned as high up for viewing).
Autel X-Star Premium – this was a $1200 model now reduced to $699. It has the same basic style as the Phantom but is available in Orange (or white). The Camera is as good as that of the Phantom 3 Pro.
Yuneec Q500 4K
This quadcopter is a competitor to the older DJI Phantom 2 models – it has some comparable specs and the camera quality is adequate (not up to the P3 Pro or P4). It is made by a company which is serious about electric aviation. A complete package with case, two batteries, handheld gimbal attachment and more is currently available at Amazon for about $800 –
The Yuneec has a decent reputation – If you want the extras like the option to take the camera/gimbal off the quad and use it handheld, the Yuneec is worth considering. It’s also larger in physical size – this can be an advantage (easier to see) or a disadvantage (harder to carry and store). It does not have the wind resistance and feature set of the DJI Phantom 3 and 4 models.
About $1300 (with two batteries)
The new Phantom 4 was by far the most advanced consumer drone ever made – as of 2016. Our article on the launch and on the lowering of prices of other Phantoms (and some other brands) is at this link.
Late 2016 brings the new release of the DJI Mavic Pro – a compact foldable Quadcopter with advanced features starting at $999. This machine packs an incredible amount of technology into a small package. After being months backordered since launch in October, it is now available for almost immediate shipment:
NOTE: We recently did a “Camera Drone Slugfest” article which covers the best models for the fall and winter of 2016/2107. The final results do not differ much from what is mentioned here – but if you want to read this article here in the link.
One November 15, DJI Announced the 20 MegaPixel Phantom 4 Professional – the most advanced consumer grade Camera Drone ever built. We are currently flying and reviewing one…and they are available for immediate order from the DJI Store. This model is for the “prosumer” who desires the highest possibly video quality (1″ Sony Sensor, 4K, more!) in a consumer drone. Here is our initial article on the P4P
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 2 is the very top end of current “prosumer” or even Pro lever Quadcopters.
Here is the link to the new Inspire 2 on the DJI Web Site – it starts at about $3,000 and has capabilities which are astounding.
We update this list regularly so will be sure to include any models which improve and meet our minimum standards.
Once you know which type you want you can check for special deals at a “drone savings” site like http://www.dronesavings.com where current and new deals are often being posted.