After taking a closer look at lower-end price points, today we will be focusing on mid-tier models! More specifically, we will be looking into the best drones under $500. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of drones to choose from, so it is of crucial importance that you don’t make a bad decision!
The first thing you should do when choosing your next drone takes a thorough look at its specifications. I’m mostly referring to camera quality, battery life, operating range, and all that good stuff. Those are the most important aspects of every drone out there, which is why it is so important for you to thoroughly examine them.
10. ALTAIR 818
We’ll start off with one of Altair’s most popular drones – the 818, AKA Hornet. It’s a pretty fine looking drone, this one, featuring yellow and black decals with aggressive two-bladed propellers and thick propeller guards. Overall, we’re talking about a bulky drone here, but that’s not a bad thing considering the fact it flies well even in the windiest of conditions.
CAMERA AND FEATURES
Altair 818 Horner comes with a dedicated camera module sprung down underneath the hood, right in between its landing gears. Unfortunately, the camera is not this drone’s greatest aspect. It’s capable of capturing 720p videos and the provided FPV feature can reach up to 50-60 meters. While neither of these is ideal, you have to keep in mind we’re talking about a ridiculously cheap drone that goes for around $150.
The provided feature set is not ideal either. There’s no GPS module, which means Altair 818 doesn’t fly as smooth as the rest of the drones featured on this list. On the bright side, it does have the old fan favorites like altitude hold, and 3-speed settings. The aforementioned FPV is here too, and so is the extra layer of safety, courtesy of the thick prop guards.
Specs-wise, Altair 818 Hornet does amazingly well. It exceeded my expectations in both battery and range departments. The latter stretches out to approximately 150 meters, not bad at all for such a cheap drone. And get this – Altair 818 Hornet has half an hour of flight time straight out of the box. Yeah, that’s when you combine the 15-minute flight of each of the two included batteries.
9. POTENSIC T35
Potensic T35 is an all-white drone featuring a DJI Phantom-like appearance with a massive camera placed underneath the main portion of the body. At roughly $130, Potensic T35 leads the charge in the affordable section of the market and does so with plenty of confidence thanks to the built-in features.
CAMERA AND FEATURES
Yep, we’re looking at one feature-packed drone here. Not only does Potensic T35 feature GPS, dual GPS mind you, but an additional set of precise and handy features like altitude hold, return to home, follow me, and waypoints. It’s stable when flying, has little to no drift, and is pretty fast for its size. A fun drone to fly, but also a good choice for people who want to start off their aerial photography journey.
While the provided 1080p camera is solid for the money, it doesn’t exactly deliver professional-grade quality. There are certain drawbacks that had to be made, and the stabilization seems like the biggest one. The videos are jittery, choppy, and you can’t really use them for much. The same goes for the photos, but I guess they’re a bit better since they don’t reproduce the nasty jitteriness.
Potensic T35 features a hefty smart battery. We’re talking about a 2500mAh LiPo that can endure around 15 minutes in the air. You can purchase additional batteries off Amazon and significantly increase your per-session flight time. However, keep in mind that investing in a charger, especially if you end up buying two or more batteries, might be a good idea. Last but not least – Potensic T35 can reach up to cca 200 to 300 meters, depending on obstacles and signal interference. It’s a solid distance for slightly above $100, that’s for sure!
8. HOLY STONE HS700D
The HS700D is the first of two Holy Stone models in our list of the best drones under $500. Even though it is not the best drone under $500, you should definitely know about it. We’re talking about a cool looking drone featuring powerful brushless motors and a sleek looking camera. It doesn’t fail to deliver in the specs department either. Overall, for roughly $250, it doesn’t get any better than Holy Stone HS700D!
CAMERA AND FEATURES
I already mentioned this little bugger features a camera. However, we didn’t mention it’s a neat 2K sensor featuring a hardware vibration dampening system. Thanks to that, Holy Stone HS700D has a much smoother aerial footage, great for beginners who want to test the waters of professional drone photography.
A healthy set of features will help their aspirations, too, because HS700D is a proper GPS drone. With features such as advanced selfie modes, altitude hold, follow me, and return to home, it won’t disappoint you. Its flight stability won’t disappoint you, either. HS700D is capable of flying straight and without drift even in windy conditions, making it a breeze to fly for everyone.
As for the specs, you’re looking at a 2800mAh smart LiPo battery that can handle up to 20 minutes of flight time. Not too shabby by any means. On top of that, Holy Stone HS700D can reach up to a kilometer, with almost 700 meters of clear and lag-free FPV. If long-range is your thing, don’t steer too far away from the HS700D!
7. POTENSIC D85
Here we have another Potensic model. This time around, we’ll be taking a closer look at their D85 model, my favorite one in their new lineup. Not only is this drone pretty big and robust, it has a great set of features, but it’s also pretty viable in the aerial photography department, and all that for a ridiculously cheap price…
CAMERA AND FEATURES
Potensic D85 comes with a 2K HD wide-angle camera with a simplistic anti-vibration mechanism. It does the job fairly well, although a bit of jitteriness is still noticeable. The 2K resolution is nothing special, though, don’t let that fool you. It’s basically 1080p, could even be upscaled from 720p, but it will do fine as long as you don’t have your expectations set too high. Remember – even though this list features the best under $500 drones, we couldn’t skip this affordable bugger because it offers great value for money.
Features-wise, Potensic D85 sports dual GPS with the standard array of GPS-powered features (with improved accuracy) such as altitude hold and return to home. This cool-looking flyer is pretty fast too, able to reach around 10 meters per second in normal, windless conditions.
The spec sheet is where this little fella shines the most. Thanks to its 2800mAh 2S (7.4V) LiPo battery, Potensic D85 can handle approximately 20 minutes of flight time. On top of that, it can reach 1.2 to 1.5 kilometers. Which is a highly respectable range at this price point? Last but not least, the FPV range extends to about 500 to 700 meters, not too shabby at all!
6. HOLY STONE HS720
I’m sure you know foldable drones are all the craze these days. They took the market by storm, and thanks to their portability, captivated thousands of moment-chasers all around the world. Holy Stone HS720 is one such drone, featuring a sleek foldable design and a solid 2K camera. Let’s check it out!
CAMERA AND FEATURES
First things first, Holy Stone HS720 features one of those 2K cameras (read slightly wider 1080p). To be completely honest with you, it’s not that good. At this price point, it’s okay, especially considering the rest of the HS720 package. However, if you want a better camera at a slightly higher price point, Upair Two is a much better option.
GPS assisted intelligent flight is marketed at every corner, and rightfully so, as it helps smoothen out drone’s flight and helps even the biggest beginners take full control of it. Stuff like auto return to home, and follow me are here too, even further boosting this drone’s feature set.
The specs of this bugger aren’t too shabby either. Holy Stone HS720 can go up to 800 meters, a pretty solid number for such a small and relatively affordable model. 25ish minutes is the battery duration, and that’s okay considering all the sensors, GPS, FPV, and other features this thing supports. All in all, HS720 is a solid purchase, mostly thanks to its foldable design, included carrying case, and GPS. But, once again, if you’re looking for a much better camera and you’re not worried about spending a little extra, then Upair Two is the one for you!
5. RUKO F11
Ruko F11 is the first true 4K drone on our list. It’s foldable, sports a clean metallic finish, and smallish two-bladed propellers that are surprisingly fast and power-efficient. There’s more to it than looks and efficiency, though – Ruko F11 is a prime candidate for one of the best bangs for your bucks… And here’s why:
CAMERA AND FEATURES
Even though we’re talking about a drone possessing 4K camera capabilities, I’d say it’s an upscaled resolution, for sure. It lacks the smoothness and has a bit of a fish-eye effect. The stabilization is surprisingly good, although there’s still a bit of vibration going on.
Ruko F11 does well in the features department too. It’s easy to fly thanks to onboard GPS, and it possesses the typical safety/accessibility features like headless mode, one key takeoff and landing, altitude hold, and auto return to home.
You’re getting two batteries with Ruko F11, which effectively gives you close to an hour of flight time right from the box. Yep, that’s close to 30 minutes per battery, woohoo! The range won’t let you down either. The FPV feature can live up to 500 meters while the operating range stretches out for more than a kilometer. Considering all things, for roughly $300, Ruko F11 is a proper steal. It’s foldable, has a solid camera, excellent range (both FPV and operating), as well as an extra battery to extend your flight sessions.
4. UPAIR TWO
Everything about Upair Two is simplistic, the all-white body, the all-white propellers, and a gorgeous white controller resembling those of older DJI Phantom models. Or should I say, everything about Upair Two is simple except for its camera. Let’s talk about that…
CAMERA AND FEATURES
See that image above? That’s not a regular camera. There are three sensors there. Yep, Upair Two drone, thanks to its 3-axis gimbal + 3-eye lens, can capture brilliant, highly stable, 4K footage. The main camera shoots 4K while the additional two shoots in 2K FHD and 16mpx still images. Upair Two is miles ahead of all previously featured drone. The footage it captures is smooth, crisp, and has absolutely no jitteriness or vibration. Heck, it’s suitable for professional use. There, I’ve said it!
As for the features, Upair Two builds on the legacy of the original One. GPS is here, just like a sophisticated optical flow positioning system. Other smart features include flight route planning, altitude hold, one key takeoff/return/landing, pretty much the things you’d come to expect from premium drones. And that’s exactly what Upair Two is – a premium drone at a highly aggressive price point.
This thing has plenty of range too, capping out at roughly 1 to 1.2 kilometers for both FPV transmission and controls. Pretty sweet, huh? Furthermore, Upair Two can fly around for 22 to 24 minutes, depending on how far you push it. It’s a great all-around drone, that’s for sure, sporting a unique camera module that would put to shame even some pricier models.
3. DJI MAVIC MINI
Believe it or not, our list of the best quadcopters under $500 features a drone made by DJI. Yep, they’ve broken through the $500 deadlock with their Mavic Mini model that seems like a real champ. As far the bang for your buck parallels goes, DJI Mavic Mini is a behemoth. It’s affordable, yet possesses professional-grade qualities across all departments.
CAMERA AND FEATURES
Let’s start off with the camera. Even though it’s not a 4K sensor like that of similarly priced Hubsan Zino, DJI Mavic Mini’s 2.7K max resolution still does a splendid job in all possible scenarios. Whether you’re in it for the smooth aerial footage, to up your selfie game, or just shoot awesome nature-Esque cinematics, DJI Mavic Mini won’t disappoint you.
It’s feature-packed too, supporting the crème de la crème of DJI’s lineup of features. This includes the obvious starting point, GPS, and goes on to the more advanced autonomous features like tapfly, and active track. Best of all, DJI Mavic Mini is foldable, meaning it can easily fit into the palm of your hand and can be carried in even the smallest backpacks.
In terms of the specs, DJI Mavic Mini can go toe to toe with the best of them. 4 kilometers of operating range and close to 30 minutes of flight time are outright impressive. It’s basically the same range of Hubsan Zino, but with a bit of extra flight time.
2. PARROT ANAFI
Parrot Anafi is the second-best drone on this list even though, realistically speaking, it should be at the top spot. Then why is it here? Well, this list covers the best and safest drones under $500, and Anafi’s price tag slightly exceeds that number. It’s not by a lot, and it’s often on sale for slightly more than $500. But, if your budget is flexible and you don’t mind spending a bit extra, then you’ll like the uniqueness of Parrot Anafi’s aerial photography arsenal!
CAMERA AND FEATURES
Parrot’s newest drone models are targeted for film, photography, and work, featuring an all-around near-perfect feature set that turns it into a highly versatile device. Responsive controls, cinematic presets, vision tracking, advanced autonomous features – this little bugger has them all!
Parrot Anafi boasts with a 180-degree vertically rotating 4K HDR camera, that can shoot pro-grade videos straight upward. Not only is this a mesmerizing factor for cinematic footage, but a great addition to every drone-based work fleet. So yeah, let’s just say Parrot Anafi’s camera is by far the best one in our UAVs under $500 list. It does come at a price, though…
The base model of Parrot Anafi can be found for roughly $600. That model comes with the actual Anafi drone, the dedicated Sky Controller 3, and one battery. That single battery can endure for around 25 minutes, marking the perfect middle ground between Zino and Mavic Mini. The range, on the other hand, caps out at around 4 kilometers. If you want more flight time right out of the box, you’ll have to go with Parrot Anafi Extended which packs an additional battery along with a carrying case. There are more options too, including Anafi Thermal which costs $2,000 but features a ton of accessories as well as a sophisticated thermal camera.
1. HUBSAN ZINO – BEST DRONE UNDER $500
Realistically speaking, Hubsan Zino is the best drone you can get for under $500. It’s really a masterpiece by the popular mid-tier brand – Hubsan. In fact, Zino is the first proper attempt of making a high-end model at an aggressive price tag, and judging by its popularity and quality, Hubsan has done a great job!
CAMERA AND FEATURES
Hubsan Zino sports a potent 4K camera capable of shooting at 30fps. Obviously, it features both software and hardware stabilization which ensures professional-grade anti-vibration and buttery footage each and every time. The max bitrate amounts to 60mbps, which is just enough to capture plenty of details. It’s one monster of an aerial camera at just $400, so it’s rightfully at the top spot.
Hubsan went out of their way in the features department, too. Their Zino model has all the fine makings of high-end models, including the essential stuff like GPS, follow me, altitude and safety features (auto return to home and failsafe modes).
Last but not least, Hubsan Zino pro can tackle up to 22 minutes of flight time. That’s a bit shorter than DJI Mavic Mini, so bear that in mind. The range is roughly the same as that of the newest DJI model, cca 4 kilometers. Basically, the only reason why Zino took the top spot is because of the slightly sharper image and higher resolution, coupled with a more affordable price tag. If neither of that is important for you, then feel free to snatch the DJI counterpart, Mavic Mini… or even the slightly pricier Parrot Anafi.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM DRONES UNDER $300?
Keep in mind that you most likely will not be able to find a drone that’s awesome across all departments. For that sort of performance, you will have better luck with checking out our Best Drones Under $1000 list. In other words, settle down for what you want (for example, some of you will want a fast FPV racer, others will want a stable aerial photography platform while some will test their luck with a casual drone for beginners.
Whichever option might seem like the best one for your needs, you need to make sure your next drone has solid specifications to back it up.
BEST DRONE UNDER $500: AVERAGE SPECIFICATIONS
Realistically speaking, drones in this price range usually come with an FHD camera and no hardware image stabilization. Despite that, you can still find a few models sporting 4K cameras… In fact, some of them even feature specialized gimbals which are, unfortunately, sold separately in most cases.
BENEFITS OF HAVING A SMALL DRONE
CAN I USE FPV GOGGLES WITH THESE DRONES?
If the drone you plan on purchasing sports FPV live transmission, then chances are high that you can set up an FPV system with your own FPV goggles. That’s even more likely an option if your potential drone sports FPV through 5.8g and not WiFi. Still, keep in mind that you need to do some research because all of these tech-savvy things heavily depend on model to model… But generally speaking – yes – a good portion of drones that cost less than $500 (and feature FPV live streaming) support FPV goggles.