The best cheap drones to buy in 2024

The best cheap drones prove that drone flying and drone photography don’t have to be expensive pursuits. While there are plenty of dazzlingly expensive drones out there, they tend to be geared toward pros, or at least pretty serious creators (there are even models specifically for film crews). 

For the casual consumer, and for kids and novice users, there are lots of inexpensive budget drones that are easy to fly – and more importantly, are a lot of fun, too.

In this guide, we’ve picked out the best drones that can be bought for the right price. We’ve been selective, and only picked drones that we think are worth the money. For the most part all that we ask is that there is a camera you can record with – though that's not essential for a toy drone. 

Something to think about is the maximum flight time. In the real world, flight times will generally be lower than advertised on the box, but by comparing drones’ stated flight times side by side you get an idea of which one has the overall better battery life. It’s also vital to check drone weight. 

In most territories, 250g (8.8oz) is the legal maximum weight beyond which a drone needs to be registered (check out our guide to drone rules if you’re unsure), so be aware that getting a heavier drone comes with some paperwork.

While all the drones on this list tend toward the budget-friendly, we’ve stuck to examples that give you good value. If it seems a bit pricey, it’s because it more closely competes with prosumer models.

Top picks

Best cheap drones to buy in 2024

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Best cheap drone overall

(Image credit: Adam Juniper/Digital Camera World)
The cheapest way to own some DJI tech

Specifications

Video resolution: 720p
Stills resolution: 5 megapixel
Range: 100m (Wi-Fi)
Flight time: 13 minutes
GPS: No
Weight: 80g
Dimensions: 98 x 93 x 41mm

Reasons to buy

+
High-end camera features
+
Programmable flights

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor battery life

Despite harking back to 2018, the Tello seems to happily occupy this spot in the budget drones list without any contenders to topple it. The combination of DJI’s tech and an intel processor gives the system a lot of power so the digital stabilization of the video is good for 720P.

The drone has removable propellor protection for safe play, and vision-based downward sensors for perfect hovering and landing (though the flash launch by throwing it into the air is even cooler).

We like that remote isn’t needed – the EZ Shots control app provides a live view and on-screen controls – but you can always add a generic Bluetooth game controller. The stand-out feature, though, has to be compatibility with the education-targeted programming language Scratch making this the best way to teach programming.

Read our full Ryze Tello review for more details

Best cheap camera drone

(Image credit: Adam Juniper / Digital Camera World)
A fold out GPS drone that can fly fast and shoot 2.7K

Specifications

Video resolution: 2688 x 1512p video
Stills resolution: 12 megapixel still
Range: 500m
Flight time: 23 mins x 2
GPS: Yes
Weight: 215g
Dimensions: 145x90x60 mm(folded); 360x300x70mm (unfolded)

Reasons to buy

+
Camera can tilt by remote
+
Below common registration weight

Reasons to avoid

-
Sluggish "Follow Me" mode
-
It claims to be a 4K drone

The Holy Stone HS175D is an upgrade to the HS175, which we already liked, but the manufacturers have gone on to add brushless motors and a 2.7K sensor (not 4K, as it falsely boasts). It's clear from the design of the HS175D that Holy Stone has taken a few cues from the DJI Mavic Air 2, which we feel is pretty reasonable. If you're going to crib, do it from the best.

Comfortably under the weight limit for registration, the Holy Stone HS175D also packs in plenty of useful features, like GPS, return to home, altitude hold, one-key take-off/landing, follow-me, and more. 

The camera can tilt vertically in flight, and having a Micro SD slot is really handy for recording high-quality footage (though you also have the option to record directly to the app for quick sharing. There's also electronic stabilization for the 4K footage – it's not cinema quality, but it does well.

Control can be done with the fold-out remote, powered by two AA batteries. It's easy to use, and while there's a little latency, it functions well if you stay comfortably within the 500m range.

See our full Holy Stone HS175D review for more details

Best low-cost camera drone

Potensic Atom SE drone

(Image credit: Future)
High end features like GPS and a 4K camera but with costs kept low

Specifications

Video resolution: 4K@30fps video
Stills resolution: 12 megapixel
Range: 4km / 2.5mi
Flight time: 31 minutes
GPS: Yes
Weight: 249g
Dimensions: 300 x 242 x 58mm (unfolded)

Reasons to buy

+
Good quality 4K digital video stabilization
+
Excellent build quality folding drone
+
Trustworthy live-view

Reasons to avoid

-
No 3-axis gimbal
-
More costly than some 'cheap' drones

I tested this so and I can tell you it's a really great drone that can genuinely compete with the biggest brand in the business. There is one big trade-off – the camera does not have a gimbal to stabilize it (although for a bit more its sibling, the Potensic Atom without the 'SE' does).

Now, to be fair, a lot of the cheap drones you'll see employ the same approach – simply dampening the drone's vibrations as best they can with the drone design. With the Atom SE, Potensic have gone one further and used electronic image stabilization to further improve the picture so, compared to many modestly priced drones this is still a winner, but against DJI's offerings (and its own pricier sister) it isn't quite a video master.

I'd say, though, that for a lot of people, it makes a lot of sense. There is fun to be had, and you can definitely get some sharable content. The controller and software are good quality, too – they don't feel 'cheap' at all.

Read more: reviews of the Potensic Atom and Potensic Atom SE with sample videos

(Image credit: Future)

Best cheap DJI drone

4. DJI Mini 2 SE

Best cheap drone with professional features

Specifications

Video resolution: 2.7K@30fps video
Stills resolution: 12 megapixel
Range: 10km / 6.2mi
Flight time: 30 minutes
GPS: Yes
Weight: 249g
Dimensions: 138 x 81 x 58mm (folded) ; 159 x 203 x 56mm (unfolded)

Reasons to buy

+
Cinema-smooth 2.7K video 
+
Beginner-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Not 4K video

The Mini 2 SE is a budget drone. If you disagree, remember DJI also supplies high-end broadcast equipment. This is orders of magnitude cheaper than, say, the Mavic 3 Pro Cine, but the features available on the Mini 2 SE are not that different; a 3-axis stabilized gimbal produces smooth, rich cinematic-looking 2.7K video and a top-notch radio remote controller which links to your phone via cable so there is no delay (latency) in feedback. 

The original DJI Mini SE was purposefully designed to offer a cheap DJI drone. It took the features of DJI's earliest ultralight and gave it a new low price. The newer Mini 2 SE helpfully updated the radio controller so there is little chance of control dropping out.

The drone sports GPS for automatic hover, and return to home, and some social-friendly ‘Quickshot’ modes (where the drone and camera do the work for you), as well as a landing sensor so it can touch down gently. It’s also just under the registration weight for those who hate paperwork!

We love that DJI is always thinking like photographers – adding functions like RAW and exposure bracketing – as well as taking advantage of the aerial location with assorted panoramas. The 2.7K video is excellent but if you need a true 4K check out the DJI Mini 3.

Read more: DJI Mini 2 SE review

Best cheap FPV drone

(Image credit: James Abbott / Digital Camera World)
Best cheap drone bundle deal with bag and batteries

Specifications

Video resolution: 480 line (NTSC)
Stills resolution: -
Range: 80m (250ft)
Flight time: 4 min x 2 batteries
GPS: No
Weight: 34g
Dimensions: 90×85x45mm

Reasons to buy

+
VR02 Box goggles
+
Compact controller

Reasons to avoid

-
Brushed motors
-
Prop replacement requires tool (but it is supplied)

The Cetus line of FPV drone bundles offers a relatively user-friendly way into the unique experience of flying a drone as if you were inside it. Gaining your FPV chops is aspirational amongst kids of all ages – there are plenty of experienced drone users who still long to try this more fun, immersive means of flying. 

The design of the Cetus is all about minimizing risk (and cost); the whoop-style airframe completely encases the propellors in a single plastic mold which also houses and shields the camera. 

A sensor allows stable hovering at a set distance from the floor, making this an ideal indoor toy, while the VTX (video transmitter) includes basic on-screen display data for the pilot. Enthusiasts can also use the controller with FPV simulators while the batteries charge, and a charge tester is in the bundle.

See our full BETAFPV Cetus Lite FPV review

Best follow-me drone

(Image credit: Future)
A drone that can follow you and take video without any help

Specifications

Age: 12+
Use: Outdoor
Type: tracks subject with camera AI
Flight time: 11 min
Weight: 125g

Reasons to buy

+
Rotors inside a safety cage
+
Brilliant folding design
+
Automatically follow you and records

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs a phone for first use
-
Not ideal for younger kids because

It has to be acknowledged that the word 'cheap' is a relative term. For a long time, the AI required to follow an individual person came with drones with prices a long way over $1,000 so, with that in mind, this is something of a bargain. It's also a joy to use, with a totally different way of approaching the idea of using drones that is great to take on family trips and takes the learning and difficulty out of getting amazing shareable clips.

The sensibly safe design came as a bit of a surprise to me – the AI tracks you with its camera and (once initially set up using a phone) you can use it without any other device – just a couple of button presses on the body and an outstretched hand. I found the speaker and voice very reassuring too (rather than annoying as it can be with a lot of tech).

I decided it was best to think of the HoverAir X1 as an "angel on your shoulder," and it can keep up with cyclists and runners while the blades are always safely in the folding cage design. Brilliant and different.

See our full HoverAir X1 review

Best for social media

(Image credit: Adam Juniper / Digital Camera World)
High quality 4K video and long flight times on an ultralight

Specifications

Video resolution: 4K
Stills resolution: 12 megapixel
Range: 10km (USA) / 6km (Rest of World)
Flight time: 38 minutes
GPS: Yes
Weight: 249g
Dimensions: 145×90×62 mm (folded) ; 171×245×62 mm (unfolded)

Reasons to buy

+
Prosumer grade 4K video quality
+
Horizontal or vertical camera modes
+
Eyecatching QuickShot video selfies
+
Camera gimbal stabilizes video

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite pricey for a ‘budget’ option

The Mini 2 SE is now available in most markets, but DJI’s next cheapest option is the Mini 3. This is a trimmed-down version of the Mini 3 Pro which debuted 7 months before but the sacrifices are not too many.

It manages up to 10km range with DJI’s newer radios (it uses O2 tech) and most significantly drops the smart collision sensors and subject tracking features. It also drops 4K 60fps mode, but can still capture 4K 30fps which is more than enough for most. Importantly for social influencers retains the ability to rotate the main camera to portrait mode for shooting for TikTok.

For many content creators, this is a great way to trim about $200 from the price of a high-end, low-weight drone. It remains pricey but noticeably cheaper than its siblings.

Read our full DJI Mini 3 review for more details

Other budget options

(Image credit: Adam Juniper / Digital Camera World)
Best cheap drone bundle deal with bag and batteries

Specifications

Video resolution: 4K
Stills resolution: 4K (3840x2160p)
Range: 1km
Flight time: 23 min x 2 batteries
GPS: Yes
Weight: 495g
Dimensions: 177x104x58 mm (folded) ; 337x240x58mm (unfolded)

Reasons to buy

+
Shock absorption and electronic stabilization
+
Option of 60fps video 

Reasons to avoid

-
No stabilizing gimbal

When you’re looking at investing in a drone, the cheaper DJI drones are well worth investigating but you’ll soon see that their prices rise when bought with the clearly more efficient ‘Fly More’ bundles. Here the HS720E is hard to find without a spare battery and case so offers a wallet-friendly alternative that can capture 4K (or 60fps at 1080P).

With firmly build folding arms and brushless motors, and featuring built-in battery meter LEDs there is a lot on offer here. The camera is a good quality Sony lens with physical dampening in the case and really good electronic image stabilization, though sadly no gimbal. Recordings to the MicroSD are good.

The system also features optical flow, GPS, and altitude sensors which it uses to hover with the precision you’d expect, as well as the reassurance of a return home, though it’s worth checking the HS175D (also on this list) for a more portable alternative.

Read our full Holy Stone HS720E review for more details 

(Image credit: Potensic)

9. Potensic A20

Easy to fly mini drone which is great for children

Specifications

Video resolution: None
Stills resolution: None
Range: 30m
Flight time: 8 min (x2)
GPS: No
Weight: 189g
Dimensions: 90 x 80 x 30 mm

Reasons to buy

+
Compact 
+
Robust guards
+
Decent flight time

Reasons to avoid

-
 Fiddly battery slot

The Potensic A20 is our pick of the best drones for kids. It is compact and robust and available in some color options. Thanks to the in-built pressure sensor it is capable of hovering without the operator’s help. That said, as is typical with this class of drone, it’ll still drift a little without constant attention. There is a pilot-friendly ‘headless mode’ available, which some beginners prefer, but we think you’re better off with the standard controls. 

In either case, the drone can be moved around a room using a single control stick, which is easier than most video games! If you do crash, there are good solid prop guards and the drone is too light to cause any serious harm. 

FAQs

Is a cheap drone the best for a beginner?

Not necessarily. The cheapest drones tend to lack helpful systems like GPS which keep a drone hovering in one place without help, and might not have a camera at all. A moderately-priced beginner drone with a decent camera might be the only drone you'll ever need and – with GPS, a gimbal stabilized camera, and good software – it'll still be cheaper in the long run. 

We'd say think of the very cheap as toys, and then think more about what you want. Getting to grips with the controls is more about self-restraint and caution, which you might have.

Of course, some expensive drones also have collision avoidance tech – something else which one feels might be more helpful for beginners!

How we test drones

How do you test drones?

We fly drones, capturing images and video with them (where there is a camera) in a variety of different conditions appropriate to the drone. Adam Juniper, our main drone writer, is a qualified drone pilot and has been building quadcopter-style drones since before most had heard of them. 

We also think the user experience is important – cheap doesn't mean life should be difficult, so we always make sure we set up a new drone and make sure the process is straightforward and well explained by any documentation in the box.

Read more: 

The best camera drones
Best indoor drones
Best drones for kids
Best accessories for your drone
The best DJI drones
The best camera backpacks 

Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 


Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 


He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook