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 towards pro broadcasters and film crews. For the casual consumer, and for kids and novice users, there are lots of inexpensive drones that are easy to fly – and more importantly, are a lot of fun, too.
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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 – the minimum requirement is that the drone needs to have a camera you can record with – every drone on this list, except for one which we've included as a choice for kids. Getting the footage off the drone will require either a Wi-Fi connection to a smartphone, or an on-board microSD card slot – the latter is the better-quality option, but adds to the cost.
Other things to think about include max flight time. While in the real world, flight times will generally be lower than advertised on the box, comparing drones’ stated flight times side by side will give you an idea of which one has the overall better battery life. It’s also vital to check drone weight. In most territories, 250g is the legal minimum 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 are cheap, we’ve only included examples that we think are worth the money – so here are the best cheap drones you can buy right now!
Best cheap drones to buy in 2022(opens in new tab)
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 4K sensor. We feel positively spoiled! It's clear from the design of the HS175D that Holy Stone has taken a few cues from the DJI Mavic Air 2 (opens in new tab), 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.(opens in new tab)
This tiny foldable drone shares many of the features familiar to those who have shopped for kids toys – 360˚ flips, headless mode – but it also manages to fit a camera into its frame. Especially nice is that it’s adjustable on the vertical axis, so if you’re not liking the footage you’re getting you just need to land, tweak and take off again.
The recording takes place on your phone, so is subject to the risk of interference, but the app allows capture of pleasingly clear video or acceptable stills via the trigger on the remote.
With altitude hold but no GPS this is a great drone to build your drone control experience as it’ll hover and just need nudging if there are gusts. Three speed settings add fun, while one key take-off and landing and a low battery beeper are practical.
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 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 education-targeted programming language Scratch making this the best way to teach programming(opens in new tab)
The Mini SE is a budget drone. If you disagree, remembering DJI also supply high end broadcast equipment. While orders of magnitude cheaper, the features available on the Mini SE re not that different; a 3-axis stabilized gimbal produces smooth, rich cinematic-looking 2.7K video and an ergonomic radio remote controller which links to your phone via cable for very low latency.
The SE has been purposefully designed to offer a cheap DJI drone - merging the features of the similar Mavic Mini and the Mini 2 with a new low price (but only available in selected countries).
The drone sports GPS for automatic hover, return to home and some social-friendly ‘Quickshots’ (where the drone and camera do the work for you), as well as a landing sensor so it can touch down gently itself. It’s also just u\nder the registration weight for those who hate paperwork!
We love that DJI are 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 true 4K check out the newer DJI Mini 2 (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
The Mini SE is only available in selected countries, so if you are in one the unchosen areas of the world, the older Mavic Mini is a great alternative still. It has much the same set of features but housed in the older style airframe.(opens in new tab)
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 which 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 return to home, though it’s worth checking the HS175D (also on this list) for a more portable alternative.(opens in new tab)
The Potensic A20 is our pick of the best drones for kids (opens in new tab). It is compact and robust, and available in some color options. Thanks to in-built pressure sensor is capable of hovering without the operator’s help and flying using the pilot-friendly ‘headless mode.’
In practice, that means 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.