Anyone looking for a real drone that sits outside of the mini or nano drone market but still comes in under the $100 mark is in for a treat. A few years ago, the drone market was filled with expensive models, but now many of the latest drones with cool features are available for double-digits that won’t break the bank. There are also some original models that have become discounted since release and offer exceptional value for open-minded consumers.
It is true that a sub-$100 product won’t come with all the latest bells and whistles. Hoping for a 4K UHD video camera is probably unlikely to be fulfilled, but other in-demand features like a return to base, and multi-axis gyroscopes, plus quality cameras, are just some of the options available from powerful drone brands.
We have also reviewed drones under $200 which present another option for people who are willing to stretch their budget to get more of the latest technology.
Here is what we consider to be the Best 10 Drones Available for Under $100:
BEST 10 DRONES UNDER $100 TABLE
10. SYMA X5C-1
The Syma X5C-1 is an update to the original Syma X5C version with some subtle improvements made. The package includes a large black colored controller and a white quadcopter drone. There are four motors measuring 7mm by 20mm each that take up little space but deliver impressive power to the four propellers to lift the drone high into the air. The model comes with a camera and amount, but the camera is removable and the mount reusable to carry lightweight loads instead of taking shots or video clips. The 2-megapixel camera is a decent quality one for the category.
The controller communicates on the 2.4Ghz frequency over one of four channels. There is a 500mAh 3.7-volt battery that powers the drone. Once the battery has run down it only takes one hour to recharge over USB fully. The UAV is usable indoors (it has protective prop guards to avoid taking chunks out of the wood furniture), but it’s not a nano drone, so extra care has to be taken. Mostly intended for outside use, daytime flights are supported, but LED lights also allow for easy night flights too.
The flight duration is a reasonable 6-8 minute, and the effective range is around 60 meters. It is possible to remove the landing gear, prop guards and camera to maximize the flight duration, to learn how to fly properly as a beginner, or for use indoors (we’d still prefer to keep the prop guards on). The drone can perform 360-degree maneuvers in the air. It has a 6-axis gyro which ensures its stability even with fancy stunts.
The X5C-1 represents good value for its features, notably the inclusion of a decent camera at this price point. The 6-axis gyro, instead of a 2-axis one, also helps to smooth out flying for people new to drone piloting.
9. MJX X400
The MJX X400 makes good use of color with its dull white hue accented by black dual joysticks on the controller and red accents. While it won’t win any style awards, it adds a little attention to appearance, and it shows. The X400 has a headless mode for beginner flyers who need to make orientation easier to manage initially. There is also an FPV real-time video mode to view what the drone is seeing on a smartphone that’s clipped to the top of the controller (iOS and Android app compatibility is supported). The 0.3-megapixel camera is only VGA rather than a Full HD or 720p video model, but it is still adequate for basic navigation and taking amateur shots or video of a brief flight.
The 750mAh 3.7-volt battery offers approximately 8 minutes of flight time which is fair. The recharging time is around 1 hour, 30 minutes. The effective range of the X400 is 100 meters which is likely to please most drone pilots. The design of the UAV is almost square, but with full, circular prop guards protecting the propellers satisfactorily. There is a 6-axis gyroscope that helps the drone stay oriented and easier to fly smoothly. The 4-channel controller transmits on the 2.4Ghz frequency. It is possible to activate the single button return to base feature from the controller, trigger the drone to perform its 360-degree spin, or turn on the LED lights for night flights.
The MJX X400 is a good drone whose best feature is the FPV capability for real-time video navigation. The image quality is basic, but it works.
8. SYMA X8C
The Syma X8C is a more advanced drone that the Syma X5C-1 model reviewed earlier in this guide. In many ways, this model quite closely resembles the look of the DJI Phantom line without completely copying its appearance. The quadcopter has four full propellers, but no prop guards to protect them. The legs run deep and have sturdy feet to enable smoother landings. The branding is at the top in the very center of the drone, with black and blue bar coloring in several areas that extend out to the powerful brushless motors. The weight of this drone is over 600 grams that’s-surprising but should help the drone hold up on bumpy landings.
The drone is powered by a substantial 2,000mAh battery that delivers 12 hours of flight time over an extended 200-meter range. The recharging time is higher at 2 hours, but that’s to be expected with large battery modules. The 6-axis gyroscope helps ensure steady flying, but the heavier body and distributed power of the four motors deliver reliable performance and smoother flights even during somewhat windy conditions. The headless mode is provided as an option for new flyers who feel a little uncertain flying a massive drone for the first time. Not to be outdone by its size, a 360-degree spin is programmed into its features. The 4-channel controller which broadcasts on 2.4Ghz is easy to hold in the hand while managing the drone’s controls. Night flights are also supported with LED lights. The 2-megapixel camera is a good step up from the cheaper 0.3-megapixel versions included in some other drones in this category.
Overall, the Syma X8C represents a heavier, sturdier flying experience that is ideal for use in states with the more variable weather. The improved flight range and bigger battery also provide greater value than some other models on the market.\
7. JXD 509V
The JXD 509V doesn’t look flimsy at all. Right away it appears to be rugged with a white top and black underside, culminating in black legs that almost seem like a pair of skis. The frame has several arms reaching across from the primary body to the left and right side where the four motors are housed. This could mean that even should one of the arms become damaged, the drone will most likely still fly and also be amendable. The propellers are also substantial with curved blades that serve to lift this powerful drone off the ground and high into the air.
A 10-minute flight is possible up to an effective range of 80 meters. A few extra features for flight are included here. The headless mode is most useful for beginners who might get confused about drone orientation during a flight. A steady altitude feature lets the UAV constantly fly at the same altitude to avoid needing to make adjustments (just be careful of tree-tops and taller buildings that the surrounding ones).
The single button return to base feature is also useful to prevent the hassle of flying back to the take-off point. Below the nose, you’ll find the 1-megapixel camera that takes basic images and video clips up to VGA level. The 600mAh 3.7-volt battery is rechargeable in an hour. The controller broadcasts on 2.4Ghz and doesn’t have any lag. The 360-degree rolls can be performed forward, back, left and right. The LED lights allow for night flying without losing sight of the drone in the air.
The JXD 509V has an intriguing balance of features that don’t excel in any one area but deliver well across the board.
6. JJRC H31
The JJRC H31 is one of the least expensive drones in this category. There are some pros and cons to this. One of the features that are lacking with the H31 is a camera or a camera mount to add an action-cam later on. A major feature that is included with this model is that it’s waterproof. We’re not talking about taking it scuba diving with you, but indeed a water landing where it’s quickly retrieved or the drone being rained on before it is safely landed isn’t going to cause it any problems. The waterproofing is a good way to protect an investment in this drone, which is one way to think about it.
The supplied battery provides 10 minutes of flight duration and an effective range of up to 150 meters. The recharge time for the battery is approximately 40-50 minutes. The 6-axis gyroscope helps to keep the UAV more stable in the air. It can perform a 360-degree roll maneuver too. The drone has a white top body and black underside, with curved legs and landing gear that help buffer the landing to protect the equipment. Wide, curvy prop guards also prevent the angular blades from being damaged during a landing too.
The unit itself isn’t the largest model in the list, but it’s still bigger than a mini drone. The black controller transmits on the 2.4Ghz frequency with access to stunt moves, the LED lights for night flying, and the camera features. The camera is a 2-megapixel model that provides good pictures without being exceptional. Both photos and videos can be taken.
The JJRC H31 is a good all-rounder with waterproofing that is its main selling point over other models in the list.
5. TARANTULA X16
The Tarantula X16 is unapologetic about its spider-like appearance. In fact, it doesn’t look much different to many other drones with the basic quadcopter design, and wide, curving prop guards fitted to prevent propeller damage. The model doesn’t include a camera of its own. However, it can support a GoPro or similarly weighted action camera with powerful enough engines to reach 100 meters up. Its flight duration is around 10 minutes, give or take any added weight from a camera being flipped on. The 1,200mAh 7.4-volt Li-Po battery is rechargeable within 1 hour, 40 minutes or so.
The 6-axis gyro offers excellent steady flying over time. Performing 360-degree rolls is easy too. The headless mode is intended to help people new to drones learn how to fly the simple way first. Night flying is also possible using the LED lights to spot the drone in the blacked-out sky.
The X16 was one of the best-selling drones in 2015. When over-exhorting the engines, they have been known to burn out. However, they are easily replaceable rather than needing to buy a whole new unit. Once accepting that prerequisite, the X16 is worth considering as a strong model that supports a GoPro and offers a pleasing flying experience.
4. JJRC H26W
The JJRC H26W is a bit of a green goblin with its green body. It has white propellers with black locking nuts above, supporting legs, and padded landing feet, plus the camera housing colored black for contrast. The overall appearance is unusual and easy to spot in the air on a bright day.
The non-removable 2-megapixel camera is an excellent addition, as is the 2-axis gimbal that helps keep the camera lens level for steadier video and image quality even when changing direction. The camera also provides an FPV live video beamed to the JJRC Android or iOS app to navigate with communication over the busy 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi frequency.
The battery lasts up to 7 minutes of flight time, with an exceptional range of up to 300 meters. It will recharge in about an hour. The longer-range is a clear standout for the sub $100 pricing with customers who prefer distance over other factors. There is a headless mode for new pilots who don’t want to get confused about orientation. The standard 360-degree spin or roll feature is present here too. Single-button return to base is also provided for easier landings. Night flights are possible too with the inclusion of LED lights.
The H26W represents a good option for pilots who want a few more features and a better camera with FPV capabilities while navigating directly from their smartphone. The 2-axis gimbal for the camera is especially good vs. the non-gimbal matched cameras of the competition.
3. JXD 509W
The JXD 509W is a black-clad drone with a sturdy look. It is constructed using tough ABS plastic with propellers that won’t shatter even when bent up to 85-degrees the wrong way. For both new pilots and people who still haven’t successfully mastered avoiding obstacles or landing carefully, this drone model is probably a safer bet. The 4-channel remote transmits on 2.4Ghz frequency over a distance of up to 100 meters. The 8 minutes of flying time is sufficient, and the battery will recharge in around 1 hour, 30 minutes.
The nose of the primary unit houses the non-removable 2-megapixel camera. It takes decent quality images and video clips. The camera also broadcasts the video as a live stream for FPV navigation on the controller with a smartphone attached. The image quality is certainly good enough for actual flight. A headless mode is included for easier flying for newbies. A steady altitude is one feature, and the single button return to base is the second one. Turning on the LED lights enables night flying with fewer concerns.
The 509W packs a lot into its slim frame. The FPV 2-megapixel camera is a real plus point, and the durability of the ABS plastic comes in handy during poor landings.
2. SYMA X5UW
The Syma X5UW is a ruby red colored drone that’s unapologetically “out there.” It has white propellers that stand out even more for the fact that they’re not red. By contrast, the 3-channel controller is white with some red accenting to match the color of the drone. The model is on the light side which means it’s easier to transport, but tends not to handle light wind as well as a heavier drone does. It has a 500mAh 3.7-volt battery that powers the 8-10 minutes of flight time. The effective range of this model is 80 meters or so.
The UAV can fly both indoors and outdoors. It does lack any prop guards, so it’s not the safest drone for indoor flight, so please bear that in mind. A 2-megapixel camera is fixed into position directly below the primary body. The shooter provides decent shots, and video, with live video, streamed via FPV to the controller which is viewable with the use of a smartphone. The 6-axis gyro helps to keep the drone steadier in the air than it otherwise would have been and assists with maintaining navigation on-track. There is some useful features like a mobile app, the steady altitude feature to keep at a certain height, 360-degree spins, and a smart orientation mode that operates much like headless mode for new pilots. The LED lights also help illuminate the way when flying at night.
The motors do tend to get noisier than other drones when pushing the speed or to perform sharp turns. The X5UW does feel a little like flying a Phantom 3 once it’s airborne which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. For someone looking for a drone with a camera and full FPV capabilities, plus some useful extra features, this product is an excellent choice.
1. HUBSAN X4
The Hubsan X4 is a complete solution for drones flying on a budget. The drone comes in its white and chrome colors, with white and red propellers providing some distinction, along with a boxy black square controller with a 4.3-inch LCD built-in. The inclusion of the screen does use some battery life which perhaps cuts down on possible flight time. However, it avoids needing to keep your smartphone with you fully charged to take the drone out flying. There are both pros and cons to that one.
The 4-channel controller broadcasts on the 2.4Ghz frequency. It is not the easiest to hold, but it gets the job done. The non-removable 2-megapixel camera offers acceptable images and video clips with FPV capabilities for pleasing navigation. The 6-axis gyro also ensures the flying is smoother than it would otherwise be. The 380mAh 3.7-volt battery offers 8 minutes or less of flying time but does achieve a distance of 100 meters which is a fair trade-off considering that there’s a display included. The battery cannot be taken out or replaced. It is rechargeable in around 40-50 minutes.
The provided 1-megapixel camera is not as impressive as other 2-megapixel models in alternative drones. However, the FPV live video capability and the controller with its own screen adds more value. A headless mode is included, but the propellers are painted differently front and back for easy visual confirmation of current orientation during a flight when having a line of sight. The inclusion of LED lights ensures night flights are possible. Performing 360-degree spins is also accessible from the controller too.
The Hubsan X4 is a good model for its balance of features and the display screen. The Hubsan brand is also well respected for build quality and parts.
As the market continues to proliferate with inexpensive drones with cool features and technology only previously seen in their more expensive brethren, the range gets wider and ever more confusing! In the sub $100 price bracket, full-sized drones with up to 2-megapixel cameras and a pleasing list of extra features become accessible to consumers who wish to take to the skies. The future is bright for consumers who don’t want to drop too much money on a drone or like to update too regularly.