As the investment into drone technology for the consumer market continues unabated, the number of models under $500 with appealing features changes continually. At the time of writing, these are the best ten drones we found under five hundred bucks.
Naturally, as new models are released, it becomes a challenge to update our guides which we do periodically with the latest models if they have improved upon our recommended list.
For drones at lower prices, our best affordable drones or the best ten drones for under $100 guides offer alternatives at a lower cost if the sub-$500 price point is too high. Without waiting any longer, we present out Best 10 Drones Available for Less Than $500.
TABLE OF BEST DRONES UNDER 500 BUCKS:
10. XIRO XPLORER MINI
The Xiro Mini is a gray and black drone with striking yellow and black propellers. The Mini is a replacement upgrade to the previous Xplorer V from Xiro. The newer model is not a modest change, but actually a stark improvement over the previous version. Visually, the most obvious thing that stands out is that this model is only 12-inches across which makes it far more svelte than the previous model. The arms on the drone are foldable which helps it get packed up into a small bag to carry between locations. The drone only weighs around 16 ounces (under half a kilo) which means once its arms are folded by its side, it packs down small. The built-in front-facing camera provides 13-megapixel images for accurate photography and 1080p video quality.
FPV is fully supported with live video up to Full HD quality streamed directly to your smartphone or tablet. The Xiro mobile app offers many features for navigation and accurate control of this drone. In keeping with the trend for live streaming, the app is capable of sharing the FPV live feed across the internet too. The live streaming is something one only typically expects to see with more expensive UAVs. Both GLONASS and GPS satellite systems provide faster and more accurate location tracking and destination navigation. For indoor flights, visual camera imagery ensures flight mastery, with the hovering capability perhaps the most useful feature for indoor use. The flight range is 100 meters, and the flight duration is 15 minutes which is average for this class. The Mini is also supplied with an automatic return flight capability; automatic rescue functionality should the navigational connection be lost mid-flight, and also responds without human interaction when the drone is low on power.
9. XIRO XPLORER AERIAL
The XiroXplorer Aerial is a mid-sized consumer drone designed with a sleek gray body and propellers, and black legs and housing. The controller looks equally attractive in dark gray and light gray. The UAV is capable of flying upwards at 6 meters per second and flying horizontally at 15 meters per second. The flying distance is 1,000 meters when using the controller which broadcasts on a 2.4Ghz frequency. The drone can fly around a set area which shall be fixed through the controller. There is a base returning feature to get back to the take-off point with a minimum of fuss. To safeguard against a low battery problem, the controller vibrates in the hand. The built-in 5,200 mAh lithium polymer battery powers the Xplorer Aerial for 18 minutes. The flight distance supports up to 1km when the battery is fully charged.
8. PARROT BEBOP 2
The Parrot Bebop 2 is a quadcopter constructed with ABS Plastic to be extremely lightweight. The body is heat resistant to avoid damage from bright sunlight during mid-day flights. The ABS plastic incorporates fiberglass to increase its strength and help the drone avoid suffering irreparable harm during a crash. The quadcopter has brushless motors which are an unusual feature. The Bebop 2 is a fast-moving UAV that flies horizontally at up to 13 meters a second (38 MPG). The 14-megapixel camera is built into the nose of the product offering a 180-degree wide viewing angle.
The camera supplies the FPV live picture to either a smartphone or tablet or the Skycontroller Remote which is available for purchase separately. The app controls the drone or the hand-held Skycontrollerover the 2.4Ghz frequency, but with the controller, the flight range is extended beyond the usual 300-meter distance to up to 2kms. The usual flight duration is over 20 minutes. The battery takes two hours to charge fully. The other features of this drone include a quick return to base, a GPS system, and its auto-pilot.
7. WALKERA F210
The Walkera F210 drone has an unusual appearance that’s part drone, part spider. It is intended to be primarily used for its racing abilities, rather than for aerial observation. The body of the F210 has been hardened to improve upon the robust strength of the Walkera Furious 320 that came before it. The design has been modified to withstand drops, bad landings, and minor impacts or scrapes while still maintaining its operational capability. The four brushless motors support 2,500 kilovolts of power. The flight time is around 8 minutes which is enough for the duration of most races.
The flight distance extends out to 1,000 meters with the communication handed over the 2.4Ghz frequency. An 800TVL night-vision 1-megapixel Sony camera offers images at any time of the day or night with a 120-degree angle that is adjustable to capture the right shots without needing to rotate the drone to do so. The battery is rechargeable in around 2 hours.
6. AP10 PRO
The AP10 Pro drone is easily mistaken for a DJI Phantom model if it wasn’t for its black stripes across the top of the body. From other perspectives, it would be difficult to tell the difference visually. Many manufacturers have had considerable success-aping the appearance of the DJI series of drones, and AEE Tech is no different here. The controller, on the other hand, is white with a deep red pattern across the front; at least it won’t be easy to misplace it. The top speed of this drone is an impressive 44 MPH but is also able to cruise along at a more sedate 20 or 30 MPH.
It’s possible to get more flight duration out of the powerful 5,300 mAh battery when flying more slowly, but don’t expect too much extra. The flight duration is usually 25 minutes which is pretty good, and the Pro model covers a 500-meter range comfortably. The capable 1080p Full HD camera provides video at 60 frames per second and offers 16-megapixel shots. It has an FPV live streaming capability for easier navigation when pairing the controller with a smartphone or tablet and vertically adjusts the viewing angle up to 90-degrees.
5. UPAIR ONE WITH 4K CAMERA
The Upair One comes in two versions (2K and 4K camera) with the more expensive model being the most desirable. The latter model comes with a 7-inch LED to use with its navigation system as an FPV real-time control system. The controller uses the unobstructed 5.8Ghz frequency for silky smooth video transmission. The other welcome edition with the better version is the inclusion of a 4K UHD video camera shooting at 24 FPS, capable of 12-megapixel images for superb video clips and still photos during a flight.
The 2-axis gimbal as not as good as the 6-axis gimbal that’s supplied with some drones, but it is still adequate. The quality of the camera is up to the standards of expensive drones that offer their 4K video options. Flying is supported out to 500 meters with the controller with the One drone capable of staying aloft for 20-minutes at a charge. Spare parts like a replacement transmitter battery, quadcopter battery, transmitter board, and transmitter FPV aerial are also available.
4. 3DR SOLO
The 3DR Solo continues to be a best-selling drone for simple flights and using a GoPro camera to capture shots. The model comes with two batteries to easily swap them to get back into the air quickly after landing when the first battery has run down. The Solo has a GoPro-compatible gimbal that offers improved stability for smoother video shots without the jitters affecting the shot.
The 800-meter flight range won’t break any records here, but the 20-minute flight duration is pretty decent. Two chips are running the drone’s action; one in the drone and the other inside the controller. Together, they work well to provide intelligent control. The controller uses a Wi-Fi signal to connect to the drone for navigation. The camera includes a variety of photographic modes and automated shooting that lets the pilot focus on their flying to avoid uneven terrain and unexpected obstacles. The quadcopter includes eight propellers with a spare one for every prop.
3. TRAXXAS 7909 ATON
The Traxxas 7909 Aton doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but this is a GoPro-optimized drone that offers some exciting features. The three cell Li-Po 5,000 mAh battery drives the flight duration of 25-minutes, with a capable distance of 1km. Flying is exciting with this drone because it comes with three modes: Expert, Film, and Sport. With flying largely taken care of, pilots can switch to using their GoPro to get the best video and photographic shoots.
There are LED lights to spot the drone in the air at night time. The 2-axis gimbal is adequate to ensure both smooth flying and jittery-free shots too. Two GPS modes ensure accurate location tracking and return to base facilities. There’s also an auto-pilot feature to focus on getting the perfect shot. When coming across something unexpected in the air, the air brake feature is a useful one to stop forward momentum quickly. Traxxas is less well known for drones; their primary focus is remote-controlled trucks and other small vehicles. Nonetheless, this is a decent drone for the price.
2. HUBSAN H109S X4 PRO
The Hubsan brand is widely respected for the overall quality of their drones. The level of craftsmanship here is clearly evident with ergonomic design and some advanced features. The Husban H109S comes in two versions: a high and a standard version. One of the main differences with the high version is the inclusion of a 3-axis stabilizing gimbal rather than the 1-axis gimbal present in the standard version. For anyone who appreciates smoother flying capabilities and clearer shots from a camera, the 3-axis gimbal is a welcome improvement over the lesser option. For beginners, there is a headless mode to avoid getting confused during a flight about the current orientation of the drone. There is also an automated return to base, follow me now, and steady hover modes.
The X4 Pro also comes with a 1080p Full HD video camera that supports FPV live steam. The controller uses Android version 4.2 which is an older version but is still a capable operating system and a good interface for managing drone flights. The live video certainly makes flying and taking accurate video clips or photos easier. There is a GPS chip inside the product to help with better navigation and make the return to base feature pinpoint accurate. The effective range is 1km with a flight duration of 25-30 minutes depending on the battery level and directness of the flight path.
1. DJI PHANTOM 3 STANDARD
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard was once the gold standard for drones with several of its current competitors in this list closely imitating its basic appearance. This indicates the kind of influence that the DJI brand has had over the other drone manufacturers. Obviously, DJI has been busy developing and releasing newer, more advanced versions of the Phantom, as well as other models, but the Phantom 3 Standard is still available because it provides excellent value and solid performance for buyers who want a top brand while keeping their drone budget under $500.
The body is white with white propellers, silver-colored engine housing, and colored striped for positional orientation. The Phantom 3 model actually is available in a Standard, Advanced or Professional version with different features for each. We review the Standard model here because it’s the one that’s the most affordable. For anyone looking for a drone below five hundred bucks that has the best range, this model offers between 3.5km and 5km which is exceptional. The flight duration of 25-minutes is also no slouch, and it’s unlikely that a drone pilot will need more before a recharge is required (charge the battery in 120 minutes).
The Standard model comes with a 12-megapixel camera offering 2.7K video recording. The 2.7K video was a considerable step up from 1080p, but apparently, drones at the top of the market have moved up to 4K UHD now. The video quality is useful for the real-time FPV video feature with the transmission on the 2.4Ghz frequency. DJI comes with its own app for iOS and Android to control flight, set the home location, note interesting locations on the local map, and play with options like follow me to track a person around a location. The software lets the pilot create multiple GPS waypoints to set a particular flight path to take in certain sights which certainly makes it easier to capture the shots, or the video wanted in-flight. The control system is one of the best on the market. At this price, it’s hard to fault a purchase of the DJI Phantom 3 Standard unless one is dead set on a drone with 4K UHD video capabilities.
We hope that you found just the right drone that matches your list of requirements. Alternatively, if you have a larger budget, the Best 10 Drones for under $1,000 guide is worth looking at.