Drones are the next big tech gadget that has taken the world by storm. It excites hobbyists, photographers, tech enthusiasts, aviators, and even honeymooners! And that’s exactly why the drone market has exploded too, and today, you can find drones from as low as $100 to ones costing thousands of dollars.
This brings up an important question – how to choose the best drone in this crowded space. Well, the good news is, buying drones is not as overwhelming as buying smartphones because you can categorize most drones into two categories – large ones with cameras and small ones with small or no cameras. Of course, control systems are another difference, with smaller drones having a smaller control system than large ones.
Which is better? It depends on your needs. But here are some aspects to keep in mind if you decide to go with small drones.
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How to Choose a Small Drone
When you’ve decided on small drones, you’ve narrowed down your choice by 50%. The below-mentioned factors will further bring down your choice and will make it easy to zero in on the one that would work best for you.
Battery life very gadget today runs on power, and this is probably one of the areas that can make a big impact on your decision. Drones are not any different as they consume a ton of battery power. Many models have rechargeable batteries, but some require you to replace new batteries every time. In general, look for models that take rechargeable batteries or can be recharged through a power or USB cord, as this can save you some money.
Besides money, drones have limited flying time because of battery constraints. Most small drones fly only for a few minutes, so look for those that can give you at least about 15 minutes of flying time for you to have meaningful fun with it.
One of the biggest complaints with drones is that they make a lot of noise. Many neighbors may not be happy with this sound, so this could have a big bearing on your decision. Personally too, if you’re not a big fan, go for drones that come with brushless motors as they tend to be quieter and possibly, even have a longer lifespan.
As with any investment, the cost is an important factor that can have a bearing on your decision. In general, if you’re buying a drone for the first time, opt for the cheaper variety to learn the basics before investing in more expensive ones.
In fact, given the vast number of models available in the market today, it is best you have a number in mind and look for a model that is within this budget.
Why are you buying a drone in the first place? Do you want to just have it for the heck of flying a drone or do you want jaw-dropping footage or picture?
Depending on your planned use, you can opt for a drone model. For example, if you need jaw-dropping footage, opt for a model with the highest camera resolution. This could be expensive though, so make sure you strike a balance between your budget and your need.
Drones come with different modes, again depending on both your use and budget. If you’re trying it for the first time, headless modes are a good bet as getting them off the ground can be quite a struggle if you’ve never done it before. You may have to do some research in this area to decide the right mode.
If you plan to use your drone to fly for longer distances, you should go for a model that comes with a GPS as it can give you the exact location at any time and can even help with navigation. But keep in mind that an integrated GPS can be an expensive feature, but worth it especially if you want to use it extensively. A useful feature is a return to home GPS-enabled one where the drone will automatically come to the base when its battery starts to get low. This way, you don’t have to worry about your GPS crashing in some unknown location when it runs out of power.
Another advanced and expensive feature is obstacle avoidance, but again it is highly useful to ensure that your drone doesn’t crash into a tree or a pole and is ideal for those who want to fly it for longer distances or have a specific purpose for flying a drone.
A drone’s range tells you the distance it can travel before you lose control over it. If you plan to buy a mini drone for learning or for helping your kid to get familiar with it, a short-range should do. But if you want to use it for taking pictures or to monitor a specific location, opt for drones that come with a wider range.
Thus, these are some of the factors to consider, and the more features you have, the more expensive it is going to get for you. This is why you should start with a reasonable budget after doing thorough research. Also, put down on paper your reason for buying a drone and the features that you’d want in it. This will give you a good starting point to find the right drone at the best possible price.
That said, here are the top 10 small drones in no particular order.
Top 10 Best Small Drones 2021
The top 10 small drones according to our aviation and tech experts are as follows.
The DJI Mavic Mini is a compact and powerful drone that is a creative companion as it opens up the world in a way that you’ve never experienced before. Along with the DJI fly app, this is sure to make your life more exhilarating.
Its biggest selling point is its size. This drone weighs 249 grams. Now does this seem like an odd number? Well, according to the FAA guidelines, you have to register if your drone weighs more than 250g, so with this drone, you don’t have to register, and at the same time, you can enjoy all the features it offers. And that’s why it sits at an odd 249g. The best part is you can put in your pocket or bag and take it with you wherever you want to get Instagram images all the time, thanks to its powerful camera that has a resolution of 2.7K.
Another highlight of this drone is that it can fly for 30 minutes. Yes, you read that right! 30 minutes is an eternity in the drone world and this means, it gives you a ton of flexibility to do all the things you want with it.
Let’s take a brief look at the pros and cons of this model.
- 4KM HD video transmission
- GPS precise hover
- Very lightweight
- Simple recording and editing
- Low battery life
- No onboard storage or SD card
- No 180-degree camera tilt
- No object tracking
Overall, this is a neat drone that packs many critical features and is still priced at a competitive rate. Good camera, good range, good controller, and its ability to hold up against the wind are some of the strong areas and make them a compelling reason to buy.
Cheerwing Syma X20 is one of the smallest drone models and is highly affordable. For the most part, it is a great gift for kids to help them learn the basics of flying a drone before you can gift them the more expensive models that come packed with more advanced features. This camera doesn’t have a camera and it uses a brushed motor, so there is sure to be some noise coming from it.
That said, this model is not bad by any breadth of imagination. It is a neat quadcopter for playing indoors and in limited outdoor areas such as your yard or garden. The design is also sleek and attractive and comes with well-rounded edges. It comes with built-in battery and props guards and no part is detachable except the propellers.
It takes about 50 minutes to charge through a USB and has an average flying time of five minutes. Though this may seem a bit on the lower end, it is excellent if you consider its price.
Here is a brief take of its pros and cons
- Easy operations for beginners
- LED lights
- 360-degree views
- Return to Home feature
- No camera
- Limited flight time
In all, this is one of the best micro drones available today and is most ideal for beginners and kids who are looking to get a firm grasp of its fundamentals.
This drone takes stunning images of its surroundings and comes with intelligent flight modes and intuitive controls. Also, another thing that will strike you when you see it for the first time is its size and design. It is so lightweight that it can fly fast and from your perspective, you can take it wherever you go. Weighing at about 0.66 pounds, it is well within the CAA restrictions.
Let size not determine its power as this drone comes packed with DJI’s latest software and firmware to give you one of the best levels of stability in mid-air. Though some users have reported problems with this drone while using their iPhone7, this goes away when you switch to iPhone6 or using an Android instead.
This drone is also less intrusive when compared to some of the bigger models and this means, it can be squeezed in even hard-to-reach places. Also, you won’t be attracting a lot of attention or people while flying this drone, thereby giving you high levels of privacy.
Below are some of its pros and cons to give you a quick idea of this drone.
- 12MP camera
- Adjustable camera angle
- Detects obstacles
- Limited battery
- Records 1080P videos only
- Low wind resistance
- Doesn’t support a high frame rate
In all, this drone packs a ton of features for its size and can make for a fun flying experience.
Holystone is a name to reckon with in the world of drones and recently, the model that they have introduced (HS700D) comes with many upgraded features including a cool 2K HD camera that can capture stunning aerial images for you.
It also comes with an integrated GPS that makes it easy for you to track your drone’s exact location at any time while the auto-return is most helpful as it enables your drone to fly back to base when it starts running out of battery life. This ensures the safety of your drone and the possibility for it to get lost is fairly low.
Here is a look at its pros and cons.
- 90-degree adjustable camera
- 5G FPV transmission
- Durable brushless motor
- GPS auto return
- Proprietary batteries
- Calibration can be time-consuming
Overall, this drone comes loaded with many features, thereby making it a good choice for professionals and amateurs who have a hang of flying drones.
Wings land is a Chinese company that offers this incredibly stylish and powerful drone that comes with four folding engines and a sleek and slim design. It is touted to be the same size as that of an Apple iPhone6 but is loaded with many powerful features such as a 13MP camera and a 4K resolution that can send crystal clear images with no distortion whatsoever. It won the world’s best small drone award, another testament to its sleek design and powerful features.
Below are some of the pros and cons of this model.
- Weighs only 250g and can fit into your pocket
- 4K 30P and 1080P HD video
- Comes with an internal GPS, barometer, and compass
- Stylish and smart looking
- Poor battery life
- No regular controller
In all, this is a stylish drone that combines beauty and power to give you incredible views that you never knew were possible.
Potensic A20 mini drone is highly user-friendly and affordable, thereby making it a good choice for novices and amateurs. At the same time, it has many useful features that make it a fun experience to fly this drone. For example, it has only a single key for landing and take-off, so there is no confusion for beginners who are learning to fly this drone for the first time.
And it comes with a 15-minute flying time which is not bad for its price and size. It even comes with an alarm to remind you to bring it down when the battery is low.
Let’s take a glance at its pros and cons.
- Propeller guards reduce collisions
- Emergency stop function
- 12 minutes of flight time
- Three adjustable speed levels
- No camera
- No GPS
- Absence of pre-programmed trick
- Limited Distance Control
Overall, this is a great choice for beginners as it gives complete control and is highly portable as well.
This is a powerful drone that is compatible with both iOS and Android phones, so you can navigate and control this drone right from your smartphone! It also comes with a sleek design that masks the latest tech present in it, and all at an affordable price.
It comes with a ton of GPS features such as automatic take-off, follows me, return-to-home, and more, making it an exhilarating and easy experience to fly this drone, regardless of whether you’re flying it for the first time or an experienced flier. The controls are crisp and highly responsive, adding to the fun experience.
Also, it comes with many LED lights to let you know if the GPS is working or whether the WiFi or 4G options are active. The controls on the side make it easy for you to switch back and forth between a camera and a video recording and the high resolution creates stunning aerial images and videos that you’re sure to be proud of.
Here are some of its pros and cons.
- Built-in 1080P HD camera
- Chooses the best flight route
- Has a headless mode
- No compass or GPS systems
- No external controller
In all, this is a good drone as it is affordable and comes loaded with features, but getting it up to fly with the right calibration can be frustrating. So, if you get past this stage, it is undoubtedly a fun drone to fly.
The bright orange color of this drone makes it easy to spot anywhere and can handle both pictures and videos. It is also the perfect drone for beginners as it comes with easy controls and at the same time, can fit comfortably within your palms.
Cheerson is a Chinese company known for its low-priced and yet power-packed drones and this model undoubtedly fits the bill. This model comes with three flight modes, namely, a beginner, intermediate, and advanced mode. At the outset, many people would prefer to try the advanced model, but this is not the right move really because, in this mode, the drone can fly fast. So, opt for this mode only when you think you can have complete control over the navigation.
One of the mild drawbacks of this drone is that it can only fly for about five minutes with a 30-minute charge, and obviously, this does not make it suitable for flying outdoors.
Here are some more of its pros and cons.
- Gyro flight stabilization system
- LED lights
- Protection cover for batteries
- Low voltage alarm
- Low flight time
- Limited transmission range
In all, this is a great drone for flying small distances, particularly indoors. It is extremely cheap and can provide a great learning experience.
The design of this drone looks fairly basic with the standard white and black for the remote control while the drone itself has a bluish tinge on the top with white propellers. The build quality is good and the navigation controls are fairly easy to spot and operate.
The drone itself is small and will fit well within the palms of your hand, thereby making it a great choice for those who are learning to fly it for the first time. It is also great for some night fun as it comes with five LED lights to identify the position of your drone even in the darkest of places.
Below is a glance at its pros and cons.
- Dual speed rates
- LED lights
- 360-degree views
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Low flight time
- No SD card
In all, this is a micro drone that comes packed with a ton of features that can give some bigger models a run for their money.
This is a small drone that comes with foldable arms to give you greater flexibility when flying in small spaces. It comes with a holder for smartphones as well.
The manual that comes with it is highly useful when you want to want or remove the foldable arms and the instructions are fairly simple and self-explanatory as well. This drone is great for flying indoors and also outdoors provided there is no heavy wind. Its small size makes it ideal for using it anywhere and obviously, requires no registration with the FAA, though you won’t be able to use it for long distances because of its small size and limited range.
That said here are some of the pros and cons of this model.
- Easy to operate
- Comes with three-speed modes
- Spins in the air
- No rechargeable battery
Overall, this is a fun drone to buy and the foldable arms are a brilliant design that gives you a ton of flexibility.
Thus, these are the 10 best small drones available in the market today and you can decide the right one for you based on your needs and the features that you’d like to have in your drone.
Before we conclude, let’s take a look at a few common FAQs to give you a better idea of drones and the terms associated with them.
What is a drone?
A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that can fly automatically while you get to control its movements with the help of remote control.
Can I repair a drone?
Yes, you can. Get the replacement parts and try to fix them yourself. Else, you can always reach out to the manufacturer or an expert who can fix it for you.
What does the term “take-off weight” mean from a drone’s perspective.
Take-off weight means the weight that a drone can carry including its weight. For example, if the take-off weight of a drone is 500g and it weighs 250g, it can take a load of another 250g. If you try to overload your drone, it will not take off.
Do drones go by other names?
Drones are also known as quadcopters, multirotor, and whiz boppers.
Why are battery times so limited.
Unfortunately, most drones come with limited battery time and hopefully, this will improve as technology matures. As of now, bring back the drone safely before it runs out of charge. Consider buying drones that send an alarm when the battery levels drop.
Are there any laws that I should know about?
The FAA has recently brought in legislation that requires you to register your drone, provided it weighs more than 250g. Most toy drones don’t need registration though, but anything beyond 250g needs to be registered.
Can I fly a drone over the sea?
Yes, you can, but it is not such a good idea with mini and micro drones because they can get easily swayed by the high winds. Moreover, the range of your drone may be impossible to repair or recover if it falls in the sea. Remember, drones are not waterproof. Also, the salty water from the sea can corrode the electronic parts in your drone quickly, so the possibility of a malfunction is high.
To conclude, drones are a handy gadget that can give you unlimited fun hours of flying, regardless of whether you do it indoors or outdoors. Depending on the size and range of your drone, you can use it for varying purposes. Of course, drones that are meant for flying longer distances come with more advanced features and cost a lot more than small drones that are designed to help kids and adults understand the basics of drone flying.
The above-mentioned aspects are some things you should be aware of while buying a small drone and we hope this information helps you to make an informed choice.