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|Syma X5SC-1 Falcon||2.0 MP HD|
|Holy Stone F181 RC Drone||HD Camera|
|DBPower U818A Wi-Fi Drone||720p HD|
|Xiaokesong JJRC H8D||2.0 MP HD|
|DPPower U842 Predator||720p HD|
People have been flying radio controlled aircraft for many years; fun and also a skill that needs some honing, until the past few years these have been beautifully accurate representations of real aircraft and – to be honest – are not easy to fly unless you have plenty of experience. You have probably heard of the current craze from drones – or quadcopters – but what’s it all about, and why do we believe that drones are going to be this year’s smash hit Christmas present?
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Drones are RC craft that have their roots in the development of highly agile devices designed for practical use. They have four rotors driven by electric motors, and usually a durable plastic frame, and thanks to this design they can perform surprisingly agile manoeuvres and are easier to fly than conventional RC aircraft. There are still skills to be learned if you are not experienced, but the latest models – even those that are at the lower end of the price bracket – include a variety of features (which we will explain) designed to make things a lot easier – not to mention fun!
Quadcopters are used by emergency services to survey disaster sites without needing to send bodies in: even the cheaper of those on our list include a camera that can stream video back to any suitable device. What we thought we would do was make your choice of Christmas present easier by reviewing the top ten best drones for beginners – those with the best features and that are great for learning to fly before you decide if you want to move on to a more sophisticated model – so let’s have a look at the best beginner drones.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Top 10 Best Beginner Drones
- 2 Important Features to Consider
- 3 Let’s Wrap It Up!
The Top 10 Best Beginner Drones
If there is a typical example of a drone suitable for beginners, this could be it. It’s simple, sturdy and well-designed, and comes with most – if not all – of the features needed to make flying as easy as it can be. One thing you need to look for is ‘6-axis’ – we won’t go into details, suffice to say that it is a stability feature that makes the drone easier to keep in the air – and this one is fully equipped thus.
Bear in mind, when looking at these, that unlike conventional RC aircraft they are designed for flight and fun, rather than looks, and this one looks pretty much as you can expect a drone to do so. This model also features another function you need to look out for – ‘Headless’. In early drones, you had to sync the forward direction of the craft with the controller; with Headless, it will fly any way you tell it, as you tell it, so it can be hand-launched without any preparation.
You also get a camera with video and still capability, with storage on an SD card but no Wi-Fi for real time transmission. One thing to remember is that flying time with all of these is limited – this one gives around eight minutes on a full charge – and charging the batteries can take a long time (in this case a massive two hours) and this one does not come with a spare battery. As a beginner’s model, at around £35 it is perfectly decent, yet we feel there may be better choices.
As we progress through this review you are sure to get to learn about more of the features that these devices are fitted with. This one, for example, is an upgraded model to which the manufacturer has added one of the most desirable of all functions: Altitude hold. This means that, when you get your drone to a desired height, you simply let go of the throttle; the drone will remain hovering at that height, allowing you to easily take stills or video with the quality camera.
It is a decent camera – although there is no Wi-Fi so you cannot stream in real time – and it will present good images. This one is also a Headless model, so you can fly straight out of the box and it is great for beginners. One of the great functions this one has is that it can easily be made to perform 360-degree flips so will wow your friends! It also has a one-key return feature – hit the button, and the drone will come back to base.
This model is made from durable plastic, and we like the fact it comes with a spare battery. Keep them both charged, and with a quick swap you get as much as 18-minutes flying time. You also get full charge in around 80 minutes, and range of about 50m. It’s a good model, and at around £65 is not bad value.
So far, we have talked about a number of features that we want to see on drones: headless, for ease of flying, one-touch return so you stand less chance of losing the drone, and also altitude hold for the production of clear and great images and videos. This model, from DBPower, adds something extra in that it has a great quality camera that is also Wi-Fi equipped so you can stream live images that you and others can watch as you fly. It will also record to an SD card, too.
It comes with a few further features – including headless and a return function – that make it a very attractive model. For example, it is fitted with LED navigation lights for night flying, which is fun if you want to fool people there is a UFO around. It has the 360-degree flip function, too, so you can perform excellent aerobatics very easily. It also has a low-battery alarm, so you know when to bring it home.
One more feature that we like is that it can also be operated using an app by your mobile phone; this is a great idea that adds to the fun. You get a spare set of blades and spare battery in the package, plus the SD card for recording images, and at around £90 – one of the more expensive ones admittedly – we reckon it is a worthy contender for the perfect best beginner’s drone.
One area of flying drones that we have yet to touch on is that of safety. These are devices that can reach – in some cases – quite considerable altitude, so it follows that there may be guidelines as to where and when you can fly them. It goes without saying that flying drones in or near to the flightpath of an airfield is not just foolish, but dangerous. Please exert great care in choosing your spot – preferably out in the open and away from powerlines.
Indeed, more sophisticated, professionally-flown drones may be subject to licensing by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) although those on this list are exempt. That does not mean that they are toys, however, as this model confirms. It comes with all the usual features – headless, altitude hold, one-touch return and more, and can perform the required flips, and is also equipped with lights for night flying.
This one also comes with a high-quality Wi-Fi camera for great real-time images, and is designed to bridge the gap between the true beginner’s model, and those of a more experienced level. It’s a very nice drone, one that once you get used to it is easy to fly, and comes with a handy two spare batteries for longer flying time. At around £90 it’s about right for a drone of this type and capability and a great best beginner drone.
While we are in the realms of talking about safe flying of drones, here’s a piece of advice: never, ever try and fly your drone within a sensible distance of a military airfield or other installation. This will, without a doubt, get you into serious trouble! It makes sense to consider others, too, when flying your drone, as you don’t want to frighten animals in farmer’s fields, for example. Safety lesson over, what about this one?
It’s from DBPower, who have a large range of drones and other gadgets, and it’s very good. It is suitable for beginners as it comes with headless for ease of launching, and it has anti-crash features and a low-voltage alarm. It can perform all the usual aerobatic routines for you, is neat in design and comes with a spare battery for added flying time. You also get four spare blades, and there are many further accessories you can buy to customise your quadcopter.
This one is equipped with full navigation lights for added fun and also comes with altitude hold so you can utilise the excellent Wi-Fi camera to full use, and has a massive 32GB of memory on its SD card for plenty of stills or videos. You can also fly it using your mobile phone by way of a downloadable app. All in all, a good drone with everything you could want and while one of the more expensive at a little over £100, it will take the beginner into semi-experienced territory so you will get your money’s worth.
One of the obstacles to overcome when choosing a drone is understanding the jargon; what, for example, does ‘FPV’ mean? Quite simply, it means ‘first person view’ and it is a term used to describe drones that you fly in a particular fashion. FPV means you get a birds-eye view as you fly, and you navigate using the real-time view on your screen. This differs from flying by watching the drone, and once mastered, is a much more exciting and involving experience.
It means that non-pilots can, by using a drone, experience what it is like to be up high, flying a plane, and this model is one of those that allows you to enjoy such an experience. It’s from Blade, who have a reputation for top quality models, and it has all the main features you expect from such a device. However, we should say that we would be wary of choosing this one for a complete beginner, as it is intended for those with some experience of flying drones.
It has an excellent camera that streams the view from the drone accurately, and once mastered it is easy to fly, and it is also a futuristic and very neat design. You get spare rotor blades but no spare battery, although the battery included is powerful, and it is a great model for getting to grips with FPV drone flying. At around £125 it is one of the more expensive, but it is taking the drone concept into new territory with FPV technology so worth a look if that is the route you are to go down.
There is one area of drone flying that we have not yet talked about – racing! Seriously, people race drones, but then, why wouldn’t they? This one is a high-performance drone that could easily act as an introduction to the world of drone racing, but we must stress it is not really a beginner’s drone. The major selling point of this is the brushless electric motor: this is the most advanced form of portable electric motor and offers excellent performance.
This is a superbly made model with all the usual features; you get the usual aerobatic features, a low voltage and poor signal alarm, FPV feature with real-time streaming from a high-quality video camera, and a very powerful battery that can give you up to 12 minutes of flying time. You also get a range of 300m, which is quite substantial and necessary for racing drones.
In fact, this drone can fly at up to 50km/h, a quite amazing speed for such a device, which brings us back to the original question: is it really for beginners? Well, no, it’s quite clearly not, but you have to weigh up the options and economies of scale. If you want to start on cheap drone and move up to a better one, that means buying more than one, so why not invest in something in this as a drone for beginners? At around £130 it’s not bad value at all.
It’s refreshing when we see someone take a slightly different approach to a concept; after all, a drone is a drone, isn’t it? Well, yes, and then when it comes to this one, no! That’s not quite true because this very compact and rather fetching drone is designed for fun and fun alone! Used indoors, you can perform great 360-degree flips and more with ease and superb control, and also fly in the conventional manner. Used outdoors, it does everything a drone should do, and is great fun.
But, there’s a major plus to this one, and it’s an innovation that we really like: you also get a pair of large wheels that, when fitted to the drone, allow it to be driven around the floor like no other drone. It’s great fun, amusing and also requires some skill to get right. Once you do get it right, you can even drive it up walls or across ceilings! You get eight minutes of usable time from a one-hour charge – not bad for one of these.
It has a perfectly adequate camera for taking stills – although not video and with no Wi-Fi – and is great for overhead shots of events or other functions. All in all, it’s a very nice drone for beginners with its own innovative aspects, and at a price of not much more than £50, is certainly worthy of consideration as an excellent Christmas gift.
The title of this review is ‘drone for beginners’; if ever there was a genuine beginners drone this could be it. It’s from Syma – a market-leader in this field – and it has many excellent attributes. It should also be said it has some drawbacks, too. This drone is extremely small; indeed, it will fit on one hand. It doesn’t have any of the features such as headless or altitude-hold, but it is great for a beginner who wants to suss out whether drone flying is for them.
We think that this one, thanks to its small size, is more suited to indoor rather than outdoor use; wind may be a problem in the outdoors. You do get aerobatic ability, plus 6-axis precision, and a camera that is more than adequate for taking stills of a decent quality, and it comes with a 2GB SD card for storage. It’s a fun drone, but we’re not sure whether it’s a serious one.
As we said, this is all about beginner drones, and for the absolute newcomer, this could be the perfect introduction to drone flying. It can be flown as far as 80m away, and you get six minutes flight time from a 50-minute charge, plus it does have a hover function. At not much over £25 it’s great fun, and as it comes in a neat gift box would make a great present for someone.
10: Yacool Nighthawk
Our final choice in what has been a very interesting and informative review is this one, the Nighthawk, and of all of these it is perhaps the most arresting design, being rather futuristic and as different as you can get with a set concept. It’s a typical quadcopter, but you don’t get headless, and we have noticed that some users have claimed it to be more difficult to fly than some others.
Nevertheless, it comes with a very handy FPV camera that can be used to stream or record live flights, it can auto-hover for great still photos, and you can do all the flips and manoeuvres you want with ease – once, that is, you get the hang of it. It has 6-axis precision so you get it to go where you want, when you want, although there is no spare battery.
At £45 it is good value, but we reckon that, given its capability, there are others out there that are worth more consideration. Still, it would make a great gift at that price.
Important Features to Consider
So, to recap, let’s check out the features you need to consider in the best beginner drone.
Headless – for beginners, this is a must as it makes life a lot easier
Altitude-hold – see above, essential when taking photos
Wi-Fi – you want to be able to stream videos, so look for a Wi-Fi model
Extra Battery – all of these have limited flying time, so a spare battery is very useful
That’s just a few of the features to look out for, and we are sure you will have your own, so all that remains now is to wrap things up!
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Let’s Wrap It Up!
So, you’ve read all that, and you want the best beginner drone? Of course you do, they’re great fun! The question is – which one to buy? We recommend, in all seriousness, that you buy the very best you can afford, as you will be hooked, and you will want to enjoy your drone to the full. For us, this means either the DPPower Predator, at number 5, or the Xiaokesong JJRC H8D, number 4. Neither of these is the cheapest, but they both offer every possible function and feature you could need, and you will never need to trade up to another drone with one of these.