Drones are the “new thing”, as far as gizmos are concerned. Their use has expanded beyond military, to entertainment and business. Some uses now include aerial photography and drone racing. If you are a first time owner of a drone, it is recommended to buy entry-level devices for their relatively simple mechanism and cheap price. Of course, there are other better alternatives available, but these cost more.
To encourage new drone users who have a limited budget, here are the best five gadgets you can find for under $100.
Cheerson CX-10W FPV
Cheerson CX-10W FPV is perhaps the best drone you can find, if you want something that does not even cost $30. The manufacturing firm, Cheerson, is the must seek company where you can find inexpensive gadgets for beginners. The CX-10W FPV has a 720p camera, 4 channels and a 6-axis gyro. The unit also comes with Wi-Fi connection and with Android/IOS connectivity, to control it with your phone. It only weighs 15g and the memory is expandable up to 32G, which can be used to store photos. The unit has a 150 mAH battery that lasts up to 4 minutes of flight time. Recharging takes 60 minutes to complete. The control range for the CX-10W FPV is up to 30 meters. Lastly, it comes with 2.4 GHz frequency and is available in three colors. The unit is small, but it can take real time flying videos.
One big advantage of using this unit is you can control it using your smartphone. Thankfully, its size does not require you to register the unit in government offices. Ease of use is not an issue, because it is analogous to a toy. The battery life is also pleasantly long enough, but that might be due to its light weight. In case you find the controlling range too short, a Google app is available in Playstore to extend it.
Despite its small size, the drone can be used without trouble in very light winds. CX-10W will withstand strong winds in exchange of mobility. Few bad landings may occur, but the product is sturdy enough so it avoids damage. However, it only takes low resolution images, but that’s something to be expected, given its price. The video quality is also dependent on the lighting inside your room. Expect some video delays and erratic visual quality in images in normal light and low light conditions. Keep in mind that a transmitter does not come with the product, so it will take you a while before getting used to the absence of a tangible joystick.
Purchasing this as your first drone is highly recommended, if you still have some reservations in drones but do not want to spend a lot.
If you think Cheerson CX-10W is too basic for your taste and you are willing to spend some extra cash, Syma X5C-1 offers better specifications. As an upgrade to the venerable X5C, the X5C-1 comes with a 2 MP camera, but still retains every other specification of standard quadcopters (2.4 GHz, 6-axis quadcopter). It also comes with a separate controller. Thankfully, it works using a single push of a button as well, whether you want to take photos or record videos.
Its battery capacity is 3.7 V, which stores 500 mAH. That translates into 7 minutes of flying. The unit takes about 90 minutes to recharge. Its flight distance can reach about 30 meters and the control distance is up to 50 meters. Some users report that they controlled the unit from up to 100 meters. Syma X5C-1 also flies more quietly than any other plane in the sub-$100 range. This drone is specifically designed to take aerial photographs, given its camera prowess, and it can store up to 800 photos on a 2GB memory card. Since this is, perhaps, the first true quadcopter in this list, it weighs about 916 grams. That means you might have to register with your government agency for regulation purposes. The unit is also durable despite the price, as it can withstand several crashes without major damage to its body.
The lack of “autoreturn” makes Syma X5C-1 prone to get lost if it exceeds the flying range, or it runs out of batteries before it gets back to you. Thankfully, it flashes LED lights similar to a distress call, which proves helpful, especially in the dark. The lack of camera autofocus also makes the video and photo quality a bit shaky for first time users. Moreover, the camera is located in an odd place, so it will take a while before you get used to it. As far as the transmitter in concerned, do not be fooled with its design, as some buttons are placed there just for gimmick.
Hence, if you want to have a real quadcopter experience with stable performance, you may opt to buy this sturdy device and still save a lot of money. It can be bought for as low as $45.99.
This quadcopter is right at the boundary between a toy plane and a proper drone. While fitting to the requirements to be called a drone, it is made by a toy manufacturer. So it is not a surprise that it got a considerable buzz when it was released.
Some users might frown, because it does not come with decent image capturing option (on its own), however, it makes up with its control distance and flying range. You can control the plane for at most 400 meters from take off point. The JJRC X1 is also energy efficient, because it uses brushless motors instead of traditional DC ones to produce more torque. This means less heat, thus, a bettered battery life. JJRC X1 has 4 channels and 6 gyros. As a result, it flies for at most 15 minutes, which is longer than most drones. Recharging time takes about 90 minutes. Four LEDs are installed to make it suitable for night flying. It has a built-in 7.4 V battery and the 2.4 GHz transmitter runs with 4 AA batteries, which are not included in the package. JJRC X1 weighs about 240 grams and can operate with 50 grams of load. Given the size, it can handle light winds, but it is not advisable for you to fly it on a windy day.
For its video recording capabilities, you have to install a Syma X5C FPV recording kit to transform this humble plane and film videos at 720p. The kit, while not included in the package, is relatively cheap, so it won’t hurt your wallet by having this necessary add-on.
On the flipside, the unit does not have GPS, which is a big handicap when you control it with your sheer maneuvering skills. Exhibition skills, like doing a flip or speed control, are not possible with this drone. That is the inherent disadvantage of having a brushless motor. You also cannot install an external camera on this unit, which is a letdown for aerial photographers. Rest assured that a version carrying camera tray will soon be available. Visually, the drone looks plain, which can be good or not, depending on the user. The landing gear is a bit shaky and fragile, which casts doubts whether it can handle sudden crashes. Lastly, the absence of headless mode and your need to buy additional software make this drone more suitable for intermediate users. Nonetheless, the pros far outweigh the cons of buying it. This is available online for as low as $ 99.99.
If you think Syma X5C-1 is too complex for you, but still want a decent looking drone, you may choose the JJRC H16 as your first drone. Most known as Tarantula X6, it has the standard 4 channels and 6 axis-gyros. The unit also comes with a transmitter for control and for taking photos and videos. The body itself has 7 LED lights to help you with night flying. Normally, drones in the “under $100” range are not that strong to carry action cameras while flying. JJRC H16 bested out other entries in this list with this feature alone. While it does not come with a camera, the JJRC H16 has the highest camera prowess, as far as add-on purchases are concerned, with 5MP for $35. Replacing outdated parts is also not a problem with this gadget, as a mini-connector allows you to disassemble the drone in mere five minutes. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about your external camera, since its mount is made from shock absorbent materials. The main body works through a 7.4 V, 1200mAH battery. This translates to about 8 minutes of flying, which is just average for drones. Recharging time takes about 90 minutes to complete. The control distance is 100 meters, which is relatively okay, given its size.
This is an excellent drone, considering the price and its size. However, the Tarantula X6 does not have an on/off button, so you will have to remove the battery when you want it to rest. This is quite a burden, since you have to screw and unscrew the unit. Also, do not expect a very good built, as everything from it is made of plastic. Its relatively large size also require the drone to be approved by your regulation laws.
Take note that you might need the help of a professional when using this quadcopter, as it packs more power and size than your typical beginner’s drone.
If you are a user who does not want to buy drones aimed for professional users, but still want to have a unit that can carry a GoPro, simply buy JJRC H16. This is available for as low as $54.49.
As the best quadcopter in the $100 price range, JXD 509G managed to mix all the decent specifications, plus an on-purchase First-Person View. The plane’s design is a derivative, but its performance managed to surprise even professional drone flyers. It weighs about 140 grams and has a 3.7 V, 600mAH battery. The flight time is about 10 minutes and recharging takes about 60 minutes to complete. The flight range is about 150 meters, which is good, considering it has FPV.
To those who are unfamiliar, first-person view is a method used to fly an aircraft using the pilot’s point of view. In this case, the drone is flown and its movements are reflected in a monitor. When you buy JXD 509G, the transmitter also comes with monitor as a FPV. This is the cheapest drone you can have with this feature and it works just as good.
The body is made from flexible materials, which are intended to be crash resistant. Hence, you can rest your worries about its durability. The FPV function of this plane works in 5.8Ghz, which is simply the optimal connection for this device. In terms of features, it allows headless mode, so you can fly this drone easier. The “return” feature that prompts the plane to go back to its take-off point also proves helpful. The gadget automatically lands when it hits critical battery level. Lastly, the altitude holder is its best feature. This enables a stable flight, for you to take photos and record videos without blur.
Know that the 2.0 MP shooter is not exactly a stellar camera. Surely, it takes good photos for its price, but the quality is no more than decent. Video recording is good and you’ll be able to shoot real time videos without delay. Data is stored in a 4Gb card. As caution, avoid using this unit in windy days, to prevent unnecessary damage. Nonetheless, for a mere $83, you will have a drone which is good for the value of your money.
There are other good quadcopters in the “under $100” price range. Nonetheless, these are the best five you can find right now. Given that the drone industry is getting bigger, there’s going to be a drone in the price range which will wow us every now and then. Maybe it’s time for you to play with these gizmos designed for grown-ups!
Have you used any of these gadgets? What is your experience in using affordable drones, so far?