Best Drones Under $500 – Our 2018 Picks


Want a drone with a little more kick but not quite ready for the pro leagues?

If you’re a greenhorn drone enthusiast with a bit of disposable income at hand, you’ll be happy to learn that you don’t need to choose between the cheap and casual toys on the bottom shelf and the intimidating, near-sentient beasts that retail for thousands of dollars.

There are many compelling reasons to buy a drone in the medium-tier price range. It could be that you’ve grown out of your starter drone and are looking for something that can match your experience and ambitions. Or maybe you want to enter the world of droning with something a little more high-caliber than the basic models, but you don’t want to commit to something overly complicated and expensive.

Whether you’re seeking an increase in flight range, battery life, or camera quality, upping your drone budget to $500 greatly expands your options. Here are our recommendations for the best mid-level drones on the market:

Top Drones Under $500 – Our Selection:

 

1. Holy Stone HS100 Holy Stone HS 100

The Holy Stone HS100 Navigator is an advanced RC quadcopter jam-packed with load of features at a surprisingly reasonable price point. It’s also one of the most long-range drones available for under $500 – the HS100 is capable of an incredible 15 minutes of flight time with a control distance of up to 500 metres. Coupled with an-onboard 720P camera, the Holy Stone is the perfect drone for adventures further afield:

Holy Stone HS100 
  • 9.5/10
    Camera performance - 9.5/10
  • 9.5/10
    Flight control - 9.5/10
  • 10/10
    Battery life - 10/10
  • 9/10
    Flight features - 9/10
9.5/10

Summary

Compared to your average starter drone, the Holy Stone HS100 is quite a hefty model, with a length of 50cm and a weight of 700g. But it packs in several advantages that earn it its place in the mid-tier hall of fame.

Most notably, the Holy Stone HS100 has GPS assisted flight, which allows it to automatically return to the operator when the signal is lost or the battery runs low. The GPS functionality also provides it with “Follow Me” mode, so it can tail and film the owner automatically.

The drone shoots in optimised 720P, with the GPS assisted flight promising added stability for aerial footage.

Flight time on a single charge is up to 15 minutes, with a transmission distance of 500m. However the charging time on the battery runs from 3-6 hours.

Pros: GPS functionality makes this drone easy to fly and hard to lose

Cons: Battery charging time is quite long; camera could be higher resolution for the price point

2. Syma X5SW Syma X5SW 

With their light build and user-friendly controls, this line of Syma quadcopters has already garnered praise for being solid entry-level drones. What separates the Syma X5SW from the rest of its family is that it’s the first model that allows the user to experience FPV video flying.

Syma X5SW 
  • 9/10
    Camera performance - 9/10
  • 9.5/10
    Flight control - 9.5/10
  • 6/10
    Battery life - 6/10
  • 10/10
    Flight features - 10/10
8.6/10

Summary

Despite it’s light build, Syma quadcopters are some of the most robust drones on the market. However the key draw of the X5SW is it’s support form FPV video flying – the HD 2.0 MP WiFi FPV Camera can stream in real-time to the operator, making it a great quadcopter for people who want to dip their toes into the world of FPV — whether for fun or to do simple aerial surveying.

The flight time of six to seven minutes, and the range of 100m, mean that this drone is more limited than others on the list. (The battery can also take 1-1.5 hours for a full charge.) But its user-friendly nature and relatively low price make it very appealing for beginners who want FPV functionality above other qualities.

Pros: FPV functionality

Cons: Low flight time, shorter range

3. Kyosho 20571R-B Kyosho 20571R-B 

If you want to get into the world of drone racing, but with a drone that’s less expensive than an actual racing car, the Kyosho 20571R-B is an appealing candidate.

The 20571R-B is a cheap and effective racing drone that’s simple and easy to start flying with – but at an affordable price point that means there’s unlikely to be tears if anything goes wrong. 

Kyosho 20571R-B 
  • 7/10
    Camera performance - 7/10
  • 9.5/10
    Flight control - 9.5/10
  • 9/10
    Battery life - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Flight features - 7/10
8.1/10

Summary

The Kyosho 20571R-B sets itself apart on two things: speed and simplicity.

The simplicity means that it’s ready straight out of the box and uses a far more basic pistol-grip controller, similar to RC cars. It also flies at a fixed elevation, so you can focus on zipping around without constantly worrying about nose diving. This means you don’t have to spend valuable racing time on tedious assembly or flying tutorials.

The Kyosho 20571R-B has two elevation settings: 35cm or 60cm. It’s ultrasonic sensors mean that it can maintain these elevations above both ground and water. When it comes to speed, the drone can hit up to 34.5km/h. Flight time for the Kyosho is 10 minutes.

Pros: Simple and user-friendly; get straight into racing.

Cons: Elevation settings mean that this is only a racing drone and is not suitable for exploration

 

4. Global Funhood S6 Global Funhood S6 

If your priority is making the most out of your aerial photography, the Global Funhood S6 is an excellent mid-level choice. With an 4K UHD camera the S6 is by far the most effective drone for aerial photography in this lis – it’s able to shoot 4K video at 30fps and 1080P at 60fps, and also includes a ‘point of interest’ mode, allowing you to tag an object or location, (including yourself) allowing the drone to automatically follow and captures high-quality video of wherever you move.

Global Funhood S6 
  • 10/10
    Camera performance - 10/10
  • 7.5/10
    Flight control - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Battery life - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Flight features - 8/10
8.3/10

Summary

Weighing in at just 259g, the pocket-sized drone is equipped with an impressive Ultra High Definition camera that supports recording 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps. It also has up to three times slow motion video and a SONY IMX214 high dynamic image sensor.

The navigational abilities of the Global Funhood support its focus on photography. The Follow Me and Point of Interest modes allow the drone to lock onto either the operator or a selected target, enabling focused, consistent video recording. It also has mechanisms built in for precise hovering, to ensure that outdoor footage is as stable as possible.

The Global Funhood has a max flying altitude of 100m, a transmission distance of 100m, and a 10 minute flying time.

Pros: 4K UHD camera

Cons: Some users have experienced short flight times on the battery.

5. Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Jungle Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Jungle

This Parrot drone has a little something for everyone: an HD 720p camera; a sturdy nylon and carbon fibre build; and 12 to 15 minutes of flight time.

While all the Funhood S6 excels in photography, the HS100 in flight time and the Kyosho 20571R-B in speed – the Parrot AR 2.0 is a strong all-round drone with a quality camera and robust battery.

Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Jungle 
  • 7/10
    Camera performance - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Flight control - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Battery life - 7.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Flight features - 8.5/10
7.6/10

Summary

While you could find drones in a similar price range with better cameras, or longer battery lives, the Parrot AR 2.0 Elite Edition is a well-balanced model designed to be a user-friendly crowd-pleaser. It’s a great starter drone for people who want something a bit more robust than the lower-priced plastic models, and might also want a drone that will do a flip at the press of a button.

The stability sensors promise to make flying the drone outside less harrowing for amateurs, guaranteeing perfect hovering in winds up to 24 km/h.

Pros: Sturdy build and replacement hulls makes it good for unskilled fliers.

Cons: Wi-Fi range has been criticised.


Conclusion

Just because you’re not willing to reach the four-figure mark on your drone budget doesn’t mean you can’t buy an excellent, dependable model. While you may need to prioritise the features you’re looking for, there are quality options in the mid-level market for those interested in photography, racing, or simply doing mid-air flips.

If you enjoyed this article, you’re welcome to subscribe to our newsletter for more drone related guides and info, or if you’re ready to take things up a notch, check out our Best Drones of 2018 article for some information on more mid-high range drones of the year.

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