If you’re looking for a drone but you’re not willing to max out your credit card, today’s your lucky day, because this article will help you choose the best drone under $100. The truth is that $100 is still a lot of money to spend on a glorified toy, hence you should try to get the best bang for the proverbial buck asked. However, since we’re talking about relatively cheap drones, you shouldn’t expect high-end features, like UHD cameras, ultra-smart sensors, or UFO-like flight characteristics.
Still, even an affordable drone can deliver tons of fun, just as much as a professional one actually, provided you don’t have high expectations. You must understand that drone manufacturers are in this racket to get as much money as possible, i.e. the quality of the components inside an affordable drone basically reflects the price tag. The bottom line is: what you pay for is what you get.
How to choose the best drone under $100
Here are the main factors to consider when purchasing a drone in the price range of $100:
First, there’s the maneuverability issue, and by that, we mean the drone’s ability to turn, go upwards and downwards, etc. Practically, look for a “driver’s drone” which is easy to control and fun to play with.
Headless mode is an essential feature to look after, but the good news is that it’s present in most drones over $50, and it basically means that the drone doesn’t have a tail or a head, i.e. you don’t have to worry about the direction your drone is facing.
Accessibility of Spares
Since drones are prone to getting crashed, kicked, and generally abused, especially by kids, accessibility of spares is another important issue to take into account, and the good news is that some drones arrive with spare parts in their retail package, things like propeller blades.
Another thing to look after is how easy it is to change the battery, as a couple of extra batteries wouldn’t hurt, provided it’s reasonably easy to change them on the fly.
Battery life is also important, but don’t expect miracles in a $100-ish drone. As the general rule of thumb, any drone that has over 10 minutes of flight time in this price bracket is golden.
Size and Weight
Finally, there’s the size and weight of the drone, which determines how good the drone is for outdoor activity (light drones under 0.55 lbs are indoors-only basically) and the control software quality, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker nowadays, with updates on the fly and all that.
Best Drones Under $100
DEERC D20 Mini Drone
Amazing Value for Money
The DEERC D20 Mini Drone is designed for kids mostly, and that’s reflected in its sub-$50 price tag and the inclusion of fun-features, like 3D flips, one-key start/speed adjustment, headless mode and altitude hold. Also, the design is futuristic and the drone looks like something out of a Marvel movie.
However, for the buck asked, the DEERC D20 offers a lot of “bang”, i.e. you’ll get a built-in 720P high definition FPV Wifi camera, which can be used to take vivid aerial videos and photos. It’s important to mention that if you use the drone with the free app, you’ll be able to take photos or videos within 3 seconds, as well as complex shots, so you will create a unique view of the sky.
The drone is foldable and easy to carry around, comes with 2 batteries for 10 minutes flight-time, can perform cool tricks like 3D flips at a touch of a button, comes with additional prop guards and blades, and it’s best suited for indoor flight. You can also fly this baby outdoors if there’s not too much wind, but considering the fact it only weighs 70 grams and the electric motor is not the strongest of the bunch, you should attach your phone number to it in case it gets lost.
Transmission distance is rated at 90 feet, and the drone would make for a good buy if you want to gift it to your kids, as it makes for a great tool to keep them entertained and away from “shiny screens”. The drone even has a voice control feature and the free app allows for taking videos and photos with the smartphone, thus creating endless opportunities for viewing things in nature that you would otherwise never be able to see.
Bottom line, this a fun mini drone with a lot of features, for a “mini price”.
- FPV transmission
- Live video feed via smartphone app
- 4 propeller guards
- Foldable and solid
- 10 minutes flight time
- 720p camera on-booard
- Nothing really at this price
Holy Stone HS160 Pro Drone
The Best Drone Under 100 With Camera
Next in line, we have a foldable drone, the Holy Stone HS160 Pro respectively. What’s interesting about this little fellow is that it comes with a higher quality Full HD 1080p camera on-board, yet it retails for the exact same price as the drone reviewed previously, which is kind of neat if you come to think about it from a photographer’s perspective. So, if you want a higher-quality “eye in the sky” drone, the Holy Stone HS160 Pro has your name on it.
Here’s what you’ll get: a 1080p 110° Wide-Angle Camera and live video feed via FPV transmission (from up to 80 meters), high-resolution photos, gravity control, voice control (you can control the drone via smartphone with speak commands), Optical Flow, Altitude Hold, Headless Mode, One Button Landing/Take-off, speed adjustment on-the-fly, plus gesture control for making perfect selfies. Basically, this foldable and highly portable (222 x 169 x 38 mm unfolded) little drone is an excellent choice for both amateur and advanced users, as it comes with all the essential features at an affordable price, yet its video-quality is specific to higher-end drones.
Since the HS160 Pro weighs the mere 124 grams, it doesn’t require registration with the FAA, but the downside is that it’s relatively sensible at the slightest wind gust, so pay extra attention in outdoors scenarios. The thing is, if you want to enjoy your HS160 Pro outside, choose a very calm day so you won’t be disappointed by the drone’s lack of power.
- Well designed and affordable, compact and lightweight
- Above-average video/stills quality for an under $100 drone
- 9 minutes flight time, solidly built, 164 feet to 230 feet control range
- Wi-Fi FPV feature, altitude hold, position hold, easy to use
- Image Return Distance: 131 feet
- None really at this price
Solid Drone for Beginners
Retailing for less than $100, the Sanrock U52 makes for a nice and affordable quadcopter that can do a lot. The drone has advanced features, like a gravity sensor, headless mode, 3D flips and more, and included a high quality 720p camera that can record beautiful landscapes as well as your favorite moments.
The drone has a 1500 mAh battery which is good for 15 minutes of flight time, and has a maximum control range of 320ft, as well as a live video transmission range of 96 ft., which is kind of cool for the price asked.
The Sanrock U52 measures 12.6 by 11.2 by 2.3 inches and weighs 170 grams, which means you don’t have to register it with the FAA. Unfortunately, the drone is not foldable, but if you have a good backpack, transporting it should not be an issue. The brushed motors are ideal for the drone’s weight, and the retail package includes four extra propellers if you damage or break one of them, as well as four propeller guards.
The drone also has auto-hovering, which means it can stay steady in the air at a certain altitude when you focus on taking pictures or videos, and you can also define an exact flying route on the App map, or fly the drone with your smartphone due to its gravity sensor, which enables the drone to follow your phone’s direction.
Keep in mind that this is not a professional drone, but it’s great for what it is, and not for what it isn’t, i.e. it makes for a user friendly gadget, easy to use, and affordable, making for an excellent setup for anyone wanting to get into the drone hobby without breaking the bank.
- Good value for money
- Takes photos and videos
- Up to 15 minutes battery life
- One-key return
- Headless mode
- 360° Flips and Rolls
- Altitude Hold Mode
- One key takeoff or landing
- Not foldable
Quadcopter Ryze Tech Tello
The Best FPV Drone Under 100
The Ryze Tech Tello is one of the best affordable drones if you’re looking for the “eye in the sky” extravaganza, as it comes equipped with a high-quality HD video-camera (5 MP) and boasts up to 13 minutes flight time, which is more than enough for the casual “weekend aerial photographer”. Even if the resolution is not even full HD, the Ryze Tech Tello, which by the way is made by a Chinese start-up in collaboration with DJI, boasts a high-quality image processor that allows it to shoot excellent videos and stills, and by that we mean almost pro-level videos, to amaze your friends on social media.
The first person view function is very well implemented, and the drone has 2 antennas for an extra-stable live feed. The flight controller is almost perfect ergonomics-wise, and you can also control the drone via your smartphone.
In this regard, the Ryze Tech Tello is fairly easy to fly and very stable and maneuverable, and does a good job outdoors despite its compact footprint (6 x 6 x 1.3 inches), not to mention that it weighs a mere 3 ounces. The propellers are well protected by prop-guards and the plastic-covered body is as tough as they get.
It’s worth mentioning that this small quadcopter can be controlled in 3 ways: via the optional Bluetooth remote control, via an app on your smartphone or via the MIT developed Scratch programming interface. The smartphone app provides a decent flight experience, plus a preview of the images captured by the front camera.
The drone is very fast and manageable even in slight winds once you get used to it, and comes with all the essential features: one-button take-off and landing, 8D flips (an acrobatic mode), 360 mode (shoots a panoramic video), up and away, and a unique Circle mode, when it circles a designated object, while keeping it in a frame. Stability is amazing for a non-GPS drone due to its downward-facing camera that works together with an altimeter and multiple infrared sensors.
By the way, you can dramatically increase the drone’s range with a Xiaomi Wi-Fi range extender for the Tello.
- Well designed, tough and incredibly stable for a non-GPS gizmo
- 330 feet range (100 feet for stable video), 13 minutes flight time
- The Tello app is one of the best out there
- Fast, easy to control, doesn’t require registering with the FAA
- Interesting auto flight modes
- Winds over 5mph render the drone useless outdoors
Holy Stone F181W
The Best Drone Under $100 For Beginners
The Holy Stone F181W is a good choice if you’re looking for a feature-rich gizmo with great functionality and an interesting camera with wide FOV that will help you capture basically each and everything. So, to make it really easy for our readers, the Holy Stone F181W is the ideal drone for beginners, and here’s why: first, you’ll get 10 minutes flight time, which is not great, not terrible to quote from the classics; the camera is a mixed bag, as it offers HD 1080p resolution and a wide 120° angle, yet the image quality is, let’s say adequate for non-commercial use.
However, when it comes to features, the Holy Stone F181W has a lot to offer: 1-key takeoff and landing, altitude hold, headless mode, 6 -axis gyroscope and 3-axis flip technology, plus an excellent 4-channel dual-joystick control remote with a phone holder. The remote control has 2 D-pads for easy navigation, and you can use your smartphone to get live video feed through the dedicated app.
The Holy Stone F181W requires some assembly before first use, and if you do it nice and proper, you’ll have a sturdy drone that’s capable of withstanding a few crashes, though be careful as the frames look and feel kind of flimsy. Operating the drone is fairly easy, and the 6-axis gyroscope does a great job keeping it on course under turbulence.
- Good build quality, easy assembly, and set-up, 80-100 meters range
- Perfect for beginners, adjustable 1080p 120° wide-angle camera
- FPV live-feed via Wi-Fi, One Key Return, 3D flips
- Automatic Altitude Hold, no FAA registration required
- It comes with 2x 3.7V 750 mAh LiPo batteries for 20 minutes flight time
- It doesn’t do well in winds >5mph
- Video quality is choppy
DBPOWER X400W FPV RC Drone
Less Is More
Our last contender is the DBPOWER X400W FPV, the cheapest of the bunch, yet still impressive in terms of functionality and features, all crammed into an inexpensive package. This drone is beginner-friendly and it sports an on-board video camera, but don’t expect miracles from its 640 x 480 resolution at 15 frames per second. However, for something like $50, you should be grateful you have an eye in the sky, right?
What’s really important about the DBPOWER X400W FPV is that it flies great, even if it weighs a mere 112 grams. Piloting this tiny thing requires a learning curve, but once you get used to it, you’ll have a great time flying it, especially outdoors.
Moreover, this tiny drone is as tough as coffin nails, so you can use it and abuse it to the moon and back. The pics and videos are decent for a beginner’s drone, and you also get FPV functionality via your smartphone; handling is good, there’s a headless mode for beginners, and even a low-speed mode and LED lighting for night flight.
All things considered, if you’re looking for an affordable no-nonsense “driver’s drone”, this could be love at first sight.
- Solidly built, easy to assemble
- Upgradable, affordable, good stability
- Up to 10 minutes flight time via standard battery (easy to replace)
- Return Home Function, Altitude Hold, Headless Mode, 1-key 3D roll
- 70 meters range
- The camera is from another century