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
SNAPTAIN S5C WiFi FPV Drone
The Best Drone Under 100 With an HD Camera
We’ll start with the SNAPTAIN S5C WiFi FPV drone, which incidentally is a best seller/best-rated gizmo, and for good reason: it retails for well under $100, comes with an HD 720p camera, which is nice, plus a couple of batteries included in the retail package. We admit this is not the best camera drone out there, but if you’re looking for something reliable, solidly built, and, most importantly, affordable, you can’t go wrong with the “captain”. Admittedly, the SNAPTAIN S5C doesn’t have amazing features compared to high-end (and more expensive) drones, but what’s really important in this price range is solidly covered.
For example, the controller is easy to use and modern, the camera can record video and stills on the drone’s built-in SD card, you get a flip function and red/blue LEDs which allow you to fly it during the night, battery life is decent at 9 minutes flight-time, the flight range is 80 meters/yards and, most importantly, the drone can be controlled by using your smartphone via a specially designed app.
Speaking of controls, the drone’s transmitter has a number of cool functions, including a headless mode, a take-off button which is great for beginners, one key return, an emergency stop button plus a photo/video button and trimming buttons. On top of that, the SNAPTAIN S5C is compatible with VR headsets and comes with a gesture-control mode via smartphone. Build quality is solid and the design is, let’s say, futuristic enough to make your kids do backflips; another cool thing is that the drone weighs merely 150 grams, which means you won’t require FAA registration.
And if you’re looking to give it to your kids, safety issues are nonexistent, as the drone comes with propeller guards that also act as anti-collision barriers, to prevent the drone from getting damaged.
- Excellent drone for beginners, easy to use and solidly built
- Comes with voice/gesture controls, and a decent 720p HD camera with FPV (first-person view)
- Features altitude-hold due to its 6-axis gyroscope, gravity sensors, Wi-Fi warning system
- Decent battery life (9 minutes), 80-meter range
- None we can think of
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
EACHINE E58 WiFi FPV
The Best Beginner Drone Under 100
The EACHINE E58 is a very interesting foldable drone, which looks very much like a DJI Mavik, yet it costs way less than $100. Besides its affordability and minuscule foot-print, the EACHINE E58 is one of the best affordable drones out there, and it arrives with a decent 2 megapixels 720p HD video-camera with first-person-view (FPV) capability, plus something like 8-9 minutes of flight time. Other features worth mentioning are 3 D flips, 1-button takeoff and landing, and altitude hold.
If you’re a casual “flyer” or you’re just looking for a solid drone for beginners, the EACHINE E58 would definitely fit the bill. As we already told you, this baby-drone is basically a DJI clone, but smaller and with fewer advanced features (and also cheaper).
This drone is very “petite”, and you can literally hold it in the palm of your hand. However, don’t let the appearances deceive you, as the EACHINE E58 is a tough cookie, boasting a solid chassis made of plastic, which doesn’t feel or look cheap.
The 120° FOV 720p HD camera is located on the nose of the drone, and you can adjust it manually by 90 degrees, yet don’t expect high-quality video footage from a 2 MP sensor. Even if you don’t get fancy features like OIS and a 3 axis gimbal, this drone has 6 axis gyroscope and altitude hold, which translates into decent videos and stills with minimal distortion. Live streaming video on your smartphone is possible, and that’s great, and the remote controller is pretty good and well designed, being very similar to the one on the DJI Mavik, i.e. feels comfy and it’s very lightweight.
- Incredibly small and light, foldable
- 80 meters transmission range (30 meters for FPV)
- 3D flips, headless mode, 3-speed modes, 1-button return
- 9 minutes flight time, 6 axis gyroscope and altitude hold
- Spare parts easily available can get banged-up while sustaining near-zero damage
- Limited outdoor functionality due to its very compact size
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
SIMREX X900 Drone
The Best Outdoors Drone Under 100
Our next choice is the SIMREX X900, a budget foldable drone aimed at beginners that comes with all the essential features, plus an HD 1080p camera. The philosophy behind the SIMREX X900 is “less is more”, i.e. the drone is compact and lightweight, yet it still offers the “essentials”, including 1-button takeoff and landing, altitude hold, 3D flips and the respectable 12 minutes of flight time.
What’s interesting about the X900 is that despite its small footprint, it weighs over 250 grams, and that means you’ll have to register it with ‘big brother” also known as the FAA, if you live in the USA, Canada or the United Kingdom.
As expected, the drone is made of plastic, yet it doesn’t feel nor look cheap or fragile and features propeller guards. Underneath each rotor arm, you’ll find an LED light, which means you’ll be able to fly the drone safely in twilight hours. The fixed HD camera is located on the nose of the drone and delivers decent pictures and videos all things considered; moreover, the SIMREX X900 Drone has an SD card port to record stills and vids, up to a 32 GB limit (class 10 card, mind you).
Another thing worth mentioning is the optical flow sensor, which provides some sort of “fake” optical stabilization for better images, and also allows the drone to fly safely indoors when you’re not “on command”, i.e. you let go of the controls. Speaking of controls, the control unit is well designed and has a rubbery feel, and you can also use the HFUN app to control your gizmo.
- Comes with phone holder included
- Features altitude hold, 3D flips, Headless mode, 3-speed modes
- 13-15 minutes of flight time, easy to use, foldable
- 80-120 Meters range, 6 axis gyroscope stabilizer
- Great drone for the money
- The app crashes sometimes (many drones have similar problems, though)
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