We live in a day and age when technology is king and every company pretends their product is the best and all that palaver. However, if you’re looking for the best mini drone money can buy, today’s piece is aimed at helping you in this endeavor by providing you with the most important features to consider before buying one. Basically, we’ve already combed the internet for the best deals and we did proper research, so you won’t have to.
Why choose a mini drone? Well, the most obvious answer is that they’re smaller and cheaper than “full size” varieties, hence they don’t require you to register with the FAA or to max out your credit card. Being compact, mini drones are very easy to handle, especially for beginners and they’re pretty tough, due to their lightweight, so even if you crash them a few times during landing or what not, they won’t break down as easily as higher-end (and implicitly heavier) models.
And even if they break down, they’re relatively cheap to maintain, as this “cheapness” feature is practically built-in in mini-drones.
How to Choose the Best Mini Drone
Technology and durability
First things first, mini drones are ideal for indoor use so keep that in mind before you go on a buying spree. Obviously, if the weather is nice, you can also use them outside, but due to their inherent qualities (they are small and very light, remember?) they can go astray even if you sniff on them, alright?
However, even if you’re looking for the best mini drone out there, don’t expect it to be low tech, as in don’t go shopping with low expectations. The point being, even if a mini drone is compact in size and as light as they come, it still comes packed with technology ideally speaking, and here’s what to look after: durability is king in any flying gadget prone to get smashed around, so look for a tough mini drone that can withstand use and abuse.
The good news though is that most of them are built to withstand the pain, and being as light as a feather, they won’t take too much damage even if you land them with your eyes closed. Spare parts (think propellers and such) are another issue to contemplate in the long run; if they’re not readily available and easy to assemble, you’ll have to buy a new drone as soon as you break something on the old one, so buyers beware.
Flight time is a factor too, so look for autonomy specs, as well as for control-range. Naturally, if you’re going to enjoy your mini drone indoors, the control range doesn’t really matter.
Battery life is important though in any scenario, and you shouldn’t make compromises there.
Integrated GPS comes with several benefits, including the “never get lost again” thing, i.e. it’s pretty hard to lose a GPS enabled drone even if you lose the connection for some reason, as they are capable of returning home automatically once they lose contact with the “master”.
If you’re looking to spy on your neighbors via mini drone, the “eye in the sky” also known as video-camera is an important feature to have, but don’t expect Zeiss lenses and OIS in an affordable mini drone.
However, most drones nowadays arrive with decent cameras, so don’t sweat it too much either. Obstacle avoidance, as well as headless and follow-me modes are cool features to have, but they’re hardly deal breakers in a mini drone; you know that saying, the more the merrier, but then again, one’s budget comes into play.
Nota bene: the following applies to ANYONE operating ANY unmanned aircraft as a hobbyist:
-Only fly for recreational purposes
-Only fly within visual line of sight
-Never fly 400ft+ above ground/structure
-Never fly in a restricted zone (B4UFLY)
-Never fly above events/groups of people
-Never fly near emergency responses
-Never fly near manned aircrafts
-Register with the FAA if the drone is 250 grams or more
With all these in mind, let’s take a look at Amazon’s best offers.
Best Mini Drones
DJI Mavic Mini
The Best Mini Drone with Camera
We’ll start with a very popular mini drone, the DJI Mavic Mini respectively, which retails for a tad under $400, but boy, you’ll get a lot of bang for the buck asked. Now, if you’re looking for a state of the art UAV or unmanned aerial vehicle, the DJI Mavic Mini ticks all the boxes: approximately half an hour flight time, which is respectable for an ultra-light compact gizmo that weighs under 0.55lbs (or 250 grams if you’re into the metric system), a high-resolution 2.7K Camera that uses a micro SD card to store pictures and videos, cutting edge 3-axis stabilization, a GPS sensor and USB-A charging.
Judging from the specs, it becomes obvious that the DJI Mavic Mini is a serious contender for the best mini drone title, and by the way, the only compromise in this high-end gadget is that it cannot record 4K video, yet truth be told, 2.7K is more than enough for most users. However, considering that this mini drone is basically a flying smartphone give or take, as in it’s incredibly compact (also collapsible) and lightweight, which makes it exempt from registering with the FAA, there’s not much to criticize.
The drone offers a near-perfect flying experience outdoors provided it’s not windy, and it’s surprisingly stable, being able to reach an altitude of 1600 feet, which again, is amazing for such a tiny thing. The range is 2.5 miles from its “headquarters” (that would be you, holding the controller) and the camera boasts a 4mm lens with a fixed f/2.8 aperture, while the CMOS sensor can record video at 2.7K/30p and 1080/30p and 12-megapixel still images in JPEG format only (no RAW, unfortunately). The picture quality is, let’s say, impressive considering the size of the drone.
What’s not so great in an almost $400 drone is that you won’t get front and rear sensors for collision avoidance, but that’s not a deal-breaker in our view. We actually love “driver’s drones”, as you’ll have to practice hard in order to become a good pilot, without having to rely on high-tech braces, a.k.a. collision avoidance sensors.
However, ActiveTrack technology would’ve been great to have, as it allows the drone to follow (automatically) a selected object. That’s the only real disappointment about the DJI Mavic Mini, and that about sums it up.
- Well designed, tough, flies great
- Excellent for beginners, works surprisingly well outdoors
- Industry-leading 3 axis stabilization, above-average battery life
- Light, small, solid specs for the price, pocketable
- Doesn’t require FAA registration, comes with remote control
- Lacks Active Track mode
- No 4K video capability (planned downgrade in our view)
Ryze Tech Tello Boost Combo
An Excellent All-Rounder Mini Drone
This is basically a Ryze Tech Tello drone with a few extras, i.e. a boost combo consisting of extra batteries and accessories which drive up the price over $100. However, the drone itself costs less than $100, and in our view, the Ryze Tech Tello is a solid contender in the “best drone under $100” category. With all these things in mind, here’s what you’ll get: a very affordable and easy to fly a mini drone, with a relatively short battery life all things considered, but small and very fast.
So, if you’re looking for a drone for kidsdrone for kids, the Tello would certainly fit the bill. The drone can be operated via smartphone by using the company’s application, or via a Bluetooth remote; Scratch is also available if you want to program your drone.
Speaking of small stuff, the Tello measures 6 x 6 x 1.3 inches and weighs less than 3 ounces, which means it’s exempt from FAA’s rules and regulations. The drone is made of plastic, looks tough, and comes with propeller guards.
You can control the Tello through a smartphone app, Scratch, or a remote, and speaking of flying, the drone is pretty fast and maneuverable for its small size, reaches 20 miles per hour in fast-flying mode and can stop & turn in approximately 6 feet. The drone features an auto take-off mode and a Throw and Go mode which allows it to hover in place over a designated target. The app offers a couple of acrobatic modes, such as 3D flips, Up & Away, 360, Circle, and Bounce Mode, while the 5 Megapixels onboard camera shoots videos at 720p resolution and clean/sharp stills, in bright/natural colors with plenty of detail.
What we don’t like about the Tello is its relatively short battery life, which is to be expected in such a cheap and light drone: the 1100 mAh battery only gives you 5 minutes of flight tops; we must also mention the fact that the drone turns itself off if it doesn’t detect Wi-Fi, and that can become pretty annoying.
- Cheap, well built, fun to fly
- Responsive controls, simple App
- Great drone for beginners
- Good value for money
- Compact size, flies under FAA’s radar
- Poor battery life
- Scratch requires programming skills to set up
- Forget about flying it in over 5 MPH winds
- No GPS, lacks Return to Home mode
Potensic A20 Mini Drone
The Best Indoor Mini Drone
The “vanilla” Potensic A20 received a well-deserved upgrade in 2020 and it’s now arguably the best indoor drone available on Amazon in its price bracket. And speaking of prices, this little fry of a drone is currently retailing for well under $40, yet it offers a lot of bang for the proverbial buck, things like Headless Mode, Auto Hovering and extra batteries included in the pocket, as well as a cool-looking remote control.
Since we’re talking about a dirt-cheap mini drone, don’t get your hopes too high though, as the Potensic A20 is basically an entry-level gizmo, lacking advanced features but compensating by its fast and agile flight characteristics and ease of use. However, the obligatory one-button landing and take-off feature are available, which is great news for beginners; basically, if you’re looking for a well-designed and affordable mini drone to hone your pilot skills, the A20 would make for a great choice.
The small lightweight design makes the Potensic A20 ideal for both indoors and (limited) outdoors scenarios, provided it’s not windy, and also the ideal travel companion due to its compact footprint. There’s an altitude-hold mode and a headless mode, which is awesome, and its protected propellers and durable design make it the perfect gift for kids and adults alike.
- Durable and affordable
- Zippy and quick outside
- Easy to control
- Comes with spare propellers
- Amazing value for money
- No return-home feature
- Short battery life
DJI Mini 2
Arguably the Best Drone Under $500
Five hundred bucks is a lot of money to be spent on a gadget, but the DJI Mini 2 is more than that. For half a grand, you’ll end up with a technological marvel, i.e. a tiny foldable sub 250 gram drone that doesn’t require registration with the FAA, featuring a 3-axis gimbal with a 4K camera, capable of 12 MP stills, half an hour flight time, OcuSync 2.0 and 10 km HD video transmission.
Judging from these quick specs, it becomes obvious that this is more like a drone for professionals than a toy. Compared to the previous generation, the Mini 2 comes with 4K/30p video, capture Raw+JPEG files, and features DJI’s robust OcuSync 2.0 transmission technology instead of relying on Wi-Fi.
The image sensor was upgraded to a 1/2.3″ CMOS variant, and the drone features a 24mm equivalent lens (84º FOV) with F2.8 aperture (fixed) and 12 MP photo resolution. Video capability is 4K/30p and 1080/60p video (100 Mbps bit rate), and the drone has up to 4X (2X lossless) zoom.
The 3-axis gimbal will definitely impress you if this is your first experience with DJI, and the 2electric motors were also upgraded for improved battery life over the first generation. When folded, you can carry around the drone inside your jacket’s pocket, and you also get stronger antennas and better wireless communications technology, for rock solid connection at long distances.
One of the best upgrades is the OcuSync 2.0, DJI’s, which is basically an improved video transmitting technology via a smart automatic-frequency-switching tool, which in real life translates into very clear video from up to 10 km, i.e. you can fly the drone well beyond visual range and still get high quality video feed.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for one of the world’s most powerful mini drone that packs strong performance in an impossibly light body, the DJI Mini 2 has your name on it.
- Raw photo capture
- 31 minute flight time
- 3-axis motorized gimba
- 4K/30fps video
- Ocusync is a big deal
- Incredibly small
- No FAA registration
- No HDR
- No obstacle avoidance
DROCON Scouter Mini Drone
The Best Mini Drone for Beginners
If you’re looking for an affordable mini-drone for your kids, the Drocon Scouter comes to mind. Retailing for less than thirty bucks, the Scouter features a foldable design and it’s the perfect “first drone” for beginners. Despite its affordability, the Scouter is a no-nonsense “driver’s drone” so to speak, as in it doesn’t have fancy features, yet it offers the essentials for massive fun: self-rotating, one-key return, headless mode, 3D flips, automatic take-off, and landing and speed adjustment.
There’s also a quite unique spinning function, which makes the Scouter hover at the same altitude and then spins automatically. Okay, it’s all for the show, we got that, but after all’s said and done, this is a $30 toy that folds and fits inside the controller, i.e. it doesn’t get more portable and convenient than the Drocon Scouter.
The drone comes with spare propellers in the retail box, plus service tools for easy maintenance. Build quality is solid and the controller can also be used to charge the drone, which is a nice touch.
- Well designed and built
- The compact design makes it ideal for indoor use
- Great for beginners
- 8-minute flight time
- Very responsive and quiet
- Takes up to an hour to charge fully
DEERC D20 Mini Drone
Fantastic Beginner Drone for the Price
The DEERC D20 Mini would make for an awesome gift for your kids (or the kid within, whatever). The drone features Altitude Hold, Headless Mode, One Key Start Speed Adjustment, 3D Flips, has a 720p camera and offers FPV (first person view) image transmission up to 98 feet.
Considering the price asked, that’s a lot of features, hence if you’re looking for an affordable mini drone and your budget is $50 or less, the DEERC D20 is a match made in heaven. The drone is incredibly small and compact, and the motor arms are completely foldable, which means you can easily store it in your jacket pocket for easy travel.
The 2 batteries included in the retail package offer up to ten minutes of flight time, which is reasonable all things considered, and the drone is made from tough ABS plastic, which means it’s well protected against crashes and rough impacts. Usually speaking, cheap tiny drones don’t do well outside, and considering the fact that the DEERC D20 only weighs 70 grams, we would strongly advise against using it if there’s the slightest breeze.
Indoor use is its “hunting ground” so to speak, and considering its numerous flight functions, flying it is enjoyable and easy, even for first timers. All you have to do is press a button and the drone takes-off and/or lands automatically, and the altitude hold thing makes sure the drone stays at a certain height, so you’ll just have to worry about horizontal flight.
The drone also has a number of safety functions, including an emergency stop button which stops it in its tracks before something terrible happens, and a low power alert. Even if this is a drone made for kids, it includes voice control, and the free app is great for taking photos and videos with your smartphone.
Bottom line, for the price asked, this drone is an absolute steal.
- Solid features
- Tough as nails
- Easy to operate
- Free carrying case
- Voice control
- Design flight path feature
- 90 ft range
- No GPS
- No gimbal
Holy Stone HS170 Mini Drone
A No-Nonsense Mini Drone
Finally, we end up with yet another cheap yet cool looking mini drone, also known as the Predator. Despite its fancy name, this mini drone is as basic as it gets, featuring 4 rotors and flashing blue/red lights, in a solid polycarbonate body. The design is very interesting for a mini drone, as it looks more like a police drone than a toy, and that’s pretty cool if you’re a kid.
The Predator is fun to fly due to its 6-axis giro technology, which makes it very stable even in slight winds, and there’s also a headless mode, for boosting confidence or something along these lines. Besides that, you won’t get much else, but as far as “pilot drones” go, this fancy Predator toy is as good as it gets, especially for kids.
- Solid build quality
- Very stable for a tiny toy drone
- Comes with propeller guards
- Up to 10 minutes of flight time
- Design flaws in the battery compartment lead to leaking