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
SIMREX X300C Mini Drone
The Best Cheap Mini Drone
Next in line we have the SIMREX X300C, yet another affordable mini drone that retails for under “fiddy bucks”. Despite its low price, the SIMREX X300C looks and feels like a high-quality gadget, and it’s actually quite sturdy, which is important, especially for “noobs”.
The retail package contains a lot of accessories: 4 frames and 4 spare propellers, the controller, a phone holder, and a battery. It’s worth mentioning that the SIMREX X300C is foldable, and that means you can carry it anywhere with zero fuss, and due to its lightweight and compact design, it doesn’t require registration with the FAA.
Another good news is that you’ll get an HD camera on board, and even if we’re not talking Canon EOS quality here, it’s a nice feature to have in an under $50 drone that actually flies. Autonomy-wise, you’ll get almost ten minutes of flight time, and the remote control works for up to 45 meters. We know, it’s not much, but the SIMREX X300C is designed for mostly indoor use, and it’s fun and agile for what it is.
If you’re worried about features, this baby comes with altitude-hold, automatic take-off and landing, 360-degree flip, and the obligatory headless mode for beginners.
- Affordable and solidly built
- Has the essential features plus an HD camera
- Beginner friendly, decent autonomy
- Easy to maintain, comes with spare parts
- You can control it with your smartphone (Android and iOS)
- None really at this price
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
SNAPTAIN SP350 Mini Drone
The Captain of Indoor Mini Drones
We’re almost there and here comes the captain of mini drones, or, as some prefer to call it, the SNAPTAIN SP350. Once again, we’re neck-deep in the realm of dirt-cheap drones with an attitude, as the SNAPTAIN SP350 makes for a very interesting choice for low-budget mini drone enthusiasts.
To make it real easy, the SNAPTAIN SP350 looks the part, like a true-blue quad-copter, it’s cheap, sturdy, reliable, and easy to operate and has all the essential features required by a total noob, as in it would make for a great gift for boys and girls alike.
For example, this mini drone comes with a throw flying function, as opposed to the regular “one-button take-off”: all you have to do is literally toss it into the air and voila, you’re up for a quick start. Feature-wise, this drone is as basic as it gets, so don’t expect technological marvels in a $30 drone.
However, you’ll get altitude hold, 3D flip, and circle flying, which is more than enough to make a kid happy. The best thing about the Snaptain SP350 is that it’s virtually indestructible and easy to operate, thus it offers great value for the money, satisfaction guaranteed, and all that.
If you’re looking for a no-nonsense toy drone and you’re not ready yet to spend $300, you’ll have a great time learning your way around flying with the Snaptain SP350.
- Easy to operate
- Tough as nails
- Dirt cheap and reliable
- Pretty good autonomy (up to 20 minutes)
- Some users complain about getting the batteries in properly
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