The best cheap drones of 2018

Buying a cheap drone can be a good introduction to remote-controlled flying machines as well as a great gift for someone else. Compared to more expensive drones, cheap ones tend not to have auto-hover, no automatic flying and only basic stabilisation from an on-board gyroscope. This means they’re harder to fly, but there are exceptions, such as the Ryze Tello.

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They’re fun, but flying time is limited to a few minutes, so budget for a few extra batteries – they’re usually cheap and readily available. Just make sure you get the correct type. Crash packs are available for many mini-quads, too, and it’s well worth getting one, if not just a couple of sets of extra propellers as you will break those that come in the box.

Don’t forget that they’re not all the same: one pair rotates clockwise, the other pair anti-clockwise. Finally, remember that the UK Dronecode applies to these just as much as bigger more expensive drones. If you’re in the US, you have to register your drone with the FAA.

Cheerson CX-10

The CX-10 has been around for ages now, but is one of the cheapest quads you can buy.

If it seems familiar, it’s because it’s the model OnePlus rebranded when it did its April Fool’s joke and pretended it was going to launch a drone, the OnePlus DR-1. Dr-one, geddit?

Anyway, it’s absolutely tiny and fun to fly both for beginners and experts alike.

Ryze Tello

The best cheap drones of 2018

Based on DJI technology, the Ryze is smarter than most ‘toy’ drones. It will auto-hover and – importantly – will do this if it loses connection to your phone or controller, so it shouldn’t go whizzing off never to be seen again.

It has an onboard 720p camera, but this isn’t really for great aerial footage: it’s for fun. And there’s plenty of fun to be had thanks to to all the tricks it can perform just by tapping on them in the app. If you don’t like flying it using your phone’s touchscreen, compatible controllers include the GameSir T1d, which costs GBP29 or £39.

Revell Proto Quad XS

The best cheap drones of 2018

One of the smallest quads around at 28mm, the Proto Quad can be stored on the controller itself.

It has a six-axis gyro, three speed levels (so you can start off at low speeds to avoid crashes) and the ability to perform flips. Because it’s so tiny, it’s harder to fly than larger models, but it has a big wow factor.

Parrot Mambo FPV

The best cheap drones of 2018

The most expensive option here, but you tend to get what you pay for with drones. The Mambo FPV is better than its predecessors as it eschews gimmicky gadgets for a snap-on camera.

And it comes with a basic ‘VR’-style headset into which you pop your phone for a true First Person View of the flight. There’s a decent controller included so you can fly the Mambo without needing to touch your phone screen, and prop guard to protect people, property and the props themselves. Flight time is a bit short at eight minutes with the camera on board, but spares cost around GBP14.

It’s also easy to get spare propellers and other parts, too.

Just bear in mind that the camera, although it can record video to a microSD card, isn’t going to shoot any great aerial footage or photos: this is a racing drone. Note that you don’t have to buy the FPV package: the basic Mambo can be picked up for the same price as the Ryze Tello from Argos and other places.

Nikko Air Elite 115

The best cheap drones of 2018

For under GBP60, you get a lot more with the Air Elite 115 than other drones. As well as a detachable safety ring, you get a controller with quite a few buttons which allow you to make the drone perform 16 aerobatic tricks.

Plus, you can customise the drone’s setting using the Beta Flight software, and there’s even a racing simulator which runs on Windows or macOS that allows you to practice with the controller before trying the real thing.

The drone itself is designed to withstand crashes, has a quick-swap battery design and comes with a full set of spare propellers.

Hubsan X4 H107C

The best cheap drones of 2018

We’ve reviewed the FPV (first-person-view) version of the X4, which is much more expensive. This still comes with a camera but you can’t see the video in real-time on the controller. Video quality is pretty poor but the X4 is a very precise flyer.

Spares are cheap and easy to find, too.

Mota JetJat Nano

The best cheap drones of 2018

This really is one of the smallest drones we’ve seen measuring just 22x22x20mm. Like the Revell Proto Quad XS, it’s so tiny it can fit into a container on the already small controller. Amazon sells it for GBP28.12.

It lasts about 8 minutes between charges and the battery isn’t removable, but it will wow your friends and family.

Hubsan X4 FPV

The best cheap drones of 2018

The X4 FPV isn’t meant for recording amazing aerial video. Like the Parrot Mambo, it’s intended as a starter drone with first-person view.

There’s a screen built into the controller rather than a headset for your phone, though.

It’s still fun to fly, and prices have dropped loads since it first came out: you’ll pay less than GBP60 these days.

If you invest in some extra batteries and time in learning to fly it properly (it’s completely manual with no auto-hovering), the H107D can be a rewarding and fun drone.

Syma X5C

The best cheap drones of 2018

The X5C is bigger than the nano quads here, measuring 31x31cm. This makes it better suited to flying outdoors where it’s less susceptible to being blown away. It has a 2Mp camera which captures shaky, poor quality video, but as an introduction to drones, it’s not bad at all.

Plus, because it’s popular, spares are cheap and easy to find.

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