Best Drones You Can Buy For Less Than $500

In this article, I will go through some of the best drones that are priced between $300 and $500. This is a heavily competitive price range and as such, it has a lot of top notch models for you to choose. Picking the right drone for you might seem like a pretty tough job because there are so many variations… But with a little help from this article, you will be able to make your decision pretty easily. With this in mind, I will start off with the list that will show us what’s the best drone under $500 because I don’t waste more of your precious time with this introductory section!

What to expect from drones under $500?

Even though $500 is no trash talk, you can still expect some performance limits in comparison to, for example, best under $1000 drones. These might not be that drastic, but they’re still noticeable nevertheless. So, with that said, I’d like to take you through the average traits that you should look for prior to purchasing your next drone. Without further adue – let’s start!

Airtime
First, we’re going to inspect air time, or how some like to call it – battery/flight durations. This basically represents the amount of time your drone can last up while flying. Keep in mind that different types of flying (for example, full throttle pitch forward will drain your drone faster than steady hovering. When it comes to drones under $500, you should look for somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes. No matter what your flying preferences are (racing or selfies, freestyle or cinematography) if you end up getting a drone close to $500 that has less than 15 minutes of airtime – you’ve overpaid it!
Operating Range
Operating range greatly varies between models which use 2.4G and WiFi transmissions. For example, the majority of so called selfie drones use WiFi that covers just 50-100 meters. While this is enough for the sole purpose of taking selfies, if you would like any serious aerial footage or FPV exploring with your aircraft, you are going to have a bad time. That’s why, for exploring and aerial photography, this price range offers several great models that can go as far as 1 or 2 kilometers.
Image quality
In terms of image quality, things are looking pretty good with a majority of drones listed below. For instance, several models come with motorized gimbals and excellent 1080p cameras that shoot brilliant footage. However, if you’re willing to dish out a few more 100’s above those initial $500, you can even get your hands on 4K sensors that are bound to capture professional-grade aerial footage.

What makes a good drone under $500?

In addition to above-explained aspects, there are also other features and, let’s call them traits, that greatly improve the overall flying experience. I’ve managed to come up with 4, so let’s dig straight into them!

  1. A good batch of features
    Let’s get one thing clear – GPS is a must… unless you’re only interested in FPV racing and have no desire to casually fly your drone and perhaps take a picture or two. Alongside GPS, you should also look for other attractive smart flight modes. I’m mostly referring to Follow Me, Orbit, Waypoints and similar.
  2. Hardware image stabilization
    Thruthfully, hardware image stabilization is just a fancier name for motorized gimbals. These systems basically annihilate any sort of vibration and jello and, best of all, give you direct control over the camera without having to manually rotate your drone.
  3. Stability
    Obviously, flight stability is of crucial importance for every single drone out on the market. It’s what makes the entire package good or bad at the end of the day. So – don’t take stability for granted. If your drone isn’t stable enough, not only will your videos and pictures look terrible but you’ll also have a tough time controlling it.
  4. Altitude hold
    Talk about controlling – altitude hold is probably your best friend if you want to learn proper aerial photography tricks with your next drone. It essentially allows you to put your drone in a static position and lets you fully concentrate on taking the perfect photo/video. Altitude hold in combination with a motorized gimbal is the perfect combination for amateur aerial photographers.. and luckily – plenty of such models can be found for less than $500.

Can these drones do any professional work?

Every single one of the below-listed drones is good for taking aerial pictures and videos. So, if that’s your line of work – picking any drone out of the bunch will yield profit. However, if you’re more interested in real estate, mapping, music video industry and, let’s say, agriculture, not all will be suitable. Depending on your specific needs (for example, extremely long range, infrared cameras, high lifting power and so on), you might be better off trying to up your budget and go for something more expensive.

Table : Drones under $500

NameImageRangeFlight TimePrice
NameImageRangeFlight TimePrice
10. XIRO Xplorer Mini100m15minSee price now
9. Yuneec Breeze80m12mSee price now
8. Traxxas Aton Plus300m15minSee price now
7. AEE Technology AP10 Pro500m25minSee price now
6. Hubsan H501S300m20minSee price now
5. GeniusIdea Follow100m20minSee price now
4. Parrot Bebop 22000m21minSee price now
3. DJI Phantom 31000m25minSee price now
2. Hubsan H109S1500m25minSee price now
1. DJI Spark2000m16minSee price now

Here’s a link to our list of best drones below $300.

10. XIRO Xplorer Mini

XIRO-Xplorer-Mini-photo-kvadI’m going to start this list off with 2 miniature models… AKA selfie drones. First in line, we have XIRO Xplorer Mini, a miniature successor to XIRO Xplorer drones which are pretty good bargains in under $300 category. What improvements does XIRO Xplorer Mini have in addition to the obvious size advantage? Let’s check it out and see!

Starting off at the beginning, XIRO Xplorer Mini is a foldable drone with an excellent built in FHD camera sporting 190-degree lens. Such a wide viewing angle is great for FPV, but unfortunately XIRO Xplorer Mini doesn’t offer 5.8G connection. To compensate for that, this little birdie features GPS/GLONASS dual systems as well as a fine array of additional smart modes such as auto return to home and optical recognition technology which makes use of Follow Snap mode. This is basically the usual Follow Me features that’s a common occurrence in mid and high-end models.

When it comes to hardware, XIRO Xplorer Mini sports a 1650mAh LiPo battery. Depending on your flying and whether or not you are recording, you’ll end up getting anywhere between 13 and 15 minutes of airtime. Unfortunately, XIRO Xplorer Mini is a smartphone controlled drone and has just 100 meters of range, just like most other selfie drones on the market.

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9. Yuneec Breeze

yuneec-breezeBreeze is another excellent miniature drone sporting an outstanding camera. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this little fella has everything you need for amateur aerial shots… and selfies, selfies are the most important thing here haha. Anyways, let’s jump straight to action and see what’s this little bugger all about!

Even though Yuneec Breeze aims to be one of those stylish selfie drones, there’s already one thing that doesn’t go in its favor – it is not foldable. Despite that, Yuneec Breeze is still pretty small and, just like its name suggests, a breeze to transport from one place to another. Let’s talk a bit about the positive sides. For instance, the best thing about Yuneec Breeze is its groundbreaking 4K camera that shoots exceptional selfies and occasional aerial videos. Image quality is smooth and, thanks to GPS, altitude hold, and several other smart features, you will have no problems with taking the perfect angle shot.

In terms of performance, you should expect around 70 to 100 meters of operating range. It’s not too bad considering this is a selfie drone. Battery duration is a bit better though. You’re looking at approximately 12 minutes of airtime after which you’ll need to charge your Yuneec Breeze for roughly an hour. All in all, if you’re into selfies and you’re looking to step up your game, Yuneec Breeze seems like the perfect option!

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8. Traxxas Aton Plus

traxxas-atonThe first thing you should keep in mind when looking at this particular model is to not confuse Traxxas Aton with Traxxas Aton Plus. Don’t get me wrong – we are talking about 2 identical drones but with a small twist to the tale. What’s the twist, you wonder?! Well, here’s what you need to know…

They share the same black and red look that is quite easy on the eye. To be honest, there is not that much difference between these 2 except in the specifications department. Among other things, the Plus version comes with a slightly improved battery and a 2 axis motorized gimbal. With that in mind, let’s skip the small talk and take a look at the specifications of this model so we can see how exactly is it able to perform.

In terms of operating range, you can expect up to 300 meters with the default Traxxas controller. Battery duration brings approximately 25 minutes of airtime which is not half bad either. Even better, it takes slightly over 1.5 hours to charge it back up, which will give you plenty of flying time! Last but not least, Traxxas Aton is an incredibly fast and agile quadcopter. Come to think of it, it is the fastest one on this list. When you’re driving in sports mode, you’ll have to be extremely careful to keep it under control at all times since its speed is bound to surprise you.

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7. AEE Technology AP10 Pro

aee-technology-ap10-proAEE is not exactly the most known drone manufacturer on the planet, but from time to time, they surprise us with a great model that takes the market by storm. This exactly can be said about their newest model called AP10 Pro. What’s so special about it? Well, where should I start off?

AEE Ap10 Pro sports a unique white design with black and red finishing touches. It looks amazing but has a bunch of features and great specifications to back its looks up. One of the best virtues of this drone is its Full HD 16MP camera that is able to shoot 1080p videos at 60FPS. That’s amazing coming from a built in drone camera. Kudos to AEE Tech for this one! In addition to its camera, AP10 Pro is also quite fast, clocking in at 44 miles per hour. In order to fly this fast, It needs to have good stability and wind resistance. That’s where its rigid body comes in. It is able to endure snow and medium rain and has a Class 4 wind resistance rating.

When it comes to the rough numbers, here is what you can expect from this beauty. Airtime goes up to 25 minutes but you’ll be bordering on 20 most of the time while recording. Range, on the other hand, it somewhat more attractive – 500 to 700 meters. Last but not least – AEE AP10 Pro takes around 2 hours to fully charge which isn’t that good considering roughly 20 to 25 minutes of airtime.

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6. Hubsan H501S

hubsan_h501s_web-1Let’s start off by saying that Hubsan H501S is an outright steal! Priced at just a bit higher than $200, this drone possesses an incredible amount of features packed together with marvelous hardware. But, if it’s that good why isn’t it further down on this list? Well, even though it packs incredible value for money, there are better (but pricier) drones that fit into our $500 budget. Enough about that though – let’s concentrate on Hubsan H501S from now on!

This gorgeous drone is probably the cheapest option for a GPS-enabled device that can also do extraordinarily well in terms of aerial photography. This is due to its built-in FHD capable camera which does extremely well considering its miniature size. Furthermore, features are of utmost importance for drones and it is safe to say that H501S has plenty to show in this department. In addition to the above-mentioned GPS, this drone also has altitude hold, one key return to home, and even follow me mode to further improve your chances of taking exceptional aerial videos.

Features are nothing short of brilliant either. If you purchase Hubsan H501S, you will get roughly 20 minutes of airtime thanks to its 2700mAh battery. Likewise, you will also get up to 300 meters of lag-free range, limiting your exploration abilities to just your surrounding area. Don’t worry, you’ll get access to 5.8G FPV so you’ll be able to see the action no matter where you go.

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5. GeniusIdea Follow

GeniusIdea FollowInnovation is what drives small companies and brands onto the big stage and makes them competitive with the greatest of them all… And that’s exactly what GeniusIdea worked on prior to releasing their Follow drone. A highly innovative build material and different approach to battery usage are just 2 of many awesome things this drone comes with. Surprisingly – even though it’s already available for purchase, it seems as though not a lot of people know about. Lack of proper marketing channels did its toll. But, that’s why you got me to tell you all about this little sucker!

Starting from the first thing you’ll notice – strange build materials. Believe it or not, GeniusIdea Follow is made out of “highly durable rubber”-like material which can twist, turn and bend after which they’ll snap right back into their initial shape. It’s incredible. With this being said, you can drop this thing from the roof of your house and it will work as if nothing had happened.

Now that we got that amazing build quality out of our way, it’s important to say a thing or two about features. GeniusIdea Follow drone sports GPS, follow me, circling flight, face tracking, gesture recognition and plenty other advanced functions, making it an extremely versatile drone. Don’t even get me started on the camera. You’re looking at a glorious 4K sensor that captures breathtaking aerial footage with ease. We shouldn’t forget about its specifications though. GeniusIdea Follow can reach up to only 150 meters since it’s one of those smartphone-controlled models. And lastly, this birdie runs on standard Lithium batteries (not to be confused with LiPo ones though, these are completely different) that can be bought for extremely cheap. Per charge, you can get up to 20 minutes of airtime which is, considering everything else as well, a proper bargain at this price point.

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4. Parrot Bebop 2

parrot-bebop-2Parrot Bebop 2 is one of the most popular drones under $500. The upgraded second version of Parrot’s flagship drone has quite a bit of improvement. Unfortunately, only the standard drone version (just the drone without the sky controller) barely makes it on to this list due to its price. The standard version will set you back for $420 while the complete version (comes with the Sky Controller and a bunch of other useful accessories and spare parts) costs around $620. Still, I believe it’s quite a steal considering everything it incorporates.

Starting off with the build quality, the drone itself is made out of high-quality materials and, how should I put this simply – breathes with fresh, quality design. It has amazing specifications even without the sky controller, which, I’m sure you all know, is able to extend the range up to 2 kilometers. Combine that with 25 minutes of flight time and excellent camera (more on that later) and I’m pretty sure the majority of you will find Parrot Bebop 2 rather interesting.

Continuing onward, Parrot Bebop 2 comes with a built-in 14MPX camera with wide angle lens that’s able to perfectly capture shots and videos from really high up. Image quality is excellent and so are the videos… all due to integrated image stabilization system which does wonders!

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3. DJI Phantom 3

dji-phantom-3-standardThe third spot on this list goes to (like it was possible to choose another drone) the amazing DJI Phantom 3. Feel free to compare specifications of Phantom 2 and 3 because DJI is constantly improving their infrastructure which leads to amazing advances within their flagship drones. That’s especially true for this comparison as DJI Phantom 3 sports some radical improvements that will definitely get you hyped up about it.

This standard edition comes with a 2.7K action camera which has wide angle lens that makes for amazing aerial shots. In addition to this, it comes with a bunch of awesome features such as live stream video (with the help from DJI Go app on your phone or tablet), GPS assisted flight, follow me function, waypoint mode and point of interest camera assist. As you can see, this is by far the best drone in this price range. Even its standard package (without the flashy 4K camera, motorized gimbal and a bunch of additional accessories) can make wonders and will surely attract both beginners and new pilots as well.With all of this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the specification of this beast:

With all of this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the specification of this beast – operating range goes from 1000 meters on the standard version (that fits within our $500 budget) to whopping 5000 on the Pro version. Furthermore, battery life is pretty much identical across both models, hovering steadily at around 25 minutes.

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2. Hubsan H109S

Hubsan H109SAfter taking a closer look at Hubsan’s mid-tier model H501S, it’s time to check out what are they offering in the high-end market. This bulky thing is called H109S and it brings excellent hardware just like H501S but includes several big improvements that will leave you breathless. Want to know more about this jewel? Keep on reading…

The first thing that needs to be said about Hubsan H109S is the fact that it comes in several versions: Low, Mid and High. Since the high version comes at more than $500, today we’ll be focusing on the Mid one. It comes with a 1-axis gimbal and a solid 1080p camera capable of providing with decent image quality. Furthermore, Hubsan H109S also comes with GPS, allowing features such as altitude hold, follow me, automatic return to take-off location and headless mode.

Moving forward to the controls, H109S is surprisingly stable and features Android powered transmitter with a small LCD display for FPV monitoring (5.8G FPV of course). In terms of hardware, H109S packs a 3S 7000mAh battery that can last as much as 25 minutes. Furthermore, operating range is pretty decent too – 1.5 kilometers is more than enough to suit your needs.

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1. DJI Spark

DJI SparkEven though many people thought DJI Mavic Pro is going to be DJI’s smallest drone for years to come, after DJI Spark’s announcement all these specifications fell into the dark. And here it is – DJI’s smartphone-sized drone is now available for purchase… and quite frankly – it’s selling like crazy. But what’s this hype all about? Is DJI Spark really that good? Is DJI Spark the best drone under $500?

Starting off with advanced features, DJI Spark incorporates ActiveTrack, TapFly and virtually all other features which are available through their DJI GO app. Additionally, DJI Spark also has access to PalmControl and PalmLaunch. Both these features give you hands-free control over your drone by simply waving your hands in the desired direction. It’s awesome in practice, trust me!

Unsurprisingly, DJI Spark boasts an excellent FHD camera with 2-axis gimbal stabilization system. Regarding the quality, you can expect semi-professional aerial footage with no jello or shakiness at all. If you opt for DJI Spark Fly More Combo (it costs a bit over $500 but is definitely worth it), not only will you get a bunch of spare parts but also DJI Spark dedicated controller which lets it go as far as 2 kilometers in comparison to just a few hundred meters if you control it via smartphone. Combine all that with roughly 15 minutes of flight time and you got yourself the best drone that’s currently priced lower than $500.

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Conclusion

That’s it guys. You have come to the very end of this article which, I’m sure, made your picking task much easier. I tried to be as objective as I could and I hope that I helped you with your decision. If you are not satisfied with this list and you are perhaps thinking of buying a better model (read – more expensive one), then make sure you read through the Top 10 drones below $1000 list that covers some of the best drone models currently available on the market.

Until next time…

Happy flying!!

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