The Best Drones Under $100 – The New York Times

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We tested the Snaptain SP650 and found that we still prefer the Snaptain S5C for its ease of flight. We’ve also removed the discontinued Air Hogs Supernova as a pick.
November 13, 2020
Not everyone wants or needs to spend hundreds of dollars on a drone. Some inexpensive drones are a rewarding gateway to aerial photography, and others are speed demons made to hone your adrenaline-fueled racing skills. After spending 60 hours researching and flying 21 drones under $100, we found that the DJI Tello is the best, most well-rounded drone for the majority of beginners, whether it's to try taking aerial snapshots, zip around an obstacle course, or practice before piloting a more expensive drone.
The Tello has a basic camera and is far and away the easiest drone to fly in the sub-$100 category.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $80.
The DJI Tello makes it easy for beginners to start flying but also has enough extra features to make it satisfying for pilots with more experience. In addition to its ability to reliably hold position and its 13-minute battery life, the Tello can autonomously take photos and 720p videos of you from the air. Those features are normally reserved for more-expensive photography drones, making the Tello a fun pick for budding aerial photographers. Plus, the batteries and build quality of the Tello are beyond anything else available for the price. Because its top speed is slower than that of some competitors, the Tello isn’t the best choice if you’re primarily interested in race and agility piloting.
The Snaptain S5C is surprisingly agile for a photography drone and takes 720p video.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $65.
If the Tello is sold out or you want a drone that’s faster, cheaper, and more fun to fly, the Snaptain S5C is the next-best choice for photography drones under $100. However, it isn’t nearly as easy to pilot as the Tello, has an inferior build quality, and uses lower quality batteries that need to be monitored more closely to avoid dangerous failures. The 720p video it captures (akin to the Tello or an iPhone 5) won’t satisfy photo snobs, either, but it’s enough for basic video and photos for social media.
If the idea of racing drones at top speeds appeals to you, the Hubsan X4 H107C is an inexpensive way to get started.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $25.
If you like the idea of whizzing around obstacles at high speeds while testing your reaction time as a pilot, the Hubsan X4 H107C is our favorite cheap racing drone. It’s among the fastest drones we tested while still being easy to handle (with some practice). It’s also simple to set up, small enough to keep in your back pocket, and cheap enough that you won’t feel bad crashing it over and over and over again. Unlike models from DJI and Snaptain, the low-resolution camera isn’t meant for photography, and the H107C doesn’t pack in extra autonomous features.
If you want to practice agility flying in the house, the Eachine E010 is fast and fun to fly but small enough it won’t break things.
If you’re just looking for a toy drone that’s easy enough for kids to fly, you should consider something that can be flown indoors without the need to wait for clear days and calm winds. Flying indoors doesn’t have to involve smashed windows and strewn-about pillow feathers.
If your child is ready to handle a controller and start honing their piloting skills, the inexpensive Eachine E010 is the best choice. It’s so small and sturdy that it tends to bounce right off of walls and the floor, so you can keep flying instead of resetting after a crash. The E010 is tiny and comes with a bit of a learning curve, but it lets you practice quick piloting maneuvers indoors with less severe consequences than flying a larger drone through the kitchen.
Fast and easy to set up, GreEco’s Pop Up Goals are what we always reach for when we want to create a drone obstacle course.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $51.
If you want to practice your piloting or race drones against friends, we think the GreEco Set of 2 Pop Up Goals is the best option for racing gates. The two half-circle gates spring open in seconds and stand up on their own whether you’re flying indoors or outdoors. We always reach for these instead of professional-style gates and flags that cost several times more because the GreEco setup is so much faster.
The Tello has a basic camera and is far and away the easiest drone to fly in the sub-$100 category.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $80.
The Snaptain S5C is surprisingly agile for a photography drone and takes 720p video.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $65.
If the idea of racing drones at top speeds appeals to you, the Hubsan X4 H107C is an inexpensive way to get started.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $25.
If you want to practice agility flying in the house, the Eachine E010 is fast and fun to fly but small enough it won’t break things.
Fast and easy to set up, GreEco’s Pop Up Goals are what we always reach for when we want to create a drone obstacle course.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $51.
I’ve spent the past seven years chronicling the rise of modern hobby drones, including photography-focused quadcopters and their smaller, more agile cousins built for racing. I’ve spent hundreds of hours flying drones in all sorts of environments, which has given me a deep understanding of their abilities and their range of applications.
While researching this guide, we scoured sites such as Amazon and Banggood for popular drones and racing flags. We also consulted existing drone-buying guides and interviewed three experts: Marque Cornblatt, CEO of Aerial Sports League; Brandon Reinert, who sells drones at the Midwestern hobby store Hub Hobby; and Sean Wendland, a drone pilot who runs the drone think tank Flight Club. We also enlisted the help of drone pilots Chris Spangler and Simon Cheng and Megan Proulx to select which racing flags to test.
A good photography drone generally costs $1,000 or more, but if you want just the excitement of flying, you can buy a drone with a low-quality camera (or none at all) that is focused on fast and fun flight for less than $100.
The relatively low prices of the models in this category mean that no single drone will give you a full package of features, so we focused on finding the drone that provided the most-fun overall flying experience. In most cases, spending less than $100 on a drone means sacrificing features like HD video and advanced autonomous-flying modes, but drones in this price range still have plenty to offer. They are perfect for learning the basics of racing and agility (think flying around flags or doing tricks like flips), taking simple selfies, or giving the dog something to chase through the house. Drones under $100 are usually quadcopters—one of the easiest forms of drones to fly—so anyone who isn’t sure whether flying drones will become a serious hobby or who is buying a gift for a crash-prone child should consider starting with a drone in this category.
While this guide covers options for new and casual photographers, anyone serious about drone photography should spend more for a camera-equipped drone with advanced autonomous-flying features. (Check out our guide to the best photography drones.) Serious drone racers should think about spending a bit more on an upgradable drone that can shift with their racing requirements—and keep up with the competition. Whether you have one of the drones in this guide or a dedicated racing drone, you can benefit from a set of racing flags, which you can reconfigure in endless ways to turn any grassy field into a racing circuit.
Be aware that the drone industry is changing rapidly. Top-selling drones in the under-$100 category come and go within months as models with new and cheaper technology take their place. And knockoffs are rampant, so unless you stick with an established, reputable brand, customer service is likely to be poor or nonexistent.
We read forum posts and existing guides on websites such as Mashable and CNET and scoured Amazon and Banggood for owner reviews to find the most promising drones currently available. We also asked experts about the most important features to look for in an inexpensive drone. We found scores of drones available for less than $100, but we concentrated on models that combined ease of flight with agility and speed.
For fun flying, we looked for the following features.
Over the years, we’ve tested 22 drones in an 8,600-square-foot warehouse, plus outdoors in a park or parking lot on days when the wind was below 10 mph. In every case, we set up two racing gates and timed how long it took to fly each drone through the two gates and back to the starting line. The drones had to complete the obstacle course in each location three times, which we used to calculate an average time. We also tallied our crashes. Although some of the differences in times could be attributed to how well the pilot flew that particular run, the times gave us a general idea of how easy it was to fly the drones and allowed us to assess their speed and agility.
In addition to recording flight times, we considered how simple and fun it felt to fly each drone. I am a moderately experienced drone pilot, so we had a complete beginner give it a go as well. We timed how long the setup took, tested any special flight modes and autonomous functions, and dropped the drones from a height of around 20 feet onto concrete to test their sturdiness.
We used a different test for toy drones, which are built to be flown indoors. We opted to fly them around a bedroom and note how difficult it was to prevent a crash (or breaking something).
For our most recent round of testing in late 2020, we tested the Snaptain SP650. In 2019, we tested nine top-rated drones against our top pick: the DJI Tello. That group included the Air Hogs Supernova, the Eachine E013, the Eachine E61, the Force1 Scoot, the Hubsan H216A, the Hubsan X4 H107C and H107D, the Propel Star Wars Quadcopter: X-Wing, and the Snaptain S5C.
During a round of testing in late 2018, we compared the Tello, Parrot Mambo Fly, and Eachine E58 with the Parrot Swing, which was our previous top pick. During our initial assessments in 2017, we tested an additional nine drones.
In 2018, we spent an additional 40 hours of research and testing on finding the best accessories for drones. We tested five racing gates and flags to find the most stable and durable options so that anyone who wanted to practice agility and improve their pilot skills could create an endless number of courses and obstacles.
We also recommend getting spare batteries so you can fly for a longer time while you’re away from power. We have a separate discussion about buying and caring for drone batteries. Our guide to photography drones also covers accessories such as backpacks and landing pads, but for use with a cheap drone, we don’t think they’re worth the extra money.
The Tello has a basic camera and is far and away the easiest drone to fly in the sub-$100 category.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $80.
The DJI Tello, which DJI makes in partnership with robotics company Ryze, is our pick if you want an inexpensive drone that can take pictures and videos or just want the easiest-possible drone to fly. It has surprisingly advanced autonomous features normally found on much more expensive drones. And its 5-megapixel, 720p camera—which has about the same resolution as an iPhone 4’s camera—takes good enough photos to make it fun for basic selfies and landscape pictures. It also has a 13-minute battery life, the longest of any drone under $100 we tested.
No other drone we tested comes close to being as easy to fly. The Tello holds its position in the air even in moderately windy conditions. If you fear you’re losing control of the drone, you can let go of the controller and the Tello will stop exactly where it is and wait. Other drones will continue on and crash into a tree (or my face, as happened in one case). But the control and predictability comes at the price of speed. The Tello is one of two drones that neither we nor our beginner testers ever crashed, but its obstacle course times were middling (15.1 seconds indoors and 29.6 seconds outdoors).
The Tello’s other most notable feature is its autonomous videography modes. By pressing a button on the app, you can tell the drone to film while flying upward and backward or while circling around a subject. These modes mimic those found on higher-end drones (such as our top photography drone pick) and are perfect for taking videos of yourself without a second cameraperson. While other drones we tested offered basic automation for actions like taking off or landing, none offered this level of autonomy when capturing photos or video. The Tello can also sense obstacles underneath it (a function it uses mostly for takeoff and landing), but it can’t avoid obstacles that come from the sides like more expensive drones can.
The onboard camera can take 5-megapixel pictures or 720p videos, neither of which can compete with the results from a modern smartphone camera. However, the quality is in line with what you can get from most other drones in this price category (although the Snaptain SP650 has a 1080p camera, we still chose to dismiss that model due to the difficulty we had flying it) and good enough if you just need something for social media. The ability to see a live view from the drone’s camera in the Tello app also makes getting a nicely framed shot easier.
At 13 minutes, the Tello’s battery life is the best of any drone we tested for this guide—the next-best competitors were all drained after 12 minutes. We also appreciate that its batteries are higher quality than those of the competition, which means less risk of a fire compared with the generic batteries many cheap drones use. It suffered no damage during regular flights or when we dropped it 20 feet onto a concrete floor. Unfortunately, replacement blades are relatively expensive, as are extra batteries. But our long-term testing has shown that all of its parts are durable.
The default way to fly the Tello is with an app. The app has two dots you push around to pilot the drone, mimicking the motions on a physical drone controller. You can use the app to view a live stream from the drone’s camera or to initiate tricks such as flips and bouncing. You can also throw the drone into the air to start its takeoff. DJI gives you the option to program the Tello drone too.
The Tello’s position-holding features come at the expense of fast, nimble flight. It consistently posted slow times on our obstacle-course tests because its top speed was slow, especially when it was fighting against the wind. As a result, we don’t think it’s the right drone for anyone looking to train as an agility or racing pilot. It’s most appropriate for a beginner who wants a drone that’s as stable as possible.
The Steelseries Nimbus Bluetooth controller we used with the Tello decreased the drone’s responsiveness, so the Tello is the one drone we recommend controlling with the app instead. However, because the Tello is best for controlled beginner flying and basic photography, we didn’t miss the fine-tuned controls of a physical controller as much as we would have with an agility-focused drone.
The Snaptain S5C is surprisingly agile for a photography drone and takes 720p video.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $65.
The Snaptain S5C matches the Tello’s image quality with a 720p camera, but trades away some of the autonomous features and stable flying characteristics in favor of higher speeds and more agile moves. Because it’s not quite as steady as the Tello it has more of a learning curve, but it’s a better balance for beginners who want a drone with speed as well as photography abilities.
Like every drone we tested except the Tello, the S5C will drift a bit if you fly it in the wind. But it’s bigger and more powerful than the other drones we tested, so it’s noticeably better at fighting through gusts. Indoors, it’s surprisingly responsive and turns nimbly; we were able to fly the indoor obstacle course in an average of 7.5 seconds––the second fastest time among the drones we tested. Outdoors, it clocked a middle-of-the-road 21.9 seconds. While our beginner pilots took to maneuvering the Tello right away, they needed some practice to confidently fly the S5C, but they still had it cruising around after a few minutes.
Testing drones on a fixed course indoors and outside helps gauge how fast and responsive they are—and how easy they are to crash.
The S5C is the only drone we tried with some basic gesture control options that let you hold up your hand to take a picture or start recording when you’re in the camera’s frame (though it’s easier to use the drone’s app or controller to operate its camera). Though it doesn’t offer the preprogrammed photo and video routines we liked in the Tello, you can draw a flight path on the Snaptain app, which the drone will then autonomously fly. There are buttons on the controller and within the app for automatic takeoff, landing, and return to home.
Like the Tello, the S5C’s photos and videos aren’t that high of quality, and it takes some practice to capture smooth video. But that was the case with every sub-$100 drone we tried. Snaptain says you can view a live stream from the S5C’s camera on your phone screen from up to 260 feet away (a distance we didn’t put to the test), which makes it possible to line up the shot you want. Note that you can’t adjust the angle of the camera once the S5C is in the air; it can only be adjusted manually with a knob.
The S5C’s eight-minute battery life is the third-longest of the drones we tested in 2019, but it comes with two batteries, while most other drones come with only one. The S5C has the single-cell-type LiPo batteries common among cheap drones. Though generic lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries are affordable—we purchased four extra Snaptain-branded batteries for $20—they have a reputation for starting fires, especially while being charged. It’s important to follow drone battery safety precautions.
We dropped the S5C onto a concrete floor from 20 feet up without damaging its main body. However, the first time we flew the drone, we quickly lost its propeller guards. We also found the hinged door that keeps its battery in place to be flimsy and lock poorly. However, it’s easy and cheap to come by spare parts.
The Snaptain Era app (available on Android and iOS) won’t blow your socks off, but it’s relatively easy to navigate. We found it fast to connect the drone, app, and controller, and we were able to use the app to view our videos right away. The drone’s controller is basic but sturdy, and it was noticeable how nimbly the S5C responds to it—it didn’t have the same delays that we disliked in the Steelseries Nimbus controller for the DJI Tello. You can add on a first-person-view headset, which floats a view of what the drone is recording on a screen in front of your eyes, for even more flight options. Check out our guide to mobile VR headsets for our favorites, and click the VR button in the Era app when you’re ready to slide your phone into the headset.
If the idea of racing drones at top speeds appeals to you, the Hubsan X4 H107C is an inexpensive way to get started.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $25.
Racing drones should be pure adrenaline and fun, and Hubsan’s line of X4 drones consistently delivers on that. We like the Hubsan X4 H107C for beginners because it’s fast and cheap, and you don’t have to feel bad when you inevitably crash it or abandon it to upgrade to a true racing drone setup (for which you can expect to drop several hundred or thousand dollars).
The H107C is palm-size, which means it can’t fight wind as well as the larger Tello or S5C. But compared with other mini drones we tested, it has enough power to keep going through wind below 10 mph. In return for putting up with some drifting, you get a drone that’s especially agile and fast; it’s the only drone, aside from the Tello, that we never crashed during testing. We measured an average time of 8 seconds on the indoor obstacle course and 9.7 seconds outdoors. We also tested the twice-as-expensive H107D, which shaved about a half second off of those times, but the two drones felt nearly identical in how they flew, so we don’t think the H107D is worth the higher price for a beginner.
The H107C’s high speeds can be hard for a beginner to handle at first. It only takes a split second of indecision to fly it into a wall or tree. It’s also so small that you will lose sight of it more quickly than you would a larger drone like the S5C (though its bright blue and red lights help for keeping an eye on it). However, it’s somewhat forgiving after a crash: Drop it to the floor, and it will bounce back up into flight. Give yourself some room to practice with the H107C, and it will pay off with extra fun as you zoom around flags and gates.
The drone’s 0.3-megapixel camera can record to a microSDHC card, but we didn’t bother because its resolution is so low. Its seven-minute battery life is actually fairly long for a small racing drone. To get in real practice and have time to enjoy it, you’ll want to purchase a few extra batteries too. (And like with all drones that use this type of battery, we recommend that you read and follow our advice for safe drone battery care.) The X4 style of drone has been around long enough that extra parts like propeller blades are widely available and inexpensive. The H107C’s controller is basic, but it connects to the drone quickly and we didn’t notice any problematic lag.
If the H107C is lacking a feature you want, we recommend looking at the larger line of X4 drones for the specific setup you need. For example, the H107D adds on a higher-quality camera that streams video to a screen built into its controller, and it’s possible to use it with an FPV headset.
If you want to practice agility flying in the house, the Eachine E010 is fast and fun to fly but small enough it won’t break things.
If you’re looking for a drone you can fly indoors without breaking anything, or the cheapest option that will satisfy a child that can’t wait to start piloting, we think the Eachine E010 is fun to fly and worth the price. But if another drone in this guide matches your needs, we highly recommend buying it over a toy drone, which will likely be underpowered and have a short battery life.
The palm-size Eachine E010 is nearly indestructible, but small enough that it won’t damage your belongings (though we’d avoid flying it into anything especially fragile at high speeds). It’s fast enough that you can transition into flying it in a racing environment, though we’d avoid flying it outside except on the stillest of days.
The E010 is not among the easiest drones to fly of those we tested, but it’s good at bouncing right back up after hitting the floor or wall. It has a faster and wilder style of flight that grows calmer as you practice. The drone’s batteries last a short five minutes, so we recommend buying some extras and reading up on our advice to safe charging and storage, a task best left to adults.
Fast and easy to set up, GreEco’s Pop Up Goals are what we always reach for when we want to create a drone obstacle course.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $51.
If you’re more drawn to racing around obstacles at high speeds than engaging in photography, you probably already know that abandoned buildings, trees, and stacked shipping palettes can all make for exciting drone-racing courses. But gates and flags give you the ability to design your own racing courses and make it possible to turn any open area into exactly what you need to practice your piloting skills and see just what your drone can do.
Whether you need both gates and flags (and how many you should buy) depends on what kind of course you’re trying to create. Drone gates are arches you fly drones through; you can stake them to the ground or hang them up high to create variations in height on a race course. Flags are better for marking turning points, or for creating a path without forcing pilots to fly through a small gate. Having both will give you more flexibility to mix up your flying routine.
While we’ve spent many hours flying around and through professional-style gates and flags, we think the GreEco Set of 2 Pop Up Goals is the best option for beginners. Among the gates we tested, they’re the fastest to set up: Simply unhook the Velcro loop, and they spring open (folding them back up takes a bit more finesse but is easy after a few tries). We like that they’re suitable for use indoors or outdoors due to their half-circle bases and optional stakes. They also stood up to wind during our testing—and all the drones we crashed into their frames.
The Pop Up Goals are sold alongside the company’s line of soccer goals, and they resemble goals without the netting. Our main gripe is that although they fold down easily, the smallest size they pack down to is still several feet across; you need a space to store a large teardrop-shaped carrying bag.
Parrot discontinued our former top pick, the Mambo Fly, which offered the best combination of fast flying and position holding. If you see it on sale while the final stock runs out, we still think it’s a good buy if you care more about agility flying than photography. We also recommend picking up a Parrot Flypad controller, which makes precision movements easier than piloting with the included app.
The same goes for another former top pick: the Parrot Swing. It has two flight modes and an unusual X-wing shape we haven’t encountered in any other drone. The Swing takes off as a quadcopter and then gives you the option of tilting it forward to fly it like a fixed-wing drone. The range in speeds allows you to choose between making the drone stabler and easier to fly or faster and more agile; you can adapt it to your skill as a pilot.
We like every Hubsan X4 racing drone we’ve ever flown, and the H107D proved that to us once again. It clocked the fastest speeds on our indoor and outdoor obstacle courses during our 2019 round of testing (though the H107C was just a hair behind it). While the H107C comes with a basic controller and 0.3-megapixel camera, the H107D’s controller has a built-in screen that shows a live stream from its 480p camera. You can add on features like an FPV headset and SD card. While the H107D may come with more options than the H107C, both drones offer essentially the same basic flying experience. You should only spend the extra on the H107D if you know you need its extras.
Our former runner-up pick, the Horizon Hobby Blade Nano QX, is fast, nimble, and inexpensive to repair. Although the Nano QX can hold its position in the air, in our tests its smaller size and motor made it more likely to drift in windy conditions.
Considering that the Hubsan X4 H107L (our former budget pick) had the fastest indoor and outdoor obstacle-course times in our first round of tests, this model offers a lot of value for an aspiring drone racer at a low price. It can’t take off or land on its own, and it can’t hover in the air reliably, but to us it felt more responsive and fun to fly indoors than the Blade Nano QX.
The Eachine E013 is one of the only drones under $100 we’ve seen that includes an FPV headset. We flew it a mix of times through our indoor obstacle course—and have no doubt that its times would keep trending toward the low side with practice—but found it wasn’t powerful enough to complete the obstacle course in 8 mph wind outdoors. Still, we think this is an interesting alternative to the E010 if you’d like to fly indoors. It has a similar style of flight, won’t break your stuff, and is a cheap way to get into FPV flying.
We had high hopes for the Snaptain SP650 due to its 1080p video and 12-minute battery life, but we found that it was too underpowered to fight 5 mph gusts of wind. Even in calm conditions it tended to drift a bit, so it didn’t inspire confidence in our flying abilities—or capture the sheer fun of flying—as well as the Snaptain S5C. However, if you’re a fairly experienced drone pilot and don’t mind sacrificing some reliability for a high-resolution camera, the SP650 is our favorite drone under $100 that comes equipped with a 1080p camera.
The Hubsan H216A is one of the first sub-$100 drones we’ve tried that offer 1080p video. It also has some advanced autonomous features rivaling those of the Tello, such as “follow me” and “orbit.” However, we found it harder to control than the Tello and the Snaptain S5C. We flew some of our slowest obstacle-course times with it, both indoors and outdoors, and we had a hard time capturing video that wasn’t jerky. I also managed to hit myself in the face with it while flying a bit too fast outdoors. However, it has an impressive 11-minute battery life, it’s powerful enough to handle flying in wind, it has a high-quality controller, and it’s made out of a more sturdy plastic than the S5C.
Like the H216A, the Eachine E61 can shoot 1080p video. But given that we flew our slowest indoor obstacle course times with it, and it couldn’t fight against the wind to complete the outdoor course, we don’t think it’s maneuverable enough to capture nice videos. We also had trouble getting the drone to connect to its controller and defaulted to using its app to pilot it. We weren’t particularly impressed by its seven-minute battery life, either.
The Eachine E58 has a 720p camera that streams a live view to your phone. It also has autonomous functions such as automatic takeoff and landing, plus a return-to-home function. Eachine advertises altitude holding, but in our testing the drone drifted even in the windless warehouse. It is a fast flyer, but not as easy to control as the DJI Tello. It looks like a tiny version of the much more expensive DJI Mavic line of drones—a novelty that turns funny when you realize that many of the parts on this drone and its controller aren’t actually functional.
The Cheerwing CW4 has some things going for it, including autonomous hovering, automatic takeoff and landing, flips, and a camera. However, in our tests it felt awkward and slow to fly, it had one of the slowest obstacle-course times in our 2017 testing, and it was also more likely to drift than our picks.
The DBPower MJX X400W is a photography-focused drone similar in style to the Cheerwing CW4. DBPower advertises features such as flips and live streaming from the camera to your phone, but those features weren’t enough to overcome its poor performance on our 2017 obstacle-course test, as this model was slow and difficult to control.
We had a blast batting around the Air Hogs Supernova, but it has been discontinued and is no longer one of our toy drone picks.
The Force1 Scoot has a large amount of positive reviews on Amazon, but we found it difficult to control compared with the similarly designed Air Hogs Supernova. It’s advertised that the Scoot senses obstacles and flies away from them, meaning you can hold up your hand to direct it away from you, but in our experience it was hit-or-miss whether it responded to our attempts at control. It preferred to fly up to the ceiling and stay there. Its battery, which is not removable, lasts five minutes.
The Propel Star Wars Quadcopter: X-Wing really does look like an X-Wing and comes with nice extras like a spare battery (with a six-minute capacity) and full-size controller. It’s the only drone under $100 we’ve tested that requires you to complete a flight simulator within its app before you can fly—a helpful feature for beginners but a frustrating delay for more experienced pilots. The flight simulator had some bugs, such as reversed left/right controls, plus loud and constant sound effects. The drone itself was difficult to fly indoors and tended to crash spectacularly, requiring a full reset before it would take off again.
The Gemfan’s Race Gate and Race Flag were our previous picks for racing gates and flags due to their durability and appearance. During our tests, they stayed in place in 10 mph winds; they were also easy to carry and relatively quick to set up. However, they’re often out of stock. We’ve also found that we are more likely to reach for GreEco’s foldable racing gates because they are even faster to set up and can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Rise’s Checkered Flag Race Gate, Pylon Race Gate with Flag, and Elevated Race Gate stand on flimsy legs instead of using stakes, and they aren’t appropriate for any type of outdoor use since the slightest wind knocks them over. And when we tested them indoors, we found them to be so wobbly that even a slight nudge from a drone sent them toppling over. They’re also smaller than the other gates and flags we tested, so most drones won’t comfortably fit through them. Skip these.
Rudie Obias, 10 of the Best Drones For Beginners, Mashable, January 30, 2019
Best Drones for 2019, CNET, January 2, 2019
Signe Brewster
Signe Brewster is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter covering drones, virtual reality, 3D printers, STEM toys, smart-home gadgets, and hobby tools. She previously reported on emerging technology and science for several tech publications (with brief stints at CERN and The Onion). She spends her free time quilting and pursuing an MFA in creative writing.
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