If you are looking for a drone that is equipped with a number of practical flight features and can consistently deliver a great performance, then an entry-level option is just not going to cut it. What you need is a drone that is just below professional-grade options in terms of price and functionality. In this article, we will focus on this range of devices and we will help you identify the best drone under 500.
The factors that you should keep in mind when choosing the best drones under 500
As it is the case with any type of purchase, the goal is to always get the best value for your money. In the case of sub $500 drones, you need to at least have a basic understanding of how these devices operate and what their main characteristics are before making a decision. To help you through this process, we have compiled some of the key factors that you should be aware of.
Control and handling
A drone can have a slew of high-end features and smart functions, but if it handles poorly and it is difficult to control, it is virtually worthless. Regardless of what you are planning to use the drone for, the unit that you get should be responsive and easy to navigate.
The flight time
When discussing the flight time of drones, two important variables come into play; the batteries, and the firmware of the device. These two components have undergone massive upgrades in recent years which led to a significant improvement in flight time in recent drone models. Generally speaking, a drone just under the $500 mark should be able to provide a minimum of 15 minutes of flight time.
The control range
It goes without saying that the control range is one of the most important specs that you should concern yourself with. Ideally, you would want your drone to offer you the longest range possible at the most reasonable price. Luckily, you no longer have to spend over $1000 in order to get a control range around the 1 KM mark. In fact, some of the latest sub $500 units can operate within a range of 2 KM.
The flight features
Thanks to the advances that were made in the industry, advanced flight features have become very common and more accessible. A drone that is priced just below the $500 marks will invariably come with a wide array of features that include various camera modes, Follow Me, GPS assisted obstacle avoidance, extra sensitive optical sensors, among many others.
The quality of the camera
If aerial imagery is your main focus, then this range of drones is ideal for you. The built-in cameras that come with units in this price bracket are typically high-quality; some of them even come with 4K cameras. However, you still need to do your own due diligence and check the specs since not all drones are geared toward this purpose.
There are generally two options; brushless motors and brushed motors. Each type has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, but we tend to prefer brushless motors to their reduced noise and overall superior efficiency.
Frequently asked questions
1 – Are these drones beginner-friendly?
The answer to this question is fairly nuanced. Some of the drones in the price range are easy to control and navigate whereas others require more experience to set up and fly. However, the downside of getting one of these devices as a beginner is that the cost of damaging them is much steeper than an entry-level option.
2 – Can I buy one of these drones for my child?
This is not recommended. These drones are highly advanced and operating them requires a certain degree of carefulness that children usually lack. If you are looking for a children-friendly drone, we recommend you to check the sub $50 category.
3 – Can the drones be used indoor?
This depends on your level of experience. These units are fairly bulky, so navigating them within the confines of the indoors requires quite a bit of dexterity and skill.
4 – Do I need any type of registration?
If you live in the United States, registration with the FAA is required for an unmanned aerial vehicle that weighs more than 250 grams.
5 – Can these drones be used in a professional capacity?
Drones that are designed for professional use tend to cost a little bit more than $500. However, some of the models that are reviewed here are suitable for various semi-professional projects.
Reviews of the best drones under 500
You don’t have to be a drone enthusiast to recognize this model. The DJI Spark is the flagship product of the largest brand in the industry and has been one of the best selling units on the market for years now. It is a light, compact, and easy to carry drone that is ideal for a wide range of outdoor activities. Moreover, the Spark stands out as one of the most stable and balanced drones in its price range. Its flight is remarkably consistent and its ability to steadily hover over a specific set of coordinates is second to none.
As far as the image quality is concerned, the built-in camera does a tremendous job of capturing high-quality aerial footage. It is currently one of the best video drones under 500 It records video at 30 frames per second and boasts a high resolution of 12MP. Furthermore, the image quality is further enhanced thanks to the 2-axis stabilized Gimbal that reduces vibrations.
The DJI has a number of unique and practical features that make operating the drone an enjoyable experience. This includes high-tech functions such as gesture and TapFly control, a feature that allows you to orient the direction of the drone by a simple tap on the screen.
- The price is great considering some of the high-end features
- It has a light construction and it is easy to carry
- The high resolution of the camera
- It is easy to control
- The setup is a little bit complicated
- The manual is not included
2 – Holy Stone HS700
Holy Stone seems to be continuing its meteoric rise in the industry. Their products improve with each new offering and the level of engineering that goes into the making of their drones is consistently immaculate. The HS700 FPV is the perfect embodiment of the company’s commitment to a high standard of excellence. To further drive this point home; simply check the impressive specs of this drone. Its range reaches the 1 KM mark and its flight time can exceed 20 minutes when used in a conservative fashion.
Like all Holy Stone drones, the HS700 has a lot going for it in terms of features. The main one that is worth noting is the follow me mode. This valuable function relies on GPS localization to fix the trajectory of the drone to a specific direction. This is achieved through a simple swipe on the app screen. In addition to this, the drone also boasts a return home system that sends the unit back to the takeoff point whenever you want.
The quality of the camera is relatively good, but for the price, it is somewhat underwhelming. The resolution is great and the live video transmission is quite smooth. However, the lack of a Gimbal and the narrowness of the lens results in images that are of a lower quality than what you would get from a similarly-priced DJI.
- It allows you to create a customized flight path
- The range and flight time are great
- The frame is sturdy and durable
- The design is exquisite
- It doesn’t have a stabilized Gimbal
- The battery takes too long to recharge
This is another strong contender for the best drone under 500. This model has been popular for years and has continued to garner praise from industry experts and enthusiasts alike. It is ideal for use with any type of action camera, which makes it perfect for taking aerial video and photos. This unit is also noted for its amazing responsiveness and stability. It can cover a staggering 2 km from the transmitter and can even reach double that distance with a range extension kit. More impressively, it can do this at a top speed of 88 Km/h.
On top of its amazing performance, the 3DR offers a multitude of great functions that add a lot of value to the user. The main examples being the different autonomous flight modes and various drone software features.
- It is specifically designed for GoPro and other action cameras
- Its flight range is one of the longest on the market
- The flight time is above the industry average
- The price is affordable considering the included features
- It is not a good option for a beginner
- Software updates are not available
This drone is very simple to operate and it is perfectly suited for beginners. It can deliver a flawless hover and its overall performance matches that of the top drones on the market. Controlling the device is made easy thanks to an advanced 3 axis stabilization system that steadies it in flight and maintains its balance at all times. Additionally, the GPS technology helps it avoid obstacles and ensures that the drone is never lost.
The camera that comes with this drone is probably its biggest selling point. With a resolution of 14MP 1080p, you can expect to capture crystal clear aerial video and photos of the landscape around you. Moreover, the fish-eye lens gives you a wide viewing angle and a panoramic field of vision of all your surroundings. It’s not a surprise why it’s on the list of top drones under 500.
- The resolution of the camera is impeccable
- The fish-eye lens provides you with an amazing panoramic view
- The drone is sturdy and impact-resistant
- It is equipped with a 3 axis stabilization system
- The app is poorly designed
- The internal memory is low
This list wouldn’t be complete if we did not include one of the most affordable 4K drones on the market. This masterfully designed drone has all the characteristics that we’d like to see in a high-performing model; a responsive remote controller, several flight features, the highest image quality in the price range, and a very long operational range. If aerial imagery is your main focus, then the Upair One drone is tailored to your needs.
Some other features that are worth mentioning include the advanced GPS lock that is highly effective when it comes to pinpointing the location of the drone, the auto-return function that sends the drone to the takeoff point when the signal is lost, and microSD card support up to 32 GB for extra storage space.
- The price is very low for a 4k drone and it makes it one of the best 4k drones under 500
- Great flight time and range
- It is equipped with a host of intelligent flight features
- The design is quite elegant
- The drone is hard to control in windy conditions
- It does not have a flight plan function
The price of some of these drones might appear excessive to some people, but you should remember that the quality to price ratio that they offer is virtually peerless. More importantly, the guaranteed quality and durability that those options provide is invaluable and definitely worth the asking price. Now that you are aware of all the moving parts that go into identifying the best drone under $500, it is up to you to pick the one that you deem suitable for you.