You love the great outdoors. We know that and appreciate it. You also love gadgets and technology. Mixing them together is a lot of fun. That’s why we take care to review things like the best trail cameras on the market.
You’ve wanted to expand on the nature photography and tech gadgetry, so you decided to find a drone. It’s the best in nerdy gadgetry and tech toys but also offers some great aerial views and perspectives for new grounds in exploration.
The only real issue is that you have no idea which one to buy. There are tons of drones on the market, and they all operate differently. You’re not sure whether they’re all legal, or how the regulations work, and you don’t have a very big budget for the latest and greatest in technology since this is a new hobby that you may or may not actively enjoy.
That’s where we come in to help you. We have done extensive research for all the drones on the market, taken them out for test flights, and found the best drones under $100! We will review the strengths and weaknesses of each drone for you and follow it up with a buyers guide to help you learn what to look for when making your purchase.
- Drone Reviews
- 1. Blade Nano QX RTF Quadcopter with Safe Technology – Easy Repairs And Modifications
- 2. Syma X20 Mini Pocket Drone Nano LED RC Quadcopter – Miniature Model
- 3. Holy Stone F181C RC Quadcopter Drone – Ambidextrous
- 4. Altair AA108 Camera Drone – American Made
- 5. UDI A818 Force1 Drone with Video Camera – Great For Photography
- 6. Tello Quadcopter with HD Camera and VR by DJI Technology – Learn to Code
- 7. Hubsan X4 (H107L) RC Quadcopter – Lowest Price
- 8. QCopter Quadcopter Drone with Camera and Live Video – Illumination
- 9. Syma X5C 4 Channel RC Explorers Quadcopter with Camera – Best Value
- 10. DBPower Predator U842 Wifi RC Quadcopter Drone – Social Media Friendly
- Buying Guide
Here are thorough reviews for the 10 best drones under $100 on the market today.
1. Blade Nano QX RTF Quadcopter with Safe Technology – Easy Repairs And Modifications
This is a great little drone for beginners that is easy to modify and offers excellent flight options. Repairs are easy and the motors plug in so there’s no soldering required if you need to replace them.
This little drone is small enough for indoor flight but not too small to function outside. It allows preprogrammed flips and you can make it move pretty quickly.
Blade has a reputation in the industry already for making strong radio controlled aircraft products, so they used the same DSM2 frequency for this chopper. This allows you to fly using this high-quality system instead of lower quality transmitters that most budget drones use.
- Lightweight airframe
- Exclusive SAFE (Safe Assisted Flight Envelope) technology with agility and stability modes
- Includes extra rotor blades for modifications and repairs
- Includes 4 channel MLP4 DSMX transmitter with batteries
- Uses an E-flite Li-Po battery with a compact USB charger
2. Syma X20 Mini Pocket Drone Nano LED RC Quadcopter – Miniature Model
The Syma X20 Mini is one of the newest drones that Syma has upgraded. Despite its small size, it can do big things! In fact, this drone weighs less than one tenth of a pound!
With headless mode and a lot of great features to create stability, this drone is a great way to teach new pilots to fly. The lightweight, compact model is also more responsive to control.
Just remember that this is an indoor drone ad is not meant to be flown outside
- 360 degree stunt flip
- Flashing light for night time visibility
- Altitude hold feature
- One-key take off and landing button
- Speed adjustment options – perfect for beginners and experts!
- 6 axis gyro quad rotorcraft flight for stabilization and easy control
Syma has included some common troubleshooting tips that you may need when using this model of drone. If the drone flies to one side, it is likely not calibrated properly and you will need to recalibrate it until it ss level. In the headless state, it will base towards the front if too many collisions occur. You can redefine which direction is front.
3. Holy Stone F181C RC Quadcopter Drone – Ambidextrous
The Holy Stone is a great outdoor drone for a modest budget. It includes a 2mp camera that can shoot HD video. It also comes with some great features to assist with flying and piloting.
This drone is a great option for beginners and is still an upgrade from toy models, plus it has some nice features to help you learn to pilot a drone.
- 2mp camera with 720p HD quality video capacity
- One-key return and headless security system
- Altitude hold function
- One-key acrobatics for 360-degree flips in 4 different directions
- Bonus battery is included for longer flight time
- 4 speed control mode
- LED Light
- 6 axis gyro technology
Let’s look at some of the advantages and drawbacks that come with this model of drone.
4. Altair AA108 Camera Drone – American Made
This drone is a real crowd pleaser thanks to its design sophistication, excellent customer service, and durable manufacturing. A company based in the United States manufactures it, so if you like to support local businesses, this is a great option for you.
Altair is a company that puts its customers first and tries to anticipate their needs right from the start. They provide extra battery life, a cardboard cutout the same size as your controller that will teach you the functions and features, and lots of technical specs!
The drone is constructed using durable plastic parts so it can withstand a few crashes while novice pilots learn control. It also has a more stable hover function than other drones, so beginners can take beautiful pictures without worrying about keeping the drone steady.
- Altitude hold function
- One touch capability for flight and landing
- Headless mode and 3 speeds options
- FlyingSee app, VR capabilities, and real time first person view video
- Alarms for low battery or out of range drone
- 100 meters (or 300 feet) range
- Create custom routes
5. UDI A818 Force1 Drone with Video Camera – Great For Photography
This drone is tons of fun and offers a great value for the price. It’s packed with features and offers a great flight experience. This model makes improvements upon the earlier UDI A818 HD+ Drone model and the difference is incredible.
This is one of the smoothest flight drones on the market in this price range. The controls are accurate and the drone responds well to your commands. The camera is pretty great and will take some very focused pictures. This also offers 2 modes so that beginners and experienced pilots can both enjoy this drone.
- 720p HD camera and 4 GB micro SD card included
- One push stunt mode allows 360 degree flips and acrobatics
- Headless mode and 6 axis gyro for stability and easy control
- The package includes an extra battery for longer flight capability
- 4 extra blades for repairs in case of crashes
6. Tello Quadcopter with HD Camera and VR by DJI Technology – Learn to Code
The Tello is a great little drone that is packed with power. It makes flying really easy, so beginners to the drone flying hobby will find that they can learn the basics without crashing and burning on their drone the first time they take it out for a spin.
Tello comes with tons of nice tricks for easy flying. It includes automated takeoff and landing sequences, flipping in any 1 of 8 directions, and bounce mode that will let it bounce from any surface within a range of 1.6 to 3.9 feet. Sensors will detect changes in pressure, surface distances, and more.
If you’re really interested in technology, this is also a great option. It includes Scratch, which was developed by MIT to help with drone coding. You can develop new features for your drone by learning to code using the Telo SDK (software development kit)!
- Pressure sensor altitude hold feature
- Easy flight with a single tap
- Battery failsafe – drone will let you know if the battery is running low
- Included safe automatic landing in case of a lost connection
- 720p HD camera and VR technology
7. Hubsan X4 (H107L) RC Quadcopter – Lowest Price
The Hubsan X4 is an extremely affordable drone. I was shocked that there were drones available for such a low price. This is an extremely small drone that will fit in the palm of your hand. You can fly it inside, so even if the weather is bad, you can have fun with your drone.
The battery life lasts around 5 minutes and takes 15 to charge. It offers radio control that is even compatible with some other drone systems and the battery recharges with a USB charger.
This little drone comes with some big features, given its size and price:
- Full 4 channel 2.4 Ghz control
- Ready to fly
- LiPO battery
- Ultra stable 6 axis flight control system with adjustable gyro sensitivity
- Sturdy body for great balance
8. QCopter Quadcopter Drone with Camera and Live Video – Illumination
The highly-rated QCopter drone is a solid choice for beginners. Packaged with two batteries and replacement parts, this is a budget-friendly option for getting started in the world of quadcopters.
Smartphone control allows for additional control options. Through using the app, you are able to gain a live view from the quadcopter and take pictures. Not only that, but via your smartphone, you can even use the “return home” feature.
However, it is important to note that this is not a GPS-enabled feature, so it is recommended only to use this in an open field, rather than a crowded area.
This drone comes with excellent customer support! Reviewers have great feedback on their experiences with QCopter customer support. From broken battery covers replaced in three days, to replacement feet to fixing the drone after a bad landing, reviewers have had fast and positive support with any issues they’ve had with the drone.
- Two batteries included
- Return home feature
- Crash replacement kit included in the box
- Performs well on a high altitude with a 300 feet control distance
- 720p HD camera for great aerial shots
- Quad altitude hovering feature for flight stability
9. Syma X5C 4 Channel RC Explorers Quadcopter with Camera – Best Value
The Syma X5C offers great value for your budget. It comes with a lot of features commonly found on higher-end drones, and it’s extremely stable, so it’s really fun to fly even for beginners.
The construction of this drone is flawless, offering stable flight, great range, durability, and quiet operation. The battery bay is enclosed, so it looks as smooth as it flies.
- Extras in the box: 4 gb SD card for storage, 500mAh 3.7 v battery with USB charger, transmitter, screwdriver, and extra propellers
- HD camera with 2mpxl and 720p video capability
- 6 axis gyro stabilization system for flight stability
- 360-degree flips capability
10. DBPower Predator U842 Wifi RC Quadcopter Drone – Social Media Friendly
This drone is a fantastic option for social media users because it allows you to share high-quality pictures. The aerial footage gives some great scenic panoramas and careful control allows for capturing close-up videos of friends and families during celebrations.
The app allows you to use a VR function to immerse yourself in the drone’s imagery and feel like you’re flying, but the app uses WiFi features heavily, so your range will be extremely limited with this option.
- 720p HD camera with HD WiFi real time transmission to social networks
- Headless mode feature
- Equipped with 2 large capacity batteries
- Alarm will sound if the drone nears the edge of its flight range
- 3D view mode
- Video transmission range of 30 meters
- Transmitter operating range of 50 to 80 meters
- Propeller guards with extra propellers included in the box
Now, let’s take a look at some if the factors that go into purchasing decisions when it comes to drones. Whether or not you end up liking any of the options on our list, this guide will help educate you on which features are important to look for when purchasing drones.
Types Of Drones
There are a lot of different types of drones on the market, so let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the different drone types and what they are used for.
Toy drones are used for casual piloting. Most of the drones that are found in this price range fall into this category. These are the cheapest types of drones but they also offer the least amount of features and aren’t quite as well made as nicer (and pricier) models.
They usually offer extremely limited flight times, rarely reaching more than 10 minutes of air time, and can do basic flips but not intricate acrobatics. Many of these models include cameras, but the quality is not that great. Replacement parts are very cheap. Most of these models are light enough that they do not require registration with the FAA.
Video drones focus on capturing excellent images. They sacrifice the capacity for mid air tricks in favor of stable hovering capabilities and high-quality video. These are more sophisticated than the toy models because they are built to prevent shaking and movement while capturing images. Most of these models will require registration with the FAA because they are heavy and sophisticated.
These drones typically use a gimbal system to keep their flight steady. This system allows them to pan and move the camera to steady it even when the drone moves a bit. The systems also isolate the camera from the motor vibrations. These also let you move the camera angle without adjusting the drone’s flight path to let you take the kind of shots that nature documentaries favor.
These offer longer flight times, and can often stay in the air for 30 minutes. Video quality varies, but many of them are capable of 4K resolution. Many of these drone models are capable of autonomous flight, which allows pilots to focus on the camera images.
Drone racing has become a very popular sport. Several drones have started being designed with a focus on speed and agility. These drones are extremely easy to maneuver if you’re a skilled pilot and allow users to fly by first person view from vide headsets. Pilots will navigate through an obstacle course in an attempt to secure the fastest lap times.
They include nominal recording capabilities so you can analyze your performance and fix mistakes when the race is over. These drones are typically homemade and heavily modified. Builders want to create an extremely light weight model that has massive motor power.
The first question to ask yourself is why you want the drone. A lot of drones come with some really fantastic and flashy features, but these features usually come at a premium when it comes to cost. Figure out the reason you want your drone and use it to help guide your buying decisions.
A lot of people want to use their drone for video and sharing. They want the integrated VR technology to escape and feel like they’re flying in the sky themselves and are hoping to get some nice video aerial views and panoramic photographs. These people will want to shop for drones with great cameras, storage capacities, external VR app support, and increased stability.
On the other hand, many people just want to learn to fly like a skilled pilot. They want their drones to do tricks, perform in obstacle courses, and race other drones. These pilots won’t need to worry about camera quality, but they will want increased maneuverability and responsive controls with acrobatic modes and speedier flights.
It’s important to look into how a drone performs. If you want to fly stunts, you’ll need some flip features with your drones. If you just want to explore for a while or you are piloting for pleasure, then you will need to look into drones with longer flight times and battery life with shorter times to charge. Backup batteries are great features for this style of flight.
If you want the video and the pictures, then you want to focus on how much the camera functions. Be sure to shop for HD cameras with 720p or greater. A lot of cameras will allow you to adjust the lens independently of the drone, which is great for small adjustments. They also make cameras with wide angle lenses for panoramic images.
Stability is important for image quality, too. Consider buying drones with altitude holds and axis stabilizers so the drone can hover without shaking around while you grab your footage.
Drones have become much more restricted these days. It is important to follow all the applicable FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) guidelines to ensure that your drone is being piloted legally and won’t get you into trouble.
There are regulations regarding registration. If your drone weighs more than 8.8 ounces (or 250 grams), or has a certain level of features and capabilities, you’ll need to register it in order to fly legally. Once you register, you must add your registration number to your drone somewhere. If you are working towards becoming a professional drone user, then you will want to study their registration system, because it includes a written test regarding drone safety and regulations.
They also have several no fly zones and restrictions about flying over private areas to follow. You can’t operate a drone within 5 miles of an airport unless you gain clearance from air traffic control. There are also a lot of restricted zones, like Washington, DC, over 400 feet, and in emergency areas during wildfires and accidents. Flying is prohibited within all national parks and most state parks.
Take some time to familiarize yourself with the drone piloting laws so that you know which drones are safe and acceptable to fly and if any further action is needed to register your drone legally once you purchase it. The FAA provides maps that collate all restricted areas.
Battery life limits the drone’s capabilities. All drones in the sky require a battery to power their motors, and your flight capability is determined by the power you pack in your battery. It’s a tough balance to strike because you want to have a great flight, but you don’t want the weight of a battery to tax your motor and reduce agility.
Most people have backup batteries charged and ready to go. This lets them swap the battery the second it dies and continue their flight without waiting a long time for their battery to recharge.
Toy drones usually don’t get more than a 5 to 10 minute flight time before needing a new battery. Heavier drones can increase the flight time to around 30 minutes, but flying longer than that requires backups.
It’s important to pay attention to your battery’s life because once a drone runs out of power, it can’t fly anymore. A lot of drones have a built-in system that will attempt to return to where they took off when battery power runs low. This prevents crashes and drone loss.
Still, there are just as many drones that will simply drop out of the air where they are flying and their battery is dying, which can lead to costly repairs. If you fly over dangerous surroundings, streets, or water, it may even lead to the complete loss of the entire drone.
Range And Top Speed
Drones are capable of remarkable speeds. Racing drones have clocked in at over 35 miles per hour! That being said, you don’t want to start with a fast drone. It’s a lot like horse racing. If you’ve never been on a horse before, you will want to learn the basics of posting and control before you let the reins go and kick the horse into high gear. Racing your drone before learning control will lead to crashing, expensive repairs, and missing drones.
Like balancing bikes and tricycles, a lot of drones come with training programs to help pilots prepare for piloting their own drone. These programs will limit speeds and latitudes. They give you more time to react to obstacles in your way and allow your drone to autonomously stabilize. A lot of these programs include return to home, so if you lose your drone, it will fly back to where it was launched.
Another limitation is less voluntary. The signal range of their controllers limits drones. If you want the drone to listen to your commands, it needs to be able to communicate with your transmitter. Radio waves weaken as distance increases and most modern drones operate with a 2.4 GHz WiFi signal. This means that distance will detract from controlling your drone and also that flying in a heavily saturated area could lead to a lot of interference that interrupts your communication.
The typical range of these WiFi controllers is about 100 feet, but some models come with large antennas to allow extended range. Be aware of aviation laws and regulations regarding how far you can fly your drone, because most places require you to keep your drone in sight regardless of capability.
When you step out of range of your controller, what happens largely depends on your drone’s built-in features. Many of them will attempt to hover in place until they can find the signal again. Others will use a GS feature to return to the place they were launched, assuming that their pilot will be waiting for them.
The cheapest drones will just continue to fly in the direction they were headed before they lost signal. This is called a “fly away” and is something to avoid at all costs. In a fly away, the drone will keep going until it crashes into something or loses power and falls out of the sky. This makes them extremely difficult to recover and is the most common way that newer pilots lose their drones.
Operating The Drone
It is important to understand your drone’s control system before flying. You want to learn your controls so that you can avoid crashes. Most drones operate with a two stick control system, where one stick operates the left, right, forward, and backwards motion of your drone and the other stick adjusts the altitude and rotation. Most apps will include virtual control sticks to simulate a real controller.
Several drones come with a virtual simulator for your phone. This will let you master the controls before you let your drone take flight. It will prevent crashes and accidents, and teach you the range and sensitivity of your drone controller.
It is important to be a courteous drone pilot. While we like to think of drones as toys, they are actually dangerous and can easily injure someone. Observing caution is best when it comes to drone safety. Here are some of the basic safety protocols that can prevent injuries:
- Don’t fly your drone too close to people or wildlife. If you lose control of your drone and it hits a living creature, it is more likely to hurt the person or animal than they are to smash the drone.
- If you lose control in an open area, it’s more likely that a building or tree trunk will damage your drone. This leads to costly repairs, but at least you haven’t hurt someone or opened yourself up to expensive lawsuits.
- Take the time to learn your controls before you start to pilot your drone. Each one works a little differently, but most of them come with simulators. Getting a feel for your control sensitivity under safe conditions will help avoid crashes when you let loose and have fun.
- Check your drone before launching it. Make sure that your motors are cool and all your parts are in working order. Damaged motors and rotors could send your drone crashing if they fail while it is in the sky. Use caution when flying. If you’re a speed demon, make sure to fly in an open and empty area under strict control.
- Slow down if you’re near people or flying high enough to encounter birds and other wildlife.
- Make sure you know how and where you will land if your battery runs low.
Warranties may not be the most exciting component to purchasing a drone, but they are pretty important. These are major purchases and you want to take care of them. A lot of things can happen when you are using drones, form natural disasters to unpredictable obstacles, to bad piloting. There are enough things to worry about without having to wonder whether your purchase is protected. Be sure that your drone comes with a good warranty.
If you put a lot of money and resources into your drone, you may want to purchase insurance for it. This can guard against accidents and unforeseen circumstances and interference. A lot of home insurance policies cover drones, but more and more of them are starting to exclude drones from coverage, so check with your policy provider if you’re unsure.
Most of the drones that are available for under $100 are toy models, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with power and fun. These are a great way to learn the hobby before investing lots of money into a drone you’re not prepared to fly.
Now that you’ve found the perfect drone for your needs, why not take a look at our review of the best drone cameras to get a great view from the heights?