The Best Drones Under $100 for 2020

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The UDI, a quadcopter with four conjoined rings encircling its blades that form its outer silhouette.
The UDI U818A has a visually interesting design but was a struggle to fly in windy conditions. Photo: Signe Brewster

Drones for beginners

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.

Racing drones

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.

Photography drones

We had high hopes for the Snaptain SP650 due to its 1080p video and 12-minute battery life, but found 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 offers 1080p video. It also has some advanced autonomous features rivaling the Tello, such as “follow me” and “orbit.” However, we found it harder to control than the Tello and Snaptain S5C. We flew some of our slowest obstacle-course times with it, both indoors and outdoors, and 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, is powerful enough to handle flying in wind, has a high-quality controller, and is 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 aren’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.

Toy drones

While we had a blast batting around the Air Hogs Supernova, 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.

Racing gates and flags

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.

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