Drones aren’t the most low-cost hobby to get into, but there’s no need to spend more than $500 on a beginner drone.
Plenty of drones from major manufacturers pack all the features a beginner needs into a UAV for an affordable price.
Which drones should you consider?
Here are the best beginner drones under $500:
- DJI Mini 2
- Fimi X8 SE
- DJI Mavic Mini
- Parrot Anafi
- Ruko F11PRO
This guide will review each of these beginner-friendly drones, including specs and features. Stay tuned for the buyer’s guide at the end!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
1. DJI Mini 2
Ultralight and Foldable Drone Quadcopter, 3-Axis Gimbal with 4K Camera, 12MP Photo, 31 Mins Flight Time, OcuSync 2.0 10km HD Video Transmission, QuickShots Gray
Dimensions: 159 x 203 x 56 mm unfolded
Weight: Under 249 g
Max Range: 10 km
Max Altitude: 4,000 m
Max Speed: 36 mph
Max Flying Time: 31 mins
Camera: 1 2/3-inch CMOS
- Good flight time
- Powerful wind resistance
- Lightweight and easy to handle
- Could benefit from relaxed drone laws
- Beginner-friendly automated features
- Not the newest Mini drone
- Expensive for its age
One of DJI’s most beginner-friendly drones is undoubtedly the Mini 2.
Besides its accessible price point, the Mini 2 is also exceptionally easy for beginners to handle.
It weighs under 249 grams, so you don’t have to bother registering it. It’s also foldable and portable, ready to go with you anywhere.
Its max takeoff altitude is a very reasonable 4,000 meters, and it can withstand winds up to 38 kph, the equivalent of level 5 wind resistance.
Even better, it can fly for up to 31 minutes before it needs to be recharged.
It might not be the newest drone on the block, but the Mini 2 has a 1 2/3-inch CMOS camera that can shoot in 4K video quality and 12 MP image quality.
The motorized three-axis gimbal stabilizes the drone so you can enjoy the full depth of its footage.
Setting up the photography and videography settings is as easy as one, two, three.
If you’d prefer not to do any manual flying and shooting yourself, you don’t have to.
The Mini 2 is equipped with an exceptional suite of automated flight modes, including Panoramas (Sphere, Wide Angle, and 180-Degree panos), Boomerang, Dronie, Circle, Rocket, and Helix.
The drone’s camera can also achieve 4x zoom, so you can take shots of beautiful imagery while standing a safe distance away.
OcuSync 2.0, although old by today’s standards, suffices for transmitting your awesome footage in real-time. You can send HD-quality video up to 10 kilometers away!
Even launching your drone is effortless, as you can use automatic takeoff features. Smart RTH will bring your drone back to you before it risks crashing due to a low battery or poor signal.
2. Fimi X8 SE
Dimensions: 204 x 106 x 72.6 mm unfolded
Weight: 768 g
Max Range: 6.2 mi
Max Altitude: 800 m
Max Speed: 40 mph
Max Flying Time: 35 mins
Camera: Sony ½ CMOS
- Can fly quite fast
- Has a good flight time of over 30 minutes (especially for the price)
- The advanced remote control is a great value for the cost
- It’s a super heavy drone when you add on the propeller and battery
- Has complex search and rescue features a beginner won’t find very useful
This list might skew DJI-heavy, but that’s not the only drone manufacturer I plan to look at. I also recommend the Fimi X8 SE if you want to save some cash and fly a beginner-friendly drone.
Drone newbies will appreciate the precision landing feature, which is achievable thanks to the X8 SE’s downward-facing camera.
The camera perceives a landing area and will land your drone accurately every time, so you don’t have to be masterful at landing as soon as you open the box.
If this is your first drone, you’ll certainly appreciate that feature.
The X8 SE stands out in the realm of non-DJI drones for its camera, which includes a ½-inch Sony CMOS sensor that can shoot 12 MP-quality images.
That’s not the best image quality, admittedly, but for a beginner-friendly drone, it suffices.
Besides, the camera comes with lots of additional bells and whistles that make it worth using.
For example, it has native exposure control, four times the standard dynamic range, a sizable aperture, and signal processing technology.
The camera can also shoot HDR-quality video, maintaining more vivid and accurate color tones, light, and details.
The aperture and multi-frame fusion noise reduction tech even allow you to photograph and film at night, but flying a drone in the dark in most countries is illegal.
Check the rules for your country before you launch!
The remote controller is a thing of beauty. You won’t believe you spent under $500 when you see the remote, as it has a built-in screen, ergonomic support, and removable joysticks.
You can also extend the body of the remote so it’s easier to hold.
The three-axis gimbal makes this drone highly functional, it’s moderately weatherproof, and it has plenty of automated flight route planning.
You can create a new route or repeat one, as the X8 SE tracks your routes with its Historical Route feature.
This drone is also excellent at tracking so you can achieve stable footage even if your hands are still shaky when flying.
Rotate your drone with the Circular Flights mode, shoot panoramas, or capture a timelapse.
3. DJI Mavic Mini
Dimensions: 159 x 202 x 55 mm
Weight: 249 g
Max Range: 2.5 mi
Max Altitude: 3,000 m
Max Speed: 13 m/s in Sport Mode
Max Flying Time: 30 mins
Camera: 1 2/3-inch CMOS
- It’s lightweight enough that you don’t have to register it
- It has a decent camera quality
- It shoots stable footage with the three-axis gimbal
- Offers several automated flight modes
- It’s no longer made, so it could be harder to come by
- It’s quite old by today’s standards
- It lacks obstacle avoidance
- It doesn’t have object tracking
The Mavic Mini made a splash when it debuted in October 2019, but I say, why forget about it entirely?
This drone has a successful track record, a lot of happy customers, a beginner-friendly status, and a price that won’t make you wince.
Sure, it’s not the newest DJI drone around. It’s not even the semi-newest, as the Mini 2 came out after it, and the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro have succeeded that.
Nonetheless, this drone is a good opportunity for beginners to learn how to fly with the power of DJI.
The weight of the Mavic Mini makes it much easier to handle than the Fimi X8 SE, because as great as that drone is, it’s very heavy.
The Mavic Mini weighs so little that you can likely take advantage of relaxed laws when operating your drone. That said, read up on your country’s laws.
The three-axis gimbal holds up and is comparable to what you see in DJI drone tech today. The video quality is only 2.7K at 30 frames per second, a product of its time.
An included camera guard shields the camera; just make sure you take the guard off before you fly.
QuickShots is one of the starring features of this drone.
You can select from several automated drone flight modes, which will take the edge off the fact that there are no obstacle avoidance sensors in the Mavic Mini.
Use grid lines and histograms to help you line up your shot, try the classic follow-me mode, or explore FPV mode once you’re more experienced pilot.
Even though the Mavic Mini lacks some features, it’s still a good enough drone for new pilots.
4. Parrot Anafi
With its ultra-compact and lightweight carbon frame (320 g), this quadcopter drone unfolds in less than 3 seconds, reaches a speed of 55 km/h in sport mode, and withstands bullets up to 50 km/h.
Dimensions: 175 x 240 x 65 mm unfolded
Weight: 320 g
Max Range: 2.48 mi
Max Altitude: 120 m
Max Speed: 33 mph
Max Flying Time: 25 mins
Camera: 4K camera
- It’s lightweight yet durable
- It charges quickly so you can get back out there and do your thing
- Good camera for videography and photography
- Decent battery life for a beginner drone
- It’s moderately heavy
- Its flight time is just okay
- It has no obstacle avoidance
The Parrot Anafi could be more than your first drone, but one you use for a long time to come.
Although not the latest drone on this list, the Anafi is very easy to set up, taking only seconds. It’s also extremely weather-resistant, capable of handling wind gusts of up to 80 kilometers an hour.
Its 25-minute battery life is about average for drones these days and even a little below average.
However, the Anafi can recharge in less than two hours, so whether using it for fieldwork or fun, you don’t have to be without your drone for long.
Travel-friendly and built from carbon fiber and light plastic, this drone also has plenty of safety features so it’s less likely to crash if flying it for the first time.
For instance, it features downward sensors and auto-RTH, although it is missing obstacle detection.
You can press a single button to launch or land the drone, and the easy-to-use remote control goes light on the buttons so you can figure it out relatively quickly.
A single front-mounted camera was a mechanical gimbal ensures smooth footage in 4K quality. The camera tilts upward and downward for capturing more immersive footage.
You must have the Parrot FreeFlight 6 app to manage the myriad of camera settings Anafi has to offer.
You can review a flight map, adjust image resolution and frame rate, and see the camera from the drone’s lens using the app.
Hyperlapse is a fully nuanced mode with adjustable options between 50 and 240x speed. Even beyond Hyperlapse, you can still zoom 3x in most modes.
5. Ruko F11PRO
Dimensions: 6.93 x 4.13 x 3.15 in folded
Weight: 18.34 oz
Max Range: 3,937 ft
Max Altitude: 120 m
Max Speed: 12 m/s
Max Flying Time: 60 mins
Camera: 4K UHD
- Built for durability
- Includes a Beginner Mode
- Has many automated features, including photography and videography modes in 4K quality
- Includes single-button takeoff and landing
- Can fly for up to 60 minutes
- Users have called it flimsy
- It’s a bit heavier
- The drone battery only lasts for 30 minutes unless you double up on batteries, which will make the drone heavier
The last beginner drone for under $500 on the list is the Ruko F11PRO. Originally released in July 2019, it holds up well all these years later and won’t break the bank.
Brushless motors with aluminum alloy casing are durable enough that beginners won’t sweat.
Intelligent flight modes galore await you, including Fly Around Mode, GPS Tracking Mode (a fancier name for follow me), and Route Planning Mode.
Use hand gestures to trigger the F11PRO to take videos or photos and select from six filter modes to edit your footage. Use the VR Flight Mode if you own VR goggles or glasses.
Single-key launches and landings are a handy beginner’s feature, as is a low-battery RTH so your drone never crashes before you get a chance to recharge it.
The F11PRO includes a Beginner Mode for easier flying. Its 4K camera will shoot images and videos in crisp quality so you can look back at fun memories with your friends and family.
The level-6 wind resistance makes the F11PRO the best in this category of the drones we looked at today.
Each battery lasts for 30 minutes, so with two batteries, the F11PRO can fly for up to an hour. However, remember that additional batteries will drive up the drone’s weight.
You have to register this drone regardless, but a heavier drone is harder to use and thus less beginner-friendly.
Best beginner drones under $500 buyer’s guide
How do you select the best drone for under $500? Here are some factors to consider.
Every drone on this list met the criteria for costing less than $500, but some were valued at $300 and others at $400.
When looking at the price, consider the drone’s age. Older DJI drones tend to still cost about as much as some of the newer ones, which is something to think about.
However, DJI is also the leader in drones, so you’re paying for quality no matter which drone you select.
A beginner-friendly drone should have a slew of automated features designed to make the drone easy to use even if you don’t have prior experience.
For example, automated takeoffs and landings are huge difference-makers. A new pilot doesn’t have to struggle to lift their drone into the air nor bring it back down to the ground.
Automated flight modes are also great to have. You can set the drone on a path of your choosing or have it automate how it flies to maximize the potential of drone photography and videography.
Ease of use
Automated features are great, but how easy is the drone to use besides those? Is it portable? Can you handle it easily? Is the app easy to work with?
If you answered no to some or all these questions, you haven’t yet found the drone for you.
Okay, so this one is a bit tough.
You’ll get the best quality drone camera if you’re willing to spend the big bucks. At $500, your drone won’t have the most spectacular camera specs, but they shouldn’t be poor quality either.
You should get at least 12 MP image quality and 2.7K video quality from the drone’s camera. If it’s higher quality than that, great!
The last consideration is how much the drone weighs. Many of the five drones I went over today are sub-250-gram options.
These drones are advantageous for several reasons. You won’t have to register the drone with most drone authorities.
You can also enjoy laxer drone laws because your drone weighs less, affording you the option to fly over people and nearer buildings.
It’s also a lot easier to handle a 250-gram drone.
Keep in mind that payload will drive up the weight of your drone, even so much as adding an extra battery!