In most of the countries around the world, and especially in the U.S., regulations have been placed on what kind of drones need to be registered and those that do not need registration.
The FAA says that any drone that weighs more than .55 lbs (250g) must be registered with the FAA by going to the FAA site and paying a fee. The registration number must be displayed on the drone in such a manner as to be easily found by anyone who may find the drone.
Sounds like a lot of hassle if you just want to fly for fun. If that’s the case, you might want to consider buying a smaller drone, often called a mini drone, and not have to go through registration and mark up your drone.
What are the best drones that weigh 250g or less on the market today? Here are a few of the best I’ve found:
DJI Mini 2
Holy Stone RC HS510 Drone
The Holy Stone F181
UDI U818A FPV Drone
Autel Evo Nano+
Let’s go through each of these drones in the order that they are listed above, and talk about their specs, pros and cons, and price.
DJI Mini 2
At less than 249g, it weighs about as much as an apple and fits in the palm of your hand. Compact and convenient, this small drone is your ideal travel companion, transforming how you capture your favorite memories.
Stabilized 4K camera
RAW and JPG photo modes
Long flight time
Stronger motors and connectivity
GPS and GLONASS
Drone registration is not needed
No color profiles for JPGs and video
No obstacle avoidance and HDR
DJI has listed the weight of the new Mini 2 at less than 249g but others have stated that it is more like 243g (if 2 grams makes a difference for you). Folded up for travel, the Mini 2 is 5.43 in(l) x 3.18 in(w) when folded and 6.25 in x 7.99 in unfolded.
DJI has made use of the Ocusync 2.0 system for the Mini 2 which gives the drone a 6.2-mile flight range. The maximum speed is about 35 mph in S mode and you can get 30 minutes of flight time per battery.
It comes with the standard 3 axis gimbal and the 4K camera that uses an HD Video Transmission system. The Mini 2 has a level 5 wind resistance.
The DJI Mini 2 is a remake of the Mavic Mini in that the exterior design uses the same airframe, but they have re-engineered it to make it DJI’s smallest, lightest, folding drone. Although they recommend that you transport and store the Mini 2 in a protective case, it does find nicely into a jacket pocket.
The controller is a bit larger than that of the Mavic Mini but this is because the new Ocusync 2.0 wireless comm system and better antennas are used to provide superior connection strength and longer distances.
The introduction of a 4K camera, replacing the older 2.7K makes for better video and stills and Ultra High Definition TV viewing. The camera also has a zoom feature, but the quality of the image is reduced in 4K mode.
DJI claims that the Mini 2 has a battery time of 30 minutes, but this can vary with several factors, and the average flight time is usually closer to 27 minutes. The batteries can be charged with the supplied charger and through a USB connection in the drone.
The Mini 2 does not have any internal memory so you need to remember to load an SD Card.
The Mini 2 includes both GPS and GLONASS so that its position can be pinpointed, even in a crash.
ActiveTrack is not included in the programming of the Mini 2 because they did not include obstacle detection sensors. I am guessing that this was due to trying to keep the weight down and the tech of the OcuSync took up the space needed.
Mavic Mini (original 2019 model)
Collapsible portable design
Stable video platform
No 4K Camera
No Tracking option
Needs a Micro USB charger, not USB-C
The specs of the Mavic Mini are close to the Mini 2 but the major difference is that it uses WiFi transmission instead of OcuSync, and has a range of 2.5 miles.
It does include, however, a vision sensor and has precise hover capabilities. The Mavic Mini has a level 4 wind resistance rating.
This is one of the best beginner drones available and would suit anyone very well if you don’t need 4K quality videos.
Holy Stone RC HS510
GPS Drone for Adults with 4K UHD Wifi Camera, FPV Quadcopter Foldable for Beginners with Brushless Motor, Return Home, Follow Me,2 Batteries and Storage Bag, Grey.
2.7K at 24fps
2 batteries included
Four Intelligent flight modes
4K at 16fps poor quality
Not professional-grade videos
12-15 minute flight time
Not steady in high winds
2AA batteries for the controller
Holy Stone is an up-and-coming drone company. It was started in 2014 and is quickly overtaking the competition with quality, inexpensive aircraft.
The HS510 is one of the mini-drone models that offer the compact design of folding arms, a 4K/15fps camera, and GPS/GLONASS navigation. The flight time is about 15 minutes, but it does come with 2 batteries to extend your time in the field.
The HS510 has a return to home mode in case of in-flight problems.
Holy Stone F181
FPV Drone with HD Camera for Adult Kid Beginner, RC Quadcopter with Carrying Case, Voice Control, Gesture Control, Wide-Angle Live Video, Altitude Hold, 2 Batteries, Easy to Fly.
Ready to fly out of the box
Multiple safety features
Live video transmission
LED night lights
Unstable in moderate wind
Long charging time
Another Holy Stone model that is very popular with new fliers is the F181. It has an HD camera and an altitude hold function. When you release the control sticks, it hovers in place.
Trick functions allow 4 way flips at the push of a button, great for action videos. A few other key features include a 7-10 minute flight time, and a 2MP camera that shoots at 12280×720 pixels in both still and video modes.
Because of the shorter flight time, two 3.7V lithium are included and have a charge time of 80 minutes.
The drone range is between 50 and 100 yards, but this is perfect for the beginner to learn visual line of sight flying. There is also a choice of four power modes to conserve battery life or fly fast and far.
UDI U818A FPV
Comes with spare parts
Ring-like prop guards
Headless flight mode
LCD on the controller
Colored LED light on drone
The camera does not have a professional quality image
Battery life fluctuates
Battery tends to overheat while charging
You cannot upgrade the camera
First introduced about three years ago, the UDI U818A has been updated with an HD camera that makes this an ideal drone for beginners and recreational fliers alike.
At a weight of 131g, the HD camera produces a 1280×720 resolution image for both video and stills. Battery life is 10-15 minutes per flight but two batteries come in the box, so one can always be charging.
The 2.4Ghz transmitter signal gives a range of 300 feet or so and it is nice and small at 13×13.25 inches for easy carrying. One of the best safety features is the radial prop guards that are installed, right out of the box.
Special features of the programming include FPV mode, 2 speeds, one click RTH, flips and rotations, and headless mode. Headless mode is a setting that allows you fly the drone away or toward you no matter the direction the front is facing.
Very stable for the size
Quality copter and controller
Anti flip mode
Wire and connectors are exposed
Battery can rub against wires
No on/off power button
Hard to recover from flips
Although Amazon lists several models of the Hubsan X4 that run from $34 to $180, the X4 H107 is the model we will talk about today.
This drone is truly a mini. Coming in at 28g (without the battery), it fits in the palm of your hand but has many features of larger, more expensive models.
One very noticeable feature is that the controller looks and feels very much like a Play Station 3 controller. It is ergonomic and comfortable to use and limits some of the uncomfortable aspects of some other controllers.
Hubsan has also seen to fit to provide a wide array of accessories that you can purchase to make your flying time safer and less stressful. A stronger 3.7 V 500mAh upgraded battery can be ordered that can extend your flight time and is more durable than the battery that comes in the box.
Hubsan also has a “crash pack” for sale that includes 2 extra motors, a standard battery, body shell, 4 propellers, and rubber feet to protect the drone from hard landings. Also available are protection cover blade guards that act as excellent padding between the props and the outer body shell.
One of the big downers is that the 2MP camera is not on a gimbal, so the only way to change the camera angle is to change the direction of the drone.
The Contixo F22 is a decent drone for the price and has a 1080p HD camera, several intelligent flight modes, operates with GPS, and uses an automatic RTH mode when the battery is low on power.
It has fold-able arms with LED lights at the end of the arms that activate on start-up and flash in a certain sequence when the compass is calibrated. The small size of 11.8 x 11.4 inches makes it easy to take on hikes or to just have with you at all times, in case you come across a flight experience you just cannot refuse.
The controller looks very much like the DJI Mavic controller and has two fold-down handles and two fake antennas that are there just for aesthetic reasons.
The F22 can be used in FPV mode with the F22 App loaded on your smartphone. GPS, orbit mode, follow me, waypoint, and automatic RTH modes are included in the controller platform and are available at the push of a couple buttons.
Autel Evo Nano+
Large 0.8 inch SMOS sensor
Amazing f1.9 aperture for low light
Stunning 4K video
Huge 50MP stills
Three-way obstacle avoidance
Not the fastest top speed in the wind
Not the cheapest small drone available
In my research for this article, I found several reviewers that have called the Autel Evo Nano+ the best drone under 250g when comparing its features against the higher price and possibly the closest equivalent to DJI’s Mini 2. That is an impressive evaluation.
The Evo Nano+ is so loaded with quality features that it can be used as a professional platform for fantastic photography and is easy enough to be used as a first-time drone purchase.
The Evo Nano+ has a three-way obstacle avoidance system that senses the front, rear, and downward directions, and is more sensitive with the 1-inch aperture. The flight time above 25 minutes is a tremendous advantage over most small drones and even outperforms larger platforms.
The stock controller is similar to the Xbox One-style hand controller and has a built-in holder for your smartphone. The controller has all the usual buttons but handles like the well-used Xbox that so many people have spent hundreds of hours using, so the feel is familiar and easy on the hands.
The Evo Nano+ has three-speed options, with tops speeds of 11 mph in Smooth mode, 22 mph in Standard mode, and 33 mph in Sport mode.
The Evo Nano+ outshines the DJI Mini 2 in its video transmission quality having 2.7K up to 1000 yards and 1080p up to 6 miles (although I would not recommend testing this distance due to the BVLOS rules).
There are many sites and sources that identify “the best drones” for practically any need you may have. Whether you want the best professional, best price, best size, or best stunt drone, many people produce many lists of what they find the best.
When you consider buying a drone, first examine what your purpose is, then study the reviews and compare the competing brands to find the best choice for you.
FAA Drone Zone (link)