The best drones aren’t exactly the cheapest electronic devices in the market.
And the ones which are actually budget-friendly often tend to lack quality and provide features which don’t even come close to meeting the expectations.
In my initial years of travel vlogging, I had often suffered over the dilemma of which pocket-friendly drone to go for. While manufacturers promise a lot, I hardly ever find them following up on it.
So, I know how hard it can get to select the perfect drone, which is under the $100 mark. But after a lot of trial and error, I have finally found 5 models that deliver exactly what they advertise.
Each of the drones I have reviewed today has grown to be some of my personal favorites, and I am confident that at least one among them is bound to be what you’re looking for.
Let me start off my drone list today with a model from Holy Stone, which has been dominating the market for some time now. The F181 W is one of the most popular drones today, which comes with over 2,000 positive reviews and a 4.5-star rating. That’s quite impressive, isn’t it?
Well, this will be based more on the experiences of my cousin Rafi than mine, really. As one of the proud owners of the Holy Stone F181W, Rafi has had a wonderful time engaging in his hobby of bird watching every weekend.
He often tells me about how amazing it feels to control the drone while boasting about the ‘quality of life features’ which Holy Stone provides it with.
There are 4 features of the drone which Rafi just loves. The ‘One Key Return Home,’ ‘Headless mode,’ ‘altitude hold,’ and ‘one key flip’ are the 4 major aspects of the Holy Stone F181W, which makes it a top contender in the drone flying scene.
The drone comes with a decent battery life as well (for a product under $100). With an 8-minute flight time, it’s more than decent, and for Rafi, it’s just enough time to spot migratory birds flying south in the winters.
But, apart from the great battery life, the drone even comes with an extra battery as a backup. Though technically, this is not a feature that many will find applaudable, but for birdwatchers like Rafi, it comes incredibly handy for extended sessions.
What could have been better?
The camera sensor of the Holy Stone F181W is not as light-friendly as Rafi would have liked it to be. Its light-gathering potential is rather limited, which is fine during the day but disappoints under dusky low-light conditions.
- Packed with an amazing array of features, making the drone quite fun to use.
- Great battery life and comes with an extra battery in the pack.
- 2MPX sensor camera offers good image quality.
- The light-gathering potential of the sensor is limited.
Within the $100 price range, the DJI Tello is going to be my pick for the day. I often catch myself recommending it to newer drone enthusiasts, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t also keep the professional entertained as well.
It’s feature-rich, and has a compact design which makes it one of the best drones for taking different angles selfies as well as video blogging.
The DJI Tello has been a faithful companion in most of my travels for some time now. Though one of the easier to use drones out there, I was hardly ever bored while operating it; the Tello still has enough features to keep me entertained to this day.
I am a pretty rough user when it comes to electronic devices. From constantly dropping my phone to full-throttling a drone into a bird’s nest, I generally tend to break stuff before I have had my money’s worth of use.
This is one of the reasons why I personally prefer the Tello so much. The build is incredibly durable and compact, and the model provides me with a sense of security if I have to fly it at higher speeds.
But, durability is not what I love the most about the Tello; it’s the amazing image capturing prowess that I am head over heels for.
The Tello comes with a 5MP camera that possesses an 82.6-degree field of view and is capable of shooting videos at 720p and 30 frames per second. It even has an EIS or image stabilization software that keeps motion blur at a bare minimum.
What could have been better?
In all honesty, there are not many flaws that I find with the Tello. However, there is one thing that I would have really liked DJI to improve on, and that is the maximum control range.
The flying range that you can control caps at 100m, which can be rather short for many.
- Comes with the best in class camera for a drone below $100.
- Beginner-friendly, yet fun to use drone model.
- Compact body with great durable features.
- 100m range control can be too short for a lot of drone flyers.
If you’re looking for a drone to gift your kids this holiday season, then I highly recommend that you go for this model from Potensic.
The A30W is one of the most kid and beginner-friendly drone I have ever had the privilege of coming across. I had chanced upon it at a drone convention recently, and after giving it a few flight tests, I knew I had to reserve a spot for it on my list today.
The first thing that immediately jumped at me while piloting the Potensic A30W was its amazingly durable build.
As I have said, I am quite a clutz when it comes to gadgets, so when I accidentally flew the drone into the wall at the convention, it didn’t even get a single scratch, let alone a dent. For beginners and kids, the more durable the drone, the better, and the Potensic A30W checks the box in the category.
The drone comes with three different speed settings as well. It lets the pilot adjust its speed to meet different scenarios, and makes this model a great pick for running competitive obstacle courses.
While the ‘altitude hold,’ ‘one key on,’ and ’emergency stop’ features keep it user-friendly, the lightweight build keeps it portable and a great travel companion for children. And though small in size, I was quite surprised to find the Potensic A30W hold its own in windy conditions.
Even when the wind velocity was 7MPH, I had full control of the drone at the highest speed.
What could have been better?
What kind of let me down about the Potensic A30W, was the lack of a micro SD slot. So all the video captured by it is recorded to the connected phone. And if the signal starts getting weak, the image quality of the video tends to suffer.
- One of the best drones in the market for beginners.
- Variable speed settings make it a great pick for running obstacle courses.
- Incredibly durable build, yet lightweight and can be easily carried around.
- The lack of a micro SD slot can be rather inconvenient for many.
For the more adept drone enthusiast, the Holy Stone HS110D is going to be the perfect model of choice.
As a member of so many drone clubs, I have seen a lot of the professional pilots go for this model if they’re looking for something below the $100 price tag. Better control, stability, and fun to use features is what makes the HS110D such an amazing pick for them.
Well, control might be the primary selling point of the drone for many, but to me, it was the vast category of features that stole the show.
For a drone that’s below the $100 price tag, the Holy Stone HS110D comes with features such as ‘Gravity Control,’ ‘Voice Control,’ ‘Trajectory Flight,’ and even’ Gesture Control.’ After pairing the drone with my smartphone, I was easily able to activate all of these features and play around with them seamlessly.
With the Gravity Control Mode, I could use and control the drone by just moving my smartphone around. And the Voice Control allowed me to speak commands into my phone and use the drone accordingly.
While Trajectory Flight would guide the drone along the path that I draw on the app, Gesture Control, on the other hand, helped me use the camera by making certain signs with my hand. Making a paper sign would mean video recording, and a scissor sign would mean taking a photo.
Honestly, the Holy Stone HS110D is one of the most fun to use and entertaining drones that I have ever come across.
What could have been better?
What bothers me the most about the Holy Stone HS110D is its overall durability. The reason why I specifically recommend it for adept users and not beginners is because its build is not so hardy. Accidentally running it into an obstacle will have a high chance of breaking it.
- The most fun to use and entertaining drone model on my list today.
- It comes with a lot of features, which are amazing for a drone that’s below the $100 mark.
- Boasts superior control and can be a great pick for obstacle courses.
- Not as durable as I would have liked it to be.
In the face of changing atmospheric pressure and mutating wind velocities, mini drones are not exactly known for their stability. But SYMA was somehow able to break that convention with their latest X22W drone model.
I found it to be one of the easiest to use and stable drone choices out there, and much like the Potensic A30W, it’s a great pick for beginners and kids as well.
My sister had gotten into aerial photography a lot off late. A wildlife photographer by passion, Aleena wants to take to the sky and document wildlife activities from angles and areas where she hardly has much access to.
When asking for my recommendation for a drone, I decided to tell her about the SYMA X22W. After taking it out for the first flight, she was instantly hooked, as she just loved how stable the drone was when taking pictures or capturing video.
The SYMA X22W comes with a built-in barometer that detects the various changes in the air pressure level. After detecting it, the meter automatically adjusts the internal air pressure of the drone and helps to stabilize the drone’s height accordingly.
Moreover, in higher wind velocities, the SYMA X22W remains stable as well, all thanks to the 6-axis gyroscope. It seeks to keep the drone in place under windy conditions and ensures smooth and precise flight controls.
A stable camera is crucial when it comes to documenting wildlife, and the SYMA X22W provides Aleena with just that.
What could have been better?
Much like with the DJI Tello, what disappoints me about the SYMA X22W is the limited control range. Though Allena doesn’t seem to be bothered by it much, there may be some pilots who might find it to be too restrictive and bothersome.
- Easy to use features and controls, makes it a great pick for beginners.
- One of the most stable drone models in the market today.
- Integrated 720p HD camera produces high-quality images.
- The remote control distance is rather limited.
What to expect from a drone in the $100 price range?
If you’re looking to invest in a drone model which is well within the $100 price tag, then here are some of the standard features that you can look out for:
- Around 10 minutes of flight time.
Drones that come within $100 generally tend to have a flight time, which is either less than or around 10 minutes.
You can always try and bypass this limitation by purchasing additional batteries, or just go for a model like the Holy Stone F181W which provides a spare in the pack.
However, most of the drone models feature affordable 3.7v batteries. So choosing to invest in spare batteries won’t be such a bad idea if you generally tend to go for extended flight sessions.
- Operation Range is around 80m.
Though most of the drones advertise an effective remote control range of 100m, in reality, they provide something which is around 80m. There are some drones in the $100 range which go beyond the 100m distance limit, but they usually do so by compromising on other features.
So, pick wisely as to which features you want to go for and which you can do without.
- 720p Resolution.
Even though there are some drone models that feature 1080p high-resolution cameras, the majority of the $100 market still provides sensors that capture aerial footage in 720p resolution.
But for this low budget point, you really should not be looking for resolution all that much. Vibration dampening feature is the primary thing to be aware of, as it can significantly improve the smoothness of the captured image as well as reduce motion blur.
For today’s travel vlogger and wildlife photographer, drones have grown to be quite a necessary investment. And picking the right one below the $100 mark can indeed be quite challenging for anyone.
But I hope that my list and reviews today was able to help you out with all your drone-related problems.
Till next time!