What’s The Best Drone For Beginners? – My Picks for 2019July 18, 2019 12 By Scott Hinkle
People are always asking me “What’s the Best Drone for Beginners?”. Every time I have to turn to them and ask for more information. The best is very subjective. What’s best for one person, maybe terrible for another.
In this post, I’m going to provide you with three drone options. These will be based on my personal experiences as well as what I believe will be “best” choices for the majority of drone beginner drone pilots out there.
This post is not intended for the professional photographer or videographer looking to find the best drone for their profession. This is strictly aimed at the beginner drone pilot. Now, if you are a professional photographer or videographer, but have no drone experience, please continue to read this post. I believe that one of these drones will work decently for you and you can consider it a temporary or interim drone until you have the skills and knowledge to drops a lot of money on that perfect professional model.
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Define Your True Needs
As I said previously, what’s best for one may not be best for someone else. Let’s define your needs and intent to help weigh the options and narrow them down…
What do you want to do with your drone? This is the big question. Are you looking to simply have fun? Do you need to be able to take photos or videos at a specific frame rate and resolution? Is there a minimum flight time requirement you may have?
All of these and more play an important role in picking the right drone. That said, this post is about the best beginner drone so there are a few assumptions I’m going to make…
- First and foremost, you probably don’t know what you want or need other than a drone itself. That’s OK. By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll probably have a good idea of what direction you’re heading and what drone will fit the bill.
- As a beginner pilot, your budget may not be all that high. Again, that’s OK. I’ll be listing drones starting at just under $100 and going up to a little over $1000. One will probably fit your immediate needs.
- You’re probably not familiar with the laws that apply to drones in the US. Even hobbyist pilots must follow certain rules or risk violating the law and dealing with whatever repercussions that entails.
I’m going to break down the next section by relative price. The first drone I list will be the most affordable option and I’ll go up from there.
Let’s go ahead and see my recommendations…
The Best Drones for the Average Beginner Pilot
This section will list the best drones in various price ranges for the beginner drone pilot. I’ll give you the make and model, a little about why I think it’s a great beginner drone and then a link to a more detailed review of it (if I have one), where you can get a lot more detail and even make a purchase if you so desire.
This is a great little drone. It offers decent flight time, stable hovering, live video feed and more. I particularly like the toss and fly feature where you select the mode click go and throw the drone. It even integrates with a programming environment that can be loads of fun for those learning to program.
I haven’t written a full review for the Tello on MavicManiacs.com but you can find out a little more about it here. What’s impressive is, you get a lot of drone for under $100!
DJI Mavic Pro
So, this is my go-to drone. I’ve had it for over two years now and I love it. I was very close to buying the Mavic 2 Pro to replace this one but decided against it, opting to wait to buy a new drone until next year, and continue to fly my trusty Mavic Pro.
In terms of features, it’s leaps and bounds beyond the Tello. That said, would you believe it doesn’t off the toss and fly option? It doesn’t have a programming interface either. Still, even though it lacks those two features, it more than makes up for it in flight time, camera settings and image quality, distance and more.
Check out my full review here. This bird pops in at just around $1000.
Although I favor DJI drones, the Autel Evo boasts some impressive specs, some that beat out the Mavic Pro. It’s worth checking out my review here and seeing if it’s a better match for your situation.
The only thing that makes me hesitate at all is the fact that DJI is king and Autel is relatively the new kid on the block. This one is also around the $1000 mark and, some say, it falls more in between the Mavic Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom models.
I know I said I was going to offer three options but I’ve decided to add a fourth. I didn’t feel right, after looking at my suggestions, about jumping from $100 to $1000. That said, here’s my middle of the road recommendation:
DJI Mavic Air
This is another great bird. It’s a little smaller than the Mavic Pro but boasts better throughput on the SD card and some would argue offers better recording quality because of it. Check out my full review here. This one hovers around $800.
It’s not half-way (aka $500), for that you might look at the DJI Spark (but it’s not one of my recommendations) but it is a little cheaper than the Mavic Pro or Evo.
So those are the drones I recommend for beginners. Let’s take a look at the features I consider for these recommendations and which drones meet them…
Each drone model will have certain features that set themselves apart from the others. They’ll also share features, although they may differ slightly. Let’s take a look at a few that these drones have and which ones they have in common…
I know it may sound silly to consider flight time a feature but flight time is a major consideration for many. The drones I’ve listed above range from offering 13 minutes of flight time up to 30 minutes. Here’s each drone and their associated flight time:
- Tello – 13 minutes
- Mavic Air – 21Minutes
- Mavic Pro – 27 Minutes
- Evo – 30 Minutes
All of the drones offer pretty stable hovering ability but not all of them have built-in GPS. Specifically, this is one feature the Tello lacks.
Getting great images is not just a matter of resolution and bit rate. Physical stability plays a role too. Enter the gimbal. A gimbal’s job is to reduce shudder and vibration to the camera doesn’t have to try to compensate for it on its own. The drones listed in this article range from having no gimbal at all to having a 3-axis gimbal. Here’s where each one stands:
- Tello – None
- Mavic Air – 3-axis
- Mavic Pro – 3-axis
- Evo – 3-axis
For the record, the DJI Spark features a 2-axis gimbal.
This is both a factor of available flight time and transmitter/receiver capabilities. You’ll see quite a difference between models here. That said, in the US, you should always maintain line-of-sight with your drone so most of these distances won’t come into play.
- Tello – Up to 100 meters. This is mainly due to the WiFi connection limitation. There’s also a Bluetooth remote option but I think the range is less.
- Mavic Air – 4000 meters.
- Mavic Pro – 4.3 miles.
- Evo – 4.3 miles.
This can save the newbie and professional alike from a costly mistake but, it’s not a requirement for a beginner drone. That said, I wanted to list it here so you can see which drones offer obstacle avoidance and how many directions they offer it in.
Tello – None
Mavic Air – 3 directions.
Mavic Pro – 2 directions.
Evo – 3 directions.
Those are the criteria I used, above and beyond the general assumptions I listed before, when coming up with my What’s the Best Drone for Beginners list. There may be other considerations you have. In such cases, please take a look at my more detailed reviews to determine which of these is truly best for your situation.
Best Use Cases
I’m going to wrap up with a brief synopsis of the best use cases for each drone.
This is great for your kids or for someone worried about crashing an expensive drone. It’s fun, stable and even does flips. It’s not for those looking for distance or high-quality images.
The Mavic Air is a capable drone, that’s for sure. If the Mavic Pro is a little hard on the budget, this is a great compromise. Image quality is excellent and the portability really can’t be matched.
Think of this as a Mavic Air Plus. It offers just a bit more at a cost that’s just a bit more. As I’ve said before, this is the drone I have. I’ve had it for over two years and it’s still going strong. This is my number one recommendation if it fits your budget.
Honestly, if we’re talking specs only, this baby beats out the Mavic Pro. The thing is, I’m not just talking specs. I’m talking about experience, market share, community (a place where you can find help and bounce ideas off of), etc. DJI has all of this in spades. That’s my only hangup on this.
Whichever model you end up going with, please do me a favor… Follow my review links listed above and make your purchases from the links provided. It doesn’t cost you any more than if you went direct and made the purchase but it does help support this site.
There you have it. What do you think? I hope you found this article useful.
I know, I’m biased because I have the Mavic Pro. Am I though? I can go buy any other drone out there yet I decided to keep using the one I have, even though newer models are available. I’ve never been one to shy away from something I want. I just don’t see a need, as the new drones don’t offer something I simply must-have. That has to say a lot for the Mavic Pro.
Oh yeah, I touched on the whole “may not know the rules” thing at the beginning. Make sure to check out my post here for information on the latest drone rules for hobbyist pilots in the US!
Do you agree with my recommendations? If not, What’s The Best Drone For Beginners in your opinion? What features are most important to you?
I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please let me know by commenting below.
I imagine that drone flying can be difficult for a lot of beginners, so a post like this is really helpful.
A beginner probably doesn’t want to spend an arm and a leg to buy his or her first drone, so I think in that case a drone like the DJI/Ryze Tello would be the best bet for the beginner.
Once they are better and find that they enjoy the hobby something like the DJI Mavic Pro would do very nicely I think.
You’ve provided a range of great options for the beginner drone enthusiast, well done!
Actually, today’s consumer drones are very stable and most will simply hover in place. Now, if you’re building your own or buying one of those racing drones where you control absolutely everything, keeping them upright can be a challenge. That said, all of the drones in this post maintain stable flight on their own.
I totally agree that most beginners want to start on the low end of the price spectrum. Still, there are a few that need to have a drone that fits a specific purpose and I chose to list ones that would meet most pilot’s needs.
Thank you for commenting,
I love drones! When I was shopping for a drone for my nephew, I wanted him to have a good one, but I also know how irresponsible he is. I eventually settled for one that was under $100 and I said to myself that I’ll get a more professional version in the future if he takes care of this one and continues to show an interest.
The funny thing is, I never bought him another drone, not because of him being irresponsible, because the drone is still in good condition, but he’s a teenager and his interests changed…*(girls)* lol. He also focused on his drumming skills which, I have to say are quite remarkable.
I don’t have any skills flying a drone myself, but maybe I’ll practice with his before I try to upgrade. I would eventually like to have one of those $1000 ones that are in the Best Buy display cases.
Going with an inexpensive drone, especially for your child, is always a good bet. I like how you think and you were right to save the money. After all, what drone can compare to girls right?
It’s funny you should mention the cases in Best Buy, I believe all of these drones (except maybe the Tello) are shown at my local Best Buy.
Selecting the best drone for beginners can be a daunting task. There are so many options out there and if you select the wrong one you may find that you have to replace it sooner than you expected and that can add to the cost long-term when it doesn’t have to.
I like the top picks that you have listed for 2019, this article really helps lay all the options out in one post so we can see which might be the right one for the lucky recipient. The solid advice to define what you need first makes a huge amount of sense too.
The age of the user, the intent for using the drone (fun or business), and what kind of related experience do they have are all considerations. I have a grandson that is at the age of wanting a toy that is cool and he will get a drone that is designed to cater to that.
The one I will go with for him is the DJI/Ryze Tello The flight time is okay, it is stable while hovering, and it has a live video feed (he will love that last feature). For me, I like the toss and fly feature…Too easy, and fail-proof even for a beginner like my grandson.
The price is also attractive (under $100) as who knows what he will want to do next. At his young age, I am sure that more such gifts will be purchased that allow him to explore this wonderful world and also give him a chance to develop new skills and talents.
That is so true, and many retailers won’t take a drone back after it’s been opened because they don’t know if it’s been damaged and so on (kind of like printers once you install the ink or toner).
I highly recommend the Tell for your grandson. It’s very capable, comes with prop guards to deal with bumping into things and is inexpensive. On top of that, it has programming features, in case your grandson wants to expand his horizons a bit.
What’s really nice is, you’re not limited to a single drone. Build a fleet over time and use each one for the situation that suits them best.
Thanks for taking the time to comment,
If I was to get a drone it would be to take aerial photographs. I think that is the great thing about drones. In the UK they are used by estate agents for aerial shots of properties up for sale. Your article gives great insight into some of the drones on the market, with useful information.
I have never used a drone before, but would love to have a go and see how good I am. In the future they are going to get even better and may be used by Amazon even more for their deliveries, but there could be some issues with security.
For your use-case, I would recommend the Autel Evo, DJI Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom or even the DJI Phantom 4 Pro v2.0. They will give you the best image quality for your buck. Each one has it’s own pros and cons so be sure to research which one fits you best.
Don’t be too worried about never having a drone before. These are stable and you can always practice in a wide-open space. You can even use the DJI Flight Simulator to get the hang of things virtually before moving into the real world. I should have mentioned that in my article!
I’ve been shopping around for a drone to capture video and images for my local advertising business. This article helped a lot! I’m thinking of getting the drone that you yourself own, the Mavic Pro. It looks like a really good workhorse. I’m going to be using it for skyline transition shots for local real estate agents.
Any tips on piloting an expensive drone?
I might get a Trello just to practice flying in the meantime. Toss and go is a really neat feature but I feel like I’d mess up turning on the feature and just end up throwing my drone onto the ground.
Turns out, you really get what you pay for for drones. That thing doesn’t really have many features that make drones cool.
Anyway, this is a really well-written article and the site is well designed! I’ll be back to do more research when I get close to making my drone purchase.
The Mavic Pro should be more than what you need for your use-case. If you plan to do inside flying footage, you might even consider a Mavic 2 series drone as they offer more obstacle avoidance coverage and can help you from bumping into things.
As for piloting, just practice in an open field and get the hang of things. You can also download and install the DJI Flight Simulator program and practice virtually.
The tell is a great practice drone but, if you do get it, you might want to get the Bluetooth controller too so you can actually get used to the stick feel as you fly. Out of the box, it’s a WiFi connection to your phone or tablet which is fine but won’t give you the same tactile feel.
You’re welcome back at any time.
DJI Mavic Pro! It’s great drone to have. As I am not a professional photographer I was not aware of drone being used for this before.
A few days ago I got curious about it and came up to research all kind of products to see If I could find a good one.
I then came across to your fabulous post. I will definitely put the Mavic Pro ip for consideration. It’s an excellent drone! Its flight time also is good and like you’ve said the Mavic Pro’s gimbal is 3-axis. Overall It’s a perfect drone a its price is also reasonable.
Thanks for your informative article.
Yes, I love the Mavic Pro and it’s a great choice for professional photographers. Other good options are the Mavic 2 Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro v2.0.
I’m glad you liked this post.
Thanks for commenting,