This post was last updated on: March 1, 2020
Ready to find the best mid-range drone on the market?
The truth is that even when spending $500 dollars on a drone, you could still end up with a dud, especially if you buy one from one of the fly-by-night low quality importers.
Good news for you is that we spent 5 days testing various drones, reading user reviews and coming up with a comprehensive list that will ensure you find a gem in the rough!
Let's dive right into our list of top performing mid-range drones, that won't break the bank.
- Our Top 3 drones for less than 500 Dollars
- What to expect from a drone under $500
- 1. Mavic Mini - DJI Domination Continues
- 2. Holy Stone HS720 - A top budget option under 500$
- 3. DJI Mavic Air – Our Upgrade Pick
- 4. Altair Outlaw SE - Our Budget Pick
- 5. Hubsan Zino 4K Drone - 2020 Newcomer
- 6. UPair One 4K - Budget 4K Quad
- 7. 3DR Solo - Fastest Drone in Test
- 8. Traxxas Aton Plus - Complete Racing Kit
- 9. Parrot Bebop 2 + Skycontroller Bundle
- 10. Walkera F210
- Frequently Asked Questions:
Our Top 3 drones for less than 500 Dollars
- The Mavic Mini is equipped with a 2.7K FHD 5G Camera that can also stream live video.
- It offers a generous flight time of 30 minutes, as well as a flight range of about 4000 meters!
- Regardless of it's low price, the DJI Mavic Mini makes very little compromise, which is why we have made it our Top Under $500 Pick!
- This drone is equipped with a 2K FHD Camera with Image Stabilization and Shock Absorption
- Flight Time is up to 20 minutes and the Flight Range is 1600 meters.
- The only issue is the price is a few dollars over $300, other than that the HS720 is the clear winner of this category.
- Full 4K Camera with Stabalizing Gimbal, Superior Range and Foldable design, we feel dirty including this in the review since its going for over $700.
- For those with a few extra bucks to spend this drone is in a different class.
What to expect from a drone under $500
In order to get the best bang for your buck, it’s important to be aware of the average specifications and features of the products under such price and category. That’s why we have written a brief summary of what you should expect from a drone in this price range.
Batteries and drone’s firmware have become much more efficient in the last couple years. Therefore, you should expect an average flight time of 15 to 30 minutes. Some brands prioritize flight time while others focus on other specs. However, keep in mind that increased payload results in decreased flight time.
It is one of the most commonly highly prioritized specifications by drone enthusiasts. Of course one wants to have a long range when investing this amount of money in a drone. Fortunately, the control distance is increasing. Nowadays, an average control range for a product within this budget is around 500 to 1000 meters. However, some brands focus on long range and manufacture products that can go as far as 4000 meters.
Of course, you must expect (and demand) perfect performance from any drone on this list. Accurate controls, great capability in flying in windy days and steady hover even without any pilot’s input. We have only picked the quads that have top of the line performance when compared to other same price products.
As the technology advances, more features are added to drones as companies compete with each other for sales. Therefore, most under $500 products already come with a wide variety of features. Expect a decent amount of drones to feature autonomous flight and functions that enhance camera usage such as Follow Me, Orbit, Point of Interest, GPS assisted flight, optical flow sensors, etc.
Sounds good? Lets get to it then, here's our list of Top 10 Drones Under $500 for 2020:
1. Mavic Mini - DJI Domination Continues
"Simply the Best - No need to consider another drone in this review until the competition catches up"
It's here...it's finally here! DJI just launched the biggest gamechanger in the drone industry, bringing a foldable, under 250 g drone, that's the size of your palm, and doesn't require FAA registration.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I’m sure you have already heard, seen or even flown a DJI Mavic drone. It is one of the most recent products by the famous brand DJI. Well right now the Mavic Mini, brings the high quality video resolution and stabilty, plus class leading flight range and duration from the Mavic series to the under $500 price range.
Shipping started on the 11th of November 2019. And moving forward to 2020, this remains the best drone for the money.
Extremely easy to carry around in a backpack, it’s one of the best for holidays, filming outdoor events, vlogging, or pretty much anything.
Very compact and lightweight, not only it can be carried anywhere, it’s also the most accurate and stable drone under $500.
It has GPS Assisted Hover, Obstacle Detection and is planned to come out in a future software update. Everything you need to truly experience an out of this world performance. From beginners to experts, the Mini is a wonder in any hands. Even a baby can fly this thing.
The Mavic Mini also presents some amazing specs, such as the 4km (2.4 miles) max control range. Flight time is also quite impressive if we take into consideration how small the drone is. Per battery, the Mini has a max flight time of 30 minutes.
Housed on the drone’s front is a camera supported by a three-axis motorized gimbal, and fitted with a 1/2.3-inch sensor.
The DJI Mavic Mini camera’s video-capturing capabilities cap out at a 2.7K Quad HD resolution, with a 30fps frame rate. The alternative here is a 1080p video at 60fps. Moreover, it’s capable of capturing 12MP images, as well.
The drone of course, can also transmit Live Video in high-quality, real-time with 0 latency. The best FPV experience you can get from a drone within this budget.
Another thing it doesn’t lack is safety-oriented features:
For instance, the integrated altitude limit prevents you from getting carried away, and a return home function kicks in automatically when the battery gets critically low – and ensures that your drone comes home safely.
I had my doubts about its mid-air performance, considering its lightweight frame. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong:
It felt stable and precise at all times, partially due to the downward vision sensors that allow it to detect the ground for safer landings, as well as more stable flights and hovering.
Not to mention its foldable too!
Are there any downsides, though?
The one trade-off that I should mention is that it doesn’t come with object tracking. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this feature added as a part of a future update, though.
If you're not convinced yet, see our in-depth DJI Mavic Mini review here.
2. Holy Stone HS720 - A top budget option under 500$
Holy Stone has been one of the most interesting companies in 2018. Some of their products have started to really stand out from the rest, as the company proves itself and to its customers, to deserve a share of the drone market. One of their better drones is the recently released Holy Stone HS720, also featured in our recent buyer's guide (drones currently for sale).
I must admit I was very surprised at HS720’s performance, it really feels as I’m controlling a high-end drone. Very responsive, very maneuverable, it’s even capable of flying in windy conditions. I must say, if you are a fan of aerial photography and videography, but do not have a high budget, the HS720 is one of the most viable alternatives. At well under 350 dollars, it won’t disappoint you.
Holy Stone HS720 has specifications that rival even DJI Phantom 3. First of all, the drone is capable of flying as far as 1600 meters. If like me, you are a fan of long-distance drones, you will love HS720, as it will fly way past your eyesight, and still safely return thanks to auto-return feature.
Regarding flight time, each battery allows up to 26 minutes of flight time. Something I was very excited about.
Holy Stone tried to do what Syma and DJI did. The brand manufactured its own action camera instead of requiring its customers to buy a SJCam or GoPro, or other. And they absolutely nailed it. The HS700 had a good quality camera with 12MP, capable of shooting 1080p video and transmitting live video, the HS720 upgrades that into a 2K FHD 5G Camera.
The drone also transmits Live Video via Wifi directly to a smartphone device through a free to download app (Android and iOS). The camera can be placed on a phone holder attached to the 5G remote controller.
HS720 packs great features, as expected of a drone within its price range. The highlight surely is the GPS system with Follow Me Mode and Custom Flight Path. Simply draw a route on the App screen and the HS720 will move in that direction or in a circle and send back real time landscape to you.
On top of this, it also features auto-return and 5GHz Live Video transmission. It lacks some basic features such as automatic takeoff and landing. But considering it packs a good GPS and waypoints path system, we can’t say it lacks a good set of features.
If you need any more info on this drone, be sure to check out our Holy Stone HS720 in depth review.
3. DJI Mavic Air – Our Upgrade Pick
Ok, we are cheating a bit, this is not quite under $500, but the Mavic Air is just too good value for money not to include in this review. It is a significant upgrade to its predecessors, the Phantom 3 and Mavic Pro, which have both now been discontinued.
The Mavic Air features a slightly better camera and sensors, and has extra 20% control range.
When it comes to performance, Mavic Air behaves the same as its older brother, the Mavic Pro. Both have astonishing performance, being able to steadily hover in place without any pilot’s input on the remote controller.
This drone is a very forgiving flyer, ideal for beginners. Feel free to fly it even windy days, with caution of course. The Air can reach a max speed of 88.4 km/h, which makes it a great beginner Drone Racer.
Since we are talking about a more expensive drone, you would expect the Mavic Air to outclass every drone in this review specification wise.
And...it does so handily.
This being said, Air has a flight time of 21 minutes and a maximum control range of 4km.
One of the main selling points of Mavic Air is without a doubt its camera. The camera can shoot 4K video at 30fps, 2.7K at 60fps and Full HD video at 120fps. If you love aerial photography and videography you will want to take this baby everywhere.
The Air comes with a 1/2.3” CMOS image sensor able to capture 12MP still photos with HDR and create 32MP spherical panorama shots. And of course it transmits Live Video too.
As expected Mavic Air comes with all the bells and whistles a high-end DJI drone is known for. These features are:
- Vision-Based Protection
- VIO Technology
- Smart Obstacle Avoidance
- One-Key Takeoff and Landing
- Automatic Return
As you can see most of the features are focused on enhancing the photography and videography experience.
4. Altair Outlaw SE - Our Budget Pick
"Ideal for: Beginner and Intermediate Pilots"
If you haven’t heard of Altair Aerial, then you’ve been missing out on some great drones. Their Outlaw SE is a high-quality drone that is loaded with cool features. This drone comes with almost anything that a drone pilot is going to want and that’s why we have it as our Best Budget Pick
Not only is this drone feature packed, it also is easy to use, someone with little experience is going to enjoy it too. Yes, there are a lot of bells and whistles on this drone, but with features like 1-button take-off and landing, someone new to this hobby will also be able to get the Outlaw SE up and running in no time.
Not only are Altair one of the few drone companies that are US-based, they also have tons of helpful how-to videos and tutorials online to help you get started. If you spend any time reading their reviews, you’ll also notice that they offer some of the best customer service that you can find in this hobby. That’s one of the reasons why we recommend Altair's drones.
To start off, the range on this drone is up to 600m. And while there are drones in this price point that can go further, we were pretty impressed that they included a 20-minute battery in the product. That’s a good amount of flight time and makes up for a bit less range.
You also get a wide range of high-quality features on this GPS drone. As we mentioned before, you get 1-button take-off and landing as well as altitude hold and some really cool Return to Home functions that can get the drone back safely at the touch of a button.
These features all make this drone accessible for beginners. Even if you’ve never flown before, it will only take a little time to get the hang of this drone. For experienced fliers, these features all make it easier to get the drone to work with you.
The camera is where the Outlaw SE drone really shines, and the shots it takes are gorgeous. The camera shoots in 1080p HD and returns some absolutely beautiful shots. Whether you’re filming live video or taking pictures, you’ll be impressed with the quality of the photos.
It’s also important to mention the ease of use of the camera. The drone comes built in with GPS and altitude hold (among other things) that make using the camera a breeze. You’ll spend less time fighting the drone and getting it to fly right and more time actually using the camera while in the air.
We’ve only scratched the surface on this drone’s features, here’s a more complete list:
●One Touch Takeoff and Landing
●Point of Interest Mode
●Follow Me Mode
●Fail Safe Return Home
●GPS Return Home Functionality
5. Hubsan Zino 4K Drone - 2020 Newcomer
"Ideal For: Beginner to Experienced Pilots"
Out with the old and in with the new, and placing straight into the top 5 is the Hubsan Zino 4k foldable Quadcopter.
This is the latest offering from Hubsan, and priced at just over $300, it serves a great budget pickup in our top drones under $500 dollar review.
One of the best things about the Zino 4K is that, despite it's price, it barely compromises, if at all, in terms of quality.
From build quality to features and technical specifications, it is outperforming many of it's competitors in this class.
The Control distance for the Zino 4K goes up to an astonishing 2.5km! It's highly unlikely that you'll need nor find a drone with a better control distance in this price range.
The flight time at ideal conditions is 23 minutes, which means it's fair to say that, for the average user, the flight time drops down to around 20 minutes.
The Hubsan Zino 4K is the perfect choice for Aerial Photography. The camera is a 5G enabled camera that can shoot or stream Full HD Videos at 30 fps and has 4K capabilities and an FPV option.
The Zino takes the edge with it's 3-axis gimbal stabilizer on which the 4K UHD Camera rests. It's what allows the camera to produce clearer images in comparison.
The Hubsan Zino 4K is packed with features that are at least on par or better than the rest of it's competitors, considering the price of this drone is only slightly above the under $300 category.
The only real issue for this drone is that it has no obstacle avoidance sensors and a transmitter which doesn't notify low battery states.
Hubsan compensated for this with multiple intelligent flight modes, as well as other safety features which you can read about in our in-depth Hubsan Zino review.
6. UPair One 4K - Budget 4K Quad
"Ideal For: Everyone!"
UPair is actually on of our top drones for less than 300 dollars, so why is it here also? Well, this UPair package features a 4K camera, thus providing it with a top quality camera but also considerably increasing the drone’s price tag. A complete FPV package with all you need to start flying FPV right out of the box (FPV screen included).
UPair One is one of the best, if not the best, alternative to a Phantom quadcopter. It’s very easy to control, even if you are a beginner and this is your first time flying a drone. Hovers steadily without pilot’s controller input, so you haven’t trouble to maneuver it.
It will avoid many beginner crashes. The GPS assists the flight, enhancing the whole experience. It feels like you are flying a high-end drone like the Phantom 3 (we wouldn’t compare it with Phantom 4 however).
UPair One has a great flight time of 15 to 19 minutes, powered by a 11.1V 10C 5400mAh battery, Drone’s maximum control range is 1km, while the Live Video image transmission only goes as far as 600 meters.
Capture outstanding aerial video and take beautiful photos with the 4K Camera. The 4K camera is placed on a brushless gimbal that can be adjusted for different angles of view. It transmits Live Video to the 7” monitor screen placed on the remote controller.
Real-time video is great quality and has no latency! Love videography and photography but don’t have a lot of money to invest in a GoPro + drone? UPair One is your unexpansive solution for aerial photography and videography.
UPair One comes with all the fun and useful features you will need to get the most out of your quad. First of all, it has full GPS lock (able to search and lock on 8 satellites), Position Hold, MicroSD card support (up to 32GB) and Automatic Return. Not the best set of features, but definitely has all you need.
7. 3DR Solo - Fastest Drone in Test
"Ideal For: Beginners, Intermediate and Experts"
One of the oldest drones on our list, 3DR Solo remains to this day one of the best drones under 500 in the market, despite not being a newly released. Perfect for using together with a GoPro, widely used for semi-professional aerial video and photos among GoPro fans.
One of the reasons why 3DR Solo remains to this day one of the most recommend drones for GoPro usage is due to its accurate performance.
Equipped with an On-board 1 GHZ computer with Pixhawk flight controller, Solo is very responsive and stable. Definitely the type of drone you want to buy for your GoPro camera. Solo can reach an amazing top speed of 88km/h (55mp/h); not recommend to beginners.
3DR Solo specifications still remain impressive to this day. Base max control distance is around 2km although with a range extension kit it can fly longer than 4km! The flight time, when carrying a camera, is 20 minutes, and without is 25 minutes.
For the sake of price we are referring to the package that doesn’t include a camera. Otherwise it would be too expensive to fit this under $500 list. As we have already stated it’s a great purchase to anyone who already owns or is considering buying an action camera such as the GoPro.
The 3DR Solo obviously doesn’t come with the most recent technology and features, however it does feature autonomous flight modes, such as Selfie, Cable Cam, Orbit, and Follow. These functions are extremely useful for filming as you will surely find out. The drone’s software can also be upgraded, although 3D Robotics hasn’t released new updates in a while.
8. Traxxas Aton Plus - Complete Racing Kit
"Ideal For: Intermediate, Experts and Racing Beginners."
Traxxas Aton Plus is a very interesting quadcopter. It’s not very popular, and most likely you have never heard of it before. However, Aton is a feature-rich drone mainly used for semi-professional and academic video recording.
Traxxas Aton Plus is not hard to control, however it’s not the most beginner friendly quad in the market. In fact, we wouldn’t recommend it to beginners, it’s a better fit for pilot’s who have controlled a drone before.
Experienced pilots will get the most out of it, because it can be a very sportive drone, extremely agile and fast, hitting a detailed 80km/h (50mp/h). Even on Sport Mode the drone is easy to maneuver thanks to its 6-axis flight stability.
One negative aspect of Aton Plus is the control distance which falls below average when compared to other drones on this list; max range is only 300 meters. On the other hand, flight time is an impressive 20 minutes (of course it depends on the payload).
Unfortunately, Aton Plus doesn’t include its own camera. But on the other hand, it comes with a 2-axis gimbal mount that supports GoPro cameras (3 and 4 series) and others such as Xiaomi and SJCam. The drone also supports other mounts (bought separately) for different cameras
As previously mentioned, Aton Plus is a very versatile and feature-rich quad. First of all, it features 3 different flight modes: Film Mode, Sport Mode and Expert Mode. As the name suggests, Film Mode is for capturing beautiful aerial footage and photos, while Sport and Expert unlock the drone’s true potential (not recommend to beginners).
Other features are: Return to Home, Status Bar, Dual-Mode GPS, Traxxas Flight Link (customize Aton’s flight settings such as geofence radius, flight ceiling, control rates), open source software that is compatible with applications such as Mission Planner.
9. Parrot Bebop 2 + Skycontroller Bundle
The FPV version of the famous Bebop series. The Bepop 2 is is an awesome FPV (First Person View) entry level quadcopter for anyone looking for a good and durable aircraft with Live Video.
Like its predecessor n is a good fit for any skill level, from beginners to experts. Can be easily flown without much hassle. It’s stable and responsive to the controls. Can be flown indoor and outdoor. However, also avoid flying it on windy days. It also has 3-speed modes.
The Bepop 2's best characteristic, besides the Live Video, is also the 25-minute flight time per battery. The package includes 2 batteries, so you can switch batteries and extend the flight time to 30 minutes, which is an amazing bonus! In terms of control range, Red Horen has a maximum distance of 100 meters.
The camera’s outcome photos and videos have the same good image quality as the Red Heron. The only difference is that U49W supports Live Video. This Live Video is transmitted via WiFi directly to the pilot’s smartphone device through a free to download app, available for both Android and iOS. Basically, it’s the same camera but with FPV support.
Packs a standard set of features, namely Headless Mode, Altitude Hold, Low Battery Alarm, One Key Takeoff and Landing. Unfortunately, it does not feature 3D flip, which can be disappointing to children because it can’t do 360º aerial spins with the push of a button.
10. Walkera F210
"Ideal For: Racing Beginners but not First-Timers Flying a Drone."
Manufactured by one of the most renowned drone companies in the market, F210 by Walkera is the company’s entry-level FPV drone racer. Aimed for everyone looking to get into this new sport but doesn’t necessarily have the skills to build a custom-made drone from 0.
Once again we must start by pointing the fact this is a racing drone, therefore it’s not suitable to people flying an aircraft for the first time; despite being a drone for beginners, it’s beginners at racing, and not overall rookies.
This being said, F210 is of course extremely fast and highly maneuverable, very responsive to commands. It uses KV2500 brushless motors.
In terms of specifications, Walkera F210 has a decent maximum control range of 400 meters (with the included transmitter and factory settings), plus a below average flight time of 8 to 9 minutes (14.8V 1300mAh 40C 4S Li-PO battery).
The Walkera F210 comes with the same camera as the Arris X-Speed 280, the Sony 700TVL. The most standard cameras among racing drones are the 600TVL and 700TVL, both being a perfect fit for beginners and even experts.
It transmits the Real-Time video of the race to an FPV monitor or FPV goggles. One particularity about F210 is that it comes with the famous DEVO 7 transmitter which luckily has an incorporated 3.5” LCD FPV monitor. However, if you are truly serious about drone racing, you will eventually need a professional set of FPV goggles.
The F210 makes use of the KV2500 brushless motors, F3 Flight Controller, Brushless ESC F210(CW/CCW), OSD, and of course the DEVO 7 transmitter. The essentials to compete in amateur drone racing without having to build your own racer.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are drones under $500 ideal for learning?
It depends. This is a tricky question, why? Because in one hand, drones within this budget feature very accurate hovering and are extremely stable even in wind conditions. Most feature autonomous functions that assist the pilot during the flight. These are drones that if you place the remote controller on the table and don’t touch it, the drone will still hover steadily without any pilot’s input.
However, in the other hand, they do cost a few bucks so if you make any damage to hit of course it will cost more to repair than a toy drone. Therefore, while indeed these are suitable for beginners, we would advise you to start by flying a toy drone made of plastic, just to get the hang of it before moving on to a higher-end product.
Note: If this is the first drone you own but you have already flown a friend’s drone before, go ahead and practice with it, won’t be a problem.
Note 2: There are many beginners who started flying drones with DJI Spark and Phantom 2 (the top drones on this list), those we would recommend to any beginner.
Can I fly indoor and outdoor?
If you are a beginner no, because you will need a wide open area to practice. However, most of these drones are stable enough to be flown indoor without any problem, so if you already have some level of practice, then go for it. Throughout the article, we will mention which ones are suitable for indoor and outdoor.
Are these drones safe for children?
No. These are not toy drones. If you want to buy a drone for your kid we would refer you to our Top 10 Best Drones Under $100 list instead.
Do I have to register my drone with FAA?
If you live in the US, FAA registration is required to any unmanned aircraft for recreational and commercial use if it weighs more than 0.55lbs (250 grams).
Do these drones support GoPro and other action cameras?
Yes, practically every drone on our list is capable of carrying GoPro, Xiaomi and SJCam action cameras. Some of them however already come with a pretty good quality camera. However, if you prefer to attach your GoPro (or other) go for it.
Are there drones under $500 suitable for filmmaking and professional video recording?
Some of them are. We will mention the drones that are often used for semi-professional and academic filmmaking. Although not suitable for professional video recording (apart from the UPair 4K), they are still able to get top quality aerial footage. When looking for a great 4K drone for filming, you might want to up your price range just a bit.
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Last update on 2020-03-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API