Best Drones under $200 in 2020 (and what to avoid)
Looking for a good quality drone under $200 can be tough as you’re not yet in the more professional budget area.
In this article you’ll learn about what specs to look for in a drone of this price, what to expect and what are my top picks for a few categories.
At this price, every dollar counts in getting yourself a better or worse drone and the differences can be significant.
I’m going to cover the main features of basic camera drones, not FPV or otherwise niche quadcopters.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t expect high level camera drones like some of the newer DJI models. If you think you can expand your budget a bit, I recommend you check out my top drones under $500 list, or my latest comparison between the Mavic Mini, Mavic Air and Fimi X8 ( all great camera drones).
Proper image stabilization in a camera drone is probably the most important factor you should look for, if you want to take great photos and videos that are not shaky.
I had to update this article for 2020 as some new drones have been released, that strangely enough actually come with 3 axis gimbals at prices as low as this.
You’ll find all of them on this list.
As a sidenote, if you want to learn more about what drones are, check out my article on the types of drones out there .
Drone Return to home (and GPS)
The return to home feature usually comes with any GPS drone (which all on this list are).
It’s helpful in many situations, however, the most prevalent ones are:
- return to home on loss of signal
- return to home on low battery power
The “home” point is nothing else but the spot where you first launched your drone from.
I also made a list with my favorite Return To Home Drones, and they are sorted by price, so you can pick the best one for your budget.
Most drones that come with GPS will not only hover steadily in the air, but also have the RTH option and usually a few flight modes too, like circle around, waypoints and so on.
Battery life and Range
Checking a drone’s battery life will help you make calculated decisions when and where to operate it. The least thing you’d want is to see your drone crashing in the sea because you were not aware how long its battery could last.
Luckily, most drones show a live battery indicator and also come with the option to return to home on low battery or loss of signal (at least that’s the case with the drones I recommend in this article).
Another thing you should consider is the drone’s range, as it depends on what you plan to do with the drone.
I have also compiled my ultimate list with long range drones, if you want to focus more on this specific trait.
The range of a drone can greatly vary depending on the wifi interference, whether you bought it from Europe (CE mode has lower range usually) or USA(typically the best range).
What are the Best drones in this price range?
This is a quick Ranking of my top picks for the best camera drones I’d recommend for different people with different needs, all considering your budget is under 200 dollars.
I have a more detailed review of each one bellow the article. Use the quick navigation above to get there.
This list is in order of what I consider to be better overall AND what value for money that drone has.
All these quadcopters are super high quality and you can’t really go wrong. It’s up to you to decide!
My top pick
1.Skydio R2 (the ultimate follow me drone)
6 sensor cameras
When the Skydio R1 was released, it promised of an autonomous, follow-me drone. And it did deliver.
However, with the release of Skydio 2, this upgrade doesn’t fail to live up to expectations. Some of its main selling points include a 4K60 HDR camera that could capture sharp photos even while moving in midair, it is crash-proof, and it has an improved follow-me mode.
It also allows you to control it in the most convenient way with the help of an app, a remote control, and a beacon–a pill-shaped remote that lets you control the camera through your body signals.
With its 3-axis motion sensors, you could just give it a wave and it will take its cue from there. And just so a quick selfie is needed in a spur of a moment, just activate the selfie engagement mode through your phone and you could strike a pose as it hovers on you–good enough to capture your most candid selfie.
Its object avoidance feature utilizes its 6 built-in cameras to monitor its surroundings. All you need to worry is choosing which person or object for the drone to follow, and you can go and film anything under the sun without having to worry controlling it. And just so you got caught in the process of filming that you got way too far from it, do not worry, it’s GPS locator is smart enough to track you and come back to where your last location was.
2.Dji Mavic Air (best camera on this list)
3 direction sensors
The mavic Air is the better choice for people who don’t like the compromise of not having follow me option on the Mavic Mini. It has the best camera quality on this list and also comes with adjustable camera settings.
DJI lowered it’s price since it was first released.
First off, one of DJI Mavic’s prime advantage is its 3-way sensors. Unlike in most drones that only have bottom detectors, this one boasts of a front-bottom-back sensor.
If this kind of caution is still not enough to put you at ease without having to think of possible collisions, we don’t know what other model will. Now how about speed? It’s easy to bank on precaution, but oftentimes sacrificing speed.
But with DJI Mavic, speed is not compromised at all, as it could perform on a 68kph speed, while enduring against 29-38kph of maximum wind velocity, that’s 30kph faster than DJI Mavic Mini.
If you’re a quality-conscious cinematographer and appreciates the added speed and memory, Mavic Air lessens your burden.
With its ISO and shutter speed settings and six photo modes, you have more liberty to beautify your sequence in HDR, burst, shooting, or interval mode.
Unlike in Mavic Mini where you could only access the JPEG form, here you could also get the raw material. Sending a file won’t be a problem with its 100mbps bitrate and 8gb internal storage–something that Mavic Mini and Skydio 2 don’t have.
3.Dji Mavic Mini (Best quality for the price)
No follow me
If you’re a light packer and you have an affinity to portability, Dji Mavic Mini could be your best companion. It’s under 250 grams, you won’t even notice it adding up some weight on your carry-on luggage. And the best part is, it’s foldable and smaller than most regular phones out there, you could even slip it inside the smallest pouch you have.
It almost looks like a toy drone, only that you could actually expect some cinematic shots through it. With its 12MP 2.7k camera and 24mm lens, it could shoot video in 30FPS at 40MBPS, which is, to be fair, more than enough for most people, especially if you’re just starting to learn the ropes of drone cinematography.
Despite its miniscule size compared to other models, its 3-axis gimbal ensures the motion of the camera is stabilized, so you could still ace those panoramic sequence without worrying about the shakiness of the video.
It could even run as fast as 40km/h. Given perfect wind conditions, its battery life could last as long as 30 minutes, including the flying and hovering—that’s why more than what other drones of the same size could do, like Yuneec Mantis and DJI Spark. And if you worry about sudden crashes, fret not, it doesn’t operate on a smart way—meaning it doesn’t go under minimum voltage by adjusting with the wind velocity surrounding it. So go on, it wouldn’t lead you to danger, anyway.
When it comes to flight distance, Dji Mavic Mini could fly up to 4km. It may not have the occusync technology other Dji Mavic models have, but hey, it boasts of better WiFi connectivity, making sure it won’t get lost along the way, or worse, crash without you knowing it.
However, it doesn’t have adjustment settings for ISO and shutter speed. But what it lacked on that department is compensated by its smoother 60FPS setting, which you could even slow down in post production (but only in 1080 mode), giving you a crisper and more textured output.
It also doesn’t have an obstacle avoidance feature, so you need to make sure the location where you’d be shooting is free from physical obstructions where this drone might collide into. But just like any Mavic drones, Dji Mavic Mini does have GPS too. So if its about to deplete its battery life span, it has the ability to come back by itself by using its Return to Home technology. Its return-to-home height is poised at 30m.
They say, you can’t have it all, true enough you really can’t. But combine all the necessary specs a starter would want—a portable, lightweight, and a stable camera that is smaller than your phone? All things considered, Dji Mavic Mini could definitely be worth the price if you merge the comforts of portability and functionality.
Will drones that follow you stop when you do?
Controlling a drone is like being the jack-of-all-trades who juggles three balls at a time—the operator who navigates, the creative director who conceptualizes of creative shots, and the insurance protector who makes sure there won’t be any accident.
If you’re caught up in all these processes, follow-me mode could be such a great time and life-saver, more so if it could stop on its own as soon as you stop too. Some models that have this option are DJI Mavic Air, DJI Spark, and Xiaomi Fimi X8 which can follow the subject while circling them around.
At what speed can these drones follow a motorcycle?
There’s nothing more adrenaline-filled than a shot of you while doing all the action while running, cycling, maneuvering a boat, or getting a bumpy ride in a 4×4 rover. But that wouldn’t be possible without a stable, drone that could hover and follow you. Good thing, there have been recent releases in the market of these drones. Some of them, like the DJI Mavic series, have modes like trace and spotlight, where the former tracks the subject at a constant distance while the latter keeps its camera pointed at the subject during flight.
It should also be noted that speeds of flights vary during sports mode, ascent, and descent. For the DJI Mavic Air, it offers the fastest sports mode at 68.4 km/h in its maximum speed while also maintaining close to sea level with no wind. It also has a 4 m/s ascent and 3 m/s descent speed, all using remote controller.
The Skydio 2 comes in at a close 2nd place with a 58 km/h maximum speed and a maximum ceiling service of 15,000 ft, giving you a wider panorama of the shot.
Meanwhile, the DJI Mavic Mini might be smaller in comparison but it could perform on a 46 km/h maximum speed. It has a 13.12 ft/s ascent and 9.84 descent speed, respectively.
Can these drones return to home when low battery or signal loss?
As a drone owner, you should also ready yourself for external factors that could lead you into peril. Since operating this gadget is highly dependent on weather conditions, it pays to choose something that could go against the wind.
But even if your drone has all the abilities to withstand harsh weather conditions, one of the biggest nightmares you’d face is losing your drone after it runs out of battery. Now you ask, do you have an option to prevent this?
Thankfully, there is. DJI Mavic Mini, DJI Mavic Air, and Skydio 2 have the ability to return in the incident of low battery and loss of signal, and when we mean return, they actually go to where you set your home location. As for the landing precision, they could perform a maximum of 2m from the point they were launched.
Can these drones avoid any kind of obstacle?
Enduring weather disturbance like strong winds is one thing, but overcoming physical obstructions is another story. With all the creative angles and shots we see in different contents, the quality of cinematography has been raised to risky levels—like letting their drones fly between narrow gaps of trees, rocks, tangled cable wires, or even almost within reach of anyone’s head. If achieved, these shots could turn out really epic, otherwise, nose-diving into a building a limestone, a house, or worse, another person, is not only costly but troublesome too. But thanks to technology, manufacturers have included adding obstacle avoidance sensors in some drones.
However, only one of the three drones in comparison here have these sensors, and that’s the DJI Mavic Air. Although DJI Mavic Mini and Xiaomi Fimi X8 also have built-in sensors at the bottom, it won’t come close to Mavic Air as its obstacle avoidance sensors are three-dimensional—front, bottom, and back. These sensors allow Mavic Air to stop before hitting objects, especially when the operator is looking down or when the drones is flying backwards.
With the Skydio 2, it has a Skydio Autonomy Engine which could visualize and predict what could happen next based on the trajectory of its path. Boasting of its 6×4 camera and the ability to build a 3D map of its surroundings, it is capable of making its own decision in a split second, thereby avoiding any impending obstacle.
But keep in mind, although using obstacle avoidance mode could really save you, your drone, and all your efforts, it could be limiting to use it too when it comes to flying, due to the sensitivity of its three-dimensional sensor compound.
All points taken, obstacle avoidance should be a priority if you’re a beginner and you’re still half-hearted about operating a drone. But if you don’t want to spend an extra fortune for added caution, the least you could probably do is to stick to safe shotlists and operate in open areas.
Can you fly a drone on the highway?
With the advent of drones, it has become a common sight these days to see these modern, miniscule aircrafts hovering above–or in more technical term, an unmanned aerial vehicle. In the US alone, it is predicted to have about 7 million drones, mostly due to hobby flying.
If used for recreational purposes, flying a drone still isn’t banned in general. However, it isn’t rocket-science to realize too that these aircrafts could be dangerous and be used to take advantage of both private and public space, domains, and properties. To paint a clearer picture, one lost drone could endanger lives of birds and may even interfere with the trajectory of planes, so yes, it is a serious issue. But that isn’t the end of drone technology though, we still get to enjoy the benefits of this wonderful invention. And if you want these benefits to last, isn’t really restricting and oppressing to follow a couple of universal regulations.
In general, it is prohibited to fly a drone in a public area and over a moving vehicle, especially as dense and crowded as a highway. In most parts of the world, you’re going to need a permit to fly publicly. In the US and in the Europe, they impose stricter restrictions, especially in areas designated as “no-fly zones.” However, it is allowed to fly a drone if it is above a stationary vehicle, or within a covered structure an is hovering above a person. If you may ask, why above a person? Well simply because they are entertaining the possibility that that drone could be used to save that person’s life, especially if it protects him from a falling debris or any untoward incident.
Do you have to use a controller?
When it comes to using a controller, there are drones that still require one. But recent innovations have also paved way to operating without any need for controller. Here we’ll break down what drones are suitable for you, depending on your preference for using a controller.
For both the DJI Mavic Air and Mini, they come with foldable, detachable remote controller making it more comfortable to pack. You also have have to charge it manually link with the drone. But if you’re leaning more on the autonomous, self-operating drones, you could go for the Skydio 2. Unlike its predecessor, the Skydio R1, it gives you an option to control it with or without a remote. But if you try to test its legitimacy if it really is self-controlling, try purposely crashing it to a solid object and you’ll be surprised how it manages to get off on its own–thanks to its multi-angled sensors that detect any forthcoming hindrance.
Now if you want to test Skydio 2’s self-operating features, you could just go on and walk and you’d be surprised how obedient it could be to its owner–just wave a little to it, and it follows you like a loyal dog, only that it’s hovering around you. Using its 3-axis motion sensors, you could just direct the Skydio 2 with your hands where you want it to go. If you’re up for some selfie, you could also switch to selfie-engagement mode, connect it with your phone, and do your best pose. And in case you went by too fast, say you ran too quickly and you it nearly got lost track of you, do not fret, its built-in GPS locators could find you too.
Part of the privilege in buying a drone is knowing that with every penny spent, you’ve made a wise decision that will last a lifetime of phenomenal shots. So if before reading this article you were one of those meticulous yet undecided customers, you probably now have one less problem to think of.
If you’re a traveler or simply an adventure-seeker with two wheels, one thing that could complete your journey is a drone that would immortalize your memories. But the question is, which of these drones fit your preference? You’ll be the judge.