If you don’t own one, you want one. Whether they are used for stunning aerial videos, capturing special moments from a unique perspective, or racing against friends; drones and particularly quadcopters are now more popular than ever before.
As their popularity continues to skyrocket, so too does the number of potential drones for you to choose from. The enormous variation of cost, capability and quality can pose a daunting prospect for anyone interested in buying one. Here we outline our top picks for the best quadcopter and drone in 2016 and what makes them so great!
Top 5 Best Quadcopter & Drone Reviews
- Flight Time: 25 minutes
- Camera: 12 MP
- Smartphone App: Yes
- Best video drone for all abilities
- Flight Time: 15 minutes
- Camera: Compatible with external cameras like the GoPro
- Smartphone App: Yes
- Best budget quadcopter/drone
- Flight Time: 3-5 Minutes - it's a racer
- Camera: External camera capabilities
- Smartphone App: Yes
- Best (nearly) ready to race flyer
With our picks presented, picking the right drone comes down to three key factors:
- What you want to use it for
- How much experience you already have
- How much money you are willing to spend
We’ve given the five best quadcopters and drones awards in 4 categories so that no matter what your experience level, budget, or reason for buying a drone is – we’ll find the right one for you. We’ve selected:
- The overall best video drone – The DJI Phantom 4
- Best budget drone – Cheerson CX-20
- Best first drones – The Hubsan X4 and Cheerson CX-10 are tied in this category as they’re nearly identical
- Best intro racing drone – TBS Vendetta
Each of these drones come from the three main types of drones/quads you’re probably be interested in. In this review we’ll go through reviews of drones with cameras, drones for racing, and micro drones.
Best Quadcopter & Drone Buying Guide
With our five overall best drone picks presented to you, we’ll now move on to award the top 3’s for each individual category of the best camera quads/drones, best micro drones/quads, and the best racing quads. Let’s go!
Best Quadcopters & Drones With Camera/Video
In the first main category we’ll cover the best quadcopters with camera and video capabilities. Here we’ll rank the quads based on price, performance, video and camera capabilities, and stability. In a camera drone you want to balance:
- Camera quality
- Flight time to ensure you can capture what you want and enjoy flight
- Stability to handle weather conditions and altitude
- Possibly speed
- Of course price
DJI Phantom 4
This is a drone made easy enough to fly for beginners and with all of the features and more that pros and vets alike will drool over. With 4k video, gimbal stabilized video, obstacle avoidance, subject tracking and more, this robust an refined DJI Phantom 4 is an excellent option.
The only cons of the Phantom 4 are the cost, and custom batteries that are also expensive. Read the full review here.
In a line: Best camera drone in 2016, and also one of the most expensive.
This is our budget pick for the best quadcopter with a camera. Superseding the ever popular CX-10 we have the Cheerson CX-20 which is a RTF camera drone ready to serve your needs.
With some really neat features the CX-20 is a great pick for a camera drone at a very reasonable price. You can get about 15 minutes of flight time on the battery which is quite decent and we always recommend getting spare batteries to enjoy actually flying your drone rather than waiting for it to charge. Here are some more of the features:
- Camera mount to add in your camera
- 6-axis gyro system
- Visual positioning system makes auto home/landing a breeze
- In case of any issue the drone will automatically return
- Max flight speed of 10m/s
- Position hold and altitude hold modes
- Voltage protection to ensure a safe landing if low battery occurs
As you could tell from the spec list, the CX-20 doesn’t actually come with a camera but has a mount that can accomodate GoPro’s, and other similar mountable cameras. This is what makes the CX-20 so affordable! Some drone buyers may also already have a camera they can use so they can save by using the CX-20.
In a line: Budget camera drone with some solid features, bring your own camera.
The DJI Phantom’s more expensive older brother is the DJI Inspire. The inspire is faster, can hold more weight, and has options for dual monitors which allows for spectators to watch from a tablet or other receiving device while you fly your drone.
Essentially the Inspire is on a more heavy duty platform that can fly a bit faster and is more robust. The Inspire will also dominate the Phantom 4 when it comes to stability and overall flight performance.
In a line: High-quality camera drone that will be the most stable and best performer.
Best Micro Quadcopters & Drones
Getting into the best quadcopters that are micro, tiny, pocket drones and most importantly can fit in almost any budget. Here are some things you’d want to look for in a micro drone:
- Size – there are some options here. You can go super tiny fit-in-your palm, or bigger all the way up to the size of your hand.
- Speed – Some micro drones are faster than others
- Camera – Do you want a micro quadcopter with a camera?
- Batteries – Not all micro drones can swap out batteries without desoldering – this makes flight time important to watch out for.
Here are our top 3 picks and a few words on each of them below:
The CX-10 is a super fun, super tiny, and super affordable micro drone that was my first drone and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be yours either. throw it in your pocket and take it anywhere with you – this lightweight yet controllable drone is a blast and definitely won’t disappoint.
In a line: Fun packed into a tiny package.
The X4 is slightly larger than the CX-10 but still fits in the palm of your hand. This gives the pilot a taste of what it would be like to fly a racing drone as it has a bit more umph behind it. With more powerful motors and a more robust frame this is a great starter drone for those wanting a solid little device.
In a line: Robust and powerful mini drone.
Finalizing our best micro drone section is the Syma X5C – the largest of the micro drones reviewed here. If you’re considering a larger camera drone down the road, then the X5C is a great first taste into the world of camera drones and FPV. This Syma is starting to get reasonable flight time for a drone and its HD recording camera is not half bad.
In a line: Good quality micro drone with a camera.
Best Racing Quadcopters & Drones
Getting into our best quadcopters for racing category, we’ll cover three drones and rank them based on readiness to fly, cost, and performance. When purchasing a racing drone here are some features to watch out for:
- Speed (it is for racing, right)
- Durability – you don’t want it to be toast after one crash
- Safety features – for low voltage and obstacle avoidance
- Price – racing drones can get expensive
Here’s a table summarizing what we found:
- Flight Time: Under 5 minutes
- Requires a controller, low customizability
- Best high-end racer
The manufacturers say from box to air takes 5 minutes max, so this is our best racing quadcopter that comes ready to fly! Ready to fly isn’t necessarily the best, although the TBS Vendetta comes stocked with high quality components that gets you in the air faster than ever.
Featuring a strong carbon body, customizable modular parts, and a whack of flight settings for ease of use. Cons include the price, it requires a receiver, and it’s a modular build but not that customizable.
In a line: Best beginner ready to fly racer – easy to use and configure.
IRC Vortex 250 Pro
The Vortex 250 Pro requires a bit more than 5 minutes to get in the air, but the larger size, robust frame, and powerful rotor motors make this quad a serious racing contender.
All you need to add is a controller, battery, and you’re good to go – if you want to use FPV you’ll also need a receiver and display device to get rolling. This thing is virtually indestructible and the hardcore custom motors make it a speed demon.
In a line: Best overall racing quadcopter – solid parts, and fast.
Emax Nighthawk Pro 280
Basically a budget version of the Vortex 250 Pro, the Emax Nighthawk is also an almost ready to race quad. This racing drone features a lot of parts that if you were to buy separately would cost way more than the drone its self.
With a robust carbon frame, reputable ESC, and decent quality FPV system you’re almost ready to go. The only weak point is the vulnerable PCB which can be solved with a few mods.
In a line: Best budget racing quadcopter, quality parts, great price.
Top Tips for Drone Buyers
Here are a few tips to think about before buying a drone, and before flying it.
- You will crash at some point. Buy extra props and other spares if they are available so that you can quickly swap these out. We also recommend flying with prop protectors the first few times you use your drone, as these will help reduce the likelihood you will need to replace the props.
- Once you are confident flying, remove your prop protectors. Any additional weight will reduce your flight time.
- Batteries can take an hour to charge depending on the capacity and charger being used. Make sure you get extra batteries for your drone so that you aren’t constantly waiting for a battery to charge.
- Start simple! If you are getting something more than a $20-30 micro quadcopter, consider getting the Hubsan X4 first to learn the basics. The money you save on repairs by crashing this gently, instead of a larger expensive drone, will far outweigh the cost of the X4.
Before You Fly Your Quadcopter
- Make sure you read up on your local drone/UAV laws. Flight is typically restricted to line-of-sight (you must always be able to see your drone) and below 400 feet.
- Never fly near an airport/airfield or over roads, buildings and people.
- Check your transmitter is powered on before you power your drone.
- Check your drone battery is charged.
- Check your drone for any damage and ensure props, prop protectors and any camera are attached securely.
While some of these may seem simple and mundane, doing an inspection every time before you fly is a great habit to get into to protect yourself, your drone, and others around you.
Best Quadcopter & Drone Reviews Conclusion
Whilst the level of detail presented here will allow newcomers to make an informed decision, we know that experienced users will be looking for a more in-depth review. You can find reviews for each of our top picks on the site, just follow the links below. If you have questions about any of the top picks, please get in touch via the “Contact us” page.
Hopefully our best quadcopter & drone reviews was helpful to you as a drone consumer. We’ve tried to present the three main categories that drone users fall under and presented what we truly believe to be the three best options for each. Our picks for the 5 best quadcopters overall is a culmination of those individual categories.