Suppose you have little budget to invest in drones. But there is nothing you can do at this time to invest in good-quality professional types of drones.
Knowing the minimum for decent drones is around $300 with the DJI Mini 2 SE; you're not looking to spend that much but simply buy a cheap drone.
Are those worth it? Are cheap drones worth purchasing?
What do we know about them, and why would my professional answer be NO?
So, let's find out a few things I want to share with you so you avoid wasting your hard-earned money on cheap drones that will barely function and are by far not good enough to use for photography or other applications.
But not all cheap drones are like this. A few of them may have their own advantages and uses.
Cheap drones are cheap for a reason.
You have seen on Amazon a drone for around $50. You may think it's a great deal for a drone, and its advertising is fantastic. But you're missing a lot.
Generally, cheap drones are over-advertised for what they can do, and by far, they are not able to perform even the essential functions.
They are unsafe to use, camera quality is terrible, and no matter the price of the (cheap) drone, you still have to abide by drone laws if you're flying one outdoors.
Even if they look nice, they won't fly the same. A decent GPS drone should be able to fly for at least 30 minutes and have a minimum range of 1 mile.
Most of those cheap drones are, in fact, without a camera, or if they have any camera for photography and filming, you won't have any live view.
With some drones, you can use the phone to get a live view in the traditional way more expensive drones work, but you may miss a lot of features.
And here's what we have to share with you
The camera quality is awful.
Just because a drone looks decent doesn't mean the camera is of a professional level. Those drones are usually $1000 and up; even like this, if you're simply looking for a drone to get some holiday pictures, ensure you're investing smartly.
These drone cameras can barely take pictures at a full HD resolution, and even their quality is bad enough because of the small CMOS, usually smaller than a phone's.
We depend on good-quality and larger CMOS for cameras, from drones to phones and even DSLRs, in order to take good-quality pictures and videos. But at a price when those "cheap" drones are sold, it is hard, if not impossible, to find one with a decent camera.
At least not under $300 - this is the price barrier to getting a decently good drone to use for different applications, including photography and filming - but beware that not all drones above this price point are decent.
That's why a bit of research is needed if you're looking for a cheap drone to take any photography and film with.
Flight time is terrible.
With any of the cheap drones under $200-300, you should not expect that a drone will stay in the air for more than a few minutes.
There are fixed-wing drones for this price that can fly quite long, but we leave those out for now.
Standard GPS drones and FPV drones usually have intelligent batteries to function with a few safety features, such as short-circuit, over-current, and overcharge protection.
But finding these perks in cheap drone batteries is difficult, if merely impossible.
These would likely be unprotected Lipo batteries that can come with an even higher risk of starting a fire.
Anyway, the point is that cheap drones would not benefit from the advancement in Lipo batteries, and the electronics (flight controller, motors, etc) behind a cheap drone are not optimized for decent power management.
Therefore, you won't be able to fly a cheap drone for more than a few minutes.
Cheap drones are not safe.
This should be the number one concern when we relate to cheap drones.
Generally, drones are dangerous if not handled well, but with cheaper drones, the unsafety is skyrocketing.
These cheaper drones tend to be bulky and unproportional to their technology, hover badly (drifting a lot), and may lack return-to-home functions or even auto-landing, which decreases the safety of flying such drones.
However, not all cheap drones are unsafe to use. Some of them are small and lightweight and do not cause that much damage if crashed.
Moreover, many of the cheap drones (some classified as toys) will have total propeller protections (duct guards), so they can be flown even indoors or near people.
So, if you really insist on getting a cheap drone, as this is the budget you want to invest, definitely look into one with complete framing protection, but NOT WITH PROPELLER GUARDS.
The propeller guards are mostly useless and do not provide the protection they should as compared to other drones designed where the motor and propellers are enclosed into duct guards or a frame.
Referring to the above point, most cheaper drones are indeed bulky, heavy, and poorly made, and here we're not only talking about the electronic components that make these drones fly unsafely, but even the frame.
Some of these are made of cheap plastic with very low durability, and if you crash any of these drones, you will collect pieces with a dustpan.
Other disadvantages of getting a cheap drone
Investing more into a decent drone will come with significant advantages that will promote your drone hobby to the next level, and usually, the more expensive your drone is, the more it can do.
But talking about cheap drones these have plenty of downsides. I don't want to sound harsh, but it's true. I had all kinds of drones, from professional ones to cheap ones and FPV as well.
So, here's what you can tumble across on cheap drones.
- Flight time is really terrible, and batteries may be unsafe.
- These drones do not have stable hovering and are difficult to maneuver.
- We often won't find return-to-home functions (with GPS modules), so we'll have to manually bring back the drone.
- Auto takeoff and landing may be missing.
- Many cheap drones are bulky and made of cheap plastic, which does not make sense with the current technology and what the drones have inside.
- Poor transmission range and poorly made controllers.
- Cameras are terrible, even if they come with a camera.
- Forget about intelligent functions, follow-me mode, and other smart modes.
This is what came to my mind. But we should not shut down everything about cheap drones and totally say nothing is worth buying. Some more affordable drones still make sense to buy, especially if you want to have fun (or your kid) and don't want to invest too much.
So, here are some pros as well.
- Many cheap drones are tiny in size (microdrones), which can be fun to fly.
- Some more affordable drones will have total protection from impact where the entire drone, including propellers, is covered by a case or duct guards, so it should not do any damage if not flown well.
- Many cheaper drones are made for kids with safety in mind, so it can come as a great gifting option.
- They are very reasonable, so you won't invest a lot of money in something you may not use in the future.
What cheap drones are worth buying?
It would be challenging to create a list and know exactly what you're looking for in a drone, especially a cheaper drone.
But as we already mentioned, a few cheaper drones that may or may not be classified as toys but can be good gifting options are these drones that are safe to fly with propellers being enclosed, so they won't hurt anyone.
However, there's one recommendation that comes to my mind.
One of the best cheaper drones is, in fact, the BETAFPV Cetus Lite FPV Kit, which excels for what it means to do around this price point.
It's a micro FPV drone that weights 35 grams with the battery (at takeoff); it comes with FPV goggles so you will see everything in VR mode (live view); it has an analog camera and can fly both as an average drone and FPV drone if you're ever looking to get into FPV further down the line.
Moreover, this drone can withstand some impacts because it's so small and made of durable plastic. But just to be aware, this micro drone is mainly made to fly indoors.
If you're interested at all about it (as this is my number 1 recommendation for cheap drones), we want to share with you the option to check it on Amazon (affiliate link).
BETAFPV Cetus Lite FPV Drone Kit
BETAFPV Cetus Lite FPV Drone Kit for Kids, with Altitude Hold Self Protection Function 2 Speed Modes Support Simulator Ready to Fly Kit for Children Gifts FPV Beginners to Start Flying Indoor.
This is an affiliate link. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
From my professional experience, only a handful of cheap drones are worth buying, such as the Cetus we mentioned earlier, but drones cheaper than that are not worth the investment unless you're looking for a safer drone toy.
If you want to get into FPV or flying standard GPS drones, we recommend you keep the money and, down the line, invest in something better, such as the DJI Mini 2 SE, which would be my total recommendation as a cheap drone to buy.