Drones that sell for under $100 are excellent for beginner pilots.
And they are fun to fly for adults as well as kids.
It is recommended that an adult supervise any child who is flying a drone if the child is under 14 years old.
This guide will help you choose the best drone under $100 for your needs in 2020:
Table of the Best Drones Under $100
Holy Stone HS200
Best For FPV
Holy Stone F181C
5MP / 720p
Best Memory Storage
Best Smartphone Control
Best For Beginners
Best For Travel
Fly Responsibly: If you live in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration requires many drones to be registered. This includes hobby and professional drones. Visit the FAA's drone registration page for more information.
Top Drones Under $100 - Reviews
1. Best Overall - Holy Stone HS200
The Holy Stone HS200 offers first-person-view (FPV) flying. It is one of the higher-priced drones of this group that is offered around the upper price limit of this category.
It has a choice of four channels for control communications. This allows choosing the channel with the lowest local interference. This quadcopter has six internal gyroscopes for stable flying.
The HS200 features altitude-hold mode to fly at a certain height automatically. It can fly in headless mode, which makes it easier to control by the operator. It has a one-key return-home feature, which should only be used with proper calibration.
The camera can take photos at a two-megapixel resolution quality, which is high-definition (HD), yet only records video at 720p, which is not HD, even though the manufacturer does not make this distinction clear in its promotions.
Photos and video must be viewed and stored on a smartphone. Drone control can be achieved with the controller or by using a smartphone app. The smartphone app allows the added feature of gravity-sensor mode. This lets the user control the drone flight by holding and moving the smartphone.
- Internal gyros create stable flight.
- Fun to use smartphone movement for flight control.
- Good customer service, which is rare for drone manufacturers.
- A little too big for indoor flying.
2. Best For FPV - DBPOWER X400W
The DBPOWER X400W is a good choice if you want a drone that is compatible with VR equipment to fly it with a headset, which you will have to buy separately.
It has the option of four communication channels that work over a 2.4 GHz connection. It has six internal gyroscopes for stable flying.
The X400W has a range of 328 feet (100 meters) and a flight time of eight to nine minutes. When wearing the optional 3D VR Headset and using the MJX FPV smartphone app, the pilot can see a split screen. T
he smaller inset screen shows flight data such as altitude and the drone’s distance from the controller. The larger screen shows the FPV live-video stream of the drone flying.
- VR capable.
- Stable flying from six internal gyros.
- Easy to use.
- Range could be longer.
3. Best Memory Storage - Holy Stone F181C
The Holy Stone F181C captures 720p video. You turn on the video recording while the drone is flying around and then land it to take the 4 Gb Micro SD memory card out of the drone and put it in another device to view the video that was recorded.
It has altitude-hold mode, headless flying mode, one-key automatic flips, continuous rolls, and one-key return-home. The range is 164 to 328 feet (50 to 100 meters).
The flight time on a single battery charge is seven to nine minutes. The battery recharges in about 80 minutes. All in all, this quadcopter is a great flyer for under $100.
- On board video recording and no smartphone required for flying.
- Controllable LED light can be turned on or off.
- Low-battery warning light gives the operator 40 seconds to land the drone before losing power.
- Motor may overheat.
4. Best Smartphone Control - Snaptain S5C
This drone is another drone that is VR compatible as long as you buy the VR-headset equipment.
The Snaptain S5C has some nice features that include one-key automatic take-off and landing. It has a one-key return-home feature, which should only be used with caution. You will need to use your smartphone to attach it to the controller or use the smartphone app alone to control it.
When you turn on the gravity-sensor mode on the smartphone app, you can control the drone by moving the smartphone around, which is very easy and fun to do. It will fly at a certain height and hover in place by using the altitude-hold mode.
Another great feature is you can use your fingertip to chart a flight path. You do this by dragging your finger across the video image from the drone that is shown by its app on your smartphone. Then, the drone will automatically fly the flight path you have chosen. You can also teach the drone to respond to voice commands that you record with your smartphone.
The camera captures video at 720p that can be viewed on your smartphone or with an optional VR headset. If you want to save the video or photos you need to save them by using a Micro SD card that you buy separately and put in your smartphone.
It has a range of 262 feet (80 meters) and can fly for about seven to ten minutes. It offers three speeds. This allows beginners to learn while flying at a slower speed.
- Smartphone app controls are exceptional.
- Its sturdy design holds up well in some minor crashes.
- LED lighting for higher visibility at night.
- VR equipment must be purchased separately.
5. Best For Beginners - DBPOWER Discovery
The DBPOWER Discovery is specifically designed for beginners, as it comes with propeller guards standard. However, be aware that is is on the larger side.
The DBPOWER Discovery comes with an extra battery to use for extended flight time. By using the two batteries you can fly this drone for 12 to 18 minutes (six to nine minutes per battery). Users pilot this drone either by using their smartphone with an app or by connecting their smartphone to the included controller.
The video captured by the drone is 720p, which can be viewed and save on the smartphone and also stored on the onboard 4Gb SD card (included) that is carried by the drone.
It has one-button take-off and landing. It will fly level in altitude-hold mode. It has strong propeller guards that make this drone safer for flying indoors.
It can fly in headless mode, do automatic flips, and has two speeds. A beginner can choose to fly at the slower speed when they are first learning how to fly. To be safe and not lose the drone, the flight range should be kept to within 30 to 60 feet (10 to 20 meters) of the controller.
- Onboard video and photo storage.
- Stable flying and hovering.
- Two speeds.
- Range could be longer.
6. Best For Travel - Topvision X39-1
One nice and unique characteristic of this drone is that the arms fold up.
With the propeller guards removed, the drone can fit in your pocket. It has a one-key start, altitude-hold mode, and can be controlled by a smartphone app or with the smartphone attached to the included controller.
The Topvision X39-1 can also be controlled with hand signals by using the app in order to take selfies.
The camera has a wide-angle lens with the field-of-view of 120º. The video capture is 480p. It comes with two batteries. Each battery allows flying for six to eight minutes.
Using two batteries, the flight time extends to 12 to 16 minutes in total. The range is a maximum of 90 feet (30 meters).
- Six internal gyros for stable flying.
- Hand controls make it easy to take selfies.
- Compact size.
- Has a brushed motor, which may wear out relatively quickly.
Expected Specs and Features for Drones Under $100
The manufacturers will sometimes advertise these drones as having a high-definition (HD) camera. That can be a bit misleading. There are two measurements used to determine whether a camera is HD or not. These are the resolution of still images and the resolution of the video images captured by the camera.
HD video starts at the resolution of 1080p as a minimum. For all of these drones, the video is captured at the lower resolution of 720p, even when they claim to have HD cameras. The resolution of still images is always higher than the video. With still photos, the resolution can be as low as 1 megapixel (equal to 1000p) and that resolution is considered HD for still photos.
Most still cameras are 5 megapixels or higher. Therefore, do not be fooled by the claims of HD for a camera when the manufacturer is relying on the resolution for still photos. It is true what they are saying but not the complete story. Having HD resolution for still images does not explain the possibility of also having a lower quality for video-image capture.
The quality of the video captured by these drones is fine for flying them and it is good enough to post on social media. However, the video quality is not HD. This can easily be seen when playing the recorded video on a screen that is larger, like the typical laptop screen that is 1080p. Video that is 720p will look pixelated and fuzzy when viewed at full-screen size on a screen that is 1080p high.
If a drone in this category has first-person-view (FPV) capability, you can see what the drone sees. All except one of these drones require a smartphone (not included) to be able to view and record the video. The smartphone is held in a bracket and then it is connected to the controller. Some of these drones can be flown by only using the smartphone with a downloadable app installed that controls the drone.
Some of these drones can be flown while wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset that is an accessory (sold separately). Wearing a VR headset is really fun because the experience of flying a drone this way feels like having the point-of-view of a bird that is flying.
How to Choose a Drone in this Price Range
Considerations to use when comparing these drones to each other are the price of the drone, flight time, battery recharge time, how easy it is to fly, and safety features. It may be important to you for the drone to be VR-headset capable if you want to fly it that way.
The average price for these drones is around $79.
Seven to ten minutes on a single battery charge is all the flight time you should expect from any of the drones in this category.
To keep flying longer, it is a good idea to have extra, charged batteries on hand. Be aware, some of these drones cannot fly continuously. They require a ten-minute cool-down period between flights to avoid any overheating that could burn out the motor.
These drones are easy to get ready for flying. Most of them require the battery to be charged up first, so be prepared for that delay before you can use the drone.
When comparing these drones, check for flight control assistance capabilities such as altitude-hold, headless flying, and whether the drone has internal gyroscopes for stability.
Some of these drones can be paired with the controller and then the drone will fly back towards the controller with the push of a single button. This feature is called automatic return home.
Please note that if these drones are flown out of range so that the communication with the drone is lost, the drone can be easily lost as well. A common error is to fly the drone to its height limit and lose communication. If there is any wind, the drone may then do what is called a “fly away.” This is a sad thing for an operator because the drone will fly off to who-knows-where and unless you quickly go chase it; it can disappear forever.
An important safety feature is to install propeller guards. These guards may prevent some of the damage to the propellers and the things the drone hits when involved in a collision. Propeller guards have saved my indoor plants and lamps from collision damage many times when I fly a drone inside.
For those that like flying a drone at night, the ones with LED lights on them are easier to see in the dark. Another good safety feature is a low-power alert to give the pilot time to land the drone when the battery power is running out.
It is a blast to use a VR headset to fly a drone. The experience is really fun. Some of these drones are compatible with VR equipment that must be purchased separately.
Who Are These Drones Best For?
These drones are marketed towards beginners because they are really cheap. However, these drones are not the easiest drones on the market to fly. Higher-priced drones, with the ability to use GPS coordinates and that have onboard obstacle detection and collision avoidance, are much easier to fly than these drones. You will have to spend in the range of $200 to $300 to get these advanced features for a drone; however, you may ultimately be happier if you do this than if you lose or crash one of these drones.
It is important to understand the warning about wind because wind is the most likely cause of serious problems with these drones. The drones in this category do not fly well in the wind because their motors are not strong enough. It is easy to lose them in the wind, so do yourself a favor and do not attempt to fly them, especially up high, if there is even the slightest wind outside. It would be better to fly them indoors if it is a windy day.
If you are a beginner just learning to fly with these cheaper drones, take your time to learn the controls by flying in a safe area that is a wide open space, with no wind, and no obstacles. At first, fly low to the ground until you can maneuver your drone correctly. Practice flying on a single battery charge and then let the drone cool down for ten minutes before flying more.
What Is The Best Drone Under $100?
I like the Holy Stone HS200 as the best choice under $100.
It is built well and has nice features. It is fun to fly by moving a smartphone around. Holy Stone is the one drone manufacturer that gets great praise for its excellent customer service.
Other drone manufacturers do not offer good after-purchase help when customer have problems with drones that have defects. Holy Stone makes great drones and tries to do its best to make sure its customers are satisfied.