When considering drones that sell for less than $200, you are buying a high-end hobby drone, except for racing drones.
These low-cost drones have fewer features than the entry-level hobby drones, which sell for $200 to $300, but they can be really fun to fly.
If you live in the U.S., none of the drones reviewed require registration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). FAA rules require online registration for any drones that weigh more than seven ounces (200 grams). If you buy a drone that weighs less than seven ounces you do not have to bother with registration.
I checked the weight of the drones in this category to make sure that none are required to have an FAA registration. Be careful not to confuse shipping weight with drone weight. Shipping weight includes the weight of the box and the packaging. I also found mistakes in the drone weight listed for some of these drones on the web pages of online retailers, so it is always best to check the drone weights on the manufacturer’s website to be sure.
No pilot’s license is required to fly drones for a hobby. You should read the hobby-flying rules on FAA Drone Zone because you have to follow them even if your drone is not registered.
For example, do not fly anywhere that is within five miles of any airport and be careful when flying high up not to interfere with other aircraft. You will also have to follow any local community and state flying rules if there are any.
If you live outside the U.S., I highly suggest checking with your local aviation authority's rules and regulations.
Table of the Best Drones Under $200
Holy Stone HS110D
Holy Stone F181W
5MP / 720p
Holy Stone HS230 Racing Drone
Expected Specs and Features for Drones Under $200
All of the drones in this category come with a video camera that captures images at 780p resolution, except one that has HD 1080p video capture. These drones do not have onboard memory storage. The controller may have the ability to use a Smart SD chip for storage memory or you may have to capture video or images to store them on your smartphone.
Some of these drones require a smartphone to serve as the controller. Others have a controller with a screen so you can fly it without using a smartphone. Some can do both. When drone operation requires using a smartphone, the phone is no longer able to be used to take calls or text messages. For parents who want to be able to stay in contact with their teen kids at all times, this may be an important consideration. Teens are quick to learn that they can use the excuse that they could not answer a call from a parent because they were using their smartphone to control a drone.
One optional feature that many drone flyers like to use is the ability to fly the drone while wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset. Flying a drone in this way is very fun, first-person-view (FPV) flying. If this mode of flying is of interest, then you will want to select a drone from this category that has VR capability and then separately buy the VR equipment you need to use.
How to Choose a Drone in this Price Range
To decide which one of these drones is best for your needs you can consider the price, the type of controller it uses, and the flight time on a single battery charge. You will also want to consider the ease-of-use, which includes flight controls, take-off, landing, and any other safety features. Check out the warranty and see if the manufacturer gives good customer service after a purchase because most do not.
Here are the basic considerations when making a purchase decision about one of these drones:
All of these drones cost between $100 and $200. The average price is around $129.
Type of Controller
Some of these drones have a remote controller included, which has a screen to view the video captured by the drone. Other models use a smartphone (not included) that is held in place horizontally by a bracket that is attached to the remote controller. The ones that use a smartphone need to download a free smartphone app that is then used to control the drone. For this type, be sure that your smartphone is compatible with the drone app requirements.
The flight time for all the drones in this category ranges from 10 to 15 minutes on a single battery charge. For more enjoyment, it is good to have spare batteries that are already charged in order to keep flying. Note that some of the drones require a cool down period between flights of ten minutes.
All of these drones are easy to assemble and ready to use right out of the box. Some have flight control assistance that makes them easier to fly. One such feature is altitude-hold. This helps the drone to fly level automatically making it easier for beginners to maintain control of the flight and only have to concentrate on making turns.
There is another nice feature that some of these drones have, which is called headless-mode. This mode allows the operator to orient the controls in relation to the pilot’s direction. That means if the drone is flying away from or back towards the pilot the same control movement is used to make it turn in a specific direction.
Without headless capability the controls make the drone fly in a different direction depending on whether the drone is flying away from you or flying toward you. This feels strange and can confuse the operator. With headless flying when you move the control to the right the drone goes to the right no matter which direction it is flying. Having headless-flying capability is very helpful for beginners.
A helpful safety feature is a low-power alert to give the operator time to land the drone before losing battery power. For those that like flying during dusk or at night, having LED navigation lights on the drone makes it easier to see. It is nice to have a one-button emergency landing and a one-button emergency motor stop. Adjustable speed controls are helpful. New users will find it more comfortable to fly at slower speeds and then when they become more confident with their flying skills they can increase the flying speed.
Added safety features are possible when you choose a drone that works with GPS coordinates. Before each flight, the pilot sets the home location according to the GPS coordinates of where the controller is located. Then for drones with a return-home feature, the operator can make the drone come back by using one-key for it to return. Also, if the battery power is low or the communication signal is lost, the drone automatically returns.
If you are counting on a warranty repair for a drone in this category, you are probably going to be disappointed. The warranty usually is only for the first 30 days and only covers the replacement of parts that have a manufacturer’s defect. Because these drones are so fragile and beginners frequently crash them, the manufacturers will be reluctant to make warranty repairs for things that could have been damaged in an accident.
Sending a drone overseas and waiting for warranty repairs will be frustrating and it is costly to ship the drone. It may be better to order the parts needed for repairs and then replace the parts yourself or even just buy another drone to avoid this frustration.
Here is a helpful checklist of the considerations to use for comparing drones in this category:
- Purchase Cost
- Type of Controller
- Flight Time
- Ease of Use
- Safety Features
Of the different choices, the type of controller and whether you need to operate the drone by using a smart phone may be important.
Who are these drones best for?
Beginners and teens/children (supervise any children under the age of 14) will like flying these drones. To have a nice experience, fly your drone in a large, open area on a day with no wind. If it is windy outside, you can fly some of these drones indoors. When flying indoors, remove anything breakable from the room to avoid a calamity, in case you have an accident. Do not fly these drones over any people. Do not use them for spying, which is illegal in most places. Do not fly them within five miles of any airport or in any way that interferes with any other aircraft.
Top Drones Under $200 - Reviews
1. Holy Stone HS110D - Best Overall
There is a lot to like about the HS110D.
It has a camera with 720p resolution that has a 120º wide-angle lens. It can be controlled by a transmitter while wearing a VR headset for immersive FPV flying.
The transmission of the live video stream is up to 196 feet (60 meters). It can also be controlled by a smartphone using an app (works only with IoS 7.0 or later and Android OS 4.4 or later). The operational range is up to 328 feet (100 meters).
The motor starts with one-button. It has the safety features of emergency landing and emergency motor stop. It has automatic flight-leveling control and will fly horizontally by itself by using gravity sensors. There is a low-battery alarm, which is a flashing light that gives the operator plenty of time (40 seconds) to land the drone before the battery runs out of power.
The flying speed is adjustable so that beginner can learn while flying at a slower speed. It has LED navigation lights to help it be seen easily when flying at night. The batteries are modular and are easy to swap out with another one. The flying time is up to 10 minutes per battery charge. The recharge time for batteries is about 120 minutes.
- Elegant design with propellers and their guards on top.
- Wide-angle view without the propellers in the shot.
- VR-FPV flying is possible with optional equipment.
- Camera angle is not adjustable.
The Holy Stone F181W drone has six internal gyroscopes for stable flying. It has an altitude-hold mode that keeps it flying level automatically.
It has one-key function for take-off and landing. Also, there is a one-key return-home feature. It can fly in headless mode for easy control by beginners. It does 3-D flips with the touch of a button to impress your friends.
There are four channel choices for the controller signal to use in order to avoid any local communication signal interference. The transmission range is 164 to 328 feet (50 to 100 meters). It will fly for seven to ten minutes on a single battery charge. The recharge time for a battery is about 70 to 90 minutes.
Holy Stone F181W's video camera is 720p resolution with a 120º field-of-view wide-angle lens. The FPV video is transmitted over a WIFI signal that can be recorded by a smartphone, which has the controller app installed.
- Stable flying from internal gyroscopes.
- Need to use a smartphone (not included) to view and record video.
The Tello drone was designed as a joint venture between two drone manufacturing companies, DJI and Ryze, with the goal to bring lots of features into a drone that costs around $100.
The results were pretty good. The drone can be controlled by a smartphone, a controller (purchased separately), and by pre-programming using the Tello Edu smartphone app based on the Scratch programming language.
This drone has many similarities with the more expensive DJI Spark drone. It has a nice long flight time of 13 to 15 minutes. The camera takes 5-megapixels photos and 720p video that it can transmit to a smartphone or to a VR headset for exciting FPV flying. It has a range of about 328 feet (100 meters).
Take-off and landing are accomplished by pushing a button. You can also use the “throw and go” feature to get it flying. Toss it into the air and it starts up by itself. If the battery is low. it gives an alert and will automatically land if the communication connection is lost.
It has a vision-positioning system that allows the operator to select a target for the drone to hover over. It has automatic altitude-hold for level flying that beginners really appreciate. Its smartphone app has some nice features, which can be used to create video effects such as follow-me, bounce-up-and-down mode, and circular flying around a certain point.
- Very easy to use.
- Long flight time.
- Teaches kids how to write software programming code that can operate the drone autonomously.
- Does not have a controller, Must be operated by using a smartphone (not included).
The Hubsan H501SS has features that are similar to other drones that cost at least $100 more.
This drone is the only one in this category that has a camera with HD 1080p video resolution. The included controller has a 4.3 inch color monitor with a LCD screen to display a crystal-clear FPV of the drone flying.
The communication of the drone with the controller receiver operates on either 5.8 GHz or 2.4 GHz signals. It has a range of 984 feet (300 meters) and can fly for up to 20 minutes.
This drone uses GPS coordinates for positioning. It flies in headless mode, altitude-hold mode, and follow-me mode. It has a one-button return-home feature that automatically engages if the communication signal between the controller and the drone is interrupted.
The motor is brushless for a quieter operation and a longer life. It can fly for up to 20 minutes on a single battery charge. The recharge time for the battery is about 150 minutes.
- Works simultaneously with three Global Navigation
- Satellite Systems (GPS, Galileo, and GLONASS)
- High-quality HD video capture.
Long flight time.
- No propeller guards.
Hold on to your seats because this baby can fly! It can reach a top-speed of up to 28 mph.
It is very lightweight at 4.1 ounces (116 grams), which is good for a racing drone.
This drone has a 720p video camera with a 120 º field-of-view that transmits live video over a 5.8 GHz signal to the controller for real-time FPV flying with no signal delay.
Control communication is at 2.4 GHz. This drone can do automatic 360º rolls with the touch of a button. It flies in headless mode for easier flight control. Batteries are modular and can easily be changed. It has bright LED lights for night flying.
It has a range of 328 feet (100 meters) and can fly for seven to ten minutes on a single battery. The recharge time for a battery is 60 to 90 minutes. The manufacturer recommends a cool-down time of ten minutes between flights to prevent damage from overheating.
- This is an entry-level professional race drone, not a toy, for a cheap price.
- Three speeds.
- Very fast (up to 28 mph).
- No altitude hold.
My favorite drone in this price range is the Holy Stone HS110D because of its reliability.
This drone is very well made and can handle the abuse it might suffer at the hands of new pilots.