Drones under $500 offer a great balance of price and features.
You can get an excellent camera, a long range, good flight time, some autonomous flight modes, and more.
This buying guide reviews the best drones under $500 for sale right now in 2020.
Let's get started:
Table of the Best Drones Under $500
DJI Mavic Mini
12MP / 2.7K
12MP / 1080p
Best For Beginners
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
12MP / 2.7K
Hubsan Zino Pro
Best For Recreational Pilots
16MP / 4K
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 $500 - Reviews
1. Best Overall - DJI Mavic Mini
The DJI Mavic Mini is a favorite of many drone pilots.
First of all, it is incredibly compact and easy to transport. The drone weighs under 250 grams, making it one of the best models for taking spontaneous shots on the go.
It sports a great camera that shoots 2.7K video and takes 12 megapixel still photos, and it can be operated using a controller/smartphone.
Some of the Mavic Mini's best features are its autonomous flight modes. These allow any pilot to get crisp, clean shots without needing expert flying skills.
The flight modes include Dronie, Circle, Helix, and Rocket.
The quadcopter is so light that DJI was able to get its flight time up to a whopping 30 minutes. This is on the top-end of the entire drone market.
Overall, the Mavic Mini is an excellent option, especially for less than $500.
- 30-minute flight time.
- Autonomous flight modes.
- FPV capability.
- Compact and portable.
- Less than 250 grams.
- Easy to fly.
- 12 megapixel still photos.
- 2.7K video.
- The app can sometimes drain phone battery too quickly.
2. Best For Beginners - DJI Spark
The DJI Spark is designed with the beginner in mind.
You can also download the free DJI Go app and then control the drone using a smartphone from up to 1.2 miles away. The flight time is about 16 minutes.
If you are new to drone flying, you will be happy to know that this drone has automatic obstacle detection and collision avoidance that is built-in.
Advanced users have the option to turn this feature off and put the drone in sports mode for top-speed flying of up to 31 miles per hour.
It comes with a camera that is mounted on a rotating gimbal, which is stabilized in two directions to capture steady shots.
Spark takes 12 megapixel still photos and shoots video in 1080p at 30 frames per second.
This drone has some special flying features such as responding to hand gestures that can be used to control the drone and to make it take a selfie image.
The DJI Spark is a fun drone for new pilots that won't break the bank.
- Compact and durable.
- Flies fast in sports mode.
- FPV capable.
- 12MP still photos.
- 1080p video.
- Obstacle avoidance.
- Hand gestures.
- Memory card to store photos and videos is not included and must be bought separately.
3. Best Camera - DJI Phantom 3 Standard
The Phantom 3 Standard records high-definition (HD) video at a 2.7K resolution and takes photos at a 12-megapixel resolution.
An 8GB SD memory card is included. The camera is gimbal mounted for easy rotation, and it is stabilized on three axels.
It also sends a live video stream at 780p resolution to your smartphone. This live video can be viewed on the smartphone app at a distance of up to half a mile away using a WIFI transmission.
The Phantom 3 takes advantage of the features of the free DJI Go app, including Follow Me, the option to set waypoints, flying to a specific point, and the ability to follow a pre-programmed flight path.
The quadcopter has a flight time of up to 25 minutes and a communication transmission range of up to 3,000 feet.
For the money, the Phantom 3 is one of the best choices out there.
- Captures excellent high-quality images.
- Easy for beginners to learn how to fly.
- Long flight time.
- 2.7K video.
- 12MP still photos.
- Autopilot capability.
- FPV capability.
- Not suitable for indoor flying.
4. Best For Recreational Pilots - Hubsan Zino Pro
The Hubsan Zino Pro is an excellent drone for recreational pilots.
One of its top characteristics is its portability. Much like the Mavic Mini, it folds down to a compact size that's easy to transport.
It also comes with a solid 4K camera, 3-axis gimbal, and a respectable 23-minute flight time.
What I really like about this drone is its detachable camera filter. This feature allows you to more easily adjust aperture and shutter speed, giving you more creative control.
The Zino Pro also comes with a low-battery failsafe, so you don't need to worry about your drone flying away or crashing due to its battery running out mid-flight.
This quad offers a nice blend of price, features, and portability.
- 4K camera.
- Portable and compact.
- 23-minute flight time.
- Detachable camera filter.
- Auto return-to-home.
- Low-battery failsafe.
- Loss control failsafe.
- Setup instructions lack depth.
5. Best Stability - UPair Two
The UPair Two is a stable outdoor flyer with some nice features.
Most notably, its camera comes with three lenses: one that shoots video in 4K FHD and two that shoot in 2K FHD. And they take 16 megapixel stills.
The drone comes with FPV capability. You can connect your smartphone or tablet and mount it on the drone's controller. And it has a flight time of 24 minutes.
This drone also comes with some nice flight modes, such as Headless Mode, Follow Me Mode, Altitude Hold and One Key Return to Home.
Overall, the UPair Two is a solid flyer that will get you some good outdoor shots.
- 3 lenses (4K, 2K).
- 16 megapixel still photos.
- Stable flight.
- Great for outdoor filming.
- Flight modes.
- FPV capability.
- Instructions are somewhat limited.
Expected Specs And Features For Drones Under $500
Some of the drones in this category come with a high-quality camera. Photo resolution is determined by the megapixel amount for a digital photograph.
This photo resolution for a camera on drones in this category starts at 8 megapixels and goes up to 12 megapixels.
Video recording capability may be high-definition (HD) that is starts at 1080p resolution and goes up to 2.7K. Even better is ultra-high-definition (UHD) video, which is also known as 4K resolution.
There are cameras that stream live video, which is useful for flying them using a smartphone. Having a live video stream is also important for flying with a virtual reality (VR) headset that gives a first-person view (FPV) of the drone flying.
Racing drones in this category can go over 75 miles per hour.
High-flying drones can go up to an altitude of 5,000 feet when flying in unrestricted airspace as long as your flying does not interfere with other piloted aircraft.
Flight times for drones in this category range from about 16 minutes up to 25 minutes on a single battery charge.
When using a local controller, the flight range is shorter than when connecting with the drone by a WIFI or cell phone signal.
The longest range for some of these drones is just over a mile. As long as you can still see the drone you can fly a long-range drone from quite a long distance away from it.
Drones in this category may have GPS positioning and assisted-flight control features such as one-button takeoff/landing and an automatic return-home feature that flies the drone to a pre-set location of the home GPS coordinates.
Another great feature is called follow-me and this makes the drones follow a person or an object while videotaping.
A few of these drones have the ability to fly from one waypoint to another one, so the flight path can be pre-programmed.
I find this feature especially helpful when trying to capture complex video shots.
How To Choose A Drone In This Price Range
One of the main considerations is, to decide if you want to use the drone for racing or if you prefer to focus more on capturing video.
If you want to capture video you want a drone to have the highest-quality camera you can afford. If racing is your thing, you will want the one that flies the fastest.
Here are some other considerations, when making a purchase decision about one of these drones.
Since the cost category is limited to the range of $300 to $500, the price is less of a factor than the importance of getting a drone with the flying capabilities that you want it to have.
There is no point in buying a cheaper drone just for the lower price if it will not do what you want it to do.
Flight time is only a consideration for those who do not like to change out the battery as frequently and for those that cannot afford to buy extra batteries.
You may also want to consider the time necessary to recharge a battery if you do not have enough extra ones.
Beginners really need to pay attention to the choices of drones that are easier to fly.
There is probably not a worse feeling for a drone flyer than to take a new drone out of the box, fly it for the first time, crash it, and have it break into a hundred pieces.
Everyone wants to avoid a serious fail when they are first learning. For those just starting out, having one-button takeoff and landing assistance is really helpful.
Fight safety features are very desirable such as have automatic collision avoidance.
Also, an automatic return-home feature is very handy.
This helps if the drone loses the connection with the controller to keep the drone from doing what is called a “fly away.”
This is when the drone gets out of range of the controller and is caught up by the wind and then just disappears. That is really frustrating.
A good warranty that the manufacturer supports is very helpful.
Getting after-purchase care may be difficult if the drone manufacturer is in a foreign country and does not have a system of qualified technicians to make repairs in the U.S.
When a drone needs a repair and has to be sent overseas, this can take many months for it to be fixed and sent back.
Here is a convenient checklist of items to consider that can help you compare one drone model to another one:
- Purchase Cost
- Flying Time
- Flight Controls
Seeing how well a drone meets these basic requirements and comparing it to other drones in the same price range will give you a good idea of which one is best for you to purchase.
Who Are These Drones Best For?
The types of pilots who benefit most from a drone in the under $500 range are the enthusiastic hobbyists who like to fly their drones frequently.
Professionals can also use these drones for video capture.
One popular service is offering aerial photography by a drone. You can have fun making videos from the footage taken by a drone flying around real estate that is for sale.
Remember, you need to have a pilot’s certificate from the FAA to offer these commercial services if you live in the U.S.
Making a deal with a real estate agency or broker is a common way to have a nice income that comes from drone flying.
What Is The Best Drone Under $500?
The best drone under $500 is the DJI Mavic Mini.
It is affordable, compact, lightweight, it has a solid camera, and it comes with some cool autopilot features.