8 Best Drones Under $300
In this review we will be looking at the best drones under $300, along with the best drones with cameras under $300 that the market has to offer.
Today, drones are everywhere. Not only can you see them on popular videos, but they are also commonly seen now in downtown areas and in vacation hot spots.
At one time, drones were only exclusive for the military and then enthusiasts who had the money to afford them as they first started out to be thousands of dollars. Today, drones have become more affordable thanks to technology being advanced and the demand being increased.
Let's get started reviewing the best drones under $300!!
If you're curious (or in a hurry):
- This drone is our top pick for the best drones under $300
Last update on 2021-01-20 at 02:18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Table of the Best Drones Under $300
Best Drone Under $300
Altair Aerial Outlaw SE GPS Drone with Camera Live Video
Look at any of the best drones under $300 or $1000 and you'll see the name Hubsan again and again. Of the budget models, Hubsan is quickly cornering the market and seems keen to keep it. Within this list, the Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV Quad is the best drone under 300 dollars.
Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV (First Person View) Quad is a quadcopter with more advanced features. It is equipped with RC control, which can be used to manipulate it at a very long distance. This is a brand new 5.8G FPV model that has brushless motors.
Hubsan is committed to improving drone technology. At the moment, most lower end drones only have a few minutes fly time. This means that you find yourself with a very limited range or buying multitudes of batteries- not unlike the old Sega Game Gear handheld video game system.
The X4 really tries to push for air time. With reports of 15-20 minutes airborne, this gives operators enough time to do a quick loop around the block or to film the bride from above coming down the aisle.
That said, there are some websites that show off modding equipment like drones. These sites have taken apart these drones and managed to daisy chain multiple batteries together. While this is not recommended by the manufacturer or this site due to risk of fire, voiding of warranty, or dozens of other issues that may occur, some users have had success with it and increasing their fly times. We just strongly recommend against it. Replacing a battery is a lot safer than setting your drone, or yourself, on fire. Don't get hurt.
This drone is a good option for beginners as the model has plenty of features that are user friendly, and can be used by people of all ages as it has a great battery life and an adequate distance it can travel.
Automatic Return to Home Mode
Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV Quad has a built-in feature that enables it to autonomously return to home. This is a built-in GPS that can turn Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV Quad to failsafe mode in which it can still work when the connection is lost. It is the H501S flight control system that automatically controls the drone back home. The drone will only turn to this mode if there is an accidental disconnection from the remote control.
On the other hand, the drone doesn't have to lose connection just to turn the automatic return to home mode. You can enable this manually by tapping a switch on the remote control that activates it. This option is used when beginners suddenly encounters some problems. It can also be used when you fly it very to the point it is nearer home than your present location. The Husban X4 is our pick for the "best drone under $300".
Follow Me Mode
Aside from automatic return to home mode, Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV Quad is also equipped with follow me mode. This means the drone will fly to wherever you go. If you stop, it also stops in the air. When you go, it stays near your back. This is possible because the remote control you carry has a transmitter that is connected to the quadcopter's GPS system.
Follow me mode is very useful in many ways. You can enable it when you want to capture a video of your activities without being busy controlling it. Moreover, it is fun seeing a flying engine following you wherever you go. You can also use it if you don't want to carry the drone when you go to a certain direction.
Most drones at this $300 price range have a flight time of about 15 minutes. Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV Quad can fly for up to 20 minutes using a powerful 7.4V 2700mAh Lipo battery.
When it comes to flight range, this drone is very competitive in its category. The X4 also has a return home button on the controller console. Simply press the button and the drone will immediately return to it's home base. If you program it to return to the controller in hand, it will do that as well. Much easier than hunting through a field for your drone.
If the automatic return to home is disabled, you can control the drone remotely up to 300 meters away from you. This is quite long given the price is less than $300. This will give you more flexibility, especially when flying it in open space.
It's one real drawback are it's blades. The X4's blades, while up to standard, are not exactly the most dependable thing. A good smack against a tree limb and that blade is done for. Other blades are included in the kit, but they do still leave something to be desired. Otherwise, this drone is well worth it's price.
Hubsan X4 Brushless FPV Quad has a built-in 1080p resolution HD camera, which cannot be removed nor replaced unless repaired under its warranty. It transmits live video to the wireless controller through its 5.8 Ghz frequency. This is powerful enough to avoid disturbance while transmitting live videos. This is probably the best drone under $300 with a camera.
There is room for balancing a mounted camera as well, though you will need your own software set up for that. As it is, Hubsan's app instantly records at the press of a button on your controller. It also allows you to edit, insert other media and cover over flight sound with your chosen music, essentially replacing most basic video editing software suites.
- Brushless Motors
- A 5.8-GHz video transmission signal enables FPV without the complexity of obtaining a license.
- 300 Meters Flight Distance
- With 20 minutes of battery life, the Hubsan X4 can be flown for more time than most drones in its price range.
- HD Camera
- The Hubsan X4 is GPS-enabled so that buyers can enjoy a robust range of flight capabilities, such as automatic return and GPS logs.
- Automatic Return to Home Mode
- Follow Me Mode
- The 300-meter range of the Hubsan X4 could be insufficient in high-performance use cases.
- The screen on the Hubsan X4’s remote is only 480p, so users cannot enjoy full high-definition video in real time.
- The Hubsan X4 does not include any extra propeller blades, so these blades have to be purchased separately in the event of an accident.
Altair Outlaw SE Drone with Camera Live Video
Altair Aerial’s Outlaw SE Drone is a high-quality, mid-range drone that offers FPV features and a range of accessories designed for practical use. Plus, Altair Aerial is a brand that is committed to providing excellent American based customer service. If you’re looking for a drone under $300 that is easy to use, then the Outlaw SE may just be the perfect choice for you.
The Outlaw SE is one of the best camera drones under $300. Users can enjoy the drone’s live video feed at any time with a phone that can be attached to the device's remote. This Outlaw SE also offers three return home functions that automatically bring the drone back with the touch of a button. The drone will even use artificial intelligence to come back to its owner without any input before the battery dies or the device loses signal. This feature is extremely helpful because it reduces the chances of buyers losing their drone.
The Outlaw SE is equipped with a 1080p HD camera that is perfect for capturing aerial photos and videos. And since this drone has altitude hold, your pictures and videos will come out clear every time. You don’t have to worry about blurry footage when you fly the Outlaw SE.
Also, with the Outlaw SE’s GPS features, even beginners will be able to learn how to take pictures and videos from a bird’s eye view because the drone is so easy to fly. It’s great that this drone is so accessible to all kinds of pilots.
Flight Time & Range
One lithium polymer battery is included with the Outlaw SE and you get approximately 20 minutes of flight time. This is an impressive amount of time, especially for a drone under $3000, and gives pilots plenty of time in the sky with this drone.
Along with 20 minutes of flight time, the Outlaw SE has a range of about 600 meters. However, since this is a distance of more than six football fields, beginners should be careful when flying for the first time, so they don’t lose control of their drone. Luckily, the GPS system and return-to-home functions will help with this, but it’s also important to be mindful of how far you are flying.
Return to Home Functionality
The Return to Home functions included in this drone are perhaps some of the most useful features you could ask for. The Outlaw SE will land effortlessly at the push of a button and will also come back to you if the battery is too low, or it loses the GPS signal. This makes flying way easier for pilots of all skill levels and you don’t have to worry about losing or damaging your drone. Even if you’re just done flying and need to bring your drone back to you, you can enable automatic return-to-home by pushing the button on your controller.
- High-Quality 1080p HD Camera with FPV capabilities
- The drone’s simplified flying features include altitude hold, headless mode, and more.
- Long flight time of 20 minutes and long flight distance of 600 meters
- FPV features require a persistent Wi-Fi connection, so interference can be a problem in urban areas
- No propeller guards available
Who Is This Product For?
The Outlaw SE is ideal for beginners to experienced pilots who are searching for a drone with a wide range of features at an affordable price.
3DR Solo Quadcopter
The 3DR Solo is a mid-range quadcopter that is fun to fly while recording beautiful videos. Shoppers who want to fly their drone like they would in a video game should learn more about the 3DR Solo quadcopter.
Unlike many of the hobbyist drones that appear to be designed for professionals, the 3DR Solo focuses on empowering casual users to have fun. The 3DR Solo’s transmitter is designed in a way that is similar to a video game controller, so users can learn to fly in a matter of minutes. Users can also control their drone by installing an application on an Apple or Android device.
Users at any skill level can learn to use the 3DR Solo with minimal training. The 3DR Solo offers a robust range of features, but these are designed in a way where they are accessible for casual hobbyists. GoPro engineers partnered with Solo to design a seamlessly integrated experience for the 3DR Solo, and the flawless performance of this drone reflects the success of this endeavor.
The 3DR Solo does not include a built-in camera, so users will need to purchase a GoPro Hero 3, 3+, or 4 separately. Although the drone comes with automatic scan features designed for 3D modeling, its 20-minute battery life means that professionals will need to purchase several batteries to use this drone all day.
- The 3DR Solo is easier to fly than almost any other drone on the market due to the help of a partnership with GoPro.
- The controller includes an HDMI port so that users can connect their drone’s live video feed to any device.
- The 3DR Solo includes a 1-GHz computer for enhanced image stabilization and a broad range of features that support high performance and simplified use.
- The 3DR Solo’s manufacturer offers only email support.
- Although the drone claims to offer a range of up to half a mile, many users complain that the 3DR Solo quadcopter goes into return home mode after about 300 meters.
- The necessity of purchasing a GoPro camera separately increases the total cost of purchasing the 3DR Solo and reduces the advantages of Solo’s partnership with GoPro for users who are unwilling to spend more.
Who Is This Product For?
The 3DR Solo is ideal for shoppers searching for a drone that offers the full range of features normally found on high-end drones for a mid-range price. Buyers should also consider the 3DR Solo if they value the ability to upgrade their drone’s camera at a later date.
F100 Ghost Drone
Shoppers searching for a drone that offers full high-definition recording at an exceptionally affordable price are sure to find everything they are looking for in the F100 Ghost.
The F100 Ghost drone offers one of the best values on the market. The device includes a camera mount for users who want the option to upgrade to a GoPro, four spare propeller blades for inevitable crashes, and an extra battery that comes standard for extended use.
Engineers designed the F100 Ghost as part of a practical drone package that includes everything buyers tend to purchase separately with ordinary use. Additionally, the drone is equip with mounts for a broad range of upgrades, such as high landing gear, propeller guards, or a detachable camera. Despite the ability to upgrade the camera, the default camera that is included with the F100 Ghost records in full 1080p and includes image stabilization features.
The F100 Ghost offers unrivaled value at its price point, but prospective buyers should keep in mind that it is not designed to function as a high-performance drone. Some of the primary downsides of the F100 Ghost include a lack of FPV features, no waterproofing, and no GPS capabilities.
- The F100 Ghost is a high-quality drone that is available at an exceptional price.
- A diverse range of accessories are included.
- The extra battery that comes with the F100 Ghost enables extended flight time without requiring buyers to spend extra cash.
- A lack of FPV features makes the F100 Ghost less appealing for hobbyists.
- No return home function is included.
- With a lack of software-assisted control features, the F100 Ghost can be challenging for beginners to operate.
Who Is This Product For?
The F100 Ghost is ideal for experienced buyers looking for a practical drone package.
Bugs 6 RC Quadcopter
The Bugs 6 is a quadcopter designed to offer users an engaging FPV experience. Shoppers should consider the Bugs 6 if they have a moderate level of experience and value racing functionality.
In addition to the transmitter coming with a 4.3-inch screen, the Bugs 6 drone package also includes FPV goggles. The Bugs 6 even comes equip with bright LEDs for easy flying at night.
The main advantage of the Bugs 6 is that it comes with its own FPV goggles so that buyers do not have to make a separate purchase. Relative to other drones in the same price range as the Bugs 6, this quadcopter offers exceptional agility and speed.
One major downside of the Bugs 6 quadcopter is that it only has a battery life of about 10 minutes. However, the Bugs 6 is somewhat difficult to fly despite its FPV features, so it is not ideal for beginners.
- The range of features included with the Bugs 6 make it ideal for drone racing.
- Bright LEDs make the Bugs 6 easy to fly with or without FPV.
- Weak signal alert capabilities reduce the chances of losing the Bugs 6 despite its lack of a return home feature.
- The Bugs 6 does not include GPS functionality.
- No return home feature is included.
- The camera included in the Bugs 6 offers only 720p video.
Who Is This Product For?
Potensic Quadcopter with Live Camera
The Potensic quadcopter is a drone built for FPV functionality and easy use. Buyers who value a simple learning curve and high performance should consider the Potensic quadcopter.
The designers of the Potensic quadcopter focused on engineering a drone that is perfect for beginners and intermediate hobbyists alike. The drone’s FPV functionality allows users to enjoy live high-definition aerial footage while taking advantage of altitude hold features and headless mode. The Potensic is one of the best video drones under $300 available on the market today.
The primary differentiator of the Potensic quadcopter is its immersive FPV experience that is accessible for drone enthusiasts of any skill level. With virtual reality goggles included with the Potensic quadcopter, buyers do not have to worry about the expense associated with purchasing a separate set of compatible goggles.
Although the Potensic quadcopter offers excellent FPV features, it is not ideal for professionals because it lacks advanced control software. Additionally, the drone’s maximum range is just 200 feet.
- Headless mode and altitude control functions make the Potensic quadcopter fun and easy to operate.
- The screens found on the transmitter and FPV goggles offer full 720p video.
- Users can control the quadcopter with a mobile application.
- A range of just 200 feet restricts the user experience.
- The battery lasts just 10 minutes.
- Limited automatic stability features make the Potensic drone difficult to control in conditions of high wind.
Who Is This Product For?
Shoppers should consider the Potensic quadcopter for its altitude control features, mobile application support, and FPV functionality.
Hornet FPV Drone
One of the Best Drones Under $300 with Camera
The Hornet FPV Drone with HD Camera 720p is an RC quadcopter that has several amazing features with the most significant of which is the FPV.
Hornet is an off-brand of drones, making several different types of low range, beginner level flight craft. This means that while you won't get as much distance as the Hubsan above will, it's still a respectable drone to own
This drone is perfect for the younger generation who wants to get involved with drones. The limited amount of time and distance with the automatic return feature is good for those who are less experienced and have short attention spans. Anyone who is an adult may not like the limited flight and battery life of this drone, but the highlight is that it does take high-quality HD pictures.
For those familiar with the Blue Jay drone, this is match for match almost just a color swapped version with a sole exception. The Blue Jay comes with a 360P camera. The Hornet doubles that over, offering a 720P on board camera that really holds up over all. Though 720P is on its way out with the advent of 4K and 1080P quickly becoming the standard, it is still great for those just getting started with aerial photography.
In order to keep the Hornet able to do 360 stunts and make it one of the faster drones on the market, something had to be sacrificed. Weight had to go. That means that the battery is, speaking from an engineering stand point, a little underwhelming for a machine that has to generate lift at the capacity a drone does. It drains itself quickly to keep itself up and there's very little that can be done about that. Hornet does promise that their goal with future models is to continue to push their flight times up, and this is an improvement for them since their original models were only 3-5 minute flight times.
First Person View
Using FPV, you won't need to see the image of the drone on the screen of your controller, or on your smart phone. What you can see is the total view of the surroundings as though you are inside piloting the drone. With FPV, you can receive a much clearer video and photos.
The drone's remote control is user-friendly. It has all the buttons in front, so you won't need to look for other buttons elsewhere. The design of the controller is ergonomic. This is to reduce the inconvenience of handling it. In addition, the controller has built-in LCD screen for a much better view. With this, you won't need to use an external device such as smart phone or tablet to monitor the drone and receive live video.
This feature is very useful. Most drones take pictures while flying. Because of this, there is a tendency that a picture taken is blurred. The quicker a drone flies, the more likely a shot is unclear. Hornet FPV Drone with HD Camera 720p, on the other hand, works differently. It can take pictures not only while moving, but it can also stop in the air to carefully capture a photo. You can also manipulate the drone to get closer to elevate it while on hold. It means it can fly like a real helicopter.
Automatic Return to Home Mode
Nowadays, many drones are equipped with automatic return to home mode. Hornet FPV Drone with HD Camera 720p is one of them. Once set, it can fly back home when accidental disconnection takes place. The drone does not necessarily and literally go back to your home. You can set it to go back to your place in case the controller can no longer detect it. This safety feature gives you less worry whether or not the drone will get out of control.
6 Axis Gyro Stability and 4 Channel Functionality
This feature enables the drone to fly along with other drones in the area without signal interference. Moreover, it functions as a sensor that can detect and move away from objects that get extremely closer. Flying the drone with this feature makes it easy for you to maneuver the drone with less risk of an accident.
The Hornet FPV Drone with HD Camera 720p can fly up to 164 feet away from you. That is not bad since 164 feet is enough for you to see and monitor the drone in your naked eye. The downside is that this drone can fly for only 7 minutes. You may think what task you can complete in 7 minutes. Actually, there are a lot you can do in such a short period of time. However, it is shorter than any other drone in its category. You can take photos and short videos.
The drone's camera is superb. It has a 720p HD video camera, so you can capture a much clearer shot. If you are going to use this feature along with the drone's elevation hold feature, you can surely get a high-quality photo. The excellent camera helps make this one of the best drones under $300 dollars.
- Elevation Hold
- HD Camera
- First Person View
- Automatic Return to Home Mode
- LCD Screen
- Stable Flight
- Short Battery Life
- Short Distance Span
- Some users have reported quality control issues
In closing, the Hornet may not be ready to rub elbows with the Hubsans of it's time just yet. It also isn't quite yet in that price range. This drone is perfect for a quick family outing, your kid's first drone, your first drone, or something to send into an area you may not be able to retrieve it from.
One of the Best Drones Under $300 with Camera
With nearly 20 minutes of flight time, the UPair is reminiscent of the old Phantom budget models of the early drone market. This is incredibly high praise considering that it still doesn't quite beat out the Hubsan, but UPair promises to give them a run for their money.
The UPair One drone offers everything that a drone enthusiast needs to have fun while capturing beautiful video footage. With an included gimbal mount and a 7-inch FPV screen on the controller, the UPair One drone is perfect for both videographers and casual hobbyists looking to have a good time.
Despite that this drone belongs to the $300 and under category, this drone can be considered the ultimate drone when it comes to camera and video functionality. It is designed to fit the taste of the meticulous photographer. If you wish to have a drone capable of capturing some stunning photos, this one is for you.
This UPair 2.7K drone is obvious as it is meant for a more professional audience who has work in mind as it could easily fall into the equipment of a photographer, architect, or developer. Not to say it wouldn't be good for other drone enthusiasts, but if you are looking for specific functionality, then this is a good drone for you. All the great features of this drone help push it to number three in the "best drones under $300" category.
Video and Camera
Many drones can only provide live video but cannot record it. UPair 2.7K Video Camera Drone with 7-inch FPV Screen Live View can do both. While giving you a very clear live HD video, you can enable it to record videos as well. This is perfect for ocular inspection, especially in a real estate development project.
We also should note that this particular UPair comes with an attached camera. Now when we say attached, we literally mean attached. It dangles off the drone which makes it incredibly vulnerable. If you choose this for a raw beginner, make certain that they fly it for the first few times in a very open area. The camera is protected as much as it can be, but clipping it through trees or on the ground will lower its lifespan significantly.
In the best drones for under $300 and under category, this drone may be considered the best in terms of flight distance. You can fly this drone up to 800 meters away from you. At this distance it may disappear with the naked eye, but you can use the FPV function in your controller to monitor where the drone is heading.
However, the drone's capability of transmitting live video remotely is only up to 400 meters, which is only half way the maximum distance. In addition, its maximum flight height is up to 300 meters, so it is not necessary to horizontally fly it beyond 400 meters away from where you stand.
The flight duration is not too short nor too long. This drone can fly for up to 18 minutes, and this is plenty of time to take a short video.
Automatic Return to Home Mode
Just like any other drone, it has an automatic return to home mode, which can ensure your drone is safe when you happen to lose control of it. This feature is ideal for beginners.
This drone is designed to serve as a flying camera or photography machine. Therefore, you can also hold its position to get that perfect shot.
The camera included with the UPair One is of exceptional quality with full 1080p recording and gimbal stabilization. The FPV controller offers a range of up to 500 meters, and the intelligent battery takes only an hour to charge.
The main drawback of the UPair One is that it has a tendency to overheat, so users who live in hot climates may experience problems with their drone having to return before its battery dies. Also, the UPair One offers only basic software features, and inexperienced users may find the learning curve for this drone to be more challenging than with other drones that are available.
- The transmitter’s 7-inch screen is larger than with most drone controllers in the UPair One’s price range.
- Gimbal stabilization enables exceptional quality for recorded videos.
- GPS functionality gives the drone advanced features, such as waypointing and automatic return.
- The UPair One has a tendency to overheat, so retrofitting a heatsink is necessary for extended use in hot climates.
- Basic software makes the UPair One harder to use while reducing functionality for advanced users.
- Synchronization with nine satellites is necessary for GPS functionality.
The UPair is a newer player in the drone market, but we look forward to seeing what they will have on the market in the next few years. For now, this is a fantastic entry level drone or one for the kids to play with. Not only does it work, it does it with style. And UPair offers it's early customers permanent tech support at absolutely no charge, with the option to add on drone "life insurance" for a low fee.
Who Is This Product For?
Buyers who value a large transmitter screen and a camera gimbal should consider purchasing the UPair One.
Picking the Best Drone Under $300
The best way to pick a drone is for buyers to first assess their own needs, and then conduct thorough market research to decide on the best match. Buyers who can spend up to $300 on a new drone should look for drones offering first-person view capabilities. In general, most modern drones have their own high-definition screens built into their controllers, but smartphone or tablet applications can also be used in some situations.
When looking to use a drone for professional applications, such as surveying or videography, an extra battery can help to boost productivity since batteries take over an hour to charge. Some drones can be controlled from miles away, but these products can sometimes require operators to obtain a license from the Federal Aviation Administration. The key to selecting the best drone under $300, therefore, is for buyers to consider how the advantages and disadvantages of a potential drone meet their needs.
Whether you're a first-time drone pilot, or someone with a large collection looking to add an inexpensive drone to your list, choosing the right drone for under $300 can be a struggle. There is a plethora of drones in this price range that are highly capable with great battery life and an excellent camera, but on the other hand, there are some drones in the under $300 category that could be complete rip-offs. Being an informed buyer is always important and there are a variety of factors that make a drone a good deal. To help you make sure you're getting the right drone we've assembled this list of tips for choosing the best drone under $300. The first thing to consider is what you plan to use your drone for. If your goal is to use the drone for videography or photography then obviously the camera should be the focus when you're deciding which drone to buy. However, if you're just looking for an affordable drone to fly in the backyard other features such as battery life or pilot assistance might be more what you're looking for.
The first thing to consider when buying just about any drone is the camera resolution. Depending on what you plan to do with your new drone you may need a camera with higher or lower resolution. In the under $300 price range, you'll be hard-pressed to find a good camera on a drone that can record in 4K resolution. 4K, however, might not be necessary depending on what you plan to do with the footage. Unless you're a professional content creator or have 4K monitors and televisions in your home having such high-resolution film from your drone could potentially be a waste. Additionally, editing 4K footage requires a rather powerful computer which should also be taken into consideration when looking at what kind of camera your drone has.
One advantage to having very high-resolution footage is that you can zoom in on the footage without a noticeable loss of quality. For example, you can zoom in on the subject of interest in 4k footage by a factor of 4 and still be in 1080P quality. Another drawback, however, is that 4K footage requires tons of storage space which also must be considered when selecting a drone. Most of the drones in the under $300 price range will feature 1080P or 720p cameras. 1080p is more common these days and while 720P is still technically high definition it has begun to fall by the wayside relative to newer higher resolution camera technologies. If you plan on making videos or sharing the footage that you take with your drone then looking for an under $300 drone with 1080p might be recommended. If you simply plan to use the drone footage for your personal enjoyment then something with 720p resolution or even lower might be suitable. Some drones even feature no camera and instead opt for higher performance such as higher top speed or the ability to reach a greater altitude. If this is more what you're looking for in the under $300 price range it might be prudent to forgo the camera altogether.
The next major component to consider regarding the camera on your drone is the framerate in which the camera records video. Most cameras, even in the under $300 price range, will record video in at least 30 frames per second. 30 frames per second is a relatively standard cinematic frame rate that looks good on most televisions and monitors. Many drone cameras also have the option of recording at lower resolutions but higher frame rates. As mentioned with higher resolution recording, recording at higher frame rates required substantially more storage space which is something to keep in mind when shopping for your drone and deciding how you'll be using the camera. You'll need to make sure the computer you use for editing has enough space to store all the video and that your drone can be outfitted with SD cards or other forms of storage if you plan to record at high resolutions or high frame rates.
There are two main advantages to having a camera that records in high frame rates. The first is that at high frame-rate videos will appear smoother when the drone is traveling at high speeds, especially when close to the ground. This can be very useful as drones these days, even in the under $300 price range, can often reach speeds up to or even higher than 30 miles an hour. The second advantage is that very high frame rate video can be slowed down in editing without running into the blurry look or stuttering frame rate issues that often accompany playing video back at a reduced speed. For example, a video recorded at 120 frames per second could be slow down to 25% of its original speed and still be at 30 frames per second which is perfectly smooth on most televisions.
Gimbal and Camera Stabilization
The last thing regarding the camera to look for when shopping for an affordable drone is how the camera is stabilized. Most drones use what's called a gimbal to make sure the camera stays level during flight. As you turn and change directions with your drone the entire drone will tilt from side to side. If the camera is built directly into the frame of your drone then your footage will likewise be slightly tilted if you change directions with your drone, or speed up and slow down aggressively. This setup is very common for drones in the under $300 price range, and for more skilled pilots who have an easier hand on the controls isn't always too much of an issue. However, if you plan to be making more aggressive maneuvers or want your footage to look particularly smooth then you'll want to look for a camera with a gimbal. Gimbals have pivoting arms that are usually controlled by a gyroscope that hold the camera steady and level even when the drone itself might be tilting substantially from side to side during turns or speeding up and slowing down.
Autonomous Flight Features
Many newer drones on the market feature varying levels of autonomous flight control, meaning the drone can override the input of the pilot for safety purposes or can fly itself to either assist the pilot in getting smoother shots or to allow the pilot to control the drone hands-free. If you're a novice pilot some drones feature automatic takeoff and landing. These features are great for new pilots as these are the hardest parts of flying a drone to master and most damage to drones occurs in accidents during takeoff or landing. The autonomous features of drones in the under $300 category are usually limited but some models boast some rather impressive capabilities.
Many people use their drone in place of a tripod as most drones with cameras can take crisp and clear still images. Many drones in the under $300 category will feature a selfie mode which utilizes the drone's onboard sensors to stabilize the drone a few feet off the ground and take a focused image of you and your friends. Some drones also feature an autonomous follow mode which enables the drone to lock onto targets of interest such as vehicles or people and follow them on its own without input from a pilot. This is great if you are driving or hiking and want to get a shot of yourself but you're out alone and have no one to pilot the drone for you. The follow feature can also be useful when you want the drone to track an object that is out of your line of sight, although some drones under $300 shouldn't be used at long ranges. Many drones also have automatic obstacle avoidance built in, which uses a variety of ultrasonic and infrared sensors located all over the drone to detect and avoid nearby obstacles. This is a great feature to have if you plan to fly your drone indoors or out of your line of sight, as it substantially mitigates the risk of losing your investment due to a crash or pilot error. The final autonomous flight feature that many affordable drones have is what's called journey mode, or cable cam. This allows the drone to move along a predetermined path in a smooth straight line allowing you to get smooth shots or clear still images without having to worry about piloting the drone yourself. Most of the time this feature is also designed to have the drone move to its destination and return to the pilot on its own.
Controller and FPV
Whether you plan to use your drone for recording videos, taking photos, or just for recreational flying the type of controller it comes with, if any, should be taken into consideration. Some drones in the under $300 price range might come with no controller at all, but rather go the route of using an app on your phone or tablet to control the drone. If the drone you're planning to buy does come with a controller then make sure it's designed to be appropriate for your skill level. Simple controllers will feature just two joysticks while more advanced ones might also include buttons for trim adjustment, intelligent orientation control, or other features that newer drone pilots might not need or want. It's also important to consider how your controller or phone will connect to the drone as this will determine signal strength and range. If you plan to be flying in an area with many other drones try to find a model that features more than one frequency with which the controller can connect to the drone to make sure your signal isn't interfered with by other drones.
If you plan to fly your drone outside of your line of sight it's also important to get a drone that features first-person view, or fpv. Most drones handle this by syncing to the user's phone or a tablet and displaying a real-time camera feed on that device. Alternatively, there are drones available in the under $300 category which can be paired with a VR headset so you can see from your drone’s perspective as if you were really in the cockpit. This can be a very useful feature for those aiming to get shots of things that are out of sight from the ground and is also used in many drone races as it allows the pilot to more accurately fly through an obstacle.
Battery Life and Range
One of the things that will vary the most with drones in the under $300 category is the battery life. On some lower-end drones the battery life can be as short as 7 minutes while some drones have up to a 25-minute flight time. If you plan to be using your drone while traveling and are trying to take cinematic shots at locations that might be far from your home it's obviously best to try and find a drone with a longer flight time that will allow you plenty of time to get the shots you want. For many drone’s battery life and overall range are closely linked as with a shorter 7 Minute battery life you're mostly limited by how far you can go and come back before the battery dies. Some drones with longer flight times have ranges of over a mile which can be great for getting shots of distant points of interest or hard-to-reach locations. It might also be a good idea, depending on where you plan to be flying, to look for a drone that has an automatic return feature. This feature allows the drone to detect when its battery is getting low and how far it is from the pilot allowing it to automatically turn itself around and return to the user before the battery runs out and it crashes somewhere far away.
Some drones also have batteries that can be easily swapped out. Again, if you plan to be using your drone somewhere far from home and don't plan on having a way to easily recharge them or don't want to wait to recharge them looking for a drone in this price range with quickly replaceable batteries is a great idea. This allows you to purchase multiple batteries, charge them all before leaving, and then swap them out in the field once the battery dies. This can easily double or triple the amount of time you can spend in the air each time you go out with your drone. Some drones also feature the ability to charge more quickly which can be useful for those simply wanting to fly in their backyard.
Know your Local Laws
When considering buying any drone it's important to consider the laws of your state and sometimes County. The Federal Aviation Administration has placed a number of restrictions on the flight of drones usually limiting them to a 400-foot maximum altitude, especially when around airports where it may be illegal to fly them all together. In some places this is not the case, as some states or localities have their own laws regarding the flight of drones. For example, recording with drones in some areas such as suburbs might be illegal surveillance or in some cases just rude. Some drones on the louder side might also cause issues in dense Suburban areas. Many states also have rules regarding flying of drone out of your line of sight, meaning if you buy a drone that has a very long range and is capable of first-person view flight you might not be able to take full advantage of those features since flying it that far away would be illegal. This website is a great place to start and has the local laws for every state. Before buying an under $300 drone it's important to make sure you won't be breaking any laws while using it.
Best drones under $300 - Final thoughts
Drones are designed for a variety of reasons. Some drones can function like a helicopter and are able to be used for fishing drones. In fact, Amazon is testing a drone that is capable of shipping an item to a distant location. On the other hand, there are drones that are designed just for fun for the regular drone enthusiast. At 300 or less, you can have a drone which you cannot only use for fun but use for other useful purposes. If your still a newbie and want to learn the basics see our how to fly a quadcopter guide here!
Ready to step up your drone game to the next level? Check out our "Best Drones Under $500 Guide"!
Now that you've seen the best drones under $300, along with the best drone with camera under $300 which of these drones would you choose?