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8 Best Drones for Beginners in 2023 — Reviews & Top Picks

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DJI Mavic Pro drone camera

The popularity of drones has skyrocketed in the past few years with both professional and recreational use. You might be looking to join in on the fun, but it’s good to know what makes a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) better than another. That’s why we put together our reviews of the 8 best drones in 2023, in addition to a purchase guide so you don’t wind up with buyer’s remorse. Read below and you’ll be flying in no time!

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A Glance at Our Winners in 2023

Image Product Details
Winner
DJI Mini SE DJI Mini SE
  • Under 250 grams
  • Great battery life
  • Replaceable parts
  • Second place
    CHUBORY F89 CHUBORY F89
  • Affordable for most people
  • Full-HD recording
  • Hands-free capture
  • Third place
    DJI Air2s Fly More Combo DJI Air2s Fly More Combo
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • High-resolution video and photo
  • 30+-minute flight time
  • DJI Mini 3 Pro DJI Mini 3 Pro
  • Just under the 250-gram threshold
  • Incredible image quality for its size
  • Obstacle detection
  • DEERC D10 DEERC D10
  • Lightweight
  • High-resolution recording
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • The 8 Best Drones for Beginners

    1. DJI Mini SE – Best Overall

    DJI Mini SE

    Weight: 242 grams (0.53 pounds.)
    Flight time: 30 minutes
    Resolution: 2.7k video, 12 MP photo

    DJI has built the best reputation in the industry for its drone products, and the Mini SE is no exception. With such a small form factor, some might pass it up as incapable of creating high-quality content. However, the DJI’s Mini SE can shoot up to 2.7k and last half an hour in the air. Plus, it can resist winds up to 23 mph so that you won’t be affected by a mild breeze. The Mini SE is limited to only capturing 12 MP JPEGs, which will limit your post-production editing. However, it still packs a punch for its size and doesn’t completely break the bank, so it’s the best overall beginner drone from our point of view.

    Pros
    • Under 250 grams
    • Great battery life
    • Replaceable parts
    • 7k recording
    Cons
    • No raw photo options
    • Small sensor size
    • No obstacle avoidance

    2. CHUBORY F89 – Best Value

    CHUBORY

    Weight: 650 grams (1.4 pounds.)
    Flight time: 40 minutes
    Resolution: 1080p video

    The best drone for the money in 2022 has to be the CHUBORY F89. For such a low price, you get many of the essential features that make a drone worth buying, such as a 40-minute flight time using the two included batteries, as well as a 1080p video recording. It also has a hand-gesture feature to start recording a video or taking a picture. Unfortunately, the CHUBORY passes the 250-gram mark, which may require registration depending on your jurisdiction. Also, there is no obstacle avoidance feature to help you in sticky situations. With that being said, the CHUBORY is worth it due to its practicality. 

    Pros
    • Affordable for most people
    • Full-HD recording
    • Hands-free capture
    Cons
    • Over 250 grams
    • Not a well-known brand
    • No obstacle avoidance

    3. DJI Air2s Fly More Combo – Premium Choice 

    DJI Air2s

    Weight: 595 grams (21 ounces)
    Flight time: 31 minutes
    Resolution: 5.4k video, 20 MP photo

    The DJI Air2s has been a hugely popular drone among dedicated videographers, with a 1-inch sensor that works amazingly well in low light in addition to crisp 5.4k resolution for video. The real kicker is the quad-directional object detection feature for worry-free maneuvers. The Fly More Combo package throws in two additional batteries to keep you running and a flurry of replacement parts in case anything fails. Plus, you get ND filters for bright conditions, and the included controller can connect through the DJI Fly app to easily adjust parameters. This drone is a bit overkill for many just starting out, and we only recommend it to those serious about content creation.

    Pros
    • Obstacle avoidance
    • High-resolution video and photo
    • 30+-minute flight time
    Cons
    • Heavy and over 250 grams
    • Expensive for a beginner drone

    4. DJI Mini 3 Pro

    DJI Mini 3 Pro

    Weight: 249 grams (8.7 ounces)
    Flight time: 34 minutes
    Resolution: 4k video, 48 MP photo

    The recently released Mini 3 Pro has been a huge win for imaging experts on the move. With such high-quality imagery despite its tiny size, DJI may have created the next best drone. Unlike most other small aircraft, the Mini 3 Pro can shoot vertically, which is perfect for content viewed on our phones. DJI didn’t forget to add their best-in-class obstacle avoidance with tri-directional detection. DJI provides a secondary battery that can extend the flight to just under 50 minutes, but this will actually make the drone exceed 250 grams, so be careful!

    Pros
    • Just under the 250-gram threshold
    • Incredible image quality for its size
    • Obstacle detection
    Cons
    • A bit pricey for most people
    • 249-gram weight could be surpassed with additional items

    5. DEERC D10

    DEERC D10

    Weight: 164 grams (5.8 ounces)
    Flight time: 12-15 minutes
    Resolution: 2k video

    The D10 model from DEERC is a great budget option for aerial enthusiasts and has a very lightweight design. It’s not a huge investment but still has a 2k resolution. The altitude hold feature enables users to keep the drone steady to prevent any blurry photos, which is always nice to have. With the D10, you can draw a flight path and watch your UAS fly hands-free. With 12–15 minutes of flight, it’s lower than most of our other options. It’s a decent drone for what you pay, but it isn’t going to get you much recording time. 

    Pros
    • Lightweight
    • High-resolution recording
    • Relatively inexpensive
    Cons
    • Short battery life
    • No obstacle avoidance feature

    6. Holy Stone Quadcopter

    Holy Stone Quadcopter

    Weight: 149 grams (5.2 ounces)
    Flight time: 20 minutes
    Resolution: 1080p video

    The Holy Stone Quadcopter matches up pretty well with the DEERC D10, although the Holy Stone has longer battery life instead of the higher resolution recording. Voice commands can be used to control the drone, and you can tell it to record, take a photo, and more. This model also has a different style than any of our previous reviews, as it has the distinct “quadcopter” look. However, it takes up a lot of room and is more prone to crashing. In addition to that, there isn’t any object detection, so you’ll have to be extra careful when flying.

    Pros
    • Low-cost option
    • Reasonable battery life
    Cons
    • No obstacle avoidance

    7. DEERC D20

    DEERC D20

    Weight: 68 grams (2.43 ounces)
    Flight time: 20 minutes
    Resolution: 720p video

    Regarding lightweight, affordable drones, the DEER D20 is a choice you shouldn’t overlook. Although it lacks high-resolution video, it has features that make it great for beginners, like emergency stopping and headless mode. The battery life isn’t terrible, and its weight is pretty unbelievable. The speed of the D20 can be adjusted according to your level, which is helpful if you want to enhance your skills. Overall, this drone is best for people who don’t want to spend much but are looking for a starter drone they can upgrade in the future.

    Pros
    • Cheap
    • Ultralightweight
    Cons
    • Low resolution quality
    • No obstacle avoidance

    8. Potensic A20 Nanocopter 

    Potensic A20

    Weight: 190 grams (6.7 ounces)
    Flight time: Under 10 minutes
    Resolution: N/A

    The Potensic A20 might be on the bottom of our list, but it’s actually the ideal choice for someone who wants to spend as little as possible trying out a drone. Not only is it something anyone can buy, but it’s great for kids who want to use it as a toy. The caveat is that there are no camera or recording features, so it takes more time and effort to learn. Additionally, there are no bells and whistles like a few of the other products on the list. Still, it’s so small that it could fit in your pocket, making it easy to take anywhere.

    Pros
    • Extremely small and lightweight
    • Great for kids
    • The cheapest drone out there
    Cons
    • No camera
    • No obstacle avoidance
    • Poor battery life

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    Buyer’s Guide: How to Pick the Best Drones for Beginners

    We have a few basic tips on buying a new drone for beginners. 

    Flight Time

    What might be the most important feature to have in a beginner drone is a long run time. The reality is that with piloting a UAS, practice makes perfect. The best way to get better is to fly more often; longer battery life will allow you more training sessions. There are quite a few manufacturers who offer packages with multiple batteries so you can prolong their use.

    Size/Weight

    According to the FAA, a drone over 250 grams (0.55 pounds.) must be officially registered as a UAS. Those under 250 grams aren’t subject to this and will have much fewer restrictions on their usage. If you’re not out to make professional-level video content, you might be better off grabbing a smaller drone as it’s less expensive, easier to carry, and not as heavy. Portability is always a helpful trait in any tech, but generally, it compromises quality and battery life.

    drone flying along the river

    Image Credit: Karl Greif, Unsplash

    Obstacle Avoidance

    Another essential feature you need as a beginner is obstacle avoidance. It is a series of sensors that detect objects or barriers such as trees, fences, or buildings to ensure the drone doesn’t crash into them. Just starting out, this can save you a lot of time, money, and frustration of ruining your brand-new device. However, obstacle avoidance is usually only included in expensive models.

    Image Quality

    Depending on your goals as a drone pilot, image quality may or may not matter to you. However, if you are starting your career in professional filmmaking or want the highest-quality photo content, this will be a huge deciding factor. 4k is now considered the industry standard, but you might be willing to go with 2.7k or 1080p as they are perfectly acceptable in many cases. Otherwise, recreational flyers can use 720p to save a lot of money, use less SD card storage, and extend their flight times.

    shutter camera divider 2Conclusion

    For beginners, the best overall drone you can get is the DJI Mini SE, which stays under 250 grams but doesn’t compromise on video quality. If you’re on a budget, the CHUBORY F89 is an excellent way to get your feet wet in UAS piloting with plenty of time to fly. If you’re not limited by your budget, then the DJI Air2s will be an aerial photographer’s dream drone. At a glance, all of our reviews include an option for every type of flyer. Whether you’re looking to start a new hobby or begin your journey in filmmaking, choose wisely, and you’ll be flying sooner than you think! 


    Featured Image Credit: Josh Sorenson, Unsplash

    About the Author Robert Sparks

    Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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