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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!
|DJI Mini SE||
|DJI Air2s Fly More Combo||
|DJI Mini 3 Pro||
|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.
|Weight:||650 grams (1.4 pounds.)|
|Flight time:||40 minutes|
The best drone for the money for this year 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.
|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.
|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!
|Weight:||164 grams (5.8 ounces)|
|Flight time:||12-15 minutes|
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.
|Weight:||149 grams (5.2 ounces)|
|Flight time:||20 minutes|
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.
|Weight:||68 grams (2.43 ounces)|
|Flight time:||20 minutes|
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.
|Weight:||190 grams (6.7 ounces)|
|Flight time:||Under 10 minutes|
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.
We have a few basic tips on buying a new drone for beginners.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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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