Last Updated on March 15, 2022 by Devaun Lennox
For years, the consumer segment of drones had a distinct separation. Drones were either affordable but weak in performance, or hardcore, and wildly expensive. But, in recent years, as popularity spiked and smaller manufacturers continue to flood the market, the options in the sub $500 entry-level segment have grown.
Now, both new fliers and seasoned shooters looking to add a unique perspective have plenty of competitive options ready to tackle their next project. Even the “low-end” drones in the entry-level market offer advanced features that now rival drones over twice their price.
If you’re new to flying, chances are it doesn’t make sense to purchase the top-end drone. And getting an affordable yet capable option makes the most sense—even more so considering many of the drones in this section of the market offer similar capabilities. Though, it’s not particularly easy to separate options, with so many aiming to suit all of your needs.
But known, what ultimately sets drones apart is image quality, flight time, design, stabilization, and flight modes. We’ve meticulously accessed all of the leading options in this segment to compile this list. With that, let’s cover the top ten best drones under $500.
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10 – Potensic T35
Potensic’s T35 is the incredible budget-friendly alternative to DJI’s pricier Phantom 3, targeted towards beginners and enthusiasts. Potensic is a well-known player in the affordable consumer drone space and a favorite among newcomers. They’ve equipped this medium-sized drone with a similar feature set as the Phantom but removed complexities to make a far easier solution for new fliers. It features a 120º lens, a 1080p HD camera, FPV support, and dual GPS. For control, it ships with an included controller that pairs using the Potensic G app. And Potensic rates the drone for a flight time of 15 minutes and 300m range.
The drone comes packed with several smart flight modes, including Automatic Return Home, Follow Me, and Waypoint. And while it doesn’t offer mechanical stabilization, it does have a built-in 9-axis gyro and integrated GPS/GLONASS systems. The combination of these two makes the drone incredibly wind-resistant and much steadier during flight.
Overall, the T35 is an excellent improvement over the T25, with notable improvements to flight time and welcomed features. And it’s an attractive choice for those looking for an alternative to DJI’s pricier Phantom series that’s smart and easy to fly right out of the box.
9 – Holy Stone HS700D
Holy Stone’s HS700D, also known as the Ophelia, is a refresh to the original HS700 and the latest flagship drone. Holy Stone is another popular brand in the mid-range drone market. The company’s latest option provides quite a competitive feature set that’s sure to sway new fliers. It features a 110º lens, a 2K HD camera, 5G connectivity, and FPV support. For control, it ships with an included controller that pairs using the Ophelia GPS app. And Holy Stone rates the drone for a flight time of 22 minutes and a range of 1000 m.
Compared to the predecessor, it provides several key improvements. Firstly, Holy Stone has outfitted it with a 2K HD camera, which offers excellent image quality for stills and videos. The camera is also mounted on a 1-axis gimbal stabilizer, helping to stabilize the captured footage. Secondly, it offers additional Intelligent Flight Modes, which include Follow Me, Automatic Return Home, Waypoint, and Orbit. The HS700D also delivers improved flight time and an increase to the maximum speed, offering a whopping 40 MPH. And combined with its 5G transmission, it provides fast real-time video, even at 400 m away.
Overall, the HS700D is a notable improvement over its predecessor. It brings along improvements in flight time, speed, functionality, and camera quality. All packed into a sleek and portable design. For the price, it’s a cut above the competition compared to rivals. Holy Stone is known for quality, and the HS700D is no exception.
8 – DJI Spark
The DJI Spark is a formidable drone, considering its compact size. Yet, it’s one that packs features and functionality from its bigger and more expensive brothers. It features an 82° lens, 1080p HD video, 2-axis stabilization, and object avoidance. For control, it ships with a dedicated controller for use with the DJI Go app. And DJI rates the drone for 16 minutes of flight and a range of 2000 m.
The drone obtains the full suite of intelligent flight modes standard on DJI’s range. However, it also adds a few unique options, including Circle, Helic, Dronie, and Rocket modes. Perfect for new fliers to immediately capture cinematic footage, without needing any piloting skills whatsoever. The drone also offers gesture recognition, and you can operate its flight without the controller. But it’s key selling point over rivals is the addition of two-axis stabilization, plus a robust obstacle detection system. These are features inherited from DJI’s higher-end drones and are quite rare at this price.
Overall, DJI’s Spark is an easy drone to fly and quickly gives new users the confidence they need. Plus it also obtains a full suite of advanced functionality from the company’s higher-end drones. For the price, the Spark outshines virals in virtually every aspect and makes an excellent choice for beginners.
7 – Xiaomi FIMI A3
FIMI’s A3 is a direct competitor to DJI’s Spark, and, in many respects, a rival that ultimately makes its downfall. FIMI is a subsidiary of Xiaomi, the famous electronics company. And they’re one of few companies that have the backing to sufficiently challenge DJI’s ongoing dominance in the consumer drone market. It features an 80º lens, 1080p HD video, 2-axis mechanical stabilization, FPV support, and dual GPS. For control, it ships with a dedicated controller with a built-in flight app. And FIMI rates the drone for 25 minutes of flight and 1000 m.
It’s a medium-sized fixed GPS drone that, like the Spark, provides a 2-axis mechanical stabilization system and the third axis with electronic stabilization. These combine to deliver footage that’s almost entirely free of distortion and jello effects. It also provides an excellent selection of intelligent flight modes, including Automatic Return Home, Orbit, Fixed-Wing, Dronie, and Follow Me. However, FIMI has also opted to install a 4.3″ LCD into the controller, with the embedded flight app. Thus, gone are the days of fiddly with the flight app on your phone. And the drone also features a DIY port, allowing users to add lights, parachutes, fireworks, and other accessories.
Overall, the A3 provides a feature set that firmly matches the DJI Spark. Yet, it’s fast, at 40 MPH, and offers an incredible flight time. There’s no question why it’s such a favorite and highly acclaimed release. Sure it’s not Hollywood-quality ready, but for the price, it’s an excellent choice for an easy to fly HD drone with advanced capabilities.
6 – Hubsan Zino Pro
Hubsan’s Zino Pro provides a notable refresh in capabilities over the original Zino. And Hubsan is also a well-known brand in the affordable consumer drone segment. And their latest release proves to be even more popular than its predecessor. It features an 80º lens, 4K UHD video, 3-axis stabilization, 5G connectivity, FPV support, and dual GPS. For control, it ships with a dedicated controller that connects using the X-Hubsan 2 app. And Hubsan rates the drone for 23 minutes of flight and 4000 m.
It’s a medium-sized foldable drone that provides an all-black color scheme, both stealthy and futuristic, coupled with advanced technology. It features a healthy suite of smart flight modes, including Orbit, Waypoint, 360°Panorama, Line Fly, Automatic Return Home, and Image Tracking. But most importantly, it’s equipped with a 4K camera that produces stellar professional-level photos and videos. Plus, new for the Pro version is Vision Auxiliary landing, allowing the drone to scan the surroundings for a safer landing. It also offers users the option to remove the camera lens cover and swap lenses with those that have ND filters.
Overall, the Zino Pro provides a fantastic feature set for the price. And it offers high-quality images that even pro shooters will admire. It’s an excellent venture into the higher-end segment of the market and notable upgrade. With the Zino Pro, Hubsan is now a true competitor to DJI’s higher-end Mavic series drones. And it’s a strong option for those looking for a more premium level drone, at a far more affordable price.
5 – Parrot Anafi
Parrot’s Anafi is a lightweight option that provides several unique features compared to rivals. It features a 26-78mm zoom lens, 3-axis hybrid stabilization, FPV support, Cinema 4K, 4K Ultra HD, and 1080p 60 fps video recording. For control, it ships with the Skycontroller for use with Parrots Freeflight 6 app. And Parrot rates the drone for 25 minutes of flight and a maximum range of 4000 m.
The Anafi comes with several unique features over rivals. Firstly, it offers a 2.8x zoom lens, which provides a penalty-free zoom. This lens gets you that much closer to subjects without any danger. It also provides a camera that has a 180º vertical range so that that drone can take photos directly upwards. And lastly, it shoots in the wider 17:9 aspect ratio Cinema 4K resolution, which is quite rare to see at this price point.
Overall, the Anafi is a strong choice for self-portraits and filming. While it’s not the most stylish option, it does represent the perfect balance between price, portability, and performance. And it’s an excellent choice for both newcomers or seasoned fliers.
4 – Holy Stone HS720
Holy Stone’s HS720 is the latest drone from the manufacturer and is yet another popular release. It features a 110º wide-angle lens, 2K HD video, 5G connectivity, FPV support, and dual GPS. It ships with a dedicated controller that connects via the Ophelia GPS app. And Holy Stone rates the drone for 26 minutes of flight and a maximum range of 1000 m.
It’s a medium-sized foldable drone, with a healthy selection of intelligent flight modes, including Custom Flight Path, Follow Me, Ortib, and One-key Return Home. Unlike rivals, it’s controller has a built-in LCD, which displays critical drone information like battery level, speed, and GPS data. And the drone also offers a wide-angle field of view, which also tilts 90º down, allowing you to savor more details. Holy Stone has also equipped the drone with optical flow sensors, which adapt to the ground for stable hovering, and precise landing.
Overall, the HS720 is among their most advanced releases to date and substantial update to the original HS700. And it provides a robust feature set that matches much of DJI’s Mavic, but at a far more attractive price. Holy Stone has a reputation for creating high-performance drones, and this one delivers.
3 – Ruko F11 Pro
Ruko’s F11 Pro marks an update and refresh over the original F11. It features a 120º lens, 2.7K video, and FPV support. For control, it ships with a dedicated controller that uses the Ruko app. And Ruko rates the drone for 30 minutes of flight and a maximum range of 1200 m.
It’s a medium-sized foldable drone that provides best-in-class flight time, giving fliers maximum time before shutting down to charge. Not to mention, Ruko even ships the drone with an extra battery in the package, giving it a total of 60 minutes. It also offers a full suite of intelligent flight modes, including Automatic Return Home, One-key Landing/Takeoff, Orbit, Follow Me, and Custom Flight Path. Plus, with a wide-angle 120º field of view, and a 90º tilting camera, users have an enormous range of motion.
Overall, the F11 is a sleek, modern design that’s sure to turn heads. It provides exceptional longevity, advanced features, and a stunning camera tailored to both beginners and experienced fliers. And priced in the middle of the spectrum, it’s another popular option with the performance to back it up.
2 – UPair Two 3D+4K
UPair’s Two is quite a unique entry into the entry-level space and offers several innovative features unmatched in this segment of the market. It features a 100º lens, 4K UHD video, 2K 60 fps video, 5G connectivity, FPV support, and 3-axis mechanical stabilization. For control, it ships with a dedicated controller that uses the Upair app. And UPair rates the drone for 24 minutes of flight time and a range of 2000m.
It’s a medium-sized fixed-wing drone that focuses on stability and resiliency to wind. But, unlike rivals, it offers a camera with three separate lenses, called a 3-eye camera. The main camera shoots stunning 4K videos, the others both 2K full HD. The main lens also provides 16MP photos and videos, making it among the best in class in resolution. Plus, this 3D+4K camera also allows you to capture 3D videos as well. The drone also obtains Optical Flow Positioning, which provides accurate positioning of the drone whether GPS is available or not. Along with a full suite of intelligent flight modes, such as Follow Me, Automatic Return Home, Flight Path, Altitude Hold, and One-key Landing.
Overall, UPair Two is not only an incredibly stylish drone, but it matches its beauty with incredible functionality. It’s immediately clear that UPair has taken the time to go the extra mile to create a drone that instantly impresses. It makes an outstanding choice for both beginners or enthusiasts looking for a content creation drone with maximum quality. And for those wanting to venture into more professional aerial creation.
1 – DJI Mavic Mini
The Mavic Mini is the first featherweight powerhouse release from DJI that flies without registration, bypassing both FAA and Civil Aviation requirements. It features a 83º lens, 3-axis mechanical stabilization, 2.7K video, 1080p HD video up to 60 fps, and landing sensors. For control, DJI ships the drone with a dedicated controller, which pairs to DJI fly app. And they rate the drone for a flight time of 30 minutes and maximum range of 4000 m.
As the name implies, it’s a miniature drone with a collapsible design, optimized for portability. And coming in at 249g, it’s 1 g shy of the 250g limit that mandates drone registration and renewal. Yet, it obtains a healthy selection of functionality from its higher-end counterparts in DJI’s range. Most notably, their Automatic Return Home, Dronie, Rocket, Circle, and Helix flight modes. Its feature set not only makes it compact and highly portable but ready to deliver cinema-quality results.
Overall, DJIs Mavic Mini is the best all-rounder for both newcomers and seasoned fliers. Sure, it doesn’t offer 4K video like some rivals, or tracking. But, for the price, it provides maximum portability coupled with superb image quality. And it remains the leader of the class.