March 7

The Best Drone Under $500: [2020 Top Value for Money]

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Are you ready to find the best mid-range drone currently on the market? Drones under $500 are extremely popular in the market today, yet you may find it difficult to find the one that suits your needs. Luckily we have done some research for you and compiled a list of the top-performing drones in this price range; some of their features even outperform more expensive models in the market. 

In a hurry? Our winner after 30hrs of research is... 

DJI Mavic Air


90/100
OUR RATING

[amazon fields="B07RQJHG8M" value="button"]

Why it is better?

This drone has a tiny and foldable design that can easily be carried in a small backpack yet manages to squeeze a ton of advanced features on its miniature body. This drone gives you 30 minutes of playtime and a 4-km control range, it offers much more than the best drones under $300

The camera offers tremendous quality thanks to GPS/GLONASS support, and there is a variety of intelligent flying functions like Return Home, Quickshot, and CineSmooth. 


Top 3 Drones Under 500

Product

​Features 

Rating

Current Price

​​DJI Mavic Mini

[amazon fields="B07RQJHG8M" value="thumb" image_alt="Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch"]

Camera Resolution:  2.7K HD

Flight Time: 30 minutes 

Max Range: 4Km 

90/100

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Ruko F11

Ruko F11

Camera Resolution: 4K UHD

Flight Time: 60 Minutes

Max Range: 1.2Km

87/100

Holy Stone HS720

[amazon fields="B07V3CLLCV" value="thumb" image_alt="MTX Magnum MB210SP Dual 12" Enclosure/Amp Combo
"]

Camera Resolution: 2K FHD

Flight Time: 26 Minutes

Max Range: 1.6Km

85/100

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1. DJI Mavic Mini 
- Best Under 500 - 

DJI Mavic Air
90/100
OUR RATING

[amazon fields="B07RQJHG8M" value="button"]

  • Camera: 2.7K HD 
  • Max Range: 4Km
  • Flight Time: 30 Minutes

DJI continues to flex its muscles in the consumer drone market by producing quality quadcopters like the Mavic Mini. If you’ve ever flown any drone in the DJI Mavic series, you are familiar with the level of quality and performance that these drones offer.

Now imagine bringing all this excellence into a drone under $500, this precisely sums up what you get from the Mavic Mini. The compact drone folds into a size that can easily fit on your palm. 

It offers you extensive playtime, superb video quality, plus a host of exciting flight functions; features that are not easy to come by in this price range. DJI made up for their oversights on the Spark by creating the Mavic Mini, which perfectly strikes an equilibrium between size and performance.

The DJI Mavic Mini is a true game changer, and that’s why it one of the best drones under 500 you can buy today!

Camera

The DJI Mavic Mini offers great quality footage. Its camera shoots 2.7K videos at 30 frames per second or 1080p videos at 60 frames per second. It uses a 1 /2.3 CMOS sensor that can capture 12MP photos across a variety of modes, including basic operation, Sport mode, and CineSmooth mode. 

The CineSmooth mode slows things down by lengthening the breaking time so that you end up with smoother shots and cinematic footage. A 3-axis motorized gimbal has been included to keep the camera stable in windy conditions and ensure that your footage comes out clear and ultra-smooth.

Quickshot modes ensure that you can capture Hollywood-worthy aerial shots; all you need is to select modes like Dronie, Helix, Circle, or Rocket and the Mavic Mini executes the elaborate preset motion as it records the video. You can also share live video footage to your smart device for an incredible FPV experience.

The fact that there is no 4K videos or 2.7K at 60fps may be a slight turn off for videographers. Otherwise, the overall quality of the camera is impressive, especially at this price range. 

Performance 

One of the most fascinating features of the Mavic Mini has to be the battery life. A full charge cycle will give you 30 minutes of flight time, which is almost at par with the more expensive DJI Mavic Pro and notably more when compared to the Mavic Air. However, flying the drone in real-life scenarios will give you no more than 27 minutes, which is still pretty impressive.

The controller range is also something to marvel at. You get an unprecedented 4Km control range, which is well over the visual operating range as per the FAA. There are several safety features on the Mini to ensure that you get to fly the drone with little to no mishaps. 

GPS/GLONASS support makes for a stable hover whereas a Return Home function brings the quadcopter back to you when the battery is low or when it loses signal. A Geofence function in the DJI app also works to define the maximum range of the flight, keeping the drone off restricted air spaces. 

At the bottom of the drone, you’ll find two ground detecting sensors that make for safe landings. Unfortunately, the Mavic Mini doesn’t come with the obstacle avoidance feature that you find on other DJI drones like the Mavic Air. 

The drone also uses the DJI Fly app, which was tailor-made for the Mini. The app enables you to change flight parameters like max distance and altitude, gimbal smoothness, as well as return home minimum height. You can also access functions like Find My Drone, which records the drone’s landing spot.

Generally, the DJI Mavic Mini is quite responsive in the air and would be a nice option for intermediate pilots. It is remarkably stable despite its miniature design, and the fact that you don’t need to register it with the FAA makes it even more worthwhile to consider.

Features

  • GPS/GLONASS support
  • Return home function
  • Ground detection sensors
  • 30-minute play time
  • Quickshot modes and CineSmooth mode
  • 3-axis gimbal stabilization
  • Find my drone function
  • 360 degrees propeller guards

Pros

  • Stable flight, small and portable
  • Long battery life
  • Amazing control range
  • Nice quality camera
  • Great value for money
  • Automated cinematic camera movements

Cons

  • No obstacle avoidance sensors
  • Some connectivity issues

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2. Ruko F11 
- Best Budget Drone - 

Ruko F11
87/100
OUR RATING
  • Camera: 1.2Km
  • Max Range: 4Km
  • Flight Time: 60 Minutes

If you want a cheaper alternative to the Mavic Mini above, you can never go wrong with the Ruko F11. As one of our top value for money drones in 2020, the Ruko F11 brings a lot to the table and will even surprise the most avid drone pilots. Its main highlight has to be the 60-minute flight time that is unheard of at this price range; you won’t even find this flight time on the the best drones under 1000

But flight time aside, there are various features on this quadcopter that make it easy for rookie pilots to control, it also provides more experienced drone users with a worthy challenge. The camera is great and the control range is more than you may need.

Overall, this pocket Hercules of a drone can easily outperform more expensive models in the market. It is an amazing deal for anyone who wants to be money-wise when buying a high-performance quadcopter.

Camera

You get a 4K UHD camera on the F11 that can record videos at 2.7K resolution and shoot stills at up to 8.3MP. The camera has a 120-degree field of view allowing you to capture more details in your shots. The angle of the camera can also be adjusted 90 degrees remotely using the controller for better viewing perspectives.

One area where the F11 camera disappoints, is color reproduction. You won’t exactly be impressed when you compare it to footage from the Mavic Mini or Air. Also, the drone doesn’t come with a gimbal stabilizer, which means that you may have to make do with a little jello effect on your footage. 

When it comes to storage, the camera takes care of this with a micro SD card slot that can support a 128GB memory card. There is also an FPV video sharing feature on offer to make for a more immersing experience when flying the drone.

The camera quality of the F11 may not be good enough to produce professional-level footage but it has what it takes for any aerial photography enthusiast to create amazing amateur content. 

Performance 

The 60 minutes of battery life that this drone offers should leave any drone user with their mouth wide open! The drone will stay hovering in the air for approximately half an hour on a full charge cycle, but since you get a spare battery in the drone package, you can expect an industry-leading 60 minutes of flight time from the Ruko F11.

The maximum control range is another awe-inspiring feature for a drone at this price range. You can fly it to a distance of 1.2Km without losing signal, although the range drops to 500m when you’re using the live video transmission feature. 

This drone has an impressive aerial performance! Thanks to the GPS support, it maintains a stable hover on its GPS hold position, preventing shaking when filming with the camera. The powerful brushless motors powering the drone also assist to keep it steady in strong winds while maximizing battery life.

Safety features like the Return Home mode ensure that you can never lose your prized possession. The drone will come back to you when it flies out of range or running low on battery. 

Other flight functions like the one-key takeoff/landing let you launch the drone into the air and back on land with a simple touch of a button. The headless mode also makes it effortless for learners to fly the drone without having to consider the direction of its head or tail.

It doesn’t stop there; you still get to enjoy smart features like Follow Me mode, as well as Gesture Control, which allows you to take photos and record videos using simple hand movements and gestures. Meanwhile, the TapFly feature lets you predetermine the drone’s flight route before you start flying it.

There are three different speed modes ; low, medium and high. You can therefore customize the flying experience according to your own skills level. 

Features

  • Brushless motor, TapFly
  • Headless and Follow me modes
  • Return home function, GPS module
  • One-key takeoff and landing
  • Gesture Multiple speed modes
  • 60 minutes of battery life

Pros

  • Easy to operate and very cheap
  • Industry-leading flight time
  • Impressive control range
  • FPV live video transmission
  • Powerful motor and stable hover
  • Decent camera

Cons

  • No gimbal stabilization
  • No obstacle avoidance feature
Holy Stone HS720
85/100
OUR RATING

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  • Camera: 2K FHD
  • Max Range: 1.6Km
  • Flight Time: 26 Minutes

The Holy Stone HS720 is another budget option that you can get for the same price as the Ruko F11. Even though you won’t enjoy the same battery life, it still offers an amazing flight time, especially when you consider what it will cost you.

The HS720 is an upgrade of the HS700, so you can expect a lot of improved features on this mini quadcopter. Credit to the manufacturer for managing to squeeze an array of high-end features on this drone while keeping it affordable for the majority of the consumers. 

In short, the HS720 has a lot to offer as far as performance is concerned. Whether you are a rookie pilot or experienced drone user, there is always something to look forward to in this amazing quadcopter. 

Camera

This drone uses a 2K FHD camera that will allow you to capture decent footage. The camera can record videos at 2049 by 1152p resolution. A 90-degree rotation adjustment lens lets you change the viewing angles to your preference when filming from the air.

The camera also features a shock absorption holder that functions to keep it steady in unstable conditions and in the face of vibrations, which allows you to end up with clear images and videos. 

The camera can connect to your smartphone via a 5G network to let you make the most of a fast and fluent FPV real-time video transmission. Furthermore, the drone app lets you control the drone from wherever you are, as well as share the footage by simply clicking on the app. 

Performance 

The HS720 features a maximum control range of up to 1.6Km, which is a tad higher than what the Ruko F11 offers. The 2.4GHz transmitter that the drone comes with will also maintain transmission to a maximum ceiling of just under 1Km.

You’ll have an easy time recording any video from a distance both horizontally and vertically. The flight time you get from the F11 is around 26 minutes, which should bring a smile to any enthusiast’s face. On the flip side, the battery requires almost six hours of charging to get back to full capacity, which may feel like an entirety.

Generally, flying the HS720 is quite easy and that’s why it’s a good pick for trainee pilots looking to master the art of drone flying. This is made possible by a variety of GPS assisted intelligent flight functions provided by the drone. 

With the Optical Flow Positioning, the drone manages to hover steadily at a fixed height and this allows you to fly the drone outdoors, as well as indoors will little difficulty. Thanks to the Return Home feature, you never have to worry about losing your investment when the battery is low or when you fly it out of range.

There is also a Point of Interest function that allows the drone to stay focused on a chosen object, person, or animal, etc. This will prove useful when you’re recording a video and you want to focus on a single point of interest. The Follow Me mode also makes it interesting for new users when controlling the HS720.

All this wealth of features on the drone allows it to stand out from the crowd and promises you a great time when you decide to take it for a flight. 

Features

  • Follow Me mode, brushless motor
  • Foldable design and optical flow positioning
  • GPS Return home
  • Drone app
  • Point of interest, intelligent battery
  • 2K FHD camera

Pros

  • Multiple intelligent flight modes
  • Safety features
  • Long flight time and easy for beginners
  • Great control range and quiet in the air
  • Decent quality camera
  • 5G FPV transmission
    Travel-friendly carrier bag

Cons

  • Long charging time
  • Doesn’t come with a spare battery

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4. Hubsan Zino  

HUBSAN Zino
83/100
OUR RATING

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  • Camera: 4K HD
  • Max Range: 4Km
  • Flight Time: 23 minutes

Do you ever wish you could fly the DJI Mavic Pro but your budget just doesn’t allow you to afford this advanced drone? Well, with the Hubsan Zino, you have one of the best chances to experience how it feels to fly the Mavic Pro but for much less!

The Hubsan Zino resembles much of the Mavic Pro not only when it comes to its appearance but also as far as the general operations are concerned. The Hubsan Zino features a foldable design that can conveniently be stored in a backpack when you want to travel.

It comes with an array of advanced features that range from a 4K UHD camera to an impressive battery life and control range. If you plan to own the desirable Mavic Pro in the future, this quadcopter should act as the best flying simulator to prepare yourself for such!

Camera

The Hubsan Zino is fitted with a 5G-enabled camera that boasts 4K capabilities. This allows you to shoot high-quality stills, as well as record 3840 by 2160 high-resolution videos at 30fps. An Ambrella sports image processor has been included to make sure that there are no blurred images. 

You can also stream live videos to your phone, which is made possible by the FPV function. The 5G technology allows for fast and high-quality streaming with zero to no latency, making for a one of a kind experience. 

Another useful feature on the Hubsan Zino is the 3-axis gimbal stabilizer that serves to keep the camera steady in windy conditions. This is what enables you to record crystal clear footage, giving the Zino an edge over the more expensive DJI Spark when it comes to camera quality. 

Performance 

The Hubsan Zino is advertised to offer 23 minutes of flying by the manufacturer, although flying it in actual field conditions will result in approximately 20 minutes. This is still an impressive time at this price range and very similar to the flying times of it's rivals like the Holy Stone HS720.

The 3000mAh Li-Po battery requires up to 3 hours to fully charge, which may prompt you to get an extra battery if you can’t survive the long wait. Be sure to use the original charger for quicker results. 

The Hubsan Zino will stay in range to a maximum distance of 1Km. The drone is powered by a brushless motor that offers various benefits when flying it. The motor assists to keep the drone quieter in the air to avoid being a nuisance and is also less prone to repairs, due to less wear and tear, compared to a brushed motor.

This quadcopter is relatively stable when it is airborne. This is a result of the GPS function, which works together with the built-in barometer to maintain a fixed hover altitude and position. Several intelligent flying modes allow the drone to remain in the vicinity all the while.

The Return Home function will automatically bring it back to its starting point when it loses signal or almost running on an empty battery. Other precise controls also make for a responsive and smooth flying experience.

For instance, the Headless Mode makes it easier for inexperienced users to control the aircraft while Follow Me Mode serves to enhance the fun in flying this quad. You’ll also enjoy additional functions such as Panorama, Orbit, and Line Fly modes, that enable you to customize the experience. 

There are two available speed modes; standard for amateurs and sport for drone racing enthusiasts. On the downside, the Zino does not offer an obstacle avoidance feature, so you’d want to stick to the standard mode if you’re not a drone racing expert.  

Features

  • Brushless motors and FPV experience
  • Waypoint, built-in barometer
  • GPS support and Follow me
  • Headless mode
  • Panorama and 2 speed modes
  • 3-axis gimbal stabilization
  • Orbit and Line Fly modes

Pros

  • A great choice for beginners
  • Return home function and portable design
  • Good play time and control range
  • Decent camera quality and 5G transmission
  • Intelligent flying modes
  • Stable hover and safety features

Cons

  • No obstacle avoidance
  • Long charging time
  • The transmitter could be better

[amazon fields="B07Y2M3GY4" value="button"]

Altair Aerial Outlaw
80/100
OUR RATING

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  • Camera: 1080p HD
  • Max Range: 600m
  • Flight Time: 20 Minutes

Altair Aerial is famous for producing low-cost consumer drones and has built a commendable reputation for good customer service. However, with the Altair Outlaw, the manufacturer stepped things up by offering enthusiasts a functional device that comes with GPS capabilities. 

The Outlaw is a sleek-looking drone with a conspicuous white plastic body. It has a built-in 1080p HD camera that offers a great FPV experience. It also comes with a range of interesting features that you’ll find in more expensive drones in the market.

Overall, this drone is a good choice for all drone flyers irrespective or their skills level. The Outlaw can shoot professional-quality videos while remaining price-friendly.

Camera

You won’t get 4K capabilities from the Outlaw's camera, instead, the high-quality onboard camera shoots 1080p high definition videos that offer users expert-level quality. Thanks to a combination of GPS and Barometer Altitude hold, the drone maintains a stable hover to let you capture crystal clear footage.

The camera is also Wi-Fi enabled and allows you to connect to your smartphone. This way, you get to stream real-time footage of the drone in an exciting FPV experience. VR headset compatibility helps to immerse you even further into the experience and makes for a great time flying this great drone. 

Unfortunately, the drone does not have internal memory. Nevertheless, there is a micro SD card slot that allows you to insert a memory card to save your photo and video files. The drone can support a maximum of 32GB!

Performance 

The Altair Outlaw will provide you with 20 minutes of playtime. The 1800mAh LiPo battery is removable and rechargeable, allowing you to use a spare battery as it charges to ensure you have more fun with the drone. Meanwhile, brushless motors help to keep the drone more quite while airborne.

The drone can be controlled to a range of 600m on its transmitter while the range reduces to 500m when you’re flying with the FPV feature. This is a decent distance for experienced drone pilots and probably more than enough for beginners.

The GPS function makes for an easy time when you’re flying this drone. It will remain in a stable hover while in the GPS Flight Mode, which is reinforced by a built-in barometer. This provides you with the perfect circumstances to take the perfect shot.

This drone also boasts a ton of smart features that enhance the experience of controlling it in the air. The GPS supported return home function ensures that the drone will come back to you with a single touch of a button. 

Furthermore, the quadcopter will automatically come back home when the battery is running low and when the transmission signal is lost. These fail-safe features guarantee that you can never lose your newly acquired drone.

Different flight modes make it easy for beginner pilots to manage this drone in the air. For example, with the headless mode, users don’t have to worry about the direction of the nose or tail when controlling the drone.

Also, the Altitude Hold feature allows you to preset the height you want the drone to hover and take countless selfies or record videos without the drone drifting out of position. You’ll also enjoy the One-key Takeoff/Landing feature, which launches the quad into the air with one touch.

Other exciting features include Point of Interest and Follow Me Mode, which allows the drone to focus on a selected target and follow you wherever you go. In general, you get an intuitive and feature-rich drone that both starter pilots and experienced users will enjoy.

Features

  • Onboard 1080p HD camera
  • GPS height hold and 3 Return-home functions
  • Almost 20 minutes of flight time
  • FPV live video experience and brushless motors
  • GPS Waypoint Mapping, micro SD card slot 
  • Follow Me mode and altitude hold
  • Point of interest and headless mode
  • GPS-assisted stabilization mode

Pros

  • Multiple smart flight modes
  • Relatively easy to fly, good quality camera
  • Decent flight time and range
  • Wonderful FPV experience, VR headset support
  • Cheap pricing and good customer support
  • One-key takeoff and landing
  • A great choice for beginners

Cons

  • Transmission issues
  • Poorly developed app

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FAQ

What is the Average Range and Flight Time for Drones Under 500?

The battery life and control range will usually vary between different models. This will mainly be determined by the quality of the battery powering the drone. On average, drones under 500 will give around 25 minutes of playtime, which is more than you’ll require for a nice video log and breathtaking aerial photography footage. 

The average control range will also fall between 500-1000m. However, the best drones under 500, as we’ve seen in the reviews above, can go well beyond the industry average. So, before you buy a drone, you might want to look at some of its specs. 

Is 4K Possible in Drones Under 500?

The possibilities are limitless when it comes to the manufacture of affordable consumer drones. The rapidly growing market ensures that manufacturers are doing everything to appeal to customers and one of the go-to tactics is to integrate high-quality features in affordable quadcopters.

As such, 4K cameras are no longer reserved for the top-shelf drones in the market. You can easily find a budget to intermediate drone with an integrated 4K camera as one of its main features today. 

What is the Average Life Expectancy of these Drones?

There is no straight answer to this! However, the life expectancy of a quadcopter will depend on how well you take care of it. If you expose it to constant smashes and crashes, it will only be a matter of time before it is severely damaged. 

But with good maintenance, you should be able to get hundreds of flight hours from it! 

What’s the Difference Between Brushed and Brushless Motors? 

Brushed motors usually contain carbon brushes that are installed on the stator (fixed part of a motor) to make for optimal power transmission to the rotor (rotating part of the motor). The problem with brushed motors is that components quickly wear out over time and produce dust. As such, these types of motors need regular maintenance to clean out the dust and replace the brushes. They are also dogged by low heat dissipation capacity as a result of rotor limitations, low maximum speed, high rotor inertia, and electromagnetic interference due to arcing on the brushes.

On the other hand, brushless motors do not have brushes on the stator, hence there’s no physical contact between the stator and the rotor. The absence of brushes limits problems associated with overheating and constant breakdowns. Brushless motors have a longer shelf life, in addition to being smaller and almost twice as light as brushed motors. This reduces vibration and noise while improving portability.

In short, brushless motors are generally 85-90% efficient while brushed motors are 75-80% efficient. The difference in efficiency implies that more of the total power used by a brushless motor is being transformed into rotational force while ensuring that less is wasted in the form of heat.

After it’s all said and done, we recommend...

DJI Mavic Air


89/100
OUR RATING

[amazon fields="B07RQJHG8M" value="button"]

The following features allow it to take the day:

  • GPS/GLONASS support
  • Return home function
  • 4km control range, ground detection sensors
  • 30-minute flight time and find my drone function
  • Quickshot modes and CineSmooth mode
  • 3-axis gimbal stabilization
  • 360 degrees propeller guards

Conclusion

If you’re a current drone user hoping to be a professional drone pilot in the future, long range drones provide the ideal test to gauge how well your drone flying skills are coming along. Any of the models we discuss could easily be the best long range drone, depending on the experience you’re looking for and affordability. 

Resources: Buybestquadcopter.com


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