Everyone loves a best-of list, which is why if you go looking for the best drones of 2017 you’ll find an incredible array of lists. The best drones for beginners, best drones with cameras, best for beginners with cameras — the variations are practically endless. This article does the hard work for you and sums up the best UAV lists for 2017.
The method was quasi-scientific. First, a list was compiled of the most popular drone categories, such as best for beginners and best minis. Then four popular best-of lists were selected for each category. What does ‘popular’ mean in this case? It means turning up on the first page of a Google search (that’s why it’s QUASI-scientific). A drone had to show up on at least two lists to get covered here. Below you’ll find the results of this highly rigorous review!
Best Drones for Beginners
The four lists for the best drones of 2017 for beginners agreed on what makes a good beginner drone. First and foremost, it needs to be easy to fly. Second, having a durable build is important, because as a beginner you’re likely to crash a lot. Some list-makers went further, looking at how fast drones could fly, how long they lasted and how far the range was.
The lists were also in surprisingly close agreement about which drones were the best at meeting those criteria. Here we take a closer look at the top three drones in the best drones of 2017 for beginners’ category.
One drone made the cut for every list, and that’s the Ready-to-fly UDI U818A. This drone showed up in some of the other categories too, indicating it’s one of the best drones for around $50. It’s a quadcopter with a range of 30 m (about 100 ft.) that can fly for 7-9 minutes before needing a recharge. It also comes with a fancy 360-degree flip maneuver built in to the controls and a camera so you can record your flights.
The Hubsan X4 H107D was a close second on the best drones of 2017 for beginners’ lists, showing up on three out of four, as well as in other categories. It’s an almost-ready-to-fly, palm-sized quadcopter. It comes with FPV, or first-person view, which means a camera on the drone broadcasts a live view to your transmitter screen. If you’re interested in getting into drone racing, FPV makes the Hubsan X4 a great way to get started. It runs around $40.
The Syma X5C is worth mentioning too. It only showed up on two lists, but it came up again in other categories. It’s another small-sized quadcopter that’s easy to fly and reasonably priced at $50. It comes with an HD camera and 2GB micro SD card for making videos and still images, and can perform the same snazzy 360 flip as the UDI U818A.
Best Cheap Drones
Next up is the best drones of 2017 that are cheap. What’s cheap? Three lists agreed under $200, and one said less than $180. It’s worth mentioning that the drones in this category all have similar flying times (5–7 minutes) and ranges (100 m maximum), but one list-maker pointed out if you were willing to spend just a bit more than $200, you could up your flying range to around 500 meters.
That said, you probably won’t be surprised to find out that the same top three that showed up for the best beginner drones showed up in the best cheap drone category. It goes without saying that if you’re going to crash and possibly destroy something, it’s better if it didn’t cost you your rent money.
Showing up on three out of four of the best drones of 2017 that are cheap is the Hubsan X4. The above description neglected to mention it has a range of 100 m (around 328 ft.), which is the best your going to do in this price range.
This popular model showed up again on three out of four lists in the cheap category. Some reviewers called the Syma X5C the best drone for the price.
UDI U818A and the Holy Stone F181
The UDI U818A only appeared on two of four lists for the best cheap drones, but the frequency with which it lands in other categories makes it worth mentioning here. Also showing up on two out of four lists is the Holy Stone F181. This is another ready-to-fly quadcopter with a similar range and flying time to others in this price range. It also has a handy return-home button and an HD camera for recording your flights.
The Best Nano/Micro/Mini Drones
What’s the difference between a nano, micro, and mini-drone? The best drones of 2017 micro lists didn’t bother to explain, but these are drones that are usually smaller than 250 mm (about 10 inches), although many are a lot smaller than that. What are they good for? Having an insane amount of fun, usually around your house on a rainy day. At the small end, they’re in danger of blowing away if you take them outside, and you shouldn’t expect much in the way of range and flying time. That said, they’re great to learn tricks and usually affordable, and some even come with cameras and FPV.
Making it onto three out of four of the best drones of 2017 lists, the Cheerson CX-10 measures 2.5 inches across. Most reviewers were delighted with its 8-or-more minute flying time and the extra propellers for when you break the originals. It has a range of around 40 m (around 130 ft.), which is pretty incredible when you consider how tiny it is. Most of all, it was the $15-$20 price range that had everyone excited.
At this point, you should be seeing a pattern. The Hubsan X4 shows up as one of the best drones of 2017 whether you’re ranking according to ease of flying, price or size. If you’re new to drones, this might be the best overall drone to start with.
The Best Racing Drones
If you’re already a serious drone racer, chances are good you built your own. But if you’re just getting into it, the best drones of 2017 for drone racing might interest you. All four of the lists focused on ready-to-fly or almost-ready-to-fly racing drones that were decent quality and had good FPV but weren’t crazy expensive. Here’s what they agreed on.
Eachine Wizard X220
The Eachine Wizard X220 showed up on two out of four lists, but it’s mentioned first here because it showed up on other best racing drone lists that didn’t make the cut for this review. The Eachine Wizard comes either ready-to-fly or almost-ready-to-fly. Make sure you know which one you’re getting because the ARF version requires you install your own receiver. It’s light, fast, maneuverable and good for racing or doing cool tricks. Until you’re ready to build your own, the Wizard is a good bet.
Arris X-speed 250
Appearing on two out of four of the best drones of 2017 for racing lists, the Arris X-Speed 250 is another light, fast racing drone. Its FPV camera is adjustable, so you have some control over what you see while you fly. Like the Eachine Wizard, it runs around $230.
The Best Camera Drones
Filming is one of the most popular applications for drones, both for professionals and those just looking to have fun. As with racing models, if you’re a professional camera drone operator, you probably have a customized setup you built yourself. That’s why the four best of lists focused on drones for beginning aerial cinematographers. That means these drones have moderate price tags and cameras already installed.
Showing up on four out of four lists of the best drones of 2017 with cameras, everyone agreed on the Yuneec Q500. At $1200, this isn’t for first-time fliers, but it is reasonably priced for what you get. The 4k camera gives really good image quality, and the controller lets you see what the camera sees, so there’s no mystery about how your shot looks.
DJI Phantom 4
A little harder to break down than the Yuneec Q500 but still appearing on three out of four lists and costing only around $900, the DJI Phantom 4 is a favorite. Described as polished, easy to fly and feature-packed, this drone is a great deal for the price.
Parrot Bebop 2
At the lower end, the Parrot Bebop 2 is a good mid-range camera drone. It comes in under $600, gives you 20 minutes of flying time and has a range around 300 m (almost 100 ft.). That said, you don’t get a slick 4k camera with this one, so it’s better for people just getting into filming rather than someone looking to use it for professional reasons.
And… UDI U818A?
It’s worth mentioning that the good old UDI U818A showed up on one list as the best camera drone under $200!
There you have it, the best of the best drones of 2017. While experienced drone pilots will have their own favorites, these are the drones that came up again and again on the best of lists for this year. Are they really the best? You’ll have to fly them yourself to know for sure.