What is an FPV quadcopter?

FPV basics

FPV quadcopter means that your quadcopter has a small camera and transmitter mounted on it; the camera transmits the images to your FPV google or screen,and you fly your quadcopter not by line of sight, but by the transmitted video.

Compared to regular line-of-sight flying, FPV flying is harder because you see less of the environment, so it takes some time to get used to. On the upside you can fly and FPV quadrotor to larger distances while staying in control, as you can see the quad’s environment via the googles long after you have lost line-of-sight.

FPV race video courtesy of DronedOut.
FPV is an exhilarating experience as you will feel part ofthe action, instead of staying an outsider.

FPV equipment started to become common in the 2000s, nowadays you can easily get an integrated camera + transmitter and goggles + receiver for a few hundred dollars.

As FPV is not tied to the other electronic components you can easily add FPV gear to anything – RC airplanes, boats, cars and you could even use the FPV gear for remote monitoring if you wanted to.

FPV is for you if you love immersive action and you are thinking aboutracing with your quadcopter. Quad races are almost always FPV only – you just can’t judge the small distances, gates and turns otherwise, and would surely crash.

The equipment

FPV equipment on the transmitting side consists of 4 parts:
  • The battery for the transmitter and the camera, usually a Lipo battery.
  • The transmitter itself.
  • The antenna for the transmitter, often a clover-leaf antenna.
  • The camera, PAL and/or NTSC.

Click here to check the prices of FPV cameras and transmitters online.

The receiving side has 4 parts as well:
  • The battery for the receiver and the goggle, usually a Lipo battery.
  • The receiver itself.
  • The antenna for the receiver, often a clover-leaf antenna which can be combined with a flat antenna for longer range.
  • The goggle or the screen.

Click here to check the prices of FPV goggles online.

While there are quite a few frequencies which are usable for FPV (900 MHz, 1.2 GHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz), the most common one used for quadcopter racing is the 5.8 Ghz frequency.While the 5.8 Ghz frequency is a good all-rounder, 900Mhz is better to get along range.

The camera and the goggle can use NTSC and/or PAL encoding. It’s important to use equipment with matching encoding, otherwise the image just won’t come through.

From image quality point of view

, the camera’s TVL number and the goggle’s resolution are the most important numbers. The higher the TVL number, the better the camera’s image quality will be. The same is true for the camerare solution: you’ll want it as high as practically possible. An 1000TVL camera and a 800×480 goggle is probably the best you can get today while keeping the budget reasonable. Here you can check the prices of 1000TVLcameras, while here you can check the prices of HD FPV goggles.

Toy quadcopters can have FPV too, the Holy Stone HS110W is a great example.However most of these use Wifi for FPV, which adds considerable lag. You should avoid these systems for FPV flying. However such a quad is still practical for simple aerial photography, as you’ll actually see what you are taking a photo of while being very cheap.

As the radio transmission’s quality can vary during the flight another camera (often a Gopro) is used to record the flight. It’s also possible to use a Gopro as an FPV camera, however there could be a few issues with this setup, as the Gopro adds more latency than a simple FPV cam, it’s videou output is not as good as the one it records, and it could lock up cutting your video feed.Still, if you like to experiment it’s definitely worth a try, as quite a few people use such a setup with success. You can find the prices for the required cable here, and you’ll find a video guide on Vimeo (though you will not need to slice the ready-made cables).

The goodies

The OSD shows you all the vital data from your quad.
On screen display is a cool feature

for FPV flying, with an OSD module you can transmit live data from your quadcopter, including the battery status, altitude, GPS coordinates. These can be vital as you’ll know if you have to return home due to low battery, or you’ll know where you have to search for your quad, would you lose it out of sight. Minimo sd supports a wide range of flight controllers, and can be bought online too – just avoid the “micro” version, people seem to have issues with that one.

Head tracking camera with two servos.
Head tracking is another cool feature for FPV.

Head tracking is recommended for advanced pilots only, still it’s great to learn about such possibilities.Head tracking enabled FPV goggles have integrated gyros which track your head’s pitch and yaw.The head tracking unit has an output which you have to connect to your transmitter’s trainer port (so a capable transmitter is required). The transmitter sends these out as two additional channels, and are received by receiver in the quad. The camera’s servos are connected to the receiver, so in the end the camera will move the same way you move your head, and you’ll be able to look around while on FPV. Both Flitete stand Fat shark has a detailed articles on setting up head tracking, and you can compare the prices of pan/tilt cameras and head tracking goggles online.

The regulations

There are a few regulations which you’ll have to obey if you’d like to start FPV flying. These regulations usually fall into three categories.

FPV frequency regulations

– in the US you can transmit with up to 1 Watt of power in the 5.8 Ghz frequency, while in the UK you are limited to 25 mW. Fortunately the transmitter’s spec includes the transmitting power, and there are plenty of low – and high-performance transmitters available, so it’s easy to to follow this regulation. Here you can read the US regulation, and here the UK regulation.

Generic quadcopter regulations
  • In the US, the quad must weigh less than 25 kilograms, and you must register it if it weighs more than 250 grams. You must fly only during daylight, and either fly byline of sight, or have someone there who watches the quad. You must not fly above people, and must report any serious accidents to the authorities. The maximum allowed speed is 100 mph, while the maximum allowed flight height is400 feet. Click here for a more detailed PDF summary of the regulations.
  • In the UK, the rules are a bit simpler – you must not fly higher than 400feet, must keep line-of-sight, and must keep 50 meters of distance frompeople or properties. The distance you have to keep increases to 150 metersin case of a crowd or built-up area. The details are on thedronesafe.ukwebsite.
FPV related regulations

– both in the US and in the UK you need a someone besides you who has unaided line of sight to the vehicle. So according to the law you can’t fly FPV alone. This is detailed in the US an dUK PDF documents.

To learn even more about FPV quadcopters, check our What quadcopter to buy for FPV? article.

Have fun flying! πŸ™‚

Best quadcopter for under $200 (with a camera).

Quadcopter drones under $200 make a good choice as you’ll get higher quality than what you can expect from quads under $100. The changes with the higher price are noticeable right away: the quads are larger so they can fight the wind better, the cameras are better quality, and the flight times are longer too.

Still if you just started out flying getting a cheaper quadrotor could be better, asyou will surely crash, and you’ll lose less money if the quad is cheaper.

Quadrotors under $200 usually have prop guards which help to save you props in a crash, they have a replaceable battery so you can get another and just swap them out when one runs low to continue flying.

Low voltage alarm is standard too, the quad’s lights will start flashing if the battery runs low. This way you can land before you’d crash due to the low battery. The charger is usually USB based, so you can plug it into a computer or an iPhone charger.

These quadcopters usually have a 720p camera too.

FPV in this price-category is Wifi-based, which is good for slow-speed flying and great for aerial photography (as you can actually see what you shoot). For FPV quads you will need an Android smartphone or iPhone to view the live video feed. The camera acts as a Wifi hotspot, you’ll have to connect your phone to this hotspot. The Wifi range is usually 30 to 50 meters beyond which the live feed will cut out.

Drones under $200 have full-sized transmitters which are best suited for adult hands. If you have small hands the Cheerson CX-10 could be a better choice.These transmitters are interference-free so you can fly together with the same or other type of quads too.

Some of these drones support using your smartphone as a transmitter using Wifi. Honestly this is not much good, you will get much better results using the transmitter: lower control latency, longer range, more accurate control.

In this category the quads usually have brushed coreless motors, which are not as powerful as the high end quad’s brushless motors.

Quadcopters this large can cause injury, so it’s a great idea to fly faraway from people and objects you could damage. Flying in your home is not really supported by these machines, the under 100 category is better for this.

The best quadcopters under 200 dollars.

Name Flight Time Charge Time Range Extras Beginner Mode LED Camera Details
Holy Stone F181
7-9 mins 80-100 mins 50-100 meters props, guard, extra battery βœ“ βœ“ 720p Price
Details
Holy Stone HS110 FPV
7-9 mins 60 mins 100-120m for the quad, 30-50m for the FPV props, guard βœ“ βœ“ 720p Wifi FPV Price
Details
Syma X8G
7-10 mins 200 mins 100 meters props, guard, Gopro support βœ“ βœ“ 1080p Price
Details
Force1 U45
7-10 mins 70-120 mins 90 meters guard, extra battery, power bank βœ“ βœ“ 720p Wifi FPV Price
Details
Syma X5C by Potensic
6-9 mins 100 mins 50 meters 3 extra batteries, 2 spare motors, 2 set of spare props, prop guard,carrying case βœ“ βœ“ 720p Price
Details
Holy Stone HS200 FPV
7-9 mins 60 mins 100-120 meters for the quad, 50 meters for the FPV props, guard, Micro-SD card, screws and screwdriver βœ“ βœ“ 720p Wifi FPV Price
Details
Holy Stone X401H-V2
7-9 mins 90-120 mins 100-120m for the quad, 50m for FPV props, guard, Micro-SD card and reader, screws, screwdriver, phoneholder βœ“ βœ“ 720p Wifi FPV Price
Details
UDI U818A FPV
6-9 mins 90-120 mins 30 meters props, guard, battery, power bank βœ“ βœ“ Wifi FPV 720p Price
Details
UDI U842 by DBPOWER
6-9 mins 150 mins 50-80m for the quad, 30m for the FPV extra battery, spare props, guard βœ“ βœ“ 720p Wifi FPV Price
Details
Contixo Wifi FPV F10
15 mins 180 mins 300 meters props, guard, screws and screwdriver, phone holder,Micro-SD card with reader βœ“ βœ“ 720p Wifi FPV Price
Details
The Holy Stone F181

is a large, 30cm X 30cm quadcopter, which comes with a 720p camera. Due to it’s size the F181 is best for outdoor flying. The quad comes with replacement props and prop guards out of the box, which make it fairly durable. The flight time is about 7 to 9 minutes after 80 to 100 minutes of charging. As the quad comes with an extra battery you will be able to fly twice as long with a simple battery swap.

The F181’s transmitter is full-sized, so it best fits adult hands. You will need 4xAA batteries to start flying. The transmitter has beginner mode and headless mode too.

The F181 has a 720p camera with good (though not the best) image quality.This drone does not support FPV, so you can only view the video once you have landed.

Check the price for this quad or read our full review.

The Holy Stone HS110 FPV

is 32cm X 32cm quadrotor for outdoor flights. The HS110 has automatic takeoff and landing, and automatic hover too, which is very rare in this price category. This is made possible by it’s built-in pressure sensor. The HS110 can fly for 7 to 9 minutes after 60minutes of charging.

The HS110 comes with a full-sized mode 2 transmitter, the throttle is on the left stick. The transmitter will need 4xAA batteries before you can start flying. Headless mode and one key return is supported too.

The camera is a 720p unit, and can live stream the video to your smartphone.For this to work you’ll need a Wifi capable Android phone or iPhone.

While this is probably the most advanced quadcopter of the pack, you shouldnot expect the refinement and stability of a high-end drone at this price level.

Check the price for this quad or read our full review.

Syma X8G
The Syma X8G

is large quadcopter measuring ~34cm X 34cm motorto motor. The X8G has a 7 to 9 minute flight time after 200 minutes of charging – getting an extra battery is a great idea. The weight is above the US registration limit, so you’ll have to registerΒ it.

The X8G comes with an 1080p camera, and you can attach a Gopro to it too.The camera is removable but you can only change where it looks by hand, it does not have an electronically movable gimbal.

The X8G has a full-sized transmitter, and supports headless mode. You’ll need 4xAA batteries to start flying. The range is about 100 meters.

Get this quad if you want a cheap quad with Gopro support. You can check the priceΒ here.

Force1 U45
The Force1 U45

is an advanced toy quadcopter from Force1. TheU45 was designed for outdoor flying. It comes with two batteries and an extra power bank, so you can charge your quad while you are out in the field too. The quadrotor supports altitude hold, automatic takeoff, landing and headless mode too, and has basic support for flight path planning via it’s smartphone app. The flight time is 7 to 8 minutes depending on how you fly.

The U45 comes with a full-sized transmitter, you’ll have to buy 4xAAbatteries before you can start flying. The range is 100 meters.

The U45’s camera is a 720p FPV unit, it can stream the live video to your smartphone via Wifi. For this feature to work you will need a Wifi capable Android phone or iPhone. The Wifi has a 30 to 50 meter range, after that it will cut off, but you will still be able to fly your quad using the transmitter.

The U45 is another great toy quad, with a huge range of features, definitely recommended. Just make sure you know you buy a toy – these quads do not have the features and refinement of the professional quads.

Check the Force1 U45’s price here.

The Syma X5C by Potensic

is a 31cm X 31cm quadcopter drone, which is best for flying outdoors in calm weather.The X5C has a full-sized transmitter, best for adult hands. The transmitter can control the onboard camera and needs 4xAA batteries.

The batteries need 100 minutes to charge, the flight time is between 4 and 9minutes. The X5C has an overall good reputation which make it a safe choice.

Potensic has put together a really nice package for the X5C, which features3 extra batteries, 2 spare motors, 2 set of spare props, prop guards,and an extra carrying case. These extras depend on the seller so make sure you order here to get them. Earlier we reviewed the Syma X5Cfrom another seller – the difference is only in the extras.

This is a really well-rounded package, ideal if you do not want to shoparound for a case, batteries and other parts.

Holy Stone HS200 FPV
The Holy Stone HS200 FPV

is another great quad from HolyStone. It has all the little goodies that make an outstanding quad in this price-category: automatic takeoff and landing, altitude hold, headless mode and one-key return. The flight time is 7 to 9 minutes after 60 minutes of charging.

The HS200’s camera can record 1280 x 720 (720p) videos to the 4GB Micro-SD Card that comes with it, or send the live video to your smartphone via Wifi.

The HS200 has a full-sized transmitter which requires 4xAA batteries before you can fly.

You can check the HS200’s price here. The HS200 is a great choice if you want a full-featured toy quad.

The Holy Stone X401H-2

is in many respects similar to theHS200 above. The main difference is the charge time: the X401H needs between1.5 to 2 hours to charge, vs. the HS200’s one hour.

The X401 has 720p Wifi FPV camera, a full-sized transmitter, and supports altitude hold and automatic takeoff and landing just like the HS200.

The camera can record videos to it’s internal MicroSD-card – again same as the HS200.

You can check the X401H-2’s price here Choose this one if you liked the HS200’s features, but prefer the X401’slooks.

UDI U818A FPV
The UDI U818A FPV

is a large, 34cm X 33cm sized quadcopter,designed for outdoors like all the quadcopters in this category. It supports headless mode and one-key return. The U818A can fly for 6 to 9 minutes using a single battery after 1-2hours of charging. The quadcopter comes with two batteries, you can fly for two times as long with a simple battery swap. Even better, you can charge your batteries using the power bank while you are outside.The camera has an 1280×720 resolution and supports FPV with Wifi.The transmitter is full-sized, and needs 4xAA batteries.

You can check the price here.

This quad does not support altitude hold, so it limps a bit behind Holy Stone’s offerings. Crash protection is better, making this quad a good choice if you expect to crash often.

UDI U842 by DBPOWER
UDI U842 by DBPOWER

is an FPV drone from UDI. It has a 50 to80 meter range for the transmitter, and 30 meter range for the FPV. The flight time is 6-9 minutes after 2.5 hours of charging. The quad comes with two batteries so you can double the flight time. The U842 supports headless mode and needs 4xAA for the transmitter to fly.

Controlling the quad via the mobile app is supported too, both using the on-screen virtual sticks, and by tilting the phone in the direction you want the quad to fly. Using the transmitter is generally better as it has lower latency and is less error-prone.

Click here to view the price.

Choose this quad if you like it’s looks – the others have lower charge time and more features.

Contixo Wifi FPV F10
The Contixo Wifi FPV F10

is a large quad measuring 66cm X 55cmif the prop guards are counted. The quad can fly for 10 to 15 minutes after3 hours of charging, the transmitter’s range is 300 meters (Wifi FPV range is 30 to 50 meters). The battery is 7.4V 1200mAh dual-cell unit, stronger than what’s usual in this category. You’ll need to get 4xAA batteries for the transmitter to start flying. The quad supports headless mode and altitude holdtoo, the camera is a standard 720p unit.

Price info for the Contixo drone is available here. Choose this quad if you’d like to fly a large quad – the very long charge time and lack of second battery are red flags.


If you have a hard time choosing, just select the HS200, you can’t go wrong with this one. If you are looking for something smaller or cheaper, check our best quad under 100 article.

Have fun flying πŸ™‚

Where to buy a quadcopter?

There are more and more places you can buy a quadcoptertoday:

you can buy a quadcopter in brick-and-mortar stores: R/C model stores almost always have quadrotors stocked, but toy stores and electronic stores carry them usually too.

Large online stores tend to have an even wider range of quadcopters too, so getting your quad from one of them is a great idea.

Shopping, and online shopping in particular can have a few issues, so it’s a great idea to research the store before buying from them.

The first and most important question is the warranty

. Both the length of the warranty period, and the conditions are important. It’s also good to know who you can talk to would your quad fail.

Besides the warranty, replacement parts are important too: you will crash your quad, and no shop will ever exchange the broken parts under warranty.

For brick-and-mortar shops it’s the easiest to ask them in person, while for online shops the reviews can be very helpful. Ebay and Amazon takes buyer protection seriously, so they are safe choices in this respect.

Choosing the right payment option

and avoiding credit card fraud is again something you should consider. For example Banggood had issues with credit card theft. The good news is that practicing basic precaution will help you stay safe – just make sure you choose one ofthe big online payment providers, for example Paypal, Google Checkout, or Amazon Payments.

These companies take security very seriously,and using them ensures that your credit card data does not go through the online shop’s servers.

Shipping time and warehouse location

depends a lot on the online shop you choose. Some online shops, for example Banggood and Aliexpress have their largest warehouses in China. This usually means longer shipping times, however their prices are lower too.

Reliability of shipping

is important too. Some online shops(Banggood…) have a tendency to ship very late, and sometimes even lie about having the product stocked. While in the end they usually ship, they may not worth the hassle if you want to get your quadcopter fast.Amazon is usually way faster.

The range of products you can buy

is important too. Some online shops have a wide range of toy quads, but do not have the part you’d need to build your own. Some are the other way around. The most important here is to choose an online shop which is reliable and stocks the kind of quadcopters you’d like to buy.

To avoid counterfeit quadrotors

double check the seller’s reputation. While some of the counterfeit quadcopters or parts will still work as expected it’s best to stay safe, as counterfeits tend to have a low quality, some might notwork at all.

Online shops to buy your quads from

Amazon.com

was founded in1994 and has grown to be one of the largest online retailers. Amazon sells practically anything you’d ever need – of course ithas a really wide range of quadcopters and quadcopter parts too.

The main selling point of Amazon is the high reputation, their product review system and their buyer protection.

Amazon accepts all mayor credit and debit card, and you should not expect any kind of credit card fraud from them.

In general their delivery is reliable, and their support is good too.

Amazon’s only downsides are the bit higher price – but let’s be honest here,you get what you pay for, and you just won’t get the same level of support from the Chinese retail giants.

While some counterfeit products pop up on Amazon too, in general their product review system quickly flags these. Just make sure you only buy quadcopters from them which already have a dozen or so reviews, the average should be 4 stars or more.

Click here to check the quadrotor prices on Amazon.com.

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Ebay.com

is another US giant, Ebay was founded in 1995 and has grown to a multi-billion dollar e-commerce company. A very broad range of products are available on Ebay both as auctioned and fixed-priced items – this means that you could buy high-value used quadcopters for a lower price too.

Still, as Amazon, Ebay has a good reputation, as it features a buyer protection and seller rating system so buying on Ebay is generally safe.

Ebay seems to have a more problems with fakes – so it’s a great idea to double check the seller, this way you will not have to go through the refund process.

Credit card safety issues are nonexistent on Ebay.

Click here to check the quadcopters on Ebay.

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Banggood

was founded in 2006, and is headquartered in China. Banggood has warehouses in the US so it’s a great idea to check their US warehouse for the quadcopter you’d like to buy.

Some buyers experienced credit card theft when buying from Banggood, and they seem to have issues with fakes and shipping too.

While these issues seem to be grave, using Paypal for checkout will protect you, as you can simply apply for a refund to Paypal, and they will protect your credit card information too. So if you are up for the challenge, Banggood can provide great value. If you hate the hassle, just skip them and stay safe with Amazon. Banggood has a product rating system, so you have a chance to weed out the problematic items.

Click here for quadcopter prices from the US Warehouse, or here to check the prices on Banggood’s main website.

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Gearbest

is another Chinese e-commmerce website, in many respects it’s similar to Banggood.

While Gearbest does not seem to have issues with fakes, they still seem to have strange issues regarding personal data and shipping too.

Fortunately Gearbest offers Paypal checkout, so you are protected,just make sure you always use Paypal for checkout, and escalate any issues towards Paypal, and not Gearbest. In the end you get what you pay for: use Gearbest if you want a good deal, and you are ready to take up the issues with Paypal.

Gearbest’s US warehouses do not seem to hold as many products as Banggood, so you should expect slower shipping.

Just as the other online retailers, Gearbest has a product rating system, so you have a chance to weed out the problematic items.

Click here to check Gearbest’s quadcopter prices.

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Aliexpress

is part of the Alibaba Group Holding Limited Chinese ecommerce company. Alibaba Group was founded in 1999, while Aliexpress started operation in 2010.

While in theory the long operation time is a good sign, Aliexpress has the same issues as the other Chinese retailers: allegations of credit card fraud, suspiciously cheap products, and worst of all no Paypal support.

Aliexpress has the usual product rating system, so you could check the products if you wanted to. But let’s be honest here, no Paypal support and credit card fraud allegations mean that you should keep clear of Aliexpress.

Still curious about the quad prices on Aliexpress? Click here.

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Everbuying

is yet another Chinese e-commerce giant. Ever buying started operation in 2006. Still, relatively little is known about them.

As usual with these lesser known Chinese companies, you will almost always find some sort of issues, for example shipping and product quality issues. Also, with Everbuying the buyerhas to pay for the shipping for returned products.

On the upside Everbuying supports Paypal checkout, so in the end you can always file for a refund with Paypal. Paypal also protects you credit card data, so you are safe from credit card theft too.

If you are curious about quadcopter prices on Everbuying click here.

As little is known of ever buying choose this website for buying your quadrotor only if you are adventurous, and don’t mind if you have to file for a refund with Paypal. Everbuying features the usual star-based product rating system, so you can check what others say about a product.

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DHgate

was founded in 2004 by Diane Wang, and is headquartered in Beijing,China. DHgate currently features millions of products, with thousands of quadcopters and quadcopter parts among them.

While DHgate features the well-known star-based product rating system and claim to have buyer protection, they seem to have issues with theft and credit card fraud too.

As the issues seem to be worse than Aliexpress’ and DHgate does not support Paypal, keep clear of this website for now.

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Tmart

is yet another consumer electronics focused online store, headquartered in Hong Kong. Even though Tmart’s focus is consumer electronics, you can find a lot of other products in their portfolio.

Tmart has a US warehouse, and while you can’t browse their products by warehouse, they clearly state on the product’s page if it ships from a US warehouse – so you can weed out the slow shipping quadcopters.

While Tmart has the star-based product rating system, it seems to be totally rigged, as it displays only 5-star ratings.

As usual with these eastern retail giants, Tmart seems to have issues with counterfeit products too, for example counterfeit cameras for quads and other R/C toys.

On the upside Tmart supports Paypal checkout, so you’ll get Paypal’s protection. Just make sure you always checkout using Paypal, and escalate any issues towards Paypal would Tmart hesitate to refund you. With this in mind there is a chance to get great value out of Tmart.

Click here to check the quadrotor prices on Tmart.

 

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Conclusions – where to buy your quadcopter?

  • For best shopping experience, get your quadcopter from Amazon(quadcopter link), or maybe from Ebay(quad link).
  • If you do not mind having to deal with the Paypal refund process, you could get lower prices at Banggood (quadcoptershere, and quads from the US warehouse), Gearbest (the quads), Everbuying (quadrotor link) or Tmart (quadcopter link). Just make sure you always checkout using Paypal – no exceptions.
  • For fast shipping, order from a US warehouse. Amazon, Ebay, Banggood and Tmarthave you covered.
  • Avoid Aliexpress and DHgate for now – if things turn sour you probably will not get your money back from them.

Not sure what quadcopter to buy? Check our reviews here.

Have fun flying πŸ™‚

What is the headless mode some quadcopters support?

In short

, headless mode means that the quadrotor’s reference for direction will be it’s takeoff (binding) direction, and not it’s current direction.

For example, in headless mode if you push the aileron stick (the right stick on the most of the transmitters) backwards towards yourself, the quadcopter will start flying towards you. In normal mode the quadcopter would start flying in the direction of it’s own backside.

The motivation

behind headless mode is that quadcopters can be hard to control, and beginners can lose the orientation easily, even if the quadrotor has color-coded propellers, or different colored LEDs in the back and in the front.

To address this issue and make quadcopters easier to handle, manufacturers have added a magnetometer (a compass) to the electronics of the quadcopter. When you start your quadrotor and bind it with the transmitter, the compass is initialized, and your drone will take note of this initial direction.

When you activate headless mode, the quadcopter will recall this initial direction, and will start using this as the “forward” direction. So when you push the aileron stick to the left, the quadcopter will start moving inyour left direction, right will become your right direction. Pushing the aileron stick forward will move the quadcopter forward away from you,while pushing it backward will bring it back towards you.

To fully utilize headless mode, it’s important to start the quadcopter facing away from you – this way you can be sure the headless mode’s directions will match your stick directions.

Headless mode does not change how yaw or throttle works, as their behavior do not depend on the drone’s orientation – for example turning left will always stay turning left, only moving left changes.

The one key return function

simply means that the quadcopter will start flying backwards in your direction, as if you pushed the aileron stick backwards in headless mode.

It’s important to note that neither headless mode, nor one key return uses a gps or radio signals for orientation, so the quadcopter will not know where you are, it will simply fly backwards. For example if you activate one key return (or use the back direction on the aileron stick), and the quadcopter is on your left, it will fly past you on your left side.

If you are a beginner, headless mode can be useful for a first drone.However if you already fly well, headless mode will probably not improve your flying.

For headless mode support check out these quadcopters:

The AkasoX5C.
TheEachine H8C.
The Holy Stone F180C.
The Holy Stone F181.
The Holy Stone HS110W.
TheSyma X5C.

Best quadcopter for under $100.

Quadrotors are easy to get, but are really easy to crash and loose too, so it’s a great idea to get a cheap drone, even more so if you just start flying.

While cheap quadrotors do not have the performance of the larger ones, they are still fun to fly and make great trainers.

A lot of these cheap beginner quadcopters come with prop guards which make the flying even safer both for the quad and for you.

Some quads have a camera too, so you’ll be able to review your flight from high above.

To get the most fun out of your cheap quad, choose one with a replaceable battery. Toy drones charge time can be surprisingly long, but if you get a few more batteries you can keep flying while the other batteries are charging.If the LEDs start flashing mid-flight the battery is getting low, so land as soon as possible. A lot of toy quads come with a USB based charger, so you’ll need a computer or an iPhone charger to charge them.

Quadcopters use the 2.4Ghz interference-free transmitter technology,multiple quads can fly together, just make sure you bind them one after another. Once out of range these simple quadcopter will simply crash, so take care!

These quadrotors are small, so you do not have to register them with the FAA.

The best quadcopter drones for under $100

Name Flight Time Charge Time Range Extras Beginner Mode LED Camera Replaceable Battery Details
Holy Stone HS170
Holy Stone HS170
6-8 mins 60-80 mins 30-50 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ βœ• βœ“ Price
Details
Syma X5C
Syma X5C
4-9 mins 100 mins 50 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ 720p βœ“ Price
Details
Syma X11
Syma X11
5-7 mins 40 mins 40 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ βœ• βœ“ Price
Details
Eachine E010
Eachine E010
5 mins 30-50 mins 30 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ βœ• βœ“ Price
Details
Qcopter QC1
Qcopter QC1
2×15 mins 90-100 mins 100 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ 720p βœ“ Price
Details
Hubsan H107L
Hubsan H107L
9 mins 40 mins 30 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ βœ• βœ“ Price
Details
Blade Nano Qx
Blade Nano Qx
7 mins 25 mins 20 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ βœ• βœ“ Price
Details
UDIU818A
UDI U818A
7-9 mins 90-120 mins 30 meters props, guard βœ“ βœ“ 720p βœ“ Price
Details
Syma X1
Syma X1
8 mins 40 mins 40+ meters props βœ“ βœ• βœ• βœ“ Price
Details
Cheerson CX-10
Cheerson CX-10
4-8 mins 30-40 mins 40 meters props βœ“ βœ“ βœ• βœ• Price
Details

The details of the best quads under 100

The Holy Stone HS170

is one of our favorite quads. It’s palm sized, has a simple one-key return mode, and will fly outdoors too. The transmitter is mid-sized, so it’s suitable both for adults and for children(the suggested age group is 14 years and up). To start flying you’ll need6xAA batteries for the transmitter and that’s it. The transmitter is mode 2only, the throttle is on the left stick. The quad has beginner, intermediate and advanced modes, and the parts availability is great too.

Overall this is the best quad of the pack, highly suggested.

Read more details or check the price.

Syma X5C
Syma X5C
The Syma X5C

is a classic, a large, 31cm X 31cm flying machine, most suited for outdoor flying on calm days. The X5C comes with a full-sized transmitter, so it’s best for adult hands. The transmitter needs 4xAA batteries, and can control the onboard camera too. The flight time is 4 to 9 minutes depending on how you fly, the charge time is 100 minutes. The good reputation and good part-availability make the X5C a good choice for outdoor flying.

Get more detailsΒ on the Syma X5C or check the price.

The Syma X11

is a palm-sized quad, with very stable flight.The X11 comes with a mid-sized transmitter, so it’s well suited both for adults and children. The transmitter supports both mode 1 and mode 2, and requires 4xAA batteries for to work. The flight time is 5 to 8 minutes after an hour of charging. All in all the X11 is a good quad and a safe choice.

Get more detailsΒ on the Syma X11 or check the price.

Eachine E010
The Eachine E010

is a small, though not tiny quad from Eachine. The E010 weighs 21 grams with the battery installed, and it flies well both indoors and outdoors if the weather is calm. The E010 comes with a small-sized transmitter, so it fits small hands the best. The transmitter needs 2xAA batteries, and you can start flying.The E010 has well-tuned beginner and advanced modes, and the prop guards are stronger than what you’d find on similar quads. Choose this one if you’d like to get a high quality small quad.

Click to check the price our read what others say about this quad.

The Qcopter QC1

is a large, 40 cm X 40 cm quadcopter drone,and it weighs 125 grams. As it’s this big, this quad is best suited for outdoor flying. The QC1 comes with a 720p camera you can control from the transmitter, for example you can take photos while it’s up in the air. The transmitter is full sized, so it best fits adult hands. To start flying you’ll need 4xAA batteries for the transmitter.

The quad comes with two Lipo batteries for flying, and it can fly between 10and 15 minutes using a single one – you get 20-30 minutes of flight time without having to buy an additional battery.

This quad is a great choice if you’d like to fly outside only.

Get more details on the Qcopter QC1 or check the price.

The Hubsan H107L

is a good quality, palm-sized quadcopter from Hubsan. With this size it can easily fly outside if there’s not much wind. The H107L comes with a mid-sized transmitter, so it will fit adult and teen hands too. The transmitter supports mode 1 and mode 2 flying, and needs 4xAA batteries. The flight time is about 9 minutes after 40 minutes of charging. Overall it’s one of those average quads you can’t go wrong with.

Get more details on the H107L or check the price.

The Blade Nano Qx

is a tiny quadcopter weighing only 16grams. As such it’s best for indoor flying, but will fly outdoors on calm days too. The 7 minute flight time and 25 minute charge time is great too.The transmitter is normal-sized, so it best fits adult hands. The transmitters needs 4xAA batteries for flying, and supports both mode 1 and mode 2 flying.

Get more detailsΒ on the Blade Nano or check the price.

The UDI U818A

is a large, 34cm X 33cm sized quadcopter, best suited for outdoor flying. The U818A can fly for 6 to 9 minutes using a single battery after 1-2hours of charging. The quadcopter comes with two batteries, you can fly for two times as long with a simple battery swap.The U818A comes with a full-sized transmitter which can control the 720pcamera too.

 

See what others say about it this quad or read our review of the previous generation.

The Syma X1

is a basic, palm sized quad. The X1 can fly well both indoors and outdoors, and comes with a full-sized transmitter that fits adult hands the best. The flight time is around 8 minutes after 40 minutes of charging, the transmitter needs 4xAA batteries for flying.

You can get the X1 with different canopies:UFO, bumblebee and spacecraft. Choose this quad if you like the funky looks πŸ™‚

Read the details on the Syma X1 or check the price.

The Cheerson CX-10

is a really tiny quadcopter, just 4cm X 4cmand weighs 11 grams. Due to it’s size it’s better suited for indoor flying, but will fly outsides in calm weather too. The quad comes without a prop guard, so it’s a bit less protected than the others. The transmitter is mode 2 and best fits small hands. To start flying you’ll need 2xAA batteries for the transmitter.Choose this quad if you’d like to fly the tiniest quad ever.

Get more detailsΒ on the Cheerson CX-10 or check the price.


If you still could not find a quad you like, check our review section for even more toy drones!

Have fun flying! πŸ™‚

What is the best quadcopter?

To put simply, quadcopters are four-rotored helicopters. These marvelous flying machines have become very popular lately – they are funto fly, great for aerial photography, and easy to assemble too. Of course there are a lot more details you may want to know about quadcopters – in this case you may want to check our “What is a quadcopter?”article to get some background information.

To decide what’s the best quadcopter for you

, first you have to answer these questions honestly:

What is your skill level?

Depending on your skill level and what you are good at, different kind of quadcopters can be good for you. If you are just starting out, and not even sure if you will like this hobby,you will want to buy a quadcopter that is simple to fly and does not cost much, like a Hubsan X4. If you have already owned quite a few quadcopters, you will probably want to level up, for example get a DJI Phantom 2 for better aerial photography, or buy an FPV racer quad for mind-numbingly fast action.

What is your budget?

As with a lot of other things in life,drones which are too cheap are probably junk, and drones which cost a lot are probably overpriced, so you will want to go for the mid range. Still,the mid range is very broad, too, you can get good toy quadcopters from around $30, while professional machines can cost up to $1000.

What are your objectives?

Why do you want to buy a quadcopter? Depending on your objectives, different kind of quadcopters can be a good fit for you. If you are into aerial photography, you will probably want to “graduate” to the DJI Phantom line. If you love racing, you will want to start with a simple FPV quadcopter (just skip the ones with WiFi),and work your way up from there. If you just want to have a bit of fun,without too many strings attached, a toy quadcopters will be a good choice.If you are a builder, building your own quadcopters could be very satisfying.

How much time do you have?

This question is overlooked by many – learning to fly a quadcopter takes time and effort. If you are very busy, ready-to-fly (RTF) toy quadcopters would be the best for you. Then again if you have lot of spare time, building your own quadcopters is absolutely doable and lots of fun.

Next, you should work out what kind of flight time, range,agility and camera quality you expect from your quadcopter.

Quadcopters are not made equal, they come in all shapes and sizes.

While small toy quadcopters will only fly for 4 to 6 minutes, flight time and the enjoyment grows as you go for larger and larger quadcopters -the top of the line DJI Phantom 4 can fly for up to 28 minutes. You do not have to pay up though to fly for long times – most quadcopters support replacing the batteries in the field, so you can start out with multiple fully charged batteries, and use them up one-by-one. This the best way to get long flight time in an affordable manner.

Just as the drone’s flight time, range usually depends on the sizetoo.

Nano quadcopters will have a range of around 30 meters – just enough to fly through your garden. These tiny machines do not have the space and battery power necessary for high performance receivers. Larger quadcopters are less constrained, the Syma X8Chas a range up to 250 meters, and still does not cost much. Top of the line quadrotors can have a range of a few kilometers. Large range is good to have as a safety net too: most drones which use the 2.4 Ghz transmission technology will simply shut down and crash once they fly out of range. So in general, the larger the range, the better.

Agility

is fortunately not that size dependent, the Eachine E10C is fairly agile for a toy quadcopter, while the larger Syma quadcopters can be a bit sluggish. It’s entirely up to you to decide – some people prefer gentle flying, while others love the high-speed action. If agility is very important to you, you will want to graduate to high performance FPV or acrobatic quadcopters. Quadcopters are specialized, so what works well for aerial photography(which requires stability and gentle flying) is unlikely to work as an acrobatic quadcopter.

The quadcopter’s camera quality

varies a lot between the manufacturers – in general the cheaper the model, the worse the camera. The megapixel rating in itself does not say much – some manufacturers even seem to interpolate pixels to “bake” the resolution. So you should always check the reviews of the quadcopter and keep a sharp eye on both the sample images and the claimed resolution. High end models usually have a great camera, or you can attach a GoPro – there’s no way to go wrong with those ones! For a reasonably priced quadcopter with GoPro support you may want to check out the Ionic Stratus. For first person view flying always look for quadcopters with a proper FPV camera – WiFi based cameras lag way too much to be usable. Still, they can be great for aerial photography.


Selecting the quadcopter that suits you the best

With this background in mind you can start to look for the quadcopter that best suits you. We have compiled a short list of 15 quadcopters – some of them are toys, some of them are the real serious stuff. Most of them are good, but there are some you should avoid – we have included these too so you’ll know what to look out for.

#1 Blade Nano Qx

The Blade Nano Qx is a tiny, 16 gram quadcopter which is a blast to fly.It’s best for indoor flying, but will fly outdoors too if there’s no strong wind. The flight time is a very respectable 7 minutes, the battery is easy to replace, the range is ~20 meters – this little quad has everything you need for a few quick flights. A wide range of upgrades are available too.Read our full review.

#2 Eachine E10C

The Eachine E10C is another tiny contender. It weighs 15 grams, has an onboard camera, and flies fast too. What more could you want ? πŸ™‚ The E10C’s flight time is 6 minutes, however the battery is hard to replace.Choose this one if you’d like a nano drone with a basic camera, but long flights are not so important for you. A wide range of replacement parts are available for this tiny drone, and it’s priced competitively too. The range is 20 to 30 meters, which is almost too much for such a tiny drone. Check the full review.

#3 The Hubsan H107L

The Hubsan H107L is a member of the famous Hubsan X4 series.It weighs 30 grams, so it’s better suited for outdoor flying than the previous two tiny drones. It has a removable battery which, coupled with the9 minute flight time, makes it really compelling for those of you who’d like longer outdoor flights. The H107L is the basic version, the H107C has a camera too. Both have a wide range of upgrade and replacement parts available would you be into tinkering. The transmitter’s range is around 30 meters, which is standard in this class.Β Read the long review.

#4 The Dromida Ominus FPV
The Dromida Ominus FPV looks great in black and yellow.

The Dromida Ominus FPV is a first-person-view camera drone from Dromida.With a 12 minute flight time, 50 meter range and a strong body it’s a real outdoor champion. The FPV functionality is WiFi based, so expect the video to lag – it’s really just a toy FPV solution. Still, with it’s unique look and durability it’sΒ  choice if you want to fly outdoors, and see the world through the quadcopter’s eye. Replacement parts are available, so you are covered would you crash it πŸ™‚ Our review of the non-FPV version is here. For more information on the FPV version you may want to visit the manufacturer’s site, check Youtube, or read the reviews on Amazon.

#5 The UDI U818A

The UDI U818A is a 110 gram, very well built quadcopter equipped with a basic camera. Flight time is around 8 minutes, it’s battery is replaceable out in the field. It supports the so-called headless mode, and has a simple fly back home functionality too. These features combined with it’s gentle manners and the 30 meter range makes it one of those very beginner friendly quadcopters. For more information you may want to check out the full review.

#6 The Syma X5C

The Syma X5C is a professional-looking quadcopter with a basic camera. It weighs around 100 grams, and is best suited for outdoor flight on calm days. With a 7 minute average flight time and nice manners it’s ideal if you are looking for a smooth flying, great looking drone. Syma has a lot of experience with quadcopters, so it’s safe to choose one of their drones. The range is 50 meters, which is really good in this category.For the full review please click here.

#7 The Syma X8C

The Syma X8C is the X5C’s bigger brother. As big brothers go, it does everything a bit better: while it keeps the same professional looks, it’s range is 250 meters, and can fly for up to 12minutes on a single charge. With it’s 600 gram weight in can only fly in large open spaces. The X8C is ideal if you’d like to start with a large quad- due to the size and power these quads are more stable than the smaller ones. The X8C must be registered with the FAA.You can check the full review here.

#8 The DJI Phantom 3 Standard
The DJI Phantom 3 is watching you.

The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is an entirely new category – a professional quadcopterfor aerial photography. Complete with GPS and a 12 megapixel camera, 500meter range and a 25 minute flight time it’s not a toy. It’s perfectly balanced, the on board electronics makes flying a breeze. Besides recording video and taking photos onto the on board storage, it supports streaming the live data to a smartphone too. The 12 megapixel camera is stabilized so none of your photos will come out blurry from this machine. Choose this one if you are a professional photographer, or if you’d like to start an aerial photography business.
The Verge has a detailed review of the DJI Phantom 3 Standard.

#9 The Hubsan FPV
The Hubsan X4 FPV before liftoff.

The Hubsan X4 H107D is a small FPV quadcopter from Hubsan. It has a 100meter range, proper 5.8 Ghz FPV so it will not lag like the WiFi based FPVs.The battery life is low, clocking in a 6 minutes, however the battery is replaceable on the field, and the part availability is great. Together with the really low price this quadcopter is a must-buy!
To learn more about the Hubsan FPV, check the review on New Atlas and tom’s guide.

#10 The GoPro Karma
The GoPro Karma with the transmitter.

The GoPro Karma is GoPro’s entry into the drone market. The Karma is a professional quadcopter designed for aerial photography and video recording. With a foldable design, GoPro camera support, up to 20 minutes of battery life and up to 3 kilometers of range the Karma is professional solution to those looking for a flying action-cam. The DJI Mavic is a direct competitor of the Karma – on the long term this should reduce the price of both products.
Tech radar features a detailed review of the GoPro Karma.

#11 The DJI Mavic
The DJI Mavic in the air.

The DJI Mavic is a foldable quadcopter from DJI. It features an up to 7kilometer range, and 27 minute flight time. Compared to the GoPro Karma it’s less modular as the camera is fixed. With the Karma you can choose between different GoPro models as a camera. The DJI Mavic is designed from the ground up as an intelligent quadcopter, it features ultrasonic sensors and multiple cameras for better orientation, and can identify and follow people and other subjects too. Choose this one if you want the best of the best for aerial photography,while keeping the price reasonable.
Cinema5D has all the details on the tech inside the DJI Mavic.

#12 3D Robotics Solo – questionable
The 3D Robotics Solo in the air.

The 3D Robotics Solo is a semi-autonomous quadcopter from 3D Robotics,designed for GoPro cameras. Compared to other quadcopters, the Solo’s main focus is autonomous behavior – for example you can program it to take shots of a specific location, and it will do it’s job as expected. The Solo has a ~20minute flight time, and a ~ 800 meter range. Powered by a pixhawk flight controller it’s probably one of the most advanced drones on the market today. It’s not without limitations though, so if you are new to quadcopters the Solo’s autonomous features will not fix your flying issues. The 3DR Solo uses WiFi for control, which is a definite disadvantage.
Videomaker has a detailed look at the 3DR Solo. The Solo spec sheet is very impressive, a must read.

#13 The DJI Phantom 4 – questionable
The DJI Phantom 4 sitting on it’s box.

The DJI Phantom 4 is the big brother of the Phantom 3, with even more features. The 12 megapixel camera has the same resolution as on the Phantom3, however the video resolution was improved and the Phantom 4 can record 4Kvideo at 30 FPS. The GPS system got expanded with Glonass navigation. The Phantom 4 has object avoidance too, so crashing it is even harder. The range was improved to 3 kilometers from 500 meters on the Phantom 3.Choose this one if you are a professional photographer, or if you’d like to start an aerial photography business and you need the high resolution video – otherwise just go with the Phantom 3, you’ll get more bang for your buck with that one.
Wired has a an in-depth review of the Phantom 4.It’s also interesting to see what the buyers say on this high end drone.

#14 The Parrot Bebop 2 – avoid it
The Parrot Bebop 2.

The Parrot Bebop 2 is a controversial video drone from Parrot: it looks so good on paper – it has WiFi based remote control, 500 meter range, 20+minutes flight time and a stabilized 14 megapixel camera. In reality WiFis not reliable enough for this kind of usage, so expect connectivity problems. The Bebop 2 lacks removable storage for the videos and the camera can’t tilt which makes it unsuitable for serious photography. All in all the Bebop 2 is an expensive toy – choose this one only if you like to buy great looking but overpriced objects. CNET has a long run-down on the Bebop 2 here – it’s worth a read.

#15 The Parrot Ar.Drone 2.0 – avoid it
The Parrot AR.DRONE 2.0 without the guards.

The Parrot Ar.Drone 2.0 is a smaller sibling of the Parrot Bebop. It has a GPS and magnetometer, and together with a ~15 minute long flight time it does not look bad on paper. Compared to the Bebop the crash guards are a big plus -they will save you much trouble would you crash your drone. Then again it’s a Wifi based toy, so do not expect large range or trouble-free flying from it, so it’s not recommended.
Click for a short review on CNET, or read how to hack the range of the AR.DRONE 2.0. (They use proper RC gear, forget the WiFi.)


Are you interested in quadcopter reviews? Check out our review section.

How much do drones cost?

Drones can cost anything between $30 for tiny toy drones to $1000 for professional quadcopters for aerial photography. As with any other product, the sky is the limit for the prices – some professional quadcopter kits can go up to $8000.

In order to get the best bang for your buck it’s a great idea to steer clear of the very low priced items – quad copters have to pack a great deal of electronics, so everything under $30 should be a suspicious, even if it’s just a tiny toy drone.

Just as you should avoid under priced items you should avoid overpriced ones too. Above a certain point you will not get more value for more money – there’s just so much a quad can do, even if it’s a professional video drone.

Quadcopters are advancing very fast so what is $2000 today will probably cost less than $1000 next year anyway.

To get the price right think through why do you want a quad.

Quads come in many different categories and they are priced accordingly. The most popular quadrotor categories are

  • Toy quads for simply flying around for fun. Some of these include a camera too so you can snap photos or make a video.
  • Home built quads for more aggressive flying – these usually cost more than the toy quadcopters,but fly a lot better too. Adding a Gopro is possible with these too.
  • FPV racing quads for immersive, real-time video are home built quads with real time video hardware. These flying machines are a lot of fun, but cost more than simple home built drones due to the extra components.
  • Professional video drones for aerial photography and video: for professionals to create high quality videos and photos. These quads usually have a gimbal to attach the equipment, and some come with their own camera too.

Toy quadcopters usually cost between $30 and $100.

These quads are great for having a bit of fun, but they are not high performance racing quads, neither professional solutions for aerial photography. A few toy quads you may want to consider for a bit of flying around:

The Eachine E10C

is a tiny, 6cm x 6cm drone weighing only 15grams. It’s great to have a bit of fun inside, but flies well outsides on calm days too. With the integrated camera you can even take photos or shoot a video of the flight. The flight time is 5-6 minutes. For more details check our review of the Eachine E10C or head over to Amazon to check the price.

The Hubsan H107L

is a bit larger than the E10C, so it flies better outdoors. The 13cm x 13cm size improves the visibility too. Flight time is 9 minutes and the battery is easily removable so you can fly longer between the charges. More details are available in our review of theH107L, price and shipping information is available on Amazon.

The Syma X5C

is an even larger quad, with a 31.5×31.5 cm size and size 102 gram weight it really shines outdoor, the 6 to 9 minute flight time is very respectable too. For more details on the quad and it’s integrated camera check our review, or head over to Amazon to check the price.

There are many more great quadcopters in the toy category, if you’d like to learn about them check out our review section. These quads usually do not require FAA registration, as they fall bellow the250 gram limit.

Home buildable quads for even more fun: $100 to $400.

These quadcopters are either home builtΒ or bought as ready-to-fly quadcopters. This category features high performance batteries and high-torque motors so they fly extremely well.

The Walkera Runner.
The Walkera Runner

is a well-rounded and fast quad, great for having fun out in open spaces. Depending on exactly which version you build or buy this quadcopter could have a 10 to 15 minutes flight time and a kilometer of range – however this can vary wildly.Click here to check the price of a prebuilt Walker a runner, complete with transmitter, battery and charger (you can expect a 12 to 14 minute flight time and a 75+ meter range with this kit).

The LHI 250 size kit

is a great way to start building quads on your own. This is the kit we used in our How to build a quadcopter?article – a bare-bones set ideal if you already have a transmitter and battery, or you want to select your own. Click to check the price.

FPV quads for immersive flying: $500 to $800.

These quadcopters are basically the same as the home built category,however adding an FPV camera and buying an FPV goggle will raise the price considerably. Still, the experience you get is extreme: just as if you flew your own airplane at high speeds, enjoying the turns and banks while your feet stay safely planted on the ground.

The ARRIS X-Speed 250B FPV

is a ready-to-fly 250 size FPV racing quad, great for fast runs. As such this quad is suitable for advanced pilots. Check the price of the quad, the battery and the FPV Goggle.

Adding the complete Fatshark FPV gear

is another way to get an FPV quad. The FPV gear is not tied to the quadrotor or the transmitter, so you can mix and match these as you want to. The Fatshark Dominator is one of the best FPV gears you can get. You can check the price of the goggles + receiver and the camera + transmitter online.

Quadrotors for professional video: between $300 and $1000.

These quads are for professional use, and feature long flight times, a stabilized gimbal, and a high performance camera too. If you’d like a ready-made solution which shoots great videos, these are the ones you should check. These quads usually include a GPS, so GPS based flying becomes possible too.

The DJI Phantom 3 Standard

is an overall great quad for aerial photography. It has a 12 megapixel stabilized camera, so the photos and videos it takes are really smooth. The Phantom 3 has a 25 minute flight time and a 500 meter range – both are huge compared to the toy quad’s usual performance. The Verge has a detailed review of the Phantom 3, while Amazon has the up-to-date prices of various Phantom 3 versions.

The DJI Phantom 4

is the advanced version of the Phantom 3 -ideal if you’d like to get the best of the best. The main extras are 4Kvideo shooting at 30 FPS, Glonass navigation support, and an upgraded, 3kilometer range. How much more do these goodies cost? Check it on Amazon!

The DJI Mavic Pro

is yet another professional quad from DJI.Compared to the Phantom 4 it supports autonomous behavior and has an even longer range clocking in at 7 kilometers. The downside is that it’s camera(a high quality unit much like the one on the Phantom 4) can’t be replaced by a different model. Cinema5D has a review of the DJI Mavic Pro, while Amazon has the current price.

These professional quadcopters tend to be large, so double check the weight and register if the weight is more than 250 grams.

Have fun flying! πŸ™‚

What is a DIY quadcopter?

What is a DIY quadcopter?

A DIY quadcopter is a quad you build at home, using readily available and/or home-made components. The upside of building a DIY quad is that you will feel it’s really yours, you get all the recognition for it. The downside is that it takes time, effort, and has a chance of failure too. Building a quadcopter is something you have to learn, start small, and work your way up to larger and more complex projects.

To build a DIY quadcopter you will need basic electronic and soldering skills. If you do not have these you can either take your time and develop these skills, or just buy a ready made quadcopter – in this case we have quite a few reviews you may want to check πŸ™‚

If you think you have all the required skill you may want to read our “How to build a quadcopter?” article. There’s more than one way to skin a cat – read on to learn a few more.

There are differences between DIY and DIY quadcopters

,depending on how much you want to do yourself.

QAV 250 ARF kit parts laid out.
The “easiest” is to get an ARF kit

and put it together yourself. Putting together an almost-ready-to-fly kit still requires considerable skills,as you will have solder, screw and possibly glue it together yourself. Usingan ARF kit is a great idea to get started, as this requires the least amount of work, and you’ll get well balanced components for your quadcopter. Skip FPV or camera if you are just starting out.

ARF kits are available from quite a few vendors, for example Amazon sells a lot of different ARF kits. Make sure you double check the ratings, as some kits can contain low quality parts.

The next step could be to choose the parts yourself.

Only choose the parts yourself if you are already familiar with sizing the quadrotor’s parts. Even though there is some wiggle room, in the end the parts have to be in balance. For example choosing a too large battery could result in a lower flight time, as the larger battery’s added weight counteracts the added capacity.

If you choose the parts yourself the safest is to start from a prove design, and exchange the motors, propellers, ESC and flight controller to a higher quality version. Building a small (size 250) quad is probably better than building a larger one, as the smaller quads are more fun to fly. Choose a large quad if you’d like to lift something heavy.

To validate you parts, check the quadcopter Calculator over at ecalc.ch.

Next you could build a DIY FPV quadcopter, or one with a camera

if that’s what interests you. Do this only if you already have some flying skills – crashing with a camera on will probably cost you more than crashing a simple quadcopter. You can add the FPV gear later to your existing quad too, as you can easily get the goggles and receiver and the camera set online.Adding FPV to an existing quad will reduce the flight time, so you might need more batteries too.

John Leach’s aluminum framed quadcopter.
Building even more parts at home – the frame

The frame is probably the part you have the best chance to build at home.First you should choose your building material.

To build your own frame you should choose to make it out of a material you are already familiar with. The most common materials for building a quadframe are carbon fiber, aluminum, wood, and plastic. You could even choose to build a frame out of Lego pieces. Just please do not choose a dead cat, that’s gross. The frame has to be both light and strong.My favorite designs:

A repurposed CD-ROM motor.
Wind your own motor

Winding your own quadcopter motor is something that’s possible to doat home – even there is not much point. Still, if you wind your own you have complete control over your motor’s behavior: you can wind it to make a fast or slow motor, you can use high quality ball bearing to improve it’s lifetime or thicker wires to make it work with higher current. Wattflyer.com has a detailed PDF on building your own motor out of a CD-ROM drive motor. Larger motor shave the same structure, so you can learn a lot from this PDF. Fly Electric has even more DIY motor information.

The BlueESC.
Build your own ESC

Designing and building an ESC at home is again something that’s doable, though it’sa lot harder than just winding your own motor. You will need deep electronics knowledge, control theory,PCB manufacturing, soldering and programming skills to build your own.Fortunately there are quite a few designs and articles circulating on building an ESC, for example the VESC project, the BlueESC, or theOpen-BLDC. To design and build your own ESC, the best idea would be to check out the existing designs and get involved in the community to learn more about the subject. In the end it’s probably a lot easier just to buy a SimonK ESC – you’ll get up in the air faster, and getting are placement will be easier too would something go wrong.

The CC3D flight controller – schematics are available online.
Make your own flight controller

Designing and building your own flight controller is even harder than building your own ESC – the complexity of the algorithms used, the number of inputs and outputs are a lot higher. Still, for hobbyists with the appropriate education it’s not out of reach, as the most successful flight controllers all started as an open source project. Flight controllers consist of two loosely coupled parts, the software and the hardware. For example both LibrePilotand Cleanflight can run on the commercially available CC3D flight controllers. The CC3D’s schematics are open source too, and are available for download.

Conclusion

Making a DIY quadcopter can be a lot of fun, it’s great to see a project coming along, and getting up in the air. Depending on your interests and skill level you can choose to put an ARF kit together, or go hardcore and build your own frame and wind your own motors too. Choose wisely and start small, take your time to build up the skills necessary for larger projects.

Have fun building!

What is an APM based quadcopter?

APM, or ArduPilotMega is a an open-source autopilot and flight controller system for quadrotors and other vehicles with focus on autonomous behavior.

APM supports a very wide variety of quadcopters, multicopters, planes, rovers, helicopters and even underwater vehicles.

Just as other flight controllers, Ardupilot consists of a hardware +software part. Even though the hardware’s development was stopped a few years ago at version 2.8, it’s still a viable choice for basic autonomous behavior. For up-to-date and high performance hardware that can run the Ardupilot software stack, check out the Pixhawk family. The Ardupilot software is still under active development.

Compared to other flight controllers,the Ardupilot hardware is a good choice if you want to get a decent flight controller with some autonomous capabilities – the Ardupilot is the proven work horsefor this uses-case.

One of the most interesting things the APM can do is probably the automatic return home and landing capability, for example the Ardupilot can be programmed to return home when it loses the transmitter signal. Normally a quadcopter would simply shutdown and crash if it happens.

Other use-cases include way point based flying, geo fencing, and the Ardupilot is usable for higher-level tasks too including mapping and search-and-rescue.

While the APM 2.8 hardware makes a great all rounder, for best autonomous flight capabilities switching to the Pixhawk hardware platform is a great idea. Ardupilot supports the whole Pixhawk line, including the Pixhawk 2 and the Pixracer too.

The Ardupilot software + hardware combination is great for DIY projects, as it offers more flexibility than what you’d get with the other flight controllers.

The Ardupilot web page itself can be a great source of inspiration for your DIY project, and you can get both the controller itself and kits from Amazon.

Ardupilot supports a really wide range of vehicles – some of which you probably never thought could exist!

The more common vehicles supported by Ardupilot are planes, helicopters,rovers (cars), tri- , quad- , hexa- and octacopters.

The less common vehicles:

  • Single- and coax-copters (these are much like helicopters, but theyhave fixed blades, and use control vanes for navigation).
  • Quadplanes: Quadcopters crossed with airplanes. These aircrafts can take off and land vertically, but will fly like a plane once the get up in the air.
  • A harvesting tractor was modified to support autonomous behavior with Ardupilot.
  • Antenna tracker: the Ardupilot can be set up as an airplane-tracking antenna unit. This way you can have a lot longer range than you could have with a simple antenna.
  • Ardupilot supports submarines too.

Using the APM for quadcopters

The Ardupilot makes a great flight controller for all the use-cases you can dream up for your quad. It’s used for just flying around, FPV racing,aerial photography, and autonomous missions too.

Even if you just want to fly around, Ardupilot’s extra features can come very handy, and could even save your quad from crashing.

Ardupilot features which make flying easier and more fun

The Simple and Super Simple modes work like the headless mode.

A lot of quadcopters (including a few toys) support headless mode. In this mode no matter what direction the quad copter drone is looking, using the forward stick will make if fly away from you, using the left stick will make it fly to the left. This mode is very useful if you lose orientation however it’s not much fun to fly this way.

The Ardupilot supports stabilize mode,

even combined with altitude hold. In this mode the stick input simply determines the roll and pitch angle of the quadcopter. If you center the stick the quad will level itself too. If you combine this mode with altitude hold mode, the quad will hold it’s altitude even while accelerating forward, and will ascend or descend only if you move the right stick up or down from the middle. This is the mode that’s both very beginner friendly and fun to fly around.

Ardupilot supports sport mode

, even combined with altitude hold. You can think of this mode as “acro light” – the sticks control the rate of rotation, however the quad will not lean more than the maximum angle you set up. Altitude can be held just as in the previous mode.

Acro mode is the same as the rate mode of other flight controllers.

In acro mode the quad will not self-level, altitude loss is not compensated,and the stick input will be interpreted as the angular velocity of the axisin question. For example the more you push the left stick left, the fasterthe quad will keep leaning left. Even if you pull the stick back to thecenter, the quad will lean left (and fly left) until you compensate bypulling the stick to the right. This is the hardest mode to fly in.

Geofencing is way to keep your quad “fenced”.

If a geofence is activated, the quad will not be able to break out of the fence. This mode is handy if you want to make sure your quad never flies away and stays in your line of sight.

Ardupilot supports return to launch mode.

When you activate the RTL mode from your transmitter, the quad will ascend or descend to a preset altitude,then fly to the takeoff location while holding the altitude, and finally it will slowly descend. This is a great way to get your quadcopter back would you lose orientation.

Ardupilot has a brake mode.

When you activate this mode from your transmitter, the quad will brake down and will start holding it’s position. The stick input is cut off at this point, and you’ll have to turnoff brake mode to get back the controls. You can think of this mode as a panic button and can save your quad from a crash.

Autonomous flying

Ardupilot has two main mission planner components

, the APM Planner and the MissionPlanner. Besides these there’s also the Droidplanner 3 / Towerapp for Android.

The Mission Planner and the Tower app support waypoint based flying, smooth flying using curves between the way points, survey mode to automatically survey an area and other modes too.

Both the Mission Planner and the Tower app supports pointing the camera to a preset location.

The Tower app has a “follow me” too, in this mode the quad will keep following you with the camera pointed at you while you are moving around.

Besides these the Mission Planner supports multiple “rally points”, which are designated landing locations. In case of a mishap, the quadcopter drone will select the nearest rally point and land

APM sample project and kits

450 size quad with Ardupilot

Ardupilot is great for DIY projects, you can use it to power almost any quad you’d like to.

There is a great post over at first quadcopter.com on using the Ardupilot with a DJI F450 flame wheel kit.

The takeaway of the article are that you can cheaply build a quad that’s performance rivals the commercially available drone’s performance. Tobe honest some luck is required if it’s your first build (click here to learn more about building your own quads).

The main sticking points were the badly aligned screw holes in the frame and the lack of documentation – these are fairly usual when building your own quads.

The components used:

All in all the complete kit is much like this one.

You can get the Ardupilot components online:

The software is available for download here, the stable builds for multicopters are here. Either select your hardware there, or click here for the APM 2.x hardware builds, or here for the Pixhawk builds.

Getting the hardware is easy too, as you can find APM2.8 flight controllers, Pixhawk clones, Pixracer, and even quadcopter kits (without transmitter and receiver) online.

Have fun flying πŸ™‚

What are mini and nano quadcopters?

Foreword – quadcopter size

Quadcopters come in all sizes you can imagine, from the huge, 6 kilogram HammerX8 to the tiny 11 gram CheersonCX-10. Quadcopters are usually classified by their diagonal motor-to-motor size in millimeters:

  • The Eachine Racer 250 is a nice 250 size FPV quadcopter.

    250 size quadcopters, which measure 250 millimeters from the front left to the rear right motor are usually used for FPV racing. They are nimble and due to their lower weight do not crash as hard as a larger quadcopter would. They do not fly so well in high winds, and have a flight time of 15 minutes top, 10 minutes is more realistic. We recently built a250 size quadcopter, check it out! If you are in the US, size 250 and larger quadcopters may require FAA registration, as they usually weigh more than 250 grams. The Eachine Racer 250 is a really nice 250 size FPV quadcopter.

  • 350-380 sized quadrotors are intermediate quads mainly used to carry Gopro cameras: they have just the power required to lift a Gopro, while staying more nimble and less crash prone then the larger 450sized quads. The DJI Phantom 4is a 350 sized quad.
  • 450 size is great for Gopro or other light cameras. These quads are a bit sluggish compared to the 250 size, but they can lift more, have better wind tolerance and can fly for longer – up to 20 minutes. DJI’s Flame Wheel series features 330, 450 and 550 size quadrotor kits, Amazon has them too.
  • 650 size quads can lift even more, so they are good fit for large, professional SLR cameras.These will fly even in windy weather, but can come down really hard if something goes wrong. Flight time is 30+ minutes with these beasts. For a 650sized quad example, check out this Tarot 650 kit on Amazon.

These sizes are approximate, so a 250 size quad can be anything between 240and 260 millimeters diagonally. Using an approximate size helps classifying the quadcopters.

Electronics are getting smaller and smaller, so even 250 size quads can be fitted with a GPS and other advanced features – you do not need a large quad to have flight planning, location hold, or GPS based return home.

The Hubsan X4 H107Lmini quadcopter, fits in a hand nicely.
Mini quadcopters

are size 180, with ~180 millimeters between their motors diagonally. These quadcopters are great both for indoor and outdoor flying, their flight time is between 7 and 9 minutes. Mini quadcopters are usually used for flying around as form of recreation. A lotof these mini quads have cameras too which can be operated from the transmitter, so you can make a few good shots or record video with them.Some support WiFi based first-person-viewing too (the video is live streamed to your smartphone). These WiFi based systems are hardly reliable though.

Overall these quadcopters are good to have a bit of fun indoors or outdoors,while not costing as much as a 250 sized quad would. The Hubsan X4 H107L and the Holy Stone HS170 are great examples for this class.A nice upside of owning a mini quadcopter is that you will probably not need to register it with the FAA (though you’ll have to check the weight to make sure). The mini quadcopters come with the same interference-free transmitter technology as the larger ones, so you can fly together with others.

While these quadcopters have 6 axis stabilization, they usually lack advanced features, such as a GPS or flight planning. Their motors are usually of the coreless brushed type – these are simpler than the brushless motors found in larger quads, while providing more than enough power. Mini quadcopters are great to start drone flying, as they are really cheap and come ready to fly.

The Cheerson CX10 nanoquadcopter fits the palm.
Nano quadcopters

are class 100 quads, so their front left and rear right motors are ~100 millimeters apart.

If you look at them from the top, they would fit into a 7cm X 7cm box (with the props off). These quads are really tiny, and rarely weigh 20 grams. Such a tiny size has the drawback of lower flight time, around 4-8 minutes. Even though tiny, these quads can fly outside too if the weather is calm. Just as some mini quads,nano quadcopters can have cameras too, some even support WiFi based FPV.

These tiny quadrotors are great to have a bit of fun, seeing them zipping around is mind-blowing. As these quads are tiny they can barely hurt anything, so they make great gifts for children above 14 too.

Nano quads have the same interference-free transmitter technology as the larger ones.The Cheerson CX-10 is probably the most popular nano quad, and the Eachine E10C the most popular one with a camera. Get one to have some indoor fun – just as the mini quads they are cheap and need no assembly.