The best drones for beginners will be relatively budget-friendly (or equipped with collision sensors) because flying a drone is never risk-free - even the best pilots have accidents! Many drones come with built-in safety features such as distance limiters, return to home functions and propellor guards that will help you should you find yourself in a sticky situation. Once you know the controls of your drone and feel more confident flying you can start to experiment with more exciting shots but to begin with it's a good idea to use tutorials or pre-programmed modes.
Whether you're investing in a drone for aerial photography or videography, or even drone racing, some of the best drones you can buy don't cost as much as you think. This guide is aimed at people who haven't flown before but if you're thinking of upgrading check out best indoor drones or best FPV drones.
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If you're looking the best drones for kids (opens in new tab), then a low-cost drone is also a great option. That said, you might want to spend a little more to invest in a drone with collision sensors to help prevent any unfortunate accidents.
We've selected the best drones for beginners below, but it's worth keeping in mind that their designs and prices will differ depending on the purpose of the product.
Note that many of these drones weigh under 250g, which makes things easier legally in many countries like the UK, where you'll need to register your drone and take an exam online if it's heavier. Plus, lightweight drones usually mean simplified controls, giving you more room to build your piloting skills as a beginner.
The best drones for beginners in 2022
The DJI Mini 2 is an excellent beginner drone for several reasons. Firstly, it weighs under 250g which means you only have to register it if you plan on using it commercially, it has advanced GPS safety features such as return to home and restricted fly zones so you can't accidentally fly into an airfield for example. Other useful features include Quickshots (opens in new tab) so that you can easily share images, distance limiters and automatic landing.
Thanks to a new remote control, in Federal Aerial Administration (FAA) areas, it has a range of 10km (6.2 miles) and can be flown in winds up to 24mph without it going out of range. While videographers benefit from 4K recording and 3-axis of stabilization, photographers can choose to shoot in Raw, manual exposure, exposure bracketing and other features you'd expect to find on a normal camera.
If you’re thinking of the Mini 2 as your first drone, but you’re already familiar with cameras, then this is definitely the best choice. It’s also pretty handy indoors thanks to downward-facing visual and sonar distance sensing systems which can help it hover even without GPS, and the optional propellor guards (detachable cages to prevent any accidents while flying near obstacles). The app also makes getting the images to your phone easy if you don’t want to wait until you get home.
We don’t through 5-star reviews around every-which way, but so long as you don’t mind digging a little further into your pocket than you might want, the Mini 3 Pro is an amazing drone. It offers enough photographic quality to please a serious creative, all of the intelligent features seen on DJI’s higher end drones – including the ability to fly around obstacles and keep on going – and despite this it manages to stay below the frustrating weight threshold.
The Mini 3 Pro even adds a feature not seen on previous ‘copters; a rotating camera which will help capture people without the resolution loss of cropping into a horizontal image for vertical social media – for some this might be the feature that sells the drone alone. Other big pluses are the choice of controller (none, standard or with display), and the option of a longer-lasting battery. It really feels like professional flexibility has arrived in the ultra-light category – the only reason it’s not top of this list is the price makes it tricky to suggest as a first drone, but if you’re feeling flush, why not? Those sensors make it hard to crash!
• See full DJI Mini 3 Pro review (opens in new tab)(Image credit: Adam Juniper/Digital Camera World)
With more than half of the global market, DJI have kept their tech at the serious end of the market. However, a friendly relationship with neighboring firm Ryze has led to the Tello, a compact drone that doesn’t skimp on the tech. It beams 720p video back to a phone in WiFi range (100m), or 5mp photos, which are recorded by the App.
This data link also provides you a battery warning, and the drone is capable of taking off and hovering using its 14-core processor and in-built sensors. That power makes for fun features like the “Throw & Go” launching and flips, but also supports Scratch, a simple, block-based programming language that means literally anyone (kids included) can have fun ordering the Tello about.
Autel’s Nano and Nano Plus – the cheaper option has the weaker camera and the lower price, so might be a better first drone since even that has 4K, though the sensor is 12.7mm across the diagonal (half-inch). Dig deeper into your pocket for the Nano plus and you get a camera with a 19.8mm sensor (0.8-inch). In either case the drone is light enough to stay under the registration rules in FAA airspace (in the UK and EU you’ll likely still need to register because of the camera). Moreover it has front, back and base collision sensors, and the video feedback looks stunning – what Autel call ‘Skylink’ – which provides an amazing 2.7K30 resolution live view on the monitor.
The software includes a number of intelligent flight modes and tracking features, which have improved since launch, though some are less useful (filter like effects – really?). We did like the ability to record sound from the phone and attach it automatically to the video – i.e. narrate your flight for YouTube, or just as notes. The SuperDownload feature; wireless transfer of images and videos to a nearby smartphone at 160 MB/s, is also handy, and this drone is a serious alternative to the DJI Mini 3 Pro.
Read more: Autel EVO Nano+ review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The DJI Mini SE is DJI's most affordable drone yet at just $299/£269/AU$459 making it the perfect choice for beginners.
While the DJI Mini SE does lack several features found on the DJI Mini 2 such as raw photos, 4K recording and a max range of 6.2 miles, it does undercut it on price by quite a lot. And you can still take really decent images but they'll be output as jpgs instead.
For consumers not confident learning to fly and shoot video at the same time, the automated QuickShots provide several striking orbiting or other dramatic swooping shots while keeping your subject in frame. The DJI Mini SE makes use of its intelligence to do this from the main camera rather than packing any extra scanners, which probably helps even this beginner model pull off 30 minutes of flight time (as with all drone official times, expect about 20% less).(opens in new tab)
This excellent drone for beginners introduces not just the experience of flying, but the basic feature set of a serious photography or videography drone for a fraction of the cost. That’s because it includes a GPS positioning system, and control is via a good quality phone app (a phone will clip into the radio controller and serve as a screen).
Together this gives higher-end features like ‘follow me’ (the drone will follow the location of the phone) as well as making the drone easy to fly – let go of the controls and the drone will just hover, at the same altitude, even in a breeze. It can also return to its launch point at the touch of a button.
The design is clearly inspired by DJI’s Phantom, right up to the 4-light intelligent battery. That said the battery has a Micro USB socket built right in for easy charging - DJI haven’t thought of that yet!
On the downside, the camera is not gimbal stabilized, so the drone's vibrations are certainly more than visible in the adequate but gloomy video, and, sadly, it sends back its signal via wi-fi, so it tends to drop out after around 100m, but clean video is recorded to the Micro SD card on the drone nonetheless.
Nice touches are the extra landing legs, prop guards and stylish pilot’s manual notebook in the box.(opens in new tab)
With a lower price point than DJI’s Mini, this drone does come with compromises but, unlike so many budget drones, it doesn’t miss out on a mechanical gimbal or a class 10 SD card slot. The former gives you stabilized video and the later means you’re not dependent on a radio connection to your phone to record video, which is essential. It’s also nice to have speed settings and a folding design.
When you’ve seen unstabilized (or – nearly as bad – digitally stabilized) video you’ll understand why those capturing aerial footage with a drone insist on a mechanical gimbal, but getting one at a price point this low is rare. In a decent folding drone even rarer, and here you’ve got all the features (like one-press return-to-home) that come with GPS, useful for safe operation.
The footage isn’t as sharp as the 4K the packaging claims; there is fish-eye distortion and a softness near the centre. Setup could be more elegant, but is broadly the same as pricier products, though the ‘charging cable’ (a USB lead) also highlights the difference between this and a DJI Mini 2. Ultimately you get better video with a Mavic Mini, which doesn’t pretend to be 4K. Nevertheless this is a less expensive route into many of the features – if not the elegant software and pure ease of use – of the bigger brands.(opens in new tab)
Piloting a drone via goggles which give you the virtual cockpit experience is useful for many sub styles, including racing, stunts and the cinewhoop. As a beginner the world can be bewildering; you need a traditional radio controller, goggles (often analog), and often to build a drone yourself, before familiarizing yourself with motor types and manual battery charging. You could buy a book, dive into the message boards, or get a ready-made kit. Sure it might not impress the some, but it’s cheaper, it works, and the controller will do all the same stuff – and work with your next drone too. We especially appreciated the addition of beginner-friendly altitude hold (hover & auto-land) sensor, not usually found in small enthusiast drones.(opens in new tab)
This Potensic A20 Mini Drone is perfect for kids and beginners, complete with two rechargeable batteries and a controller. While the Potensic A20 might not come with any photo or video capabilities, it's a great option for those looking for a durable and affordable option that won't be at risk of breakage from small, clumsy hands!
Featuring Altitude Hold and One Key Taking off/ Landing, every aspect of the Potensic A20 Mini Drone is designed to be simple to use, no matter whether you're introducing a kid to drones, or you're a beginner yourself.
One of our favorite aspects of the drone is its Headless Mode. Ordinarily, the forward direction of a flying drone is the same as the nose direction. However, Headless Mode means that the forward direction will be the same as your transmitter. This is particularly useful for kids or beginners who might not be quite au fait with some of the trickier aspects of piloting a drone.
Weighing just 190g, not only does the compact and lightweight nature of the Potensic A20 make it easy to carry around or store away, it also means that you won't have to register the drone with the FAA in the USA.
Is learning to fly a drone hard?
Flying a drone is not as hard as you might think. If you're used to playing videogames or using apps on your phone, you should find learning to fly a drone pretty straightforward.
(If you want to impress long-time pilots, however, control by pinching the sticks on the remote – using the thumb-only is a sure sign of game-controller experience, while more subtle movements are possible by using thumb-and-forefinger on each stick.)
That said, you'll want to do your homework first and make sure you understand all your drone's features and capabilities, as well as following any legal regulations in your area. For example, if you buy a drone in the UK that weighs over 250g / 8.8oz, then you'll need to pay a small registration fee and take an exam online. (Any drone that weighs under 250g is considering a toy and safe to use.)
Rather than rushing into things, start with short and low flights and build up from there. Otherwise you may end up crashing your drone or worse, causing an accident.
How does a drone work?
Most drones use the two-stick control method (or a touch-based equivalent on your smartphone) where the throttle (up/down) and rotation (yaw) are on the left stick and the direction of flight (roll & pitch) are on the right.
Most drones for beginners will have rechargeable batteries, an even number of rotating props, a remote control receiver and a processor to translate that input into the minor changes in the propeller speed, which is what will ultimately move the drone.
What's the best drone for beginners?
Overall, the best drone for beginners available today is the DJI Mini 2 or (ignoring budgetary concerns) the Mini 3 Pro. (opens in new tab) That's because they’re light, compact and easy to fly. You can – but shouldn’t – fly it up to 10km (6.2 miles) away, and they’ll cope with winds of up to 24mph, while the camera gimbal will keep images vibration free while recording up to 4K video.
It’s also good for flying indoors thanks to downward-facing visual and sonar distance sensing systems which can help it hover even without GPS, and the optional propellor guards.
How do I choose the best drone?
The best drone for you will entirely depend on what you want to shoot. The more you spend, the better quality photos and videos you will be able to achieve plus you'll probably have a greater range, battery life and advanced features. Racing drones are built for speed and maneuverability but chances are if you're a photographer or videographer, smooth, steady control and the ability to hover will be much more important.
How we test drones
Our full drone tests are carried out in the field, allowing us to assess the quadcopter for its flight performance, easy of use, and its image quality. All our drone reviews and guides are overseen by Adam Juniper (opens in new tab) who is one of the UK's leading experts on drones, a professionally qualified commercial drone pilot, and who has written several books on flying drones, including The Drone Pilot's Handbook.