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Best cheap drones with camera for under $200-2017

Best cheap drones with camera for under $200

Introduction

Buying a drone can be a very interesting thing. And, if you are looking to get your first quadcopter then you have come to the right place, we will tell you which the best cheap drones with camera are for under $200. In addition, even if this is not your first drone, for less than $200 you can get some decent quadcopter that is more than enough for lots of fun and some decent photography.

P.S. This is a super long and detailed article, if you just want to know which is the best cheap drone we recommend then click here

Aerial photography by a drone

Aerial photography by a drone

At DronesFuel we always recommend for the beginners to start with, a low budget first and then work your way up. What you learn from playing with a cheap $50 drone can be applied to the top of the line and most expensive DJI Phantom. To tell you the truth, flying a small cheap quadcopter can be even harder than flying a full fledged high-end model because of all the extra options and features found on the top of the line drone. Things like RTH (return to home), GPS and even crash avoidance come standard on the best models but not on a cheap drone. Think of it like driving a stick versus driving an automatic, while it is best to learn all the ins and outs for driving using a cheap model, but if you have the money and the dedication you can skip all of this and go for the top rated money no object drone.

So let us do this!

I know you guys are busy so here is the summary of the article in a nice comparison table, but I urge you to read the review and what to look for before making a decision to buy a drone.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: The prices listed in the table were correct at the time of publishing the article and they are bound to change! To get the latest prices click the button on the table for each drone.

So What’s the best cheap drones with camera for under $200?

What makes a drone the best?

Therefore, we decided to buy a new drone, great, but what do we need to look for to know that it really is the best? Read on to find out!

Price

Let us start with the obvious one. Of course, the most important thing to consider when buying anything not only a drone is your budget. How much are you willing to pay? In addition, this guide for the best cheap drones under $200 we limited our budget to $200.

For this price range, we have many great drones to choose from and we can find ones, which perfectly balance the cost with the features and most importantly are fun to use.

This is the upper limit, I will tell you about several, which cost way less than that, so stick with me.

Flight time

This one actually surprised me when I bought my very first drone. Drones will not stay in the air for long! I mean a typical flight time is around 10 minutes; more advanced models can fly for about 30 minutes. Longer than that and you are looking into paying way much more than our budget, think upwards of $15,000 (That is fifteen thousand US dollars). Why is that? This takes us to the next thing to consider.

Battery

All the technological advances have helped quite a lot with making batteries smaller and lighter yet hold lots of juice, but in the same time you have to consider that for a drone to fly it needs to be as light as possible, also the battery most likely will need to power the camera as well. So what do we need to look for?

Check if the drone has extra batteries, if they are easy to replace, how much do extra batteries cost, and chargers cost.

drone-remote-controller

drone-remote-controller

Controller

There are two ways to control a drone. Some of them come with its own dedicated controller that looks like a PlayStation game pad and others need you to install an app on your mobile phone and use Wi-Fi signal to control the drone using virtual controllers. Personally, I like the physical dedicated remote controller but feel free to try both and decide on which you like the best.

Another style of controlling quadcopters is by using TWO controllers, that way one person controls the flight while the other controls the camera. Of course, you will not find such a system on a cheap quadcopter.

Onboard camera

Not all models come with an onboard camera that is because some people prefer to attach their action camera (the goPro) and use that instead. In addition, the camera specs for those quads, which do include a camera, vary a lot. For decent quality pictures and videos, you should be aiming for a 720p HD cam.

Return to home

This is a very nice feature to have. When the battery is about to die you can tell the drone to return to where you are or to where it took off with a simple click.

Range

This is how far from the drone can you be and remain in control of it. Most budget drones can reach a couple of hundred feet. More advanced models can go as far as 10,000 feet and more.

Speed

This is an interesting spec to look into, a typical budget drone goes at speeds of around 10 to 15 MPH but there are some “racing drones” which can go up to crazy speeds of 60MPH and even more!

 

Brushed VS Brushless Motors

Brushed DC motors are more prevalent among cheap drones because they are themselves quite cheap to manufacture which is great. But the way they work is by having brushes inside the motor spin which will cause them to wear out over time. Some brushed motors can wear out in a few hours of flight time!

Now compared to brushless motors, as you can expect they do not have brushes inside giving them the ability to work for extended periods of time without any problem. They also offer a better power to weight ratio. But of course they are more expensive. This makes them almost exclusive to the more expensive drones out there.

GPS

Or Global Positioning System, this is a great feature to have but it not available on the cheap drones out there. But what does it do? It allows the drone to fly on a preset path that can be drawn out on a map using the controller or a smart phone and it is used by some of the more advanced flight modes allowing you to shoot some pretty dramatic camera sweeps.

Altitude Hold

Another advanced feature that is not found on most drones because it uses GPS as well. What this does is to allow the drone to hover in its place at whatever height you set it to without you having to control the throttle making it easier to take pictures as well as making things easier for the beginners.

Collision Avoidance System

This is a combination of various types of sensors which work together to detect whether the drone will collide with anything on it flight path forcing the drone to stop before it actually hits any obstacle. While this system will make it easier for you to fly your drone without fear of crashing it, which is a great thing for a beginner, this system can actually prevent you from properly learning the controls of the drones and how to properly control it. Besides this system requires several advanced sensors and lots of processing powers so you will definitely not find it on a cheap drone.

Lights

Not the most important factor really but it is something to consider if you intend on flying at night to make it easier for you to know where is your plane and where it is heading.

Headless Mode flying

Despite being symmetrical in design, drones do have front and backsides and this determines where it will head. Now most drones are either color coded for front and back or have different colored LEDs, but if the drone is not very close and in daylight, this becomes ineffective. This is where headless mode comes in

In normal mode if you fly the quad and turn it 90 degrees to the left then tell it to go forward it will go to the left related to you, think of it like a car with the gas pedal. However, on a headless drone when it turns 90 degrees to the left and you press forward it will go away from you.

So which is best? Again, this is a personal thing, I personally prefer the normal mode, simply because advanced drones do not use this feature and it is only used in beginner quadcopters to help with the orientation. So if you think you want to fly something even a little more advanced you need to stick to normal flying mode

Gimbal

This is something you probably should not need to worry about right now because simply you will not find it on a cheap model, but I included it so if you are reading some other specs you would know what it is. The gimbal is a pivoted support that keeps your camera level even if the drone is tilting up and down or sideways. Again, do not bother with is just yet.

Durability

This is something worth looking into. When getting a new expensive toy the last thing you need is for it to break down, and this is why we recommend getting a cheap model first to test the skies because you will crash…a lot!

Most planes come with guards to mainly protect the propellers when hitting an object, and as expected they tend to break first, so you will need to get a drone that has spare protection. Another design that is gaining more attraction is where the blades are enclosed with the drone’s body for extra protection.

Flight Modes

Newer drones include some built in flight modes which you can initiate with a single click which will instruct the drone to fly in a predetermined manner. The most basic of these is the “Follow me” mode, which tells the drone to simply lock on a target, namely you, and then fly around it as it moves. This is extremely useful in cases where you are doing some outdoor sports like hiking, canoeing, or even biking. DJI is leading the way on this front with its newer software on the DJI Spark which has some pretty nice flight modes that you won’t find on other cheap drones.

RTF, BNF, ARF

No I still did not go crazy…I think. These acronyms do mean something.

Some quadcopter kits do not come ready to fly (RTF) and they will need something extra to complete it. Again, for a cheap drone they are ready to fly, meaning you simply charge the battery install the controller batteries and with simply calibration, you are good to get airborne.

Other models described as BNF, which mean Bind, and Fly need you to buy a controller first and “bind” it to the plane in order to be able to fly. In this case, you need to make sure that the two are using the same channel and manufacturer protocol

Finally, ARF stands for Almost Ready to Fly and the “almost” part is quite up for interpretation, the plane kit my come in separated pieces, which need assembly, or it might even leave out important things like the motors. Therefore, you really NEED to read what you are getting before hitting the buy button. Don’t worry I will tell you in the reviews about something major like this.

Spare parts

We touched on this before…You will crash! A lot! And most likely things will break, even if you are getting a cheap toy it is nice to be able to simply screw in a new blade to replace the broken one so you are back in the air in no time.

 

FAA Drone Rules

If you are living in the US then you need to know that  flying a drone has become regulated. So you need to check the rules before flying the drone and you might even need to register the drone https://registermyuas.faa.gov or the UAS as they call it, but in essence the rules are not complicated, don’t fly higher than 400 feet, keep your drone within your sight and you may need to register you drone and you are good to go. Of Course, you need to stay away from real airports btw, to read more about this visit my article FAA Part 107 Regulations. What you need to know about flying a commercial drone.

 

 

Let’s Answer some very important questions you may have about the best cheap drones…

How cheap is cheap?

Or in other words…how much will a beginner drone cost?

As you have already guessed from the article’s title we are reviewing cheap drones from as low as $50 and if you look around in Amazon you can find a drone for less than $10 and that is indeed extremely cheap but to tell you the truth you will need to spend a bit more than that to get a decent drone.

Of course what we always recommend is to get a relatively inexpensive drone to learn the basic controls and get accustomed to flying before you commit to a more advanced, and expensive, drone.

What happens if the drones flies out of range?

This is always a concern with new pilots because usually cheap drones don’t have a huge control range and watching your lovely drone fly into the horizon is not fun. So what exactly will happen to your drone if it indeed flew beyond its control range?

Well, it depends.

If the drone has a GPS and a return home option then it will simply initiate a fail safe protocol and return to it’s preset home point which is usually where the controller is. Now if the drones does not have this option then it will either continue on it’s path before losing signal until it crashes or the battery runs out or it may simply crash to the ground which might be better in this case.

What happens if the drone’s battery runs out midair?

Similar to the question above, the answer depends on the drone itself. If the drone is a toy grade drone, which what most of these cheap drones is, then it will simply fallout of the sky as soon as it loses its battery charge. To prevent that drones lights usually start flashing when the battery is about to run out giving you time to land the drone without crashing it.

More advanced drones land themselves just before the battery completely runs out to prevent any serious damage to the drone. While this is a great thing to have it does not mean that you don’t have to be careful especially if you are flying over water or some other obstacles.

What happens if I cannot orient the drone while it’s flying?

Again this depends on the drone’s features. If it is an absolutely cheap drone you should be able to determine its orientation by the color of its lights. Usually green means front. If the drone is far away and you can’t see it clearly then your best bet will be to try and land it safely right where it is.

Fore more advanced drones which have headless mode which we discussed earlier, then simply enable the headless mode and point the stick towards you and the drone should find its way back to you safely.

Best of all if you drone is equipped with GPS function then just press the return home button and the drone will get back to you on it’s own.

 So which is the best cheap drones with camera?

Syma X5C-1

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syma-x5c-1-unboxing

syma-x5c-1-unboxing

 

We will start with the big one. The Syma X5C. This is by FAR the most reviewed drone on Amazon with over 4000 reviews total, so you know this thing is popular and for good reason, the X5C was released in 2013 and has set the standard to compare to when shopping for a drone that costs less than $100.

Today we will be reviewing the updated version the Syma X5c-1.

First thing is this isn’t really an upgrade because they only changed two things, the packaging was made smaller to save on costs, and the only fix they did was in regards to the battery connection which several people had a problem with getting broke and the remote buttons got tweaked a bit. That is it.

The X5C-1 is built with the typical quality of Syma drones, which is decent and it is lots of fun to fly. If this is not your first cheap quadcopter then you will notice that this little toy performs a bit better in regards to handling and stability giving you a smoother flight leading to fewer crashes.

As we always recommend, starting with a cheap quadcopter is a good place to start learning the basics and this is one of the best cheap drones with camera out there. This is because it can take a beating, especially with the included rotor guards because sooner rather than later you will crash, so it is always nice to just flip the drone right over and launch to the sky again. In addition, of course replacement parts are cheap so you do not need to worry much.

 

Hubsan X4 H107D FPV

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hubsan-x4-h107d-fpv-unboxing

hubsan-x4-h107d-fpv-unboxing

Moving on to the second most popular drone, the Hubsan X4 series. This one is much smaller than the Syma X5 reviewed above making it harder to control over long distances.

There are 4 copters in the X4 series, the cheapest of which comes without a camera. The Hubsan X4 H107C is the version with a standard definition camera and the 61170-02 is the one with a 720p camera. And the top of the line H107D FPV which has a camera that’s designed for First Person Viewing, which is an extremely fun thing to do to watch through the eyes of your drone!

This however comes at a cost. Even though the video quality is not good (only VGA resolution) it is more expensive as we said, more than double the price of the version with the HD camera. In addition, the constant real-time transmission will eat up your battery life quickly.

Now the copter itself is fun to fly indoors but due to its tiny size it is an easy pushover! Even a little bit of wind plays with it all over the place. You can fly it outdoors but that will not be an easy task.

For a beginner this is going to be a tough one to master so I would stay away from it despite its cheap price and popularity.

 

UDI U818A-1

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UDI U818A-1

UDI U818A-1

The U818A-1 comes in two variations, a normal one and an FPV version. Today we are discussing the normal one.

This drone flies beautifully and performs well, it can even perform flips with a single button to make you look professional. The integrated 720p HD camera is also nice, and as all the other sub $200 drones you cannot expect Hollywood quality videos out of it but it is a fun to get some new perspective on things.

This little copter is actually not so little, measuring 15.25 inches diagonal it is one of the biggest quadcopters for beginners and this is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that the propellers get some decent protection making this plane able to withstand abuse. The big size also helps stabilize it during flight.

Now the bad news is that the big size combined with its lightweight makes this plane act like a kite with even some little wind, so flying it outdoors when it is windy is out of the question.

Worth mentioning is the included remote control has a very nice design with a good solid feel. The included LCD screen displays some useful information like battery life and throttle status. The remote has the typical dedicated buttons for flips and camera control.

Overall, this is a good beginner drone but not quite the cheap drone with camera.

 

Parrot Mini Spider

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parrot drone mini spider

This is the most unique drones in our lineup today for two reasons. The first and most obvious one is because of its design, this is the only drone, which walks, or “rolls” as they call it. Instead of the normal prop guards that all the other drones include, this copter includes two huge wheels, which allow it to walk on the ground, on walls and even on ceilings! While this is fun to do for the first couple of times, it wore off a bit too quickly. The wheels also protect the props from breaking. Of course, the wheels can be detached to operate this as a normal copter, which is what I highly recommend.

Now the other unique thing about this is the controller. It has none! This is entirely controlled by an app that you install on your phone or tablet. The app is FreeFlight 3.0 and is available for both iOS and Android. The app connects via Bluetooth automatically after turning everything on and launching the app.

Starting up the mini spider is easy, you simply click the takeoff button and it will fly and hover on its own. The bad thing about using your phone to control this is that you do not feel the sticks to know exactly how much throttle you are applying so mistakes are bound to happen. In this case, you do not need to panic, simply remove your hands off the screen and the copter will stop and hover in its place.

When you get accustomed to the controls, you can switch to the ACE mode, which allows you to do some nice tricks and flips.

 

SKY VIPER V950HD

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sky-viper-v950hd

Another popular choice among the sub $200 drones is the Sky Viper Video Drone V950HD. This can be considered a middle ground between the other entry-level drones and the more advanced quadcopters like the DJI range.

So for a beginner drone this one fares quite well, it has a tough build that will take coms serious hits and crashes it also flies reasonably stable for a drone of this size and it is great at maneuvering especially indoors.

Now the not so good about it is mainly the camera. While they claim it is an HD cam the quality of the images is far from HD. The camera isn’t really an HD camera but they upscale the video to get an HD resolution, the result is videos which are blurry and choppy, and I am not only talking about the wireless connection to the phone, even videos saved directly to the SD card are also choppy. It seems this drones’ little head cannot handle both stabilizing the drone and encoding videos J so you can forget about using it for videos, they turn out horrible.

Another thing worth noting, the control range of the remote is not great, combined with the fact that when loosing signal the copter will not cancel the controls but will keep on going. This translates into a flyaway drone.

U45 Drone with HD Camera

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U45 Drone with HD Camera

A little bit of an unknown drone and unknown maker but this U45 Drone is really worth considering when shopping for your entry-level drone. First of all, it has a couple of features, which are usually, only found on much more expensive models, mainly the altitude hold. What this does is tell the copter to stay at a certain distance off the ground and hover. This is great for photography, which is kind of, what this drone was built to do. Combine this with one touch takeoff and landing and you will look like a pro flying this drone.

Another option that is good for beginners is the headless mode. Like we discussed in the introduction this can really help first time drone flyers to control the direction of the drone but I recommend not using it and sticking with the normal mode.

Things to consider. As with every other small drone it will fly outdoors but do not expect it to handle windy conditions very well and the build quality seems not up to standard and this thing could break off easily.

Finally beware of Amazon reviews of this thing, almost all of them got the drone for exchange of a review.

 

Syma X8G

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Syma X8G

Syma quadcopters are so well made that they managed to get another one of their drones into our best cheap drones’ lineup. This time it is the bigger and more powerful X8G.

So what is the difference between the Syma X8 and the X5 quadcopters?

First, the X8 series is a full size drone unlike the X5 series which are mini quadcopters; this means that the X8 can carry much more load allowing it to fly with an attached action camera like a GoPro or similar cameras like a SJCam or something. And like all the Syma product line-ups there are small differences between the models.

Despite its size the Syma X8 has can fly for a minute or two more than the X5 thanks to the much bigger battery and can be controlled further away.

What is the difference between the Syma X8C vs X8W vs X8G?

The X8 comes without a camera and in no longer being made, while the X8C adds a basic 2mp camera. The Syma X8W also has a 2mp camera but comes with live streaming for FPV mode. Finally the X8G comes with Syma’s version of action camera that is very similar to the GoPro.

The bad things about this is that it can be a bit harder to control for a beginner than the X5 series and of course it is more expensive.

Potensic JJRC H8D

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Potensic JJRC H8D

Potensic really wants to be the cheap drone with camera by over delivering a few extras to add value to their JJRC H8D. This drone comes with lots of extras not included in other cheap quadcopters we have reviewed. First it comes in a very nice looking and useful carrying case that it metal from the outside and has custom foam cutouts to hold everything it its place. It comes with extra blades, extra batteries and even extra motors!

All of this would be worthless if it is not a good flyer, so does it deliver?

In a word, YES it does! This thing is really fun to fly both indoors and outdoors and the FPV mode really adds to the excitement especially when flying close to the ground. And when you want to take this copter away from the ground it can go up pretty high.

Thongs to watch out for is that the motors tend to heat up after continued use, this won’t be a problem if you are running only on a single battery but if you want to use the replaceable batteries to stay air borne you will need to give the motors sometime to cool off before taking off again.

Also if this is your first drone then you might want to read up a bit online to look for instruction on how to fly because the instruction included with this thing are gibberish.

DBPOWER UDI U842 Predator WiFi FPV

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DBPOWER UDI U842 Predator WiFi FPV

We have another duo here, and this time from UDI. The DBPOWER UDI U842 Predator WiFi FPV drone, with a name like this it needs to be good! And it is. The best thing I liked about the U842 is the build quality, because it is heavier than its little sister the U818 it crashes harder as well but this is not a problem for the 842. Its design is also nice as well making it relatively good at resisting wind than other smaller quadcopters and it has some nice colors, which is always nice to have.

The U842 comes standard with a decent list of features, things like RTH or return to home, as well as headless mode, which I do not recommend, but it is there if you need it. And as you can tell by its long name you can connect it through WiFi to your smartphone to view the camera in FPV mode. This connects you to the pretty decent 720p HD cam, which will give you an above average quality.

WiFi can also be used to control the quadcopter as well after you download the app to your phone, which can be mounted on top of the controller. They even included a hood to help you see the images on your smartphone even in bright sunlight. While this is all good personally I do not like virtual joysticks, I like to feel my sticks of joy J and the range of WiFi is quoted at 30m vs 80 for the normal controller so that’s another thing to keep in mind.

All in all this is a great drone to have.

Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadcopter

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Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadcopter

And we leave the best to last. The Parrot AR drone 2.0 is a very unique drone and we are happy we could include it in our cheap drones for under $200. Why? Because with the recent price cuts this drone is finally below the $200 mark.

What’s so good about it? Well for a start this drone is really a step up from all the other drones we have talked about above. For a start, the build quality you get is far better. The frame of the copter is made from nylon and carbon fiber. You also get brushless motors, which are more reliable than typical brushed motors.

Other standard features include, one press takeoff and landing as well as automatic hover. The built-in camera is a true 720p HD cam with an almost wide view of 93-degree field of view.

It has an upgrade, which adds a 4GB storage and a much more important GPS receiver, with this receiver you can plot a series of waypoints for the drone to follow. As we said, this is not a simple beginners’ toy!

Technically this is not an RTF (or ready to fly) model because it does not come with a remote controller, for this you will have to bring your own, but do not worry this part should be free, kind of. The way you control this copter is by installing a free app on your smartphone be it Android based or iOS. This brings us to the not so good part about this, controlling this drone is different from others above because you don’t have physical joysticks to give you feedback and you will have to rely on virtual ones.

All in all this is one great done with great value for money.

Which Cheap Drone to buy?

These are interesting times to be shopping for a new cheap budget drone. With all the recent developments and tech advances, the top players like DJI and even GoPro are introducing better and better drones onto the market, which increases the competition and urges other manufacturers to give more features for even lower prices.

These lower prices have finally forced the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 into the best cheap drone with camera under $200, which is a great thing if that’s all you have to afford. However, if you want an additional battery or a physical remote controller then that will bring the costs above our price range.

DBPOWER UDI U842

So what is the second best option? The upgraded DBPOWER UDI U842 is a great option to consider; it is priced around $150 at the time of writing this buying guide, you can spend the extra $50 on accessories allowing you to really enjoy your flight.

Finally, if your budget is way less than $200 then you can buy either the Syma X5 series or the UDI U818 series, both of which deliver a fun experience and are cheap enough for you to crash until you learn how to fly properly.

 

Now back to you…Do you think we have missed a great drone in our roundup?

Please tell us in the comments below what do you think is the best cheap  with camera?

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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