Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
Drones are some of the best things that happened to the RC world. Their stability, speed, and intelligent features make them the best toy you can have today. Better than RC cars and robots. Why?
Their tech is growing rapidly, and every day we have new cool features being released.
We’ve seen drones being used for military operations, agriculture, surveillance, and even monitoring fires. But that’s not all you can do with a drone.
If you’re a hobbyist photographer, racing enthusiast, or just want a drone for fun, there are drones designed for that too. So, which are the best hobbyist drones?
DJI Mavic Mini 2, Parrot Anafi, Potensic Dreamer Pro 4K, Holy Stone HS110D, and SNAPTAIN S5C are some great hobby drones.
Please keep reading to learn more about these hobbyist drones and what to look for when buying one.
What Is a Hobby Drone?
According to the FAA, a hobby drone is a drone used for recreational purposes. That is, you will not be using them to earn an income.
The other type is the professional drones that are used for professional work such as advertising, filming, etc. To fly a hobby drone, you don’t need a license. But all drones weighing at least 0.55 pounds to 55 pounds must be registered.
To fly a professional drone, that’s when you’ll need a Part 107 license. Sometimes, hobby drones can be used for professional work and vice versa.
Hobby Drones Buying Guide:
Below is what to look for when buying a hobby drone.
This is furthest the drone can fly from the controller. For a hobby drone, it doesn’t have to be that long, just enough for the activities you’re into.
Make sure you factor in the flight time to ensure you are always within range when the battery is about to get depleted.
As mentioned above, you should consider how long the drone can stay in the air. Most manufacturers promise up to 30 minutes, but it’s about 20 to 25 minutes in an actual sense.
You should remember, weather conditions, battery conditions, and speed affect how long the battery will last.
Planning your flight, practicing proper battery maintenance, and following the manufacturer’s care instructions are some of the ways to get the most out of any drone battery.
A drone can’t be complete without a camera. It has always been man’s dream to view the world with a bird’s-eye view. And with technological advancements, even cheap drones can have decent cameras.
If the drone is just for fun, a 720p or 1080p resolution camera will do. But you can go as high as 4K if you’re into photography.
Who wouldn’t love cruising at top speeds? Some drones, especially those designed for racing, can achieve more than 50 MPH. If speed is your thing, make sure the drone you’re going for suits your needs.
When talking about hobby drones, one may assume they are toy drones. But budget drones, intermediate drones, professional drones can all qualify to be hobby drones.
It all depends on the features you’re looking for and how much you plan to pay for it. But there’s no need to spend thousands of dollars just to fly for fun.
You can even look for a way to earn from your hobby by participating in drone racing leagues or offering photography and videography services.
Best Hobbyist Drones You Can Buy:
Before we go into details, below is a summary of these drones’ features.
|Drone Model||Key Features||Flight Time||Price|
|DJI Mavic Mini 2||12MP 4K camera. Intelligent flight modes. GPS RTH FIndMydrone||31 Minutes||$400 to $600|
|Parrot Anafi||4K HDR Camera Lossless zoom GPS Return-To-Home||25 Minutes||$450 to $800|
|Potensic Dreamer Pro 4K||2.7K video, 4K and 16MP camera. Intelligent flight modes Headless mode||25 Minutes||$150 to $200|
|Holy Stone HS110D||1080p camera 3D flips Altitude hold Headless mode||10 Minutes||$100 to $150|
|SNAPTAIN S5C||720p camera FPV Flips Return To Home (No GPS)||15 Minutes||$50|
This is the ultimate hobbyist drone. And trust me when I say it’s got most of the features you may need in a drone.
Mavic Mini 2 came as an update to the Mavic Mini. So, they have the same miniature foldable design that makes it easy to carry around. One of the best design features that appeal to hobbyists is weight.
The DJI Mavic Mini 2 weighs 248g, and as mentioned earlier, a drone has to be at least 250g to be registered. So, to fly this drone for fun, you don’t need a license, and you don’t even need to register it.
If you’re into photography, you may not need to buy another drone for photography since DJI has got you covered. With a 4K video resolution and a 12MP still image quality, you get to take professional-grade photographs.
Sure, it may have the same 1/2.3inch sensor as the Mavic Mini, but it produces better images. Not forgetting the Mavic Mini has a resolution of 2.7K. To take cinematic photos, DJI also equipped this drone with intelligent flight modes such as;
This is another area that DJI outdoes other drone manufacturers. Imagine all you can do with 31 minutes of flight time? Well, it may be about 25 to 30 minutes, but that’s still a long time in the drone world. Better yet, you can get at least two more batteries to extend your flying time.
Equipped with strong brushless motors, this drone can achieve some top speeds (up to 24 MPH). Besides speeding, these motors also aid in stable hovering when you need to lower the shutter speed for better photographs.
Another excellent feature of this drone is the controller. It’s a bit large compared to the others, but it gives the best flying experience. Equipped with DJI’s OcuSync 2.0, you can expect up to 10 Km operating range.
Of course, you should always fly within line of sight. But this range shows that the connection will be strong for short-range flying.
Like most drones, you can also control the Mini 2 through the DJI’s FlyApp. This app allows you to update your drone, customize the camera, and many other functionalities that are on the controller and some that aren’t.
Coming from a leading drone manufacturer, you can rest assured this drone will come with state-of-the-art safety features.
For starters, it has a GPS-enabled return-to-home feature that allows the drone to fly home in case of any issues, including when the batteries are almost depleted.
A Find My Drone feature also shows the drone’s last location and even beeps to alert you. It doesn’t stop there. If you’re unsure where to fly your drone, you’ll also benefit from the Flysafe geofencing feature. Too bad it lacks obstacle avoidance and Activetrack features.
- Excellent camera.
- Extended flight time.
- Advanced safety features.
- You don’t need to register it with the FAA.
- The best bang for your buck.
- It lacks obstacle avoidance and follow-me modes.
Parrot is another leading drone manufacturer with a wide range of drones. While some of their drones may not measure up to the DJI drones, the Parrot Anafi did and even outperformed the DJI Mavic Air 2 in some aspects.
Let’s see what they have to offer.
Like the DJI Mini 2, the Parrot Anafi also features a foldable design. It’s slim and long, and if you found it enclosed in a box, you would mistake it for a large spectacles box.
However, it weighs slightly more than the Mini 2 (320g), so you will definitely have to register it with the FAA or any other respective regulatory body. But registration isn’t that complicated.
This is one of the areas it outdoes the Mini 2 and Mavic Air 2. That’s because it has a 4K HDR 21 MP camera for some of the best still photos and videos you can get on a hobby drone.
HDR works great when doing landscape photography, and not many drones in this price range can achieve it. If you spend a bit more, you can get the Parrot Anafi FPV, which comes with FPV goggles.
Another cool feature is the gimbal that rotates the camera in various directions, including up, while stabilizing the footage. How about zooming? You get up to 1.4X at 4K and 2.8X at 1080p without compromising the photo quality.
Like the Mini 2, this drone has no internal storage. It relies on external SD cards. But it’s a good thing the manufacturer already provides a 16GB card. But if you want a bigger one, you can always purchase high-quality aftermarket SD cards.
One downside with this drone when it comes to the camera is the lack of intelligent flight modes. It’s more of a hands-on drone.
At least you get a Follow-Me feature, but you have to purchase it on the app, but it’s not the best. It also doesn’t have obstacle avoidance, which makes the Follow-Me mode hard to execute.
25 Minutes flight time is not that bad for a drone with such a high-quality camera. What I love most about the batteries is there are many options to charge them.
Either through the usual charger, power delivery adapter, or even through your laptop. You can even charge them when in the field for extended flying.
The Sky Controller 3 provides an above-average flying experience. It may not offer a large operating range as the Mini 2, but 2.5 Miles for a Wi-Fi connection is not that bad. Again, you should only fly within the allowable operating range in your region.
I love that you get four flying options with this drone; Sport, Filming, Cinematic, Racing. You can convert this drone to a filming drone where you control how fast it moves or to an RTF racing drone with the click of a button.
For its price tag, this drone is lacking in safety features. All you get is the Return-To-Home feature, which is okay. But it could use more safety features such as obstacle avoidance to improve your flying experience.
The good thing is that Parrot consistently updates their drones to fix any underlying issues. Maybe one day they will add more features. As long as you’re a ken pilot, this drone can last very long.
- High-quality camera.
- Extended flight time.
- Several options for charging the battery and a short charging time.
- It lacks advanced safety features.
- It’s hard to fly at first.
Potensic is known for building toy drones, but they did more by building the Dreamer 4K. It may not produce high-quality photos like the more expensive drones, but for its price, it checks all (well, almost all) the boxes of a standard hobbyist drone.
If you’re a fan of miniature designs like the Anafi and Mini 2, the Potensic may disappoint you right out of the box. It doesn’t fold and comes with fixed landing gears. Instead of placing the camera at the top, they placed it at the landing gears.
There’s nothing wrong with that, though, since this gives the gimbal freedom to move without capturing the propellers in the footage.
The name may be a bit misleading, too, since only the images are captured in 4K. In a real sense, the video resolution is 2.7K. But that’s not that bad, considering the DJI Mini also has a 2.7K video resolution, and it’s pretty valuable for photography.
Besides, the Mavic Mini costs more than three times of the Potensic.
What fascinates me about this drone is they managed to add some cool flight modes such as;
- Follow Me
- Waypoint Flying
- Circular flying
- Headless mode
However, this drone lacks image stabilization. Well, it has vibration dampeners that try to cancel some of the distortion and a 3-axis gimbal, but they’re not that great.
That’s why you may experience shakiness or distortion in your footage when flying in turbulence. Other than that, the Sony Sensor, 4K 16 MP still images, FPV, excellent flight modes, and a cool design still make it a better bargain.
Potensic really did their best with the batteries. Featuring a 3000mAh battery, this drone can last between 25 Minutes and 30 minutes.
This is the same flight time both the Potensic Anafi and DJI Mini 2 offered, and there’s a lot you can do within that time if you plan your flight well.
The controller looks cool too. They equipped it with two antennae for efficient transmission, and it also expands to allow your smartphone to fit in, so you can use the joysticks or the app to control the drone.
The built-in battery lasts at least 4 hours too, which is quite impressive. Better yet, it has LEDs that inform you of the battery levels.
The only issue with the controller is the operating range. Wi-Fi is not the best for video transmission, and you’ll realize the video quality deteriorates as you fly further away from the controller. But for short-range flying, such as within a 50 Meters radius, the video quality is great.
You get basic safety features such as;
- A GPS-enabled return to home in case of an emergency,
- A headless mode that makes it easy to figure out the drone’s orientation.
- GPS stabilization keeps the drone in line and prevents drifting of flying away.
Be careful when flying in the Follow-Me mode since this drone can’t detect obstacles. Make sure you fly in open areas.
- Quite affordable.
- Excellent camera and flight modes for the price.
- Elegant and durable design.
- Easy to fly.
- The stabilization mechanisms aren’t the best.
- It lacks obstacle avoidance mechanisms.
Holy Stone is another drone manufacturer known for its budget drones with tons of features. While the HS100D may not have the fancy features you find in drones worth thousands of dollars, it has cool features for hobbyist photographers and drone racers.
You got you to love the sleek black design that gives this drone superb aerodynamics. You can also rest assured that it can survive mild crashes thanks to the lightweight but durable build and removable propeller guards.
Speaking of lightweight, this drone weighs 145g. You won’t even feel like you’re carrying it in your bag. And you don’t even have to register it.
Even with fixed landing gears and propellers, this drone is relatively small and doesn’t feel bulky.
A 1080p camera with 120 Degrees FOV is not fancy but great for fun photography. Better yet, it supports FPV, allowing to stream the drone’s footage on the screen even through FPV goggles.
Remember to buy an SD card and always carry it with you since this drone lacks internal memory.
This is where the drone disappoints a bit with a 10-minute flight time. But the manufacturer is considerate enough to add an extra battery, giving you up to 20 minutes of flight time, and you don’t have to pay any extra cost.
There are three ways to control this drone. You can use the controller, the app, or even draw a path for the drone to follow.
The app also allows you to control the drone and take photos with gestures. How cool is that? However, don’t expect to fly this drone too far.
It only has a 60 Meters operating range, making it perfect for indoor flying or flying outdoors when it’s not too windy.
One of the best safety features a hobby drone can have is one that keeps the drone in place as the user figures out how to fly it.
And this drone has that. The Altitude Hold helps the drone hover and gives you enough time to familiarize yourself with the controls.
A headless mode is also helpful since determining where the drone is facing is often a challenge for beginners.
Besides flying around, this drone also has a 3D flip that can help spice up your flying sessions.
- Great for beginners.
- Great value for money.
- Lightweight and durable.
- Short operating range.
- Short flight time.
If you’re a drone enthusiast and don’t have much to spend, SNAPTAIN manufactures excellent entry-level drones, such as this S5C drone that costs less than $100.
Featuring fixed arms, landing gear, and a plastic build, this drone is more durable than most drones at its price range. The manufacturer also includes propeller guards and extra propellers.
The LEDs make it fun to fly at night or when doing the 360 degrees flips (yeah, it has that too). You can even put on a light show with your and fly several of these drones with the LEDs on at night.
A 720p camera doesn’t offer much to write home about, but it’s better than not having a camera. The footage is good enough to take photos and filming your backyard or a local park if you’re allowed to fly there.
The FPV mode that streams directly to the app also makes it feel like a high-end drone. But the lack of gimbal stabilization will burst your bubble.
The only stabilization it has is through the gyroscopes, but those aren’t enough to produce steady footage.
This is another area where you get your money’s worth. For starters, the battery offers a 15-minute flight time. And since the manufacturer adds an extra battery, you get up to 30 minutes of flying.
You can control this drone through the app or the controller. The controller is small but has all the necessary features, including the button for the 3D flip and trimming features to make sure it flies steadily.
On the other hand, the app is useful for streaming and controlling other aspects of the drone. With a range of 80 meters, always fly it close to the controller to prevent flyaways.
You get three speed levels; slow, medium, fast. This makes sure that the drone walks with you as you learn.
I was surprised that this drone has a Return Home feature, but then I realized it’s not GPS-enabled. I would not rely on it that much, though. So, make sure you monitor the drone’s telemetry data, such as battery levels, and know when to fly it back home.
Another safety feature is the headless mode, which, coupled with the LEDs, makes sure you are always aware of the drone’s orientation. And in case of an issue, the emergency stop function can help you secure your drone.
- Decent drone for kid hobbyists.
- Extended flight time for its price.
- Robust design.
- It’s not very stable in flight.
There are many hobby drones out there. I have picked my favorites, but if I were to swear by one, I would recommend the DJI Mavic Mini 2.
Sure, it costs at least $500, but it surpasses all the other drones. A great 4K camera, good flight time, excellent safety features, and DJI is a reputable brand.
You can rest assured you’ll get support and a huge resource of information. But if it’s too expensive, the Potensic Dreamer Pro 4K offers a better alternative.