7 Best Drones Under $500 – Top Photography Drones In 2021

Drones at this price offer 30-minutes flying time, 1 km transmission range, 4K Camera, 50 mph speed, Gimbal for image stabilization, RTH, FPV.
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A $500 drone is the best fit for all kinds of users!

They can be used by beginners, photographers and drone racers.

Those days are gone when drones at this price used to deliver low performance.

Today, well-known brands like DJI are manufacturing affordable drones with excellent features.

In this article, I have rounded the list of drones under $500 that offers 30-minutes flying time, 1 Km transmission range, 4K Camera, 50 mph speed, Gimbal for image stabilization, RTH, FPV and more

List of Best Drones

  1. DJI Mavic MiniEditor’s Choice
  2. Ruko F11 ProBest Overall
  3. Holy Stone HS720
  4. Holy Stone HS700D UpgradedBest Budget-Friendly
  5. DJI Spark
  6. Potensic D88

But before we jump in and start discussing each one of the above drones.

Let me make sure that you are aware of the fundamental concepts associated with drones, which will help you choose the perfect drone for you.

However, if you have complete knowledge of drones then click here to jump to the discussion of best drones under $500 and skip reading the following section.

Things to know before buying a Drone

  1. FAA Regulations
  2. Flying Time
  3. Flying Range
  4. Image Stabilization
  5. Camera Quality
  6. FPV (First-Person-View)
  7. RTH (Return-to-Home)
  8. Extra Features (Gesture Control, Follow-me, One-key handling, etc.)

Let’s discuss them briefly,

#1 – FAA Regulations

The FAA stands for Federal Aviation Administrations. It is responsible for the regulation and implementation of aviation aspects.

You can’t fly your drone anywhere without the permission from US Government. Yes! You heard it right!

In case of drones weighing more than 55 pounds (250 gm), registration with FAA is compulsory.

Few areas are drone-restricted. This B4UFLY app by FAA will help you identify those areas.

For detailed information about FAA Regulations, check this website.

#2 – Flying Time – is the key

The total time for which a drone stays in the air is known as the Flying Time.

At this price range, drones have a flying time of 30 minutes.

It depends on the battery capacity of the drone. Generally, people purchase an extra battery to double the flying time.

#3 – Flying Range

Flying Range is the maximum distance upto which a drone can safely fly (without getting lost).

The fact is, further it goes, the more fun you will experience!

Drone flying range at this price is going to be 1500 to 4000 meters.

Note that the communication between a drone’s transmitter and receiver is based on radio waves. So, sometimes due to the interference, drones will fail to travel the distance specified by the manufacturer.

Ex. This can happen in case of a drone flying near a cell phone tower.

#4 – Image Stabilization

This feature is particularly useful for people planning to capture aerial photos and videos.

Excellent stabilization is must for drones to capture sharp and clear images. Your drone camera should hover with superb stabilization regardless of the motion and tilt of the drone.

Image stabilization feature avoids shakiness and jello effect in photos.

It can be achieved through,

  1. Gimbal
  2. Altitude Hold
  3. Digital Stabilization

Gimbal offers maximum image stabilization.

If you are a pilot and not a photographer then you may need not emphasize on this feature. But for a drone photographer, it is must!

#5 – Camera Quality

Drones at this price range will have a camera of 1080p, 2.7k, or 4k resolution.

Along with the resolution, you need to look at the frame rate, FOV (Field of View), shutter speed, and aperture of the camera.

If you plan to mount an external camera to the drone, consider the effect of additional weight on flying time.

#6 – FPV – First Person View

FPV is one of the vital drone features.

Using a set of VR Goggles, you can view real-time footage captured by the drone camera and start feeling like sitting in the aeroplane’s cockpit and flying like a superhero.

Yup! It exactly feels as it sounds.

#7 – RTH – Return-to-Home

This feature allows your drone to return to the Start Point when it senses low battery or signal loss.

Due to our beginner-level flying skills we have lost two drones after exceeding the maximum flying range during initial days of drone-ing!

Sometimes people fail to notice that the drone’s battery is running out of charge.

In such a case, if there wouldn’t be a RTH function, then the drone might fly away forever.

Almost every drone on this list have RTH feature.

#8 – Additional Features

Even at the price of $500, a drone is packed with the variety of features. It depends upon the brand.

  • Intelligent Geofence: With this feature, you can define the area within which your drone should fly. This avoids too high or too far travelling of drone.
  • Follow Me: It allows drone to follow you by tracking a smartphone or remote controller in your hands.
  • Waypoint Mode: It will let you point a location on your smartphone where the drone will travel by himself.
  • One-key Take-off and Landing: This feature would prevent you from destroying your drone due to your beginner-level landing.

Okay! So that was all about the drone basics.

Now let we jump-in to the main discussion without any further ado,

1. DJI Mavic Mini

DJI Mavic Mini - Best Drones under 500 - ULTRAdvice.com

Discussion about best drones is incomplete without mentioning the brand DJI.

They are popular for manufacturing high-end and professional-grade drones.

The Mavic Mini form DJI has no competition at this price range. It is compact, lightweight, foldable and made for those on the move.

It weighs 249gm meaning that you don’t need to register it with FAA!

The drone equips 3-Axis Motorized Gimbal for stabilizing 12MP Camera. The DJI Mavic Mini is capable of capturing 2.7K video at 30fps or 1080p video at 60fps.

Specification

  1. Flying Time: 30 Minutes
  2. Flying Range: 4000 meters
  3. FPV Transmission Range: 4000 meters
  4. Image Stabilization: 3-Axis Gimbal
  5. RTH: Yes
  6. Battery: 2600mAh

It packs an insane flying range of 4Km! The drone has DJI’s enhanced Wi-Fi technology capable of transferring live video at the resolution of 720p from the distance of 4Km.

The speed of DJI Mavic Mini will be around 30mph. Additional features include Find My Drone, Altitude Hold, Intelligent Geofence, Waypoint Mode etc.

Benefits

  • Light-weight and compact
  • Excellent flying time
  • 3-Axis Gimbal
  • Brushless motors
  • FPV compatible
  • 2.7K camera
  • RTH (Return-to-Home)

Drawbacks

  • Charging time is 3-hours

2. Ruko F11 Pro

Ruko F11 Pro - Best Drones under 500 - ULTRAdvice.com

The Ruko F11 Pro offers excellent performance and competes with DJI Mavic Mini (discussed above). It has robust aluminium body for making it capable of surviving mid-level crashes.

The 2500mAh battery allow this drone to fly for 30 minutes.

This drone has 4K Camera with 120° wide-angle lens.

You will be able to capture nice and sharp UHD photos. Ruko F11 Pro can shoot videos with 2.7K resolution.

Specification

  1. Flying Time: 30 Minutes
  2. Flying Range: 1200 meters
  3. FPV Transmission Range: 500 meters
  4. Image Stabilization: Altitude Hold
  5. RTH: Yes
  6. Battery: 2500mAh

This drone is packed with bunch of additional features like One-key landing/take-off, Headless Mode, Tap to Fly, Follow me Mode, Gesture Control etc.

Benefits

  • Compact and durable design
  • Easy to use
  • FPV compatible
  • Excellent flying time
  • Brushless motors
  • Comes with extra battery
  • RTH (Return-to-Home)
  • 4K camera
  • GPS

Drawbacks

  • Long charging time

3. Holy Stone HS720

Holy Stone HS720 - Best Drones under 500 - ULTRAdvice.com

When it comes to budget-friendly drones, the brand Holy Stone is often discussed.

The HS720 offers unbeatable performance at its price. The design of this drone is very similar to DJI Mavic Mini (discussed above)!

The drone comes with the stunning 4K UHD camera mounted on a 2-Axis Gimbal for Image Stabilization. It is capable of recording 2K (2048×1052 resolution) video with 30 fps.

Specification

  1. Flying Time: 26 Minutes
  2. Flying Range: 1600 meters
  3. FPV Transmission Range: 800 meters
  4. Image Stabilization: 2-Axis Gimbal
  5. RTH: Yes
  6. Battery: 2800mAh

Unlike other drones from Holy Stone that equips brushed motors, the HS720 comes with brushless motors. So, they require less maintenance.

Additional features for this drone includes Follow Me, Orbit Mode, One-Key landing/take-off, Waypoint Mode etc.

Benefits

  • Compact design
  • FPV compatible
  • 2-Axis Gimbal
  • Brushless motors
  • Good flying time
  • RTH (Return-to-Home)
  • 4K camera
  • GPS

Drawbacks

  • Long charging time

4. Holy Stone HS700D Upgraded

Holy Stone HS700D - Best Drones under 500 - ULTRAdvice.com

HS700D is another budget-friendly drone from Holy Stone. Recently this drone has been upgraded from being a 2k Camera Drone to 4K Camera Drone.

Camera is mounted on 1-Axis Gimbal for image stabilization to capture fantastic photos with the resolution of 3840×2160 pixels.

High-quality 1500KV brushless motors ensure agile movements in air.

Specification

  1. Flying Time: 22 Minutes
  2. Flying Range: 1000 meters
  3. FPV Transmission Range: 800 meters
  4. Image Stabilization: 1-Axis Gimbal
  5. RTH: Yes
  6. Battery: 2800 mAh

Other feature includes One Key Return, Waypoint Mode, Follow Me, Intelligent Geofence, Headless Mode and more.

This drone is our highly recommended budget-friendly Photography Drone that costs only $229.

Benefits

  • FPV compatible
  • RTH (Return-to-Home)
  • Good flying time
  • 1-Axis Gimbal
  • Brushless motors
  • 4K camera
  • GPS

Drawbacks

  • Long charging time

5. DJI Spark

DJI Spark - Best Drones under 500 - ULTRAdvice.com

DJI Spark was launched back in 2018 considering the need for light-weight and compact drones.

This cute-looking drone is available in five different colors (white, red, green, blue and yellow).

The drone equips 2-Axis Motorized Gimbal to stabilize 12MP Camera. It can shoot beautiful videos with 1080 pixel resolution at 30 fps.

Impressive flying and FPV experience makes DJI Spark popular amongst drone enthusiasts.

Specification

  1. Flying Time: 16 Minutes
  2. Flying Range: 2000 meters
  3. FPV Transmission Range: 2000 meters
  4. Image Stabilization: 2-Axis Gimbal
  5. RTH: Yes
  6. Battery: 1480 mAh

Additional features include Tap-to-Fly, Gesture Control, Follow Me, Orbit Mode, One-Key landing/take-off, Waypoint Mode etc.

The cost of both Mavic Mini and Spark is same; $399. Our preference is Mavic Mini but if you wish to gift a cute looking little flying machine to someone, then you can go for Spark.

Benefits

  • Light-weight and compact
  • Excellent FPV experience
  • 2-Axis Gimbal
  • Brushless Motors
  • RTH (Return-to-Home)
  • 1080p camera
  • GPS

Drawbacks

  • Long charging time
  • Average flying time

6. Potensic D88

Potensic D88 - Best Drones under 500 - ULTRAdvice.com

This is a value for money deal by Potensic. It costs $299 only.

The Potensic D88 offers live video (FPV) transmission up to 300 meters which is quite disappointing at this price because we are expecting at least 1000 meters FPV range.

This drone has 4K FHD Camera with 110° wide-angle lens. It is mounted on 1-Axis Gimbal for image stabilization. So, you will be able to capture good looking, nice and sharp images.

Specification

  1. Flying Time: 20 Minutes
  2. Flying Range: 1500 meters
  3. FPV Transmission Range: 300 meters
  4. Image Stabilization: 1-Axis Gimbal
  5. RTH: Yes
  6. Battery: 3400 mAh

It is shipped with an extra battery to double (40 minutes) the flying time. The Potensic D88 is compact and foldable for people on the go.

Additional Features include Follow Me, Orbit Mode, Waypoint Mode, Headless Mode etc.

Benefits

  • Compact and foldable
  • FPV compatible
  • 1-Axis Gimbal
  • Comes with extra battery
  • Brushless motors
  • Good flying time
  • 4K camera
  • GPS

Drawbacks

  • Long charging time

Conclusion

The clear winner on this list of best drones under 500 dollars is DJI Mavic Mini that offers bunch of awesome features and excellent performance. It cannot be compared with others at this price.

Ruko F11 Pro with relatively less price compete very closely with DJI Mavic Mini.

If you are looking to gift a Drone Camera to kids, then the compact and cute looking DJI Spark is good to go.

Finally, if you feel like I am missing any awesome drone under $500 category, then don’t forget to comment below. I will look forward to adding it to this list.

Rakesh Kurhade
Rakesh is a tech enthusiast, engineer, team leader and digital growth hacker. He is working for Robu.in (robotics e-commerce website) for the past 4+ years. His expertise includes research, reading, writing, thinking, planning, organizing and striving for perfection. He is passionate, hardworking and committed to plan and develop the brand Robu. In his free time, he writes articles at ULTRAdvice to help people find the answers to the questions that Google cannot answer. Contact him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.