By Bob Hammell
From beginner pilots who have never been behind the controls of a quadcopter to seasoned vets who have logged plenty of flying hours, determining which quadcopter to get your hands on can be overwhelming.
The good news is that you've just taxied into the QuadHangar, where our goal is to review and catalog all of the best drones for sale in the quad marketplace.
First time flyer? RC enthusiast? Aspiring aerial photographer? The interactive chart of quadcopters below and the analysis that follows will cover which factors make up the wide variety of quads navigating the worlds airspace.
|280x320||1080p 30fps, 180° streaming||IPhone or
|2x 1200 mAh/
|45x45||No Camera||2.4 GHz||3.7V LiPo/
|110x110||No Camera||2.4GHz||3.7v LiPo/
|110x110||No Camera||2.4GHz||3.7v LiPo/
|280x280||No Camera||2.4GHz||3.7v LiPo/
|100x100||No Camera||2.4GHz||3.7v LiPo/
|145x145||No Camera||2.4GHz||3.7V LiPo/
We've done our best to include all the information we could to help you find the right quad. Here's what you'll find:
The drones included in this guide are just a small portion of the options available on the marketplace. We're actively testing and indexing all the ones we can get our hands on. We've also gone ahead and put our toughts together on which is the best quadcdopter to buy.
Many new manufacturers and models are just starting to enter the scene as quads become more mainstream. The list so far has a wide variety of quadcopters at every price range for beginners to vets.
'Drone' can have a handful of meanings but in this context we're referring to unmanned aerial vehicals. Even more specific in our case: remote controlled quadcopters. Drones have become popular in recent years as newer technology has lead to affordable, ready to fly, consumer grade products.
So how do they work? 'Quad' refers to the four motors and blades that drive the drone giving it lift and acceleration. The spin of these blades controls the pitch, roll, and yaw of the drone.
Even basic consumer quads are armed with gyroscopes and accelerometers which measure how the quad is positioned and automatically corrects for any imbalance. A user equipped with a transmitting controller can fly the drone while it stays stable.
Quads are being utilized by a variety of different users bases: Hobbyists, law enforcement, scientific researchers, aerial photographers, and more. A drones ability to hover in place gives them a big advantage over remote controlled planes.
And with just a little practice users can get flying right out of the box. The future of drones is only going to increase as the FAA looks to regulate them for broader usage.
Above in our comparison guide you will find many of the top quads available in stores or online. As you can see there are a number of metrics that make each quad unique in its own way.
Below we have defined those metrics that we find to be the most important when comparing drones. This includes wingspan, flying time, camera, controller, sensors, and skill level.
Each variable has its pros and cons, but if you can find a good combination of these for the right price the you should feel satisfied in your choice.
The wingspan of a drone denotes the distance from blade tip to blade tip along one of its sides and is often measured in millimeters. A micro drone may be on the order of ~100 mm and larger consumer dones can get up to a whopping 300-400 mm.
I like to use wingspan as a metric because it gives an idea for how large the copter is which has a lot of bearing on what it is capable of doing and where it is able to fly well.
Drone flight stability is effected by the wingspan. Smaller, lighter, quads with a shorter wingspans are great for indoor flying where wind is not a factor, but can be somewhat unstable outdoors in the elements. A larger drone is more geared toward smoother outdoor flights but are harder to navigate through tighter areas.
With flying time we're looking at how long a drone can stay in the air after a single battery charge. This is affected by battery size, weight, and flying maneuvers.
For the most part quads in general don't have impressive flight times. Usually on the order of 10-18 minutes. Recharge times can be ~45-90 minutes so buying a spare battery to switch out is a good idea. There is a tradeoff manufacturers have to make between adding a large batter with more juice, and the added weight that comes with it.
Maneuvers like constant altitude changes or flips can drain a battery a lot faster than just a static hold. These cause more power to be used on the motors to gain lift and stability corrections.
Many quadcopters are now outfitted with onboard cameras or the ability to carry a small cameras in their payload. This provides a great way to record flights from the dones perspective and get a birds eye view of your surrounding.
One thing you'll have to consider is the quality of the camera. To save on space and weight lower resolution cameras are often utilized, with data being stored on an onboard MicroSD card or live streamed back to the controller.
The most high-end quads are used in cinematography to provide sweeping overhead shots and other forms of aerial photography.
We should always take into account what type of controller a drone comes with as this is what we'll be using to fly it around. For the safety of the drone and all its surroundings a easy to use controller is a top priority.
Most controllers are 2.4GHz and provide remote communications to the drone telling it how to control its motors. A basic controller will have analog sticks for adjusting the altitude and flight direction. Some even have a 'flip' button built in.
An additional built in LCD screen can provide real time flight diagnostics as the quad is airborne.
Another metric to consider is which additional sensors the quad includes.
The most popular would be GPS sensors which allow for a lot of different functionality. With this drones can really be 'automated' by programming Latitude/Longitude waypoints that it will fly to without user control.
For automatic altitude hold a drone will need to be equipped with some form of an altimeter. This can be a barometric sensor that measures atmospheric pressure, or an ultrasonic sensor that uses high frequency sound to measure distances.
One of the most important things to consider that is often overlooked is the skill level that is required to pilot a given drone. Not all drones are created equal.
While the quads accelerometers and gyros do a good job of keeping it balanced in air, controlling a quad is still a skill that needs to be attained through practice.
It takes time to get used to the controls and operating in a 3D flight zone, controling altitude, direction, and speed all at the same time. Newer flyers should stick to the smaller quads that are ready to fly (RTF) out of the box and won't do too much damage in crashes.
As you can see there are a ton of different drones that have all types of feature combinations that make them operate in their unique ways; but there are a few I want to highlight here as all around top quads. Below you will find drones that stand out amongst the vast market of drones for sale with a more detailed review. So, put your tray tables up and your seatbacks in the upright position as we dig into these:
The Parrot AR 2.0 Quad is one of my favorites due to the simplicity of its use. And I'm not the only one who thinks that, it is one of the best selling quads out there for a reason. Unlike most other drones on the market which use an analog 2.4GHz radio to control them the Parrot is controlled by WiFi over either an Iphone or Android app. This makes flying the Parrot as simple as playing Angry Birds.
Whats even better is that the Parrot has a built in forward facing camera that streams back its view to the app. So you're able to see what the drone sees and fly it in a first person view.
The Parrot works well flying indoors our outdoors and sports blade guards to prevent anything from getting chopped up by them, something I'd like to see on more quads. At $250+ this drone is well suited for someone who wants to do some small time aerial videography.
For those flyers new to the RC scene who are looking to get their feet wet with a basic quad a great option is the Husban X4 micro. At a price of less than $40 it is perfect for people who want to give drones a chance before making a larger investment in something more high end. And since it is RTF (Ready to fly) right out of the box newbies can get started zipping around right away.
The Husban has the most is really a 'base model' quad in that it doesn't have any features like a camera or sensors. But thats okay because the fun in this drone is all in the flying! Its small size makes it great for flying indoors and cruising it around your house. And it won't do much damage to itself or anything else you may fly it into. Taking it outside is definitely doable but in high wind situations is may be a beast to contorl.
Overall if you're looking for an inexpensive intro quad to see if flying sparks your interest the X4 is the way to go.
The Phantom in particular has become very popular for flyers wanting to do some aerial photography. Although it doesn't have a camera built into it the Phantom was designed to hold a GoPro camera in its payload.
While this does mean that video streaming can't be done, the tradeoff is the high quality of the GoPro which can shoot in HD video. This allows videographers to do some amazing tracking and overview shots that were impossible to them before.
The quad itself is larger then the other top quads we've pointed out. Its larger frame makes it better for maneuvering outside in light winds and with the weight of the external camera. Setup is easy out of the box and users can be flying withing 30 minutes of opening it up.
Now that you have seen the options and reviewed our top picks of all drones for sale its up to you to pick what meets your needs, is in your price range, is availabile to buy, and gets you flying.
As you know, new quads are being created all the time by new and old manufacturers. For that reason, the comparison chart above will be updated as new drones need to be added to the list. Or if you feel like we missed a superior quad that needs to be included on the list, let me know in the comments below!
While you're here be sure to check out our Quad Blog where we talk about all the latest drone news.