The quadcopter market is starting to explode… in an amazing way. Newer technologies have allowed for production of smaller and cheaper consumer grade drones to be introduced. As they are becoming more widespread people are discovering just how easy they are to fly and how capable these quads are.
With so many options available the question always comes up, what is the best quadcopter? Well, that is a debate that every quad enthusiast has their opinion, even us here at QuadHangar. Here’s our take on the issue:
QuadHangar’s Top Three Quadcopters
|Name||Hubsan X4 Quadcopter - a lot of people's favorite first drone||Parrot BeBop Quadcopter||DJI Phantom 3 Quadcopter|
|Lowest Price||$22.88Amazon See it||$169.99Amazon See it||$799.00Amazon See it|
|Best for||Indoor flying||Fun & camera work||Aerial Videography/Photography|
|Video Camera||No camera||1080p 30fps, 180° streaming||1920x1080p @60fps, streaming|
|Remote Control||2.4 GHz||IPhone or Android||2.4GHz included|
|Battery||3.7V LiPo||2x 1200 mAh||6000 mAh LiPo|
|Flight Time||7-9 min.||11 min||23 min.|
|Weight||0.88 pounds||2.97 pounds||2.8 pounds|
|Dimensions||2.56 x 2.56 x 1.57 inches||14.4 x 13.2 x 3.8 inches||18 x 13 x 8 inches|
|Read the Review||Read the Review||Read the Review|
What Sets Drones Apart
The cost and size of the technology used in these drones has been greatly reducted over the last few years, leading manufacturers to make more products. This is great news because that means there is an ever expanding list if drones for sale for us consumers to get in the air.
All quadcopters follow the same basic design principals. Four motors with blades that drive to give the quad its thrust and get it airborne. Inside the central housing is a gyroscope or acceleromter which measures how the quad is positioned in space; its pitch, roll, and yaw.
Using this information the quad can correct for any imbalances by adjusting the thrust for each motor individually. That is how it is able to stay stable in air and hover in place.
The pilot uses a transmitting controller to also provide directional controls to the drone, telling it to turn, spin, and gain/lose altitude. Flying a drone is incredibly easy once you have the basic controls down.
So if all drones have this basic setup in common what sets them apart? Here’s the main specs we look at when deciding the best quadcopter:
This is a big determining factor for how much external weight the drone can carry, and how well it will perform in outdoor windy conditions
How long the quad will fly for after a single charge, usually this is on the order of 8-15 minutes and depends on weight and battery size.
On board cameras are a great way to get a birds eye view of you’re flying area but quality can vary greatly between drones.
This is what is used to control the drones flight. Variations can be in configuration, communication distace, and frequency.
Beyond just the gyrosccope good drones will have some ancillary sensors like GPS or Altimiters for extra funcitonality.
Is the drone easy for beginners to fly or does it take a lot of experience. How forgiving is it when it in the possibilit of a crash?
The Most Important Factor For the Best Quadcopter
Given all the possible combinations of the metrics listed above, you can see how there would be plenty of different options for a choice in the best drone.
But beyond those listed there is one critical aspect that we here at at QuadHangar think is the most important. For us this is functionality; what do you want to use the quad for?
When you look at this factor you realize their can’t be one overall ‘best’ but rather a ‘best’ for what you want to accomplish while flying.
We see functionality split into three main categories:
The mini-quadcopter will be used as a fun toy to fly around your house. It will have a small size for easy maneuverability and won’t take or cause much damage in a crash. Not equipped with an onboard camera, or with a very basic one.
Fun & Camera Work
The quadcopter will be used in close range settings to grab some cool shots from the drone’s POV. You’re not trying to make movies here, just have fun seeing how it looks from the sky.
The quadcopter will be used primarily for outdoor videography using HD videos, such as real estate videos. You’ll be able to get footage like overhead tracking shots and wide angle establishing shots. Larger in size to handle the onboard camera.
Our Choices for Top Quadcopters
When we realize that functionality plays a huge role in deciding the best quadcopter it is much easier to make a decision because there are certain drones that stand out in each of these categories. Below you’ll find our choices along with why we picked them.
Indoor Flying: Hubsan X4 Micro Quadcopter
First its size makes it perfect for flying in small constrained spaces.
With a wingspan of 110×100 mm(2.56 x 2.56 inches) it is one of the smaller mini-quadcopters available out there. It basically can fit in the palm of your hand. This is great for indoor flying because it has plenty of room to maneuver without getting too close to anything.
Pilot it down thin hallways or just around the room, you’ll have plenty of space.
Second, its small size means that it won’t do as much damage in the event of a crash. Big quads tend to take out anything in their path when they go down; lamps, tv’s, mirrors, etc.
While the X4 can still break things, it is a bit more safer than its bigger competition.
Third, its beginner level controls make it easy to maneuver in small areas. The X4’s controller is adjustable to different degrees of responsiveness.
Changing this will effect how harshly the quad responds to any commands. By setting it on its lowest sensitivity you’ll be able to pilot it easily enough without worrying that it will shoot off in the wrong direction after nudging the analog sticks.
The X4 makes a great intro quadcopter for anyone looking to purchase their first one. At a price of ~70$ it is one of the most inexpensive ones you can get for the quality.
And it won’t break the bank if you want to try out a quad before investing more money in a larger one. The drone comes RTF (ready-to-fly right) out of the box so new users can get airborne right away.
The Husban is the most ‘basic’ quadcopter you can get. It doesn’t have any features like a camera or added sensors but is more about the fun of flying it around.
While its best for indoors it is certainly capable of holding its own outside as well. It has great stabalization and can hold its level even in windy conditions.
Click the link to read my full Hubsan X4 review.
Fun & Camera Work: Parrot BeBop Quadcopter
The Bebop promises to deliver for less than $500 a plethora of features so far exclusive of much more expensive quadcopters.
It’s equipped with an onboard camera capable of recording Full-HD 1080p in fish-eyes, and digitally emulating the tilt and pan movements. That is, getting quality ‘birds eye’ shots of the surrounding area.
The Parrot BeBop has a wingspan of 280×320 mm which makes it on very easy to transport and responsive to the commands.
With a large frame, compared to the Hubsan X4, it is better able to keep stable in outdoor, windy conditions, and carry a larger payload and battery Fly it outside and see how stable the shots are thanks to the excellent digital image stabilizer.
It can still be used indoor and sports a practical hull, to keep you and your home safe.
Fun flying and camera work is what the Parrot is great at for a number of reasons. The quality of the camera is great it can record at 1080p at 30 frames per second.
This is well beyond a lot of other drones which have onboard cameras.
The controls make it very easy to pilot. Most drones are controlled by a 2.4 GHz controller using two analog sticks to control the altitude and direction.
The Parrot is one of the only quadcopters that is controlled by either Iphone or Android, with the well-designed Flight 3 app. It uses an internal WiFi to connect the phone to the drone. The Flight 3 app provides the interface for controls, settings and the Drone Academy where pilots can share their flights info with the Parrot community.
Another great thing that makes it great for camera work is that the video from from the camera live streams from the drone to the phone app. This allows the user to see what the drone sees as it is flying, even if our review shows that the streamed video isn’t fluid enough for real FPV.
This is an improvement over other quadcopters whose video records to an SD card and can’t be viewed until it is downloaded later.
At a price of less than 500$ this drone is perfect for those people who want an upgrade over just a basic model. The high quality camera along with its accessory sensors make it very versatile in what it can be used for.
This is definitely one of the most popular drones out there.
Click the link to read my full Bebop Parrot review.
Aerial Videography: DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter
Its high quality, large payload capacity, and broad flying functionality makes it ideal for this type of flying.
Aerial videography is the process of capturing video from an air based platform like a quadcopter, helicopter, or RC plane through use of an onboard our mounted camera.
We classify it as different from basic camera work by its higher degree of quality. While basic cameras are low resolution with poor quality lens’, videography would entail HD video to give a great look.
When we speak of aerial videography we are thinking in terms of professional, production grade quality. The Phantom 3 comes in four models but we recommend the top 2:
- DJI Phantom 3 Advanced: equipped with a 1080p camera @60 FPS.
- DJI Phantom 3 Professional: equipped with a 4K camera @60 FPS and faster battery charger.
The DJI Phantom 3 is our best choice for this because of its build-in camera and flying capabilities.
The 3-axis gimbal gives great stability to the images and with a 23 minutes battery life this quadcopter can stay airborne long enough to take some great shots.
Due to the popularity of the Phantom family, there are a lof of accessories for Phantom 3 ranging from extra batteries to travel cases and light kits.
Its wide frame and powerful motors (improved from the previous models) give it the ability to stay stable in flight, even windy conditions. This provides the perfect means for getting tracking shots of subjects or wide angle establishing shots.
At it’s price the Phantom 3 is not a toy but the quality of the drone justifies it’s price. It really is a smooth operating drone that delivers a lot of functionality for videography.
Looking at videos online from other users’ Phantoms you can clearly see the high quality footage that is attainable.
Click here to read my Phantom 3 review.
Learn to fly
Now that you know how to choose your drone, check the excellent how to fly a quadcopter guide by our friends at UAVcoach.