I get asked often what are the best quadcopters for beginners to start with. Many of my friends and family are flocking to the hobby because of the aerial photographs they see online as well as the ease of flying most quadcopters. However, it can be challenging to find the right quadcopter to suit your experience and expectations. There are so many different quadcopters on the market that it can be a little overwhelming for beginners to choose from, especially if you have no experience in any RC aircrafts. If you are entirely new to the hobby, here are a couple of things that you should think about before buying a quadcopter. First, figure out how much you can spend on the quadcopter. It seems like a basic question, but most people lose sight of this when they expect a toy quadcopter to have the same features as a high end quadcopter. As a beginner, make sure to consider the size, ease of use, setup and flight time and most importantly durability of the quadcopter before you purchase it.
We recommend starting with the micro (toy) quadcopters and not any of the nano sized quadcopters when learning how to fly. While nano quadcopters are extremely cheap, they’re very unstable, as the typical stabilization gyros found in the larger quadcopters are removed to conserve on weight and space. If you happen to crash a nano quadcopters, you’ll have to buy an entirely new quadcopter, because all of the parts of the quadcopter are typically one single unit.
A larger quadcopter also won’t get effected as much by the wind. By adding size, you add more space that quadcopter designers can use to add advanced stabilization sensors to the device in addition to weight. Professional quadcopters (Spreading Wings S1000) and Hobby sized quadcopters (Phantom 2, AR Drone) are much more stable in the air than micro quadcopters and nano sized quads (Estes Proto X).
Ease of Use
For beginners, some form of stabilization is necessary to have a pleasant first time flying experience. Stabilization comes from various types of sensors including gyros, barometers, cameras or even flight computers. While beginners enjoy these features when they start, it’s limiting as their experience increases. Quality quadcopters have both a “beginner mode” and an advanced mode, and we recommend purchasing these types, as most beginners eventually grow out of the beginner mode (training wheels off!). Advanced modes allow of more agile motion but increases the difficulty of flying a quad, which is a great way for beginners to progress their skills.
If you’re looking to fly only outside, start with a larger hobby-sized quadcopter or a very stable micro quadcopter. As we mentioned earlier, these quads can take a little wind and will automatically stabilize when it’s tilted or off-balance. If you’re looking to fly only inside, definitely start with a micro quadcopter. Flying a hobby-sized will likely damage your quadcopter and most likely really get yourself hurt. The blades are sharp and fast enough to lacerate you!
Setup and Flight Time
Always look for a Ready-To-Fly (RTF) quadcopter when purchasing one for the first time. They usually can be piloted through a mobile application or through a vendor supplied transmitter. The transmitters for micro-sized quadcopters aren’t really high quality, but most of them can be swapped out for a better transmitter if you need to upgrade. But then again, why would you? You’ll most likely be moving onto a better quadcopter anyway. Stay away from the Bind-and-Fly (BNF) models that are out there.
Once you get in the air, you’ll notice that most of these quadcopter don’t fly for very long. Most of the quadcopters fly for about 5 – 10 minutes, with 15 minutes (DJI Phantom 2) being the longest for all of them. Make sure to always buy additional batteries for the quadcopters. There’s nothing more frustrating for beginners than getting into the groove of things and having your battery run out. Or worse, having your batter run out right and not having enough money to fly back.
Finally, as a beginner you’ll want a durable quadcopter. You’ll do a lot of boneheaded maneuvers like I did, and end up crashing your quad against walls, floors and sometimes even the family dog (sorry, Scout!). The problem I found was that there are a lot of models on the market that are made from cheap material and break pretty easily.
Our Recommended Quadcopter for Beginners
Now that you know what to look for and what to avoid in a quadcopter, here’s our list of recommended quads.
1. Hubsan X4 (all versions) – (See our full review) The Hubsan X4 is a great micro quadcopter primarily for indoor use, but you can fly it outdoor if the weather is mild. It’s RTF and the battery is completely charged in less than 30 minutes. The flight time isn’t bad and comes in at about 10 minutes. It also comes with both a beginner and advanced setting, when you’re ready to start flying without the training wheels. >> See Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.com <<
2. Syma X5 – (See our full review) The Syma X5C is a micro quadcopter, but it’s actually the biggest micro quadcopter available. It really looks like a hobby-sized quadcopter like the DJI Phantom. And it’s a bargain! It comes in at around $50 on Amazon.com, a great bargain for this durable and fun quadcopter. Aside from looking great, it also comes with a 2MB 720P camera for newbie aerial photographers who want to see what its like to film from the air. >> See Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.com <<
3. Blade Nano QX – (See our full review of the BNF version) The Blade Nano QX is a very durable frame that can withstand the wear and tear that comes with learning how to fly quadcopters. It’s best feature is the SAFE flying technology that provides auto stabilization features that allow it to hover by itself and rounds out some of the incorrect moves that a new pilot may make. Once you’ve mastered the beginner mode, you can switch SAFE to the agility mode to allow it more precise movements. It’s the perfect indoor flying machine. >> See Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.com <<
4. Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 – (See our full review) The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is one of the more popular quadcopters on the market. This quadcopter is a Hobby sized quadcopter, making it a little more expensive than micro quadcopters, but the least expensive compared to other quadcopters in the Hobby class (DJI Phantom 2, Walkera QR X350). It can be operated using any Android or iOS device by installing the vendor application. The app allows you to see what the quadcopter sees, while taking pictures and videos directly with your smart-phone. The Parrot AR Drone also comes with GPS, something that micro quadcopters usually can’t add on because of weight. Couple with the Flight Recorder app, the GPS functionality allows you to map out a flight plan as well as allows the quadcopter to automatically fly home in case of low battery or lost signal. It’s a great quadcopter for those who are serious and a taste of what the bigger quadcopters can do. >> See Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.com <<