The best option is to seek out the best drones for beginners if you're new to drone flying and don't want to drop a wad of cash on an advanced model. To help you out, we have done the research for you, and with this handy guide, you'll soon be ready to take to the air.
Since Parrot launched its AR Drone with its own flight control, enabling anyone to keep it in the air without constant pilot adjustment, plenty of easy-to-fly drones have appeared on the market, bolstered by a whole load of improvements to drone technology. Most of the best drones today can practically fly themselves, follow their subjects automatically, and return to base when they're done; they hardly need a pilot!
Of course, when it comes to the best beginner drones, you won't get quite this much pilot assistance – especially if you're on a budget – but if you choose wisely, you shouldn't run into difficulties. You'll find an assortment of drones that are a joy to fly and even easier to set up; it's simply a matter of unboxing them, charging the batteries and taking off.
However, if you only need a simple toy drone, you may get more mileage from our best kids' drone guide. And if the price is your priority, look instead at our best cheap drone ranking. If not, read on for some buying advice, followed by our top beginners' picks.
Best drones for beginners to buy right now
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While it has the same 1/1.3-inch type sensor and can record 4K video, the DJI Mini 3 is distinctly more ‘entry-level’ than the DJI Mini 3 Pro. It lacks the object avoidance sensors for a start, there isn’t the option to shoot 48MP stills, there are fewer video options, and there’s no subject-tracking.
Nevertheless, it’s as stable in the air as the Mini 3 Pro, it’s very easy to fly, and you also get the excellent Quickshots modes. This means that the DJI Mini 3 is an excellent drone for first-time pilots, while the DJI Mini 3 Pro is a better choice for experienced drone-fliers wanting a sub-250g craft as an alternative to a larger drone such as the DJI Mavic 3, DJI Mavic 3 Classic or the new DJI Mavic 3 Pro.
Read our full DJI Mini 3 review.
Given that cost is the main deciding factor when choosing a first-time drone, we can think of no better introduction to the thrills – and occasional spills – of drone flying than this top-value beginners’ model from DJI. This dinky drone weighs a floaty 249g fully loaded, which is one gram shy of the CAA’s 250g regulation, and that means you won’t need to jump through as many legal hoops to fly it (see our guide to UK drone regulations for more info).
The DJI Mini 2 SE is a superb drone for beginners. It offers plenty of user-friendly features, such as Quickshots video modes, Auto Takeoff and Landing, different return-to-home modes and more. Better still, it can also help you progress towards more professional-grade drones by allowing you to shoot photos in RAW format and fly the aircraft in different modes (slow, normal and fast).
There are a couple of small trade-offs, such as the lack of 4K video resolution and no True Vertical Shooting options, but at this price point, it's hard to be mad at the DJI Mini 2 SE. You get what you pay for and then some. Beginner drone pilots and aerial photographers on a budget – don't miss this!
Read our full DJI Mini 2 SE review
Launched at the start of 2022, the Autel Evo Nano is the first drone to properly give DJI a run for its money in quite some time. In fact, if you have an unlimited budget, we'd probably recommend the Nano over the DJI Mini 2 because the latter has three-way obstacle avoidance sensors – undeniably useful for beginner drone fliers. There are a number of other features that make this a great choice for fledgling fliers. It's easy to set up, with a well-designed hand controller. It also clocks in under 250g, which means it's easy to transport, and you won't need to take heed of so many CAA regulations in order to get airborne.
Available in four colours – red, orange, white and grey – the Autel Evo Nano is also a drone that'll grow with you, thanks mainly to the outstanding camera, which has a 1/2-inch sensor that punches way above its weight, shooting 4K video and 48-megapixel stills. A beautifully weighted gimbal wheel creates super-smooth camera movement, and the camera also delivers a pin-sharp 2.7K live feed to your phone's screen – something that very few camera drones are capable of.
Read more in our Autel Evo Nano review
Aside from being one of the best-value drones for both indoor and outdoor flying, the Tello is also a brilliant learning tool since it can be programmed by the user to perform various movements using the Tello Edu mobile programming app (iOS and Android).
Not surprisingly, the Tello’s excellent flight characteristics and a raft of features are mostly a result of the DJI components it’s fitted with. It weighs just 80g and fits in the palm of the hand. To fly it, simply download the Tello app, connect the drone and use the virtual joystick controls – its vision positioning system is so well designed that you could take it off, go and make a cup of tea and when you get back, it’ll still be in the same position.
The Tello can also be launched by throwing it into the air, and it will even perform a circus of aerial tricks. But what really makes this little drone such a hit is that it comes with a 720p/5mp camera that streams digitally stabilised footage straight to a smartphone. The quality of the footage and photos it produces is pretty good for a drone of this size and perfectly acceptable for casual holiday use. Moreover, it also comes with a trio of handy pre-programmed EZ Shots (Circle, 360, Up & Away) for quick, fuss-free footage. It’s hard to believe so much tech could be crammed into a drone of such diminutive dimensions – and all for such a bargain price.
Read our full Ryze Tello review
If you want an easy-to-use drone that’s capable of capturing pristine 4K footage and high-resolution stills – and you have a bigger budget – the DJI Air 2S is, pound for pound, the best choice on the market. Like every drone in the DJI roster, it couldn’t be easier to get a handle on.
In our review, we were amazed at how smooth and responsive it is to your joystick input. It is truly confidence-inspiring to fly in most weather conditions, bar snow, rain and very high wind. From a cinematography and photography point of view, this drone absolutely excels because its camera is fitted with a one-inch Sony sensor that’s capable of shooting 5.4K at 30 frames per second, 4K at up to 60fps and 1080p at up to 120fps. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Add four-way obstacle sensing, OcuSync 3.0 technology for rock-steady image transmission and a plethora of autonomous in-flight features, and you have the best-value camera-equipped drone currently on the market. The only real drawback is that, at 595g, you'll need to jump through some CAA regulations before you can take to the skies.
Read our full DJI Air 2S review
Flying a drone indoors is an excellent way to learn how a drone behaves when you fiddle with the joysticks, and this one’s an excellent starting point since the control method is exactly the same as any large outdoor drone. The Potensic A20 comes with three sensitivity settings, so we’d suggest starting on the slowest setting first while you get to grips with its flight characteristics.
Thankfully, it also comes with a Headless mode that ensures the control directions (forward, backwards and sideways) remain the same no matter which way the drone is pointing. It also features a handy one-button take-off and landing function. You can expect to get a total of about 12 minutes of flying out of the two supplied batteries.
The palm-sized A20 is so light and small that it can be flown straight out of the box without the need for a CAA operator’s licence. Granted, it’s not as stable in flight as the Ryze Tello, and we wouldn’t advise using it outdoors, or even a light breeze will cause it to drift away. But as an introduction to drone flying on a really tight budget, the Potensic A20 is a very worthwhile contender.
Read our full Potensic A20 drone review
How to buy the best beginner drone for you
You’ll notice quite a few DJI and Autel models in our current list of drone articles, and indeed practically every other online guide to drones currently on the internet. This is because DJI and Autel are so far ahead of the curve when it comes to drone design and flight electronics that other manufacturers simply cannot keep up. Yes, there are loads of much, much cheaper drones (including a surfeit of DJI clones) littering the Amazon shopping mall, but the brutal truth is that none of them holds a candle to DJI or Autel.
Where the average Autel and DJI drone flies straight out of the box, the majority of cheap drones require complicated pairing with a phone that rarely works the first time you try it. This makes them frustrating to use right from the off. But that’s not all. Many companies will tell you that their budget-priced drone comes with an amazing 4K camera capable of taking stunning images and professional-quality video.
In reality, the video quality is usually a great disappointment (ie crap), mostly because the camera, its sensor and its electronics are cheap and substandard. Worse, the camera probably isn’t attached to a mechanical 3-axis gimbal, the clever gizmo that ensures video footage is smooth and jitter-free. In fact, it most likely uses a digital stabilising system instead, or worse, it has no stabilisation at all. Cheap drones are usually also equipped with cheap batteries that give up the ghost after about 10 minutes in the air.
Many cheap drones also tend to misbehave once airborne and perhaps fly erratically for some bizarre reason. Indeed, erratic flight behaviour was a well-known anomaly with DJI’s earlier Phantom drones, but years of research and development have erased pretty much every hiccup in its flight systems.
What we’re saying here is that, when it comes to drone choice, there are really only two truly reliable players, and those players are DJI and Autel. Their machines simply behave impeccably well, are a doddle to set up and fly and are filled with a staggering amount of sci-fi tech that keeps them reliably aloft in a range of atmospheric conditions. DJI and Autel's cameras, too, are widely considered to be among the very best for their purpose.