The best beginner drones for 2024: top flying cameras for new pilots

We know what makes a great beginner drone: the top options are easy to pilot, fun to fly and let you shoot stunning aerial images. But we also know from our hands-on reviews that different drones work better for different people. That’s why our ranked round-up features a range of choices for first-time flyers, from entry-level models to premium machines.

Based on hours and hours of flying time, we think the best drone for most beginners is the DJI Mini 3. It lacks the collision avoidance sensors of the more expensive DJI Mini 4 Pro, but its compact design, intuitive controls and automated shooting modes make it a fantastic all-rounder for new pilots. If you have a lower budget for your first drone, we also recommend the Ryze Tello: at just 80g, it’s our favorite lightweight drone for learners.

A potential DJI ban in the US means that you might not be able to buy or fly a DJI drone in US skies. We've made sure our guide includes the best DJI alternatives should this ban fully come to pass. Either way, be sure to read through our whole guide for a complete picture of the best beginner drones on the market that we've extensively tested in the real world. Our expert reviewers assess a range of factors in flight, including battery life, ease of use and stability, as well as safety features and image quality. 

To make your buying decision easier, we’ve listed the good and the bad about each drone, and suggested which type of pilot we think it’s best for. If you’re more confident at the controls, take a look at our pick of the best drones overall.

Written by
Tim Coleman
Written by
Timothy Coleman

Tim is TechRadar's Cameras editor, with over 15 years in the photo video industry and most of those in the world of tech journalism, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with all things camera related. Tim notes, "in curating this guide, we've tried to cover a range of beginner drones for different buyers. Some are affordable, entry-level options. Others are mid-range models that cost more, but give learners more possibilities as their skills improve. If you're in the US, it could pay to explore DJI alternatives with a potential DJI ban looming."

The quick list

If you’re ready to get off the ground, the summary below will give you an instant overview of the top beginner drones. When you land on one which suits your needs and budget, you can use the links to fly down to our full write-ups.

The best beginner drones in 2024

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Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best beginner drones in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

The best beginner drone overall

DJI Mini 3 drone in flight

(Image credit: Future)
The best all-round drone for most beginners

Specifications

Best for: Most beginner flyers
Camera resolution: 12MP
Range: 10km
Weight: 248g
Battery size: 2453mAh
Controller: Yes (available without)

Reasons to buy

+
Great image quality
+
Small, lightweight build

Reasons to avoid

-
No collision avoidance
-
No subject tracking
Buy it if:

✅ You want a cheap second drone: If would like a smaller and lighter drone with fewer flight restrictions than a larger drone, the Mini 3 is a great option.

✅ You want aerial photos: Image quality is identical to the more expensive Mini 3 Pro, so you won’t outgrow the capabilities of the Mini 3 too soon. 

Don't buy it if:

You want collision avoidance: For peace of mind when flying your drone close to trees and in more complex environments, you'll need to spend more.

❌ You fly in windy weather: The Mini 3 can in theory fly in wind up to 24mph, but not easily and it'll struggle and drift.

DJI’s latest compact drone lands as the best edition for beginners yet. Like both of its Mini predecessors, the DJI Mini 3 is a lightweight flying machine with a small folding body, intuitive controls and useful automated filming modes. Like those same predecessors, it still misses out on collision avoidance – something you only get by spending more on the Pro version. But it proved every bit the quality drone in testing: we found it forgiving to pilot using the standard controller, which is the same as the one supplied with the Mini 2. Drift was only an issue in the windiest conditions.

While it lacks the Log profiles of DJI’s premium drones, we found that its 1/1.3-inch sensor – larger than the DJI Mini 2’s – captured sharp 4K/30p footage that was excellent overall. What also set it apart was the ability to rotate its 12MP sensor to portrait for shooting social content. If you already have a DJI Mini 2, the case for upgrading is less compelling. But if you’re shopping for a well-built and feature-packed beginner drone, this is the best you can get.

Read our in-depth DJI Mini 3 review

The best budget beginner drone

Ryze Tello, one of the best beginner drones, mid-flight

(Image credit: Future)
The best budget beginner drone

Specifications

Best for: Budget-conscious flyers
Camera resolution: 5MP
Range: 100m
Weight: 80g
Battery size: 1100mAh
Controller: iOS/Android phone and Tello app

Reasons to buy

+
Responsive controls
+
Tiny and lightweight
+
Decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t fly well in wind
-
No controller included
Buy it if:

✅ You're getting started: The simple app and responsive controls help you master basic flight manoeuvres, take-offs and landings.

✅ You’re an indoor pilot: With rotor guards and stability sensors, the Tello is safe and easy to fly inside.

Don't buy it if:

You want decent quality video: The Tello is limited to choppy and compressed 720p videos.

❌ You want to go far: The Tello has a low range and restricted altitude and so it can't fly far or high.

Designed in partnership with DJI, the Ryze Tello is an affordable, featherweight drone that’s great for mastering the basics of flight. It can be controlled via the Tello smartphone app and Wi-Fi, but you can also use a Bluetooth gaming controller – albeit at a shorter range. It proved to be a responsive and lively flier during our tests, which makes it an effective way to master the ups and downs of quadcopter flying.

It’s not all positive. The flight range is limited (well below the 100m maximum Ryze suggests, think 30m instead), while the slightest breeze will send the drone drifting off in whatever direction it’s blowing. The 720p video camera isn’t up to much either, and with no local storage it sends all footage and photos directly to your phone – which results in choppy video if and when the Wi-Fi connection dips in and out.

Those caveats aside, the Tello is a great starter drone that does the simple things well and feels better made than other budget models. It's the obvious pick for the best budget beginner drone category.

Read our in-depth Ryze Tello review

The best premium beginner drone

Dji Mini 4 Pro in flight in front of trees

(Image credit: James Abbott)
The best premium beginner drone

Specifications

Best for: Flyers with deep pockets
Camera resolution: 12MP / 48MP
Range: 20km
Weight: 249g
Battery size: 2,590 mAh (or 3,890 mAh 'Plus' version not available in Europe)
Controller: Yes (available without)

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive low-light performance
+
Omnidirectional Vision Sensing
+
Useful automated flight modes

Reasons to avoid

-
Upgrades may not tempt Mini 3 Pro owners
-
Not suited to windy conditions
Buy it if:

✅ You’re a pro drone pilot looking for a second drone: The Mini 4 Pro's D-Log M color profile matches the look in pro models from the Mavic 3 series, making it a great sub-250g second drone.

✅ You want a premium sub-250g drone: With excellent image quality, flight features and safety features, there's currently no better sub-250g drone available.

Don't buy it if:

You’re a happy Mini 3 Pro owner: While the Mini 4 Pro's new features are impressive, they won’t justify an upgrade for many.

❌ Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance is overkill: If you're unlikely to fly in complex environments you could opt for the DJI Mini 3 Pro instead – it's tri-directional obstacle avoidance is sufficient already.

Succeeding the Mini 3 Pro – our previous favorite premium beginner drone – the Mini 4 Pro is an incremental upgrade that uses the same f/1.7 aperture camera and 1/1.3-inch sensor. From our tests, it produces excellent quality 12MP / 48MP images in raw and JPEG, with very little noise up to its maximum ISO 6400 setting. Filmmakers enjoy a couple of improvements, though, including 4K video now up to 100fps, plus D-Log M color profile that makes the Mini 4 Pro an enticing option as a second drone to a pro-level Mavic 3-series model, where color consistency is easily achieved. 

Any disappointment over the perceived lack of camera improvements should be quelled by the Mini 4 Pro's flight and safety features. The Mini 4 Pro boasts Omni Directional Obstacle Avoidance (the Mini 3 Pro has tri-directional obstacle avoidance), improved subject tracking performance, plus a more extensive transmission range, up to 20km depending on your region and what's legally possible. This sub-250g drone is another level to all of the other drones in this guide, and it's so good it'll have you wondering if you need to register a drone again.  

Read our in-depth DJI Mini 4 Pro review

The best DJI alternative for beginners

Autel EVO Nano+, one of the best beginner drones, mid-flight

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)
The best DJI drone alternative for beginners

Specifications

Best for: Low-light shooters
Camera resolution: 12.5MP
Range: 16.8km
Weight: 249g
Battery size: 2250 mAh
Controller: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Big sensor and bright lens
+
Collision detection
+
Stunning video and stills

Reasons to avoid

-
Fragile
-
Still missing subject-tracking
Buy it if:

✅ You’d rather avoid DJI: The Autel Evo Nano+ is the competition that DJI needs.

✅ You like low-light photography: The image quality from this drone beats the DJI Mini 3.

Don't buy it if:

You use third-party applications: Currently, Autel doesn’t offer an API to allow external companies to develop software tools for their drones.

❌ You fly in windy conditions: Despite the same Level 5 wind resistance performance varies, and we’d place the Nano+ closer to the Mini 3, but behind the Mini 4 Pro.

The Autel Evo Nano+ takes on DJI's Mini 4 Pro in the sub-250g drone category. That's no easy undertaking, with the latter being so close to perfect. But to its credit, the Evo Nano+ is an impressive beginner drone in its own right. During our tests, we found that its sensor surpasses our current top pick for beginners, the DJI Mini 3, when it comes to low-light performance. It's just about on par when dealing with windy conditions, too. That makes it an easy recommendation for us, especially if you love capturing sunsets and twilight cityscapes – not to mention if you need a high-performance drone that meets Europe's critical weight limits.

Admittedly, the Mini 4 Pro has the overall edge here. However, the Evo Nano+ should see refinements over time, thanks to Autel's adding new features and making improvements via firmware updates. And, if you're looking for an ace alternative to DJI's offerings, this one should be at the top of your list.

Read our in-depth Autel Evo Nano+ review

The best beginner FPV drone

BetaFPX Cetus X drone on wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
The best FPV drone for beginners

Specifications

Best for: First-time FPV flyers
Camera resolution: N/A
Range: 600m
Weight: 55g
Battery size: 450mAh
Controller: Optional

Reasons to buy

+
Complete FPV starter kit
+
Multiple flight modes

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires plenty of patience
-
Short battery life
Buy it if:

✅ You want to try out FPV flying: This is the ready-to-fly FPV kit for those looking to try their wings.

✅ You want a high octaine drone experience: Once you get to grips especially with the Manual/Acro mode, FPV drones are hugely fun and exciting. 

Don't buy it if:

You want to take aerial photos: FPV drones are primarily for flying and not photography.

❌ You get motion sick: If you typically suffer from motion sickness, FPV drones in general might not be for you.

If you want to try flying an FPV drone, we think the BetaFPV Cetus X Kit is a top choice. As a package, it comes with everything you need for first-person flight, including a transmitter and a basic set of goggles. More powerful than models like the Cetus Pro, we found that its multiple flight modes and speed settings also make it an FPV drone you can grow with. Provided you have the stomach to stick it out without succumbing to motion sickness, the Cetus X will reward you with an immersive flying experience. 

During our review, it took time and patience to master the Manual/Acro mode. Crashes are also inevitable, and while the frame is built to withstand impacts, it did crack in our tests. We also found the video feed prone to break-up and interference, and while a built-in DVR can record flight feeds, this isn’t a drone for stills photography. Battery life was also a disappointment, rated at just five minutes. But with enough power to perform simple freestyle tricks and everything in the box to get airborne, this is our favorite FPV kit for first-timers.

Read our in-depth BetaFPV Cetus X review

The best DJI Mini 3 alternative

Potensic Atom in flight

(Image credit: James Abbott)
The best DJI Mini 3 alternative for beginners

Specifications

Best for: Beginners on a budget
Camera resolution: 12MP
Range: 6km
Weight: 249g
Battery size: 2,230mAh
Controller: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Intelligent flight features
+
Manual camera control

Reasons to avoid

-
No collision avoidance
-
Fixed-focus lens
Buy it if:

✅ You want control of the camera: Beginner drones don't usually offer manual camera control and the ability to capture photos in raw format, but the Atom bucks this trend.

✅ You want stable videos: A 3-axis mechanical gimbal that stabilizes 4K 30fps video, in a fly more drone combo kit costing less than $400 / £400 / AU$700? Yes please.

Don't buy it if:

You want decent safety features: If you want the safety net that obstacle avoidance affords, you’ll have to fork out extra for a pricier alternative.

❌ You shoot video in bright light: Without ND filters it’s impossible to achieve the correct exposure and 180-degree shutter rule in bright conditions.

Not to be confused with the Potensic Atom SE, the newer Atom comes a year later and addresses the Atom SE's shortcomings and sits somewhere between the DJI Mini 2 SE and the DJI Mini 3. It's a fanstastic beginner drone that our review says, "offers a performance that belies its low cost"; cheaper than the Mini 3, the Atom costs less than $400 / £400 / AU$700 in a fly more combo kit that adds two additional batteries, a fast-charging hub with a power adaptor and carry case in addition to the generous accessories that come in the standard kit. 

The Atom's highlights include manual camera control, raw 12MP photos, 4K video up to 30fps and a mechanical 3-axis gimbal; all of these features are rare in a beginner drone at this price level. The mechanical gimbal gives smoother video footage than the Atom SE, while also enjoyed the improved  GPS accuracy and intelligent flight features including subject tracking. The Atom drone isn't perfect; its lens focus is fixed, there's no obstacle avoidance (which you don't get at this price point), nor are there ND filters available to regulate shutter speed for video in bright light. However, Potensic's best-ever drone is fantastic value and a true DJI alternative.

Read our in-depth Potensic Atom review

The best selfie drone

HoverAir X1 flying against a blue sky with white clouds

(Image credit: James Abbott)
The best drone for selfies

Specifications

Best for: Aerial selfies
Camera resolution: 2.7K video, 12MP photos
Range: N/A
Weight: 125g
Battery size: 1,050mAh
Controller: No

Reasons to buy

+
Super quick start up
+
Decent subject tracking

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited flight time
-
Relatively pricey
Buy it if:

✅ You have zero drone experience: You can get airborne in a matter of seconds and get flying with no experience.

✅ You want aerial selfies: The smooth 2.7K video and excellent tracking features combine for selfies with a difference.

Don't buy it if:

You want manual control: The HoverAir X1 works best as an automated drone – if you like taking control there are better alternatives.

❌ You want the best bang for buck: You don't need to spend much more to get a more features packed drone, such as the DJI Mini 4K.

If you're new to drones and simply want explore what these aerial devices are about and have a lot of fun along the way, the HoverAir X1 is an excellent choice. It's a tiny drone that folds down super small and weighs just 4.4oz / 125g, with a cage-like protective propellor guards. And you don't need much drone experience: unboxing to take off from the palm of your hand takes a matter of seconds, while the subject tracking mode for selfies does the hard work for you. 

You get respectable 12MP photos and 2.7K video resolution and, more importantly, super smooth video footage – this is a selfie stick on steroids. We found the subject tracking performs incredibly well, although flight times from a full charge were under 10 minutes – that's much lower than larger alternatives. The HoverAir X1 is a tad on the pricey side considering what you get and what similarly priced rivals like the DJI Mini 4K offer. However, you're paying for convenience, portability and automated fun, which the X1 has in spades.

Read our in-depth HoverAir X1 review

How to choose the best beginner drone

What are the best beginner drone features?

Beginner drones come in a range of shapes and sizes, but the best models all share a few key features. If you’re just starting out, then a slick companion app will be invaluable – some of the best we’ve tried are from DJI, Ryze and FIMI. A drone that’s happy to hover in place will also allow you to carefully learn the controls and understand how sensitive it is to commands. A few of the drones above, such as the DJI Mini 3, also feature preset flying tricks that allow you to easily capture Hollywood-style shots, which can produce impressive results with just a little bit of practice.

What’s the best beginner drone for videography?

If you’re looking for a beginner drone with a camera, then bear in mind that you’ll need to spend a bit more to get genuinely usable footage. Look for a drone with a camera that has at least a 1080/30p mode. A low-resolution sensor like the 720p one found on the Ryze Tello is fine for learning the basics, but you’ll need to spend at least $350 / £300 / AU$550 to get a really high-quality camera, such as the 4K recorder on the DJI Mini 3.

What’s the best beginner outdoor drone?

It’s important to think about where you’re most likely to fly your drone. If you’re happy to stay indoors or in sheltered spots near your home, then a small, toy model (like the Ryze Tello or Revell Icon) will be fine. But for more ambitious flights, you’ll need a drone that can withstand gusts of wind and a few crash landings, like the DJI Mini 3. Drones with obstacle avoidance sensors, such as the DJI Mini 3 Pro, are the safest to fly outdoors, but these usually come at a premium.

The DJI Mini 3 Pro drone resting on the ground

(Image credit: Future)

Do I need a license to fly a drone?

Drone laws mean that taking to the sky is tightly regulated. This is to ensure that the skies remain safe for everyone, especially around sensitive locations such as airports and national parks. Drone laws also try to address privacy concerns when camera-equipped drones fly in residential areas.

In many regions, like the US, drones that weigh below 250g do not need to be registered with a civil aviation authority. You'll still need to follow all the local drone laws, such as keeping your drone within line of sight at all time, but registration commonly isn't required.

This isn't the case in all countries, though. In the UK, drones weighing less than 250g used to be exempt from registration requirements. This has now changed, so that owners of any drone with a camera will need to register their flying machine with the Civil Aviation Authority and get an Operator ID. You can do this for a fee of £9 per year, provided you’re 18 or over.

If your drone weighs more than 250g, you’ll also need a Flyer ID. To get this, you’ll need to take an online test consisting of 40 multiple-choice questions. The answers can all be found in the Drone Code and should help to ensure that you’re a safer flyer.

If your drone weighs less than 250g and does not have a camera, you won’t need either ID. But you’ll still need to check that you’re piloting your drone in line with the UK’s drone laws. According to the Drone Code, that means keeping eyes on your drone at all times, not flying higher than 120m above the ground and staying at least 150m away from built-up areas. And you’ll need to avoid restricted airspace, which is usually around airports.

Autel EVO Nano+

(Image credit: Mark Pickavance)

How we test beginner drones

When it comes to beginner drones, their usability and flying importance is just as important as their cameras – so we place equal emphasis on both during our testing.

To test the former, we run through their stabilization in the air, overall responsiveness and their top speed. Most beginner drones lack obstacle avoidance powers, but if they do have them we fly them though an obstacle course to see how well they work. 

After checking the drone's battery life claims based on real-world flights, we then move onto their cameras. Most beginner drones have small sensors that struggle in high-contrast situations, but we fly them through a variety of lighting conditions to see where their breaking point is and in what conditions you can realistically expect usable footage.

We then evaluate their footage, taken at a range of frame-rates, on a calibrated monitor, alongside some of the drone's sample still photos. When it comes to image quality, we look at detail, sharpness across the frame, and high ISO noise handling. We then combine these results with our overall impression of the drone's design, features and value to produce our final verdict.

Timothy Coleman
Cameras editor

Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other. 

With contributions from