BEST PICK

Best Hobby Drones: List of Top Picks for RC Hobbyist

Flying a drone with hd camera
Jack Brown
Written by Jack Brown

During the last couple of years, what started off as a small free time activity for some people, has turned into a burning obsession for many across the world. Today, buying the best hobby drones is something that is very important to many people.

So, we decided to share some information regarding the background and rise of the hobby that will no doubt be crowding streets and the parks in your city pretty  soon.

As far as we know, many who are now looking for hobby drones available on the market, started as small indoor helicopter pilots. Some of those even used primitive models which were attached by a cord to the controller.

In 2014, the number of serious commercial drone pilots, the ones with licenses held, was around 200. And last year, that number jumped to 1200. Many think that this was the peak of the drone market.

Hobby drone in action

In our opinion, something that is this futuristic, interesting for free spirited people, and gives the exciting ability to go nearly anywhere, is far from being at its peak. Probably the reason why some think this way is because of those who fall in the almost serious hobbyist category.

They want to get into the drone piloting hobby, but skip the flying lessons with a tiny drone, thinking that piloting is a piece of cake, and buy more serious professional drones, crash them on the first day and give up on flying completely.

People have no idea how difficult it is to pilot these things, and that you need time and practice to master the skills.

There are also people who say the drone market is not going to evolve because of the restrictions, and they are probably right to a certain degree. You are probably aware that there were some firmware updates for some drone models, which don’t allow them to go over places such as the nation’s capital in DC, stadiums, near airports, and more.

However, even though some might give up on drone piloting because of restrictions, there are more people who think that the rest of the planet is pretty much considered as an open playground.

Drone Registrations

One of the biggest reasons why we are convinced that this hobby is going to be bigger and bigger is because more and more drones are sold with a camera.

Whether we are talking about recording flights over beaches, green meadows, jungles, or even volcanoes, once the drone is in the air, and it starts transmitting the video, everyone gets instantly hooked. Below is how flying and making aerial footage looks like with a hobby drone.

Top 5 models you can use as a hobby

The real reason why hobby drones have such an amazing popularity now (and believe us they will become even more popular over the next few years), is because only a decade ago, RC hobbyists really didn’t have many options for drones that came with a full 360 degrees spectrum of control, not to mention that the camera option was science fiction back then.

However, the things have changed, and now, even after some bizarre FAA rules,  the number of registered hobby drone pilots is on the rise and more and more people are ready to hit the skies! So, if you are looking the best hobby drone to start conquering the skies, here are 5 of the best models on the market and some unique features about each one of them.

Hubsan X4 H107D with FPV Camera

The Hubsan X4 is unbelievably popular in the drone world. Many drone pilots started with this model, and it remained their favorite one even after they bought more complex and expensive models. For such a small drone, the control distance is unbelievable.

The manufacturer claims that it can fly and be controlled up to 100m, but judging by the customer reviews, it can be controlled even up to 150m, but you will lose the video signal and have to rely on looking at the drone to control it.

The X4’s frame is amazingly durable, considering how lightweight it is. One of the cool features is that the legs are binned with the drone body with little snaps, meaning that you can hit walls as much as you want, they will be “dislocated”, but you can just snap them back together.

Hubsan X4 H107D with FPV Camera

The controller comes with a built-in screen, and it allows you to have instant FPV (first person view) experience. Also, if you want to use FPV goggles, there is a spot on the side of the controller where you just plug in your headset, making this model the easiest FPV system setup you’ve ever come across.

But, as we already mentioned, the video transmission range is shorter than control range and is less than 100m. When the drone gets out of the video transmission range, you will get a fuzzy picture and its in-the-line-of-sight flying from there.

Here are X4’s main features:

  • Control distance: 100meters
  • Live video distance: around 100 meters
  • 6-axis flight control system with adjustable gyro sensitivity
  • Lightweight airframe
  • Great durability
  • Instant video preview
  • Battery: 3.7V Voltage, 380mAh li-po battery
  • Immersive FPV Flight
  • SD card record of the flight
  • 1S 380mAh 3.7V LiPO battery included
  • The 4 AA batteries not included in the box

But, it does have a few cons:

  • Short video transmission distance
  • Controller batteries get drained pretty fast (we suggest investing in rechargeable ones)
  • Not an easy learner

The Hubsan can be bought with a camera for around $130, but if you are not interested in aerial videos or FPV flying, you can find models without the camera, and they are much cheaper, you can buy them for around $40.

All in all, this drone offers hours of fun, is versatile, and pretty fast. For a drone hobbyist, this is a pretty great purchase. If you interested you can buy it from Amazon.

SYMA X5C Explorers

When taking into consideration what this hobby drone offers, the price it comes with is quite unbelievable. If you ask the pro-drone pilots, they will probably criticize it, but hey, for around 40 bucks, you can’t even dream of buying a supped-up model with fancy features and amazing control distances.

But, don’t worry because you really get quite a setup. The Syma X5C comes equipped with a 2mp video camera (which is actually nowhere near HD quality), and 2GB Micro SD card, which is actually amazing when you remember the price.

SYMA X5C Explorers

Furthermore,  the drone can perform quick flips with the press of a single button. All the owners agree that it is unbelievably easy to control, that it is really stable and hovers superbly. The only downside is the short flight time, 7 minutes max, but heck, you can still make some great aerial footage and shoot some great selfies from the air in that time frame.

Here are its main features:

  • Control distance: 200meters
  • Equipped with a 2MP camera and 2GB memory card
  • Perform flips at the press of a button with 360-degree eversion
  • Wind resistant and can be flown indoors or outdoors
  • 6-axis Gyro stabilization system ensures maximum stability during flight
  • 7 Minute flight time and 100 minute charge time.

It has a few cons, however:

  • Flight time is just 5 to 7 minutes max
  • The blades just shut off when the battery is low (on most other drone models the lights flash to warn you, and you slowly lose altitude)
  • It doesn’t really offer HD video footage
  • It is a bit noisier than other models

All in all, the Syma X5C is really the perfect gateway toy for those who want to get out in the open and practice their drone piloting skills. The clips you make with the drone will not win you the Oscar that’s for sure, but you will gain some pretty serious flying time and feel much more confident when you order a more serious, or perhaps a professional drone model. You can also find out much more about this model and all the models from this series, by reading our article about the Syma X5 series.

Here is how it looks in the air:

If you interested you can purchase it on Amazon.

UDI 818A HD+ RC Quadcopter Drone with HD Camera

The reason why we added this drone to our list is because of its great customer reviews, and because it offers more memory and a bit longer flight time than the Syma X5C quad for around 50 bucks more.

The appearance of the UDI 818A can be characterized as being different in comparison with the SYMA X5C. It is much slimmer looking and all black, and it kind of resembles of a bumblebee or fly. By the words of the owners, this drone is amazing when it comes to hovering, and it has a much better camera than the Syma X5C.

UDI 818A HD+ RC Quadcopter Drone with HD Camera

However, the main problem with the camera is that when it loses the signal from the controller, it stops filming and continues when the signal is back. This means that any little interference will cause the camera to pause.

When it comes to the controller, apart from the standard functions like controls, trim controls, stunt button, return-to-home button, there is a really cool and useful feature the controller offers and that is the loud beeping sound when the battery is running low. Furthermore, this drone is so light that it doesn’t need to be registered with the FAA.

Here are some of the main features:

  • Control distance – 150 meters
  • Headless Mode – You don’t need to adjust aircraft position before the flight and it also improves the learning curve
  • FAA Registration NOT Required
  • Return Home Button – With a single press of a button your drone will return to its starting position
  • 2MP HD Camera – Offers high-res aerial photos and videos
  • 6 Axis Gyro Stability – Allows the drone to be very maneuverable and stable

But, it does come with some cons as well:

  • Like most of the hobby drones, the flight time is short, in this case, 7 to 8 minutes max
  • The camera stops recording when the drone goes out of controller range
  • Not so strong against winds

All in all, this is a perfect drone if you got tired of flying with your micro drone, and want to step up the ladder a bit and try out aerial filming as well, and, to get a much better insight on all the features this model offers, we suggest reading our UDI U818A in-depth review. You can see what this baby can do here:

If you think that this product could be useful for you, then you can check the current deal for it on Amazon.

Holy Stone F181 RC Quadcopter Drone

This drone comes from Holy Stone manufacturer and has relatively the same price as the UDI 818A. But, the design is totally different, and it has kind of a Darth Vader look, which will make Star Wars fans among drone pilots very happy.

Many experienced drone pilots still like Holy Stone F181, (even after they have moved on to a more serious drone model), because when you take off the landing feet, prop guards, and the camera, it turns into a real mean speedster, capable of performing some serious aerial stunts.

Holy Stone F181 RC Quadcopter Drone

The controller offers 4-speed rates, and both beginner and experienced drone pilots say that the 4th is hard to control. Nevertheless, the drone is said to be really durable, so even if you shift to 4th speed, hit a few walls or trees along the way, it will keep on flying.

The only downside is the battery charging time because many users claim that it can take up to 3 hours to recharge the battery, but it does provide you an extra 2 minutes over the previous models we talked about. Because of the ease of use, great design, and semi-mod-ability, the F181 is one is the favorite drones for many drone pilots.

Here are some of its main features:

  • One Key Return to Home mode
  • Headless Security System
  • 4 Channel Transmitter
  • A Key 360° 4-Ways Flip
  • Continuous Roll
  • Remote Control Battery: 3.7 V 750 mAh
  • Control Mode: 2.4GHZ
  • Range: Around 200 meters
  • Maximum height: 150 meters
  • Flight Time: Around 7-9 minutes
  • Charging Time: Around 80 minutes

Cons:

  • The camera has been known to malfunction every once in a while
  • Long battery charging time

All in all, an extremely durable quadcopter, suitable for both beginners and more experienced drone pilots. And if you want to make it way more aggressive, you can take almost everything off, and still not worry about the drone getting broken. Take a look how it looks in action, here:

If you interested you can buy it here.

Cheerson CX-10 Mini 29mm

The Cheerson CX-10 is a representative of the most inexpensive micro drones and is absolutely loved by many around the globe. With a price of just around $15, it is capable of going up in the air, flying around for around 8 minutes, and doing what other drones do in the meantime what other drones do… For just 15 bucks! Amazing.

The bright orange color is the most wanted one, we have no idea why, but most of the people that have one or more of these, have them in that color. The battery recharging time is drastically shorter than with the other models we talked about in this text, and the overall construction is a bit more.

But this little drone offers so much fun that we simply had to put it on our best hobby drone list.

Cheerson CX-10 Mini

If you are a beginner, it might take some time for you to get used to the whole drone flying thing, but after a few hours, and probably a few lamps around the house broken, you will get the hang of it, and that is when the real fun starts!

It is perfect as a birthday present, or a gadget gift for someone that you are not even sure if they will really get hooked (but believe us, everyone gets hooked to drone flying). For much more information on this model, we suggest checking out our Cheerson CX-10 Mini in-depth review.

Before you click the buy button, have in mind that you will definitely need a set of extra blades, and it might be a smart thing to buy the prop protector ring as well, it will save the propellers when you hit something.

Here are some of its main features:

  • 6-axis design provides stable flight
  • Flight time up to 8 minutes
  • 3-level adjustable speed flip function
  • Powered by a rechargeable 3.7V 100mAh lithium battery

Cons:

  • There aren’t any because for that price you can’t find a better one, and one that will offer you that much fun.

All in all, a perfect drone for beginners who want to master their flying skills, but also a great gift for kids, to get them hooked to drone flying. If they break it, the only problem will be that they have to wait a few days for the new one to arrive.

Like this great product? Then you can check its price on Amazon.

Not sure what model to buy?

Every drone will give you hours and hours of unbelievable fun. Everyone who has ever tried flying a drone will tell you that it is an extremely addictive hobby, and that every time you need to recharge the batteries, you simply can’t wait to hit the skies again.

However, if you start with a tiny quadcopter, you will pretty soon outgrow it, and will probably want to fly a more serious, bigger drone.

But, before you put the little cheap drone in the attic, you have to know what kind of a hobby drone you are looking for this time? Since there are literally too many models available for buying, choosing the perfect one can in most times be a real nightmare.

Nobody wants to end up with a model that is bad or simply not what you were hoping for. To prevent that, we made this article and hopefully now you have a better idea which hobby drone model is the right one for you.

Drone hobby

To make it, even more, easier for you to chose the perfect drone, we have gathered few pros and cons of owning a hobby drone. Here they are:

Pros:

  • A relatively low price when compared to professional drone models
  • Most of the hobby drones are quite lightweight and don’t need to be registered with the FAA
  • The possibility of making aerial videos and photos
  • Cheap flying lessons and building up the necessary experience before eventually moving on to more expensive professional models

Cons:

  • Without the fancy GPS assistance and a bunch of other sensors, learning how to control a drone is not as easy as with the more expensive professional drones like DJI Phantom series for example
  • Battery life is a huge problem with these drones
  • You have to turn the internet upside down before choosing the right hobby drone for you
  • Once you enter the world of RC drone hobby, it will just be a more and more expensive hobby

Okay, now that you pretty much know everything there is to know about hobby drones, you are basically ready to choose the one that is the perfect fit for you. If you have some questions you want to ask, feel free to leave a comment, and we will do our best to find the right answer as soon as possible. We wish you clear skies and a good eye.

About the author
Jack Brown
Jack Brown

Jack is the Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com bringing experience, expertise and knowledge in this quite new industry. He is a graduate of the Drone/UAV Pilot Training Certificate program and member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Besides having all the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to drones, Jack and his team love to spend the time outside by the ocean, working on new features and teaching others how to pilot these amazing and exciting new robots.

  • Justin Banks

    Very nice collection, thank you. As an owner of an UDI 818A, I should say that this model has the most comfortable controller for my hands. Even more, it has a lot of useful functions like beeping when the battery is low. It often helps me to safely get it back.

  • Michael Johanson

    First of all, I love Hubsan and their model X4 mini with first person camera is pretty amazing. This drone can fly really fast and do acrobatic flips. It is really cheap and ideal if you plan to start racing.

  • I agree with you, Michael. And perhaps this is what makes it one of the ideal hobby drones.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience, Justin.

  • Elliot Giles

    The Hubsan x4 mini amazed me. This thing is a blast. I was a total newbie, and taught myself to fly it. I am amazed at its stability. I’ve flown it as high as I dare (until it is just a speck in the sky). Would totally buy again.

    • That’s is why this little speedster is so much popular 🙂 Great for beginners, flies amazing, and budget friendly!

  • Marvin St. James

    For those who want to try flying drones as a hobby, I always recommend to start with something low-end like the Syma X5C. Then when one gets the hang of flying, he can level up to a DJI Phantom. Racing is also fun. And collecting different kinds of drones. But it all starts with your first flight and your first drone.

  • Jack Brown

    Right down to the point! Excellent comment Marvin! You shouldn’t start with high-end models as you will surely crash in the beginning, and it is much better to waste a $15 worth drone, than one that costs almost $1K!

  • Ronny McKerry

    Hubsan X4 is indeed a hobby drone one seldom outgrows because of its amazing appeal and performance. It’s a great little quadcopter found cheaper at $100. But I must add that it is a great hobby indoors. The minute you fly it outdoors you have to be vigilant about the strong winds that might send it crashing against walls because of its lighter weight. That said, you have to beware of how you fly it since it doesn’t come with the GPS.

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