Drone prices continue to drop. Affordable drones are now in reach of most people, no longer just a toy for people with loads of expendable income. Today, you can find good but cheap drones for less than $500 (or even lower), if you snap one up while it’s on sale. To help make this easier, we’ve rounded up the best cheap drone deals available right now.Today’s best drone deals
How to choose a drone
The right drone for you depends on what you are looking to do. A cheap drone — especially those that are under $250 or so — will offer the fewest features and may lack some functionality that might not make it the best solution for you.
Generally (and this is not a hard and fast rule), a cheap drone typically features 720p video and a relatively low frame rate, usually 30 frames per second. While for most of us this will be fine, the video will lack that cinematic smoothness. Stepping up to a midrange drone (typically in the $250 to $750 range) gets you 1080p video and often at 60fps, which results in higher-quality video.
Most modern higher-end drones offer 4K video, but you’ll likely need to spend north of $1,000 to get 4K 60fps video. If video quality is a primary concern, expect to pay more.
A cheap drone will also lack other useful features, including tracking capabilities, and video and drone stabilization. In ideal flying conditions, this won’t be an issue. But you’ll want these features if you plan to fly in a variety of conditions or allow it to operate without a great deal of user input.
We’ve also noticed many cheaper drones either lack obstacle avoidance or aren’t as good as more expensive drones. If you’re flying in wide-open spaces, you won’t have much of an issue here. But if you plan to fly in areas with obstacles nearby, you’ll want to ensure the drone you select has sufficient obstacle avoidance capabilities.
Do drones make noise?
All drones will make some noise. Most describe it as a buzzing sound, kind of like a bee. The propellers are spinning at an extremely high speed, and this is what causes that noise. It’s most noticeable when you’re closest to the drone, but you’ll barely hear it if at all once it is higher in the air.
Can you fly a drone at night?
Most drones can be flown at night, although we wouldn’t recommend doing so until you’ve had a good deal of experience. We recommend keeping your drone within eyesight when flying at night — and drones that can operate at night include lights so that they can be seen during night flying.
Do remember that most drones do not have night vision capabilities, so the video that you take during night flying will only be illuminated by any ambient lighting available, such as moonlight, street lighting, and so forth.
Can you fly a drone in the rain?
Most drone manufacturers recommend against flying your drone in the rain. Most cheap drones are neither waterproof nor water-resistant, so even small amounts of water could do damage to your drone, especially to the motor and battery. The moisture causes a short circuit, which will cause your drone to stop functioning with little or no warning. Thus as a general rule, do not fly your drone in the rain, fog, or excessively humid conditions.
If you’re caught in these conditions, land as soon as possible and get your drone somewhere dry, disconnect the battery, and allow it to dry. You may also want to shake the drone itself gently to get water out of the interior housing and let that dry as well. Use similar techniques to drying out a wet phone to dry out your drone, and the first time you fly it afterward, take some time to test out the drone at a low altitude before flying it normally again.
Do drones have to be registered?
The Federal Aviation Administration requires that you register your drone based on how you plan to fly it and mark your drone with your given registration number. Any drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds must be registered, which covers just about every drone currently sold on the market. This registration must be renewed every three years.
You must also carry proof of registration at all times when flying, and are prohibited from flying for commercial purposes under the terms of the license. Drone flight is only permitted below 400 feet in altitude and Class “G” or uncontrolled airspace. It is your responsibility to follow these rules.
Some states require drone pilots to follow additional regulations, so be sure to check the laws of the state you are flying in before you take off.
Do you need a license to fly a drone?
At this time, there is no license required for recreational or hobbyist drone pilots. However, flying for commercial purposes may require additional certifications.
We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.