DJI Phantom 2

What’s the best quadcopter?

UPDATED 11/5/2015 – Quadcopters are currently the most popular form of personal drone technology.  Quadcopters grew in popularity due to their small size, agility and their ability to be precisely controlled.  Quadcoptor sales over the past few months are literally, off the charts.

Early Quadcopter designs suffered from poor stability and limited control ability, but recent technology advances have made quadcopters stable and very easy to control.  In fact, modern quadcopter drones are so stable and easy to control, many of them are stable and small enough to be flown indoors.

There are numerous quadcopter models on the market and more coming out almost every day.  We wanted to help you choose the best quadcopter for you.

What’s the best quadcopter?   Well, the answer depends on your personal needs and budget.

When deciding which quadcopter is the best for you, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are you buying one for fun?
  • How skilled are you at flying quadcopters?
  • Are you buying it for aerial photography?
  • What is your budget?

Your answers to these questions, will drive you towards a model that’s right for you and your needs.  But to help you find the best quadcopter, here are our 3 best quadcopters based on need.  You can read more detailed reviews of each of these models near the bottom of the article.

Article Contents and Navigation:

[TOC]

Best quadcopters by need

Low Budget/BeginnerStandard Camera TasksAerial Photography
QuadcopterThe Hubsan X4Parrot AR.Drone 2.0DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Quadcopter
Photo
SensorsNoneAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Pressure (Barometric), Magnetometer, UltrasoundGPS
CameraNoneHD Camera: 720pHD Camera: 1080p on 3 axis gimbal
Communication2.4 GhzSmartphone/Tablet2.4 GHz, streaming video
Flight time5 - 8 minutes12 minutes20 - 25 minutes
Size4.6 x 2.3 x 1.3 inches23 x 0.5 x 23 inches29 x 29 x 18 inches
Range328 feet200 feet984 feet

 

>> See our complete list of our drones for sale, may of them having hands on reviews <<

What to look for in a quadcopter drone

Like many products, quadcopter drones come in different price ranges, different levels of quality, and with different features.  The basic design principles are all the same though.  All quadcopters consist of:

  • A base frame
  • 4 motors with propellers, used to move the quadcopter
  • Electronics and sensors that allow the quadcopter to fly, and remain level.
  • Receiver, which receives signals from the transmitter and tells the quadcopter control system how to move
  • Transmitter which is the “remote control” used by the pilot to move forward, backward, spin, go up and go down.

Personal DroneEvery quadcopter drone you come across will have these basic components.  Without them, the quadcopter won’t fly.   Given these are standard components, you won’t want to focus on.  What you will want to focus on is what components and features set the various quadcopter drones apart from each.   Here are a few things you should focus on:

Size

While size is often a personal preference, size also plays into the stability and usefulness of the quadcopter drone.  Smaller quadcopters have a smaller wingspan, which keeps them from being as stable in windy conditions, and reduces their payload (think camera).  Larger quadcoptors, which have larger wingspans, are more stable in various windy conditions and can hold more payload.  For example, like HD cameras for aerial photography.

Size also plays into flight time as well, as larger quadcopters can hold larger batteries, allowing them to fly longer

Flight Time

Flight time is how long the quadcopter will fly on a single battery charge.  The flight time is directly proportional to the battery size, weight and amount of technology on the quadcopter.  Most quadcopters will fly for 8 – 20 minutes.

Cameras

Onboard cameras allow you to not only see where your drone is flying, but also allows you to record aerial video, often in HD quality on higher priced units.   Typically onboard cameras are found on larger units, due to the weight of the cameras but this is quickly changing as smaller and more cost effective cameras are becoming available.

Quadcopters with cameras are now the most popular selling models, and many older models without cameras are being phased out.

How easy is the quadcopter to fly?

Probably one of the most important factors in deciding which quadcopter is best for you is your experience flying quadcopters, and how easy the quadcopter is to fly.

Nobody wants to invest $500 or more in an advanced quadcopter, only to have it crash and break a few minutes after opening it.

The controller

Quadcopter controllerYour main interface to the quadcopter is the controller.   Controllers vary by features, feel, easy of use, distance, and many other factors.  If the controller doesn’t work well for you, you won’t want to use your quadcopter.

How will you use the quadcopter?

How you will use your quadcopter is another critically important factor in deciding the best quadcopter for your needs.

  • Will you fly mostly indoors or outdoors?
  • Do you need a POV (Point of View) camera?
  • Will you be doing aerial photography?  If so, how important is quality?

Here’s how a couple of those play into your quadcopter decision:

  • Smaller quadcopters are more agile, and tend to do better indoors.
  • Larger quadcopters do better outside due to space issues and their ability to hand wind better
  • Larger quadcopters are better for aerial photography due to their stability and ability

Our picks for the best quadcopters

Now that you have a little more information on the various factors that play into deciding which quadcopter is best for you, here’s a little more detail on the three quadcopters we featured at the beginning of this article.

The Hubsan X4 (H107L) – Best indoor quadcopter that’s great for novices too

Our pick for the best indoor / novice quadcopter is the The Hubsan X4.   This is an amazing little quadcopter, especially considering it’s really low cost.

The Hubsan X4 is a great choice for flying indoors due to it’s small size.  The unit is about the size of your hand, making it easy to fly around without hitting anything (or anybody).   The Hubsan X4’s small size also reduces damage to the interior of your home, in the event it does hit something.

If you’re a novice to quadcopter flying, than you’ll love the Hubsan X4.  The unit comes with two preset modes, novice and expert.   Novice cuts back on the responsiveness of the unit, and helps you get familiar with flying quadcopters without it constantly crashing (a common issue on lower priced units).   Expert mode, on the other hand, gives you full control and quick responsiveness.

The Hubsan X4 is a fantastic buy and has the flying stability and agility of much more expensive quadcopters.

>>> Read our full review of the Hubsan X4 Quadcopter

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Quadricopter – Best quadcopter for standard camera tasks and intermediate pilots

The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Quadcopter is one of the most popular and best selling quadcopter drones on the market.  The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is easy to control, comes with a unique control system that we’ll talk about below, and comes with a built in camera that streams live video to the control unit.  All of this for less than $300.00.  This makes it easy to see why the Parrot is such a popular choice.

The most unique feature of the AR.Drone 2.0 is the control mechanism, which is an iOS or Android device.  The AR Drone 2.0 comes with software for either of these tablet devices that lets you control the quadcopter using the touch screen and the Parrot quadcopter sends live streaming video to the device.  Your controls sit on top the streaming video, so you get a real image of exactly what the drone is seeing.

The drone connects to your iOS or Android device using a direct WiFi connection using software that’s included with the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0.

In addition to having a really high tech control system, the AR.Drone 2.0 is easy and fun to fly.   The unit is full of technology that helps you prevent mistakes that would wreck many other quadcopters.

The built-in main camera is decent for video and marginal for stills.  We would compare it to older cell phone cameras in quality.    The AR.Drone 2.0 also has a bottom camera, but honestly the quality is so bad, it’s pretty useless.

The AR.Drone 2.0 makes our best quadcopter list for “Standard Camera Tasks” due to it’s simple operation, and built in HD camera that makes recording and saving video and still photos incredibly easy.   The AR Drone 2.0 is not the camera we would recommend for high quality/professional work, but certainly a great drone to use for more “standard” camera work.

With all the features and built in camera, this is a popular model among Drone enthusiasts, and for good reason.

DJI Phantom 2 – Best quadcopter for Aerial Photography and Experts

The DJI Phantom is the “Mercedes Benz” of quadcopter drones.  If you are looking for the ultimate in low cost high quality photography drones, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ should be your goto choice.

The Phantom 2 is in the high end of the lower cost personal drones, before drones jump up in to the $3000.00+ bracket targeted at professionals.  But don’t be mislead, the Phantom 2 is still often used by professionals, and packs a punch for the price.

The Phantom easily carries a high quality HD camera, like a GoPro and can even haul a Gimbal for increased image stabilization.  The Phantoms larger size, and wide wingspan help to keep movements smooth, and reduce wind impact.

Because of it’s smooth operation and ability to hold a high quality HD Camera, the Phantom 2 really shines when it comes to aerial and action photography.

While you can certainly purchase the Phantom 2 with an integrated in camera, the Phantom 2 also allows the camera to be upgraded, especially if you go with the Phantom 2 GoPro model.  If you do a great deal of professional photography, this is a shining feature of the Phantom, as it keeps you from having to purchase a new drone just to upgrade the drone camera.

The Phantom 2 also provides for up to 15 minutes of flight time, giving you plenty of time to capture stunning visuals.  It also has powerful motors and a solid frame for more stability.

If you are doing aerial photography or looking for a higher end drone quadcopter, the Phantom 2 is the go to quadcopter of choice.

Photo credits: Kevin Baird, Christopher Michel