Best Drones Under $200 for Inexpensive Aerial Photography
Due to popular demand, here’s our guide to the best drones under $200 for photographers in 2021.
We’ve written a lot about drone photography and camera drones in the past, reviewing several of the high-end DJI models.
However, not everyone needs to spend thousands to get a great photo from the sky!
Let’s get one thing straight – all the drones under $200 in this guide cannot be used for professional aerial photography nor underwater.
They may have some fancy features shared with more expensive drones, but the camera quality won’t be good enough for commercial use.
That said, you can still have a lot of fun with a drone camera of this quality, and if all you’re doing is posting photos and videos on social media or looking for a drone for a kid, you won’t need much more.
Let’s dive right into the recommendations.
Table of Contents
Best Drones for Under $200 in 2021
|Potensic D80||View Price →|
|Holy Stone HS165||View Price →|
|Parrot Mambo||View Price →|
|Holy Stone HS120||View Price →|
|Altair 818 Hornet||View Price →|
1. Potensic D80
One of the best drones you can buy for under $200 is the Potensic D80.
With features like dual GPS, 2K video capabilities, brushless motors, and an impressive flight time for this range of models, there are many reasons why you should consider this drone.
Overall however, we recommend the Potensic D80 for its usability and impressive range of features.
For only US$189.99 at the time of writing, this drone comes equipped with a 5G wi-fi 2K FPV camera to capture the smoothest possible HD video and enhance the quality of your cinematography.
Keep in mind that in order to shoot 2K video, you’ll need a 16-32 GB SD card that is not included with the purchase of this drone.
The inclusion of the memory card slot, found on the bottom of the drone, means you won’t have to record footage on your smartphone and you will have the ability to shoot more without worrying about running out of memory storage as fast.
It shoots with a 120° field of view and has very little distortion. The camera, however, is fixed on the drone’s body and is not stabilized by a gimbal, which is what allows some drone heads to rotate and thus capture a larger field of view.
On the plus side, you can see your footage using live video stream. It will only show you a video quality of 720p, which is not ideal despite being classified as HD, but is still a nice feature to have in a lower-priced model such as this one.
You can achieve between 16 to 20 minutes of flight time, depending on variables like how fast you fly and the weather conditions.
As for battery life, this drone uses a 7.4v 1800 mAh lipo battery, which is made to retain its charge for as long as possible in order to let you fly for a longer period of time.
This is a decent flight time and one of the many reasons why this particular drone is one of the best drones you can purchase for under $200. That said, it takes a few hours for the battery to fully charge so we strongly recommend you purchase a couple of extra batteries to get the full enjoyment of flying a drone – 20 minutes won’t be long enough!
You will need to purchase your remote controller’s batteries separately as well. This remote control uses four AA batteries.
The remote controller has a decent transmission range (control range) of 700m, though the FPV footage only transmits to a distance of 300m. An FPV camera sends real-time video footage to your remote controller.
The Potensic D80 is an ideal drone for beginners because the dual GPS modules allow the drone to fly home automatically whenever the battery is low or the signal is weak.
The Automatic Return Home feature means you will never have to worry about losing or damaging (if it falls) your drone.
Usability is a key feature of this drone. It’s incredibly easy to install the propellers, which are longer to allow faster speeds.
This drone can achieve speeds of up to 40 km/hr, which is quite impressive for a non-racing drone.
The Brushless Motor Quadcopter ensures stable flight at high speeds and long-distance flights without draining the battery as fast.
The brushless motor is a huge bonus for this drone because they tend to last longer and don’t need as much maintenance. Brushed motors are only found on the really cheap models these days, so we suggest you try to find drones with brushless motors, no matter your budget.
While this drone may not be foldable – a quality that makes certain models more appealing for travel – the Potensic D80 includes an aluminum carrying-cased with its purchase to help its portability.
It’s a smaller drone but weighing in at 450g means that in places like Canada, the USA, and the UK, you will need to register it, along with all drones weighing over 250g. Be sure to always check your country’s specifications regarding drones.
Lastly, safety is everything. This drone is recommended for use by adults only and is rated 14+.
This is a fantastic drone considering its price, and while it may not be fit for commercial use, if you’re interested in dipping your toes into the world of drones then this model is definitely worth looking at.
2. Holy Stone HS165
So, you’re interested in getting a decent drone but don’t want the heavy price tag that usually comes with it.
We have good news! You can still get a good quality model for under $200 that’s very easy to fly.
This is a budget model priced at roughly US$150 that’s perfect for beginners but will impress even intermediate drone-flyers.
Its ergonomic design and foldable quadcopter format has been optimized for portability. You can fly this drone a maximum of 400m horizontally or 120m vertically, which is quite the feat for its bargain-basement price!
For a maximum flying time of 15 minutes, the HS165 proves that smaller drones like this are still competitors when searching for the best drone under 200 bucks.
The 880 mAh 7.4V lipo battery is from a new range of modular batteries designed to retain charge and prolong use.
While it only takes roughly two hours to charge the battery, 15 minutes of flight time still isn’t enough to get play around with your drone so be sure to purchase a couple of extras.
One of the unique features of the Holy Stone HS165 is that there are two ways you can fly your drone: via remote control or via an app on your smartphone.
With the app and using wi-fi, you can fly your drone up to a maximum of 300m away.
The one-key return and auto-return features are ideal for beginners. With the app, you can even send this drone circling around an object with a single press of a button.
Follow Me and Orbit Mode are two unique modes for this model, and you can even create your own flight path.
This GPS drone offers decent camera quality, using a 1080p camera and boasting an impressive 90° wide-angle field of view that will allow you to capture more detail in every shot.
While this drone does not have a gimbal either, it does have a 6-axis gyroscope to help reduce distortion.
One of the more impressive features of this drone is its use of GPS to maintain stabilization in-flight, and the barometric function that works to analyze air pressure changes and then adjust itself to maintain its altitude.
At a lightweight 170g, this little drone sure packs a punch for its price. Holy Stone is known for having better camera quality in their hobbyist drones, so this is a strong competitor.
3. Parrot Mambo
The Parrot Mambo Fly is one of the cheapest mini-drones for less than US$180 and one of the best you can find for that price.
This quadcopter drone is incredibly easy to use and, using its auto-pilot technology, is considered one of the most stable mini drones you can find. Auto-pilot kicks in whenever you let go of the controls.
The Parrot Mambo is a lot of fun because it’s so customizable. Using the Smart Block system, you can add a separately purchased Cannon, Grabber, or FPV camera.
This drone also appears to be marketed more towards a younger crowd. It’s nice to have some safer options that younger people can play with as a lot of drones can be quite dangerous and may not be recommended for just anyone.
The cannon comes with a 6-round clip and 50 cannons. The only downside to this is that the tiny cannon balls are incredibly easy to lose, which is likely why this accessory comes with so many.
To use this drone, download the FreeFlight Mini app. Using simplified drone connection and automatic recognition of your connected mini-drones and accessories, Bluetooth pairing connects everything together for you.
You can use the app to change flight settings and check your battery or flight time, which is a great feature to have on any kind of drone.
You can fly this drone both indoors and outdoors, although be warned: weighing in at only 63g, this drone will get blown away by even the slightest winds without its propeller guards, or “hulls”, adding extra weight.
Without wind, however, the horizontal and vertical stabilization sensors do a great job at stabilizing this mini-drone in-flight and while hovering.
The 0.3-megapixel vertical camera is not great quality – think of it as more of a webcam than anything else – but it does the job and it can be fun to capture aerial pictures of your kitchen or of you with your friends.
This mini drone flies for just under 10 minutes without any extra weight. After adding your accessories, flight time drops closer to 5 minutes.
The Parrot Mambo uses a 550mAh LiPo Battery, which has a charging time of only thirty minutes. So despite the relatively low battery life, this is a solid advantage as to why this drone is one of the best under 200.
The battery does need to be charged on the drone’s body, however, so you may want to consider purchasing a second charger separately, along with an extra battery.
This is a fun model to use inside, with kids, or just to get a good, solid idea of what it’s like to fly a drone.
4. Holy Stone HS120
Here we have another Holy Stone model. At US$139.99, you can get the HS120D for only a few dollars cheaper than the HS165.
The sleek, all-black design of this drone makes it look elegant and quite visually appealing.
It’s a lightweight model, though heavier in comparison to others on this list. Weighing roughly 221g, you won’t need to worry about flying illegally or registering in Canada, the USA, or the UK, but you can rest assured that it still weighs enough to remain stable in slightly windy conditions.
For those of you in other countries, you should always check your local registration policies before buying your drones. Drones above a certain weight, or drones flying in national parks, often require registration or special permits.
One of the features that makes this drone stand out among sub-$200 models is that it includes an 8GB memory card with its purchase. It can also support up to 32GB memory cards.
The HS120D comes equipped with landings legs for safer landings. The big, LED lights under each rotor are for night flying and will also let you know when compass calibration is complete.
Like others in this category, the automatic return-home is a welcome feature when the signal weakens or battery life is low. This drone uses GPS as well.
The remote for this drone is also designed for elegance. Its minimal design offers foldout handles and a smartphone holder that folds from the top.
Additional features include emergency landing, one-button takeoff and landing, as well as two dials at the back for controlling camera angle and speed mode.
Fitted with a 7.4v 1200 mAh lipo battery, you can expect a maximum flight time of 15 minutes in good conditions – although official reports state that that battery life is closer to 18 minutes.
We suggest buying additional batteries to maximize your use with this GPS drone.
Holy Stone drones are well-known for having good quality cameras. While the 1080p on the Holy Stone HS120 isn’t enough for commercial use or blowing up the images or footage on a large-scale, it’s certainly good enough for posting your drone shots and video adventures on social media.
And even though you can’t live stream 1080p live video, you can still record it and play it back once you get your drone and its footage back. This model’s camera also has an impressive 120° field of view.
If you want to use the 720p FPV camera, you’re limited to a range of 300m. But since this is a lower-end, lightweight hobbyist drone, you won’t want to fly much further than that anyway, so there’s no need to worry about that.
One of the main issues with this drone is its lack of gimbal and image stabilizing software, which means that in order for the quality of images to be passable, you will need to set your drone to GPS mode and hover in place to take photos with minimal distortion.
Images taken are usually 2MP, which is impressive for a model of this type.
All in all, as far as affordable GPS drones go, this one is very good and offers multiple features and options. It’s ideal for beginners who want to explore some of the amazing aspects of drones and it’s a great price considering everything that comes with it.
5. Altair 818 Hornet
Just scraping in at US$199.80, this is the most expensive option on this list. However, after you’ve read about all the wonderfully user-friendly features that it includes, you will definitely understand why.
The Altair 818 Hornet is refreshingly user friendly and easy to fly. You will need to attach the propellers, landing gear, and large camera unit with a screwdriver (not included), but if you use the included instructions, it should be fairly easy. This whole process only takes about 15 minutes.
This is a bigger drone that could not be comfortably packed up to be carried. While the Altair 818 Hornet does not come with a carrying case, it does have a handle attached so you can easily carry it around without too much awkwardness.
As for battery life: this drone has a maximum flight time of 15 minutes with a single battery. Luckily, it includes a second battery which doubles the period of time in which you can enjoy flying the drone around.
The inclusion of an extra battery is a refreshing addition, unique among the other drones with 15-minute flight times, and is part of why this model stands out so much.
You will, however, need to buy your own four AA batteries for the remote controller.
When you buy this drone, it comes with a helpful little cardboard insert to place over your remote controller that explains how each button and component works.
This drone uses a mobile app, called Flyingsee, which you should download after attaching all your drone parts. To pair the Altair 818 Hornet with the app, all you need to do is turn on the drone, connect it to your wi-fi, and press a button.
It’s so easy! This drone also has one-touch takeoff and landing.
In addition to a 720p HD wide-angle camera, the app for the Altair 818 Honrnet has a unique feature that’s unusual at this price point: Flyingsee allows you to stream FPV video using a VR headset.
If you want to really get into flying drones using VR, there are plenty of higher-end models out there, but if you just want a taste of flying with VR then this is a great drone model to use.
The Altair 818 comes equipped with three flight modes offering different speeds: a slower mode for beginners up to a surprisingly fast mode for the more experienced beginner.
Heading Hold mode is strongly recommended for people who have never flown before.
It’s a mode where the front of the drone is always facing away from you so that flying it is more similar to the way you would play a video game. The reason why this is such a great feature is because it makes it considerably easier and feels more natural to fly.
Like other recreational drones, it’s quite easy for this model to be blown away by even a gentler wind, so be wary of that when taking it outside.
That said, it’s a lot more durable than others and has bigger propeller guards for added protection. In conditions without wind, this drone is very stable when hovering.
This is a great drone for beginners who want to make the most of their model. We suggest this drone as one of the best in the price bracket because of its incredibly user-friendly design and because every aspect of it is catered for beginners looking to delve into the world of drones.
It blows my mind that there are so many drones under $200 on offer here in 2021.
While flight modes, control range, live video and flight range may all be limited when compared to more expensive alternatives, there’s no denying the fact that there’s a lot to get excited about here.
Being able to purchase a capable camera drone under $200 is incredible, and puts aerial photography into the hands of amateurs on tight budgets.
Flying a camera drone is a lot of fun, but remember to abide by all your local laws, and above all, remain sensible, considerate and safe with your new toy.
Now, get out there and start flying!
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
I am a passionate writer and travel photographer with an affinity for learning new languages; I currently speak English, French, and a little Italian.