We have a theory about the current state of the drone market: There are some fun and capable machines for under $500, but you really start to get into the best consumer drones if you spend more than that. Our list of the best drones under $1,000 truly represents our top recommendations if you are buying a hobby drone today.

At this price point, we’ve moved beyond toy class drones and the majority of FPV racers, we’re now looking at the lower-end of the camera drones. These are the entry level drones for those looking to capture those epic aerial photos and video. Let’s dive in.

The best drones under $1,000

DJI Air 2S: Best camera for the price

DJI Air 2S

The DJI Air 2S is not the best camera drone on the market, but if your budget is $1,000 or less, then this is the drone for you! The 20MP 5.4K camera is unmatched at this price point, and the drone is no slouch either. Enjoy solid flight times, class-leading connectivity range, and the newest versions of several of DJI’s flight systems.

Should I buy the DJI Air 2S?

The DJI Air 2S is our favorite camera drone right now. If you have a bigger budget, you can get a better camera drone, but if you’re spending $1,000 or less, we know of no better machine on the market today.

Pros

  • 5.4K video
  • 7.5 mile connectivity
  • Easy to fly
  • Small and portable
  • Fast and smooth
  • Fun to fly

Cons

  • No display in controller
 

DJI Air 2S
DJI Air 2S
  • Great camera
  • 5.4K video
  • 8X zoom
  • Compact and easy to use
  • Fantastic range
Affordable 5.4K camera

The DJI Air 2S is easily the best camera drone for most uses. The 1-inch sensor produces fantastic images from the sky, and the compact, folding design of the quadcopter is familiar and reliable – it may not be in the name, but this is still a Mavic drone.

$ 1279 at Amazon
Save $20.00

DJI Mini 2: Best bang for the buck

The DJI Mini 2 has the potential to be the most popular drone on the market. It’s small enough to not require registration, easily packs away for transport, and still rocks a quality 4K camera. Enjoy all the best features of a GPS-enabled camera drone, in a package that is easy to manage, and has a very reasonable price tag.

Should I buy the DJI Mini 2?

Simply put, if you cannot afford the DJI Air 2S, and you want a camera drone, the Mini 2 is the machine for you. We really enjoy flying the Mini 2, but more than that, it’s our first choice if we are carefully considering the weight in our backpack. The camera is about as good as the average smartphone, which is good enough for a hobby flight.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • 4K camera for under $500
  • Easy to fly
  • Weighs less than 250g

Cons

  • Good, but not magnificent camera
  • No display in remote
 

DJI Mini 2
DJI Mini 2
  • 4K camera
  • Very portable
  • Easy to fly
  • 249 grams
Best drone under $500

The DJI Mini 2 is a superb update from the Mavic Mini, now offering a 4K camera, Ocusync 2.0 and more power.


DJI Mavic Air 2: Best balance of features and price

DJI Mavic Air 2 flying logo

The DJI Mavic Air 2 fills an important gap in the DJI lineup of Mavic drones. In almost every way it is a middle-ground between the Air 2S and the Mini 2. Top notch battery life lets you enjoy the 4K, 48MP camera, though we recommend shooting 12MP binned images.

Should I buy the Mavic Air 2?

We very much enjoyed flying the Mavic Air 2, it uses a popular high-end smartphone camera, so the images and video from the sky are good, but have predictable limitations. The battery life makes this drone one of the most fun to fly, a few extra minutes doesn’t sound like much, but it’s worth it. Thing is, the Air 2S is far superior, and the Mini 2 is close enough for far less money, we want to recommend you buy the Mavic Air 2, but if you can save up for the Air 2S, you’ll be better off.

Pros

  • Great flight time
  • Solid 4K camera
  • Easy to fly
  • Great value for the price

Cons

  • Older drone
  • Full 48MP photos are not great
 

DJI Mavic Air 2
DJI Mavic Air 2
  • Great battery life
  • Large camera
  • AirSense transponder
A technological leap in small flying cameras.

Mavic Air 2 takes power and portability to the next level, offering advanced features in a compact form factor. Intelligent shooting functions and excellent image quality put aerial masterpieces within reach. Safer, smarter flight enables you to up your game while fully enjoying the creative process.


Parrot Anafi: Versatile camera gimbal

Parrot Anafi folding drone announced

The Parrot Anafi is a fairly average drone in its segment, but it has one very useful trick, it can point the camera directly upward. This is not wildly useful for shooting nature shots, or when tracking an object on the ground, which are typical uses of most drone camera operations, but can be very useful for situational awareness, fun new perspectives, and particularly helpful for inspection tasks. That’s the key, this consumer drone is equipped to handle commercial operations.

Should I buy the Parrot Anafi?

As one of the best alternatives to a Mavic drone in the consumer camera drone market, we are comfortable recommending the Parrot Anafi. We think the price is a little high for the camera quality, but the ability to point upwards is invaluable fore some situations.

Pros

  • Good flight time
  • Camera points up
  • Easy to transport

Cons

  • Older drone
  • Past reliability concerns
 

Parrot Anafi
Parrot Anafi
  • Camera can point straight up
  • Versatile platform
Diverse platform

The Parrot Anafi is one of few drones that looks up as well as it looks down. The 4K front mounted camera is on a long-travel articulating Gimbal, so you can look straight up all the way to straight down.

$ 449 at Amazon
Save $250.99

DJI Mavic Mini: Best bang-for-the-buck

DJI Mavic Mini review case open

The DJI Mavic Mini was DJI’s first GPS-enabled viable camera drone that weighed less than 250g. The compact size is ideal for portability, and does not need to be registered before you fly. The Mavic mini slings a 2.7K camera, which is superb for simple hobby tasks, but obviously does not stand up to the more expensive camera drones out there.

Should I buy the DI Mavic Mini?

As the most affordable camera drone around, it’s hard not to recommend the DJI Mavic Mini. This is a fantastic starter drone, however, if you are willing to save up a little bit more money, the Mini 2 is superior in almost every way.

Pros

  • Very portable
  • Good 2.7K camera
  • Best bang-for-the-buck

Cons

  • Only 2.7K camera
  • No display in remote
  • Inferior to Mini 2 for a similar price
 

DJI Mavic Mini
DJI Mavic Mini
  • 249 grams
  • Great 2.7K camera
  • Very portable
The smallest Mavic drone

The DJI Mavic Mini is the best drone to hit the market in 2019. It's no Mavic 2 series drone, but we've seen nothing this good under $500 before.

$ 298 at Amazon
Save $101.00

PowerVision PowerEgg X: Waterproof camcorder

The PowerVision PowerEgg X is a versatile machine, the detachable propeller arms are ideal for portability, and allow the drone to easily be used in hand or attached to a tripod. The combined object tracking and very active camera gimbal make the PowerEgg X an effective camcorder. When they clouds are not cooperating, the optional rain shell makes the drone practically waterproof..

Should I buy the PowerEgg X?

The ability to use the PowerEgg X as a camcorder might be this machine’s saving grace. We enjoy using this drone for ground operations, but it’s evident that PowerVision is still new to flight.

Pros

  • Great camera tracking
  • Waterproof shell
  • Versatile machine
  • Tripod mount

Cons

  • Not the best at flying
  • Mediocre 4K camera
 

PowerVision PowerEgg X
PowerVision PowerEgg X
  • Waterproof drone
  • Works as hand-held Camcorder
  • Good object tracking
Versatile waterproof camcorder drone

The PowerVision PowerEgg X is a camcorder and waterproof drone all in one. Fly in the rain, remove the shell to add some flight time, or just use the AI as a handheld camera.


Yuneec Mantis G: Fun flight mode

Yuneec Mantis G 4k drone

The Yuneec Mantis G has a really cool party trick, voice activation. The drone is compact, easy to transport, easy to fly, produces decent 4K video, and is overall pleasant to fly. Full flight features are locked to the controller and mobile app, but you can performs some basics by speaking into the remote.

Should I buy the Yuneec Mantis G?

As much as we like the Yuneec Mantis G, it’s hard to find, MSPR is a little overpriced for the camera output, and the camera does not keep up with drones of similar price. That said, we had more fun flying the Mantis G than most other drones out there.

Pros

  • Voice controls
  • Easy to fly
  • Very portable
  • Good flight time

Cons

  • Poor availability
  • Limited flight range
 

Yuneec Mantis G
Yuneec Mantis G
  • Retired
  • Compact camera drone
  • Voice controls
Voice controlled drone

The Yuneec Mantis G adds a stabilized camera Gimbal to the Mantis Q – exactly the missing piece from the original folding drone. Now you can shoot smooth 4K video. Launching in October 2019.


Wrap-up

With the many great drones on the market, and a handful of awkward and low-quality ones as well, we hope this list helps steer you to the right drone for your needs. If these units do not suite you, be sure to check out some of our other more specific lists:


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I do professional work with drones under $1000?

We live in exciting times where camera technology offers some solid results without a huge price tag. Make no mistake, the very best cameras are equipped on drones above $1000, but the drones under that price point have the same camera sensors as the best smartphones on the market today. If you think you can use your phone to shoot professional photos and videos, you’ll likely be able to use a modern drone as well.

How high can $1000 drones fly?

The short answer is: 400 ft above the ground. Most countries around the globe have legal flight limits that you need to follow. Should you be exempt of such restrictions, a drone’s physical altitude is limited by two main factors – the connectivity range of the remote control, and the capacity for the propellers to move enough air to provide lift. Most DJI drones are able to fly up to about 16,000 ft above sea level, and have at least 22,000 ft of remote connectivity range. Equip high-altitude propellers and you can see 19,000 ft above sea level.

Should I save to buy drones that cost more than $1000?

Your personal needs of a drone should dictate what budget you should apply to a drone purchase. When it comes to this price point, you will find similar flight capabilities in $1000 drones as $1500 drones, but the $1500 drone may handle larger payloads, and have a higher-end camera. It’s easy to compare drones as we compare cameras: A sub-$1000 drone is like a smartphone or point-and-shoot camera, where a $1500 and up drone is like a DSLR camera. There are pros and cons to each, but a phone camera is often quality enough to meet most people’s needs.

Should I buy a used drone?

There are risks associated with used drones, but there is no good reason to not buy one, if you do your homework. First and foremost, make sure that the drone not only operates, but does so safely. Any missing parts or accessories could mean the machine fails to operate as intended, making it unstable, or even unsafe. There is no real way to identify if a drone has been crashed and repaired other than repair receipts and a physical inspection of the craft. Crashes happen, just make sure the repairs are adequate.

Once you know that a used drone is physically in good order, check into the availability of warranty. The lack of warranty is not a bad thing, the drone may just bee tool old, but the presence of warranty is always a good sign. From there, please do your homework to make sure there is long-term viability of this craft. There are more than a few great drones kicking around that are fantastic airframes, but were only ever designed to work with early-generation GoPro cameras. These drones still fly very well, but are now useless at taking photos from the sky. Machines like this will have few parts and accessories available, and may no longer have any support. These machines may be what you are looking for, but make sure that’s the case before you hand over any cash.

Do these drones comply with the Remote ID requirement?

At this time, early January, 2021, the FAA has told us what the new Remote ID rules are, but have not yet given them a start date. From there, the FAA has not specified how the tech will work, so we do not know yet which, if any, current drones can comply without needing a hardware upgrade. As this is determined over the next few months, we will update the site with badges to show which drones are compliant. Rest assured, the FAA’s final compliance date will be in 2023, so you can buy today and still get the value out of your drone.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our most passionate readers to get instant access to tech reviews as they arrive!