As the beleaguered economy slowly pokes its head into the sunlight of recovery, the UAV market may reap the benefits of a faster moving fiscal train (yes, aspiring writers, mixing groundhog and railroad metaphors is poor form). However, just because happy days may indeed be here again, consumers are still gun shy when it comes to shelling out stacks of cash for a new drone. But, for less than the cost of an iPhone 6 you can own models like:
With its oh-so-cutely named quadcopter, Parrot brings serious value to the table with the Bebop. Equipped with a full HD 14 megapixel camera stabilized on a 3-axis framework, the Bebop features a sensor array that promotes extensive stability and easy-to-use piloting via Wi-Fi with a smartphone or a tablet. An add-on Skycontroller provides a Wi-Fi booster which can be used to provide extended flight range. The new model boasts eight times the battery life of the flagship AR 2.0. Featuring a Parrot P7 dual-core CPU, quad-core GPU and 8 GB of flash memory, Bebop ups the “buck-bang” ante and then some — the model can be paired with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. $499
DJI’s Phantom FC-40 is not the sports car of the DJI family. It’s more like a reliable compact sedan. But, under the hood, the FC can still run with its bigger Phantom brothers. The intermediate-level drone offers a 720p/30fps HD video camera as well as a controller mobile app that uses a 2.4G Wi-Fi module, providing a first-person view up to 100 meters. The quad’s 5.8 Ghz RC receiver offers a range of 800 meters. Even with a camera, the FC-40 provides 15 minutes of flight time per charge and includes high-intensity LED lights for improved orientation during flight. $448
Quanum Nova (Cheerson CX-20)
The Quanum Nova (aka Cheerson CX-20) is all about customization at a great price. Although the camera is not included, a user may buy one (for example a GoPRO HERO4) and install it on the Nova’s Q-2D brushless GoPro gimbal. Connect the camera to the integrated gimbal control and the Nova gives you the power to control the gimbal’s tilt and roll functions, which allow a variety of video angles. Flight modes for the Nova include Direction Lock for beginners, Manual and Stable for hovering. The Nova also features precision GPS capabilities enabling position and altitude hold as well as waypoint navigation and “return-home” functionality. The UAV’s 2.4GHz 7CH transmitter boasts a range of 300 meters with 15 minutes of flight time. $319
QR Ladybird V2
The Walkera QR Ladybird V2 FPV version may not have the muscle of a larger quadcopter — but what it lacks in power, it makes up for in style. The name says it all; this drone actually looks like a Ladybird (or Lady Bug to Americans). Considered an entry-level mini-quadcopter, the Ladybird includes a 200 MP video camera that will stream live video directly to the easy-to-use controller (but does not record video). The USB charging setup is super simple for a beginner and its limited, 200-feet range allows a generous learning curve. $220
EYE One Xtreme Aerial Photography Set by RC Logger
If you’re keeping your eye on the bottom line, look at the EYE One Xtreme. With knack for versatility at a lower price, the EYE offers two choices in video resolution. The basic model is equipped standard with an HD 2 camera with 720p (30 frames-per-second) HD video resolution and 5 megapixels for stills. For an extra $20 (a bargain), a buyer can upgrade from the HD 2 to the SOCAM UltiMate camera (1080p/60 fps). As an added bonus, the Xtreme offers three flight modes that allow a beginner to move to intermediate and advanced flight levels as they learn with Beginner, Sport and Advanced modes. The 2.4 GHz transmitter has a range of 400 feet but only offers 7 minutes of flight time. $279
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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