Mini/nano drones are essentially scaled-down versions of regular drones. They’re just like the real deal except they can fit in the palm of your hand.
These pocket-sized flying machines are the perfect choice for both beginners and children for two reasons: they're cheap, and they don't break as easily.
If you’ve never operated a drone before, these are the ideal first purchase. After all, the last thing you want to do is waste thousands of dollars on a high-end drone that you’ll inevitably crash and break.
That being said, not all mini drones are made equal. To help you to choose the right mini drone for you or your needs we've reviewed, rated, and compared the best products on the market. We've also put together a buying guide with everything you need to know.
Just read on and, by the end of this article, you’ll be an expert on mini drones!
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How Mini Drones Work
Mini drones are mainly used for recreational purposes and indoor flying practice. In the military, they're used by spies and for short-range surveillance.
They work in the same way as regular drones, i.e., via rotor propulsion, which allows them to hover, climb, descend, turn, and rotate. There are typically four ‘rotors’ on a mini drone, all of which spin around like a fan, pushing air downwards.
As Newton told us, ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction,' which means that, as the rotor pushes the air downwards, the air pushes the rotor upwards. This is how drones can move upwards. To move down the rotors spin more slowly, thus reducing the upward propulsion.
To turn and rotate, one or more of the four propellers spin faster than the others, thus creating angular momentum which can move the drone in any direction.
Of course, you don’t really need to understand all this. The physics behind it isn’t so important. All you need to know is that your controller allows you to send signals to the drone to control those rotors and move the drone around in pretty much every dimension you want.
Benefits of Miniature Drones
So, why use a mini or nano drone? Well, there are lots of reasons. Here are some of the main advantages of miniature drones offer over regular drones.
Choosing High-Quality Mini Drones
Here are some of the main features to look out for when selecting a high-quality mini drone.
Material & Design
The size and weight of your drone are essential as this can impact how and where it can fly. For example, heavier drones use power more quickly and thus tend to have lower flight times, but are also better suited for outdoor use in windy weather.
The material a drone is built from will give you an indication of its durability. More expensive drones will use heavy-duty materials and have a better build quality. Brushless motors are more resistant to wear and tear than brushed motors, but you’ll usually only find these on expensive mini drones.
Drone Flying Skill/Purpose
Before you buy a drone, be clear on both what you plan on using it for and your drone flying skill level. For example, if you mainly plan on shooting video or taking photos with your drone, you’ll obviously need one with a camera.
If you just want to use it to practice flying, cheaper drones with simple, easy-to-use controls are recommended. You also need to consider things like whether you plan on using it outdoors or indoors, as some mini drones are only suitable for indoor use.
Drone Flight Time
A drone's flight time refers to how long it can fly for once you've launched it. The drone's battery life limits flight time. The average mini drone flight time is around 5 to 12 minutes, after which you'll usually need to recharge the battery. However, this can vary depending on things like weight, conditions, and flying style.
Speed & Height
Different mini drones can also fly at different speeds and to different maximum altitudes. Depending on what you plan on using your drone for, you might require different max flying heights and speeds.
For example, for photography, the best shots are to be had at around 100 to 150-foot altitudes. If you plan on using it for fun and recreation, you probably won't be flying it that high very often. Also, as a general rule, most aviation authorities advise that you don't fly drones higher than 400 feet AGL (above ground level) to avoid running into real, manned aircrafts.
Mini-drone speeds tend to range from between 15 to 22 miles per hour, but high-end drones can get very fast. Many drones on this list have several different speed modes so that you can adjust it as you fly. The slower the speed, the easier the drone is to control.
GPS Sensors/ Drone Transmitters
Although usually found only on high-end quadcopters, some of the more advanced nano drones and mini drones come with built-in GPS sensors to aid with flight navigation. These GPS sensors essentially allow the drone to run on ‘autopilot,' and automatically navigate to set coordinates at the push of a button.
If this is something you're interested in, look out for drones with built-in GPS sensors.
Cameras & Live Feed
Mini drones come either with or without cameras. If you plan on using your drone to record videos or take photos, it’s important to look at the specs of the camera as well as the drone. Those with the highest megapixels, widest video resolutions and best camera angles will offer the best picture quality but will also be the most expensive.
Some mini drones also offer a live video feed function, which is often referred to as First Person Viewing (FPV). These drones can transmit the video feed coming from their camera to your controller's LCD display or your devices so that you can see what the drone sees.
Another nifty feature to look out for is ‘obstacle avoidance.' This advanced technology uses sensors built into the drone to detect obstacles and adjust the drone's flight path to avoid a collision. It's a beneficial feature, especially if you're new to drone flying as it makes it much less likely that you're crash.
However, you'll also usually have to pay more as obstacle avoidance is typically only found on the higher end of the market.
Spare Components & Features
When you’re learning to fly a drone, crashes are pretty much inevitable. That’s why you should also look for drones that come with spare components. For example, some models of mini drones come with extra sets of propellers, batteries, and ‘crash packs’ that include all the tools you need to make repairs.
Other components to look out for are propeller guards, which are especially useful when flying indoors, drone goggles, and internal gyroscopes, which improve in-flight stability.
Control Range/Distance & Controllers
In addition to the drone itself, it's also important to consider the controller. The controller (or transmitter) determines the control range of the drone. In other words, it determines how far away from the controller the drone can fly.
The maximum range of most drones is around 1.6 km, but mini drones can be substantially less than that. Think about how far away you plan on flying the drone and choose one with a suitable control range. A couple of hundred feet is usually sufficient for most amateur drone flyers.
Other features to look out for when it comes to the controller is the frequency band, LCD support, and real-time diagnostics. The frequency band is usually 2.4 GHz, as this has a longer coverage range than 5 GHz. LCD support and real-time diagnostics allow you to track data and visuals of your drone to improve your coordination.
Price & Warranty
A final factor to consider is, of course, the price. Mini drones can range from $15 to $200 or more. The more you pay, the higher the build quality and the more advanced features you’re likely to get. However, when you’re first starting out, a cheaper drone is usually better. You should also consider whether the product comes with a warranty.
10 Best Mini Drones Reviewed
1. Syma X20
Best mini drone
Max Speed/Speed Modes
Speed Adjustment Mode
The Syma X20 Mini Pocket Drone is one of the best mini drones for kids and drone beginners. It offers excellent value for money, as well as some useful functions that would help beginners get to grips with controlling the drone easily. Firstly, it had a 'headless design' meaning that the drone is identical on both signs, which makes getting used to controlling the drone a lot easier.
The drone also comes equipped with LED lights so that it can be flown at night. For kids that are keen to push the drone to its limits, the product is also able to complete 360° flips and rolls. The drone also has functions to combat the difficult technique of take-off and landing. With its one-touch technology, the drone quickly takes off and lands without the need for complicated controls.
When it comes to flying time, the drone can last around 5 minutes, which is fairly average for drones of this type and size. The compact size of the drone makes it ideal for indoor flights as well as outdoor flights in good weather conditions. If you're looking for a great product that can help you learn the basics of flying a drone, this is the product for you.
2. Holy Stone HS190
Best nano drone
Max Speed/Speed Modes
3 Speed adjustment mode
The Holy Stone HS190 Foldable Mini Nano is arguably the best nano drone on the market right now. The drone is built well and has a sleek black and red design that both adults and kids will like. When it comes to tech features, the Holy Stone HS190 also delivers.
One of the most attractive features of the drone is the altitude hold function, which makes flying much easier, as it lets you release the joystick and maintain the drone's altitude. It's also great because it has a one-key return function, which significantly reduces the chance of losing the drone in flight.
The drone is super small and easy to transport, and the quadcopter can be folded and stored inside the controller. The drone is also enjoyable to use and can be fully rotated at high speeds. If you're a beginner drone flyer, this drone could also be a good choice, as it is relatively inexpensive and effortless to control. Take off and landing is made particularly easy thanks to a one-button feature.
The drone is also straightforward to charge, with a choice of USB charging and charging via the controller for when you're out and about.
3. EACHINE E016H
Best mini drone for beginners
Max Speed/Speed Modes
3 speed modes (30%, 60%, 100%)
The EACHINE Mini Quadcopter Drone is one of the best mini drones for beginners due to its extremely affordable price and easy to use design. According to the reviews on the EACHINE website, the mini quadcopter has an extremely durable design perfect for those that are still learning.
"I have to say I really enjoyed this drone it's the first one I've ever bought. I have crashed into walls lots of times and it hasn't broken yet." -Review on EACHINE website
The drone is very small and lightweight, making it perfect for use indoors with kids. The colorful red or green designs also make them a great affordable gift for kids. Although the drone has quite a short flight time, which is common among drones of this time, it has a convenient USB charging wire, that allows you to charge the drone from any USB device.
The drone also has LED lights to make it easier to see when flying outdoors in the evening. Also, there's no need to worry about losing track of the drone, as it has one key return making it really simple to call the drone back. For beginners, this drone offers everything you need to get the hang of flying, without a high price tag.
4. Holy Stone HS170 Predator
Best budget mini drone
Max Speed/Speed Modes
3 Speed Modes
The Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Helicopter Drone is the best budget mini drone and an excellent choice for someone looking for a durable and sophisticated product.
Although some users felt that the drone was a little complicated for beginners, it's one of the better nano drones available if you're comfortable with your flying abilities. Like many nano drones, it had headless security system technology which makes stabilizing the drone much more manageable.
Rather than being designed for kids, the Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Helicopter Drone is better suited to adults and teenagers and isn't suitable for those under the age of 14. Unlike many of the other mini drones on this list that are capable of only 5 minutes of flight time, the Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Helicopter Drone can fly for up to 8 minutes when fully charged.
The drone is easy to charge and can be charged via USB. Alternatively, users can buy a separate power pack to charge the battery faster and more effectively. The drone is fairly powerful but is still less than 0.55lb, meaning it doesn't need FAA registration. If you're looking for a mini drone with a great build quality and sophisticated flight features, this is the perfect product.
5. Potensic A20
Best rated nano quadcopter
Max Speed/Speed Modes
Next up, we have the Potensic A20 RC Nano Quadcopter. This model of nano drone is definitely a crowd pleaser as it’s one of the best rated nano quadcopters on the market.
And it's clear to see why. This is a great beginner drone that has some pretty impressive features considering its low price tag. For example, the controller has a built-in ‘Headless Mode’ button that simplifies navigation by allowing you to fly the drone according to the orientation of the controller.
This is great for beginners as one of the biggest trip-ups when learning to fly a drone is the drone rotation. Usually, as the drone rotates to point in a different direction than the controller, navigation gets tricky. This isn’t a problem with the Potensic A20 when Headless Mode is activated.
It also features a bunch of other cool features like an emergency stop function, altitude hold (which is basically auto-hover), and a low battery alarm. All these features make it perfect for beginners and kids.
Aside from all that, it also has a great flight time and a compact, lightweight design. Plus, it’s painted with the U.S. flag, which looks awesome.
It’s small enough that you don’t have to register it with the FAA in the U.S.A and it even comes with a 12-month warranty for added peace of mind.
6. Syma X5UW FPV
Best mini FPV drone
Camera with FPV
Max Speed/Speed Modes
The X5UW FPV RC Drone from Syma is a great option for anyone looking for the best mini FPV drone available. This is the first mini drone on the list equipped with a camera that has Real-Time Transmission and First-Person view. This means that you can watch the video feed from your drone in real-time via WIFI.
Not only does this drone have a cool camera, but it also has some other awesome features too. Unlike many of the drones on this list, the FPV RC drone can be controlled via the Syma app. It also has the option for flight planning, which users can use to draw a line that the drone will automatically follow.
Overall, this is a really great drone for anyone looking for an affordable mini drone that can catch video recordings. In addition to its great features, this drone also has reasonably long flight time in comparison to other drones in this category, making it a great option for anyone who's looking to make longer flights.
The only downside is that the battery takes a rather long time to recharge, which could be a downside for people looking to use this drone on a very regular basis.
7. Altair #AA108
Best mini drone with camera
720p wide-angle camera
Max Speed/Speed Modes
If you're a video maker looking for a mini drone that can capture great footage, the Altair #AA108 Camera Drone is the best mini drone with a camera.
This product is great for beginners who don't have much experience as it has been built with durability in mind. This means that a few bumps and knocks during the learning process shouldn't affect the drone too much. The drone controller connects with a smartphone app to allow you to track your video feed as the drones on the move.
When it comes to camera capabilities, this drone is sure to deliver, as it can capture 720p footage from up to 100 feet in the air. With a 7-10 minute flight time, you're sure to be able to catch some awesome aerial shots with this drone.
If you're concerned about using this drone, you don't need to be as it has a lot of functions to make flying easy. These include a one-touch return function as well as one-button take-off and landing. Whether you're a beginner looking for an easy to use camera drone, or an expert looking for a decent drone for capturing video, this drone is sure to deliver.
8. DJI Tello
Best mini drone for kids
Max Speed/Speed Modes
Looking for the best mini drone for kids? One of the best options to go for is the DJI Tello beginner drone. DJI is one of the most established drone companies, and they're known for making high-quality well-designed products.
Tello is explicitly designed for beginners or children looking to learn new skills and get a feel for what flying a great drone is like. What's great about buying for DJI is that they have a good warranty period, which means you don't need to worry about faulty or defective products.
In addition to a reputable brand, the DJI Tello beginner drone has some great features. It's equipped with an impressive HD camera and can even be used in conjunction with VR. This means you can watch the drones real-time feed via VR headset.
The drone is also capable of 13 minutes of flight time, which is really high in comparison to many other mini drones. The drone can be controlled for distances of up to 325 feet. For kids, learning the take-off and landing techniques should also be really easy as it has 'throw and go' technology, which helps kids to stabilize the drone efficiently, as soon as it's in the air.
9. Parrot PF727004
Best mini racing drone
0.3 MP camera
Max Speed/Speed Modes
up to 19 MPH
The Parrot Swing Mini Drone is one of the best mini racing drones on the market and is perfect for kids that love to race and challenge themselves. Not only is the drone perfectly designed for performing acrobatic stunts in the air, but it's ideal for kids that are looking to learn more about how drones work.
Despite being a beginner drone, it has some great features that can help kids to learn skills like coding. The drone links up with an app that allows users to plot the route of the drone and code stunts.
In comparison to other drones of this size, the Parrot Swing Mini Drone charges relatively fast, in only 30 minutes. It also has a flight time of around 7 minutes, which means kids can play with the drone all day and won't have to wait too long for it to recharge.
Unfortunately, the Parrot Swing Mini Drone doesn't come equipped with a 720p camera. However, it's high speeds of around 19 MPH make it a great and fun drone to buy all the same. In terms of price, it's a little bit expensive for a camera drone with such low quality, but the racing design could make it worth the extra money.
10. DJI Spark
Best rated portable mini drone
12 MP Camera
Max Speed/Speed Modes
up to 31 MPH
The DJI spark is one of the best rated portable mini drones available, and it's a great buy for anyone looking for a high-quality and reliable portable mini drone. The DJI Spark is marketed as the 'selfie drone' as it's extremely easy to use and capture selfies with.
The DJI Spark is quick to launch and easy to control. It has a high-quality 12MP camera perfect for taking great photos on the go. The drone is also capable of 15 minutes of flying time, which is by far the longest flight time of any of the other drones on this list.
When it comes to speed, the DJI Spark also delivers and can reach speeds of up to 31 MPH in good conditions. The DJI Spark certainly isn't the cheapest portable drone on the market, but it's an extremely professional product for those looking to up their drone photography game.
The DJI Spark controller has a space to fit most common smartphones, so you can then watch your drones camera feed in real-time. If you're looking for the best mini portable drone on the market and you're not concerned about the price, then the DJI Spark is the way to go.
Regular Drones vs. Mini Drones
The main difference between regular drones and mini drones is, of course, the frame size (i.e., the distance from opposite corner motors). Mini drones have a frame size of around 150 - 300mm. Anything over that is usually classed as a regular drone.
In terms of usability and functionality, mini drones are usually more limited than regular drones. Regular drones frequently come with large, super-HD cameras, sophisticated navigational technology, and superior flight speeds, heights, and control ranges.
Mini drones tend to be slower, have more limited maximum control ranges and heights, and lower-quality cameras. However, they also tend to be lighter, more compact, more affordable, and better suited for indoor use.
Which type of drone is the right choice for you depends on what you plan on using it for and the features you're looking for.
Drone Safety Tips
Drones can be a lot of fun, but they can also be dangerous to both yourself and those around you if you fly them irresponsibly. To help you to be a responsible drone operator, here are some drone safety tips you should try to follow:
You can find more drone safety tips here.
How to Fly Nano Quadcopters
Most nano quadcopters have the same basic operational controls.
The left joystick controls the ‘lift.' You tilt it forward to increase rotor acceleration and move your drone up, and backward to decrease acceleration and move it down. You should also be able to move it side to side, which controls the drone rotation.
The right joystick controls the horizontal movement and direction of the drone. You can move it to change the direction your drone is moving in horizontal space.
It may also have extra buttons that perform specific, model-based functions like speed boosts and tricks.
Here are some basic steps on how to fly your nano quadcopter. You’ll also find a video below with a visual walkthrough of the whole process.
- 1Perform some basic pre-checks. Make sure you’re aware of your transmitter range, that both your drone and controller batteries are charged and secure, that you’re in a clear and open space, and that the weather conditions are suitable for flight.
- 2Set the drone down on a flat surface with the back end facing you and check the lights are working, then prepare for take-off.
- 3Turn the controller on and make sure that you’ve connected it to your drone. If it isn’t, connect it via the manufacturer’s instructions.
- 4Practice the basics of flight by very gently using the left joystick to control the drone’s elevation. Push it forward slightly to make it move upwards, and down to make it go downwards. Be very gentle.
- 5Next, practice using the right joystick to control the direction. Again, be very gentle and use soft motions.
- 6Once you’ve had some practice, you can begin to experiment with faster movements, maneuvers, rolls, and flips.
Care and Maintenance: Mini Drones
To keep your mini drone in tip-top condition, it's essential to perform some regular care and maintenance.
You’re likely to crash often when you’re first starting out. To stop your drone from getting damage, here’s what to do after a crash:
Here are some more general maintenance tips to keep your drone in good condition:
You can find more care and maintenance tips in the video below.
Common Nano Drone Issues & Fixes
Here are some common problems you might run into when using your nano drone and how to fix them:
Many other potential issues can affect your nano drone. If you can't find the answer online to your specific problem, it may be worth taking it in for repairs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do mini drones need WIFI?
No, most mini drones come with a remote control that uses radio signals to establish control. However, some drones will use a WiFi connection to transmit the FPV video feed in real-time - it really all depends on the model of drone.
How do I connect my mini drone to my smartphone?
Not all mini drones connect to smartphones. Those that do will typically have provided instructions on how to connect to their specific model in the user manual. You may have to go into your smartphone’s WiFi settings and connect to your drone’s WiFi signal.
How do you charge a nano drone?
You usually charge a nano done via a USB charging cable. You may have to connect the cable into the mini drone’s charging port and the other side into your PC or USB adapter. It tends to take around 10 - 20 minutes to fully charge the smaller drones.
How long does a mini drone battery usually last?
The average battery life of a mini drone is around 5 to 12 minutes. It all depends on the model, weight, and the way you fly it.
Where can I fly small drones?
There are different laws regarding where you can legally fly drones, and you should check the laws in your local jurisdiction before operating your drone. You typically have to fly the drone ‘within sight,' under 400 feet in altitude, and away from congested areas. However, this depends on your jurisdiction.
Can micro drones be flown indoors?
Many micro drones are designed to be small enough to fly indoors. However, it also depends on the amount of space you have indoors and the model of your mini drone. Consult your drone’s user guide if you’re unsure.
What accessories do I need for my mini drone?
Most drones come with everything you need for basic operation. However, it’s often advisable to purchase additional accessories such as spare propellers, propeller guards, battery packs, and landing pads separately to help ensure smooth operation.
What’s the difference between a nano drone and a mini drone?
Nano drones are smaller than mini drones and are typically powered and recharged via USB cable, rather than through detachable batteries. Nano drones are small enough to fit in your hand and can be as small as an insect, whereas mini drones are about the same size as your hand.
What are the best mini drone brands?
Some of the best mini drone brands on the market are DJI, Syma, and Holy Stone - but there are plenty more too.
Now, you know pretty much all there is to know about mini drones. All that’s left to do is to grab your Syma X20 Mini Pocket Drone and take it to the skies. Remember to be responsible, practice carefully, and, above all else, have fun!
Enjoy flying your new toy!
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