- The DJI Mini 2 is budget-friendly and sports many features. Using either a phone or a controller, you can live video stream the Mini 2s view, making sure you are always getting the perfect shot.
- The DJI Mini 3 Pro has an upgraded sensor, reduced overall footprint, and allows for rotational camera changes, allowing you to shoot in 16:9 without cropping.
- FPV stands for First Person View. FPV drones come with a headset and controller, allowing you to feel the drone as it flies. Additionally, FPV drones are often designed for racing.
Drones are fast becoming an essential part of any photographer or videographer’s kit. Unfortunately, they are often big, expensive, and really easy to break. Still, there are always some options out there for anyone looking to get something perfect for their situation. Today, we are going to be taking a look at the 5 best small drones you can buy today, plus a little on how to pick the ideal one for you. Let’s get started.
The 5 Best Small Drones You Can Buy Today
Although there are tons of different types of drones out there now, we wanted to focus specifically on small drones, otherwise known as “mini” drones. Mini drones are wonderful devices that can fit in a backpack, travel easily, and often aren’t as expensive as their full-sized counterparts. For anyone looking to travel with a drone or need something a little cheaper, a mini drone is probably the ideal purchase to look into. Still, even narrowing it down to just mini drones, there are a lot of options. Let’s take a look at our list of the 5 best smallest drones you can buy today. We’ve broken our list into five categories, each with its own slant for various users.
- Best Overall: DJI Mini 2
- Best without A Budget: DJI Mini 3 Pro
- Best Budget-Friendly: DJI Mini
- Best Mini FPV: Emax Tinyhawk 2
- Best for Kids: Hubsan H111
Best Overall: DJI Mini 2
Coming in at the top of our list is the DJI Mini 2. The DJI Mini 2 is the perfect combination of budget-friendly and feature stuffed, plus it’s solidly within the “mini” category. It isn’t the newest or the best drone in the world, but most of the time, buying the newest of anything isn’t that much of an improvement.
The Mini 2 features:
- 12 MPO 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor
- 4:3 and 16:9 image size
- 4k at 24/25/30 fps
- 2.7k up to 60 fps
- Weighs 246 grams
Packed with incredible hardware and software and weighing only 249 grams, there are little no competitors outside of Mavic in this category. Using either a phone or a controller, you can live video stream the Mini 2s view, making sure you are always getting the perfect shot.
Best without A Budget: DJI Mini 3 Pro
Although we placed the Mini 2 as our overall pick, it goes without saying that the DJI Mini 3 Pro is a newer, slightly better, version. It’s the same weight as the Mini 2, only with a lot more features. Overall, it has an upgraded sensor, reduced overall footprint, and allows for rotational camera changes, allowing you to shoot in 16:9 without cropping. For anyone looking to create content for Instagram or TikTok, the rotating camera feature is truly revolutionary.
The Mini 3 features:
- Tri-Directional Obstacle Sensing (Forward/Backward/Downward)
- Record Up to 4K/60fps Video and 4K/30fps HDR Video
- 34-min Max Flight Time
- True Vertical Shooting
- FocusTrack (ActiveTrack, Spotlight, and Point of Interest)
Overall, the Mini 3 Pro has a few more features than the Mini 2 that make it a compelling option. If you have some extra money saved up and don’t mind spending it on the newest and best, even if the upgrades aren’t insane, the Mini 3 Pro is a wonderful option.
Best Budget-Friendly: DJI Mini
For most people, the constraints of the wallet set the tone for what kind of drone you can afford. At the risk of sounding redundant, however, we have to recommend the DJI Mini as our budget option. We’ve covered the 2 and the 3; it’s only fitting that we cover the 1! Like the others, the Mini 1 was created with portability and affordability in mind. As the first of its kind, it was truly amazing. The thing, however, is that it was released in 2019. Although that feels like it was last year, it was almost 4 years ago. In the world of technology, that is a pretty long time.
The Mini SE features:
- 1/2.3-inch sensor
- 2.7K video at 30fps
- 3-axis gimbal-stabilized camera
- Weighs 249 grams
As you can see, it doesn’t offer 4k video, and its sensor is a bit dated, but even still, it’s a steal. The Mini isn’t in production anymore, but you can pick them up for a few hundred at various online retailers. Just make sure you use a retailer you trust since you won’t be buying from DJI.
Best Mini FPV: Emax Tinyhawk 2
If you are more into flying than you are into videography, an FPV drone is for you. FPV stands for First Person View and is a growing industry within the world of drones. Generally, FPV drones come with a headset and controller, allowing you to feel the drone as it flies. Additionally, FPV drones are often designed for racing. Our choice for a solid mini FPV drone is the Emax Tinyhawk 2. This tiny drone is pretty incredible and worth the price if they aren’t sold out.
The Emax Tinyhawk 2 features:
- Electronic headset for full emersion (480×272)
- Three to four minutes of fly time
- 600TVL camera with CMOS sensor
While this drone can stream and record video, that isn’t what it’s designed for. Instead, this four-inch TinyHawk is meant for speed and total agility. It is designed for indoor use, but a sufficiently calm day outside should be fine in most situations.
Best for Kids: Hubsan H111
When you are talking about mini drones, the conversation about toy drones is always nearby. Look, a toy drone isn’t meant to shoot 4k video on a state-of-the-art gimbal with a brand-new CMOS sensor. Instead, they are designed to take a beating and introduce someone to the world of fun that drones can be. For our best toy drone, we chose the Hubsan H111. Although it is a toy, it doesn’t have to be flown by a child.
The Hubsan H111 features:
- Incredibly low cost
- Five minutes of battery
- Fast acceleration and yaw
- Touted as the “world’s smallest quadcopter.”
Although you aren’t getting all the crazy features of a DJI, the feeling of flying a tiny drone around a house is unbeatable. It charges in 30 minutes and lasts five, perfect for a few flights during the day. Oh, did we mention it’s only 2×2 inches?
How to Pick the Best Small (Mini) Drone
Picking a mini drone isn’t all that hard when you know what you want. There are two things to consider that will help narrow down your options:
If you are like most people, you have to consider your budget when looking for a new drone. When it comes to mini-drones especially, there is a wide array of budget options, although each tier has a distinct use case.
If you are looking for a drone that works right and you have a legitimate professional need, the DJI Mini series is easily the best option for you. If you are an elopement photographer, for example, and need to be able to hike into a remote area to shoot a stunning 4k video, the DJI Mini 2 and 3 are great options. If you just want something fun to take on hikes and are under severe budget constraints, the Mini 1 may be a better option.
Additionally, it’s important to understand the uses of each of these drones. As cool as they are, the Mavics aren’t really toys, but they are tools for capturing footage. If you want to feel the thrill of flying through the air but don’t care much for the newest CMOS sensor and shooting 4k at 60 fps, then an affordable, fun drone like the Emax TinyHawk is a solid option.
Finally, if you are looking for something cheap, portable, and cool, the world of drones is truly your oyster. There are tons of companies out there offering things as low as $20, with the Hubsan H111 being a prime example. A little more money and options like the TinyHawk start to open up. If you’ve never flown a drone before, there’s no shame in getting a small toy one to crash a few times!
What to Know Before Buying A Mini Drone
If you are in the market for a small, portable drone within a reasonable budget … congrats! You’ve just been qualified to buy a mini drone! There is a mini drone for almost everyone and there isn’t much to it.
Still, there are a few things to know, especially if you are looking at purchasing one professionally. First, take a look at the laws in your area. Certain drones above a certain size are considered unnamed aircraft by the FAA and use certain frequencies to operate. Additionally, flying above certain heights in some areas can get you into trouble. Before buying, do a quick Google search on the drone laws in your area.
Also, it’s important to know that drones can be tools AND toys, especially in the case of a mini drone. Small drones like the Hubsan are literally toys that a child can play with, but larger ones like the Mavic line are quite dangerous to play with as a child. In a Mavic, the propellers move so fast that they can easily harm someone if handled improperly. Although we’ve lumped both types of drones together, do your research on the kind you are buying.
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The image featured at the top of this post is ©S.Galindo/Shutterstock.com.