How To Find the Best Beginner Quadcopter

What Is the Best Beginner Quadcopter for Me?

If you’ve never flown a quadcopter and are looking to get into the hobby, it can be a daunting task trying to determine which is the best beginner quadcopter for your situation. There are many models from which you can choose.

Let’s try to narrow down your choices here so you can make an intelligent decision before making your first purchase of a quadcopter.

Should I Get a Read-To-Fly Quadcopter?

If you do even a little research into quadcopters, you’ll probably see the phrase ready-to-fly, or RTF quadcopter, in conjunction with many of these machines. You might be wondering, “Aren’t all quadcopters ready to fly?” Actually, most of them are but not all.

The complement to RTF is BNF, which means bind-and-fly. Some of the higher end vehicles do not come equipped with a remote controller. You get to select your own or use one that you already own. Then you “bind” it to your new quadcopter; that is, you push some buttons that allow the two gadgets to understand each other.

The BNF setup is generally beyond what a beginner wants to tackle. You should probably eliminate them from your initial choices and just look at RTF models.

How Much Should I Spend on My First Quadcopter?

If you’re like most people, you are going to crash your first quadcopter. This may not damage it, or if it does, you may be able to repair it and fly it again. However, there is a chance that the crash may permanently disable the machine.

You most likely don’t want to shell out several hundred dollars only to have a pile of useless pieces after two minutes of flying time. Fortunately, you don’t even have to spend $50 to get your first quadcopter. There are quite a few models available in the $30 to $50 range. You can even get really cheap quadcopters for $25 or less!

Most of these are quite small and will fly between 5 and 10 minutes before you need to recharge their batteries. Most are also micro quadcopters, as opposed to mid-sized or large aircraft. None have more advance features like a camera or GPS. You will probably need to supply a few AA or AAA batteries for the remote controller.

Let’s take a look at a few of these low-end aircraft.

Syma X12 Nano

Syma X12 Nano
Syma X12 Nano

The Syma company designed this tiny quadcopter for beginner pilots. It measures just 7 cm by 4.5 cm by 2.65 cm. The remote controller looks a lot like a video game controller, so if you’re used to playing video games, you may feel at home with this device.

You can get the Syma X12 Nano in red, green, black, or (all) white. All models have lights on the top which may allow you to fly it in the dark with a little experience and plenty of open space.

Estes Proto-X Drone

Estes Proto-X
Estes Proto-X

The Estes Proto X is even smaller than the X12. It measures just over 4.5 cm by 4.5 cm and weighs only 0.4 ounces. Since it’s so light (as are many of these small machines), you probably don’t want to take it outside unless there is absolutely no wind. Even a small breeze could greatly affect your ability to control the aircraft.

Ares RC Ethos PQ

Ares RC Ethos PQ
Ares RC Ethos PQ

A small, but nice, feature of the Ethos PQ from Ares RC is that the company includes all the batteries you need. True, you’ll eventually need to replace them with your own, but it’s nice of them to provide the first set to make this truly ready-to-fly out of the box.

Many of these quadcopters come with spare parts, such as rotor blades. To recharge the LiPo (lithium-ion polymer) battery inside the aircraft, you usually get a USB cord that you plug into the quadcopter and a powered unit such as a computer.

Syma X11C Air-Cam

Syma X11C Air-Cam with prop guards
Syma X11C Air-Cam with prop guards

If you go to the upper price limit ($50) in what I’m considering the beginner category, you can even get a quadcopter with a built-in camera. The X11C Air-Cam, another machine from Syma, has a camera that takes excellent pictures and video for the cost.

This quadcopter is just a little larger than the ones mentioned above because it needs space for the camera. To offset the extra weight, a slightly larger (250 mAh) battery that you’d find in its predecessor the X11. This allows you to still get a decent amount of flying time before recharging.

Notice that this machine also comes with a propeller guard which you can optionally attach to protect the blades. Even this little bit of extra weight will lower your flying time, but it may be worth it while you’re still learning how to fly.

What Other Options Do I Have for My First Quadcopter?

If you want to keep your initial costs at $50 or less (not counting buying batteries), you have several more choices besides those mentioned here. I’ll just mention them by name briefly, since we’re trying to lessen confusion rather than add to it.

There are even more options out there (and I expect more in the future), but these are some of the more popular selections.

So Which Quadcopter Should I Buy?

I realize that even narrowing it down to the four quadcopters pictured above still present a problem: Which one? Perhaps it will come down to looks and style for you. If you don’t want to hassle with a camera, eliminate that option. Do you want an itty-bitty machine? Pick the Proto-X. Do you like a certain color? Go for it.

If you can find a friend who owns one and will let you try it out, that may help you decide whether or not you like that particular model.

In the end, there is probably no wrong choice. Take the plunge, buy your first quadcopter, and enjoy the experience of flying.