How To Choose Your First Micro Quadcopter
Quadcopters come in many sizes – from the extremely large military grade drones down to the micro quadcopter that you can hold in the palm of your hand. It’s these tiny machines that we’re going to take a look at here. Let’s see if there is one that’s better than the rest so you can choose the best quadcopter for yourself or to give someone as a gift.
There are various definitions of what constitutes a micro drone. For our purposes here, we’ll consider micro quadcopters and nano quadcopters to be the same thing and therefore the same size.
What we’ll be looking at are the smallest of the small as of this writing. The tiny quadcopters in the micro/nano range are at most just over 4.5 cm on a side. All of the ones we examine here would fit in the palm of even a child’s hand quite easily.
Are There Options to Choose From with a Nano Quadcopter?
The larger the quadcopter, the more options you’re likely to be offered. So with nano quadcopters there generally aren’t many decisions to make.
Very few come with a built-in camera. For those that do, it’s not really an option either. You either buy the micro with a camera or you buy a different model that doesn’t have one.
The main choice you’ll have is which color you want you own. Several models of nano quadcopters come in a number of bright colors – red, blue, green, orange, black…to name a few.
What Is the Smallest Quadcopter?
Most of the micros we’ll look at here at one time laid claim to the smallest quadcopter in the world. Then a new, smaller machine came along to steal that title.
Of the eight shown below, the two largest (though it seems strange to refer to them as large even in this context) by Estes measure 4.572 cm on a side. The Syma and Cheerson measure 4.5 and 4.2 cm respectively.
There are two that top out at an even 4 cm, made by TRNDlabs and Wallet Drone. UDI’s nano is 3.5 cm long, and the smallest of the small is Axis Drones teeny quadcopter measuring only 3 cm across!
In that order by size then, here are nine of the smallest quadcopters you can find today.
Take Your Choice of Colors with the Estes Proto-X
Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
One thing you’ll notice right away about the two Estes models (and the UDI below) is that the main body is not square; that is, the same length and width. These are slightly rectangular making them look rather bug-like.
The Proto-X comes in a rainbow of colors. You can select black with orange frame (as pictured), black with black frame, light green, purple, red, white, or yellow.
This nano features two blue lights on the front of its body, in addition to orientation lights near the propellers. This makes it a good candidate for flying in the dark, when you’re ready for that challenge.
Check Out the Award-Winning Estes Syncro
While it offers fewer color choices – white or black – than the Proto-X, the Estes Syncro (note the lack of an H in the name – not Synchro) has won more awards than its cousin.
In 2014, this micro quadcopter won both the International Toy Fair Award for Best New Toy in the Teenager and Family Category and the U.K. Toy Fair Award for Best New Toy in the Hobby Category.
Estes also gave this model the two blue lights in front to aid in night flight.
Enjoy Quick Response with the Syma X12 Nano
All quadcopters have lights to help you determine which is the front and which is the back side of the machine. Those on the Syma X12 Nano might be just a little harder to see, since they’re embedded in the top of the body. There is one “headlight” to help you here too.
The X12 comes in a handful of colors – green, red, black, white, and orange. The body is basically square with just a hint of the “bug-ness” found in the Estes models above.
This quadcopter’s main claim is that its transmitter speed is 100 times faster than its competitors’. This should mean that there is better control between the remote and the flying machine.
Syma also says this model has 360-degree Eversion, meaning that it can readily do a 360-degree flip. It will take some experience and practice to make this work without crashing though.
See the Shiny Cheerson CX-10
Gold, silver, black, white, orange, and green – those are your color choices for the Cheerson CX-10. If you’re giving one of these as a gift, maybe the gold or silver version of the CX-10 is the one you want. It certainly would make someone’s eyes open wide.
The CX-10 has a brother called the CX-10A. The main difference between the two is that the CX-10A features what is known as a headless mode. This means that, when you push the direction stick on the remote, the quadcopter will move in that direction, no matter which way it’s facing. There is no “head” or “front” to figure out.
SKEYE Nano Drone = Rebranded Cheerson CX-10?
Reportedly, the popular Cheerson CX-10 has been rebranded, possibly more than once, and is the same nano drone as the SKEYE from TRNDlabs. This may be true, but if it is, I’m not sure why the measurements I’ve found differ. The CX-10 is 4/2 cm square, but the SKEYE is just 4 cm on a side.
The SKEYE seems to cost a little more in general, so if you like this model, you may want to look for a CX-10 or CX-10A instead.
Wallet Drone Distributed Via Indiegogo
The Wallet drone was an Indiegogo project in 2014-2015. It probably is only available now secondhand. (I personally own two of these machines – one in blue and one in yellow. I might be persuaded to part with one or both, if the price is right.)
Besides being the smallest at the time, this little guy fits inside the remote control box when not in use. This makes it especially easy to carry around. If your pockets are big enough, you could safely stuff the whole box inside.
UDI U839 Boasts Bumpers
The UDI U839 comes in basic black with four colors of trim – green, orange, blue, and hot pink!
As you can see above, the main feature here is the propeller guards or bumpers that prevent you from damaging the props when you run into a wall – an action that you’ll almost certainly perform several times when you’re learning to fly.
These guards make this nano quadcopter seem bigger than the rest, but it technically is one of the smallest at 4 cm, sans guards.
One thing you may not like about the U839 is that there are wires protruding from the back side. It’s not that they get in the way, but they don’t do anything for the aesthetics of this micro quadcopter.
Axis AERIUS Drone Is the Smallest to Date
Finally we come to the smallest quadcopter in the world, as of this writing, the AERIUS drone by Axis. It has pretty much all of the features the larger models have (except the bumpers) but is only about three-fourths the size. It measures just 3 cm square.
As pictured above, not only can you fit this one in the palm of your hand, you can easily set it on your finger tip. The AERIUS is roughly the size of a quarter, the American twenty-five cent piece.
The AERIUS comes in orange, blue, green, and black.
If you truly want the smallest quadcopter currently available, you have to get the Axis AERIUS.
Common Features of Micro Quadcopters
All of these micro quadcopters are designed to be flown indoors. Due to their small size and light weight, even small breezes can alter their flight. That said, if you can handle such variations, you certainly can fly them outdoors as well.
Each of these machines requires from 2 to 4 AAA batteries which you insert into the remote controller. The quadcopter itself comes with a rechargeable battery which you normally can’t replace without damaging the body.
Manufacturers usually include an extra set of propeller blades in the package. As hinted at above, you will bump into things and crash many times as you’re learning to control your nano. Sometimes these mishaps damage the propellers to the point where one or more of them needs to be replaced. Since the makers understand this, they give you a “free” set from the start. You can always purchase additional blades separately later.
You’ll get less than 10 minutes of flight time per charge, and a full recharge will take between 30 minutes and an hour in general.
Which Is the Best Nano Quadcopter?
Personally, I like the Wallet drone the best, since it’s the one I own. Unfortunately that’s the hardest one to find, now that the Indiegogo campaign is done.
After the Wallet, I would recommend the AERIUS simply because it truly is the smallest. Of the larger sizes, I would suggest the U839 because of its bumpers. That said, I’ve crashed my Wallet several times, and the blades are still in good condition.
If you’re not worried about propeller damage, then try the Cheerson CX-10(A) or one of its rebrandings. I haven’t flown one myself, but they have a good reputation. I think the rebranding says something about its quality too. I wouldn’t bother to rebrand a product that wasn’t worth the effort.
I’m really not trying to waffle in answering this question, but if you like the “bug” look of an Estes, you really can’t go wrong there either. All of these quadcopters cost less than $50 (USD), so even if you trash it shortly after your first few flights, you won’t be out a lot of money.