Small, Mini & nano drones : ultimate buying guide

Hello ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Even though this morning started out sunny, heavy rain washed away the entire afternoon leaving me trapped inside my own 4 walls. At first, I was rather bored since I signed off my cable contract 2 months ago… but then I realised I had 2 miniature indoor drones lying around collecting dust… Needless to say, I spent the entire day playing around with them, having the time of my life.

Slide down to :

  1. List of 10 best mini drones

  2. List of 5 best nano drones

Photo source : Youtube, @IPHONEDO

So, for all of you who want something small that can serve as great indoor fun, and those who simply want a miniature drone that’s a breeze to carry around, I have a very special treat in store! Today, we’re going to be taking a closer look at small, mini and nano drones. First off, I’d like to point out that nano drones are all drones that can actually fit into the palm of one’s hand, while mini ones are those who can easily fit into a medium-sized backpack. So, with that out of our way, let’s jump straight to the discussion after which I’ll present you the top models from each basket.

Are these drones for indoor use only?

Nano drones are, quite frankly, only suitable for indoor use. That’s because… they’re simply too small. Lightweight is also a big issue in addition to stability issues even during the slightest of breezes. Since they are so small, you’re going to have a rough time even seeing them in open sunlight.

On the other hand, mini (or small, as you wish) drones are most often suitable for outdoor use as well. They’re obviously much bigger than their nano counterparts and feature stronger motors which can properly hover on even during light winds. Of course, they possess much better stability and operating range (and often come with FPV as well), allowing you to enjoy flying them all over your backyard and even beyond.

Are there any high-end small drones?

Believe it or not, there are several high end small drones. The class A crew comes from DJI where Spark and Mavic Pro are setting the bar really high for rest of the competitors. However, there are other models such as Yuneec Breeze and XIRO Xplorer Mini who aren’t exactly in the same basket as DJI’s flagships, but aren’t to be taken granted either. With solid specifications and a fine array of features available, these little fellas are known to cause plenty of upset in the niche.

What are the benefits of having a small drone?

As I previously stated, the 2 most obvious benefits of having a miniature drone are mobility and indoor fun. With the former having the greatest impact on people who travel frequently, the latter works for all of us and is a factor you should definitely take into account. Take the situation from our introduction as an example – it’s raining outside, your internet is not working and there’s nothing on TV… you’re bored to death… Now imagine the same scenario with a miniature drone. You’d fly it around the house and completely forget about the bad weather outside. Plus, they’re really cheap which means even if you end up breaking one, you can buy another one and your wallet won’t even feel it.

READ NEXT :  Drones with GoPro  /  Drones for Kids  /  Drones for beginners

 

Top 10 best mini drones

10. Hubsan X4

For a bit less than 80 bucks, you can buy one of Hubsan’s cheapest (and smallest) drones at the moment – Hubsan X4. It comes with a good looking black controller with a build in screen for a FPV purpose. It works pretty good and it’s build quality is decent. Decent controller will definitely give you a positive first impression.

Even though it doesn’t have the best controller, Hubsan X4 is still fairly easy to control. 6-axis gyro control system works well and grants stable flight via 4 channels. Moving on, this little guy sports a small 2 MP camera for recording aerial shots. Truth be told, this camera is so bad that I wouldn’t even dare to say that good old saying Something is better than nothing. Believe it or not, when it comes to this camera, nothing would be better. Not only would it result in better power efficiency (longer flight time) but it would also save your eyes from watching that low-res aerial footage.

Hubsan X4 runs on 3.7V 380mAh LiPo’s which give it about 5 to 6 minutes of flight time. Range is somewhat acceptable too with up to 50 meters. Unfortuantely, FPV is not supported… but with such an awful camera you would hate it anyways…

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9. Rabing Foldable Mini RC

If you want a unique looking drone, then Rabing Foldable mini drone is all for you. This little guy features an interesting design with bars and wide plastic casing covering the entirety of its propellers and guarding it’s miniature HD camera. It comes with its own dedicated controller which has a mount for your smartphone. At the moment, its app works with both Android and iPhone platforms and it’s a breeze to use.

Specifications are a pretty good trait for Rabing Foldable Mini. With up to 100 meters of range in open terrain and cca 8 minutes of flight time, most of you will agree with me that it’s pretty solid. Controls are easy as well – you can choose between smartphone or controller… or use the 2 together and get the best out of Rabing Foldable Mini. Lastly, it even sports a FPV capable HD camera (records in 720p) which is located inside the cool looking outer frame.

Not only does the frame of this drone looks cool but it also serves as a safety measure which will protect it from crashes. Honestly, you might not think this is such a good protection, but I’ve used this drone and can tell you it’s way more durable than other similar models on the market. It comes in 3 color variants: black/green, white/orange and red/white. The price is not too shabby and, when you take into account everything this little guy has to offer, it’s definitely worth it!

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8. JJRC H37

On 8th spot we have a miniature drone made by a company called JJRC. They deal mostly in entry level drones but are enjoying quite a lot of respect from their competitors. That’s because their employees always do their best with new drones, and that’s especially true for H37.

This simplistic black and white drone is cheap. It won’t make a huge dent in your budget but is prone to providing lots of fun. JJRC H37 does not come with a controller; instead it connects straight to your smartphone with a dedicated app that incorporates several features. Most popular ones are definitely headless mode and return to home (doesnt’t work good on drones without GPS) which you’ll find yourself using more often than you think. It sports a 0.3mpx camera which is quite frankly shit. For FPV it’s okay, I guess… but if you plan on taking selfies or recording aerial footage with your next drone, make sure it’s not JJRC H37.

When it comes to the spec sheet, JJRC H37 seems solid. It runs on 3.7V 500mAh battery which can give out up to 8 minutes of airtime. Operating range is Ok considering it works via WiFi – 40 meters. All in all, you can see for yourself that JJRC H37 isn’t anything special. But, it’s compact and cheap, making it a hit for some of you…

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7. Holy Stone HS170

One thing is for sure – Holy Stone can make awesome looking drones. With F181, HS200 and HS170 looking outright badass, their design team definitely deserves praise. But, other than that, HS170 Predator has a few more good traits that might just get you to purchase it. You want to know more about them? Well, keep on reading!

First of all, I would like to state that it does not work via WiFi like several other models in this list. No! Holy Stone HS170 Predator works over 2.4Ghz frequency as it sports a dedicated controller which is surprisingly responsive for this price range. In terms of stability It works like a charm. Truth be told, it will take some time (3 or 4 test flights) to get a proper feel to it… but once you overcome that, you’ll be enjoying it. Moving forward, HS170 Predator does not come with a camera. That means there’s no FPV, VR or any of that good stuff. Still, as I’ve said, this little guy can entertain you even without those fancy features.

Headless mode is present, as well as roughly 6 to 8 minutes of airtime. Even though Holy Stone HS170 Predator is a tiny drone, it can maintain a stable course during moderately windy weather. Don’t expect flying it during storms though… Lastly, operating range is hovering around the 50-meter mark. I know most of you would like to see it stretched to at least 100 meters (especially considering it’s 2.4Ghz and not WiFi), but folks from Holy Stone thought otherwise. Despite all that, I firmly believe this little guy is worth trying out. Perhaps you’ll like it, who knows?!

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6. Wingsland S6

wingsland s6 foldable droneEven though it is not nearly as popular as some models listed below, I believe Wingsland S6 is on par with (or even better than) some of them. Is that really true or am I just talking out of my head? Well, why don’t we take a closer look at it and see!

WIngsland S6 weighs in at only 260 gram which is incredibly lightweight for a drone of its performance. You think I’m kidding? Believe it or not, Wingsland S6 can record in 4K at 30fps and full HD in buttery smooth 60fps. That’s followed by a plethora of extra features including GPS, barometer, return to home, course lock, orbit, follow me and many more.

Brushless motors are in charge of actually lifting this baby up. They’re nothing special but do their job well by giving Wingsland S6 great lifting speed. It works via smartphone apps (Android and iOS compatible) and has up to 100 meters of operating range (that’s in the clearest of areas… realistically you’re looking at 50-60). Luckily, battery life is much better with up to 10 minutes of active flying in a moderately windy area. All things considered, Wingsland S6 is definitely a solid drone; and with a solid price tag to its name, could cause an upset in mid-tier selfie drones.

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5. Zerotech Dobby

One of first foldable drones to go mainstream, Zerotech Dobby definitely deserves to be in Best Mini Drones list. This stylish, premium-looking drone has foldable propeller arms which make it just a bit bigger than your average phablet. So, needless to say, carrying it around is extremely easy which is just one of many things that I like about this one… and honestly, the name Dobby strikes my heart with love too… (HP reference)

In terms of target audience, Zerotech Dobby with its features (and specifications) makes it pretty clear – “selfie” people. Instagram models, popular vloggers, YouTubers… all of them take selfies on a regular basis and they’ll surely be looking into kicking things up with aerial selfie platforms such as Zerotech Dobby. That will lead to everyday Joes to use them as well, bringing Zerotech Dobby a rapidly expanding market. With that said, features included are facial recognition software, easy selfie shots, GPS, smart flight options… And let’s not forget about its awesome 4K camera. It packs a fully-fledged 3-axis stabilizer and records both professional quality aerial videos and casual selfies.

If you are wondering about operating range, Zerotech Dobby doesn’t shy away from “selfie” numbers. It can reach just 100 meters away from your smartphone (yes, this is a smartphone-controlled only drone) … which is actually pretty good for WiFi transmission. On the other hand, flying time goes all the way up to 10 minutes, bringing a couple more points to House Dobby. All in all, if HP is your niche and you love taking selfies, then Zerotech Dobby will amaze you with its design and performance.

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4. XIRO Xplorer Mini

xiro xplorer mini drone for travelingAfter having huge success with their Xplorer model, the folks over at XIRO decided to step into selfie drone game and release Xplorer Mini. This adventurous-looking drone weighs in at only 460 grams. That allows it to go pretty fast and have slightly better power efficiency than its competitors. But, is that all XIRO Xplorer Mini has to offer? Let’s check it out and see!

This little fella sports a FHD (at 30fps) camera with 13-mpx image sensor. Even though it does not incorporate hardware stabilization system, it combats the issue relatively well and probably won’t cause you any visible issues… unless you’re living in an extremely windy area. In that case, perhaps DJI Mavic Pro might be a better choice. Moving on, XIRO Xplorer Mini has a dedicated app which, in addition to other features, includes one-click social media sharing. Auto takeoff and landing, GPS/GLONASS and RTH (return to home) all are here, making XIRO Xplorer Mini a powerful player in terms of features.

1650mAh battery powers this drone, allowing it up to 15 minutes of airtime. That’s a pretty good number, especially considering its price tag. Unfortunately, range is the biggest downside of XIRO Xplorer Mini. We are talking only 100 meters. Needless to say, that’s way more than I expected. That’s because XIRO Xplorer Mini is a smartphone controlled drone and works over WiFi. Good news though, there are speculations that a fully-fledged controller might come out. Of course, that would result in a significant boost to operating range.

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3. DJI Mavic Pro

Bronze medal goes to none other than DJI Mavic Pro, a proper best of a drone that many of you have already heard of. That’s not surprising at all considering the fact it’s produced by DJI, the world’s leading drone manufacturer. So, what does Mavic Pro bring to the table and can it be the ultimate mini drone for you? Let’s find out, shall we?!

First, I’ll let you in on its special features. Similar to DJI Spark (since they both use DJI Go app), it is equipped with a wide array of smart features including TapFly and ActiveTrack. Additionally, it also has GPS and GLONASS support as well as DJI’s top flight transmission system called OcuSync. Obstacle avoidance is here too, and it’s going to make sure your DJI Mavic Pro is more reliable than any other mini drone on this list.

In terms of specifications, DJI Mavic Pro is a proper beast. It can go as far as 7 kilometers away from its controller (that’s because of OcuSync transmission technology) pushing it away from the standard “selfie drone” branding. Moving forward, battery life is simply breathtaking. Up to 27 minutes of active flying is made true by its 11.4V 3830mAh Li Po 3S battery. It is also featured as one of the best drones with camera… We are talking about a 4K capable 12MPX sensor which incorporates a built-in 3-axis gimbal for stability purposes.

With both those flight time and range being extremely high (go ahead, compare them with all other drones on this list and you’ll realize what I’m talking about), it’s no wonder DJI Mavic Pro costs a fortune. But, in the end, I believe it’s definitely worth purchasing since it gives you premium specifications and features inside an incredibly small package. This means it will allow you to do professional-grade work without burdening you with additional cases/backpacks to carry since it’s backpack/purse-ready when folded.

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2. Yuneec Breeze

yuneec breeze droneOn the second spot, we have a model made by Yuneec, a company that’s is still somehow living in DJI’s shadow. Even though they’ve been drastically improving their models, it’s unfortunate to see them falling behind. Yuneec Breeze, definitely one of their spotlight drones, had a lot of success in the selfie drone niche. But, it seems as though that’s rapidly changing with DJI Spark’s entrance to the market.

Despite that, Yuneec Breeze still has a good number of users which is not surprising considering we’re talking about a pretty solid model here. True, it cannot be compared to DJI Spark, especially in terms of range where DJI’s masterpiece simply excels at. Just think about it – DJI Spark can last up to 2 kilometers while Breeze starts having slight issues once you go over 80 meters. The battery (flight time) difference is not so drastic though. 3S 11,1 V 1150 mAh LiPo vs Spark’s 3s 11.4 V 1480LiPo or 12 minutes vs 15 minutes. Camera, on the other hand, is the only thing where Breeze is on point with DJI Spark. It sports a 4K one that’s pretty decent but lacks proper hardware stabilization so the end result is somewhat shaky.

On the other hand, a set of smart features and HD live feed across all 80 meters of its operating range put Breeze back on the pedestal. Quite frankly, smooth and solid quality live feed is one of key aspects why Breeze is here at spot number 2. It’s responsive and allows you to take that perfect aerial selfie each and every time. What more could you want?

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1. DJI Spark

Finally, we are taking a closer look at the best miniature drone that is currently available on the market. It goes by the name of Spark and is the newest drone released by the drone giant DJI. With incredibly small size factor and outright spectacular hardware, DJI Spark is definitely a worthy name not just in the mini drones’ niche but in general too.

Hardware-wise, DJI Spark is equipped with serious firepower. It runs on a smart 1480mAh 11.4V 3S LiPo battery which can provide it with roughly 15 minutes of air time. It charges up pretty fast which means you won’t have a lot of time to wait between your flying sessions. In terms of range and speed, DJI Spark is bound to surprise even those of you who had the highest expectations prior to its release. With roughly 30mph of top speed and 2 kilometers of operating range (when used with original controller that’s purchasable separately or via Fly More Combo package), this little guy makes sure you realize it’s not a toy.

Lastly, I’d like to say a thing or two about its camera and features. Don’t worry, they are nothing short of spectacular so there’s no need for panic. DJI Spark has a FHD built-in camera with an integrated 2-axis gimbal stabilisation system that greatly improves image quality. It has features such as recognition software and quick selfies which make it perform like any other drone camera on the market. Features are not slacking either… PalmLaunch and PalmControl are newest additions to the standard lineup of smart DJI GO app features including TapFly and ActiveTrack. All in all, DJI Spark is an amazing drone and there’s practically nothing bad to say about it…

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What are typical characteristics of nano drones?

When it comes to nano drones, don’t expect too much. After all, they’re incredibly cheap and you can pretty much buy a new one every once in a while, without even feeling it. So, in terms of specifications it’s safe to say they’re next to nothing. Most of the time, you’ll be looking at 20-50 meters range paired up with 5-7 minutes of flight time. On the bright side, they usually come with cameras while others even feature FPV. The general quality of it is not on par with mini drones, but something’s still better than nothing.

Don’t think I’m trying to talk you out of buying nano drones. They’re still good at what they’re supposed to do – cheer you up on a bad day. They’re quick, agile and can do all sorts of tricks indoor. Plus, with a little imagination you can do all sorts of crazy things with these little fellas.

Stuck indoor? Here’s how nano drones can keep you entertained!

Like I’ve just said – imagination can create endless fun out of simplest of gadgets including these nano drones. With that said, there are tons of ways to make your indoor drone flying way more fun than usual. For instance, you can place a chair in the middle of living room and then fly your drone around it in all directions. If that seems boring, perhaps you could connect several chairs in a curvy fashion and try passing underneath all of them without crashing. Heck, you can even place a couple of obstacles here and there to see if you’re a decent pilot… But, if you’re all about stepping up a notch, you can always create your own indoor mini racing course and test out your skills. It’s a ton of fun, trust me. My 5-year-old saw me do that the other night and now I can’t get him to stop messing up our living room…

Top 5 best nano drones

5. Cheerson CX-10

Lastly, we have Cheerson CX-10, one of the most popular nano drones ever. This gorgeous little fella is all about simplicity and pure entertainment. I mean, just look at it – it is incredibly miniature so you could practically enclose it within your hand. Still, this doesn’t mean it’s bad or anything like that, Being so small has a certain charm which will surely become more clear after you’ve read through all 5 drones within this list.

Starting off, I’d like to mention that its main rotor is just 29 millimeters in diameter. That’s solely to portray just how small Cheerson CX-10 is. With that out of our way, let’s talk a bit more about its characteristics. Cheerson CX-10 can fly around for roughly 4-8 minutes which is not that bad considering it takes only 30 to 40 minutes to charge it right back up. Controlling range is pretty good for such a small drone – up to 40 meters. Still, don’t expect to see it at such a huge range… and no, it does not have FPV capability. Matter of fact, Cheerson CX-10 doesn’t have a camera either.

So what good is a palm-sized drone with no camera? Well, like I’ve described above, you can do all sorts of things with this little fella indoor. Plus, Cheerson CX-10 goes for a ridiculous price so I’d warmly recommend getting a couple of them at once so if they happen to break you’ll have extra ones to play around with. Don’t worry, your budget won’t feel a thing…

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4. Rabing Mini

On the 4th spot we have a cute miniature drone made by Rabing. It looks a lot like the previously featured drone – Cheerson CX-10 but with a bit more “edgy” design that is topped off with nice decals. Best of all, it comes equipped with its own dedicated controller/case. Yes, the controller acts like a carrying case when you’re all done playing with this thing. In addition to that, is there anything else awesome about Rabing Mini? Hmm…

My favorite thing about this nano drone is its compatibility with VR boxes! That’s because it features a miniature HD camera. Rabing included their own app which works on iOS and Android devices that gets the best out of camera including FPV and VR support. The controller is not too shabby and I like its button style and analogue feedback. There are better controllers out there, no doubt in that, but Rabing Mini’s is a good one nevertheless.

Rabing Mini works via 2.4Ghz frequency which gives it roughly 100 meters of operating range. On the other hand, 3.7V 220mAh LiPo battery is in charge of juicing things up. It can do so for about 7-10 minutes after which you’ll have to plug it in for half an hour. When it comes to flying/waiting ratio, it’s the best any nano drone can provide at the moment. So, if a lot of action is what you’re looking for in a drone, Rabing Mini can definitely provide!

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3. JJRC H36

Even though there are plenty of rebranded models of H36, I’ve decided to take the original one into account here. H36 by JJRC is a sweet little drone that incorporates full-circle prop guards and interesting body design that’s quite different from its direct competitors. Is that necessarily a good thing? Well, let’s see…

First of all, I’d like to point out I am a big fan of unusual drones and JJRC H36 is the perfect example of that. With its great looking color combinations and solid build quality, you can expect H36 to live a lengthy life. In terms of features, this drone has 3D roll (one key press), 6-axis gyro enabled, headless mode and even flashy LED light that does wonders for those of you who enjoy night flights. Controller is simple but its buttons aren’t state of the art quality…

Specification-wise, you are looking at roughly 5 minutes of flying time since it sports a mere 3.7V 150mAh LiPo battery. It’s not that much, I know, but considering it takes roughly half an hour to charge it up, it’s still not the worst one out there. Moving on, operating range is just 30 meters which doesn’t breathe a lot of confidence in the overall drone… Last but not least – here comes the best trait of JJRC H36 – it is priced under $20 which justifies everything mentioned above. With such a small price to pay, I cannot help but to recommend it to all of you.

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2. Realacc R374 Mini

If you are looking for a highly innovative nano drone that costs spare change, then Realacc R374 Mini is the perfect solution for you. You see, this little guy comes with a specialized controller that serves as its case once you’re done flying it around. Even though this concept looks nice and is pretty practical for carrying purposes, the practicality is all gone when you try to control it. The controller does not feel good in (at least in my) hands and doesn’t provide a good controlling feedback.

On the bright side, Realacc R374 Mini makes up for relatively bad controls with excellent build quality and prop guard that goes all around its centerpiece. Bright LED light covers the front side of this little fella and shines pretty nicely during those night flights. Other features of Realacc R374 Mini includes headless mode. 360 roll over, 2 speed settings and active customer support that can be reached via mail.

Charging time is another great aspect of this little guy. Its miniature battery is fully charged within half an hour and will provide you with roughly 4-5 minutes of active flight. With that said, there’s only one thing left to be added and that’s of course its respective flight range. We’re looking at nothing special here – just 30 meters. Still, when we take into consideration its priced so low, Realacc R374 Mini can be seen as a good steal.

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1. Virhuck Volar-360

Lastly, we have reached to the very best nano drone model currently purchasable on Amazon. The name is Virhuck Volar-360 and believe it or not – it’s awesome! It weighs in at only 7 grams and fits comfortably into even the smallest of hands. You can get it in 4 color variants (red, blue, yellow and green) … But, in addition to those cool color variants, is there anything else special about this drone?

Well first of all, it needs to be said that VIrhuck Volar-360, sports a very similar concept just like drone above – Realacc R374 Mini and Rabing Mini from the 4th spot. All 3 of them come inside their special cases which are actually miniature controllers that work pretty well. If you ask me, I think Virhuck Volar-360 did best job with this as I just could not get used to controlling Realacc R374 Mini. Not even after a several flying sessions. Rabing Mini was OK, but nothing beats Volar-360. When it comes to features, Volar-360 has headless mode, can do 360 flips and return to its takeoff location with a single button press. Still, don’t expect this to work every time as it’s not based on GPS.

In terms of specifications, Virhuck Volar-360 is somewhat near the standard ones. Flying time is 5-6 minutes and range hovers around the 50-meter mark. On the bright side, this little fella is incredibly cheap as well. Plus, with 3 flying modes (depending on your level of expertise), there’s no doubt it can provide you with a ton of fun.

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Conclusion

Well, with all that in mind I would like to finalize this article and say a couple of concluding words. First, I would like to sincerely thank you guys (and girls) for reading this. It was a real pleasure to present you so much useful information. Hopefully, they’ll help you buy a drone that will fulfil all your needs. Whether you’re looking for an indoor trickster or an outdoor selfie beast, this list has them all. So, if you still can’t make up your mind, feel free to take another look at it.

Until next time – all the best

DronesGlobe

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Small, Mini & nano drones : ultimate buy…

by Jonathan time to read: 23 min
0