This is the time of the year in many parts of the world – mainly Europe and North America, where a lot of drone enthusiast live – when it is simply too cold for multirotor pilots to fly outside. Of course the die hard fanatics will still head out and no matter the weather and use things like transmitter gloves, but there are circumstances simply too cold for our tech gear to fly. The rule of thumb is that it is not advisable ato fly outdoors below -5 Celsius, or 23 degrees Fahrenheit because of the batteries and mechanical components.
Chinese companies are pumping out truckloads of mini quads right now, and while they can’t find their own way home, they can teach you the basics of how to fly a speedy four-propeller craft for under $100 even in a tiny apartment. They won’t make cops nervous, and they’re an absolute blast to fly around.
[ #1 Best Indoor Drone ]
The hard part, I found, is picking the right one. When I realized how cheap and easy it would be to get started, I bought the first drone I laid my eyes on. It lost its tiny propellers whenever it crashed into objects, and my puppy nearly swallowed one.
The second put scratches on my walls, and another one in my palm. So I set out to find the perfect beginner drone: easy to learn, durable, cheap, and safe to fly indoors.
Cheap drones are still relatively new, and they’re hard to find even in hobby shops. But go online, and you can find practically as many flying objects as you’d need to blot out the sun.
The Best Indoor Drones Review
Whether big or small, I found that most cheap miniature quadcopters have the same battery life of roughly 6 to 8 minutes, have roughly the same long range thanks to 2.4GHz transmitters, are nice and stable due to internal gyroscopes, and charge over USB in about an hour. You know what they don’t all have? Propeller guards.
If you’re learning to fly—and aren’t fond of damage—those are priority number one. So I did what any red-blooded gadget lover would do: I nabbed a crapload of drones with propeller guards and flew my heart out.
#1 Altair 818 PLUS
The 818 PLUS has lots of the same features that make the Altair AA108 so great – the HD camera, the beginner-friendly design features, the real-time transmission, etc. But it also has a feature that’s almost unheard of in drones under $200: it can get 15 minutes of flight time off of a single battery. Combine the fact that it can actually handle a long shoot with the fact that it comes with everything you need for photography/videography right out of the box (including the TF card the AA108 so annoyingly lacks), and you’ve got easily the best indoor drone for anyone interested in trying their hand at aerial photography. All with the same Altair Aerial customer service guarantee.
Altair Aerial AA108 – Indoor Drone With Camera
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The Altair Aerial AA108 is a new drone on the market that has fantastic specifications and is backed up by a US Based company in Nebraska. I spoke to these guys when I wrote my complete review of the Altair Aerial AA108 which you can read here. They picked up their customer service phone line on the 2nd ring, which in itself is amazing when you’re talking about drone companies. I’m so used to trying to reach a company only to find out they operate out of China!
I spoke to the founder Matt Cookson and he told me that customer service is their #1 priority. They have a great product, with specs at least as good as any other drone in this category.
They even have an Altair Video Tutorials page that helps you get started.
Overall you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for in the toy drone section with something for a camera to play with. The HD 720p camera takes great video and pictures. The price is right at under $130.00 amazon, and really the customer service is the kicker. No other drone company we’ve spoken to has displayed such dedication to making sure their customers are happy.
Force1 UDI U818A
Finding an awesome drone that has both VR and FPV all wrapped up into one at a price that is more than affordable can be a challenge. However, the UDI U818A by Force1 (not to be confused with the similarly-named previous entry on this list) is definitely what you want to be looking at if these are the requirements you’re on the lookout for. It’s small enough to be flown indoors, doesn’t sacrifice any awesomeness for being so compact, and only costs up to $120. The camera is only a 2MP stationary build with 720p resolution, but that’s still pretty decent for the entire package.
Force1 UFO 3000 LED
At just under $50, the UFO 3000 LED is one of the cheapest drones on this list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time. In fact, this quadcopter can turn a dark, indoor room into an awesome light show just by flying it around. It’s quick, boast neon LED blue and green lights, has great overall control and lasts up to 9 minutes on a single charge. It’s also incredibly stable, even when you are performing some of the featured 3D stunts that it’s able to do. In short, an excellent novelty drone for hobbyists and those who care most about the “cool” factor.
Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt
No sense in sugarcoating it: the Air Hogs Helix X4’s got some issues. It’s not nearly as fast as the UFO 3000, the controller requires a ridiculous number of batteries, and it screeches like a hair dryer while in use. However, it excels in an area that’s extremely important for indoor drones: safety. Covered in lightweight styrofoam armor, the X4 is capable of bouncing of walls, sticking to ceilings – heck, you can put your finger straight into the ducted fans without sustaining any damage to yourself or the drone. One reviewer on our staff even flew the X4 directly into his Panasonic plasma TV at top speed, and it didn’t leave so much as a scratch. The drone also compensates automatically for minor deviations, making it mostly very easy to control (though it lacks proper trim adjustments.) On the whole this is a great drone for beginners, children, and those without a lot of living space – and at a price of only $68, you certainly get your money’s worth.
Force1 DYS XDR200
For a racing drone kit that costs $500 we hope you’re expecting an absolute masterpiece. Well, this drone kit delivers quite a bit and then some, but in reality, your love of it all depends on you. Do you favor speed over technical aspects? This carbon fiber racing drone kit with 9 channels, a balance charger, FPV, and high-quality goggles has quite a bit of bang. Whether or not it’s bang for your buck depends on your level of patience and any mods you may have planned. Overall, it’s pretty impressive, and if you stick to the specifics then you’ll probably be very pleased with the end results.
Blade Nano QX
The $90 Blade Nano QX makes the Helix X4 look like a giant blimp. With hobby-grade motors set in an incredibly lightweight frame, it’s blazing fast. When you set the controller to beginner mode, it’s stable enough to use indoors and there’s a expert mode that disables the gyroscope entirely for outdoor stunts. (It sounds like an angry bumblebee, which is comparatively a plus!)
Still, this quadcopter has so much power under the hood that its prop guards and bendy frame can’t protect it from the worst, as I discovered when cracking its cockpit, permanently deforming a propeller, and accidentally ripping out one of the motors (while trying to remove that propeller) over the course of an afternoon. While it comes with two sets of propellers and spare parts are modular and cheap, you’ll want to be a seasoned quadcopter pilot before taking off the safeties.
Force1 Freedom U32
For under $40 you’re getting some cool stunts, red and blue LED lights, decent stability, and some speed that is made better by precision steering. This quadcopter may be a small one, and a toy at that, but it has a lot of neat features and specs that make it one of the more high-tech indoor drones that a lot of people will get a kick out of.
Thinking about buying an Estes Proto-X or Synchro? Buy this $30 drone instead. This cute ladybug of a palmtop quad has such a well-designed prop guard, it’s the only miniature drone that never once lost or bent a propeller when I repeatedly flew it into foreign objects. It’s also got way more power than other mini drones, which can admittedly make it a challenge to fly indoors — ease off on the throttle, folks — but also means it can actually challenge a light breeze if you take it outside.
You can have it perform flips by pressing in the right thumbstick, and it’s got nice soft rubber feet for hard landings. The fun also lasts longer than with any other toy-grade drone thanks to the ingenious idea of using a pair of identical LiPo batteries for both the transmitter and the drone itself: just swap them when the tiny copter dies and you’re good for another 6-7 minutes. Again, it’s a challenge to fly this one, and the gyro seems a little finicky: I wound up spending time recalibrating the trim nearly every time it hit a wall.
Syma X5C Swann Xtreem Quadforce Video
There aren’t a lot of drones that have cameras and propeller guards, but this is the one to get right now. It’s a $60 DJI Phantom ripoff with cheap materials and a crappy camera, but nothing else comes close for the price Syma is asking. It’s one of the most stable cheap quadcopters I tried, stable enough to fly around my tiny townhouse indoors, and stable enough to fly in a mild breeze—though you’ll get some very shaky footage. You can start capturing video just by holding down a button on the remote control. The video quality is absolutely terrible, worse than any cameraphone you’ve used in the past decade, but even disgustingly bad footage from high in the sky has charm!
You’re not going to find a quadcopter that doesn’t sound like four propellers straining to keep themselves in the air, but the $35 Syma X4 more closely resembles a miniature blender than a dying vacuum cleaner. What’s more, it’s sleek, well-built, and wonderfully stable for indoor flights — easier to fly than any of the miniature drones I tried. Gamers (like me!) will find themselves right at home with its Xbox-style controller. Just make sure you check that all the buttons on the controller are working correctly: one of the important trim buttons on my controller was misaligned and extremely hard to press.
Litehawk High Roller (aka Sky Walker 1306 / Sky Matrix H1306)
I had more fun with the $90 High Roller than any other drone I tried. It’s the only drone you can crash over and over and keep on flying because it automatically flips itself upright. Unfortunately, it’s also the only drone that permanently died after I turned it off one evening. If I wasn’t afraid of the many quality control issues I spotted, I’d recommend one to you.
Hubsan X4 (H107C, aka Code Black / Black Hawk)
I really, really wanted to like the Hubsan X4. It’s such a sleek little craft, and the $50 H107C model comes with a propeller guard and a built-in camera. Unfortunately, the camera stopped working the very first time I took it out, and somehow the Hubsan’s brittle propellers still managed to push past the guard and impact my walls.
Hubsan X4 (H107L)
This smaller $40 version of the H107C doesn’t come with a propeller guard and didn’t work well with the optional one I bought for an additional $7. It’s jerky, not nearly as stable or as easy to control, and mine had a tendancy to tilt too far during flight and crash into the ground. Don’t bother.
Estes Proto X (aka Syncro / Hubsan Q4)
This tiny cute $30-$40 drone is quite literally a circuit board with motors attached at all four corners, but those motors don’t give even this barebones drone a lot of lift. When I added an aftermarket propeller guard, it was too heavy to fly properly. Without one, it tends to lose propellers in my carpet.
Parrot Rolling Spider
While it comes with a pair of detachable wheels that let it roll up walls and across ceilings, I found they didn’t adequately keep the $100 Rolling Spider from slicing into household objects. The main reason I didn’t enjoy playing with the Parrot, though, were the laggy smartphone controls.
Syma X3 (aka Swann Xtreem Maxi Quad Starship)
Don’t bother with this larger $25-$50 version of the Syma X4. It’s a teensy bit more powerful, but not enough to reliably fly outdoors. It doesn’t last longer, and it’s noisier and looks uglier. The propeller guard is removable, but wound up removing itselfat inopportune moments.
The #1 best-selling quadcopter on Amazon, I had high hopes that this cousin of my favorite miniature quadcopter would be a solid camera drone. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the flimsiest pieces of shit I’ve ever laid eyes on. More importantly, even with a fully charged battery, my $65 unit didn’t always have enough power to get off the damn ground.
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0
Though it’s a way better camera drone than the others I tried, producing far clearer HD footage, it’s also big, heavy, expensive for beginners at $300, and not as responsive as joystick-controlled drones. Smartphone controls suck.
Hubsan X4 (H107D)
Much like the H107C, but transmits a live video feed from the camera to a screen on the remote control for $140. Lots of unhappy customers due to issues with that controller. I didn’t bother.
WL Toys V262 Cyclone
Some user reviews complain of quality control issues, and more of them about horrendous customer service. Didn’t feel like risking $62.
World Tech Toys Panther Spy Drone UFO
It looks like a clone of the WL Toys V262, but with higher quality components—as you’d expect for the $150 asking price. But just like the UDI U818A, I couldn’t get the damn thing to stay in the air even with fully charged batteries.
So here you are – our roundup of the best indoor drones that you can buy for yourself or as a Christmas present. If you need more inspiration for holiday shopping for yourself, your loved one or friend, check out our suggestions for Top 10 Christmas ideas!