Drones have revolutionised the way we capture moments, explore landscapes, and even conduct business. From breathtaking aerial shots to efficient aerial mapping, drones have found a place in various industries. This article will explore the 5 best drones under $400, delving into their standout features, main specs, and price points. Whether you’re a budding photographer or a tech enthusiast, our curated list aims to guide you to a drone that matches your needs without breaking the bank. Join us as we take flight into the world of affordable yet high-quality drones.
What Is The Best Drone Under $400?
There are plenty of high-quality drones for under $400, and my personal favourite is the DJI Mini 2 SE (read my full review here). Released in early 2023, the Mini 2 SE has proven to be a very popular drone with its range of features and affordable price.
There are other options available, and some of them are very good drones. However, the DJI Mini 2 SE is the best drone in this price range.
If you don’t mind paying extra, there is the DJI Mini 2, which is similar to the Mini 2 SE but comes with a 4K camera, and hence it costs over $400.
5 Best Drones Under 400 Dollars
1. DJI Mini 2 SE
The DJI Mini 2 SE is the standout drone on this list, making it the best drone under $400. Designed for beginners and experienced drone pilots, the DJI Mini 2 SE offers high performance, portability, and intelligent features. Weighing less than 249 grams, it’s incredibly light, does not require FAA registration, and is easy to transport. This makes it an ideal travel companion, ensuring that you never miss capturing those breathtaking aerial shots.
The Mini 2 SE comes equipped with an HD camera that is stabilised by a 3-axis gimbal and can capture images in 12MP (RAW & JPEG) and record 2.7k videos at 30fps.
It comes with the intelligent Quickshot video recording mode, allowing users to effortlessly capture cinematic and dynamic footage with just a few taps.
The drone boasts an impressive 10 km HD video transmission range, ensuring clear and uninterrupted footage. With a maximum flight time of 31 minutes, the DJI Mini 2 SE has one of the longest flight times for a drone in its price range. The drone’s robust design allows it to fly steadily even in level-5 wind conditions and has a maximum speed of 35 mph.
- 10 km HD video transmission.
- 31-minute maximum flight time.
- 38kph wind resistance (Level-5).
- 3-axis gimbal for stable footage.
- 1/2.3-inch CMOS camera delivering 12MP photos and 2.7K videos.
- Smart features for beginner-friendly flying.
- 5 Quickshot intelligent modes for creative shooting.
- Automatic return to home
DJI Mini 2 SE Cinematic Footage
Pros & Cons
- Lightweight and easy to carry.
- Good stability even in windy conditions, with GPS and altitude hold.
- Captures images in RAW and JPEG formats.
- 5 Quickshot pre-set flight manoeuvres for dynamic footage.
- Up to 31 minutes of flight time.
- No obstacle avoidance
- Lacks intelligent flight mode
2. DJI Mini SE
The DJI Mini SE, touted as one of the best drones under $400, bears a resemblance to the Mini 2 SE in design and features. However, notable differences set them apart. While the Mini SE boasts a transmission range of 4km, the Mini 2 SE extends this to 10km.
Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be a primary deciding factor, given that FAA regulations mandate drone pilots to keep their drones within their line of sight. The DJI Mini SE is equipped with a 2.7K camera, stabilised by a 3-axis gimbal, that reduces distortion and ensures stable and high-quality footage. Unlike the Mini 2 SE, which can capture images in RAW format, the Mini SE is limited to JPEG.
Also, the Mini SE offers fewer photography modes compared to the Mini 2 SE. The flight time is around 30 minutes, which is very good, although it is 1 minute less than what the Mini 2 SE offers.
Enhancing its versatility, the Mini SE is compatible with third-party apps like Litchi and Drone Link, introducing functionalities such as follow me, point of interest and autonomous waypoint flight modes.
- Less than 249 grams, easy to transport
- 30 minutes of flight time.
- Video transmission range of 4km
- HD camera captures 12MP images and 2.7K videos at 30fps
- 3-axis motorised gimbal for video stabilisation
- Automatic return to home.
- Pre-programmed flight manoeuvres for cinematic shots.
- Compatible with third-party apps for extra features
Pros & Cons
- It weighs less than 250g, so there is no need for registration.
- Good performance, even in the wind.
- A high-quality camera that can record very good videos and photos
- Quickshot recording mode for one-tap cinematic videos.
- Good flight time
- Compatible with third-party apps for additional functionality
- No Obstacle Avoidance
- Cannot capture images in RAW format
3. Potensic Atom SE
The Potensic Atom SE stands out as one of the best drones under $400, especially when considering its camera capabilities. This drone is one of the cheapest options available with a genuine 4K camera. Unlike many drones in its price range, the Atom SE can capture images in RAW format, offering greater flexibility for post-processing. The camera is stabilised using a 2-axis gimbal combined with electronic image stabilisation, ensuring smooth and high-quality images and videos. The drone’s compact design, weighing under 249g, makes it highly portable and perfect for travel enthusiasts and on-the-go photographers.
The drone also comes with several autonomous flight modes such as follow me, circle flight, waypoint mode and an automatic return to home function.
It’s an exceptional drone that can produce some amazing 4K video footage, as you can see from below. If you are looking for a cheap drone with a 4K camera, the Potensic Atom SE is the best choice.
- Weighs less than 249g
- Records actual 4K videos at 30fps.
- Captures images in both JPG and RAW formats.
- 2-axis gimbal and electronic image stabilisation.
- Video transmission up to 4KM range with PixSync 2.0™ image transmission.
- Flight Time up to 31 minutes.
- Intelligent flight modes include follow me, circle flight and tapfly.
Pros & Cons
- High-quality camera with a wide-angle FOV
- Records smooth 4K videos
- Captures images in 13MP
- Long flight time of 31 minutes
- GPS-assisted return-to-home feature
- Intelligent flight modes
- Lacks a 3-axis gimbal
- No obstacle avoidance system
4. Holy Stone HS600
The Holy Stone HS600 is the latest drone from Holy Stone; it is one of the more advanced drones in their range and is proving to be quite popular.
With a sleek, foldable design, the drone weighs under 550g, is equipped with a GPS module and has smart flight features like follow me, orbit, and waypoint.
This drone has an HD camera with a Sony image sensor and can capture 4K images and videos. The camera’s 2-axis gimbal and electronic image stabilisation ensure stable, clear, and smooth videos and images.
The HS600 has the longest video transmission range of any Holy Stone drone at 3km, and the streaming quality is very good. It also comes with a Level 5 wind resistance, so you are able to fly it in mildly windy conditions.
With a flight time of 28 minutes, the HS600 is Holy Stone’s best drone with the longest flight time.
- 4K Sony Sensor camera offers HD video footage and images
- 2-Axis Gimbal & EIS for stable and smooth videos and images.
- Video transmission range of up to 3km, the longest range for a Holy Stone drone.
- Able to fly steadily in winds of up to 22 mph.
- Includes Follow Me, Point of Interest, and Waypoint modes.
- 28 minutes, and it comes with an extra battery.
- Foldable and easy to carry, making it travel-friendly.
Pros & Cons
- The high-quality camera can record videos in 4K at 30fps
- 2-axis gimbal and EIS ensure smooth videos.
- 28 minutes of flight time
- Intelligent features include auto follow, waypoint, point of interest and RTH.
- Lacks a 3-axis gimbal.
- Cannot capture RAW images
- No obstacle avoidance technology.
5. Ruko F11 GIM
My final choice is the Ruko F11 GIM drone; this is a good drone with advanced features and has a good wind resistance thanks to its powerful brushless motors and bulky design.
One of the key features of this drone is its 4K camera, which, combined with a 2-axis Gimbal and electronic image stabilisation, ensures that users capture clear footage. It’s a good camera, and the overall video and image quality is good for a drone from a small brand.
The video transmission range is around 1km, which is impressive and allows users to stream HD video footage to their mobile devices.
Another highlight of this drone is its impressive flight time, which comes in at 28 minutes, and as a bonus, users get an extra battery. This will allow users to extend their flight sessions without having to wait for the battery to recharge.
It also comes with GPS technology, allowing for greater flight stability, and comes with intelligent features such as autonomous flight modes.
- Records 4K videos at 30fps and captures 4K images
- 2-Axis Gimbal & EIS for smooth video footage and distortion-free photos.
- Flight time of 28 minutes per battery (an extra battery is included)
- Video transmission range of 1km
- Intelligent features include follow me, waypoint, surround and gesture control.
- Brushless motors provide efficient and powerful performance.
Pros & Cons
- It comes with an HD camera that can record in 4K.
- 2-axis and EIS stabilisation for clear images and photos
- Long flight time and comes with an additional battery
- Intelligent flight modes, including low battery return to home feature
- Bulky design
- It will struggle to get 28 minutes of flight time.
- Lacks optical flow sensor
Are These Drones Suitable For Beginners?
These drones are designed with user-friendly features that make them suitable for beginners. They come with intuitive controls, automated flight modes, and built-in features to ensure a smooth flying experience. However, if you’re purchasing your very first drone and are hesitant about investing a significant amount, you might consider starting with something more affordable. The Ryze Tech Tello drone is a great entry-level option that offers a blend of functionality and ease of use, making it an excellent choice for those new to the world of drones.
Do You Have To Register These Drones?
Drones that weigh more than 250g are required to be registered with the FAA. From the list provided, only the Holy Stone HS600 and the Ruko F11 Gim fall into this category and thus need registration. It’s important to note for first-time drone pilots that before flying, you must pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). This is a free online test available through an FAA-approved third-party administrator, ensuring that pilots understand the rules and safety protocols associated with drone operations.
In the ever-evolving world of drones, finding the right balance between price and performance can be a challenge. However, the drones listed above prove that exceptional quality doesn’t always come with a hefty price tag. Each of these drones offers a good set of features suitable for both beginners and seasoned pilots. Whether you’re looking to capture cinematic footage, explore new heights, or simply enjoy the thrill of flight, there’s a drone under $400 that’s perfect for you.