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No piloting experience? No problem. Here’s the 5 best drones for beginners

There was a moment, sometime between the premiere of Back to the Future: Part II and Amazon’s commercial adoption in late 2013, when drones became more than a mere hobby. These days, it’s nearly impossible to run your local track or trek through a National Park without seeing a quadcopter suspiciously hovering overhead, filming the landscape — and your face — in glorious 4K resolution as it pans by and makes its impromptu exit into the skies above. Sadly, choosing a drone of your own isn’t easy.

Related: Japanese police plan to battle drones with even bigger drones, equipped with nets

Drones now saturate the market, likely due to the recent rise of low-cost components and the affordability of autonomous technology, which makes deciding which model is best suited for those hoping to break into the market somewhat of an unexpected conundrum. Thankfully for you, and those on your holiday shopping list, you can’t go wrong with any of the picks below. Just don’t forget to let the Feds know

Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4k ($1,049)

Yuneec Q500 Typhoon

You can’t put a price on the experience of pure joy, but if you could, we imagine it would be around that of Yuneec’s flagship quadcopter. The company still lives in the shadow of DJI — what drone manufacturer doesn’t? — but its 15 years of experience have allowed it to create a drone that excels in terms of both responsiveness and durability. It’s one of the best videography drones designed for amateur pilots, and as such, it touts a swath of smart modes designed to make flying an absolute breeze. The 4k camera produces gorgeous video and 12-megapixel stills, each of which capitalizes on a controllable 3-axis gimbal that’s designed to capture the horizon and pivot when need be. The control even comes outfitted with a 5.5-inch color touchscreen, allowing you to see live feed and view metrics such as altitude and speed at a glance. Now, if only the battery allowed for more than 25 minutes of sustained flight time…

Read our full review

Buy it now from:

Amazon B&H Yuneec

Hubsan X4 ($54)

Hubsan X4

They often say big things come in small packages, and while not always the case, it’s certainly true with the Hubsan X4. The minuscule drone weighs just over a pound and measures a mere 3.8 inches across, yet it still manages to pack in a 6-axis flight control system and a flight time hovering around 10 minutes. The controls are linear and relatively proportional, though sensitive and prone to overcompensation, allowing you to buzz around the room and land with ease. The bundled rotor guards also tack on a bit of optional durability, while the built-in camera and micro SDHC card give you a simple means for capturing 0.3-megapixel videos of the area directly in front of the drone. What’s more, the X4 can quickly perform flips and barrel rolls on command, allowing you to channel your inner Peppy Hare whenever you’d like.

Buy it now from:

Amazon Jet B&H

Parrot Bebop 2 ($550)

Parrot Bebop 2

Like a fine pinot, Parrot’s offerings have only become richer and more refined with age. The Bebop 2 — an updated version of the original Bebop released last year — sports nearly identical specifications, along with a new 2,700mAh battery that guarantees roughly 25 minutes of sustained flight time. It retains the slender frame of its predecessor, too, while providing you with a 14-megapixel fish-eye camera outfitted with 3-axis video stabilization. You can control it using any smartphone or tablet via theFreeFlight 3 app, the latter of which makes piloting the drone in beefy headwinds and tapping into the its excellent autonomous features a breeze (no pun intended). The frame is also as durable as it is light, making it the perfect toy to tote with you to a nearby park or your next adventure in the backcountry.

Buy it now from:

Parrot B&H Crutchfield

Nighthawk DM007 ($36)

Nighthawk DM007 Final

There’s a common trend when it comes to the manufacturing of drones, hoverboards, and similar tech that abruptly catches hold in the mainstream market. The Nighthawk DM007 is a byproduct of said instance, a product that is nearly identical to others you might find online aside from the branding. Regardless, it’s a terrific device for those looking to join the legion of drone enthusiasts, especially given how easy it is to repair after a crash. Other components, such as the adjustable 6-axis gyroscope and 720p HD camera, give it additional appeal. The drone’s easy-to-use remote control and nimble capabilities outweigh its lackluster build as well, whether you intend to put the Nighthawk through its paces with flips, barrel rolls, or other aerial maneuver more suited for Top Gun than small space in your apartment you call a living room.

Buy it now from:

Amazon GearBest

UDI U818A Discovery ($70)

UDI U818A Discovery

The budget-based UDI Discovery isn’t going to blow you away when it comes to features and build quality, nor should you expect it to given the price. That said, it boasts many of the same capabilities as other drones on our roundup, including a 6-axis gyro with posture control and a 720p HD camera built to capture aerial footage and 1-megapixel stills from above. It’s a stepping stone of a device that’s ready to go directly out of the box, with beginner and expert modes that let you initiate flips and rolls at the touch of a button, but also one that’s prone to a strong gust of wind and lined with sensitive controls. Nonetheless, the no-frills design and remote control render it fairly accessible to people of all ages — even if balk at the 7 minutes of flight time and can’t decipher the cryptic user manual.

Buy it now from:

Amazon Fry’s Electronics B&H