Technically speaking, the first drones were used in 1849 by the Austrians to drop bombs over Venice. By “drones,” we mean the Austrian army tied explosives to a bunch of balloons, floated them over Venice, and hoped for the best. Though the tactic is said to have scared the Venetians into surrendering, the drones proved wholly worthless and wildly unpredictable (duh).
In their modern incarnation, drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—are used for recreational flying, commercial package delivery, and yes, to survey and even attack our enemies abroad.
And just as their uses vary wildly, so do their prices. Luckily, from mild to wild, if you’re in the market for a drone, you have quite a few options. Here are 7 drones under a G-note:
Axis Drones AERIUS
You work in an office. You hate it, and you’ll do anything to make it better. Well, here’s the world’s smallest quadcopter. About the size of a quarter, this sophisticated piece of aerial voodoo allows for 5-7 minutes of flight time per 15-minute charge, and comes with 6-axis gyro-stabilization that keeps the AERIUS stable and in your control at all times. It also comes with two speeds of pre-programmed flight sensitivity for experts and beginners, and a pre-programmed trick mode that allows it to do flips and rolls. Good luck getting anything done ever again. Oh, and best of all, it’s only $35—and comes in several different colors! $35
At this price point ($28.19 on Amazon), this quadcopter is hard to beat, especially if this will be your foray into the world of drones. The charging time is a little long—100 minutes—and only yields 5-7 minutes of actual flight time, but its size and weight make it a favorite among hobbyists. Plus, it’s easily retrofitted for a small spy-style camera, and is more than capable of pulling the extra weight. The blades are sturdy and are another one of the crowd-pleasing favorites on the Syma X5. One of the most highly reviewed quadcopters on the Internet, you truly can’t beat the Syma X5 for the price. $29
Blade Nano QX BNF
Bigger than the AERIUS, but just as fun in an office, the BLADE Nano QX BNF is a crowd favorite for its affordability, dependability, and ease-of-use among novices and experienced fliers, alike. This quadcopter features an exclusive piece of technology that automatically stabilizes the machine when the pilot lets go of the joysticks. It’s small enough to fly in any room or office, but powerful enough to be maneuvered outdoors in moderate weather. For $58 bucks, we think the Blade Nano QX BNF is well worth it. The only downside is that this quadcopter doesn’t come with a remote/transmitter. It’s a bummer, but one can be had for pretty cheap. $58
Blade 200 QX BNF
The older (and more expensive) brother to the Blade Nano QX BNF, the Blade 200 QX BNF is faster, more agile, and more stable than its younger sibling. When it comes to brass tax, the biggest difference between the two are the motors—the Blade 200 QX BNF uses brushless motors, while the Blade Nano QX BNF uses slightly more troublesome brushed motors. Essentially, if you have the extra coin ($230 instead of $58), you should definitely opt for this mini-monster. It’s faster, more efficient, and will probably last longer. $230
Parrot Bebop Drone
If we’re talking “bang-for-your-buck” value, the Parrot Bebop Drone is probably one of the heaviest hitters on our list. The featherweight drone utilizes incredible safety measures, a GPS system that allows for a fully aware Return Home function, and full 1080 HP video and 14-megapixel photos. It also utilizes its own WiFi “hotspot” using MIMO technology, which allows it to function on 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies, depending on network interference. This machine is the perfect mix of professional film quality and recreational speed, fun, and power. $499
DJI Phantom III Standard
In an almost Star Wars-like release series, the DJI Phantom III Standard edition was actually released after its two brothers, the Phantom III Professional and the Phantom III Advanced. According to DJI CEO and Founder Frank Wang, the Phantom III Standard edition was created for people who were interested in aerial photography, but not quite committed to spending the extra cash on a Professional or Advanced model drones. For a far more modest price tag ($699), the Standard delivers superb quality 1080p HD, up to 25 minutes of flight time, GPS-based stabilization, and a control with an integrated WiFi range extender and wheel to angle the camera. A couple of the more amazing features include the Follow Me mode, in which the Phantom III Standard will intelligently follow the user based on their orientation, Waypoint Navigation, wherein a user sets a multi-point route for the drone to follow, and Point of Interest, which allows the user to define an object that the drone will circle around, framing the object perfectly in the center of the camera at all times. $699
3D Robotics Solo
Billed as “the world’s first smart drone,” the Solo by 3D Robotics is powered by twin 1 GHz computers, making it the first computer-operated consumer-level drone. Special features include live HD streaming of video from your GoPro (not included), direct to your smartphone, along with an intuitive and easy-to-use video game-style controller, and advanced safety features like pause and “safety net.” We think filmmakers and hobbyists will love the Solo’s “Cablecam” mode, which allows user to “lock” Solo onto a virtual cable between any two points. The Solo will make its way from point A to point B, allowing the user to focus on getting the right shot at the right time. Like the Phantom III Standard, the Solo also offers an awesome “Follow Me” mode, allowing the user to go completely hands free without ever missing the right shot. For the love of God, just think of the selfies! $999