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Best Drones 2014

Best Drones 2014
By , Jill Scharr

A new perspective on yourself and the world around you is always a good thing — and now it's easier than ever, thanks to the explosive popularity of consumer remote-piloted drones.  

But it's not just photographers and people with bird envy who are flying drones. Many hobbyists love the challenge of flying quadcopters — drones with four propellers — which take a significant amount of skill to fly. An overwhelming majority of today's drones are quadcopters, due to their relative mechanical simplicity compared with the more stable helicopter design.

As drone ownership has grown in popularity, so has the number of rules and restrictions involving drone flight. The FAA has a set of guidelines for recreational flying, which include staying away from manned aircraft, keeping the drone in sight and not charging people money for your flights. You’ll also want to keep your flying under about 500 feet, since any higher than that can bring you into airspace shared with manned helicopters and other aircraft.

The National Park Service (NPS) has also banned drones in all national parks in the United States, citing concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks.

But there are still plenty of spaces to fly your drone — anywhere from your own backyard to nearly any city and state park. Drone owners can also seek out their nearest RC (radio control) club, locally organized drone user associations, where they can share reserved flight areas and meet other flying enthusiasts.

If you’re ready to dive into the world of unmanned aircraft, here are the best drones you can buy.

What to Look For

Battery Life

Most modern drones have an average battery life of between 10 to 12 minutes That’s plenty of time for short-flight missions, but operators may soon find themselves longing for more in-flight time. One way to circumvent this limit is to purchase a drone with a removable battery, then stock up on fully charged batteries.

Higher-end drones boast up to 25 minutes of flight time, which should be more than enough for the average flier. Many of these drones also have a special feature that overrides your controller and flies the drone back to you once the battery reaches critical levels. With multiple fully charged batteries, these drones can easily run for hours, requiring only a few stops home for new batteries.


Getting a drone in the air is only the first step for most fliers — it’s the view from those great heights that really puts the world in perspective. A large number of today’s drones feature either built-in or attachable cameras, beaming down images of all the in-flight action.

Some drones work directly with a separately purchased GoPro camera, which captures some of the highest-quality footage currently available. High-end drones also include image stabilization, eliminating choppy segments that can sometimes overpower peaceful flight footage.

Other drones have built-in cameras, which often record directly to an SD Card. While this footage isn’t nearly as nice as any captured by a GoPro, it's a great way to dip your toes into aerial photography.

If you want to view the flight footage in real time, some drones offer first-person-view transmitting, sending live video directly to the aircraft’s controller or to a linked iPhone or Android device. This works great when you want to quickly turn on the live feed, but it will drain your battery fast if you use it for the entire flight.

Top Picks

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Follow Dann Berg @dannberg and on Google+ or at Novice No Longer. Email Jill Scharr at or follow her @JillScharr and Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • 0 Hide
    silcorobert , December 5, 2014 4:59 AM
    The drones will dominate the world
  • 0 Hide
    DannBerg , December 5, 2014 4:59 AM
    The drones will dominate the world

    The domination has already begun!
  • 0 Hide
    91gcathy , December 5, 2014 9:42 PM
    Hey guys - I decided to get my first drone - a JJRC H8C 2.4G 4CH 6 Axis RC Quadcopter With 2MP Camera RTF - a good little thing that doesn't break my bank if something happens to it but has a nice camera that I like to implement.

    However, I've been meaning to get another battery to charge up and use when the battery in it has died. However, I have not the faintest idea where to get these other batteries. Does any know where I can buy another rechargeable batter that will fit my drone?
  • 0 Hide
    IndianaDronez , December 6, 2014 3:10 PM
    Great article! I totally agree that the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ is worth the asking price. Although it seems high, you will not be disappointed. It's everything you think it would be and more! I found an article with more information if anyone is interested. Happy dronin' :)
  • 0 Hide
    foxvin , December 10, 2014 11:34 PM
    Thanks for sharing, it's a very good guide for those wanna buy a drone. I hope there will be more choices sized as phantom, frankly I don't like its current ID.
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