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Top 10 Drones for 2016: The Beginner’s List

The latest in the Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series, in which Kike profiles interesting information, research and thoughts on using drones, UAVs and remotely piloted vehicles for journalism and photography.   Shopping for a “drone-obsessed” friend, family member or yourself? I have decided to update my article The Best Drones for Beginners that was...

The latest in the Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series, in which Kike profiles interesting information, research and thoughts on using drones, UAVs and remotely piloted vehicles for journalism and photography.


Shopping for a “drone-obsessed” friend, family member or yourself? I have decided to update my article The Best Drones for Beginners that was enjoyed by thousands of readers, and think of a general guide (list is not in order of preference) to help you choose your first drone. Making sure it will make happy anyone interested in cool gadgets, quadcopters and Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

National Geographic Creative photographer and photography expert for National Geographic / Lindblad Expeditions Kike Calvo flying a drone using First Person View System ( Kike Calvo via AP Images )
National Geographic Creative photographer and sUAV expert Kike Calvo.

I recommend you to read my Drones and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Special Series before buying any aerial platforms, including:

So You Want to Fly Drones?
. So You Want to Shoot Aerial Photography Using Drones?
So You Want to Backup Your Aerial Footage Taken from Drones?
So You Lost Your Drone Again?
So You Want to Fly an FPV Racing Mini Quadcopter?
So You Want to Keep Track of All Your Drone Flights?

So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?  (New Book)




  1. Byrobot Drone Fighter GX100: 2.4GHz RF 2-way communication with 6 channels mini drone. Remove the rotor guards in expert mode to cut down on the weight, and you can even do 360 flips. It has Infrared transmitters and receivers on it, so if you have two or more, you can assign them to different teams. If your Drone Fighter is “hit” by an Infrared shot, its LEDs flash and your controller vibrates in your hands. Get hit six times, and the game is over.BYROBOT DF-GX-101 Drone Fighter GX 100
    2. Sky Viper Video Drone: With a Super Tough Duraflex Body made of resilient polypropylene, its easy to perform easy One-Touch Stunts. Perform barrel rolls in mid-flight with a simple tap of the Stunt button. Experience a true bird’s eye and Record 720p High Definition Pictures and Video. Be sure to check the Sky Rocket S670 Sky Viper Stunt Drone too.817lsH+bUzL._SL1500_
    3. Holy Stone® RC Quadcopter Drone with HD Camera: A Key 360° 4-Ways Flip(left,right,forward,backward), Continuous Roll For Perfect Action And Wonderful Performance. Its equiped With a Key Return & “headless security system” to prevent from losing the copter.Holy Stone® RC Quadcopter Drone with HD Camera

    4. Cheerson CX-10 Mini RC Quadcopter: The 29mm 4CH 2.4GHz 6-Axis Gyro LED RC Quadcopter incorporates a 6-axis design makes the gyroscope adjustable, promoting flying stability. Flight time its up to 4-8 minutes and it includes a 3-level adjustable speed flip function.
    Cheerson CX-10 Mini
    5. Syma X5C Explorers 2.4G 4CH 6-Axis Gyro RC Quadcopter With HD Camera: Equipped with HD camera, its perform flips at the press of a button with 360 degree eversion. Wind resistant, the X5C can be flown indoors or outdoors for about 7 minute flight. A 6-axis Gyro stabilization system ensures maximum stability. For an FPV version look at the Syma X5SW Wifi FPV, working with both Android and Apple IOS mobile phones.



    6.  Nano QX RTF with SAFE: As I described on my previous edition of The Best Drones for Beginners, this little mini-copter received the 2014 Editor´s Choice – Innovation of the Year by Airplane Magazine. Its tough and light weighted, and its airframe comes with blade guards. It features exclusive SAFE technology with stability and agility modes. The Nano QX RTF comes with a radio.  You don’t need to buy one.  But be aware you will need to buy separately a DSMX compatible radio if you get the BNF version (bind and fly.)

    BLADE Nano

    7. Robotic UFO 3 Channel I/R Flying Ball Remote Control Helicopter: With an overall product weight of -1 Pounds, the flying ball flies for about 12 minutes. Its perfect gift idea for holiday or birthdays. Charging time is about 35 minutes.

    Robotic UFO 3

    8. Top Race® 5 Inch Micro F22 Stunt Fighter Jet  Quadcopter: The TR-MQ4 is the Smallest F22 Remote Control Airplane Jet Stunt Quad Copter in the world: Only 5 inches Long by 3 inches Wide. Extremely Durable with Strong Red and Blue Led Lights, its good for Indoor and Outdoor Use

    Top Race®

    9. Parrot Bebop Quadcopter Drone: videos and takes pictures within a 180° field of view. You can control your flying experience with their FreeFlight 3 app (iOS, Android, Windows 8.1) To ensure optimal stability without compromising the maneuverability, the Bebop Drone automatically analyzes data from numerous 3-axis sensors: accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer. One ultrasound sensor with an 8 meters reach, one pressure sensor and one vertical camera to measure speed.

    Parrot Bebop


    10. The Hubsan X4, an Old Time Favorite: Along with the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Quadricopter and the Parrot MiniDrone Rolling Spider, this 4 Channel 2.4GHz RC Quadcopter helped me polished my flying skills on my early beginnings. Need some skills before buying a Phantom 3 Professional, a 3DRobotics Solo or a DJI Inspire 1 ? Get a Hubsan X4 today. And so you know, I still love flying and training with my Phantom 1, because it is light, easy to handle and very similar to certain larger copters.

    Hubsan X4 (H107L) 4 Channel


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Learn More About Drones:

So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?

So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones? (iTunes)


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Meet the Author

Author Photo Kike Calvo
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: