Glenn loves writing: no wonder he decided to become a journalist without too much thinking right after his high school. When not working for his magazine, he writes for us on a freelance basis, putting all our findings together.
Vincent is a professional videographer who seems to know everything about the industry. He got his first quadcopter as soon as they appeared on the market, so if any drone-related question arises, we know who to ask.
Last updated: January 13, 2022
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Compact cameras can be pretty expensive to design and mount onto drones, and as such, it stands to reason that camera-less drones are a lot more affordable than their counterparts.
Having reviewed different options, we found that the best drones without a camera have impressive flight times, maximum remote-control ranges, charging times, dimensions, and other features. The flight times dictate how long you can use the drones before a recharge is necessary, while the charging times tell you how long you’ll have to wait between uses. As for the control range, it determines how far you can fly the drone. Similarly, the other features can be just as influential in your user experience and have helped us curate the list of recommended camera-less drones below.
Starting us off is the Holy Stone HS170, a compact, 1.45 oz drone that is an excellent purchase for first-time users. It ships with two 3.7V Li-ion batteries, which provide between six and eight minutes of flight time each. As such, if they’re both fully charged, you can enjoy flying the drone for up to 16 minutes, depending on flight conditions. Speaking of the charging, this option takes around 45 minutes to an hour to charge. Additionally, it offers features such as one key landing or take-off in addition to the 6-axis gyro for stability in the air.
The Holy Stone HS170 is an impressive device for beginner drone users, including kids. It differentiates itself from alternatives by offering 6-axis gyro stability, easy-use controls, variable speed modes, and even shipping with two batteries.
Why did it make our list?
We noticed the controls for the Holy Stone HS170 are so intuitive that you won’t need to spend much time reading the manual and familiarizing yourself with the buttons. Additionally, the maximum remote control range is impressive. Lastly, the compact and virtually weightless design means registering the drone will be unnecessary.
What is not ideal about it?
In our opinion, the six to eight-minute flight time per battery is unimpressive. Additionally, while the drone is compact, the remote control is bulkier, which might be a problem when packing for travel. The inclusion of only one charger with two batteries means you can only charge one battery at a time.
As for the Holy Stone HS210, it’s an even smaller drone than the editor’s choice, and the device’s weight reflects that as well. It ships with three interchangeable batteries, which combined offer a total flight time of 21 minutes. This means each battery will have the drone running for seven minutes. The maximum range is just a foot shorter than the Holy Stone HS170’s. Furthermore, it offers some exciting tricks for users, including 3D flips, toss to launch, auto-rotation, and circle fly.
Thanks to the different tricks included in the controls for the drone, the Holy Stone HS210 is an excellent purchase for kids who want a little more fun flying the device. Additionally, it’s for users who want a pocket-size drone for packing and travel purposes.
What do we love it for?
Similar to the Holy Stone HS170, the Holy Stone HS210 is small and light enough that you won’t need a license to fly it. This is also an asset when you pack up the device for storage or travel. Additionally, we noted it has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep things interesting during use.
What were we disappointed with?
The extremely compact and lightweight design becomes a problem outdoors where there are strong winds as the drone is likely to get blown away. Additionally, the construction isn’t the most durable and is expected to sustain damage if you carelessly fly the device. Lastly, you still get only one charger for the three batteries.
Another contender for the best mini drone without a camera is the SYMA X600. If you’re confused about which side of the drone is the front while the device is in flight, you can always use headless mode. Other functions included are altitude hold, 3D flip, and variable speeds. Like some other drones listed, this device comes with two batteries, each designed to offer 12 minutes of flight time. Another design feature is the foldable design, meaning it’s even more compact in storage than the other drones listed.
The SYMA X600 drone is excellent for anyone who wants a drone with foldable propellers. Additionally, the flight time per battery is a key differentiator and quite impressive for a beginner drone without a camera.
What makes it stand out?
The flight time per battery is one of the most impressive on this list for the money you’ll be spending. Additionally, the controls are some of the most intuitive for a drone that you’ll come across. Next, the device only weighing 2.25 oz means you don’t need a license to fly it.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
The SYMA FLY app, which is meant to work with all SYMA drones, is buggy and problematic, meaning you may have to rely on the remote control provided with the purchase. Next, there are only two speeds compared to the three provided for other drones listed. The charge time for the batteries is also relatively long.
Weighing in at 1.34 lbs, the Super Joy 828 is way past the 0.55 lbs limit, and therefore the only drone listed that you’ll have to register and get a license for. It comes with 2000 Milliamp batteries, allowing for the longest flight time on the list, 28 minutes. That said, the charge time is also the longest on the list, making the batteries a double-edged sword. The weight plays a significant role in making the drone weight resistant, so it’s both beneficial and a problem.
This Super Joy 828 is for users willing to spend more money to get a quadcopter without a camera for the outdoors. Additionally, it’s for users who don’t mind acquiring a license before they can fly the drone.
Why are we impressed?
In our opinion, the wind resistance is an impressive attribute for such a small drone, and with it, you’re sure you’re not going to lose the device to strong drafts. Additionally, with a headless flight system and 6-axis gyro technology, keeping the drone stable in the air is a cakewalk. Lastly, it comes with some excellent extra features, i.e., the 3D 360 flip and the bright LED light.
What negatives must you be aware of?
One of the worst features of the Super Joy 828 quadcopter is the long charge time. Waiting more than three hours for a full charge will likely frustrate some users. Additionally, you have to worry about registration and getting a license for the device before you can fly it outdoors.
Another SYMA drone makes it onto the list, and this time it’s the SYMA X20. The 6.4 oz device has one of the most aesthetically pleasing designs for a drone without a camera under 50. If you gift it to your kids, they get to enjoy one key start and land. Additionally, there are altitude hold modes, headless modes, and even functions such as 360° roll. Another design feature is the inclusion of LED lights. Notably, its flight time is only five minutes while it charges for about 50 minutes.
The SYMA X20 is an ideal purchase for users who don’t need long flight times, given that it maxes out at five minutes. It’s also for would-be drone pilots who are short on cash since it’s such an affordable device.
Why is it special?
The SYMA X20 is easily one of the most compact camera-less drones in the market. Next, the one-key start and land, hover, and headless use mode makes control a cinch even for newbie drone pilots. Finally, since it comes fitted with LED lights, there’s no reason not to use it at night.
What are the flaws?
In our opinion, the flight time is one of the shortest you’ll encounter in the market for such drones. Additionally, a 50 minute charge time for a device that only flies for five minutes is unimpressive. Lastly, the drone isn’t durable, and if you accidentally fly it into obstacles, it’s not going to last long.
Things to Consider
Ultimately, figuring out the best drone for kids or yourself without a camera is no easy task, especially with the current options available in the market. However, with this buying guide, you can learn how to accurately judge the quality of each potential purchase and figure out if it’s worth opening your wallet for or not.
What Can You Do with a Drone without a Camera?
Most drones without cameras are used for recreational purposes where the user just flies the device back and forth. As such, they are an excellent present idea for kids. Some of the potential fun activities include mid-air races as well as some of the tricks mentioned above.
They’re also great for practice. You’ll notice they’re not very expensive and as such, you won’t lose much if you damage them. Consequently, if you plan on getting a more expensive drone, a camera-less drone may allow you to practice how to control the device without risking much of your money.
Lastly, if the drone is powerful enough, you can also mount a high-quality compact camera on the device. This will allow you to take much better quality videos and photos.
How to Choose the Best Drone
Choosing the best quadcopter without a camera boils down to checking the following factors:
Size and Weight
Camera-less drones are usually very small and incredibly lightweight
Ideally, you should always check the size and weight of any camera-less drone you encounter as they’re bound to affect your user experience. Admittedly, without a mounted camera, most drones tend to be compact and lightweight. You can see that in models like the Holy Stone HS210, which measures 3.15” x 3.15” x 1.18” and only weighs 0.77 oz.
Also, there’s the regulation issue where according to the Federal Aviation Administration
Trusted SourceHow to Register Your Drone
, drones that weigh more than 250 grams have to be registered and licensed by the government. As such, most mini-drones without a camera are generally less stressful to use as you don’t need to worry about licensing.
Another factor associated with the size and weight is whether you can mount a camera on the device. If the drone is too small, it probably can’t handle the extra weight of a camera. Additionally, the size and weight are influential factors in the storage and transportability of the device. Typically smaller drones are easier to store and transport.
Lastly, wind resistance and the ability to fly outdoors may also be affected by the size and weight of the device. Bulkier, heavier drones tend to handle the outdoors and strong winds a lot better than lightweight, compact devices.
One of the critical determinants for how much you or your kids enjoy using the device is the flight time. As such, models like the Super Joy 828 with a 28-minute runtime are pretty impressive in this regard. However, a longer flight time is also often combined with a high price point, and you may have to sacrifice the runtime or opt to spend more money.
Since most camera-less drones are used for recreational purposes, they don’t need to run for hours on end like military drones. For comparison, according to Airforce Technology
Trusted SourceThe 10 longest range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - Airforce TechnologyEndurance is a primary challenge for manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which play a key role in a wide range of military and non-military operations.
, military drones like the Zephyr Stratospheric UAV can stay in the air for more than 25 days, and of course, they’re equipped with cameras. However, short flight times are likely to put a damper on your enjoyment of the device since you have to keep pausing the fun to recharge the batteries. As such, they are to be avoided if possible.
The charging time is another design factor that could rain on your parade. Just like the flight time, it dictates your enjoyment of the device. Often you can’t use the drone as the batteries are charging. This remains true even when you have multiple batteries, as the charge times are typically several times longer than the flight times.
Consequently, you want to pick a mini drone without a camera with the shortest charging time possible, as this means less time waiting to use the device. Among the top contenders on the list regarding the charging time is the Holy Stone HS210 which requires 40-60 minutes for a full charge.
Next, check the control distance. Ideally, you want a drone that you can fly far away for a little extra fun, and the control distance is crucial for that. If the control distance is limited, you can’t fly the device very far, as then you lose control of the device and may lose it.
That said, considering these drones don’t have cameras, there’s no way to control the device effectively if it moves out of your line of sight. As such, an extreme control distance won’t do you much good either. Control ranges of about 165 ft like the one provided by the Holy Stone HS170 or lower are ideal. However, as mentioned above, the control distance can’t be too low either otherwise, you’ll be pretty limited in where you can fly your drone.
Flight modes dictate how you use the device. For instance, with flight modes like altitude hold, you can keep the device at the same distance from the ground for an extended period, of course, relative to the provided flight time.
Another example of a flight mode is the headless mode. Drone users don’t have to worry about figuring out the drone’s front side with this mode. They can control it to move forward, backward, sideways, up, and down based on the device’s orientation relative to their position.
If your camera-less drone doesn’t have headless mode, use will be a lot more complicated. Of course, you may encounter other flight mode options as well, and it’s best to look at their positives and cons before committing to the purchase.
Lastly, some extra features may also be fitted into a mini quadcopter without a camera. Examples include one-key take-off or landing, variable speeds, the ability to handle various tricks such as flips and rotations, being foldable, and more. Each of these drone features could provide extra benefits to buyers during use.
However, they can also influence the price of your potential drone purchase negatively. Consequently, you may have to set a limit on how much more money you’re willing to spend on extra features.
As mentioned above, there are rules and regulations requiring the registration and licensing of drones heavier than 250 grams and those used for non-recreational purposes. Since most drones without a camera are lighter and are used for recreational flying, you likely won’t need a license.
However, according to Federal Drone Registration, if you fail to register drones like the Super Joy 828, which is heavier than the said limit, you’re liable for fines and maybe even imprisonment.
Most kids above four years old can fly these drones without issues as long as they have the proper supervision. That said, there is a risk for injury if they don’t know what they’re doing. Additionally, some of the components are pretty small and may be swallowed if you let your small kids handle them.
For the most part, flying a beginner drone without a camera is easy, intuitive, and doesn’t require technical know-how, especially with options like headless mode. The lack of a camera also reduces the number of variables you have to consider and makes use easier.
Our top camera-less drones include the Holy Stone HS170, Holy Stone HS210, and the SYMA X600. For the money you spend, the Holy Stone HS170 is one of the most impressive devices. We found it to be stable, easy to fly, and with multiple speed modes so you can kick the speed up a notch when you need to.
The Holy Stone HS210 is designed to fit and fly in smaller spaces, is lightweight, and with the tricks included, it’s easily one of the best drones without a camera for kids. Lastly, there’s the SYMA X600. Its biggest asset is that it folds. Furthermore, the 12-minute runtime per battery isn’t bad either.
As for the remaining two drones, they offer excellent value for money and a different set of benefits for users. Consequently, you may end up picking one of them as your priority purchase, depending on what you need.