Have the FAA just added layers of complexity to this hobby or is it just me?
I don’t know about you, but the first time I heard about the FAA drone registration process I was very confused. I mean, why should drones be regulated in the first place?
I understand when you fly for profit, but me? I just want to have fun with my drone and take some great top-view footage. That’s it!
This is what came to my mind back in 2015 when the FAA started to put drone rules and regulations in place for both commercial pilots and hobbyists.
Since then, the FAA has added more and more to the book and the experts think this will keep happening.
Many people say this hobby is dead or close to death, thanks to the FAA drone rules and regulations.
I wonder if that is true or if there is a way to live in peace with these FAA drone regulations.
This post is about that, and it touches not only the “registration issue”, but also how drones under 250 grams can be a great option to skip this requirement.
What is the FAA and what does it have to do with drones in the US?
The FAA is the Federal Aviation Administration, and in the United States of America, it is in charge of regulating the airspace and everything on it.
If you’ve been digging in the world of drones, you probably heard something about the FAA rules, regulations, registration, and all that cool and interesting stuff.
The thing is, drones are super fun and cool devices, yet, in the last few years, the number of drones surfing the skies increased and with it the risk of these things falling and hurting someone.
This is why the government started to figure out how to regulate these drones.
After a while, the government of the United States of America decided that the FAA would be in charge of regulating how drones would fly in the American airspace.
They classified drones based on their weight, thinking that lighter drones would cause less harm than heavier ones, if they fell from the sky.
In order to regulate drones, on December 21st of 2015, the FAA issued a federal law that required registration for drones over 250 grams.
Soon after the FAA issued its first law, other countries started to do the same, and 250 grams was established as the standard weight for not requiring registration not only in the USA but in many other places around the world.
This is how it all started. After that, the FAA has put in place rules and regulations and these have evolved to address the concerns and requirements from the American people.
This is why 250 grams is the magic number many drones enthusiasts desperately look for, since they know this will help them avoid registration with the FAA.
Why to avoid FAA registration?
If you visit some forums about the topic and dig online, you’ll see that most people want to avoid drone registration.
This is why drones under 250 grams are so famous and on high demand.
Yet, why would people want to avoid registering their drone?
Honestly I don’t understand that, yet most recreational pilots tend to want to avoid this.
Registration costs only $5 dollars and it can be done online. The FAA has also created a very friendly page where people can find a lot of useful information for both commercial and recreational purposes, which in my opinion answers a lot of the basic questions pilots would have about their drones and registration.
Some people think regulating drones is unconstitutional and thus drones should not be regulated, yet this is a very controversial topic that would be a post on its own.
Just to spark a bit of the conversation here, hobbyists say they have the right to fly their drones since they are doing no harm to anyone. On the other hand, some people think drones are essentially flying cameras, and thus could inadvertently violate the privacy of others.
The conversation escalates to illegal, unethical, and even dangerous uses people can give to drones, and thus the regulation tries to set the balance and keep everyone happy.
Yet going back to registration, if you are flying for commercial purposes (Part 107), or if you are flying as a recreational hobbyist and your drone weighs more than 250 grams, you must register your drone.
How can a drone under 250 grams be used?
Believe it or not, there are plenty of uses for drones under 250 grams.
First of all, they can have a camera, so pretty much everything that a drone with a camera does, they can do.
A drone under 250 grams will more than likely be small and therefore not able to carry heavy things. Yet if what you are looking for is just a recreational device, then a drone under 250 grams is perfect for you, since not only you’ll avoid FAA registration, but in most cases, these drones are not expensive.
How to choose a drone below 250 grams?
If you are looking for a light drone that doesn’t require registration, I would say you should try to get the most out of your money.
In that case, I can base my selection in either performance or budget. Of course, the higher performance the higher the budget, and vice versa.
If this is only for recreational purposes and you are starting with drones, I would recommend sticking to something cheap as well.
On the other hand, if you are looking to get the best performance you can and the money is not too much of a problem, then for sure I would go with the Mavic Mini from DJI.
How light drones compare to their heaviest brothers?
In reality I think there is not much of a difference for hobbyists. You have to have a very specific application in mind to decide that a drone under 250 grams does not fit your needs.
If you want to carry a pro camera or heavy objects, then for sure you wont make it with a small drone, but if you just want to hone your flying skills or have fun taking some great shots, then a drone under 250 grams is definitely up for the task.
The table below compares the main features you can find in the drones under 250 grams on this page and their heavier brothers.
|Feature||Drones under 250 grams||Drones over 250 grams|
|Flight Time||30 Minutes||30 Minutes|
|Charge Time||90 Minutes||90 Minutes|
|Flight Range||4 Km||7 Km|
|Video Range||4 Km||7 Km|
The Pros and Cons of drones under 250 grams
At first sight, people may think drones under 250 grams are quite limited and can’t offer a lot to the public, yet I already explained that unless you have a very specific purpose with it, you should not discard them just because they are small.
In fact, they offer a lot of advantages and here I want to talk about them.
First of all, they don’t require registration, which like I already said, most people want to avoid it, even when it can be done online and costs only $5 dollars.
If you argued about the camera a few months ago I would have agreed with you, yet the new Mavic Mini is a DJI drone with a 2.7k built in camera with stabilized image, which is a big jump compared even with other heavier drones.
I also like to talk about portability in terms of drones, and the lighter they are the easier to carry them.
Small drones tend to be easier to control than most heavy gadgets, since they are simpler in nature and that makes them more user-friendly.
In terms of budget, they tend to be cheaper than their heavier brothers, which makes them perfect for beginners as well.
You may think these drones are limited in features, such as the FPV, but the reality is drone technology has evolved with the years and today, even small drones under 100 dollars can live stream video right to your smartphone.
In a nutshell, these drones are not less or lower grade drones just because of their weight, instead, just as any other technology, drones tend to get smaller and more advanced, and that is the direction of true progress with these devices.
The only real disadvantage of these light drones is how easy they can get dragged by shear wind, because of their weight.
This is not only for light drones, but in general, most commercial drones can be dragged by wind if this is too strong, so the rule of thumb here is to not fly in bad weather.
|Pros of Drones under 250 Grams||Cons of Drones under 250 grams|
|Don’t require FAA registration||Can be dragged by gusts of wind.|
|Advanced features included|
No FAA registration means no restrictions at all? – The safe flight rules for all drones (even those below 250 grams) by the FAA
Just because your drone is less than 250 grams doesn’t mean it can be a rogue one. In fact, registration or not, there are still a few drone rules from the FAA you must abide by for safe flights.
I have a cool infographic that I created a while ago where these rules are outlined. See it below.
This infographic was created with recreational flyers in mind, but if you need more information, you can check the page from the FAA where they give all the details about these rules.
In a nutshell:
Do you have to register a drone under 250 grams?
Nope. Drones under 250 grams don’t require registration, yet the safe flight rules apply for any drone surfing the skies.
Also, it is important to remember that if you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly for work or business by following the Part 107 guidelines.
Can you fly a drone under 250 grams anywhere?
No. The FAA has classified American airspace into categories that describe if a drone can fly in them or not.
Pretty much you can fly your drone at or below 400 feet above the ground when in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace.
You will need to get authorization before flying in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E). You can obtain authorization in three ways:
- A written agreement with the FAA for fixed flying sites. For more information about fixed flying sites, contact us at UAShelp@faa.gov.
What can I do with a drone under 250 grams?
Like I mentioned before, these drones can do almost everything their heavier siblings do, but at a different degree.
However, a few months ago, DJI released their Mavic Mini, which changed the game entirely. This is an advanced drone that weighs just 249 grams, and can perform just like the most advanced drones in some areas.
Having said this, here are some of the things you can do with a drone under 250 grams.
Take Group Selfies
In general, most drones can take great selfies, not just of one person but in many cases of large groups. This is not the exception with drones under 250 grams, as they can also serve for this purpose.
Just put your drone in the air and turn the camera towards yourself or your group, and smile for the photo.
Top view footage
Probably the most common reason people want a drone with a camera is to take aerial views of their surroundings.
Well, drones under 250 grams can do this also, and they can take aerial shots that before drones were impossible or very costly to take.
Are you worried about the condition of your roof top water proofing? Forget about that. With one of these drones you can do a quick inspection of your roof top and determine if more waterproofing is needed.
This is not only quicker and easier but also safer.
Of course you can have fun with these drones. As I said before, these drones under 250 grams are perfect for hobbyists. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a seasoned pilot, these drones are perfect for everyone.
Some of these, given its small size, are safe to fly indoors, so they are perfect for rainy days.
Some modern hunters like to scout the field in search of wildlife. Once they spot their game, they go and catch it.
Drone hunting is not as straightforward as that, but the idea of using a drone for hunting has gained some popularity in the last few years.
Like I said before, drones in general have many applications that involve exploration or inspection. You can do property surveillance, watch your cattle, do ocean exploration, check the changes of rain forest, and much more.
The same is true for drones under 250 grams, and again, if you have the DJI Mavic Mini on your side, many things are possible.
What are the best drones under 250 grams
The DJI Mavic Mini – The Best FPV drone under 250 grams
- The compact yet powerful Mavic Mini camera drone is the perfect creative companion, capturing your moments in a way that effortlessly elevates the ordinary
- Weighing less than 0.55lbs / 250 grams, Mavic Mini is almost as light as the average smartphone. In the United States and Canada, you can fly this camera drone without the need to register your drone with the government
- Mavic Mini supports 12MP aerial photos and 2.7K HD videos. A 3-axis motorized gimbal provides superior camera stability and ensures clear, Ultra-smooth footage
- Mavic Mini’s weight allows it to stay in the air longer than similar consumer FlyCams on the market. Enjoy up to 30 minutes of flight time with a fully-charged battery
- DJI Fly App requires iOS v10.0, Android v6.0 or above. Compatible devices include: iPhone 11 Pro Max, 11 Pro, 11, XS Max, XS, XR, X, 8 Plus, 8, 7 Plus, 7, 6s Plus, 6s, 6 Plus, 6, Samsung Galaxy S10+, S10, S9+, S9 , S8+, S8, S7 edge, S7, S6, Note9, Note8, Huawei P30 Pro, P30, P20, P10, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 10, nova 5, nova 4, nova 3e, nova 2, Honor 8X, 10, 9, 20 Pro, Magic 2, Mi 8, MIX 2S, MIX 2, Redmi Note 5, Oppo Find X, R15, Vivo NEX, X27, X21, X20A, OnePlus 7, 6T, 5, Pixel 3 XL, 2 XL, 2, LG V20, LG G6
I’ve been talking about the DJI Mavic Mini during the whole post. The reason is very simple: this is the best drone under 250 grams you’ll find.
DJI has a reputation for delivering quality devices at very high prices, but this 249 grams is less than $500 dollars.
Before in the post I mentioned that portability is one of the main advantages of these drones, and the Mavic Mini is not just small but also foldable, so it really can fit in small travel bags for your convenience.
The Mavic Mini is much more than a drone under 250 grams, but it has advanced flight modes and it is designed to aid the user to edit/produce shining videos in no time, and share them through social media right at the moment.
Among its advanced flight modes, you can find:
- Dronie: A cinematic shot that will do a zoom out to you as the drone goes far away.
- Rocket: Similar to Dronie, but this time will be upwards.
- Circle: The Mavic Mini will orbit you and create a video while doing it.
- Helix: Similar to Circle, but the drone will fly in a helix path.
The Mavic Mini is considered the everyday camera, and that is because it is so simple to use and the drone is so friendly, that drone users are reporting a great flight experience.
DJI Mavic Mini Specifications
|Feature||DJI Mavic Mini|
|Camera||12MP photos and 2.7K HD videos.3-axis stabilized gimbal|
|Flight Time||30 minutes|
|Charge Time||90 minutes|
|Flight Range||4 Km (2.49 miles)|
|Video Range||4 Km (2.49 miles)|
Ryze Tech Tello – A Great Camera Drone under 250 grams
- Little drone for kids and adults that’s a blast to fly and helps users learn about drones with coding education.
- VR headset compatibility,fly with a breathtaking first-person view.
- Tello has two antennas that make video transmission extra stable and a high-capacity battery that offers impressively long flight times.
- Start flying by simply tossing Tello into the air.Slide on screen to perform 8D flips cool aerial stunts.
- Equipped with a high-quality image processor, Tello shoots incredible photos and videos. Even if you don’t know how to fly, you can record pro-level videos with EZ Shots and share them on social media from your smartphone.
The Tello is one of the best drones under 250 grams you can find. It is developed by Ryze but using DJI flight technology. Also, it comes with an Intel processor.
The Tello is more than a drone under 250 grams, it is an educational tool. You can write code to modify the drone operation and load it to see how it works. The drone can be programmed using Scratch, an MIT-developed coding system that is not just educative but very fun to play with.
In case you want to go more advanced, the Tello drone can be programmed using its SDK (Software Development Kit).
Something that is fantastic about the Tello drone, is that it responds to gesture control, which means you can control some of its features using only your hands.
A controller-included version is sold as well, but you can use your current smartphone to control the Tello, so while a controller can be used, it is not needed at all as long as you have a smartphone to connect it to.
Ryze Tello Specification
|Flight Time||13 minutes|
|Charge Time||90 minutes|
|Flight Range||100 m (328 ft)|
|Video Range||100 m (328 ft)|
Holy Stone HS110G – One of the best drones below 250 grams
- Catch Your Moment -- With 1080 HD 110°Field-of-View camera and First Person View transmission, it has a higher image quality and wider range of shooting angle than common 720P camera drone. Enjoy beautiful real time view with Holy Stone App on your PHONE connected to flying quadcopter camera!
- GPS Auto Return -- GPS positioning help HS110G drone hover stably to catch clearer images, and return to home precisely whenever battery is low, signal is lost or you like to get it back. Worry-Free Flight! Great gift for your father, mother, boyfriend or son!
- Intelligent Flight -- It can fly at your will by using Follow Me mode or Drawing a Route on the Holy Stone App control page, so you can free your hands and focus on capturing photos and videos and get outdoor fun.
- Longer and Further -- The a maximum of 26-mins flight time allows you to fly longer and view further. The real time view reaches up to 492FT away and the control distance is up to 984FT, giving you a wider visual enjoyment.
- User-friendly -- It is easier for newbies or beginners, equipped with functions like GPS sateline positioning hover, altitude hold, headless mode, one key take off/landing, emergence stop, low battery alarm and visiable LED lights. With simple press, even little boys and girls can take it under well control.
Holy Stone is one of the best brands selling drones right now. Many people argue they sell overpriced drones that you can find somewhere else with the same features but at lower prices.
The truth is Holy Stone will replace your drone in virtually any circumstance you need a replacement. This is something you can’t get very easily with other companies, but Holy Stone will do it for you.
Starting with the Holy Stone HS110G, this is a drone with an HD camera. Nonetheless, it is still under 250 grams, so it doesn’t need FAA registration.
This drone uses GPS technology to fly accurately and locate it with satellites
It also has some intelligent flight modes which will allow you to follow a target or orbit it. If you want a drone that is user-friendly, then this is the perfect one since the controls are very intuitive and learning how to use it will be very easy.
Holy Stone HS110G Specification
|Feature||Holy Stone 110G|
|Flight Time||13 minutes|
|Charge Time||180 minutes|
|Flight Range||300 m (984 ft)|
|Video Range||150 m (492 ft)|
Is there a 4K Camera Drone under 250 grams?
Yes! You will love this one. This is not just a 4K drone under 250 grams, it is also a racing drone with a 4K camera and its total weight is less than 250 grams.
Beta85X 4K – A racing drone under 250 grams
- 【Upgraded FC&ESC, totally support 4S】Please contacu us if you have any problem about this drone by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Upgraded F4 V2 FC with BLHeli_32 16A ESC, using single N-channel MosFETs, soldering with 25V/220uf electrolytic capacitor, makes the structure and performance more stable and support 4S power definetly. Add receiver, ESC, led board, VTX pluggable ports, whole drone no solder needed
- 【Tarsier 4K camera with ND8 fliter】Equipped with Caddx Tarsier 4K camera with ND8 fliter which supports APP setting and switchable resolution setting of 4K, 2.7k, 1440P, 1080P
- 【Upgraded 1105 5000KV motor】Upgraded 1105 motor from 6000KV to 5000KV, with a light weight but definitely will give you extreme power and speed. Motor comes with cable connectors
- 【Frame with Carbon fiber stiffener brace 】Added screws holes on the frame to fix the ESC, can prevent ESC from loosening and also solve the adverse wear and tear reaction from ESC and FC caused by vibration. To increase its stability, we specially add an extra stiffener brace of carbon fiber
- 【Recommend battery】BETAFPV 450mAh 4S high rate 75C/150C 14.8V lipo battery is recommended by default
This 88 grams drone is not just light, it is also powerful. Its body is carbon fiber made, helping it to be lightweight and resistant.
Don’t let its small size and lightweight confuse you. This is a small yet advanced piece of technology with lots of gadgets that will amaze you, not only for its small size but also for how those gizmos connect together to make this a fantastic drone.
Give it a try and you won’t regret it.
|Flight Time||5 minutes|
|Charge Time||90 minutes|
|Flight Range||300 m (984 ft)|
|Video Range||150 m (492 ft)|
What if you are looking for something more in the toy-grade drones?
To be honest with you, I love the toy-grade drones. Many people tend to think these are obsolete and you can’t do anything with them, but in reality, these are the ones you use on rainy days.
Also, most drone modifications can be done with these, as advanced devices like the Mavics or others are more expensive and trust me, you don’t want to mess with those things.
Anyways, I’m a big fan of Syma drones. In fact, the first flying gadget I ever had was a Syma helicopter S107G, and I really had a great time with it.
This is why I want to include 2 more drones here that are worth your time and money. They fit the “under 250 grams description”, and fly like a dream.
The Syma X5C-1 – A drone for beginners below 250 g.
- Syma X5C-1 2015 Version with exclusive carrying case ($35 value) and extra battery ($10 value)
- Over $45 in value with this bundle and with the newest X5C-1 version
- Please Note: There may be 1 battery already inside the quad and an additional battery inside the case.
- Bonus prop guard for flight safety
- Newest 2015 Version! "X" marked by Red to indicate newer version
This is one of my favorite drones on the toy side. The Syma X5C-1 is not only a great trainer drone, but the drone alone is less than 250 grams and flies very well.
You’ll have a lot of fun with this gadget, since it is not just easy to fly but also very resistant, so chances are you’ll crash a bunch of times but the X5C-1is ready for it and you’ll love it.
This camera drone has a 720p resolution and its biggest downside is the lack of FPV, yet this is not a big problem since the drone stills deliver a great flight experience and it really helps you understand how a drone flies.
Besides its resistance and easiness to fly, the Syma X5C-1 can record video and take photos, to later see them in your computer with the aid of a microSD card.
Syma X5C-1 Specification
|Flight Time||7 minutes|
|Charge Time||60 minutes|
|Flight Range||30 m (98 ft)|
The Syma X5SW – A Cheap FPV Drone Under 250 grams
- Equipped with HD camera.
- Perform flips at the press of a button with 360 degree eversion, Wind resistant and can be flown indoors or outdoors
- 6-axis Gyro stabilization system ensures maximum stability during flight
- 7 Minute flight time and 100 minute charge time.
- Kindly refer the User manual for troubleshooting steps.
This is another impressive drone by Syma, and of course it is under 250 grams. What I think is impressive about this gadget is its FPV feature. Honestly speaking, when I got this drone for less than 50 USD, I wasn’t expecting FPV, and I did not even notice it until I got the drone.
I noticed the FPV once I tested it. And to my astonishment, it was a really good feature in a toy-grade drone under 50 dollars.
If you add to this the fact this drone weighs less than 250 grams, you have a pretty cool gadget that can be used outdoors or indoors and performs great.
I used this drone as one of my first trainers and I loved it. All my family had fun with it in my living room and most of them had never touched a drone before. Great trainer I would say.
Syma X5SW Specification
|Flight Time||7 minutes|
|Charge Time||60 minutes|
|Flight Range||30 m (98 ft)|
As I said in the beginning, the FAA rules book will continue to grow as drones evolve. We may or may not be aligned with that, but this is the most likely scenario.
It could be that FAA drone rules and regulations, or even the registration process could be overturned in the future, if certain conditions are met, but the reality is that we cannot be sure about that.
While some argue that it is unconstitutional to do this, the truth is the general public has the right to be protected against any potential harm these gadgets could represent, and in that matter, I support the fact that drones have to be controlled or regulated.
Yet if you are just looking to have fun with these gadgets and spend some quality time with family and friends, I don’t think you should sweat it that much, as there are amazing options available for drones under 250 grams, that don’t require FAA registration.
If you already decided you want a sub 250 grams drone and budget allows it, I would recommend you to go with the Mavic Mini. If your budget is a bit tight, then any of the other options can be a great choice.
I will leave you with this last thought: For a hobbyist, what are the real advantages of using a drone under 250 grams? Just avoiding a 10-minute registration process online and a $5 USD fee? I would love to know your thoughts about it.
Till the next one!