Best Beginner Quadcopter: Holy Stone F181 Review
After weeks of researching, we’ve finally done it. Pencils down kids, it’s over! We’re constantly asked by curious friends and family which drone is best for them to “test the waters” with drones. Sometimes they’re looking for a gift for their children, sometimes it’s a personal interest or inspiration from a drone-specific Instagram account. Despite the numerous guides and reviews that we do, it still requires a bit of research to figure it out. We combed all over youtube, pored through industry guides, and got in the weeds with 1400+ user reviews to combine all this information into one place, with an easy to understand format. We built this guide – to be the definitive, decisive, one answer recommendation to tell you (and anyone who might ask YOU for advice) about the very best beginner quadcopter. Period.
How We Decided: 5 Main Factors
We considered a range of factors when picking our top recommendation. We kept the users (14+ kids to adults) in mind and always tried to put ourselves in the shoes of a true first time flyer. That first drone experience is so memorable, we only wanted to put our “weight” behind a solid recommendation. We weighted actual user experiences very heavily, as you might find in the first section. Here’s a look at the 5 factors that made up our minds.
Is it easy to fly?
The Holy Stone F181 is remarkably easy to operate and get in the air. The learning curve isn’t very steep, which means you can learn to fly it in well under an hour. The controls are both intuitive and responsive to your command (We assumed that the typical pilot is 14+ years of age).
“Turned the unit on and it was awesome, so easy to fly and I love the altitude hold.”Amazon Review, October 2016
Is this drone good value and affordable?
The price of this quadcopter is quite accessible because it’s available for under $110 at Amazon.com. Not everyone has the budget for a nice drone, and not everyone needs one! If you’re searching for the best beginner quadcopter, you want a low investment drone to make sure this hobby is right for you before moving up! Everyone is going to crash at some point, it might as well be on a drone that’s cheaper and easier to replace.
“With the 720p camera and accessories, I feel like I got excellent value for my money.”Amazon Review, December 2016
Is it durable and safe?
Many real users remarked that the Holy Stone F181 is reliable and can handle a tumble or two. We looked for features like the ability to find replacement parts and whether propeller guards could be added for more safety (we recommend a few later in this article). The Holy Stone F181 was released in 2015 and many folks are still flying them today! You can expect this to be a good “daily driver” and serve you well as you learn more about flying.
“That last thing I’ll say is it is DURABLE. I tried to do a barrel roll in the house (poor decision) it bounced off the ceiling, the wall, a lamp, and landed hard on the floor. No damage at all. 5 stars.”Amazon Review, December 2016
How reliable is Holy Stone? What do the reviews say?
We set out to find a drone with a recognized brand and solid aftermarket support if you run into any issues. It’s no fun to have a new quadcopter fail for no reason and to have customer support put you on hold for hours. (That’s another reason that buying from Amazon is great – low hassle returns!). We found that Holy Stone had excellent customer support and a strong and well-known brand among drone enthusiasts. Holy Stone is a Chinese brand that has a solid reputation in the UAV industry.
“Very happy to get this drone. The Holy Stone support is EXCELLENT and very responsive. They helped me with all my questions.”Amazon Review, July 2016
Is this drone fun to use?
Of course, this drone needed to be fun to fly! We made sure it’s something that can spark a passion for flying and inspire your curiosity about the good times that can be had with bigger and more capable drones. We made sure to find one that included a camera for sharing all of your aerial pictures, because droning is better with friends (especially when you have the best beginner quadcopter on the market!)
“Great purchase, we are beginners with drone use but are having a ton of fun learning how to fly it, make it do flips, take pics, etc”Amazon Review, September 2016
Holy Stone F181 Review
The Holy Stone F181 RC Quadcopter is hands down the best beginner quadcopter for under $110. (Over 1,400+ reviewers on Amazon have combined to rate this one 4.5 / 5 stars!) At it’s core, the Holy Stone F181 is a plastic drone that has 4 propellers and a small camera. The drone is controlled by a 2.4 GHz transmitter that you hold in your hands and which works like a traditional two stick remote control. It’s powered by a removable 3.7 V 750 mAh battery that keeps the motors running and the drone airborne. What does this mean for you, a beginner looking for a drone? Let’s run through how it scored on each of our criteria:
Ease of Flying
This drone comes with a traditional “joystick style” controller that’s comfortable to hold. You’ll need to add 4 AA batteries before the controller will work (these are not included with the drone). The controller has a small LED screen on the top, which will show you a few critical stats like speed, signal strength, and battery. The small screen does not provide a live view from the drone.
The Holy Stone F181 is best flown indoors or in very light winds (under 5 mph). Beginners will appreciate the “altitude hold” function which allows the drone to stay at a consistent vertical height. A brand new feature is the “Key Return” function which allows the drone to return to the place it took off from. That said, it’s always best to keep an eye on your drone as it will only be able to go 50-100 meters away from you at any time. “Headless mode” allows you the drone to stay oriented to your viewpoint even as it changes flight path, which is a huge help for beginner drone pilots.
It’s easy to set up the Holy Stone F181 to fly right out of the box. Simply attach the propeller guards and landing gear, add the controller batteries, and you’re off to the races! The 6-axis stabilization technology will help you perform quick turns and zip around the living room or front yard. Different buttons on the controller will allow you to take pictures, record video to a 2GB SD card, and perform stunts like 360 degree flips with ease!
Value & Affordability
We think that this drone is truly the best beginner quadcopter because it offers such great value. For a new pilot, this drone can immerse you in aerial photography, stunt flying, drone racing, and so much more!
For just over $100, you can have a personal, flying robot delivered in 2 days! Let’s think about how cool that is for a second….we really do live in the future.
You’ll get lasting value from learning a new skill and showing off to your friends and family. Who knows…you might even use it to pursue one of our top 40 drone business ideas and make some money with it!
Durability & Safety
This UAV received high marks across the board for durability, mostly lending to it’s sturdy construction and use of propeller guards. We recommended this drone because we know first time pilots are likely to crash a few times, and that’s ok! This drone is meant to take a bit of a beating and be able to bounce back to keep you flying.
A few users commented that this quad was able to withstand a few falls from heights of over 20 feet and survive. Although we don’t recommend trying to crash, you can rest assured that most light dings aren’t going to put you out of commission.
Holy Stone customer service is known for being responsive, so don’t worry about support in that department. When you combine their service with buying through Amazon, you know your purchase will be protected. We’ve seen users who are still flying their 2015 models, so if you treat this quadcopter right, it will last you a long time in return.
If you have any doubts, take some time to read through reviews on Amazon. We doubt you’ll find a drone in this price point with as much support as the Holy Stone F181. It’s basically the Toyota Corolla of drones!
Look, this drone is simply a ton of fun to fly, it’s as easy as that.
Here are the 5 most fun things about this quad:
- 360 degree stunt roll button located right on the controller
- Equipped with LED lights for night-time buzzing around the house
- Taking your first aerial photos and videos…and then sharing on social media!
- Giving it as an unforgettable gift to a family member (especially a young adult)
- Racing it against your friends’ drones
Battery Life: 8 Minutes
Battery Charge Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
# Drone Batteries Included: 2 750 mAh batteries (Get more here!)
Controller Frequency: 2.4 GHz
Controller Batteries: AA (Not included – get some here!)
Weight: 0.9 LB (requires FAA registration – learn more here!)
Dimensions: 12.2″ x 12.2″ x 3.7″
Price: Check on Amazon ($110 at time of post)
Range: 50 to 100 meters
Camera: 2MP, 720p
What accessories should I get?
Accessories will help you get the most out of your new toy, whether it’s extra propeller guards or new batteries. We wouldn’t recommend going overboard at first, but an extra set of batteries should definitely be on your list. At the time of posting, Amazon was holding a 30% off sale for the Holy Stone 4-in-1 battery charger with a purchase of the F181. That’s what we call a good deal!
You can find additional propeller guards here if you find that your quad has been damaged from one too many kitchen table collisions!
Do I have to register it with the FAA?
Yes, you must register this with the FAA. FAA rules (US only) state that all drones over 0.55 LB must register with the FAA. It costs $5 and is easy to do…head over to the FAA’s drone site and it can be done in as little as 10 minutes!
Where can I get one?
Amazon.com is the place to head for this one…at time of posting there are plenty in stock. Read a few reviews over there and support the site if you can while you’re at it. When you buy through our Amazon link, it’s pretty much the same as buying us a cup of coffee and it helps us write more helpful articles and pay for hosting costs of the site.
We hope that now you have the confidence in the Holy Stone F181 as the unequivocal best beginner quadcopter out there. Let us know how it goes when you get one, we might even be able to feature you on the site! Let us know what you think with a star review and comment below…don’t be shy!