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Hand-controlled drones vs. remote-controlled drones

Which hand-controlled or remote-controlled drones are best? 

If you love spending time outdoors photographing or recording various landscapes and cityscapes or just want to experience flying drones, then you must have wondered whether remote-controlled drones or hand-controlled drones are best. While hand-controlled drones use sensors to read your hand movements to tell how high or which direction to go, remote-controlled drones communicate with remote controllers through radio frequencies to do the same. 

Remote-controlled drones are often equipped with a gimbal and camera for complex tasks, such as photography, video recording and mapping. But most hand-controlled drones are toys that fly in the opposite direction when you place your hand under them or up to their sides. So, the type of drone you need is determined by how you intend to use it.

What to know before you buy hand-controlled drones?

Hand-controlled drones are easy to operate and fun to fly, which is why they are usually targeted at children of various ages. Of course, there are sophisticated hand-controlled drones that can be enjoyed by older children and adults.

Pros of hand-controlled drones

Hand-controlled drones rely on your hand movements to guide them. All you have to do is toss them to launch, move your hands to their sides for direction and then grab them if you want them to stop. You could also buy the versions that come with a special glove equipped with a controller that helps the drone translate simple hand gestures into movements.

Hand-controlled drones are easier to replace because they are more affordable compared to remote-controlled drones. Their small size and lighter weight allow children and even adults to fly them indoors without worrying about losing them or flying them into windows or pools.  Manufacturers use non-toxic bendable, but rugged plastic to make the drones, meaning that they are safe for younger children and last long enough.

They are made in a variety of cool designs, including UFO shapes, LED lighting, disco balls and other futuristic looks. Despite their various looks, you can store them away with the rest of the toys because they are small enough and do not have any expensive equipment attached. 

Cons of hand-controlled drones

You cannot attach a gimbal and camera onto most hand-controlled drones because they are not big enough. Their smaller size also means that only a small battery can fit inside them, so they have shorter battery life compared to remote-controlled drones. While they are durable enough, they are not exactly unbreakable, but that is mitigated by their significantly lower price.  

How much you can expect to spend on hand-controlled drones

There are many designs of hand-controlled drones. Those meant for younger kids are designed with a cage or webbed shell encasing the propellers and tend not to come with controller gloves. These types of drones go for about $20-$32.  

The ones with longer battery life may also have webbed casings, but they also come with controller gloves. You can buy them for about $42-$75.

What are the best hand-controlled drones to buy?


You would think that the UFO shape is what makes it interesting until you find out that it has  five infrared sensors that help it detect obstacles. It is highly sensitive and has medium- and fast-speed modes. The OMOTIYA reaches full charge after only 40 minutes.

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Force1 Scoot LED drone

Force1 is a UFO-shaped drone that has a webbed shell with LEDs all around it. It’s safe because the shell protects kids’ hands and protects the propellers from walls and furniture.  This drone needs 50 minutes to fully charge and only flies for eight minutes after a single charge.

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SKYKING Gesture Control Quadcopter

Not only does it come with a glove that allows gesture control, but it also has a built-in camera that can record 720p videos and capture HD photos. It hovers to take photos and record videos.

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What to know before you buy remote-controlled drones

Just like their name suggests, remote-controlled drones communicate with a remote controller through radio signals. If the drone is equipped with a camera, the remote control may have a screen or if it doesn’t, you can use your phone screen. 

Pros of remote-controlled drones 

You can see what the camera on your drone is seeing, making it easier to take precise photos or to record the video footage you want. That includes capturing spectacular aerial videos or photos that were once only possible to capture from manned aircraft. But drones do all this work faster and cheaper than traditional manned aircraft.

You only need limited experience to deploy them and they can fly in more directions compared to manned aircraft. Other tasks you can use them for include security surveillance, photography and filmmaking, data gathering for disaster events and even mapping for agriculture. 

Thanks to their popularity over the last few decades, these types of drones have become more affordable.  There are remote-controlled drones for kids, but they cannot hold gimbals and cameras. 

Cons of remote-controlled drones

Many regulations restrict flying remote-controlled drones for recreational or commercial purposes. That means you cannot just fly your drone anywhere you want because of airspace property rights and security reasons. They are also more expensive to replace, meaning that you always have to be consciously cautious about how high and how fast you fly them. 

How much you can expect to spend on remote-controlled drones

Remote-controlled drones have become cheaper in the last few years. You can now find them at almost every price level. Low-cost remote-controlled drones cost about $30-$100. They have short battery life and their cameras capture videos in 720p resolution or lower. If you want better camera resolution, Wi-Fi capability, GPS, controller with a screen attached and more, you can go for midrange drones that cost between $200-$500. 

For $600-$1,200, you can get a drone that comes with longer battery life,  a 4K resolution video camera, up to 20 megapixels photo camera and more. 

What are the best remote-controlled drones to buy?

DJI Mini 2

It’s not just its 30-minute battery life and stabilized 4K camera, but also its powerful motor and a stronger connection to its remote controller that makes this drone unique. You can also shoot and record detailed aerial photos and videos because the camera has a 4X digital zoom. This drone is light and compact, making it the ideal drone to use on the go.

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DJI Mavic Air 2

Its powerful camera capable of capturing super-detailed and crisp 48-megapixel photos and 4K videos is just part of what you should expect from the Mavic Air 2. It can also live stream 1080p FHD resolution videos from its cameras and has a flight time of up to 34 minutes. It also has obstacle avoidance technology so that you don’t accidentally fly it into a tree or a wall.

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Ryze Tello

Beginners are likely to love the Ryze Tello because it helps you easily grasp the techniques of operating drones and is also quite affordable. Not only does it have a 13-minute flight time, it also has a camera that can capture incredible 720p high-definition videos and 5-megapixel photos.

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Should you buy a hand-controlled drone or a remote-controlled drone?

Hand-controlled drones are not yet sophisticated enough to take aerial photos or videos because they are not big or strong enough. So, they are often designed as toys for older kids. But if you want a drone that can capture high-definition photos and videos, then midrange or high-range remote-controlled drones are a better choice.

So, the best drone is the one that can serve most of your needs. 


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Michael Rodgers writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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