Why pay for a camera if you don’t want to use it? Drones without cameras are lighter, cheaper, and great for beginners who want to fly by sight rather than through a screen. They’re even great for pros to practice their piloting skills without risking their expensive kit.
This also makes them great for kids. They have fewer parts to break and cost less to replace or fix. They’re also faster than equivalent drones because they’re lighter.
That’s not to say that camera drones are bad, but many of them need a spare smartphone to operate. Will you always be able to give up your smartphone when your children want to play with their camera drone?
If you decide you really need a camera, many drones without a camera have the option to add a camera at a later date.
Drones without a camera come in all types, from those aimed at children to those designed for serious drone pilots. Finding the right one for yourself is part of the fun.
What can you do with a drone without a camera
A drone without a camera can do everything a camera drone can do, apart from taking videos or photos, and allows you to navigate through the drone’s camera.
Flying by sight is the only option, but in my opinion, it’s the most fun anway.
Advantages of a drone without camera
Easier to fix
A camera is an expensive piece of equipment. If your drone doesn’t have one you’ll never have to replace it, even if you keep your drone for many years.
Less fragile camera parts to break
It’s not just the camera you have to worry about. It’s also the gimbal that attaches the camera to the drone. It can break if you crash, but more likely it can break in transit in a backpack or suitcase. Cameraless drones don’t have this problem.
Learn to fly by sight
Flying by sight is a different skill to flying through a camera screen. Personally, I find it more fun and that it puts me more in the moment.
If you want to do stunts, you will be flying by sight. If you don’t need to take photos or record video, you could save the extra cost of a camera.
Best drones without a camera
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Altair Blackhawk – Most durable drone without a camera
- Good flight time (17 mins) and range (985 ft/ 300 m)
- Too powerful for beginners or kids
This is an ideal drone for practicing piloting if you want to fly expensive drones that you don’t want to risk. The Altair Blackhawk is a heavy-duty drone with a metal frame, which gives it good wind resistance.
It can take knocks and rough landings so it is perfect for learning to pilot.
It has a 985 ft (300 m) radius which is plenty of space for flying by sight, without a camera. You’ll have 17 minutes of flight time, so with two or three spare batteries, you’ll have loads of time to practice.
Because the Blackhawk is fast but it’s best to fly it outdoors where there is a lot of space as it’s fairly large, especially if you are a beginner. You can find cheaper drones for indoor piloting practice on this list.
It doesn’t automatically hold its altitude so you’ll need to master throttle control, which is a good skill to learn.
You can add a camera to it if you want one. It was designed with GoPro Hero 3 and 4 in mind but will work with anything that fits. The camera is sold separately.
With its metal frame, the Altair Blackhawk promotes itself as a sturdy and reliable drone for your piloting practice.
3DR Solo – Best bargain drone without a camera
- 25 mins of flight time
- You can add a gimbal and camera if you want
- Discontinued so getting harder to find spare parts
The 3DR Solo is an old favorite that you can turn into a very competent camera drone with a GoPro Hero 4 if you choose. It’s now discontinued but with a generous 25 mins of flight time, it is still worth picking up for a good price as a flying practice drone.
The 3DR Solo Gimbal and GoPro camera are sold separately. This drone becomes especially worth it if you already have a GoPro Hero 4.
The 3DR solo had loads of advanced features for its time. This was one of the first drones to stream live HD from drone to screen.
This is the only drone that can use the GoPro Hero 4 features through the drone’s controls, which is a huge convenience unless you want to record the whole flight every time. You can start and stop the GoPro in flight. You’ll need a smartphone with the controller as a screen though, so factor that in.
It flies smoothly and has a one-key return to home and land command, which is always good for beginners. It can also emergency stop and hover with a tap of the ‘pause’ button.
With the GoPro Hero 4 attached it has a follow mode, the ability to orbit and film a selected target, and can take selfies saved directly to your phone.
The best camera feature is the cable cam. You set the drone to fly in a straight line automatically while you focus on panning the camera and filming.
It is light at 3.3 lb, but not particularly small at 18 x 18 x 10 inches (45.7 x 45.7 x 25.4 cm), so it’s better suited for outdoors.
Although the GoPro Hero 3+ and Hero Silver are compatible with the 3DR Solo, it was designed to be used with the Hero 4. The Hero 5 is not compatible. If you don’t have access to a Hero 4 and you mainly want to film, get a new camera drone. Otherwise, the 3DR Solo is still well worth it, if the price is right.
JJRC H36F 3-IN-1 – Most versatile cameraless drone
- Can switch between water, air, and land
- Short-range and short operating time
- Must switch between water, land, and air modes manually
The JJRC H36F has almost Mario Kart levels of vehicle versatility. It’s close to the dream toy. It can cruise across water, glide across land, and hover through the air.
It has a headless steering mode which makes left and right for the drone the same as your left and right. You can see it in a dark room thanks to its LED lights.
It can perform the standard 360° degree flips and rolls in the air and has two speeds to play with. But its standout feature is its versatility. The same toy can handle land, water and air. It doesn’t have wheels though, so it can only glide over smooth ground.
Its range is short: 30 m in the air, 15 m in water, 15 m on the ground. The water must be shallow with no waves. You may lose connection on a large enough pond, so for most people, taking on the four seas will be a bathtub prospect.
Its charge is short at 5 – 6 minutes in the air, 4 – 5 minutes in the water, 4 minutes on the ground. This is one of the reasons the JJRC H36F is a fun drone for children who live in houses with the right features, like wooden or smooth flooring, or an asphalt driveway. And maybe a pool, jacuzzi, or large bathtub.
Think in advance about where you’ll use the drone to be able to make the most of its unique abilities.
The JJRC H36F is not able to switch between water, land, and air at will, but I’ve not yet seen a drone that can. A base (the same base) must be attached for the water and land mode.
For the right person, this drone is three presents in one.
Holy Stone HS150 Bolt Bee Mini Racing Drone – Fastest drone without a camera & best for advanced pilots
- Very fast
- Loud, especially at higher speed settings
You’ll be shocked by how fast this is. If that excites you, read on.
The HS150 Bolt Bee takes only a few seconds to reach its maximum speed of 31 mph (50 kph). It is too fast to fly indoors without crashing eventually.
Outdoors is a different story. It has a range of 165 – 230 ft (50 – 70 m) and a flight time of 5 – 7 minutes. You’ll need to get used to roughly how small an area that is because the HS150 Bolt Bee can cover that distance in the blink of an eye, you’re at risk of it flying away if you go beyond your controller’s range.
It has 5 different speed settings so you can tailor you fast you want to go. At the higher end the motor goes so quickly it sounds like a beehive, which is probably why it’s called the Bolt Bee.
This is a great drone for practicing but it is not for beginners. If you want to get into racing or just want to do stunts and have mastered the slower, safer alternatives, this will be a good next step for you.
It has some safety features. It comes with partial propeller guards and when its battery is running low, the controller will beep to remind you. You can use the one-key emergency stop button at any time. Also if you happen to fly out of sight, the headless mode will help you navigate back into view.
It is a small machine at 8.85 x 7.48 x 4.8 inches and only 70g with the battery. But it packs a punch and is well worth checking out as an intro to racing drones.
HS170 Predator Mini Helicopter Drone – best portable drone without a camera
- Great set of features for a beginner, including three speed modes
- Comes with two batteries so you get twice the flight time (16 mins)
- Light so struggles in the wind
This is a great portable drone. Perfect to take when visiting friends and family to keep the kids entertained. At 5.3 x 5.3 x 1.6 inches, it’s small so they can be responsible for taking it themselves.
With three speed modes (7.4 mph, 9.7mph, 13.2 mph) it has a useful path of progression as the pilot gets better. More importantly, you can set it to be flown slowly enough for a beginner to fly indoors.
It has both one-key take-off and one-key landing to get you started straight out of the box and focus on one thing at a time, like steering. You can practice manual take-off and landing later. It also has altitude hold, so you don’t need to know how to use the throttle to hover until you have more experience.
Headless mode helps to simplify flying even further. One-key 3D flipping will give a child just the right amount of excitement to want to stick with this and set a goal to do that manually.
The HS170 comes with two rechargeable batteries, which double your flight time to 16 minutes.
On a nice day, you could have a lot of fun outdoors inside of its 165 ft (50 m) range. It is very light though at 1.45 oz (41 g) so it will struggle in even light winds. If the weather starts to turn, use the emergency stop button and then land it immediately.
This drone comes with four propeller safeguards making it safer for kids and their fingers and heads, safer for the drone against walls and trees and safer for your wallpaper and ornaments.
DJI Phantom 2 v2.0 – most high quality drone without a camera
- Very well built. Can handle intensely hot climates
- Great top speed and range
- More expensive than alternatives
Unlike many drones on this list, the DJI Phantom 2 is not a toy. It was designed by the top consumer drone company in the world as a high quality consumer drone. It is both more expensive and better constructed than the alternatives.
Take its flight time. It lasts about 25 minutes in the air on a single charge, one and a half times the Altair Blackhawk’s 17 minutes.
It has a great top speed at 45 mph (72 kph), which gives you the potential to really let rip and test your limits as your skills improve. The only thing more fun than flying a drone on a clear windless day is flying a drone fast on a clear windless day. Add to this a 3280 ft (1000 m) range and you have a lot of room to play without fear of your drone losing its signal and flying away.
It can handle winds of up to 10 m/s (22 mph) so you’ll have a wider range of days you can fly outside than the light drones have. Add to this an ascent speed of 6 m/s and descent speed of 2 m/s and you’ve got a perfect range of abilities to mimic flying a more expensive drone in the future (or maybe you’re already experienced and want to use this for practice).
Because the Phantom 2 doesn’t have a camera, it can do better than newer camera drones in at least one respect. It can operate at higher temperatures of up to 122°F (50°C), compared to most of DJI’s new camera drones that go up to 104°F (40°C). This is ideal if you live in places like Arizona, California, Nevada or Texas where the temperature can get to around 104°F.
MJX Bugs 3 – best high-quality low-cost drone drone without a camera
- Low cost
- More stable than similar drones
- Struggles in the wind
MJX built Bugs 3 to be both good quality but low cost, and they succeeded. The body of the Bugs 3 is designed so that the center of gravity is always in the middle. This makes the Bugs 3 more stable when flying than average for its size and price.
It has a very reasonable range of 1000 – 1640 ft (300 – 500 m). You will not need this much space for flying by sight unless you have binoculars for eyes, but this should give you confidence that your signal will remain strong enough that your drone won’t lose connection and fly away.
When the signal gets weak, the controller will beep, further protecting you from your drone flying away. Its bright LED searchlights help you keep track of your drone at night, too, critical when you are flying by sight.
You’ll have two flight speeds, which is great for practicing at slower speeds or flying indoors. MJX used brushless motors in the Bugs 3 giving the motor a much longer lifespan for you to enjoy its maximum flight time of 16 minutes.
MJX also saved you time and frustration in advance by designing easily distinguishable propellers for easy assembly.
Syma X5A-1 – best second drone for a child
- 6-axis gyro stabilization helps keep the drone stable
- Only 100 – 165 ft range
This is a great training drone. At 12 x 12 x 3 inches (31 x 31 x 7.5 cm) it is an ideal size for a second drone for a child or a first drone for an adult.
The Syma X5A-1 comes with two batteries, greatly increasing the convenience of flying it.
It weighs only 86 g so is safe to fly indoors and its four propeller guards protect it from incurring any major damage if you crash into anything. LED lights keep it visible in the night to help you avoid crashing in the first place.
It has 7 minutes of flight time and a range of 100 – 165 ft (30 – 50 m) so can do some very light outdoor flying but be careful not to venture too far or you risk losing the connection to your drone and watching it fly away.
You’ll have two speeds which is always a positive when flying indoors or when a child is a pilot. Headless mode eases you into orienting your drone. The Syma X5A-1 provides additional help for beginner flyers with its 6-axis gyro stabilization. It constantly monitors for random movements, like gusts of wind, and compensates to keep the drone steady where other drones would fly off their path.
Drone without camera buyer’s guide — things to consider
Cameras are expensive so getting a drone without one will be cheaper in each price range. Anything under $100 you can consider a toy drone.
You might want to spend more on a drone for an adult than for a child, for example the Altair Blackhawk, 3DR Solo or DJI Phantom 2 v2.0.
For that you’re looking at $100 upwards, but prices vary over time. Only pay for the features you need and remember beginners are more likely to break the drone.
If you want to fly outdoors, flight range is very important.
Without a camera, you’ll be limited by how far you can see. 330 ft (100 m) is plenty but the further your drone’s range, the lower the risk of reaching its edge, losing the connection with the controller and seeing the drone fly off.
Remember that your range can be affected by other signals and obstructions in the environment.
Battery life/ flight time
The longer this is, the more time you’ll have to fly. Toy drones average around 7 minutes, some come with multiple batteries so you can swap them and continue. This is the same for drones with or without cameras.
Your flight time is more determined by the battery technology at the time that it was designed than whether it has a camera or not.
The faster your battery can recharge, the faster you can get back into the air. This is also the same for camera and cameraless drones. The battery’s charging time is completely independent of whether the drone has a camera or not.
Are they difficult / easier to fly than normal drones?
You must keep any drone in line of sight at all times according to FAA regulations, but you don’t have the option of using a camera to show you what the drone sees with a cameraless drone.
So it is more difficult to fly a drone without a camera, but it’s a lot more fun in my opinion. It also forces you to get good at flying by sight.