Buying a cheap drone can be a good introduction to remote-controlled flying machines as well as a great gift for someone else.

Compared to more expensive drones these require you to man the controls constantly. Typically there's no auto hovering, no automatic flying and only basic stabilisation from an on-board gyro.

They're fun, but flying time is limited to a few minutes, so budget for a few extra batteries - they're usually cheap and readily available. Just make sure you get the correct type.

Crash packs are available for many mini-quads, too, and it's well worth getting one, if not just a couple of sets of extra propellers as you will break those that come in the box. Don't forget that they're not all the same: one pair rotates clockwise, the other pair anti-clockwise.

Finally, remember that the UK Dronecode applies to these just as much as bigger more expensive drones. If you're in the US, you have to register your drone with the FAA.

Revell Proto Quad XS

Revell Proto Quad XS

One of the smallest quads around at 28mm, the Proto Quad can be stored on the controller itself. It has a six-axis gyro, three speed levels (so you can start off at low speeds to avoid crashes) and the ability to perform flips. Because it's so tiny, it's harder to fly than larger models, but it has a big wow factor.

Nikko Air Elite 115

Nikko Air Elite 115

For under £60, you get a lot more with the Air Elite 115 than other drones. 

As well as a detachable safety ring, you get a controller with quite a few buttons which allow you to make the drone perform 16 aerobatic tricks.

Plus, you can customise the drone's setting using the Beta Flight software, and there's even a racing simulator which runs on Windows or macOS that allows you to practice with the controller before trying the real thing.

The drone itself is designed to withstand crashes, has a quick-swap battery design and comes with a full set of spare propellers. 

As it's new, spares (including batteries) aren't easy to find, though.

Cheerson CX-10

Cheerson CX-10

The CX-10 has been around for ages now, but is one of the cheapest quads you can buy. If it seems familiar, it’s because it’s the model OnePlus rebranded when it did its April Fool's joke and pretended it was going to launch a drone, the OnePlus DR-1. Dr-one, geddit?

Anyway, it’s absolutely tiny and fun to fly both for beginners and experts alike.

Hubsan X4 H107C

Hubsan X4 H107C

We’ve reviewed the FPV (first-person-view) version of the X4, which is much more expensive. This still comes with a camera but you can’t see the video in real-time on the controller. Video quality is pretty poor (as it is on any quadcopter under around £300) but the X4 is a very precise flyer.

Spares are cheap and easy to find, too.

Revell Nano Mini

Revell Nano Mini

Bigger than the Proto Quad, the Mini is more like the Cheerson CX-10. It can be flown outdoors in still conditions, but weighing only 11.5g it's going to be blown around in the wind. Like most other quadcopters here, it will fly for around 5 minutes and takes 45 to charge, so spare batteries are essential.

Parrot Mambo FPV

Parrot Mambo FPV

The most expensive option here, but also arguably the best. The Mambo FPV is better than its predecessors as it eschews gimmicky gadgets for a snap-on camera. And it comes with a basic 'VR'-style headset into which you pop your phone for a true First Person View of the flight.

There's a decent controller included so you can fly the Mambo without needing to touch your phone screen, and prop guard to protect people, property and the props themselves.

Flight time is a bit short at eight minutes with the camera on board, but spares cost around £14. It's also easy to get spare propellers and other parts, too.

Just bear in mind that the camera, although it can record video to a microSD card, isn't going to shoot any great aerial footage or photos: this is a racing drone.

Hubsan X4 FPV

Hubsan X4 FPV

The X4 FPV isn't meant for recording amazing aerial video. Like the Parrot Mambo, it's intended as a starter drone with first-person view. There's a screen built into the controller rather than a headset for your phone, though.

It's still fun to fly, and prices have dropped loads since it first came out: you'll pay less than £80 these days.

If you invest in some extra batteries and time in learning to fly it properly (it's completely manual with no auto-hovering), the H107D can be a rewarding and fun drone.

Syma X5C

Syma X5C

The X5C is bigger than the nano quads here, measuring 31x31cm. This makes it better suited to flying outdoors where it’s less susceptible to being blown away. It has a 2Mp camera which captures shaky, poor quality video, but as an introduction to drones, it’s not bad at all. Plus, because it’s popular, spares are cheap and easy to find.

Mota JetJat Nano

Mota JetJat Nano

This really is one of the smallest drones we've seen measuring just 22x22x20mm. Like the Revell Proto Quad XS, it's so tiny it can fit into a container on the already small controller. It's currently only available for pre-order in the UK, though is already out in the US, and we've seen a couple of UK eBay sellers offering it for £25-30. Amazon is guaranteeing a pre-order price of £28.12.

It lasts about 8 minutes between charges and the battery isn't removable, but it will wow your friends and family.