The Best Drone with Wheels: Ground Drones Taking the World By Storm

Last updated: 13th February 2020
JJRC H23

JJRC H23

Syma X9

Syma X9

DJI Robomaster S1

DJI Robomaster S1

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When we picture drones, we almost always imagine the usual flying machines that take great selfies. For most drones available in the market today, that would be an accurate view.

But there is also a category of drones that have wheels as well – ground drones. These drones have the added ability to roll and drive around in the ground, giving them the utmost in flexibility and versatility.

So today, we’re taking a look at these drones on wheels, what they can do, and how you can find the best one. We also include a few of our ground drone recommendations to help you further.

What Are Ground Drones?

Ground drones refer to any drone that can drive instead of, or in addition to, flying. This is done through a set of wheels or using a large cage in some cases.

While there are some drones that feature only a wheel, the majority also includes a propeller as well. These are hybrid drones, capable of both flying in the air and running on the ground. Some can even drive over water.

There are many kinds of ground and hybrid drones, each with their own configuration. But the most common you’ll see is the 4-wheel-and-propeller hybrid design. This features four wheels, two on each side of the drone, much like a car. On top of each wheel is a propeller.

As you can imagine, this layout cleverly combines quadcopter design with that of an automobile. It provides excellent lift and stability both on air and on land. Mostly, it’s straightforward to implement this kind of scheme on an existing quadcopter or RC car (just add wheels or propellers, respectively)

Some hybrid drones also make use of the standard quadcopter design, with the addition of a cage. It acts both as a protective shell on the drone, and as the “wheels” so it can roll on the ground. Sometimes, two wheels can also be attached on the sides of a drone.

For ground-only drones, they usually come in 4-wheel and 2-wheel variants. The two-wheel design, like the Parrot Jumping Night, often makes it capable of vertical leaps as well. To make it balanced, the wheels are usually oversized.

A common question most people ask is: what makes a ground drone different from an RC car? It’s true that they fulfill mostly similar functions (they’re both remote-controlled vehicle with wheels), and there’s a lot of overlap between the two.

But the distinction has got to do with size and power. RC cars have more powerful motors and longer-lasting batteries. They’re also more rugged and durable. Ground drones, on the other hand, are mostly just aerial drones fitted with wheels. Hence, they still retain fragile and flimsy compared to an RC car.

The Best Drones with Wheels (Ground Drones)

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JJRC H23

The JJRC H23 is a hybrid ground and aerial drone. It’s mostly a remote-controlled car with a propeller located on top of each of its four wheels.

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JJRC H23
  • Flight Time: 8 minutes
  • Range: 200m
  • Camera: 720p HD camera
  • Charge Time: 60 minutes
  • Weight: 635 grams
  • Dimensions: 23.5 x 23.5 x 6.5 cm

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You can then easily switch between ground and flight mode via the remote controller provided.

While in flight mode, it works just like any beginner drone. It can hover stably in place. It doesn’t hold well against stronger winds, however. In our experience, this is best used as an indoor drone if you want to use its flight mode.

Flying the drone does take a bit of practice, though. While it has a built-in 6-axis gyro system for stability, the controls can still feel sensitive that gaining control over flight make take a few tries.

Ground mode works just as well, turning it into your conventional RC car. Controls are pretty basic – just forward/back and right and left turns, all achievable through the pair of joysticks on the controller.

On top of its basic controls, it also has some features that are pretty standard among drones. One example is the One Key Return Home button. It allows you to instantly recall the drone back to its starting point at the push of a button. For a beginner drone, we like this feature because it lessens the chance of the drone getting lost.

A nice feature of the H23 is the FPV mode, thanks to the installed 720p camera. Not bad for a ground drone that costs below $50.

Overall, the JJRC H23 is a decent ground hybrid drone. We find that it flies better than it drives on the ground, thanks to a few helpful features along the way. 

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+ Pros

+ Easily switch between ground and flight mode
+ Stable flight indoors
+ One Key Return Home feature

- Cons

- Not very stable in the wind

Syma X9

The Syma X9 is the first-ever hybrid offering from this budget-level manufacturer. Known for their affordable toy drones, they have extended their expertise into this air and ground model.

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Syma X9
  • Battery Life: 8 minutes (16 minutes total with spare)
  • Camera: None
  • Weight: 512 grams
  • Dimensions: 2 x 1 x 4 inches

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Right off the bat, what got our attention is the substantial remote controller. It feels “grown-up” and hefty on the hand, although the plastic construction is less than stellar. It does have a small screen where you can check on the drone’s stats, so that’s a plus.

The X9 itself is pretty light, and we got an initial impression that it was made of cheap plastics. We didn’t have high hopes for its longevity, but surprisingly it lasts longer than it looks. It’s pretty durable and was able to survive a few crashes when my son took it out for a spin.

X9 uses the tried and tested hybrid configuration – a propeller on top of each of the 4 wheels. We find it gives it excellent stability and maneuverability both on land and the air. This is one of those few hybrid drones that drives as well as it flies.

Despite this being a kid’s toy, we recommend you don’t leave it with them unsupervised. This is because the blades are actually larger than usual, and does hurt when it hits you. The drone also flies really high – a good thing for an adult, but potentially prone to getting lost if a kid flies it uncontrollably.

Thankfully, it has a speed switch button so you can swap between slow (great for beginners) and fast (fantastic for adults like you!) modes.

The included battery gives a great 8-minute operating life. It even has a spare included, so you can effectively enjoy it twice as long.

Overall, the X9 is a good entry-level drone for kids and beginners. The added ground feature is a nice touch and is useful if you want to practice both skills with one unit.

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+ Pros

+ Flies and drives great
+ Surprisingly durable
+ Great for indoor and outdoor use

- Cons

- Wheels feel cheaply made

DJI Robomaster S1

The Robomaster S1 is an incredibly powerful ground drone. A true masterpiece from DJI.

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DJI Robomaster S1
  • Run Time: 35 minutes
  • Range: 100m
  • Camera: 1080p HD 120° FOV
  • Weight: 3.3kg
  • Dimensions: 32cm x 24cm x 27cm

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This robotic experience from DJI is a truly impressive piece of kit.

There are three operational modes; Solo, Battle and Lab. These allow for exploring which is perfect for beginners, challenges against other S1s, and for trying out lots of different things with its programming features.

With two programming languages — Scratch for newbies wanting to learn, and Python for more advanced coders — you can do lots of things with this drone that can’t be done on regular quadcopters.

It’s not just a piece of nerdy kit though. Whilst it’s highly intelligent, it allows for fun too. There’s no part more obviously fun than the orange-marked blaster unit.

The DJI Robomaster S1 ground drone makes a perfect gift for both children and adults alike.

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+ Pros

+ Lots of features you don't see in regular drones
+ Can teach programming to people of all ages
+ Fun functionality including a blaster unit
+ Premium build quality

- Cons

Parrot Jumping Night MiniDrone

The Parrot Jumping Night Minidrone is like having your very own mechanical grasshopper. Vibrant and energetic, it runs fast and jumps just as high.

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Parrot Jumping Night MiniDrone
  • Battery Life: 20 minutes
  • Charging Time: 25 minutes for a rapid charge, 90 minutes for a standard charge
  • Range: 50 meters
  • Weight: 205g
  • Dimensions: 7.3 x 6.1 x 4.5 inches (wheels out), 5.6 x 6.1 x 4.5 inches (wheels in)

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The agile and lightweight drone has two oversized wheels that allow it to cover a lot of ground quickly. It’s like a small off-road vehicle, so the terrain it can handle is quite varied.

It can achieve speeds of 7 km/h. Thankfully, handling is tight and responsive, so you have much more control over it during high speeds.

The wheels can also be pushed back in Retracted Wheel Mode, so the drone can fit narrower areas. The default Open Wheel Mode gives you a wider frame, but this results in more stability when driving.

Apart from running, it’s also capable of jumps and aerial stunts. You can play around with any of its three modes, such as Jumper Mode, where the Jumping Night can leap as high as 75 cm in the air. Kicker Mode gives the drone some semblance of intelligence, as it attempts to kick objects out of its path.

The default is Auto-Balance Mode, where it will remain balanced on its two wheels.

This drone is an excellent toy for exploring nooks and crannies outdoors. It’s equipped with a mini camera with VGA resolution (480 x 640), which records footage and sends it directly to your smartphone.

Speaking of which, everything is controlled via the FreeFlight app on your smartphone. On-screen joysticks and buttons enable you to pilot the drone with ease.

Then you have access to pre-programmed stunts and maneuvers, which you can have the drone perform instantly. The Road Plan feature allows you to plot all the actions of your drone well in advance. You can play this sequence out right away, or save it for later use.

Overall, we love our little jumping drone. The Parrot Jumping Night Minidrone might not fly, but it’s capable of aerial and ground stunts in its own right, making it a unique experience.

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+ Pros

+ Generous 25 minute operating time
+ Easy to use app to program complex stunts
+ Various modes
+ Small but bright LED lights make it a fantastic exploration tool

- Cons

- Occasional problems with connection

HT Drone Car

This HT Drone Car is one of the better cheap hybrid ground drones available in the market. It has a lot of features you usually see in a low end flying drone.

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HT Drone Car
  • Battery Life (Flight): 7 minutes
  • Battery Life (Land): 10 minutes
  • Range: 60m
  • Camera: 720p HD camera
  • Charge Time: 45 minutes
  • Weight: 635 grams
  • Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 2.8 inches

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The HT Drone Car uses the typical hybrid design – a small wheel underneath each rotor.

On the ground, it’s just like any RC car. It’s actually pretty fast, and the handling is pretty tight. It feels nimble when you’re driving it around using the included remote controller. The wheels are also pretty durable, and it can handle outdoor terrain easily.

But where we think this drone shines is when it’s in the air. Making it fly is as simple as turning on a small switch, which enables it to fly up around 2 – 3 meters and hover in the air.

Before we got around to playing around with it, we first had to learn how to land it. Fortunately, it’s easy, and most of the hard work is done for you.

You can land the HT Drone in two ways. You can press the same switch that made it fly in the first place. It will then lower itself automatically to the ground. You can then resume to drive it around.

Alternatively, you can also make use of its One Key Return function. This works just like any Auto Return feature of most drones. One push and it will autonomously fly back to its starting point (where it first flew).

We actually like how seamless the operation is between its ground and flight modes. You can achieve impressive air-to-ground stunts with this.

The HT Drone also has a small 720p HD camera equipped. This allows you to take photos/videos and even engage in FPV mode (with VR support) while driving it around. The free app makes all of this possible, while mounted on the remote controller.

In the end, the HT Drone car is a fun and easy to use hybrid ground drone. Its host of basic features makes it suitable to be used by both kids and adults alike.

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+ Pros

+ Switching between air and ground mode is seamless
+ Launching and landing is easy
+ 720p HD camera equipped
+ LED lights and one-button 3D flips

- Cons

- Materials are not as durable
- Missing a lot of features due to its low price

Mukikim Sky Runner

The MUKIKIM Sky Runner looks just like any other toy/hobby drone out there, only with an oversized cage. But that same cage is what gives it the ability to roll around the floor, turning it a ground drone as well.

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Mukikim Sky Runner
  • Battery Life: 12 minutes
  • Charging Time: 60 minutes
  • Range: 30 meters
  • Weight: 680g
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 8.5 x 8.5 inches

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As a flyer, the Sky Runner handles pretty well. It has decent maneuverability, and the responsiveness is top-notch. The included 6-axis gyro gives it a fair amount of stability, so beginners won’t struggle trying to keep it up in the air.

Let’s talk about that cage for a bit. While in flight, it acts to protect your entire drone, making it almost impervious to crashes and damage. This alone makes it a worthy addition to the Sky Runner.

But of course, it also doubles as a set of wheels. When you switch the drone over to Run Mode, it rotates this cage instead of the propellers. You can make it roll around the ground, and have it climb walls.

All of this is made possible with the professional-looking remote controller. The 2.4 GHz channel it works in gives it an effective range of around 30 meters, which is average given its price tier. The joystick feels excellent to the touch. Personally, though, the controls are a little bit sensitive, but it’s nothing you can’t get used to after a few runs.

Feature-wise, though, you won’t find much here. This is as basic as it gets, although it does them very well.

Overall, the MUKIKIM Sky Runner is an impressive ground and aerial drone to give to younger kids and adults. It’s the perfect beginner drone to help you develop and practice your skills.

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+ Pros

+ The oversized cage protects the drone from any major crashes
+ The LED light allows you to operate even at night
+ Rolling cage action works well on the ground

- Cons

- Lacks all features

What To Look For In A Ground Drone

Most people discount ground drones as mere toys, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful with your purchase. You need to exercise the same discerning eye as you do aerial drones.

Here are some considerations you need to make to help you land the perfect ground drone for you:

Switching Mechanism Between Air and Ground

This is a crucial feature to look out for when buying a ground drone. There are many ways drones can switch between flying and running on the ground. Some will require you to detach/attach a wheelbase on the flying drone manually. This can be time-consuming, tedious, and prevents you from doing some types of stunts.

The ideal drone to get is one that only requires a simple push of the button. When pressed, this will usually launch or land your drone in the air. Not only is it convenient, but it’s also great for beginners who might have trouble launching this drone in the air.

Durability

The majority of ground drones usually cost less than $100. Hence, quality might become a problem if you buy the wrong one. So you need to take a fresh look at the durability of the unit.

With ground drones, you also have an additional part to look at – the wheels. These will contact the ground a lot and will absorb quite an impact, so they need to be sturdy.

The frame also needs to be hard and durable, even with repeated crashes. That’s because you’ll most likely crash the drone a lot, especially if kids will be using it. These entry-level drones also lack any sophisticated safety features, so you’ll need to rely on the strength of the drone’s frame.

Battery Life

As with any drone, battery life is an essential consideration. Of course, the better it is, the longer you can operate the drone. And that’s always better.

Unfortunately, most ground drones, being in the $100 price range, are usually lacking in this department. You’re only looking at around 5 – 7 minutes for flight, and maybe 8 – 10 minutes on the ground. 

The best way to get around this is to invest in spare batteries. Fortunately, most brands offer a few of these as part of the package the drone is in. This is quite convenient and can effectively double or triple the drone’s battery life.

At the minimum, make sure the drone’s battery can be easily swapped, as not all have this feature. Some might need a screwdriver to switch the batteries, which is just as inconvenient.

Buy spares, if you can. They offer better value for your drone in the long run.

Headless Mode

One of the most overlooked features in drones, Headless Mode, is nevertheless a must-have for any drone. Especially since it will mostly be driven around by newbie drivers.

Here’s the reason why. Drones usually have a designated “front” direction. When you instruct a drone to fly forward, it will do so from this direction. Pressing left or right will have the drone turn left and right from this direction as well.

If you can’t imagine it yet, this is a nightmare for beginners. It’s not always intuitive to determine where the drone is faced. And even then, it takes some practice to predict where it will turn when you control it via the controller.

Headless Mode simplifies this process by eliminating orientation. Now, when you press right on the joystick, it will always go right, regardless of where the drone is faced. If you foresee a beginner using the drone, Headless Mode is an essential requirement.

One Key Return

This is a fantastic feature to look for and is convenient when your drone has it. In essence, it allows the drone to return to its origin point (where it initially took off) at the push of the button. The drones do this automatically, including proper landing.

For beginners, this is a godsend. It makes a newbie much more confident operating the drone, knowing that they can safely land it at the push of a button. 

It’s also an insurance policy in case your drone gets lost. That way, it can manage to find itself back to you.

Note, though, that this feature only works during aerial mode. There’s usually no safety feature when using the drone in ground mode. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor Use

While most drones can be flown and driven outdoors, some are strictly to be used only indoors. Since they’re at a budget price, they’re usually built of lighter materials. The onboard flight motor isn’t as sophisticated as well.

What this means is that it won’t be able to hold its position in even the lightest of winds. For smaller toy drones, this is actually a good thing. It’s better for small children to play with drones indoors, where they can be supervised.

When using the ground mode of your drone, you also need to see if the wheels can handle the usually rough terrain outdoors. If not, you’ll be limited only to the smoother pavement when driving it around.

Camera and FPV

While this is not common among budget toy drones, there is an increasing number that has it. Of course, since they’re so tiny, expect the photo quality to be mediocre at best. The best you can aim for is around 720p HD at these prices.

If your drone has a camera, then it most likely also supports FPV (First Person View) mode. This is a fun and unique way to drive your drone, and it can actually be useful in some situations. For example, you can use your ground drone to explore nooks and crannies, and in these cases, you’ll need FPV to navigate properly

Stunts, Flips and Other Tricks

If you’re giving the drone to a kid, they might get bored of it after a while. The initial joy of flying and driving it around will fade. Unless, of course, the drone has built-in stunt and flips.

The most common aerial stunt is 3D Flips, which enable the drone to do impressive flipping movements with the simple push of a button. Some ground drones also have their own version of this, and even have pre-programmed sequences built-in.

For a kid, this is a great way to keep them further entertained once they learn the ropes of piloting the ground drone.

What Are The Advantages of A Drone with Wheels?

When people look at ground drones, they wonder why anyone would want one. Especially since drones were meant to fly. But the truth is that there are some pros in having a drone that can drive.

They protect the drone during landing

The biggest problem with aerial drones is that a rough landing is usually bad for them. This is because most aren’t equipped with any landing gear to cushion the fall, if ever. If your landing is less than perfect, then it can potentially damage the underside of your drone.

Ground drones help with this problem by having wheels. These absorb some of the impact during a rough landing, preventing damage to the more crucial areas of the drone.

And in the grand scheme of things, it’s much easier to replace a wheel than it is a busted motor or a dented frame. At the very least, a broken wheel will still allow your drone to fly (if it’s a hybrid).

Ground drones have a better battery life

Ground drones usually have better battery life when used while on the ground. Rotating the wheels is generally less taxing on the motor. This is because it doesn’t need to work as much, compared to propellers that have to lift the entire weight of the drone to make it airborne.

In hybrids, you can save a lot of battery life by switching between air and ground modes regularly. This can net you an extra minute or two.

They’re more flexible in terms of terrain

Hybrid ground drones can help overcome terrain problems that can pose a threat to ground-only or air-only drones. For example, you can switch to flying when you encounter impassable or hazardous obstacles, such as bodies of water or large walls.

You can then switch to ground mode when trying to navigate through narrower areas or tighter corners. It’s much easier to drive in indoors or dense forests than it is to fly. At least you only have to worry about two dimensions.

You can do great stunts with them

Tired of doing aerial tricks or 3D flips in the air? Why not incorporate some ground-based moves to your arsenal?

Ground drones add a whole new list of stunts to your performance if you’re one to show off your moves to others. And for the ultimate show of skill, you can even connect ground maneuvers and air-based stunts.

They’re easier to operate

It’s way easier to deal with only two dimensions (forward/back and left/right) than it is with three. That’s why ground drones are simpler to operate for kids or beginners than it is an aerial drone. Crashes are also less catastrophic (which are just bumps, really), making these drones much more forgiving.

A nice bonus is that, if you get a hybrid drone, you can practice on ground mode first to get the hang of controlling the drone. Then, when you’ve gotten good at it, do you introduce a third dimension and switch to aerial mode.

They can offer better value for money

This is applicable to hybrid drones rather than just ground-only and air-only drones. This is because you’re essentially buying two different things for the price of one. You get two distinct piloting experiences with hybrids. Hence, you get maximum bang for your buck with these hybrid ground drones.

We may receive compensation on qualifying purchases via our links. This does not change how we review items. For more information, please read our affiliate disclosure.

JJRC H23

JJRC H23

The JJRC H23 is a hybrid ground and aerial drone. It's mostly a remote-controlled car with a propeller located on top of each of its four wheels.

Syma X9

Syma X9

The Syma X9 is the first-ever hybrid offering from this budget-level manufacturer. Known for their affordable toy drones, they have extended their expertise into this air and ground model.

DJI Robomaster S1

DJI Robomaster S1

The Robomaster S1 is an incredibly powerful ground drone. A true masterpiece from DJI.