Chris is an FAA-certified drone pilot located in the Chicago area. By day he is an engineer who has designed and tested several camera systems and acoustic actuators. Nights and weekends are reserved for flying, testing, designing, and building drones.
If you take a closer look at the recent FCC filings you will see that unfortunately none of them is actually for a drone. Unless that drone is the size of a Double-Stuff Oreo cookie. The “Air Unit,” which we hoped might be a drone, is nothing more than a transmitter and receiver for a racing drone. So it looks like DJI is not releasing a drone in 45 days, or are they?
Most of the online reviews about the Autel Evo ($999) date back from when it was first available to testers. The reviews from that time indicate that the Evo is riddled with software bugs and that people should wait for the Mavic 2. Apparently, there is only one chance for a first impression – reviewers tested the drone and never looked back. I finally got my hands on an Autel Evo and I have the benefit of looking at it with fresh eyes. I took a detailed look at the Evo camera and compared it to the full Mavic lineup including the Mavic 2 Pro ($1,499), Mavic 2 Zoom ($1,249), and Mavic Air ($799). The results surprised me.
A special note for our readers: At the time of publishing this article there is a great deal on Amazon for a bundle that for the normal price of $999 includes two extra Evo batteries and a carrying bag for free (a $220 value)! Hurry and get one, there are only a few remaining.
360 cameras remain a small but growing sector of the camera market. Ease-of-use, or lack thereof, is one thing that has been holding back widespread adoption of 360 cameras. A new IndieGoGo campaign from startup Pisofttech is looking to change that. With ridiculous specifications and a market-beating pricetag, the Pilot Era might just be the best prosumer 360 camera available. I can’t wait to get one loaded up on my DJI drone. Because it weighs in at only 690 grams I don’t think I will need an Inspire, as you need for the Insta360 Pro.
As a hobbyist (and occasional professional) drone pilot, I have often wondered what Hollywood filmmakers are flying with. This information is often kept under wraps, as many pilots are not allowed to discuss what films they work on or what equipment they use. We found one drone operator at AUVSI 2019 that was more than willing to share. Some of the cameras they use are surprising, and the drones that lift those cameras are some of the biggest in the business.
At AUVSI’s XPonential 2019, I was lucky enough to stumble into a presentation called “Drones in Hollywood.” It is generally a pretty good assumption that a conference session will disappoint and not live up to its title. This presentation was an exception. Rather than provide a dry lecture devoid of details, the presenter, Aaron Corera of XM2 Cine, told us all about the drones and cameras used on Hollywood sets. He also revealed that it was their company that was contracted to film Star Wars Episode 9 in which they used this XM2 drone.
Look out for a new light show drone at CES 2019, where UVify will officially launch their new swarm drone, the IFO. Intel grabs most of the headlines when it comes to drones and light shows. Ehang also made a big splash when they performed a large show over the Great Wall of China. Now UVify brings their IFO drone to the light show market with a different angle, a swarm drone that anyone can buy.
I recently received a total of 54 filters for the Mavic 2 Pro ($1,499) and Mavic 2 Zoom ($1,249) from 5 different manufacturers. (I had offers to test even more, but I had to turn them away.) I then set off to test these filters over the next several weeks and compare them on a total of 16 different metrics. I wanted to know who makes the best Mavic 2 filters. It is Polar Pro, Tiffen, or one of the several smaller Chinese accessory suppliers? The winners might surprise you.
December 3, 2018
The Phantom 4 RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) is an enterprise version of the popular prosumer DJI Phantom 4 Pro. With a price tag of $6,500, the Phantom 4 RTK may seem expensive to the uninitiated. In reality, this system comes at a price that is about a third of the cost of existing precision drone mapping and surveying solutions. It also looks like the Phantom 4 RTK will outperform existing solutions in many ways. As a result, DJI is poised not only to dominate the drone mapping market. More importantly, the Phantom 4 RTK will accelerate the adoption of drone mapping and the growth of a disruptive technology. The Phantom 4 RTK changes everything and here are the 5 reasons why!
November 25, 2018
At first glance, the Mavic 2 Pro (1,499) seems like the obvious successor to the Phantom 4 (also $1,499). The Mavic 2 has equivalent specifications in almost all areas, but it folds into a fraction of the size of the Phantom 4 Pro. The Mavic 2 Pro also sports 10-bit color on a Hasselblad-branded camera and several new automated flight modes among other improvements. With these upgrades it seems like the Phantom 4 is finished, right? Despite the apparent advantages of the Mavic 2 Pro, the Phantom 4 Pro still has some key features that give it an edge for some pilots. In this comparison, I dive into the specs, discuss the hidden pros and cons of each drone, and tell you which is best for specific applications.
November 24, 2018
Despite positive reviews of the Anafi, sales at the French drone-maker Parrot have dropped by 40% compared to the same quarter last year. The company has reacted by announcing that it will cut 100 jobs. The market responded to the news by cutting the value of the French drone maker in half on the Paris stock exchange. The layoffs are bad news for the once-dominant Parrot, but the company’s troubles could provide a short-term benefit to consumers. The Anafi is now being sold for a fraction of the price that it was a few months ago. The Anafi is on sale for under $550 on both Amazon and Parrot.com.
November 21, 2018
As their latest publicity stunt, the Dubai Police department just took ownership of their first hoverbike. The Hoversurf Hoverbike first showed up on the scene in early 2017, back when Hoversurf was still a Russian outfit. Now they are a “California based company,” in the land where dreams come true and FOMO (fear of missing out) money is plentiful. Not that customers are lining up to buy the human blender. The $150,000 hoverbike had to be gifted to the same Dubai police department that can afford Aston Martin and Bugatti supercars.
November 15, 2018
The Hover Passport Camera received a lot of attention when it was first released in 2016. The drone was safe and easy to use. The Passport’s camera was better than most selfie drones. The Hover Passport ($300) was designed to appeal to customers who might be intimidated by standard drones that have complicated remote controllers and exposed propellers. The new Hover 2 stays close to its roots, with a foldable user-friendly design. The foldable design is where the similarities seem to end. Hidden beneath the black shell of the ZeroZero Hover 2 is a killer drone with upgraded features and some fantastic innovations. I suspect that competitors like DJI, Parrot, and Skydio are starting to worry.
November 14, 2018
The release of the Phantom 5 is imminent and might well happen before the end of this month. We now know that the Phantom 5 is indeed going to have interchangeable lenses. That’s despite statements from DJI stating that the leaked images of a Phantom with interchangeable lenses do not show a predecessor to the Phantom 5. Regardless, we are excited about the upgrade. Interchangeable lenses provide more options for the professional photographer. What Phantom 5 lens alternatives will DJI provide? When can we expect a premium lens offering? Will the Phantom 5 include a zoom lens option? Let’s have a look.
November 12, 2018
Amazon has published an online gift guide for the holiday season and for the first time has also sent a paper toy catalog in the mail. We will take a look at the drones that made the list and some of the drones that didn’t. We also have the inside scoop on how products make it on the list. It turns out that it’s not actually top-reviewed products or editors picks that are selected for the Amazon gift guide. Surprise! There’s money involved.
October 30, 2018
The Mavic 2 Enterprise is one of the first modular professional drones on the market, and probably the only one that matters. Building from the world’s most technologically advanced consumer drone, DJI has provided an open platform for developers to add on to the Mavic 2 Enterprise. However, development of new accessories will take place in close collaboration with DJI as the add-ons might impact the performance and flying ability of the unmanned aircraft. The first three accessories that are available today are likely only a preview. There are countless possibilities for the Mavic 2 Enterprise and developers are probably already working on several new accessories.
A couple of drones on Amazon have been catching my eye lately, the Holy Stone HS100 (about $250) and HS100G (about $280). It hasn’t been the specifications of these drones that have been grabbing my attention. Rather, it has been the stellar Amazon reviews (4.6 stars) and the number of Amazon reviews (over 1,300) that I have noticed. The question is, “can you trust these reviews?”
October 23, 2018
For almost as long as there have been cameras with lenses, there have been lens filters. Today, polarized filters are a favorite for their ability to cut down glare and improve the color saturation of pictures and video. Another modern favorite, neutral density (ND) filters, are used to cut down the light reaching the camera’s sensor. Reduced light allows for long exposure photographs and smoother, more cinematic, video. Despite the popularity of filters, trusted filter manufacturers like Tiffen, B+W, and Hoya have been slow to enter the drone market. As a result, start-ups like Polar Pro, Skyreat, and a host of Chinese accessory companies have flooded the market with drone lens filters. So what is a buyer to do? Can you trust these startups?
October 5, 2018
The Mavic 2 was released just a few weeks ago, and already there is no shortage of cases on the market for the new Mavic 2 ($1,249~$1499). The Mavic 2 case from Go Professional Cases (GPC) is one of the first available that is fully ruggedized and waterproof. What sets this case apart from the rest? The ability to pack all my Mavic 2 gear in a single case. It is also extremely durable, and can pass a series of US military-specified tests called “Mil-Specs.” My favorite feature? It is waterproof and it floats. I know because I tested it. Let’s take a closer look.
October 2, 2018
After the release of the Breeze in 2016, Yuneec’s small consumer drone was quickly overshadowed by the more capable and more popular DJI Spark. But now it is 2018, and the Yuneec Breeze is a bargain at under $200! I’ve tested countless drones in this price range so I am very familiar with the features and capabilities of drones under $200. Even with its limitations, the Breeze beats the competition. I’ll tell you why.