If the drone we’re testing happens to have a camera capable of recording, we capture as much footage as we possibly can. We’ll shoot in dark places, light places, and places with lots of color and contrast. This footage is then compared to all the highlight reels that we filmed with other drones, which helps us get a sense of the camera’s strengths and weaknesses. We also test any accessories that accompany the camera, like lenses, filters, gimbals, or FPV goggles. Finally, we’ll also let you know if the camera setup is upgradable, so you wont be stuck with an outdated shooter in two years.
The FPV stream is transmitted over Wifi, and is viewed on your smartphone using an installed app. The camera can be activated using the app to record photos and videos. The HD 720p camera has decent quality, and provides sharp images and videos. However, the main purpose of the camera is not for taking pictures, but to provide a FPV live stream. This drone is also compatible with a 3D VR headset to give you a truly immersive FPV flying experience.
Another great feature is you can use your fingertip to chart a flight path. You do this by dragging your finger across the video image from the drone that is shown by its app on your smartphone. Then, the drone will automatically fly the flight path you have chosen. You can also teach the drone to respond to voice commands that you record with your smartphone.
Since repairs are as easy as soldering a couple motors and the flight controller has proven reliable and capable, people have developed a few nice modifications for it. Modifications such as a chassis swap with lighter and more durable materials are fairly easy, even for those without electronics skills, and yield longer flight times as well as further improved handling.
There’s one other type of beginner that isn’t looking for either of those things. Some beginners just want a drone to take pictures and videos with. They need whatever drone they get to be easy to fly and have decent specs, but not break the bank. For those people, the DJI Spark is going to be the best option. There’s no reason to buy the other two drones I mentioned if you want to shoot videos and take pictures. The Spark is actually easier to fly than the Bugs 3 and Mambo FPV, so you don’t have to worry as much about the flying part.
For example, OPTI has a built-in Optiflow Sensor (a downward facing sensor), which functions by picking out the patterns on the ground to ensure that the drone maintains a straight position. ATTI, conversely, works a bit differently. With the ATTI, the drone employs other techniques apart from the external sensors to keep the drone in the right orientation and altitude. Thus, the drone can hover in place, or drift slightly around with the wind serving as a push. You will also find a GPS in some drones, and they help the drone to maintain coordinated and precise flights and landings.
While DJI may be the first name you think of when it comes to drones, it isn't the only game in town. You can also look at models from Autel Robotics, Parrot, PowerVision, and Yuneec. Others have dabbled in the consumer drone space and exited quickly—GoPro pulled its Karma after a rocky launch and poor sales, and 3D Robotics tried to get in with the Solo, but also gave up the fight to focus on the industrial and enterprise spaces.
Although this HD Drone can be flown safely outside, make sure to avoid too much wind whenever possible. This is a lightweight drone, and as such it is susceptible to harsher weather conditions than some of the heavier, higher end drones. For hobbyists just itching to go out on blustery days when the wind is howling, try leaving the drone at home and taking a kite out instead.
This drone is built for better photos: the camera is farther away from the propellors to prevent interruption; the Phantom maintained near perfect stability even in 5+ MPH winds; and the various flights modes, such as Follow Me, worked great for getting interesting shots. We only flew the drone to 240 feet in the air, but we could have flown it much further if we had better visibility.
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Many autopilot drones come with multiple flight-modes. Common flight-modes seen in autopilot drones include a follow-me mode, sport mode, and one-touch takeoff and landing modes. They all serve different purposes and create different flight experiences. Follow-me modes allow the drone to follow you as you move and keep you in the frame. This enables you to create complex shots. Sport modes all your autopilot drone to go faster and follow targets such as cars or bikes. One-touch takeoff and landing are important flight modes as they allow for smooth landings and takeoffs with the push of a button. This is a great feature for beginners and pros alike.
DJI models currently dominate our top picks, and there's a good reason for that. The company is simply a few steps ahead of its competition right now, and has a product catalog with models at various price points, which take up a good number of the slots in our top ten. It made a huge splash with its iconic Phantom series, and now makes the best small drones we've tested in the form of the Mavic series.
For video quality, we shoot a variety of clips at various resolutions and frame rates, including the maximum available. We film high contrast and low light scenes, along with close-ups of people to evaluate detail and skin tones. Special automated modes like DJI’s Quickshots are also tested. These uncompressed files are then evaluated on a calibrated monitor, along with the drone’s still photos. Stills are shot at maximum resolution and, if available, in Raw. We check for colour, noise and dynamic range, and also look at other shooting modes like HDR and panoramas.