After we’ve taken the drone out to play for a while and jotted down a few notes about how long the battery lasts, we put it on the charger and grab a stopwatch to determine recharge time. Then we take it back out and do a hover test. By flying the drone in the least demanding conditions, we can get a sense of what the maximum flight time is. And finally, we take it out a few more good, hard flights to find out how long the battery lasts (on average) under normal conditions.
If you're flying within the United States, you need to take heed of FAA guidelines—or be prepared to face potential fines or jail time. There are no-fly zones set by the FAA, so don't take off if you're near an airport without notifying the control tower first. And, even if you're out in the middle of nowhere, don't take your drone above 400 feet. Most are set to obey these regulations out of the box, but controlling a quadcopter is just like driving a car—even if you missed seeing that speed limit sign, you're still liable to pay the ticket.
It's clear from the shorter battery charge time, short flying time, and flying distance of forty meters or less, that the X11 is a drone built for smaller purposes. The forty-minute charge time is perhaps the X11's most convenient feature, as it makes it one of the drones with the shortest charge times, while also able to live up to a comparable battery life of models like the X5C and UDI 818A.
Generally speaking, drones that cost less than $100 bucks aren’t worth your time. They’re flimsy, they lack advanced features, and they’re almost always squirrely as hell in the air. But Tello is different. Despite the fact that it retails for only $99, it boasts a boatload of high-end features and functionality. Under the hood you’ll find a 14-core Intel vision processing chip, flight stabilization tech from DJI, a 5 megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p HD video, and a battery that gets you 13 minutes of flight time.
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.
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.
Tello has a range of just over 300 feet, and despite its size, it produces stable and clear videos, courtesy of its dual antenna transmission. You can get a 720p HD quality video with 30 frames per second, and conveniently capture stills of up to five megapixels. Unfortunately, users can only save the recorded videos on the smartphone and not on a memory card. While you can access these clips almost instantly, it takes up all the space on your phone.
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.
The most recent variant, the cx10c, is another small improvement over the other two. Again, it only adds one feature, but this time its a little bit more substantial, this time, they’ve added a camera. With a micro sd card you can watch videos of your flights from the perspective of the drone. It may not be a great camera, its not even a good camera, the footage is mediocre and would never compare even slightly to a high end multirotor, but for the price ($25) and the size (roughly the same as before) its amazing that it includes one.
The other primary consideration is how the photos and video are stored after you take them. Drones with WiFi capabilities will work with your mobile device, letting you see and store media real-time on your phone. For those that don’t, you’ll store the media on the drone, usually on a microSD card. If this is the case, know how much storage the drone comes with and whether (and by how much) it can be upgraded.
I spoke to these guys when I wrote my complete review of the Altair Aerial AA108 which you can read here. They picked up their customer service phone line on the 2nd ring, which in itself is amazing when you’re talking about drone companies. I’m so used to trying to reach a company only to find out they operate out of China!They have a great product, with specs at least as good as any other drone in this category.
And now the bad news. You get what you pay for, and if you want an aerial video platform that can capture stunning footage, you need to be ready to spend some cash. Because drones are such pricey propositions, it pays to do your research before buying one. We've tested many of the ready-to-fly models on the market to determine what's important to look for, and the best models available.