As the ever-expanding quadcopter market continues to grow, the competition continues to become more and more fierce. It should come as no surprise that DJI continues to be the most dominant force in the mainstream market, though some newer names are slowly beginning to make their mark.
It should come as no surprise that DJI – being one of the leading manufacturers of consumer drones – is the company that created our highest ranking drone. As it stands, all those of which we’ve exhausted multiple series of tests, The DJI Phantom 4 Professional Quadcopter reigns supreme for overall performance vs price.
The battle for top drone 2016 this time around was a very close one between The Phantom 4 and The Autel X-Star Premium, however DJI’s long standing dominance in the industry continues to hold strong (for now).
Apart from being at the very top of the game for design, performance and overall specs for its price range, perhaps the primary distinguishing feature of the Phantom 4 is how autonomous it is. It comes out of the box including an array of features that make it incredibly difficult to crash or lose, and is very user-friendly compared to the market median.
Here is an in-depth video review by JRESHOW that goes into great detail about the many pre-existing and additional features available for the Phantom 4. It’s a very thorough and educational watch.
As a relative new name in the industry, Autel has quickly risen to be a prominent name alongside the DJI family when it comes to the mainstream consumer drone market. The Autel X-Star Premium is arguably the best drone to come around in the $700 price range since The Phantom 3, and has a few features that propels it even beyond the once top drone.
Though almost identical in terms of specs and overall performance, upon close examination it soon becomes quite apparent that Autel has paid enormous attention to the finer details when crafting this drone. Everything from the plastic body, rotors, controller and even easy-to-remove gimbal screams “precision to detail.” It’s also very practical in its primary colour being a highly glossy orange – as a common complaint with many other drones (specifically the white ones) is that they become increasingly difficult to spot when reaching significant distances.
The Autel X-Star Premium comes with a few additional features that make it truly stand out from the rest. This includes of course it’s incredibly sturdy carrying case made from solid plastic and handle, which comes with all necessary slots for the drone’s essentials, along with some additional space for extra batteries and propellors. It also has a very easy-to-detach camera feature, which is great should any issues arise with your drone or camera and either needs to be separated from the other in an instant.
Also, in regarding the controller, the X-Star – unlike many of the Phantom Series drones – actually does not require that you attach or sync it to a smart phone unless you wish to. It comes equipped with a mini display monitor at the top of the controller which essentially replaces where many would have their phone or tablet attached. This isn’t a huge deal but it does prove to be convenient should your other devices need charging etc.
One can’t bring up the DJI brand without making reference to the undeniable work of mastery that is the Inspire series. DJI Inspire 1 is easily one of the most powerful and luxurious consumer dones on the market short of the $2000 mark.
At over 6.5 lbs and powered by a 6-cell battery at 22 volts, the Inspire 1 is about twice as powerful as the Phantom series, making it incredibly adept at dealing with all sorts of would-be hazardous environments. Its 4k camera housed b a 3-axis gimbal also comes equipped with 360 degree rotation which offers incredibly steady video recording in heavy wind. It does clearly help that this quad is much sturdier all round, being housed by a very solid carbon fibre frame.
Another cool feature which makes the Inspire 1 stand out from the rest is the fact that it is essentially a transformer. By that we are referring to the fact that the “wings” have the capability to lift its propellors up and above the rest of the frame once in flight, taking them completely out of the line of sight of the camera+gimbal, which naturally sits at the bottom centre. This is a fantastic feature for those wanting to get some wild aerial shots without fear of having it ruined with propellors popping up around the edge of the frame.
For the longest time, The Phantom 3 was arguably the best consumer drone on the market – that is, until 2016 rolled around and its more elite sibling, the Phantom 4 came out, along with Autel releasing an equally impressive series for a very modest price tag.
With a 3-axis gimbal control system housing its optimized 4k camera, which subsequently also shoots 12 MP photos, the Phantom 3 is certainly no joke. While it is certainly a less evolved version of the Phantom 4, it does generally boast many of the same features that make its older brother so great, yet with a much more modest price tag.
One of the most appealing features of the DJI Phantom 3 is the deceptiveness of one of the words in its name: “Professional.” Because in no way do you need to be a professional to pilot it. It’s overall an extremely easy to fly quadcopter on any of its mode settings: just make sure you’ve updated the software, calibrated and synced with your tablet or handheld device beforehand, naturally – and get going. It really is meant to appeal for the overall consumer market and does just that.
On the whole, the Phantom 3 drone is definitely a worthwhile purchase and especially great introductory device for any beginner or intermediate flyer/videographer – and it is easily one of the best purchases you can make for under $1000.
The Yuneec Q500 Typhoon Quadcopter comes with an array of features that make it a near perfect choice for an intermediate flyer looking to purchase around the $1000 price range. Like the Phantom 3, it flies like a dream right off the bat and boasts a very impressive set of stabilization mechanisms, as well as smooth gimbal control and 720p live stream video recording. The camera itself is capable of 1080p/60fps footage and takes 16mp photos.
As for the aesthetics and flight time, it’s pretty much exactly what one would hope for. Sort of a badass helicopter straight out of Terminator, and can fly for approximate 25 minutes. On paper, one could say it’s the best drone of its category, and they wouldn’t necessarily be right or wrong. When it comes down to it, the subtle differences decide which is a better purchase rely on personal preference. We concluded that the overall feel/responsiveness and image quality (especially around the edges) was slightly inferior to that of the Phantom, hence this is the number 2. However, all things considered, the Yuneec Q500+ Typhoon will certainly not disappoint.
Many had been anticipating the release of GoPro’s very own extremely compact and well marketed drone to be released in October 2016.
You’d think that having a name like GoPro attached to a product would be a pretty surefire indicator of overall superior quality, as this was the case will all their previous products. Promotional videos from their official webpage and from popular YouTubers like Casey Neistat made it pretty clear the pre-sales for this bad boy would be through the roof – and that was looking to be the case.
However, what would have proved to be a huge home run for the tech giant’s stock and loyal following turned out to be more of a swing and miss scenario. Just a one week into November – less than a few weeks after it’s initial launch – a recall was issued.
Why? Turns out some of Karma drones didn’t really enjoy being in the air all that much. GoPro stated that “in a very small number of cases, Karma units lost power during operation,” and it happens a few excited flyers were unlucky enough to have documented this unfortunate and entertaining debacle.
Here’s a fun little compilation of exactly what we’re referring to:
(Maybe they just wanted to show off how their cameras can withstand some pretty brutal crashes?)
In spite of this, we’re anticipating GoPro will sort out all the kinks and re-release the Karma in the coming months without any real issues. It’s always been a very reputable company and this is but a blip on their long line of successful product releases.
2016 was a great year for new drone releases. We got the Inspire 2, Autel X-Star Premium, The Phantom 4 and a handful of other gems.
2017 will no doubt involve another onslaught of stellar and competitive new consumer drones that will give previous ones a run for their money.
As technology and competition continue to encroach on the industry leaders, companies like DJI will need to stay on top of their game to assure they maintain the top spot in the mainstream quadcopter market.
Here are a few new drones coming in 2017 that are set to impress:
DJI MAVIC PRO
Highly portable – Folds down to be as small as a water bottle
OcuSync transmission system offers up to 4.3 miles (7km) of transmission range. Fly at up to 40mph (64kmh) or for as long as 27-minutes
Comes with ActiveTrack, TapFly and other smart features. Makes for incredibly simple professional looking video
True 4K video and seamlessly smooth footage
The MAVIC PRO will be released in February 2017 and is guaranteed to be a massive hit – particularly for newer flyers.