With Christmas approaching fast, a lot of tech fans wonder if it pays off to have their own drones, so we made a short list of the best rated UAVs from 2015.
DJI Phantom 3 ($699)
There are three variants of the Phantom 3 that drone enthusiasts can select from.
The Standard model sells for $700 and offers a 1080p camera, but misses some of improved hardware which puts Phantom 3 ahead of the competition. The Advanced and Professional models, however, sport a 2.7K HD and full 4K cameras, respectively. They also cost a bit more than the basic variant, with price points of $1000 and $1250, respectively.
The DJI Phantom 3, regardless of the model, showed great airborne stability, making it a pleasant and easy to operate unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The advanced version displayed smooth 2.7K video capture, and unless you’re a professional film-maker, there is little reason to choose the 4K camera.
Raw and JPG still capture potential makes for great aerial images. The value for money ratio is great, with the mid and high-end DJI Phantom 3 being just a bit more expensive than rival devices. The embedded GPS allows for a return-to-home function, which is very useful and works great with the programmed routines for landing and takeoff.
The operating range of the Standard model is a tad limited, as the device lost connectivity at about 1,200 feet of distance and 400 feet of altitude in an open-ground setting, and at 350 feet of distance and 150 feet of altitude in a suburban environment. Just as a side note, UAV flight rules in the U.S. restrict UAVs to 400 feet maximum, if stricter rules do not apply.
Another limitation of the DJI Phantom 3 is that flying time depends on battery life, and it tends to burn out quickly. The fact that the power source needs over an hour per recharge is another minus of the device.
Yuneec Typhoon G ($899)
The Yuneec Typhoon G works on the same flight hardware as the Q500 4K, but it trades the integrated 4K video camera for a mount that supports most GoPro models.
The Typhoon G provides three flight modes-Angle, Home and Smart.
In Angle mode, you get complete control of the drone, and the only limitation is the range of the remote control. As far as range goes, tests done in the suburbs demonstrated that Typhoon G can get as far as 900 feet without signal breaking.
However, the video feed from the GoPro will drop way before that. The video stopped at around 500 feet in an open space, where there was a clear line of sight to the UAV. If you plan on shooting in areas with obstacles, the video can drop even quicker.
Video quality depends a lot on the model of GoPro you attach to the gizmo. Hero4 Black, for example, provides 4K video results that surpass the integrated camera from the Q500 4K drone.
Return-to-Home and Follow Me modes are quite helpful and self-explanatory, and the remote control has and LCD screen with a neat user interface powered by Android, making it intuitive and easy to use.
Where the Yuneec Typhoon G lacks is the short video transmission range, and relatively limited flight time. Some users may prefer a tighter view-angle, but that is mostly a personal preference.
Parrot Bebop ($499)
The Parrot Bebop is one true mixed bag. You can fly Bebop with your iPhone or Android device, but if you feel like having more control over your drone you can get the SkyController, which gives real joystick controls, HDMI output, extended range and more.
The Parrot Bebop sports a 14 MP camera equipped with fisheye lens, meaning that it can take 180 degree field-of-view footage. Due to the way in which the gadget works, it will send the digitally stabilized standard definition video feed straight to your smartphone. At the same time, the 8GB of standard memory allow the drone to record 1080p video and store it with no hassle.
Now, for the downsides: the video streaming lags quite a bit, rendering it unsuitable for laser-precision first-person-view (FPV) flying.
Then, there is the price issue. A Parrot Bebop sans dedicated controller sells for $499. This would qualify for something of a bargain, but the tablet or handset controlling is pretty cumbersome, and the SkyController adds another $400 to the bill. To make matters worse, regardless of whether you use the controller or not, the handling results are disappointing, some reviews show.
Blade Nano QX FPV ($419+$250 headset)
If you know someone who is passionate about flying, the Blade Nano QX FPV is the perfect Christmas gift.
The drone comes in a non-FPV version, too, but the experience is so mind-blowing that we simply had to recommend it. The headset costs an extra $200 or $250, depending on the vendor, but it has the advantage of being compatible with other similar devices.
The drawback is that the special goggles sport an infamous 320x240p resolution. It must be noted that the camera has no video capturing capabilities and is relatively limited when it comes to field of view. Using the FPV function will reduce the battery of the Nano QX to 5 minutes or less.
So, why would you want this device if there are so many downsides?
Because this is one of the closest way to experience flight with your own eyes, and it feels amazing. The quadcopter is easy to pilot and quite nimble, and provides a seamless video which rarely stutters. An upgrade of the goggles can lend you a comfortable resolution so you enjoy the flying experience in greater detail.