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A Good Security Drone's Going to Cost You

Even if you have no good reason to justify buying one, you have to admit that drones are cool. Some models out there are glorified tech toys, but the ones we highlight here are fit for use in imaging and cinematic applications small and large. If you think you can use a flying camera in your next project, there's some good news—the tech has come a long way in a very short time. There are models on the market now that put earlier copters to shame in terms of video quality and stabilization.

 

And now the bad news. You get what you pay for, and if you want an aerial video platform that can capture stunning security 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.

 DJI Mavic Pro

The drones we review are ready-to-fly models, so you can use them right out of the box. In most cases you'll need to bring your own Android or iOS device to view the camera feed in real-time, but we've reviewed a few models that have an Android tablet built into the remote control. We haven't delved into covering true pro models, which require you to get out a soldering iron and install flight control systems and custom gimbals that can accommodate an SLR or mirrorless camera.

 

Drone Safety and Regulations 

Both of the models featured here have automatic Return-to-Home functionality. If your control signal is interrupted, or if the battery gets down too low (most drones can only fly for about 20 minutes on a single battery charge), you drone will start to head back to its take off point and land.

Flyaways still happen, and there are horror stories on various web discussion forums. Of course, negative experiences are amplified in this context, simply because uneventful flights that don't result in a crash or missing drone aren't hot topics for discussion.

 

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 drones 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.

Be sure to read up on the current FAA guidelines before buying. At press time, a court ruling states you don't have to pay to register your drone with the FAA, but that can change with an appeal. Even if you don't have an FAA number attached to your aircraft, be careful out there.

 


DJI Mavic Pro Review

 

 

 

DJI Mavic Pro review

 

From the moment you receive your Mavic Pro, the box alone will have you wondering where DJI is hiding the drone. Unlike most high-end quadcopters on the market today, the Mavic Pro is very small. Able to easily slip into a larger purse, a smaller pocket on your backpack or even into most water bottle holders, this collapsing drone is one of the most portable flying units we’ve ever seen.

 

Where the small size may invite the expectation of low quality, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, this is a metal drone with impressive fit and finish. It is also a very thoughtfully engineered unit, look for quick release propellers, no tools required, and a slender controller with options beyond what you might expect.

 

DJI Mavic Pro review

 

Available in just one colour, this slate grey drone arrives folded and requires just a few quick manoeuvres to prepare for first flight. Fold out the front arms from the sides, then fold the rear arms from underneath.

 

The landing gear lives at the base of the front arms and on the fuselage near the rear. Clearances are minimal all the way around, including the landing gear, you’ll want to find flat and solid surfaces to take off and land on.

 

The battery is easily removed, simply pinch together the buttons on either side of the battery itself and pull up.

 

DJI Mavic Pro review

 

The front of the drone houses the 3-axis gimbal with 12MP, 4K camera. The optional plastic dome will keep things dry and safe, but go ahead and remove it if you find it to distort your images. Just above the camera is a pair of sensors, these help prevent damage to your drone, providing obstacle identification and avoidance.

 

As best we can tell, the Mavic Pro is a tiny super computer packed into an aircraft. Downward facing sensors compliment the front mounted sensors, combined with the camera, this drone is packed with intelligent, autonomous flight modes, self landing capabilities, dual-GPS radios for redundancy and absolute location precision and more.

 

DJI Mavic Pro review

 

Not only does the Mavic Pro have its own internal cooling fan to keep the computing electronics at optimal temperature, but the remote control does as well.

This is no toy. 

Finally, you’ll find red LED lights just below the front propellers, and a single large light at the very rear of the fuselage. This rear LED flashes different colours to let you know the status of the craft, just remember, green is good.

Holy Stone HS100 Review

The Holy Stone HS100 quadcopter comes with everything you need to begin flying right out the box. Here we’ve listed some of the HS100 accessories that you can expect.

HS100 Drone Accessories & Packaging

  1. HS 100 Drone and 2.4GHz Transmitter.
  2. 2500mAh Capacity Battery.
  3. Card Reader and 8G TF Card.
  4. USB Charging Cable.
  5. Propellers and Propeller Guards (with spares).
  6. Blade Pads and Caps.
  7. Landing Gear.
  8. Screws, Screwdriver, and Rubber Pieces.
  9. User Manual.

 

As you can see, there is nothing held back from the packaging. You have everything you need to start flying the HS100 drone. You may also want to consider purchasing spare parts, (or just the motors) and spare batteries, available as a single or double pack.

 

Flying & Features

As we’ll see, there’s a reason they call the HS100 the Navigator, which is all thanks to its advanced GPS system. For a drone under $300, the HS100 offers a near-seamless flight experience with a nice pack of features to keep you occupied.

Holy Stone HS100 Drone FeaturesThe HS100 drone is a sight for sore eyes that will allow you to gaze upon the beauty as you fly both day and night. Whether you’re using it in conjunction with a VR headset, FPV mode, or just going out for a quick go, the HS100 is sure to make you happy. Here is a view of the features in the HS100 Navigator.

GPS Assisted Flight – Perhaps one of the HS100’s most advanced and key features is GPS assisted flight, enhancing both the safety and location of the drone. This function allows for automatic return to home, whenever the battery of the Navigator is low or you lose signal.

For this reason, the HS100 is a perfect drone for starters who want to eliminate worries over losing their drone. It also offers a Smart Return to Home mode, which allows the drone to safely fly back to you at the push of a button. (note that a quick GPS calibration before each flight is required!)

Follow Me Mode – That’s not all its advanced GPS assisted flight is used for. It is also used to perform features like follow me mode, allowing the drone to of course, follow you. With follow me mode on, you can see just how easy it is to setup the perfect shot, while not having to worry about flying the HS100 drone yourself. It’s important to note that its Follow Me mode feature uses the GPS in your phone and not the drone itself.

FPV Mode – Of course, what would the HS100 quadcopter be without FPV mode? It is Holy Stone after all, and they don’t just stop there. They’ve also added a 720P HD camera with a 120-degree field of view and a 90-degree adjustable angle, allowing you to capture just about everything in sight.

One Key Takeoffs – To add icing to the cake, the HS100 also allows you to take-off and land at the single push of a button. This goes nicely along with its follow me mode and altitude hold mode features, giving you an almost hands-off flying experience, if you so desire!

Headless Mode – Of course the one mode, we all need at some point and time is headless mode. This allows the flyer to fly his or her quadcopter without worrying over orientation. That way, whenever you push-up on the throttle the drone flies forward and vice versa, giving you a much more simplified and in some ways, more enjoyable flight experience.

Safety Features – In addition to the Navigator’s assisted GPS flight mode, we see other important features regarding safety in the HS100, such as an emergency stop function and low battery warning.

 

DJI Phantom 4 Review 

There’ no denying that since the introduction of the Phantom 2 Vision, DJI has slowly etched something of a stellar reputation within the world of drones. Although past models released by DJI have been nothing less than impressive, the drone world is one that is evolving every day, and as such, companies such as DJI have to keep up with the competition when it comes to UAVs that are fit for purpose, of fear falling by the wayside.

Although the Phantom 3 Professional was received well, it’s time for DJI to unleash a new beast, with improvements in all the right places, based on customer feedback and research.

The Packaging Is Well Thought Out

If you’re a first-time buyer of a drone, then it’s possible you may not have enough budget to stretch to a carry case. Fortunately, the DJI Phantom 4 is packed in a sturdy Styrofoam box, which while not built to last, will at least see you through until you do have the funds available to invest in a new carry case, allowing you to test our your new tech as soon as you receive it. Although it should be noted that the box isn’t indestructible, so if a new carry case isn’t at the top of your agenda, it should be when making consideration of how your equipment will be transported in the future.

A More Improved Sleek Design

Now the Phantom 3 Professional was no ugly duckling, but we’d be lying if it couldn’t be improved upon. Fortunately, DJI also agrees, and as such, has replaced the old plastic body seen with the Phantom 3 Professional with a magnesium alloy body, with a sleek glossy white finish. Improvements have also been made to the gimbal design and camera, giving them a more robust sitting within the drone itself.

There have also been a number of improvements made to the camera when compared to past models. Those who have had the pleasure of flying the Phantom 3 Professional may not notice many improvements made to the camera’s exterior that is contained within the DJI Phantom 4 at first glance, but you have to consider the fact that there always has been little issue with the camera instilled within past DJI UAVs.

The propellers for the Phantom 4 have also had a makeover, now showing off a quick-release system, similar to those seen on competitor UAVs.

However, the more the savvy will notice that a number of improvements have still been made to interior of the camera. For example, the camera is now able to offer 120 fps in 1080p, as well as other improvements being made to frame rate and top-end resolutions. There is now an additional 3840 x 2160 (4K) option, which sit alongside the existing 4096 x 2160 (4K) and a new 2704 x 1520 (2.7K) option. Ground-facing positioning camera ensure that the UAV is stable while in flight, working in partnership with front-facing sensors to keep the drone out of harm’s way while flying automatically.

While this can be seen as a positive feature, it cans also mean that some flights can be quite limited. This is due to the sensors being a little too over-cautious at times. However, for the most part, the automatic flying option has been included with the right intentions, and does definitely ensure that there are no collisions while the UAV is in autopilot.

Improved Battery Life

If there has ever been an aspect of the DJI series that has cause split opinion with the drone community, it’s the lifespan of the batteries. However, as the community have spoken, DJI has listened and looks to improve upon the batter life this time around. The original batteries normally last around 25-30 minutes, but the new battery promises to last an extra 25 percent longer.

Evidently, if you are looking to use the DJI Phantom 3 Professional for long-haul video shoots, then it can be advisable to purchase a couple of batteries so your drone is never out of action. However, the DJI Phantom 4 is able to offer a reputable flight time that more than stands toe to toe with its competitors.

One of the bugbears with many introductions of new batteries is that they’re not compatible on new models, and this is the case again. For some, this may be a dissuading factor in not purchasing the Phantom 4, but you have to consider that in order to make improvements, changes have to be made along the way.

Technology is something that is evolving on a daily basis, and so change can be inevitable. However, this may not be enough to convince some, who may remain disgruntled of such changes. However, it should be noted that any change has been done with the best intentions with regards to many other factors of the Phantom 4, so it still remains good value for money from many different standpoints.

Learn more about the Phantom 4 here