Why Hobby Drones Are Not as Dangerous as You Think.

Ask people who have never flown a drone (UAVs), but know about the hobby or see someone flying it and you may find that most have a negative view of it.

They think it’s dangerous, that people are doing nothing but flying around, risking lives, crashing everywhere, into everyone, invading other people’s privacy and causing immense distress all around.

But take those same people, have them fly and understand how the hobby works, and you will find that most of them may come around to thinking differently about this industry. That was certainly the case for me.

Despite knowing very little about drones, way before I purchased it, I equated them to the predator ones you hear about being used in war and so that was my original, negative assumption, and then as they became more popular, my understanding shifted to the general stereotype I stated above about them, but as I began seeing videos of people filming with these things and the possibilities of what type of beautiful footage could be captured, mixed in with my passion to hike and see beautiful places, I went from being a complete NO to a complete YES in buying my first workable drone (The Mavic Pro, there was a different model prior which didn’t work).

After having flown for quite awhile, not just with the Mavic but with others, plus having seen from others how to fly and how not to fly, I’ve determined that drones themselves are generally not dangerous, however…

There are 2 particular situations in which UAVs CAN be dangerous, but if the proper safety protocols are exercised and most of the time, it’s nothing more than common sense, the danger is mostly nullified. And yes, I will explain each danger and safety protocol to avoid it…

Situation 1: Danger mainly arises when people incorrectly fly drones…

With every video of people flying these things, getting into trouble, crashes, ect… as well as my own “close call” experiences, 99% of the time it is the pilot who is at fault (see common reasons crashes occur), not the drone and it is very easy to make a mistake (if you remove common sense) and crash these things.

Now common sense when it comes to UAVs should be something that most people should know about, things like not flying over or near people, not flying over houses or private property, airports, disturbing people/animals, ect… and I’ll tell you what, before I got my first drone, I already knew these things, but just to be sure…

I took a look at the official FAA site which clarified these things I already assumed were rules and added to it. This is what every single new pilot should do: 

1) Look at the official FAA website and see the rules of flying these things.

2) Look at YouTube videos on how to fly UAVs safely. Believe me, at this point, there’s more than enough knowledge out there and mistakes tons of people have made that will help future fliers avoid them.

Now besides the general rules, here’s where things like common sense come into flying drones:

1) Suppose you are flying one above a tree line and can’t see it. Does your drone have a camera and if so, does it transmit what it sees to you? If not, then DO NOT fly it beyond your sight.

2) What if you’re flying, can see everything perfectly, but someone is jogging right underneath the drone? Move it away so if ANYTHING happens, you will NOT harm the person.

3) Are you flying in a neighborhood where there’s private property? Well make sure you don’t fly into someone’s property. 

4) Are you flying near a hill and the closer you get to it, the higher it gets? What should you do? Raise the drone higher as the cliff raises higher, so you don’t crash into the land. 

5) Do note that every single one of the models out there has a limited battery life and flight time, and you SHOULD read up on how long your’s can fly BEFORE you actually fly to ensure that if you don’t fly too far and then have a hard time finding it, or for that matter ensure, that when it has to land, it can land safely on ground, not water, no an elevated area where it can fall, ect…

See things like these should be COMMON sense to fliers and I’ll tell you what, a LARGE majority of fliers that I know follow these rules. I don’t know the exact statistics, but it is a VERY small minority of people, possibly 1% or less who make foolish mistakes with their UAVs. 

Unfortunately, the people who do make the mistakes are the ones who give the safe fliers a hard time because it is because of them that the UAV industry and it’s regulations have become so complicated and restrictive. If we are to restore a more open, safer flying space to enjoy this hobby, then moving forward, there have to be even less instances of people making foolish mistakes. Here’s more safety tips.

I know there’s going to be fools out there that ignore all the UAV flying rules and will fly as freely as they wish, perhaps even maliciously (jail those people…). No matter how many rules you set in anything, there will be fools and crazy people who will find a way to break it…

In those cases, give people the right to report them and have them get fined/jailed accordingly if necessary, to filter out the VERY small minority of bad fliers and give the good fliers room to fly…

Fortunately there are already good rules in place, but often very restrictive and complex. And they are restrictive and complex because of the bad flyers…

Situation 2: You may be a good flier, but your drone may not be capable of flying well…

This industry is still growing and while it has come far, a lot of new, beginner fliers tend to get into this hobby through buying lesser and lower quality models. 

While you may exercise every common sense thing you can imagine when flying, the truth is that it is never 100% certain that your flight will be 100% safe because even if you follow all the rules, weather circumstances and other miscellaneous situations may arise while flying that endanger your flight, and most likely it will happen if your model isn’t capable of handling the likely/tough situations that may come about.

It is like driving, you could be a very safe driver, but there’s also others on the road. The others in this case represent potential circumstances you didn’t see occurring during your flights.

One way to ensure this issue is minimized is to get higher quality UAVs that have safety features such as sensors, auto pilot modes to protect the model itself and most obstacles it may encounter as well as other things to keep it flying and landing safely. 

I wrote about beginner drones people should get and recommended some higher tier ones to make sure that in addition to being a safe flier, that you’ll also have the insurance of knowing your model will fly safely should something happen. I also updated that beginner drone article with more choices.

Because my experience with UAVs has mainly been good so far (because I combine common sense with higher, safer models), these is the same advice I am passing off to new fliers. But I do have near accidents with my drones from time to time (here’s the most recent). Thankfully using common sense, I was able to land the drone safely!

Know that this IS a very safe hobby, but it takes personal responsibility to make sure of this:

I am very strict with myself on how I fly my UAVs and while I take risky shots every now and then, the main goal I always have is that EVEN if something bad happens to my drone, it will NOT harm anyone or anything (other than my wallet :(). IN other words, when I fly, I make sure no one is near me at any point to ensure that if something (unlikely) happens, that no one will ever get hurt.

In my opinion this should be the main priority for any flier out there.

Of course I also want to make sure my model doesn’t break or get lost at the same time, but this is something you will learn to access and exercise as you become a better flier and that will take practice. In the meantime, here are 10 great tips you should keep in mind when flying. These tips will only add to helping you maintain a safe flight.

At the end of the day, the fact is an overwhelming amount of UAV users out there are safe, competent fliers and you if you are still doubtful that this can be a fun, safe hobby, remember that the statistics will always be in favor of the safer flyers. Do not let the dangerous, reckless flyers make you think this hobby is dangerous. It can be, but it isn’t because most people are responsible!

What is Atti Mode on DJI Drones? It’s Dangers And Benefits.

Atti (attitude) mode is an interesting feature that DJI drones have, it’s when your GPS does not work properly or at all (maybe in the mountains for example), and as a result, the bird will not be able to hover in one place or use it’s intelligent flight features.

It will actually move around whether you push it lightly or if the wind moves it and this feature can actually be very dangerous if you’re unfamiliar with it, but if you become more experienced, there are massive benefits to flying with it on and I’ll explain it here.

what is atti mode on drones

First of all, let me tell you a “funny” story of how I was first introduced to atti mode…

A friend of mine was visiting my area with his girlfriend and she was (and is) a Vlogger. At the time, she was hired by a company to travel the stats and Canada to film certain locations and the same company provided her with a Mavic Pro drone, which I also own.

But the problem was she had never used it or even opened up the box because she was scared that it would fly away, that it would crash, that it would hurt her, basically the usual worries people have when they don’t understand these machines. So she basically carried it around with her all the time but never used it.

When I heard this, I offered to set up everything for her and show her how safe it was to use the Mavic Pro. After charging the battery, installing the DJI Go 4 app and updating the firmware, I was ready to show her how it works, but the problem was, we couldn’t go outside to fly it because it was dark, so we all decided to stay in their apartment and fly it there and when I say fly, I mean having it hover in one spot so I can show them it’s features (there was very little space to actually fly around in).

When I turned it on, I was surprised to see that I could not get a GPS signal (we were located in the city, so there were plenty of satellites in the area to catch a signal). In fact, all I saw was atti mode.

Now I had seen this before on my other birds (including the Phantom 4 Pro) but I never bothered to study it because it would quickly switch back to GPS mode, so I didn’t mind it. But after waiting for the GPS signal to be found, it wasn’t, it remained on atti mode and I decided to take a risk by taking off.

As the Mavic Pro lifted into the air, it started to drift backwards, right at me. I was freaked out (and so was she) that  it was doing this and eventually it could not back anymore because I was cornered between it and the kitchen, so I decided to make a move and catch it the air with my hand. This luckily resulted in a safe “landing”. I then tried to fly it again, and the result was still the same thing.

This event pushed me to discover more about the atti mode feature and as for the girl, last I heard, she was still scared of drones. So much for my brave attempt at showing off…

Here’s what I learned about the atti mode feature:

1) When there is no GPS signal and the drone/controller is turned on, this feature will activate.

It’s basically a way to keep flying it without having to go through the red tape of safety set up. 

2) There are scenarios in which this feature will turn on. This includes:

-As I said when there is no GPS signal.

-When there is too much metallic interference in the area (radio towers, magnetic interference, bad connection to the drone, ect…). This was the case when I tried to show the girl how to use her Mavic Pro, but didn’t realize there was metal all over the apartment which interfered with the GPS. I only later realized this). 

-You MANUALLY turn it on. You may be wondering why in the world you’d want to do this, but I will explain in a bit why there actually are MAJOR benefits to using this option.

-When the weather is very cloudy or there is some sort of signal interference in your area which interferes with the GPS signal.

3) When it’s on, the following features will be turned OFF on your drone:

  • Return to home.
  • Obstacle avoidance.
  • GPS location.

Basically many of the safety features will be removed once the feature is on.

Ok so let’s talk about the dangers of this:

-If you are beginner like I was when I first discovered this mode, you are more likely to run into trouble flying your drone.

-There is a WAY higher chance of a crash happening as obstacle avoidance does not work.

-There is drift happening and your model WILL move on it’s own. It will not remain still in the air and this can have it crash into an obstacle.

-The ability for the drone to fly further and better is reduced as the GPS signal helps it’s safety features work well. Fly it within your eye range if you have to. 

-If a fly away happens, the drone will NOT return to it’s original take off point. Make sure to keep it within range so the signal between you and the remote is strong (it is literally the only thing connecting you to the model).

-For DJI Spark users and Mavic Pro (Mavic Air people too) who use their phone to control their model, my advice would be NOT to even try it. Use a remote, as the signal will be much stronger. Even with a cell phone’s reduced signal range, it’s still tougher to fly with the phone than with a remote. 

Think of an auto pilot system turned off and you being forced to control everything yourself without help, that’s atti mode in a nutshell. And speaking of the Spark, it hit me a surprise atti mode recently and almost caused it to crash (this is what happened).

Now for the benefits, yep there’s actually some good ones!

People who first experience atti mode on their drone may freak out like I did and never want to fly it that way, but in my case, as time passed, and I started to dig deeper into this feature, wanting to find out just why drones have it and as I said on the Phantom 4 Pro, you can literally SWITCH to it. There has to be an intelligent reason why this exists right? Well there are a few:

-Firstly the ability to fly in VERY narrow corners becomes more possible.

With obstacle avoidance working on drones all the time, sometimes being in a tight corner like in between rocks (like I often encounter on hikes) will make your obstacle avoidance go crazy and if you’re not careful, if the drone senses an obstacle and bounces away from it, being in the tight corner, it can easily crash into another corner. Atti mode removes this danger by letting YOU, the pilot have FULL control over it. Yes it will drift, but it beats having an auto pilot obstacle avoidance screwing you up.

-It is more challenging to pilot your drone in this and some people may like this.

Personally I am not one of them, but I can see reasons and scenarios in which an advanced pilot will need this feature to get a great shot.

There are more reasons, but I honestly do not want to mention them because people may misuse them. I’d rather you use this feature in these 2 circumstances and also do note that you should ALWAYS adhere to the flight rules in your region.

Having a safe flight with atti mode on. How to do it:

1) Know that it can be turned on, on it’s own or you can also turn it on. If you elect to turn it on, be ready to fly more carefully as the danger of a crash increases.

2) Fly within your eyesight view. The signal between you and the remote will be stronger so there’s less chances of who knows what happening and the drone flying away or not catching the signal.

3) Only use this feature IF you’re an advanced pilot and understand how this feature works.

Practice it in an open, safe area where if something happens, you can land it safely and not hurt anyone. And also have other experience with flying in that if something happens, you can think quick and take safe action/s. You should be able to pilot the model very well before trying this feature out.

4) Have experience catching the model with your hand. In my case, where I fly, usually there aren’t any flat landing areas, so I have to rely on myself to catch it.

10 Things I Want to See in The Mavic Pro 2. What do You Want to See?

So with a rumored March release date (or announcement of a release date), all of us drone nerds are anxiously awaiting the Mavic Pro II. As of now, we have unverified “leaks” and basically speculations. I’d like to add my personal thoughts on the matter and tell you 10 things I want to see in this new drone.

I did do a similar post on the Phantom 5 and what I wanted to see there, but with the Mavic series, given it’s portability and that there’s a huge demand for more portable drones these days, I’ll go further and tell you things I wish to see on it! Being that this Mavic Pro was my introduction into the drone world, and that it left me shocked at how awesome it was, I would really love the second generation of it to do the same.

Update: The Mavic Pro 2 is out. 

It has most of the things I wanted, but you can get a full review of it here.

1) Upgrade the camera, and I mean REALLY upgrade it.

No less than a P4P level camera. 20 MP and a shot at 4k @ 60 FPS, especially since the Autel Evo is said to come out with a drone later this year that will likely have that. 

I have found that the Mavic Pro was on par and even better in terms of the camera footage than the regular P4, so I feel the second generation should be on par or better (ideally better) than the Phantom 4 Pro, which as of now is the most elite drone on DJI’s list (by the end of 2018, it will likely not be so anymore).

But in any case, to this day, if there is a drone I prefer to shoot awesome shots with, it’s the P4P, so naturally having that same potential on the MP II will be awesome.

Update: Did this happen? Well the camera is noticeably better than the Mavic Pro 1, but it’s not as good as the P4P sadly (maybe in low light).

2) Give it 5 sensors, please DJI!

The Mavic Air came into the market as the first to have 3 sensors, the P4P has 5, would it really be that tough to put extra sensors on the side? And since we’re on that subject, I said I want the P5 to have a 6th sensor, on top. If they could do this on the Inspire 2, lets make it happen on both the next generation Mavic and next generation Phantom.

Update: It has 6, but they all work only when active track is “active”. Usually it’ll be 4 during regular flights.

3) Can we stop using the DJI Go 4 app?

I can’t say it’s outdated, but man does it have a lot of bugs and any DJI owner who uses this app knows what I’m talking about, it’s just too annoying to work with sometimes. Why not have a separate program like the Yuneec Typhoon H has or the future Autel Evo will have? It’ll save people a huge headache…

Update: Nope, still stuck on this app!

4) Can we possibly make it more portable than the Mavic Air? 

Thus far, the latest “speculation” is that the MP 2 will be even bigger than the first MP and while this is sort of exciting because it likely means there will be a bigger, better camera, I think this would have an adverse affect since the MP was the pioneer of all the portable drone rage back in the day and to reverse that course now may reverse that reputation. I know that realistically it’s almost impossible to have an awesome camera on a small drone, but at the very least, if the Autel Evo can do it, why can’t DJI?

Update: It’s bigger than the regular MP1 and obviously bigger than the Air, so this didn’t happen, but with a regular case I picked up, I didn’t have portability issues with the MP2.

5) Intelligent flight modes have to mimic the MA, the P4P and go further.

There is one VERY good, but missing feature I want to see on the P5 and honestly on all future drones: A backtracking feature which would put the “return to home” feature to shame. 

I have said a lot about this type of thing on this article regarding the Phantom 5, but in my experience flying drones in tough spots, it’s often hard for it to just go up in the air and fly back to you. Sometimes I fly between trees, in canyons and that option may not be possible, so backtracking would allow the drone to fly back the same way it got there, which was the safe route. I mean it’s basically like a situation where you get lost in the woods and the best way to get back home is to backtrack. Why can’t we have this on drones? It would really raise the safety bar higher.

Update: They do!

6) A better gimbal/camera protection.

Honestly, I’m OK with what the MA has, and something like this on the MP 2 will be awesome. No more 2 covers like it was on the regular MP.

Update: I honestly do not like the gimbal protection they use for the MP2. I believe it scratches the gimbal.

7) A 30 minute + flight time. 

25 minutes on the regular MP is awesome, but let’s add some more time! 

Update: Yes the flight time is great!

8) A much longer range. 

Both the Phantom 4 and Mavic series (not the Air) have a 7-8 KM range. The next general needs to surpass that, at least to 10 KM. Also, they need to stop using WiFi and keep using the same connection system as they have on the Phantom and Mavic Pro, that tends to have a stronger, and more reliable connection.

Update: Yes the new ocusync 2.0 is on this drone and it’s awesome.

9) Make the body look cooler and be made of material that gives it that “Ferrari” feeling.

I like the body of the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Air seemed a bit too plastic for me, but if they can make the MP 2 be made of good, expensive, sturdy material, it would definitely add to the privledge of owning one.

Update: Its really the same kind of body as the regular MP1.

10) Waterproof!? Am I asking for too much?

Well at least vs the rain. As awesome as drones are today, we all know that taking them out in bad weather is an absolute no no. The biggest issue is that there are exposed area on the propellers and on the body (as well as the battery area). I heard rumors the P5 will be waterproof, but again, this is all just a rumor. Prior to hearing that, I never imagined we could have something like that, but that rumor alone begs the question of if we can do this.

Update: Nope it’s not!

Alright, one more thing! Can we make it SUPER quiet?

The thing that most people dislike about drones are their potential crashing dangers and the noise they make. The last thing I ever want to do is annoy anyone in the area where I’m flying, so a quiet model zooming around, minding it’s own business would really help push people over to appreciating these things. 

And finally, I just want to say these things I’d like to see aren’t out of this world. If there’s anything true about technology and it’s evolution is that it evolves based on previous examples. In this case, we have a lot of examples and frame to work with. We know what a MP can do. We know what a MA can do. We know what we love about the Phantom and what we don’t love, so if we can build on the advantages we want to see off these 3 models and make the MP 2 be the best version of all 3 of these, we’re going to have a new king in the drone world.

Update: YES, the Mavic 2 Pro is SUPER quiet!

Phantom 4 Drones vs Mavic Air. I’ve Got Both. Which One is For You?

I have been making many drone comparisons on this site and today’s will deal with a classic: The Phantom 4 series that goes head to head with DJI’s newest line of portable drones: The Mavic Air.

And before I start, I want to make it clear:

I own BOTH these models (Well the Phantom 4 Pro specifically) and an Onyx Black Mavic Air.

These are my personal opinions based on what I’ve experienced with both models. Usually I compare where one model holds advantages of the other then do the same thing for the opposite one, then conclude with a comparison chart so you understand each and every benefit. This comparison will be no different.

But before I do, here is what I want to say about both these models:

They are the highest rated ones I’ve reviews. Both score 95 out of 100 points, but this rating is actually for different reasons as each model holds it’s own benefits the other does not and vice versa and I’ll being with the advantages the Mavic Air holds over the Phantom 4 series (I will also distinguish WHICH Phantom 4 I’m talking about).

In an ideal world I’d recommend both models to you, but if you are on a tight budget and there can be only be one choice for you, then figure out what you’re going to use your drone for, then see which of these 2 models is best suited for that and let that be your deciding factor.

Update: With new drones coming out like the Mavic 2 Pro, I’ve updated my scores and thus this is what I have for these 2 now:

Mavic Air: 80 out of 100 points.

Phantom 4 Pro: 95 out of 100 points, but that’s the pro and I will be comparing the Air to other P4 models here and not all of them get the same 95 score.

Where the Mavic Air is superior:

1) Portability (no question there!).

This thing literally fits in your palm. A P4 (all the versions of it since the body is identical) obviously does not and you have to consider this when you’re wondering which one to get. 

If you are a type of traveler who enjoys moving around a lot, consider how much extra weight a P4 would add (and it does start to feel after awhile. I know since I hiked with it on my back). 

2) The camera shoots pictures and videos better than 1 of the P4 models.

That would be the regular P4. Both these models shoot @ 4K and up to 30 FPS and both have a 12 MP camera (hard to believe right?).

When I did a comparison of the P4 with the Mavic Pro, I also noted the same thing and when I compared a Mavic Pro to a Mavic Air, I noted that the Mavic Air generally shoots better, so naturally with this logical, it’s safe to assume why I came to this conclusion.

However, if you upgrade to a P4 Advanced and higher (pro, pro+ which is the same model anyway), then the MA no longer has a superior camera (then you’re looking at a 20 MP camera with 4K @ 60 FPS ability). In that case, the advanced and higher P4 is just SO much better and the footage I’ve taken proves that (comparisons coming soon).

3) Some camera abilities exceed the P4.

Overall, the P4 itself has more intelligent flight modes, but there are unique new modes on the MA that make it better (Slow shots, 360 shots for instance) and video shots at 100 mbps are huge here.

4) Less drift in the wind and calm conditions (It stays still in the air better).

The Mavic Pro also has this advantage against the P4, but the MA is also going in that direction which is wild considering it’s size difference.

5) It’s better for tight shots. 

A small model like this is perfect to send into places where there’s tight spaces as there’s less chances of a crash (still, you need to fly carefully…).

6) Way less expensive. 

$799 for a regular and $999 for a combo pack vs $999 for the regular P4, $1,200 for the advanced, $1,500 for the pro and $1,800 for the Pro+.

7) Faster set up (way faster actually) and it’s quieter.

Consider how often you travel (on planes, by foot). The Mavic Air is really easy to take out, set up and work with. Overall, this model just weights less, causes less issues when traveling with it, is easy to set up and you’ll hardly even notice you have it on you when you’re moving around (that’s huge). With the P4, you need to carry it in a big bag (or carrying case) and that really is going to get really annoying. I suppose this should fall into the portability argument, but there’s one more aspect of this:

Noise levels are slightly lower. But I do admit, the Air is surprisingly loud unless you get quieter props. 

Where the P4 is better:

1) Range. 

Twice as reliable and twice as far. You’ll lose connection less times and go further with ANY of the P4 models.

2) Durability and resilience against wind.

Naturally a bigger model, especially like a P4 means it’ll withstand wind better. 

3) A twice as long flight time.

25-30 minutes depending on which P4 model you get (my Pro gets 30 minutes on paper, but more like 25 minutes in real life, the MA gets about 15 minutes in my experience but has a 21 minute flight time on paper).

4) Better camera (on the advanced and up).

I noticed this above, but it’s a major improvement. I love my MA, but the P4P’s camera is just better (both have amazing footage potential though). Here’s some comparison footage:

phantom 4 pro vs mavic air footage

Now here’s an interesting thing. At least in this ONE picture, it seems like the MA shoots better, BUT I have a suspicion that I set the white balance on the MA to shoot more in a “cool environment”, hence the more blueish colors, I’ll do a correction at a later time, but to the main point…

The above picture makes it seem like the MA is better…until you compare a manual edit of both pictures:

Crazy difference right? Now if you ask me, the P4P is WAY better looking than what the MA produces. Everything just looks sharper and better if you ask me. Here’s another for you:

Again I will have to go back and retest this as I strongly believe that I accidentally left the white balance on custom on the MA and it was set to cool colors, but even if that ends up being corrected, the P4P shoots better, no questions asked.

Now once again, I have to reiterate that VS the REGULAR P4, the MA would win, but when you add in the 20 MP camera of the P4 advanced (next level P4) and then the pro, then there’s no real debate there.

5) Depending on which P4 model you get, there are anywhere from 2 to 5 sensors.

The P4P has 5. A regular P4 and P4 advanced have 2. Now a MA has 3 sensors, so depending on which P4 model you get this advantage can fall over to the MA side. 

6) More flight modes. 

With the exception of the new, unique ones offered on the MA, generally the P4 offers more customization and flying options. 

7) Overall, if you include the advanced P4 and up…

It’s just a higher quality model for filming and flying.

As you can see, it’s 7 pros on each model. So it’s a draw, but for different reasons:

Like I said before, consider each category above I listed and in which case, which model was better, then examine how you would use it and then base your decision on that, but I have a few more filters for you to consider before you make your final choice:

1) If you’re considering the regular P4 model, forget it, buy the Mavic Air, it shoots better, and is more portable. 

2) If you’re considering the P4 Advanced, the only REAL advantage there is the camera and flight time, but for $1,200 you may be better off buying the Mavic Air combo pack (same price).

3) If you’re looking at the P4P (my model), I’d say it’s the better choice as it shoots better. The same goes for the P4P+.

Still have mixed feelings and don’t know which one to get? Let me help you then:

Tell me exactly what you seek in a drone. I’m talking what kind of camera you want (if you care about it at all), what flight capabilities, range, price, budget, and every single little detail you can come up with, mention it in the comments section below and I’ll help you make a good choice.

Know that in this particular case, I don’t think there’s a “wrong choice”. These 2 models are exceptionally good and you would be very happy with either one. As an owner of both, I can attest to this.

And if you already have made a choice, which one did you decide on? Was it the MA? The P4 (which version?) and if neither, was there another model that suited you more?

Autel Evo Review. The Best Portable Drone Yet? Yes & No.

In early 2018, Autel announced that they would be releasing the Evo later this year (it’s already out at the time of this post).

Soon after, DJI announced their own new drone, the Mavic Air and while provide other articles comparing those 2 as well as the Evo to others, let’s focus entirely on it here.

Overall, there has been and still a lot of hype behind this model, because the hope at least from drone enthusiasts is that there’s finally another company out there that’s going to give DJI a run for it’s money, thus improving the quality of future drones, lowering the prices and overall making this entire industry more exciting to get into. Is that the case now that it’s out? Let’s find out:

I’m going to give you the specs (which you probably already know), and I’m going to explain if it’s as good as it was hyped up to be now that it’s out.

Stats and info on product:

Name: Autel Evo.

Company: Autel.

Flight time: Advertised, 30, but more like 20-25 minutes.

Range potential: 7 KM, but it’s closer to about half that in most circumstances.

Size: About the same as the Mavic Pro. Fits in your hand.

Price: $999.

Camera quality: 12 MP, shoots in 4K at up to 60 FPS, at 100 mpbs. And it has a 3 axis gimbal.

Sensors? Yes, 3: Front, back and bottom.

Rating: 85 out of 100 points. When the Evo came out, I gave it an 80 out of 100 due to many of it’s promises not meeting expectations. However, firmware updates corrected MOST of them and now this drone is one of the BEST in filming and flying for such an awesome price, highly recommended.

So overall, I DO recommend this model and here is the link to see other reviews for it. I will also say that I give 5 reasons you should get it below (if you’re considering it or not).

Let’s discuss the 3 truly great things about the Evo:

1) The camera. The first standout feature.

This is the first drone in 2018, at least in the portable market which has such a high quality camera. While the other drones in this department are good in that regard too, the Evo takes it to the next level (4K @ 60 FPS).

DJI owners who have owned a Phantom 4 Pro may understand what I’m about to say but it’s similar in specs to a Phantom 4 Pro camera (comparison), on a portable drone, that’s really what you’re getting with the Evo camera and it’s awesome.

Without a doubt, as of July 6th, 2018, the Evo’s camera is at the top of the portable drone market. 

Update: Now there’s another contender, the Mavic Pro 2 and it films differently than the Autel Evo, get the comparison here.

2) It is very quiet. 

Likely as quiet as the Mavic Pro with the quiet propellers. 

3) The controller is awesome.

It displays pretty much everything you need to know about the flight going on the actual controller and the attachment for the phone is easily installed and comfortable to view. It is WAY better than the Mavic/Spark controllers.

Where the Evo did not live up to the hype (updated as fixes did come in):

Unfortunately as I was looking for more reasons to recommend the Evo, I found myself having to go from initially 5 reasons to recommend it to 3 because the unfortunate tale is that many of the specs that it boasted simply do not have the same real life applications. 

For example:

1) The flight time was supposed to be 30 minutes. 

It is typically not. Now I get it, flight conditions play a huge role, and as an owner of various drones, I completely agree, but even when hovering, I’ve seen videos where the Evo could barely get up to 25 minutes of flight time.

Now I am not complaining about a 20+ minute flight time. That is plenty in my book, but when you advertise 30 minutes but get about 30% LESS of that in real life, that’s not good.

As of today, it’s still around 20-25 and in open areas with little wind, you may be able to get the higher end of 20 minutes. I still believe (and have seen) that a regular Mavic Pro gets about the same if not a little more flight time.

2) The range was supposed to hit 7 kilometers. 

Update: Firmware updates have improved this and in open areas, this drone CAN deliver on 7 KM ranges and possibly even more (how to do range tests).

I don’t see how this is likely. The range tests I saw didn’t get to that amount in open fields and I think it is in part due to the connection type the Evo uses which is a form of WiFi. It is basically similar to the type the Mavic Air uses and basically it can get pretty flaky if there’s enough obstacles between your controller and drone.

Now you may think this connection issue will happen to any model, but that’s not true. Having used the Mavic’s ocusync connection, I was able to get 2 kilometers easily while standing on grass and having a bunch of trees and obstacles between us. Yet that connection penetrated all those obstacles and still got through and I don’t even want to mention how far that thing can get in an open field.

Basically the point is that, like the flight time, you are unlikely to get the same range on the Evo as advertised, which is unfortunate. Now if you prefer to fly in sight or perhaps within 500-1,000 meters, you should have no issues with this and will likely enjoy a good, strong connection.

Now there were some issues with the horizon being tilted on first generation models, but those were handed to people for testing, so the updates Autel releases should do more than fix this issue and other hardware/software ones, so I didn’t think that warranted an official con (but in case anyone though I forgot or neglected to mention it).

And as an update on that, YES the horizon “tilt” has been fixed.

Let’s address if this drone is a Mavic killer.

People love to hype new models or put in some clickbait titles but when you look at the Evo, in terms of the camera, yes it is better, but frankly, it is the only real feature in which this model is superior to the other portable drones on the market.

When you analyze the this model against the existing competition, particularly the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro, the only area where it really wins out in is again, the camera. While I’ll do a separate comparison with the Mavic Air and another with the Mavic Pro, in case you are wondering about my preliminary thoughts, I believe:

That the Evo has a lot more benefits over the Mavic Air. It shoots better, flies better and lasts longer.

However, against the Mavic Pro, the only area where it wins is when you compare the cameras. Overall, I’d still put the Mavic Pro as a whole to be better than the Evo. It has a more reliable connection, longer range, flies just as long if not longer still and the camera quality, while lower on paper, still is hard to see big differences unless you’re a professional video/photographer. 

Update: With all the fixes, the Autel Evo matches and exceeds the original Mavic Pro.

I still don’t think that it’s a “Killer”, but with both being $999, if you have that kind of money to spend, just get the Evo, you may get a little less in minutes of flight time, but with a way better camera and other cool perks, it’s a much better buy than the original Mavic Pro (and I own one, so I’m saying this honestly).

5 reasons you should get an Autel Evo:

1) It’s camera is insanely good, and I’m still shocked by how good it is.

I don’t own an Evo, but I do own a Phantom 4 Pro and Mavic 2 Pro and I would argue that the camera on the Evo is either close to or on par with these other 2 models and their cameras. 

I’ve seen so many comparison videos between these 3 models and Autel always holds it’s on. If you don’t know anything about post production stuff and just need a camera that’ll work very well for you on auto, this model is amazing for you.

It’s camera is 100% better than the original Mavic Pro and Mavic Air. I would even say at times it’s sharper than the Mavic 2 Pro unless it’s manually edited. 

And I have even considered getting it despite having 2 “superior models”.

Like I said, I have the Mp2 and Phantom 4 Pro, yet there have been times I’ve almost considered getting the Autel Evo. I do consider the MP2 camera to be slightly better. And you save $500 at least when you compare it to the other 2 models.

What I will say is that if a 1 inch sensor Autel Evo 2 ever comes out, I WILL get it.

2) It’s lack of geo fencing can be a mixed bag, but I like it.

If you’re a responsible flier, this is certainly a huge plus and I’m all for responsible flying, but as an owner of 5 DJI models, I will say all the updates, all the geo fencing red tape can get annoying. I fly according to the rules, but they do get more and more constricting overtime, which makes the lack of that red tape on this model liberating. 

3) The “no need for a phone” connection is huge.

Just controlling this drone with the remote that has a built in screen is a major plus that no drone model I own has. It’s the future of good drone models in my opinion.

4) The price for the quality is worth it.

I do believe as an overall drone model, this could be slightly better (more flight time, better range), but for the $999 price, I think it’s a great deal. Get the Autel Evo here.

5) Great support from the drone company.

Autel may not be the #1 drone company in the world (yet), but when it comes to drone support, it’s tough to argue if there’s any company that’s better. I keep hearing over and over how awesome this company’s support is, especially compared to DJI and it’s another reason why in the future, this company’s future drones are on my list of drones to buy!