Yuneec Typhoon H Hexacopter – Is it for you?

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Yuneec Typhoon H Hexacopter – Is it for you?

Another year – and another batch of new drones which are heralded as “revolutionary” or “game changers”. Such descriptions are thrown about by many in this industry – but we here at Droneflyers.com prefer the old fashioned items called “Facts”, “Specifications” and “Experiences”. Differences in various models can be measured against each other to provide a true indication of value.

Too Early Yet – only a Prelude

The Yuneec Typhoon H (shortened to H) is just hitting the market – a month or more later than scheduled and without the RealSense obstacle avoidance modules which were promised. The current model is being offered for $1299 – quite a bit less than the $1799 first advertised. The addition of the RealSense module, when available, will bring the price back up the range original quoted.

No amount of factory testing or engineering can replace thousands of users flying a new drone. For this reason we caution those interested to “wait and watch” as more experience is gained. We will update this article and/or write a new piece as more information comes in. Our usual advice ALWAYS stands – waiting 3-6 months after the release of a brand new model before you considering a purchase will likely save the consumer time and trouble.

The Elephant in the Room – Comparison to DJI Models

Customers shopping for a low cost camera drone have very limited options. At present there are two companies which together represent over 80% of this market – DJI (70%) and Yuneec (10%). This makes it obvious why initial articles about the Yuneec H compare it to DJI…and why prospective customers are looking for accurate and/or unbiased information on both brands.

The Yuneec Typhoon H is a Flying Camera!

Yes – somewhat obvious! This is the entire reason for the existence of this ($500-$1500) market segment. Yet, for some reason, many of the articles about the H seem to gloss over those two words:

Flying (reliability, etc.) – How far does it fly? How well does it fly? How safe is it to fly? What type of systems are integrated so that it doesn’t fly where you don’t want it to (crash, etc.)?

Camera (Image Quality, etc.) – How good is the camera? What is the bitrate (one indicator of quality) of the camera and how good is the lens? Are the settings easiy accessible and can budding pilots get the most out of the camera easily?

In our opinion, these two metrics determine the reasons why a consumer would choose one model over another. There are others but they are of lesser importance:
Warranty and Customer Service
Build Quality
Portability
Style/Design
Expandability/Flexibility
Community (other experts who help users)
Brand Loyalty

Let’s start with the quick summary of both of these important metrics so those who don’t want to read a long article can get a sense of whether the H offers something new and revolutionary.
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GoPro Karma Drone delayed and other New Drone Updates!

Karma Drone Sketch - by  a 3rd party (not from GoPro and not what it will look like)

Yet another Failure to Launch! (and, later in the article, some new drones that are actually being produced and sold).

After 18 months of development, GoPro obviously does not have their drone working properly! This is a BIG deal for a number of reasons, some of them given below.

Timeline

GoPro announced their intention to bring a drone to market in November of 2014 – over 18 months ago! At the time GoPro was worth almost 10 billion dollars (market cap) and therefore had plenty of money to develop a drone or similarly complex product. Moreover, they hired as product manager an employee from 3D Robotics – Pablo Lema – who we can assume brought some existing knowledge into the project. Due to this hire, it’s assumed that the drone uses code (flight controller programming and/or hardware) which was from the same open source project that 3DR used (Arducopter). This, again, should have given them a jump on R&D as they would not have had to develop the flight controller from scratch.

GoPro took their time in developing their new model – which actually seemed like a good idea after the failures of 3DR and others who rushed new models to market. However, events of the past week have now cast a shadow on GoPro’s ability to deliver a groundbreaking product.

Failure to Launch

My inbox and some forums were abuzz in the last week with speculation that GoPro was getting ready to launch the Karma Drone in early June. This date was cast in stone as a major media and PR push was being coordinated around it. Given normal timelines, this meant the drone and spec/literature/ads had to already have been ready. After all, just the shipping and stocking of large quantities of a consumer electronics product from China could easily take a month or more.

Announcement of Further Delay

On thursday, May 5, Nick Woodman (GoPro CEO) announced that the Karma would not be launced as planned and would be further delayed until the “Holiday Season”. Here is a MarketWatch article with those announcements and quotes.

As if to admit his level of cluelessness, the GoPro CEO offered the following quote:
“As late as this week, we believed Karma’s launch was on schedule,” said Nick Woodman

This is virtually impossible. Either Nick was too busy surfing and partying or something else is up. It’s our guess that the levels of management and communication within GoPro are lacking, meaning that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
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2016 USA Camera Drone Sales – Projections and Commentary

howmany

One of our specialties is using various rules of thumb to predict what is happening in the consumer drone market. You can find a number of our predictions and projections in our Editorial Section.

We have recently been asked by various industry parties (reporters, analysts, etc.) to comment on the US Drone market going forward. No one has a crystal ball and/or a truly accurate forecast but there are many metrics which can be used to come to reasonable projections. However, these often become confusing due to the way that most classify (or fail to classify) consumer drones. Let’s start with some basics so we can define the scope of the particular market that we (Droneflyers and much of the drone press) are covering.

Camera Drones are really the Primary Consumer RTF Market in 2016

A few short years ago, the idea of taking very stable video and pictures from a low cost drone was a dream. Those of us in the hobby rigged up various systems and were amazed when something turned out reasonably well. When we first saw truly stable video it was a shock. Now, just 2 years later, it not only is expected but has become the driving force in the consumer drone industry.

This being the case, we prefer to segment the consumer camera drone market as “purpose built stabilized drones capable of autonomy of flight (GPS) which sell for $400 – $1500.

Other industry writers tend to lump most drones together, counting a $15 toy as a unit. Granted, toy drones represent a large number of units and larger FPV models in the $120-$400 range are starting to sell well, but they still represent a small percentage of the market – especially in actual dollars. Also, the toys – and even the FPV racers – are not really drones…rather the toys are toy and the FPV/Racers are the modern equivalent of slot cars and are manually controlled.

In summary, the tendency to lump all machines together and define the market in units makes for difficulty in counting and conclusions that are of little use to those in the public, regulatory agencies and/or the industry itself.

The Dot-Drone Bust of late 2015 and 2016

The Drone industry seems a magnet to dreamers, schemers and snake oil salespeople who can easily take advantage of a clueless public and/or investors. Such is the often the case with any new and complex products – as it takes a while before the mass of people understand what is real and what is PR and a sales pitch. The Drone Revolution is very real – as was the PC revolution. However, it took decades for many of the real promises of personal computing to mature. The same will be true of aerial robotics.

A combination of bad press combined with poor decisions by the FAA and the Drone Industry representatives and lobbyists caused a large cloud to hang over sales and adoption in November/December 2015 and continuing into 2016. This “dot-drone” bust will likely continue until a clear path forward is delineated by the FAA and Industry representatives.

A Simple Take on 2016 Camera Drone Sales in the USA

Cutting through the explanations before and after this prediction, here is a simple statement regarding camera drone sales in the USA in 2016. The market, in units, is likely to increase by 30-50%. However, the market in dollars is likely to be stable or even possibly decline. This can be worked out with some simple math.
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Litchi – An App to extend DJI Phantom and Inspire Capabilities

Closeup of First Mission

Large numbers of Drones = Potential for more App sales.

The popularity of the newest DJI models has attracted the interest of App Developers. DJI provides them with a full set of tools called an SDK (Solutions Development Kit) which allows the creation of functions over and above what DJI provides. Litchi is a $20 App which provides a number of “Ground Station” (waypoint) and POI (point of interest) options which are unavailable in the stock DJI Go App.
Litchi is probably the most popular DJI 3rd party app (here is the link), however a number of other apps exist which may fit your needs. A list of them, thanks to RCG member Aviz, is in this forum thread which discusses these apps. A PDF of this list can be downloaded here.

The following is a beginners guide to Litchi along with cautions, warnings and basic tips for getting started.

Litchi Functions

Litchi has a number of modes including: [Read more…]

Worldwide Consumer Camera Drone Sales Numbers for 2015 and 2016

Phantom 3s roll off the line!

Worldwide Consumer Camera Drone Sales Numbers for 2015 and 2016

As yet another exercise in Rules of Thumb (earlier US guess here), following are some guesses as to the number of consumer camera drones sold. This particular doc will look at unit numbers as opposed to dollars.

Criteria

Worldwide
GPS enabled Multirotors
Camera(s) and gimbal or equivalent included or expected to be used (GoPro gimbal, etc.)
Price range of $400 – $1500 retail
Capable of at least minimal autonomous flight (RTH, etc.)
SOLD units – not production, but actual retail sales to the consumer.

Assumptions

DJI has released various estimates for their sales in 2014 and 2015 which provide a relatively solid number to start with. Parrot has also hinted at revenue, although this could include large numbers of toy models. Amazon, the largest seller of consumer drones, has various way to determine both sales range and relative numbers – by comparing with other drones and, more importantly, other products (GoPro cameras, etc.) where the sales ranges are well established.
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Coocheer Syma X8C Quadcopter Drone

X8C

The market for toy class drones has exploded in recent months, with everything from palm sized micros to full sized brushed motor quads with video and/or FPV capabilities. This review features the Coocher Syma X8C, a camera drone that has been around for a while and is now being offered by Coocheer. So how does it stack up? Does it still hold it’s own against the newer competition, or does it come up short when pitted against some of the newer offerings? Keep reading and find out!

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DJI Osmo Handheld Stablized Camera – First Look and Review

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DJI Osmo Handheld Stabilized Camera – First Look and Review

Introduction

DJI is well known for their Phantom series of camera drones as well as their Inspire prosumer line. The ability to take aerial video which is extremely stable has risen the bar on creativity for hobbyists as well as professionals. One of the primary pieces of technology which allows for stable video is the camera gimbal – a carriage which holds the camera level and stable no matter what other forces are acting upon it. DJI leveraged their expertise in these stabilizers to produce a professional handheld gimbal named Ronin. This rig is used by Independent Videographers as well as Hollywood pros to produce stunningly stable video.

DJI has now taken the same stabilizing technology used in their drones and the Ronin and built it into a small handheld camera that sells for less than $600…and named it Osmo.

What is Osmo?

It’s a consumer grade 4K “steadicam”. Osmo is essentially the same Camera module used on the DJI Inspire and Phantom 3 Pro – mounted on a gimbal (stabilizer) sitting on top of a handle. It uses the DJI Go App, the same app used for flying DJI Drones, as a display screen as well as for settings and various camera controls. In addition, the handle features buttons and a trigger which provide functionality. If you are not familiar with how gimbals work, see this article.

What comes with Osmo? [Read more…]

3D Robotics Failure to Launch and Unicorn Dreams

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March, 2016
Recent events and announcements seem to indicate that 3D Robotics (3DR) dream of becoming a multi-billion dollar leader in the drone industry has failed. This post will lay out the timelines and events of 3DR history as well as the opinions of the author and others as to what happened – and why. Hopefully it will provide a cautionary tale to those, like Icarus, whose attempt to fly too close to the heat of the sun resulted in a similar crash.

Note – links to two of our earlier articles about 3DR are here:
3DR Solo is a NoGo
Is 3D Robotics Falling from the Sky

3D Robotics History – Prelude
3DR was a garage operation started by a Mexican engineering student – who then partnered with Chris Anderson, an editor at Wired magazine. In 2012, Chris left Wired to work full time on the new drone operation.
The business was based around “open source” software and hardware designs which originated in Switzerland at the Federal Institute of Technology. [Read more…]

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera – First Look and Review

Xiaomi Yi Sports Action Camera

The Xiaomi Yi Action Camera is a “GoPro type” sports and action camera which promises good quality at 1/3rd the price of the major brands. It uses top quality components such as a Sony camera chip (sensor) and an Ambarella image processor. Prices vary depending on the vendor, but are generally in the range of $70-$90 without the waterproof casing. Adding the factory (Xiaomi brand) waterproof case adds another $25 or so. 3rd party underwater cases can be purchased for less than $10, however I did not feel comfortable protecting my Yi with anything other than the factory produced case.

I purchased the Yi from Banggood at this link. Banggood ships worldwide and may also have a warehouse in your country. Be sure to look for coupon and discount codes on the Banggood site.
The Yi is also available from Amazon (US and perhaps other countries) – try the link below:

[Read more…]

10 Best Quadcopters and drones for 2016

Phantom 4

UPDATED 5/2016 – We update regularly as new products are released and reviewed.

Here are some best bets for drones and quadcopters in 2016.

Please note that many of these are not for beginners! Rather they are upgrades after you’ve learned the basics of flying and know exactly what features you desire. Quads best for beginners are marked with an *

We do not suggest the very tiny “nano” thumb size quadcopters for learning or beginners! Here is why.

We currently DO NOT recommend the following brands – 3D Robotics, Walkera, OnagoFly. Also, we have had poor luck with Parrot models in the past – however, we are going to look at more current models soon to see if reliability has changed. Also, be wary of ANY crowdfunded (Kickstarter, etc.) models.

Be sure to pick up at least one extra battery and any spares you may want to have on hand (motors, etc.)

Under $100

Micro-Sized – generally the size of your open hand including the propellers

*Hubsan X4 H107L – updated version of the most popular micro- beginners should purchase the option prop guard.

Banggood Link (worldwide and/or US Shipping).

*Dromida Verso – built in prop guards and a good reputation

Mini-Sized – about 10 inches square – lightweight
*Syma X5 – Inexpensive, reliable, good parts and knowledge availability (lots of owners!) – the model with a X5c designation includes a camera.
Amazon Link to Syma X5Amazon Link to Syma X5c

Syma has recently introduced the X 11 – which is sized right in-between a micro and a mini. We did a review on it and really enjoyed it, so we feel comfortable suggesting it for a 1st or 2nd quadcopter.

*WL Toys v636 Skylark – Newer and more advanced “toy grade” mini – see our review.
Bangood Link (worldwide shipping)

*WL Toys v959 (new) – This is a classic Quadcopter updated with a better stabilization system. It comes with a camera which can take video or stills. New pilots can remove the camera until they are comfortable with flying the v959. Here is a Banggood worldwide link.
They are also available on Amazon under various names.

*Dromida Ominus – Another advanced toy grade quadcopter which is getting very good reviews! This is somewhat similar to the WL Toys v636, but perhaps a step up in total quality.
Link to Dromida Ominus on Amazon

*Syma X8C Venture
This is a larger “toy grade” units which has become quite popular due to it’s reliability and larger payload capability. It comes with a camera that is of poor quality – but still is good for initial learning. The camera can be easily removed and replaced with something of much higher quality like the RunCam or Mobius. This allows decent aerial photography for about $150 total.
The larger size means this is an outdoor-only machine.
Amazon Link to Syma X8C Venture

Syma X8C Venture

Syma X8C Venture

NOTE – ALL OF THE ABOVE QUADCOPTERS USE “BRUSHED” MOTORS WHICH WILL NEED REPLACING AFTER A COUPLE HOURS OF FLIGHT. Keep in mind that a couple hours of flight can easily mean 15-30+ total flights as each flight is approx. 8 minutes.

Under $200

Stepping up in price you find quadcopters with brushless motors (read about them here) which last much longer and are MUCH quicker. That can be a problem for complete beginners as the lower priced brushless models do not have GPS and RTH (automatic Return to Home if too far away).

The HiSky HMX280 is an example of this breed – here is our review and here is the link to Banggood to Purchase.

Hisky HMX260 Brushless Quadcopter

Hisky HMX260 Brushless Quadcopter

The lowest priced Brushless Quadcopter is the JJRC X1 available at this Banggood link. As of this writing it seems to be stocked for both US (direct) shipping as well as worldwide.

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