Best Selling Camera Drones in June 2016

Phantom 3 Standard - #1 in June, 2016

As a new feature we are going to try and report the best selling GPS Camera Drones on a regular (monthly and possibly weekly) basis.

The data is from (US).

New this month are the inclusion of the Autel Robotics X-Star and the Yuneec H – both new entries into the Camera Drone Category.

Without further ado, here is the list:
#54 DJI Phantom 3 Standard –
#120 DJI Phantom 4 –
#153 DJI Phantom 3 4K –
#242 DJI Phantom 3 Advanced –
#353 Autel X-Star Premium –
#362 DJI Phantom 3 Pro –
#450 Yuneec Typhoon H –

Others models which are selling fairly well are the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 (and oldie!) and BeBop (various) Models.

Phantom 3 Standard - #1 in June, 2016

Phantom 3 Standard – #1 in June, 2016

Notes on this Data – It is very difficult to pin down Drone sales on Amazon due to miscategorization of many models – that is, Amazon may have one Drone under “Quadcopters”, another under only “Camera and Photo” and yet another under “Cell Phones” or other improper category. Also, some models have multiple listings/sellers, so we have to add up the 2 or more rankings. Due to these and other factors, the data is not exact…however, it probably represents the “best guess” at this specific point in time.

How Video and Photography Drones Work

Animation of Electronic Gyroscope

How Video and Photography Drones Work
For Beginners and those who want to know the basics behind these miracle machines.

Drones are in the news almost daily with millions being sold and flown. However, many are not familiar with the mechanics of how they work. This article will provide a basic explanation of the systems that keep a modern Camera Drone flying.

Is it Magic?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke

For our more logical minds, it may help to rename magic to “sensor fusion” which is defined as:
“combining of sensory data or data derived from disparate sources such that the resulting information has less uncertainty than would be possible when these sources were used individually.”

Some fancy words…for sure! An example might help. Most modern automobiles have anti-lock brakes which use various sensors and computers to acheive a better result than a human driver would. Based on the slippage of the tires, the steering angle and other such inputs, the anti-lock systems makes decisions which help your car stay on the road. It is only the combination of these sensors (sensor fusion) and the proper programming which makes the system function as intended.

Modern camera quadcopters, such as the Phantom 3 or Phantom 4 series, need to have control of multiple systems:

The flying machine itself
The camera/gimbal combination
Radio Control between the ground and the drone.

Keeping the drone AND the camera steady and under control results in the desired end – butter smooth video and stunning photographs.

Multirotor Flight Control Sensors and Instruments [Read more…]

FAA Opens US Skies to Drones and Business!

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.52.28 PM

In what is probably the biggest (and best) news of 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration has finally made a decision on how to integrate drones into the national airspace.

Rather than rehash the gory details, here are some basics and a summary – as well as links to other articles and announcements.

Here is an announcement from DJI – the largest manufacturer of Camera Drones.

Here is a detailed, but technical, news story from one of our industry orgs.

The Past

Up until now, business use of drones was difficult – only hobby use (no payment received) was allowable under the existing rules. This meant that farmers, photographers, surveyors and other uses were off-limits to anyone except a special few – you needed to be a actual REAL pilot and apply to the FAA for a specific license.

The New Rule

The new rule opens up the skies to most all of us! Budding drone pilots will have to meet some basic requirements and take a test to prove their knowledge. To qualify for business use:
1. The person actually flying a drone must be at least 16 years old
2.To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center
3. The TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate.
4. Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only – Daylight operations only. Other conditions such as not flying over people, maximum speed, etc. will apply.
5. Certain types of accidents must be reported.

The Rule will go into effect in 60 days (mid-August, 2016).

Get Ready for the Boom

This is the ruling that has been awaited for a year or more and will result in BILLIONS of dollars of new economic activity. Buckle your seat belts – Uncle Sam has finally come around and the gears of our economic engine are about to be engaged.

Did your Drone Crash? Maybe it’s not your Fault!


Did your Drone Crash? Maybe it’s not your Fault!

“Learn how to fly”
“RTFM” (read the friggin manual).
“you didn’t know how to operate the product you bought”
“Too many drone pilots rely on GPS and have no experience flying a quad in manual”

These are just a few of the “blame the customer” type of comments that I read on various drone forums. The comments are often directed at fellow pilots who come onto those forums to report crashes and ask what they may have done wrong. Getting past the rude behavior of the respondents, let’s discuss crashes of modern drones and who or what may be at fault.

Toy Drone, FPV Racing Drones, etc.

First, let’s dispense with the very basic quadcopters typically priced from $20-$250. These are not truly “drones” in the proper use of the word since they ARE manually controlled by the operator. Reliability of these types of devices varies greatly and the unskilled operator is likely to crash…early and often!
It can be summarized that, in most cases, the crashing or loss (fly away) of this class of machines are due to one form or another of operator error. This may be a lack of judgement such as flying on windy days and/or in close proxity to obstacles…or simply a lack of basic piloting skills.
The same logic applies to most DIY (building a drone from parts) situations. There are too many variable involved in the parts, labor, design, etc. to hold the manufacturers liable for the mishaps.

GPS Camera Drones

The more sophisticated consumer drones available today sell for $300 – $2000+ and usually contain a stabilized camera as well as number of sensors and flight aids including GPS. Here is an article explaining the basics of what makes a camera drone fly. These machines are flying robots…a combination of computers and mechanical devices which, when properly combined, can make safe and reliable flight a possibility.
[Read more…]

Eachine Falcon 180: Plus Performance in a Tiny Package for under $110!

Falcon 180

Racing drones continue to gain in popularity and diversity, with sizes ranging from about 330 mm all the way down to about 120mm. The prices are all over the board as well. While generally cheaper than their AV Drone cousins, a high end racing drone can still cost $600+ in a ready to fly or a plug and fly (add your own receiver) configuration. Eachine for the most part has been targeting the value side of the market, offering low cost racing drones that offer pretty good performance at bargain basement prices. The Falcon 180 is their latest entry into this market, a scaled down Falcon 250 with some new configuration options, and a few familiar warts as well. So what does the Falcon 180 bring to the table that might make you want to buy it? Read on to find out (and skip to the bottom to see the Falcon 180 in action)!

[Read more…]

5 Reasons Why DJI GO Only Scratches the Surface of your DJI Drone Potential

Closeup of First Mission

By: Kevin Mukai –

DJI GO is the primary application that many DJI pilots use to fly their drone. However, while DJI GO is great for most users, it often does not sufficiently satisfy the many tastes diverse pilots around the world yearn for.

Thanks to DJI’s SDK (Software or Solutions Development Kit), there are now other applications that DJI pilots can easily install on their mobile device for a completely different (and many times, superior) flying experience. It’s not uncommon to hear pilots say that they don’t trust 3rd-party applications – for the record, I don’t blame them. Your drone is a big investment and you don’t want to risk anything happening.

With that said, the top 3rd-party DJI apps have thousands of users and substantial flying hours and testing under their belts. I’ve had conversations with many pilots who trust these 3rd-party apps more than they trust DJI GO because of better connectivity, control, and other factors that I’ll outline below.

Without further ado, here are 5 reasons why DJI GO only scratches the surface of your DJI drone’s potential. [Read more…]

Why Fly a Drone – and Which Drone to Fly?


At our mission is customer education. Those interested in this pursuit would be well served to start out by understanding the various types of drones…or segments of the market in more businesslike terms.

Toy Drones – Millions of these machines are sold and they are somewhat disposable. They are used as pilot trainers and for fun and indoor/backyard flying. In general, the prices run from $15 to $100.
(Popular brands include Syma, Hubsan and UDI)

FPV (First Person View) and Racing Drones – These tend to be mid-sized machines with cameras designed to give the operator a “drone view”. Many operators use headgear (goggles) to get a real feeling of flying. These are usually not equipped with GPS as they are flown within relatively close proximity of the pilots. FPV drones are often sold ARF or “Almost Ready to Fly” and may require some additional parts and labor before they are ready to fly. Some companies are starting to offer RTF (Ready-to-Fly) kits at higher prices. The average price range for FPV quadcopters ranges from $250-$600 although you can certainly spend a lot more if you get high resolution goggles and other upgrades. FPV-type quadcopters can be purchased for as little as $100 without the FPV gear (cameras/monitors/etc.). This type of system can provide some fun while being a step up in speed, longevity and skill level from the toy grade drones.
(Popular brands include Walkera, Eachine, TBS and Blade)

Aerial Photography (AP) Drones – these are, by far, the largest part of the market by revenue and we will likely see 2-3 Billion dollars worth (at retail) sold in 2016. [Read more…]

Yuneec Typhoon H Hexacopter – Is it for you?

Yuneec Model H

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 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 (June, 2016) – 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
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.
[Read more…]

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.


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.
[Read more…]

2016 USA Camera Drone Sales – Projections and Commentary


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.
[Read more…]