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.
First Pilots are Reporting Problems
The Yuneec Typhoon H (shortened to H) hit 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.
All of the initial orders have been delivered and many have started flying the H. Unfortunately, there have been many malfunctions, crashes and QC problems. You can read for yourself over at the Yuneec Pilots Forums – but the problems seem to be:
1. GPS Problems- Yuneec has admitted to this.
2. Camera Quality – experienced photographers have declared the camera to be sub-par and not up to the level of the DJI equipment. There are also many Quality Control problems (out of focus, etc.) with the included camera.
3. Lack of Documentation – poor or non-existent documentation is causing many problems.
Large numbers of the first buyers have had to send their drones back to Yuneec for repair. Some of the crashes and malfunctions are not covered under warranty (Yuneec does not warrant against crashing).
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
Community (other experts who help users)
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.
Flying – the H doesn’t fly faster, further or more reliably than other existing drones in the same class.
Camera – the H does not have a superior camera (MegaPixels,bitrate/lens/settings) to other existing drones in the same class.
This being the case, why are writers and reviewers extolling the “game changer” aspect of the H?
The answer is quite complex. First, as mentioned above, there are very few choices in the world of consumer camera drones. Imagine if we all bought cars from one or two makers who each sold 2 models. We’d be hungry for the “next big thing”, even if it was a similar car in pink with large fins on the rear. Marketers talk about “differentiation” which is a fancy term describing that many consumers want something different than their neighbor or friend has.
Yuneec Typhoon H Differentiation
Note: Differentiation does not mean such factors are superior or inferior. You, as the consumer, have to determine the value or perceived value of these differences.
The Typhoon is different than other consumer quadcopters in the following ways:
1. It is a Hexacopter – meaning it has 6 rotors. All things being equal, 6 rotors could provide more payload and more reliability as the H can recover if one motor or prop fails.
2. It’s large – Some would say this makes it easier to see at a distance – others would lament the larger size makes it more difficult to operate in relative stealth.
3. It’s black – while DJI has become famous for white machines and new entrant Autel Robotics features orange.
4. It has folding arms, retractable landing gear and the camera gimbal can swing 360 degrees (other models can act similarly by having the entire craft rotate, but there may be some shots or maneuvers which the 360 degrees allows to be done easier. Those who need such a feature will not need further explanation.
5. It has a built-in screen which runs a dedicated app – whereas most other models require you to use a phone or tablet. This, again, could be a plus or minus as you are limited to the screen size (7″) and location/angle of it.
6. It is from a different company and has a completely different OS (user interface), etc.
7. The Manufacturer claims the the addition of a module (Realsense by Intel) will allow for much better computer vision than the current sonar (close range) obstacle avoidance which is built in.
8. As a complete package with the screen/app and a simpler interface (less options, etc.), it may be more suitable for novice pilots than machines with more settings and options.
Lastly, there is little doubt this is the coolest looking consumer drone in the sky! It doesn’t look like a cockroach or a tomato or an egg – it looks like something from another world….which is just the point! If this were a beauty contest, the H would be on the throne.
Is the Yuneec H a good Value?
At $1299, a complete Hexactoper with front and bottom sonar and a decent camera…and, an included screen…is most certainly a decent value for the money spent. Whether or not it meets your current and/or future needs is another question – one that hopefully this and other reading will help you determine.
Questions, Concerns and Notable Shortcomings of the Yuneec Typhoon H
No drone is perfect – especially those priced as consumer products and which are brand new to the market. Rather than a exhaustive lists of pros and cons, we’ll list out some of the specs and initial judgements and/or concerns about the craft and let the reader do additional research to determine the validity of each item.
Build Quality – many buyers have commented that earlier Yuneec Models (Q series) felt cheap and lightweight – mentioning the the plastics seemed of low quality and that the machines shattered when an accident occured. Similar comments about the new H, both the body and the gimbal, have been made – however only time (crashes!) will tell if the model is of solid construction. All drones crash – so it is of some importance as to how much damage is done in the lesser accidents.
Programming/User Interface – Yuneec includes various “modes” which could be confusing to some users. For example, in the stock “Smart” mode the programming creates a “safe” circle around the operator and does not allow the pilot to land within 25 feet of where they are standing. This has already caused some crashes as attempts to land in such a fashion cause the machine to speed away toward the “safe” landing zone even if an object (tree, fence, etc.) is in the way.
Confusion over Obstacle Avoidance – Intel Realsense, the system Yuneec advertised which gives the H “Computer vision” is not included on the released model. Instead it has a front facing sonar module which has a very limited range (5 feet) and is not even in the same league as either RealSense or the DJI Phantom 4 (Movidius) systems. In our experience, Sonar systems (called VPS by DJI) are not useful for most piloting. Prospective buyer should understand that the RealSense module is likely to cost $400-$500 additional when it is available.
Shorter Warranty – The Yuneec warranty is 6 months while most competing models offer a one year warranty.
We could go on and on with technical and other comparisons and specs, but the above represents some of the major questions a prospective buyer should research. As with all such machines, more time and experience will truly tell the tale.
Summary – Not a Game Changer, but still in the Game
The lack of a better camera and true computer vision (at launch) are two major items which hold the H back from being superior to other machines on the market. The camera quality – which, in our opinion, is the #1 reason for buying machines in this price range, seems no better than that of the DJI Phantom 3 Pro, released over one year ago.
In terms of flight control and monitoring software (telemetry, mapping, etc.), the DJI products are currently more mature. Yuneec does not have any map overlay and lacks many of the sophisticated options in the DJI Go App.
Despite not being a true “game changer”, the Yuneec H will likely sell well and satisfy many users, especially those who desire a simpler out-of-the-box experience. We’ve always suggested Yuneec as “a brand that works” and will continue to do so as long as they provide reliability and value.
Based on the $1299 price, most shoppers will be comparing the H to two other machines, the DJI Phantom 3 Pro and the DJI Phantom 4. The Phantoms have a longer range, more sophisticated software and a longer track record with 100’s of thousands in the field. They also have more 4rd party apps for enhanced functions such as mapping and 3D modeling. Those who don’t care about obstacle avoidance or computer vision (fancy tracking, etc.) will be more than satisfied with the P3P for about $900. Those who want the latest and greatest in computer vision will likely go for for the Phantom 4 at $1399. The Yunneec offers computer vision in the future (optional Realsense), so it does keep that option open – unlike the Phantom 3, however since it is unreleased we have no idea how well it will work in the real world.
Budget users will likely not be shopping for any of these models since a $500 DJI Phantom 3 Standard will likely satisfy their needs.
Our general opinion on computer vision and obstacle avoidance is that a good pilot doesn’t currently need these features – although we are excited about the future of the technology. In a similar fashion to self-driving cars, these drones will be the future – but we aren’t there yet!
What the first owners of the Typhoon H are saying
The first general consensus is that pilots are enjoying their Typhoon H drones, however they have expressed a desire to see various features added. As a prospective customer, you can browse the Yuneec forums to get the feel of what the first owners think. Here are two links to get you started:
Suggestions for Yuneec – at Yuneec Pilots Forum
What we’d like to see added – at Yuneec Pilots Forum
Note – some time has gone by since this article was first written – and quite a few problems are starting to show up with the Typhoon H. Please read the Yuneec forums carefully before making a buying decision.
Amazon Links for the Yuneec H and other models mentioned.
For those who want a detailed video comparison (one hour – but you can skip toward the end if you like) – here it is: