Browsing All Posts By Steven Robertson

Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition Review

Parrot-AR.Drone-2.0The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition Quadcopter is the latest version of AR’s popular series of personal drones. The Power Edition introduces a new black color scheme with a variety of colored rotors and more importantly, a huge improvement in battery life – up to 36 minutes! This is achieved through the use of 2 batteries, something that previously could only be done with your modifications.

In addition to the massive battery life, this quadcopter is also powered via the smartphone app; there is no controller. This is quite different from other quadcopters, such as the popular DJI Phantom FC40, which use a controller in conjunction with a smartphone. What this means for you is that you would have one less piece to tune and calibrate before taking off.

Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition Review
Parrot AR Drone 2.0

Specifications Summary

  • Smartphone app controlled
  • Integrated 720p HD camera
  • iOS and Android compatible
  • 36 minute flight time per charge
  • Live video streaming
  • Automatic stabilization system
  • 2 1500 mAh LiPo batteries
  • 50 meter range
  • Lightweight – 380 grams

Why you want it

The Power Edition of the Parrot has been redesigned with a much more stealthly and sleek look – all black. The only color on the quadcopter comes from the rotors, which AR furnishes in orange, red, blue, or – you guessed it – black. So, if you’re a fan of the Sith or the Darkside, the choice is easy for you.

However, the real appeal of the Parrot is it’s ability to pull off some extremely tight maneuvers, such as cornering and barrel rolls. If you’re looking for a speedy quadcopter that is a whole lot of fun to fly, this is the quadcopter you’ve been looking for. Just check out this video:

Design & Build

While not the most aesthetically pleasing quadcopter on the market, the redesigned Parrot has some nice updates. Firstly, there are two bodies. There is an outdoor body, which is sleek and streamlined, allowing for some very cool maneuvers. Or, you can choose the “indoor” body, which provides circular rotor guards as well as foam like padding for the body.

The new Parrot also includes two batteries, which theoretically doubles your flight time. However, you will have to land and swap batteries; the 36 minutes of flight time is not continuous unless you modify the quadcopter to carry both batteries.

Despite its flimsy looking appearance, the Parrot is designed to fly and that it does very well. The Parrot is extremely aerodynamic, which when combined with it’s lightweight design makes for some very fun flying.

Flying It

The Parrot is controlled via it’s smartphone app, which is an interesting approach. This eliminates a lot of the headaches of calibration and tuning users experience with a traditional RC controller. All you really need to do is turn on the drone, fire up and the app and you’re ready to fly.

The app functions much like flying games and is quick and easy to learn. You can use the onscreen controls or your phone’s accelerometer to control the drone. The app can sometimes be glitchy and freeze, however it doesn’t seem to crash. The Wi-Fi connection between the drone and your phone is strong and does not drop out, which is a plus.

Once in the air, the Parrot is a pleasure to fly. We found it’s movements to be very precise and easy to maneuver, which at first is unexpected given it is being controlled from a touch screen.

Flying indoors we were able to successfully navigate through an office – straight down hallways, around corners and through doorways. Never once did we feel the Parrot was drifting or out of control.

Flying outdoors is where the Parrot really shines. Here we were able to take advantage of the drone’s speed and agility. Again, when it does work, the app performed surprisingly well when controlling the drone; it’s clear AR is really onto something with this.

The really amazing feature of the Parrot is the barrel roll. A double tap on the touchscreen and the drone performs this super cool move. Check out the video below to see what we’re talking about:

There are a few negatives here. Firstly, as we’ve already mentioned, the app can be glitchy. We noticed this most when doing barrel rolls, which really is a shame as it’s the coolest thing about the Parrot. About 50% of the time the Parrot just didn’t roll when we double tapped the screen. To be fair, it could be the phone or it could be the app or it could be the way the app was running on the phone. Controlling a drone via a smartphone is a very new thing and undoubtedly there will be updates and improvements. We did find that there are more apps becoming available via sites like drone-apps.com. But, for now, expect a few things to go wrong.

Overall, we found the Parrot to be really fun and entertaining to fly, more so than other quadcopters. Clearly, this is a different kind of flying experience, one that’s geared more towards the RC crowd.

The camera is a great addition for the Parrot and provides great footage. This is especially true when navigating indoors; we really had a lot of fun flying around the office and can see how this could make for some really entertaining video.

Outdoors the camera proved to be slightly disappointing. The lens is rather narrow which made for scenes to be tight rather than wide and panoramic. This is an odd choice since the market for outdoor quadcopter video has really grown and still has high demand.

The Good

  • Barrel roll, barrel roll, barrel roll!
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Long flight time
  • App controls are easy to use
  • Stable flight
  • Control app is well laid out
  • Navigating and flying easy to learn

The Bad

  • 3 or more hours per charge
  • Toy-like build materials
  • App can be glitchy and unresponsive
  • Camera lens is slightly narrow

The Verdict

If you’re looking for drone that is fun and easy to fly for a reasonable price, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition Quadcopter is a great choice. The Parrot is easy to learn and fun to fly. While the video and overall experience is not as high quality as other quadcopters, for the money we think you are getting what you pay for.

However, if you’re looking for something a bit more serious or if you’re more interested in a quadcopter with the best video you should consider something in the DJI Phantom line.

Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition Review
Parrot AR Drone 2.0

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UDI U818A Gyro RC Review

UDI-U818AThe UDI U818A Gyro Quadcopter with Camera is the big brother to UDI’s Micro-UFO. This quadcopter comes with and onboard camera and is controlled via UDI’s excellent 2.4 Ghz transmitter.

Featuring a similar 4-ring design to the AR Parrot, UDI has included what they call a “six axis gyro system.” This system consists of 3 gyros and 3 accelerometers, which work together to stabilize the quadcopter during flight and also add agility.

UDI has also added an onboard camera, which is an excellent upgrade. This also shows that UDI is serious about competing with others for the title of best quadcopter with camera. However, the big question is – how much quadcopter can you really get for the price?

UDI U818A Gyro RC Review
UDI U818A 2.4GHz

Specifications

  • 6 – 9 minutes of flight time
  • 300 foot range
  • 500 mAh LiPo battery
  • 60 minute charge time
  • 2.4 Ghz digital transmitter
  • 6 point axis gyro system
  • Camera records onto MicroSD card

Why you want it

Simply put, this is a really fun quadcopter to fly for not a lot of money. For less than a hundred bucks you get a quadcopter with a camera and a separate controller that does some pretty cool in-flight tricks. Like the Parrot, you can do barrel rolls, but because you’ve got a controller and not just an app, you gain a level of manual control akin to other quadcopters like the DJI Phantom series.

Overall, while you’re missing many positives offered in other quadcopters, like GPS or the ability to mount a GoPro, you still get all the essentials. Because of it’s low sticker price we could easily see this as a starter drone for young adults, or even a small fleet used for PR events.

Design & Build

The 4-ring design ingeniously protects the rotors, and while this doesn’t make it crash proof it certainly does help eliminate damage to the most vital parts. Unlike other quadcopters that use the design, the rings are not so delicate and give the drone an overall firm feeling.

We found that overall the U818A quadcopter was well built and able to hold up well to the usual landing, take off and flying conditions. The 4-ring design does take some getting used to, especially in windy conditions, more so than other designs that seem to utilize a lower center of gravity to better deal with wind and turbulence.

Flying It

Flying is where the U818A really excels. UDI has included two flight modes which are accessed via the controller. You can think of them as high performance and standard. Once you’ve gotten the hang of maneuvering you can switch into high performance mode and really have some fun.

In high performance mode you are able to fly the quadcopter at higher speeds and also perform loops and barrel rolls. Unlike the AR Parrot, you’re not limited to single rolls because the U818A uses a controller. With a little practice you can be performing double and triple rolls and having a lot of fun.

This video gives you a good idea of how much fun this quadcopter is to fly:

The U818A’s camera is accessed via controller. With the push of a button you can take still photographs or record video. The quality of the video is surprisingly good for this price point and rivals many other quadcopters with cameras. Once you get the hang of doing rolls and other tricky moves recording them on camera adds to the fun.

Despite it being so easy to use, there are a few negatives with the camera. Firstly, you cannot see what you are shooting. Therefore, you will have to learn to assess the angle of the camera through trial and error.

Also, the lens is quite narrow. If you are looking for the kind of breath taking landscape shots and panoramic videos you are seeing on YouTube and on sites like dronestagram you will be disappointed. The U818A’s camera seems to be best suited for capturing the quadcopters high speed maneuvers in first person video.

Like other quadcopters with camera, the U818A records photos and video onto a Micro-SD card. We found the video didn’t need any touching up or enhancing, it was clear and crisp. Of course, the quality of video does rely on lighting and weather conditions.

The flight range was another disappointment. Compared to other quadcopters, like the DJI Phantom 2, the U818A’s range of 300 feet left us wanting more.

Likewise, the lack of GPS and return to home features again, left us wanting more. However, for the money it is hard to expect a quadcopter that is fully loaded with features.

The Good

  • Rotor guards offer good protection
  • Body is strong
  • High-speed flight mode is very fun
  • Cheaper than a night on the town
  • Separate controller
  • Push button camera operation

The Bad

  • No camera preview
  • Short battery life
  • Limited range
  • Long charge time for battery
  • Lacks GPS navigation

The Verdict

If you’re looking to get into the personal drone or quadcopter game without spending much cash then this is a good bet. Despite its shortcomings, it’s hard to overlook the price of the UDI U818A 2.4GHz 4 CH 6 Axis Gyro RC Quadcopter with Camera RTF Mode 2.

At such a low price point it’s possible to look at this quadcopter a few different ways. For example, this could be a good introductory quadcopter for a teenager or young adult.

This could also take your vacation to the next level with some super cool video on the beach or wherever you take the family.

If you’re a small business owner you might consider buying three or four of these quadcopters and using them for PR purposes at events.

This could also make a great addition for any sports team. Just imagine getting video of the homecoming kick off this fall or the opening pitch of a little league baseball game.

Again, because the price is so low and because it has a camera the sky is the limit to the number of applications for this quadcopter.

UDI U818A Gyro RC Review
UDI U818A 2.4GHz

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DJI Inspire 1 – Is this the Best Quadcopter Yet?

dji-inspire-1DJI has once again shaken up the drone and quadcopter world with a real game changer – the DJI Inspire 1. That might sound like a platitude or just a sales pitch, but it’s true; one look at this drone and you can see that things have changed.

Not only has DJI completely redesigned the look of quadcopters, they have also invested time and energy into increasing the usability, particularly for people new to the game. In addition, there are a load of new features that have not been available before. This is one area that DJI has lagged in before — we’ve seen a number of ‘new’ quadcopters that really were just a sort of greatest hits collections of previous iterations. With the Inspire 1 DJI really has taken some great steps forward and set the bar very high for competitors.

DJI Inspire 1 – Is this the Best Quadcopter Yet?
DJI Inspire 1

Design

Let’s start with the most obvious update – the look and design. As you can see, the Inspire 1 was designed to drop the trademark white color and soft lines of the Phantom and instead they have come out with an entirely new design that is right off the set of a sci-fi film. We think that ‘s a good thing. And the design isn’t just looks – it’s also part of the fun. When the Inspire 1 takes off the legs fold up underneath, which is pretty amazing. This is not only a cool, eye-popping feature, but also allows for uninhibited 360 degree video. We’ll get to that in a bit. Of course the legs also unfold when landing, which is just as cool to see as when it takes off. Take a look at this video to see for yourself.

As you can see, this drone is far better than smaller drones like the AR Parrot, and yet it’s still a lot of fun. But before we crown this as the best quadcopter with a camera, let’s take a look at the features.

Features

As we mentioned before, the Inspire 1 has some considerable upgrades. First up is the camera and gimbal system. Sporting an amazing 12 megapixel 4K camera with a 1/2 inch CMOS sensor, this quadcopter camera produces amazing photos with less distortion or clipping than any other. In fact the video produced can be up to 30 FPS, and with a 94 degree wide angle lens you can really get the best shots and video of any subject. Also, as we mentioned before, with the folding legs comes the ability to shoot video in 360 degrees. This is due to the rotating gimbal, something that we have seen on other drones but never to this quality. In this area the Inspire 1 really out shines other quadcopters. With this kind of quality, I’m sure you can find some inspiration to get out there and start shooting.

In addition to upgrading the camera, DJI has used new materials in construction of the body. This new construction is lighter than before, yet still durable. What this means is that battery life is extended without adding a bulkier battery. Therefore, you still get the responsiveness and nimbleness when flying that the Phantom series is known for.

One feature that has made the DJI Phantom 2 so popular has been its ease of use; it’s been known as probably the easiest drone to get started with while still offering a range of features to make it. The Inspire 1 continues that tradition. In fact, despite it’s futuristic looks, the Inspire 1 is just as easy to start flying as any other DJI quadcopter. We would even go a step further and say that this drone could be easier to fly because of it’s more aerodynamic design – it’s not just for looks, that sleek frame allows the Inspire 1 to move through the air with less resistance than previous designs.

Last but not least, DJI introduces an innovative new control system. The Inspire 1 has the option of being controlled via two controllers. With dual controllers enabled, one person can pilot the drone while the second person can operate the camera, controlling where it is pointed. Of course, this can also be done with just one controller as well, but hey, two is more fun, right?

Wrap-up

With forward thinking design, a powerful camera and 22nd Century styling, the Inspire 1 truly looks to not only shake up the drone game but also change it.

DJI Inspire 1 – Is this the Best Quadcopter Yet?
DJI Inspire 1

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Giving you the lowdown on Drones

drone-flying-lakeDrones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are whirring around everywhere we look. They’re delivering packages, tracking terrorists, and supplying some of the best camera angles we’ve seen in years.

But what exactly are they, and how do you get your hands on one?

With somewhere around zero minutes of flight time under my belt, I was a complete beginner as I set out to see what it really takes to get into the drone game. I did some research and thought I would share it with you in this guide.

Drones 101

Drones are available in all sizes and shapes and for now they’re not just toys anymore. Under FAA regulations, hobbyists must keep their vessels lower than 400 feet and the commercial use of drones is restricted under the agency’s current framework. However, that is expected to change in the near future (update: new regulations are here).

So, whether you’re scoping out a new line of work or filming your buddy as he drops in before you, drones are effective, flexible tools for the outdoors.

What exactly is a drone?

Drones, quadcopters, UAV, sUAS – there are a lot of names for the little (and not so little ) flying robots that, over the next five to 10 years, are expected to take over the skies. Here are the basics of what you need to know to kick off your drone obsession.

Technically speaking, a “drone” refers to any unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can get around entirely by itself through the help of GPS tracking systems. In the real world, “drone” often means any UAV, some of which have autonomous flying capabilities, many of which do not– but rather are simply “smart” RC helicopters or airplanes. Many of these UAVs have on-board cameras, crash-avoidance systems, and other high-tech settings not available on traditional RC flying vehicles, making them a kind of hybrid between standard RC fliers and true drones.

Take a look at this amazing video that filmmaker Phillip Bloom made during a holiday in Thailand. If this doesn’t make you want a drone, I don’t know what will:

In the terms of government, police, or military drones, we’re referring to large, terribly complicated UAVs, operated by exceptionally competent pilots. For our purposes, let’s just forget all about these futuristic killing machines for a moment and focus on the fun side of drones.

Learning to Fly

Okay, so, now we (kinda) know what drones are. How hard are they to fly? It all depends on the specific aircraft. Some are easy enough for your grandmother to get going, others dang near need a computer science degree and a pilot’s license to keep in the air. Fortunately, you can start off simple, and move up in complexity (and functionality) as you hone your skills.

This video gives you an idea of what you’ll need to do to get started:

Drone Etiquette

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Yes, these camera-equipped drones could be used to spy on people. Don’t be a perv – that’s rude, and quite possibly illegal. Note that Federal Aviation Administration rules say that you can’t take your drone over 400 feet in the air, and you can’t fly it out of the line of sight– even if you’re guiding it with the help of the camera.

Additionally, once you get a bit of practice, you might start thinking about how to make money from your newfound drone talents. But beware: The FAA prohibits all “commercial drone” purposes, unless you receive special permission from the agency, which isn’t easy to do. Reconsider before you put “Aerial photographer” on your business cards.

Take things slowly when you’re first getting going. There will be lots of time to show off your skills– once you really have some.

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Quadcopter Photography Ideas

drone-photographyIf you’re considering buying a quadcopter or drone, you probably know the most popular use for a quadcopter now is for photography. You’re probably also looking for quadcopter photography ideas to help you get the most out of your quadcopter, so we decided to make this guide to help you get started.

Most people call quadcopter video and photography aerial photography. Traditionally, this meant photo and video taken from airplane or helicopters and as such was extremely expensive. However, thanks to innovations in technology and engineering now just about anyone can enjoy aerial photography.

One of the main reasons for this is because of the rapid advancement in camera technology. This means you can shoot extremely high quality HD video with a quadcopter for not much of an investment. Even better, you don’t need to be a professional to do it, all you need to do is get your quadcopter in the air and start shooting.

Getting Started with Quadcopter Photography

One of the first things you should do is read our page on the best quadcopters. We’ve got a lot of information there the help you understand the different models on the market. This can help you make the right choice based on your budget and how you want to use your quadcopter.

This new technology has really leveled the playing field for creative and high quality aerial photography and video.

FPV vs Traditional Aerial Photography

Before we go any further, it’s important that we define a key term – FPV. When we use the term FPV regarding quadcopter cameras what we really mean is the type of engaging and immersive video that is becoming so popular with personal drones. This is different from traditional aerial photography for one significant reason – altitude.

Normally, aerial photography is taken at very high altitudes from aircraft such as military jets or commercial blimps. Aerial photography is often commissioned to survey a piece of land, or study an area that is dangerous for humans to enter, such as a volcano.

But again, we can see that quadcopters have leveled the playing field, to a certain extent. You can easily use a quadcopter to survey a piece of land, and theoretically you could even fly over a volcano with a quadcopter. In fact, that’s exactly what these people did:


This gives you an idea of how disruptive and innovation quadcopter technology really is.

In order to really get the best photo and video from your quadcopter it can be helpful to take a look at how others are using theirs.

Useful Resources

If you’re looking for inspiration take a look at the some ideas and video clips we’ve listed below. You may also want to check out some of the following websites:

• National Geographic has a nice series on quadcopter photography here. This focuses mainly on using the DJI Phantom for outdoor aerial photography.

Dronestagram is a French run website with some really stunning examples of photo and video taken around the world with quadcopters.

• Twisted Sifter has an incredible list of the 25 best aerial photographs here. I’m sure you can find some inspiration with that.

Suggestions from around the Web

Sell Real Estate

Are you trying to sell your house or a property? Looking for a way to stand out from the crowded market and showcase your propertry? Making a video with a quadcopter allows potential buyers get a different perspective. This is slowly gaining popularity with real estate agents as well as independent sellers.

Sports Event Photography

Quadcopters are excellent for filming and photographing sporting events and activities. These videos give a unique perspective from above and make the events even more thrilling. Another cool application here is for coaches and athletes who wish to analyze a performance that is normally difficult to break down.

Vacation Videos

This one goes without saying – no more boring slide shows of the grand canyon. For less than a DSLR you can capture some absolutely stunning photos and videos of your vacations. You can even unleash your creativity like these people did.

Music Festivals

Summer is festival season, and some festivals just can’t be described in words. So why not use a quadcopter to capture the moments? Imagine if we could have filmed Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock or Jim Morrison’s final performance with a drone? The people at Burning Man have already thought of this.

Sunrise & Sunset

What can be more amazing than a photograph of a sunrise or sunset? A video from a quadcopter of course! While most people think of using the typical bird’s eye view camera for quadcopter video, this is one area where a First Person Video (FPV), like that on a DJI Phantom or the Parrot can be really unique.

Sunrise & Sunset at a Monument

Top that sunrise and sunset video at the lake or in a field by doing it at a monument like these people did.

Fireworks Video

By now there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen this video. If not, here’s the story. Videographer Jos Stiglinh flew a DJI Phantom through a 4th of July fireworks display in West Palm Beach, Florida. The resulting video is amazing and has gone viral around the web. Enjoy!

Make a Music Video

French alternative rock band Pheonix have made probably one of the coolest music videos by using a drone. Produced by La Blogotheque, the band is followed through the streets of Versaille performing their song “Entertainment” while also showcasing the sights of one of France’s most beautiful cities. Check it out.

Taking the Next Step

We hope that you’ve found some inspiration and quadcopter photography ideas from the websites and videos above.

As you can see, the sky is the limit for using a quadcopter to make amazing videos. You can do anything from filming events to going so far as to make a short film or music video. It’s really up to you, and that’s what makes quadcopter video so cool.

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