In an effort to keep up with the rapidly DJI-dominant consumer drone market, Chinese drone manufacturer Yuneec has a new gimmick up its sleeve: voice control.
Yuneec today announced the Mantis Q, the latest addition to its line of consumer drones. The $499, voice-controlled drone resembles the DJI Mavic and Spark drones with its ability to fold its arms against its body to a 6.6 x 3.8 inch mass. It is highly portable, weighing just one pound.
Like most consumer drones these days, it offers 4K video. The camera can be tilted upwards by up to 20 degrees or downwards by 90 degrees during flight. For cinematic camera flights, the Mantis Q also comes with Yuneec’s automatic flight modes such as Journey, Point of Interest and Orbit Me. Down-facing dual sonar sensors and infrared detection make it safe enough to fly indoors and outdoors.
That’s all pretty much the norm for most consumer drones these days. So what makes Yuneec’s Mantis Q special?
The Mantis Q voice control features allows users to take a photo or begin recording video all without having to manually take their hands off of the controls. It responds to commands such as “Wake up” for powering on, “Take a picture”, “Record a video” and “Take a selfie”. It will also respond to the flight commands such as “Take off” to automatically start flying and then come up to a hover or auto-landing commands such as “Return home”.
Scroll down to the bottom of this post to get my opinion on voice control, but before then, I will point out one feature that does seem legitimately useful: long battery life. Yuneec claims the Mantis Q can stay in the air for up to 33 minutes (the Mavic Air has a flight time of just 21 minutes).
Drone Girl’s initial thoughts on the Yuneec Mantis Q
So is this drone impressive enough to compete with the other drones on the market — namely DJI’s Spark and Mavic Air? The Drone Girl team hasn’t had a chance to get our hands on it ourselves yet, so don’t take this as any sort of review — but it is tough to get excited about a new gimmicky feature on a drone that lacks legitimately useful features that the DJI Spark and DJI Mavic Air offer.
The main talking point — pun intended — with the new Mantis Q is “voice control.” My big concern is that this is a feature that further complicates software, without solving real problems that drones deal with and still need to be solved.
That’s not to say the voice control feature is a total waste. It will be nice to have a selfie-video where you don’t have the controller in your hands, and the feature could prove truly essential for people with disabilities.
But as a drone pilot who is big on safety and who flies ultra-conservatively, I do have one major concern with voice control. I barely use Siri on my iPhone because half the time it can’t understand me. That’s acceptable when I’m sending a text to my friend — they’ll understand my typos — but I’m not totally sure I trust a flying metal robot to misunderstand my voice and fly into a tree (remember, there’s no obstacle avoidance on this drone either).
There is one big reason to look forward to the Mantis Q drone, and that’s the flight time. For such a small drone, 33 minutes is a lot of flight time. That being said, I typically don’t get too excited when drone-makers tout long flight time, except in rare instances like drone delivery or mapping large fields where long flight times are imperative.
After all, that’s what spare batteries are for, right?
It will be interesting to see if the Mantis Q picks up steam. Yuneec’s other ultra-tiny drone, the Yuneec Breeze, didn’t gain too much traction when it launched in 2016 at the same price point. The Yuneec Typhoon H has seen some success — enough to see iterations improving on the drone, including a model with Intel Realsense and a enterprise-grade version called the Typhoon H Plus.
The Mantis Q will retail at $499.99 and is available now for pre-order at Yuneec.com.