Category Archives: Reviews

XIRO Xplorer 4K is another DJI Phantom competitor – but the camera and gimbal need work

These days, I dream about a solid competitor to DJI’s lineup of drones. Yuneec was a solid contender, but hasn’t introduced new products of late to compete with DJI’s Mavic or Spark. GoPro had us hopeful — briefly — until recalls happened.

And lately, it seems my dreams of any drone company taking down DJI are about as realistic as Amazon drone delivery happening on any sort of wide scale by the end of the year. (Aka: highly unrealistic).

Enter the XIRO Xplorer 4K.

The $599 XIRO Xplorer 4K is a quadcopter drone with a 4K camera that enables live video stream through your smartphone or tablet. Continue reading XIRO Xplorer 4K is another DJI Phantom competitor – but the camera and gimbal need work

This $150 GoPro drone is one of the cheapest ways to get a camera in the air

Looking for a cheap way to get your GoPro in the air?

The $150 Force1 F100 GoPro RC Quadcopter Drone is an introductory drone for pilots who already own a GoPro.

It’s essentially a low-cost toy drone, but it has a mount for a GoPro.

The drone can also do 360 flips , and it has about 12 minutes of flight time and comes with an extra battery. force1 f100 gopro drone review

The drone does require some level of setup. Since the drone can interchange with your own camera, the drone has modular landing gear, which you’ll have to install if you opt to include a GoPro.

Of course, as with all things, you get what you pay for. The mount is not a 3-axis gimbal, so the video is not going to have that silky, smooth look that drones these days commonly produce. (Think all the way back to the days of the Phantom 1.) The drone itself is significantly less stable than more expensive camera drones. Continue reading This $150 GoPro drone is one of the cheapest ways to get a camera in the air

DJI Spark Review: An amazing, low-cost drone (90% of the time)

Looking for a good-quality camera drone that costs less than $500? Without a question, it’s the DJI Spark.

But hold on. Is it a perfect drone? No. But is it the first major step in an extraordinary era of ultra-smart sensors in drones? Absolutely.

The $499 Spark was announced in May 2017 as DJI’s smallest drone to-date — addressing concerns (much like the Mavic), that drones like the Phantom and from non-DJI competitors are just too cumbersome to tote around.

See related: DJI Mavic vs. Spark — which is better?

The Spark is notable for two reasons: 1. It’s incredibly small — (it’s small enough to fit in a large coat pocket) and 2. It’s operated primarily via gesture control, meaning a sensor can recognize hand and body patterns, and fly in sync with your movements.

And then for the bad news (as we get to the not perfect aspect of the DJI Spark): that gesture control. The drone’s sensors are supposed to detect its user’s body movements such as raising and lowering your hands or waving them, as pictured in the video above. It then can interpret those gestures to follow commands such as flying up and down, or taking a picture. Continue reading DJI Spark Review: An amazing, low-cost drone (90% of the time)

DJI Mavic Pro vs. Spark: which is better?

The new DJI Spark is the drone maker’s first step into lower cost, strictly consumer-targeted drones.

See also: my complete review of the DJI Spark

With the new DJI Spark, DJI fans will be able to purchase their first drone priced at an initially cost of less than $500. There’s only one other sub-$500 DJI drone out there on the market right now; currently users can also buy the DJI Phantom 3 Standard for about $500, though it was initially priced closer to $1,000.

But it seems the debate is: which is better? The DJI Mavic Pro? Or the DJI Spark? Here are the specs:

 DJI MavicDJI Spark
Cost$999$499
Takeoff Weight1.62 pounds0.66 pounds
Max Speed40 mph31 mph in Sport Mode
Max Flight Time27 minutes16 minutes
Diagonal Distance13.26.7 inches
Cost of extra battery$89$49
ControllerRC controller or smartphoneRC controller, smartphone or gesture control
Sensor1/2.3” (CMOS), Effective pixels:12.35 M (Total pixels:12.71M)1/2.3" CMOS
Effective pixels: 12 MP
ISO RangeVideo: 100-3200
Photo: 100-1600
Video: 100-3200
Photo: 100-1600
Image Size4000×30003968×2976
Video ResolutionC4K: 4096×2160 24p FHD: 1920×1080 30p

There are some obvious differences between the two, like size. The Mavic was revolutionary for its ability to fold up to the size of a soda can — making it much more convenient than something like the Phantom to tote around. But the Spark is even smaller.

And with the smaller size, it also means the Spark is a lot quieter, and a lot less annoying.

Here are some other differences: Continue reading DJI Mavic Pro vs. Spark: which is better?

Flybrix review: using Legos to build a drone

Yes, it is possible to fly a bunch of Legos through the air. Are Legos the most optimal, aerodynamic material? Definitely not. But they sure are fun — and an awesome learning tool.

San Francisco startup Flybrix developed a kit consisting of Legos, a preprogrammed board, propellers and motors for kids and kids-at-heart to build their own drones. The kits start at $189.

It’s intended to be a tool to teach its users a variety of skills, from the principles of flight to computer science to the basics of electrical engineering.  It’s an awesome tool for the classroom, for kids and their parents, or just for any drone user looking for a fun weekend project.

Flybrix: what’s in the box

Continue reading Flybrix review: using Legos to build a drone

PowerVision’s new PowerRay is an underwater drone

In PowerVision’s world, UAV can stand for unmanned aerial vehicle — and unmanned aquatic vehicle.

Chinese drone manufacturer PowerVision announced the new PowerRay drone — a drone that works underwater rather than in the sky. Much like how photographers use drones to get a new aerial perspective, this drone could be a game changer in underwater exploration.

Photographers might want to use it to photograph underwater worlds. Scientists might use it to conduct research in real-time, without having to go underwater themselves. Fishermen might use it to detect where fish are.

The drone, which starts at $1,488 operates very much like most consumer-level drones you’ll see on the market today. The whole thing is controlled with an RC controller. Much like how the left stick controls altitude on an aerial drone, the left stick controls the depth of the drone in the water. The right stick controls the direction that the drone swims. A mobile app allows you to livestream what the drone sees directly through your smartphone or tablet. The app also allows users to adjust camera settings. Continue reading PowerVision’s new PowerRay is an underwater drone

Star Wars drone review: Propel’s collectible $200 battle drones

For those of you Star Wars nerds out there, there’s a drone for you too.

Propel’s new line of Star Wars battle drones are essentially a basic 4-ounce toy drone that is operated via remote controller — but there’s a whole lot more to it than justthat. These highly-deta iled, hand-painted (and very pricey) drones are a perfect gift for the Star Wars fan in your life, and an incredible keepsake item for the collectors in your life.

The drones cost $199 each and come in three different designs, the 74-Z Speeder Bike, the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter and the Tie Advanced X1.

propel star wars drone battleStar Wars drone review: The packaging

I had so much fun simply opening my drone from its box, which was the Tie Advanced X1. Each drone arrives in a wax-sealed box that, much to my surprise, actually plays Star Wars music and lights up when it’s opened. It’s mounted on a fancy stand inside a clear plastic case, for display in my home, rather than packed in a closet (which unfortunately most of my drones are!). Continue reading Star Wars drone review: Propel’s collectible $200 battle drones

Why are all of these enterprise drone packages terrible deals?

Bebop dronemaker Parrot this week announced a modeling bundle, targeted at professional real estate and building professionals.

The $1,099 Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling bundle claims to be “a high-performance tool to develop innovative marketing content like commercial videos and 3D interactive models, or to capture measurements for cost estimates or 3D model printing,” according to a news release. The product will be made available in May 2017.

Essentially, it’s a Parrot Bebop 2 with Skycontroller that also comes with a Pix4D license, some spare batteries and a backpack.

Here is the thing: the package doesn’t actually save you that much money. For $1,099, you would get:

Do the math, and the whole setup minus backpack costs $1,090 if purchased separately. Basically, this deal is netting you a free backpack. Nothing against free backpacks, but that’s essentially what this whole new product offering is. Continue reading Why are all of these enterprise drone packages terrible deals?