Category Archives: Reviews

Yuneec Mantis Q vs. DJI Spark, Mavic Pro and Mavic Air: which is the best for the money?

Chinese drone manufacturer Yuneec this week launched an all-new consumer drone, the Mantis Q.

The $499 drone resembles the DJI Mavic and Spark drones with its small, foldable design. But it has one feature that DJI’s drones don’t have: voice-control.

While DJI dominates the drone market on all fronts, Yuneec has remained the most notable competitor in disrupting DJI’s monopoly over the past few years. So does the Mantis Q stand a chance against DJI’s large lineup of consumer drones?

Here’s a detailed breakdown on how the Yuneec Mantis Q stacks up v.s the DJI Mavic Pro, Mavic Air and Spark drones.

DJI MAVIC AIR DJI MAVIC PRO DJI SPARK
YUNEEC MANTIS Q
Price $799 $999 $399 $499
Flight Time 21 minutes 27 minutes 16 minutes 33 minutes
Max Video Resolution 4K @30 fps 4K @30 fps 1080p 4K @30fps
Design Foldable Foldable Small Foldable
Longest side (folded) 6.6 inches 7.8 inches 5.6 inches 6.6 inches
Longest side (unfolded) 7.2 inches 12 inches 5.6 inches 9.8 inches
Weight 0.9 pounds 1.6 pounds 0.6 pounds 1.05 pounds
Obstacle Sensing Forward and backward Forward Forward None
Control modes Gesture, Mobile Device and Remote Controller Mobile Device and Remote Controller Gesture, Mobile Device and Remote Controller
Gesture, Mobile Device, Remote Controller and Voice Control
Interal Storage 8 GB None None None
ISO range 100 – 1600 100 – 3200 100 – 3200 100 – 3200

The most standout difference with the Yuneec Mantis Q is the flight time — a whopping 33 minutes — twice the DJI Spark’s 16 minutes and still more than even the DJI Mavic Pro’s 27 minutes. That alone could make the Mantis Q worth it for some drone shoppers.

yuneec mantis q battery 33 minutes life
This little battery supplies the Yuneec Mantis Q with a whopping 33 minutes of flight time.

As far as size and portability, the Yuneec Mantis Q looks to be larger similar to DJI’s competitors — with its size mostly comparable to the DJI Mavic Air. I do love how much smaller the Mavic Air (and Mantis Q) is than the Mavic Pro, but since all of them are so small and portable, I don’t find one to be more of a dealbreaker than the other.

The Mantis Q costs $499 — making it more than the DJI Spark, but less than the Mavic line of drones. So is it worth it? Continue reading Yuneec Mantis Q vs. DJI Spark, Mavic Pro and Mavic Air: which is the best for the money?

My Passport Wireless review: the non-flying, drone accessory that completely changed my life

Editor’s Note: I partnered with Western Digital to create this review of the My Passport Wireless SSD.

Ever been out flying and filled up your memory card before you finished the shoot?

Ever been out on a super important shoot where you needed to view your footage immediately to ensure you didn’t have any dropped frames?

Maybe you’re just a ridiculously Type A-drone-pilot like me who needs to have backups of your footage as close to immediately after it was taken?

Enter the life-changing My Passport Wireless SSD.My Passport Wireless wd external harddrive drone review

After a week with WD’s My Passport Wireless SSD, I don’t know how I’ve lived my life without it.

It’s a portable solid state drive that has a built-in SD card slot as well as the ability to wirelessly connect to the drive (no crazy cord headaches here!) — in addition to a myriad of other insanely handy features that I’ll get to later.

MyPassport Wireless SSD review:  built-in SD card reader

By far, the neatest feature of the MyPassport Wireless SSD is the built-in SD card reader.  Whether it’s because of an accidental drone flyaway or just because they are so tiny,  an SD card is easy to lose. Add in other common tech glitches like corrupt memory cards, and it’s easy to understand why you should be backing up the files from your memory cards immediately.

For important shoots, that used to mean me lugging my laptop out into the field with me, so I could backup my footage on the spot. Now, I can simply pop my memory card into the portable drive, upload my footage, and pop it back in my drone to resume flying. There’s huge peace of mind in knowing your footage is backed up, and not needing a laptop to do so.

There is a USB port if you would prefer to upload your footage through other means, such as a card reader.My Passport Wireless wd external harddrive drone review

MyPassport Wireless SSD review:  battery life and other important specs

After a week of testing, I’ve yet to need to recharge this thing. WD says the battery life is 10 hours. It charges through a 2.4A USB wall adapter, or you can connect the device to a USB port from any other device (such as your computer) that can provide power. Four indicator lights make it clear how much more time it needs to charge. Continue reading My Passport Wireless review: the non-flying, drone accessory that completely changed my life

Find Drone Girl in ‘The Six-Word Lessons Series’ for drone hobbyists

New to drones, or perhaps looking for a gift idea for someone you want to get into drones?

A new drone hobbyist-focused book has released as part of  “The Six-Word Lessons,” and Drone Girl gets a shoutout in it too.

Six-Word Lessons for the Drone Hobbyist: 100 Lessons to Fly Your Drone Safely with Skill and Confidence” launched last month as a guidebook of 100 lessons to gain skill and confidence for flying drones as a hobby.

In 100 brief lessons, the book teaches readers about the many fun things you can do with a drone, including video and photography ideas, tips on choosing the right drone for you, properly operating your drone in all environments and situations, staying safe, following laws and rules, and how to avoid crashing and losing your drone.

Drone Girl has the absolute honor of being one of those 100 lessons — No. 96 to be exact! Here’s a sneak peek: Continue reading Find Drone Girl in ‘The Six-Word Lessons Series’ for drone hobbyists

Tello drone review: Ryze’s $99 drone that uses DJI and Intel Tech

Wish you could be the owner of a DJI drone, but not ready to fork over more than $100?

Ryze Technology, a Shenzhen-based tech company that launched in 2017,  announced its first-ever drone a year later. The drone is Tello, a $99 kid-friendly drone that combines DJI flight technology and an Intel processor to create a budget camera drone that also can be used to teach newbies the basics of programming.

It’s a great little drone for people looking for a low-cost introduction to stunt flying and shooting videos, as well as people looking to learn how to use drones how to code.

The Tello drone, which weighs just 80 grams, can fly for 13 minutes and shoot 5 megapixel photos. For context, DJI’s next-smallest drone, the DJI Spark, weighs 300 grams, can fly for 16 minutes and shoots 12 megapixel photos. The drone doesn’t come with an RC transmitter, but can be controlled via a mobile app (or an external one can be purchased separately).DJI Tello drone review Ryze drone

Tello drone review: how does it fly?

The main thing that sets the Tello apart from your typical “toy” drone is the Intel technology inside.

Because the Tello drone uses an Intel Movidius Myriad 2 VPU, which handles object recognition in DJI drones, the drone can also respond to hand gestures — just like DJI’s more high-end drones like the Spark and Mavic Air. It can even land in your hand and take off by being tossed in the air. For $99, that’s pretty incredible.

When flying in windless conditions, i.e. indoors, the Tello is incredibly stable and holds its position, making it easy for a newbie to learn how to fly.

However, the drone does not succeed in windy conditions — not even in mildly windy or breezy conditions. I made the mistake of flying Tello on the roof of my San Francisco apartment — do not try this!! It almost blew away! Continue reading Tello drone review: Ryze’s $99 drone that uses DJI and Intel Tech

DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Pro vs. Spark: which should I buy?

DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Pro vs: Spark? It’s a tough decision, but the answer is actually pretty clear depending on your needs and budget.

In a little more than a year, DJI has launched a slew of drones — all extremely accessible, easy-to-fly, (relatively) affordable and wildly popular.

The DJI Mavic Pro with 4K video, which launched in October 2016 wowed fans for being a foldable drone — the Chinese dronemaker’s most compact drone at the time. Then DJI came out a few months later with the DJI Spark in May 2017. It was smaller (though not foldable), but it really sparked fans’ attention with its gesture control abilities, turning drones into the stuff of Jedi Mind Tricks. It was a slightly lesser quality drone in terms of camera quality, and features like the RC transmitter came at an extra cost, but it still seemed an incredible valuable nonetheless.DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Pro vs. Spark

And now, the DJI Mavic Air seemingly combines the best of both worlds. It’s incredibly small and folds up to be even smaller. It has the 4K video of the Mavic Pro, plus the gesture control capabilities of the DJI Spark.

But is the Mavic Air necessarily going to cannibalize the Mavic Pro and Spark? In most cases, yes, actually.

But there ARE some cases where the Mavic Pro or Spark may actually be a better option for you.

First, let’s start with a table comparing what I think are some of the most important factors to look at when deciding if a drone is right for you: Continue reading DJI Mavic Air vs. Mavic Pro vs. Spark: which should I buy?

The DJI Mavic Air is a mix between the Mavic Pro and DJI Spark — and it’s absolutely perfect

When the DJI Mavic Pro came out, I thought that DJI had reached peak perfection with a drone. Boy, was I wrong. The DJI Mavic Air is way better than the DJI Mavic Pro.

The DJI Mavic Air combines the best of both worlds of the Mavic Pro and Spark. It’s about the size of a Spark in flight, but folds up like the Mavic Pro to become even smaller. It has the Spark’s nifty gesture control, but it also has the Mavic Pro’s 4K video.dji mavic air

And best of all, while it’s a huge improvement over the Mavic Pro, it’s $799 — less than the price the Mavic Pro was when it launched.

The Mavic Air is incredibly small and nimble. It’s about 8 inches diagonally across, and it weighs less than a pound. It makes the Mavic Pro look kind of huge — which is surprising given how small the Mavic Pro felt when it was announced.

DJI Mavic Pro vs. Mavic Air

The DJI Mavic Air can fly for just over 20 minutes on one battery. It comes in three colors — white, red or black. There are also sensor improvements, with a sensor that detects objects on both the front AND back of the drone. That’s amazing processing power, given how small this drone is.

There is a sensor on the back too.

DJI also made some improvements to its camera technology with the Mavic Air, including removing the delay in the shutter when it is triggered, and better highlight and lowlight details.  The drone also has TapFly and ActiveTrack features, along with improvements such as “TapFly Backward Mode.”dji mavic air

The Mavic Air also comes with two big changes to the RC transmitter. The transmitter doesn’t have a built-in screen like the Mavic Pro does, alerting you of things like battery life, flight modes, etc. It pretty much guarantees that in order to use the Mavic Air, you’ll need to rely on a smartphone app to translate what all the various beeps mean while in flight.

The removable joysticks are really interesting. At first, I thought, “huh?” Now I love them!

The other major change is that the joysticks on the RC transmitter can actually be removed. At first I was a little surprised by the decision to make the joysticks removable. “Is this REALLY necessary?” I thought. Turns out, it really helps when packing the drone away.

However, those little joysticks can get lost super easily. I’ve already had one small heart attack over losing them — though the easy solution for forgetful folk is to simply never unscrew them.

I still don’t love how my iPhone fits in the RC transmitter. Can this be fixed in the next Mavic?

That being said, I’ll still withhold the title of “perfect” on this drone, because there are some issues I’ve found in my year of flying the Mavic Pro that still haven’t been fixed with the Mavic Air. Namely, the RC transmitter. DJI’s drone design is simply flawless, but it seems that care given to the drone itself has been ignored on the RC transmitter. The spot to hold an iPhone just doesn’t quite fit perfect. It’s clunky to tap the iPhone’s home button when the phone is connected to the transmitter. Most phone cases must also be removed to connect them. Maybe Android users are exempt from the RC transmitter issues (I’ve never used one with a drone!) but the user experience connecting an iPhone to the drone just isn’t quite there — and never improved upon with the Mavic Air.

I love the DJI Mavic Air!

The DJI Mavic Air is the second drone I’ve ever reviewed that I thought that I’ve truly, 100% fallen in love with. (The first was the Mavic Pro). It’s a drone everyone needs. It’s easy to fly, takes gorgeous images and even more portable than the Mavic Pro.

I can’t wait for you to get your hands on it. Happy flying!

Pre-order your Mavic Air here.

 

The Fat Shark FPV drone kit could be the key to bringing drone racing to the masses

Drone racing has an adoption problem. It looks glamorous on ESPN, but for an average person who is inspired by a drone race they just saw, the barrier to entry is often to hard.

It’s difficult to find a drone racing kit that is easy to set up and fly.Fat Shark FPV drone racing thedronegirl

But the same company arguably responsible for even making drone racing a thing to begin with could soon be credited with bringing drone racing to the masses.

Shenzhen-based Fat Shark is known for making FPV (first-person view) headsets for drone racing, and its headsets are widely regarded as the gold standard when it comes to drone racing pros. Continue reading The Fat Shark FPV drone kit could be the key to bringing drone racing to the masses

Lily drone review: It would have been awesome — if it were 1/5 of the price

The Lily drone has had a rough go — and things haven’t gotten better since its release.

It’s a nice little drone with a decent camera that’s extremely easy to fly and set up. But the big problem? At $699, the Lily drone is 5x more expensive than what it should be.

A brief history of Lily Drone:

For the uninitiated, Lily launched to much fanfare in 2015 on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, raising $34 million in pre-orders. The promo video showed a sleek drone that took off when thrown in the air and could navigate around objects — something no drones were able to do at the time.

The Wall Street Journal put Lily on its list of products “that will change your life,” and the drone’s cofounders were named in Fortune’s 30 Under 30.

(Drone Girl has a policy against reporting on Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns because there is little to no guarantee the drones will come to production in the form they were promised.)

Of course, Lily was a textbook example of that.

After a series of delays and hundreds of angry customers, Lily’s creators eventually admitted they couldn’t finance production and said they would give refunds to backers.

In January 2017, Mota Group, which at one point filed for IPO, bought the brand name of Lily.

Related read: Mota’s Jet Jat Nano is an excellent stocking stuffer for newbies on a budget

Many in the drone community felt it was an odd choice for another company to buy such a tarnished name. But if anyone could do it — Mota had a shot. Mota is the company behind the Jet Jat Nano,  a delightful $30 toy drone. It’s easy to set up, and at such a low price point, tough to go wrong with. Continue reading Lily drone review: It would have been awesome — if it were 1/5 of the price