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Go to any park or open space and the chances are that you will find someone flying a remote-controlled quadcopter. From the child delighted with just being able to hoist one up into the air, to the died-in-the wool enthusiast who wants absolute realism, there is a copter for them. It’s even stretching into business. Businesses are seriously looking at RC quadcopters as drones. They are ideal for security applications using their on-board photographic and video capabilities. Both Amazon and Google have looked at them as delivery vehicles.
There‘s a lot to think about when buying a quad, so we’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for you. We’ve looked at the available range of quads put some suggestions forward.
Table of Contents
DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter
This beauty is considered as the best available, but at a heavy cost. One reason it is considered the best is the automatic flying environment using Intelligent Orientation Control, the onboard GPS and the highly configurable onboardvideo environment. The manufacturer calls it “Your Flying Camera”. Intelligent Orientation Control allows you to programme a flight path over multiple waypoints using a WiFi enabled devfce (Android or iOS) app. You can send the beauty skywards to fly the route automatically , and you operate the camera environment, tilting the camera up and down, taking photos and shooting video. The onboard camera is a14MP camera with 1080p HD video recording onto an on-board micro SD card. The FPV viewis provided via a WiFi connection to your Apple or Android phone or tablet. The effective range using the optional Range Extender is about 300 Meters.
The still and video camera is shock mounted on the quad (or more properly called a drone) giving a major reduction in wobbly pictures while flying. Battery life is around 25 minutes using the supplied 5,200-mAh LiPo battery. Battery replacement is simple, with multiple batteries ready for easy switching when the installed ones die.
There are a host of other nice features. One we particularly like is the “Return Home” feature. If you fly outside the normal command range of up to 500 line of sight meters or otherwise lose contact the quad automatically returns to its take-off point.
The excellent DJI web site is highly informative with free software, guides and a user community area. User satisfaction is high.
Syma X5C Quadcopter
If you want to put your toe in the water before shelling out big bucks, then this might well be the quad to buy. It has the features and functions of both entry-level and advanced quads. It has great stability because while you are learning the control ropes, but later it will turn into a lightweight, agile insect that performs all sorts of acrobatics with ease when you remove the guards and extra weight
Precise manoeuvrability indoors and outside is achieved via the on-board 6-axis gyroscope. In regard to range, it is officially 50 meters line-of-sight, but unofficial reports say 100 meters is possible, particularly after installation of a simple antenna tweak that adds about 80 meters range. The on-board HD camera provides 1280×720 resolution. At its normal pricing in the pleasure band, but it is sufficiently configured to be used as a learning tool if you are just starting out with the intention of moving to more serious units. One last point. Buy some spare batteries – flying time is around eight minutes per battery.
Blade Nano QX BNF
If other quads are your aunties, this one is the naughty cousin – it’s tiny but has a real pizzaz to it, resulting in it being great fun to operate. It won the Horizon.com editors choice award in 2014. It is very speedy with sensitive controls, meaning it isn’t for novices.
Other upsides, a USB battery charger, SAFE technology (I shouldn’t need to explain what that is), and an included extra set of props and canopy allow you to change the livery. The downside, it doesn’t come with a radio controller, so unless you already have one, you’ll need to find a DSM2/DSMX transmitter.
Flight time is about six minutes, so again we recommend that you buy a few extra batteries. One to buy to remind you that flying quads can be real fun.
If you want something with a camera in the same price range as the Blade Nano, then this is the one for you. It’s a bit bigger and heavier at 15.4 x 3.3.5 inches and 1.3 lbs. If you want to lose some weight and gain some agility, (and who doesn’t) you can remove the protective cover. The 6-axis gyro ensures good stability.
We mentioned the camera, there is one, it’s not the greatest, but it’s included in the price.
Flight times – about eight minutes indoor and twelve outdoor. It takes around 100 minutes for a full battery charge. Again, buy a few extra batteries and an offline charger.
Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Quadricopter
The Parrot is a close competitor to the Phantom.
Sizewise, it’s big, 23x23x5 inches and weighs 4 pounds. It’s very sturdy, built to take a pounding and has an emergency shutdown button that’ll stop you landing it in the pool. It has assisted flight stabilization via some smart on-board programming
The downside is the camera. Resolution is only 720p. The video feed from the camera streams to an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet while flying it. It has two cameras, at the front and at the rear. Because they aren’t shock-mounted, the recordings are sometimes a bit wobbly, but they are usable. The major upside for many will be that it can be controlled via an easy-to-learn and use app on your Android or iOS device , for example a smartphone. Obviously because it supports Android, there are game apps and apps that allow you to look at and post your video recordings to social media.