The most popular drones today are the quadcopters which have 4 rotors. While there are many quadcopters available in the market, the features, pricing and effectiveness of such quadcopters makes it confusing for a buyer. To get a better understanding of the right quadcopter, Reselect.org has brought out a review article on selecting the best quadcopter drone with HD camera.
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Short Quadcopter History
The basic design of quadcopters that is in use today was given by Etienne Oemichen who developed the first quadcopter in 1922. In this design, 2 rotors spin in clockwise direction and the other 2 anti-clockwise.
Lack of desired stability and limited control has been the two traditional drawbacks in quadcopters. Although using 4 rotors offers better stability compared with the single rotor helicopter, but still they were not stable enough for safe operation. Only in recent years, technology became available to make their flight stable with easy control. In fact, today there are quadcopters which are so stable and easily controllable that many of them can be flown indoors.
Basic Features To Look in Quadcopter Drones
The basic design features remain same for all quads. They all consist of a base frame, 4 motors with propellers, electronics and sensors that stabilize the quadcopter, a receiver that receives signals from the flying device and a ‘remote control’ transmitter (controller) which helps to fly the quadcopter.
The operational features which one should look before buying any quadcopter drone are:
Size: While tiniest quadcopters can sit on one’s palm, most people look for drones sturdy enough to lift HD camera, sensors, battery and associated electronics and fly stably in the outdoor windy conditions. They are typically around 50 X 50 cm.
Flight time: Flight time is the time the quad will fly on a single battery charge. Larger batteries allow longer flights. Most quadcopters fly for 8 – 20 minutes.
Cameras: Typically, cameras are found on larger quadcopters. Quadcopters with HD quality cameras for aerial photography are now available for a few hundred dollars.
The controller: The controller allows one to fly and control the quadcopter drone. It should be easy to use and must have good range. In most cases, the controller uses radio signals to communicate with the quadcopter. But quadcopter models operating on WiFi signal using a smartphone are also now popular.
Buying Your First Drone?
For kids, one should look for an inexpensive and safer model – the word ‘safer’ is important, think of moving rotors and frequent crashes as the kid plays with controls.
Parrot’s Rolling Spider is a good for indoor-friendly model with removable plastic wheels. The spider can ‘drive’ on floor, up walls, and even along ceilings. It operates on a smartphone or tablet and can take snap photos (no video) and perform tricks.
For grown-up beginners, Syma X5C is a great choice. It offers real radio control experience on a dual-stick controller and comes with a HD camera for video shooting.
For hobbyists who want to video shoot aerial activity, they should start with a DJI model. The craze for aerial video shooting actually started with DJI Phantom series of drones. DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone is what is most popular nowadays.
Quadcopter drones equipped with HD cameras offer an added advantage over camera-equipped airplanes; they can take quick turns and hover close to dangerous obstacles.
For filmmakers, 3DRobotics’ IRIS+ can allow them to shoot chase scenes very conveniently – and hence can save on the cost of hiring a cameraman and a plane! The IRIS+ can chase any target carrying a paired smartphone! This can fly up to 22 minutes carrying a gimbal-stabilized camera.
DJI Phantom 2 Vision Quadcopter Review
Over the years, the Chinese company DJI has become synonymous with camera drones. Phantoms’ larger size and wide rotor span provide very smooth movements and reduce wind impact. They are the ideal choice for cost conscious professionals who still want high quality aerial photography.
There are three major quadcopter drones in the Phantom 2 series: Phantom 2, Phantom 2 Vision and Phantom 2 Vision+.
The basic Phantom 2 model comes without a camera, but is designed so that one can mount his/her own camera, typically a GoPro, using a gimbal.
The Phantom 2 Vision+ model has an inbuilt 14 MP camera and has features for stable recording even while manoeuvring. The futuristic looking Phantom 2 Vision model is quite sturdy; along with rotors and battery, the unit weighs about 1.2 kg. It has automatic stabilization and if you let go of all controls, it simply hovers steadily.
The camera captures 1080p video at 30 frames per second.
On the brighter side, Phantom Vision+ almost eliminates the ‘jello effect’ that marred videos from the original Phantom. The battery lasts longer, about 25 minutes, compared with 10 minutes in the earlier model (Phantom 2).
To make the best use of the Phantom 2 Vision and Vision+, one needs the DJI Vision App which is available for iOS and Android. It gives a direct video downlink from the camera to phone device. The App also shows status of the drone – battery level, flight time remaining, distance and speed among other things – and allows to pull footage from Phantom’s SD card or change its settings. The camera adjusts to changing lighting conditions, but one can also set exposure settings from the App.
Its controller is pre-programmed with autopilot parameters that allow switching between different flight modes to achieve particular flight experiences. Like its predecessor, the Vision houses a GPS unit which enables it to fly back home if connection is lost with the remote controller.
Parrot AR Drone Review
Parrot introduced the AR drone in 2010. It was a price relief to the hobbyists who had to rely on rather expensive devices. Parrot’s AR Drone 2.0 model carries two built-in cameras – one in the front and the other looking downward.
Its coolest feature was that it allowed to use phone or tablet as remote control. It connects Android or iOS device to the WiFi signal of the drone and allows to see real time video from the drone on device’s screen. One can control drone’s altitude and direction from the touch screen of phone. Double tapping the screen lets the drone to do barrel rolls or flips. It is a fun trick, but drains the battery.
A large part of Parrot’s success comes from the third party API that enables developers to put their creativity into drone’s actions.
Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is incredibly easy to set up and the control scheme is extremely easy. The App allows to pilot as well as record videos. But don’t expect too much from its 720p cameras. Video quality would be similar to what one gets from an inexpensive smartphone.
One may not worry too much about crashing the drone because all its parts are replaceable. If the drone gets out of range, it safely hovers and doesn’t fall on the ground. Then one can walk towards it within the range to take control.
The 12 minute battery time is perhaps too short for most experienced drone pilots. For them Parrot has produced AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition which gives 36 minute flying time. Parrot’s most recent model comes equipped with GDP and other enhancements; of course, at higher cost.
Syma X5C Review
The Syma X5C is ideal starting point for any beginner. It is among the cheapest quadrocopters with an HD camera. The Syma X5C flies remarkably well and is surprisingly well built and its controls are quite sensitive. However, its 7 minute battery time is pretty short. Balancing the throttle for safer operation so that the Syma X5C hovers properly requires a bit of practice.
The 2MP camera of the X5C can give footage for playful personal purposes.
Since Syma X5C is light weight, take care to fly it when there is no wind. It is not stable indoors, the turbulence underneath due to powerful propellers is enough to knock it off course.
The Syma X5C is cheap and sturdy, so one can try hands freely on it. One may crash the Syma X5C few times until he/she gets the hang of the controls, but it’s built well enough to handle a few bumps.
Syma X5C is perfect for getting the feel for piloting quadcopters before investing in something bigger and better.
Based on specific requirements, one can locate the best quadcopter drone with HD camera after reading this review.
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