I’ve been flying Yuneec’s Q500 Typhoon 4K quadcopter for several months. It is the total package from what you want and expect from a drone for the serious consumer. I’m a huge fan and all-aboard the Yuneec train.
I was introduced to Yuneec in April 2015 at NAB and got the chance to try out the Q500 series last fall. This review is long overdue but the recent price drops across the Typhoon line make them more attractive than ever and have nudged me to spread the word about this great little drone.
The flight and image capture experience is very similar to what you get from a DJI Phantom series drone. The biggest and most important difference for me is the included ST10+ transmitter from Yuneec.
The ST10+ transmitter has a built-in Android device with a 5.5″ touchscreen right on the front of the controller. The added value of this seamless user experience should cause the price to be at least a couple hundred bucks higher than similar drones in the category. However, the Q500 series match up closely with the competition – and in many cases, Yuneec’s drones are less expensive.
To take it up another notch, Yuneec includes a SteadyGrip handle with each Q500 Typhoon drone. This means, you get a 4K handheld gimbal with your drone. It’s just like the Typhoon ActionCam.
To use the SteadyGrip, you have to detach the CGO3 camera from the Q500’s body and attach it to the SteadyGrip handle. Then, you connect the camera to your mobile device using the CGO3 app. You’ll get a live view of the camera image and you can change the camera recording settings. It works well and is another added value to the Typhoon Q500 package.
Finally, you can spend $100 more than the base kit and get a killer aluminum case for the drone (as well as a second battery that retails for $99 itself). I don’t know that the aluminum case is the best way to carry the drone for every user; however, you are certainly going to not have to worry about damaging your drone during transport while in this case. Yuneec simply over-delivers in every aspect of its Typhoon series and you feel like you have a much better drone kit than the sub-$1000 asking price.
I am by no means a great drone pilot. I’ve flown several different brands and configurations over the past couple years or so and the Q500 4K is the best overall experience I’ve had.
The flying experience is more satisfying thanks to the built-in screen in the transmitter. There are no external devices to pair or mount onto your transmitter. It’s about as seamless of a process as you can expect from a drone that delivers realtime video and telemetry data into the palm of your hands.
You get a visual readout of how many GPS satellites you are connected to and when the connection reaches 7 satellites, you are clear for takeoff. You can actually fly with fewer but Yuneec recommends at least 7 and I generally have at least 8 within a minute or so of powering the system on.
The touchscreen interface lets you adjust camera settings and turn the Watch Me and Follow Me functions on by just tapping the on-screen icons. These are pretty incredible features that let you fly the drone whichever direction you want and it will remain pointed at you (in Watch Me) mode. And in Follow Me mode, the drone flies itself as it tracks your movement. It is almost too simple when using the drone’s Smart mode.
In Smart mode, when you press the stick away from you, the drone flies away from you regardless of which direction the drone is pointing.
Of course, you can choose to fly outside of Smart mode and take full control of the drone with Angle mode by flipping a switch on the controller. When you are in Angle mode, the drone’s directional control is no longer relative to you when you push the control sticks. It flies relative to the nose of the drone, which can be disorienting for new users.
The other mode on the Q500 is labeled as Home on the mode toggle. When you flip the switch down to Home, it will automatically fly back to the location of the ST10+ transmitter and land within 13 to 26 feet of the pilot. It’s how I landed the Q500 every time and, every time, it was flawless.
When you are up in the air, you can trigger photo or video capture by pressing the buttons on the top of the ST10+ transmitter. You can also control the camera’s tilt and the speed at which it tilts. These are within easy reach of your forefingers. Of course, the live view display gives you a real time guide for capturing your images or video.
The footage and video overall looks very good. Initially, I was a little critical of the image quality; however, I had to remind myself that this is a tiny image sensor that is basically the quality of a GoPro camera. Accordingly, don’t expect DSLR-quality imagery from any drone under $1000. Every layperson that I’ve shown the footage to has been very impressed. The good news is that you can capture DNG raw files and, of course, 4K video.
I’ve included a few images in this post that are captured with the Q500’s camera. I’ll also post some video at some point but I didn’t want to hold off the review any longer.
The Yuneec Q500 Typhoon 4K over-delivers from top to bottom. Right now, there is no easier way to capture high-quality aerial photos and video. In terms of value, I don’t think there’s anything that can touch it at the moment. The integrated display on the ST10+ transmitter sets the Q500 Typhoon models apart from the rest of the pack.
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