A Year’s Worth of Flying: Drone Review

A Year’s Worth of Flying: Drone Review

I purchased my drone, a Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K, last August and have been flying it pretty regularly ever since. My first impression on opening the case….it’s huge!

The actual dimensions are 16.5×16.5×8.3 inches and weighs in at 60oz full payload (with camera and battery). I brought it into work one night and a coworker brought his own, a DJI Phantom 3. The size difference is quite noticeable, the Typhoon being perhaps a 3rd larger, but of course they have two different body styles.

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Let’s start with the controller. The ST10+ ground station is a good size at 4.5×7.4×9.5 inches with a built in 5.5 inch, backlit LCD multi-touch screen. The picture on the screen is nice and crisp and only seems to lag when flying the drone near it’s distance limits, or if there’s an obstacle in the way, and then only partially.

Controlling is quite simple with two joysticks. The left stick controls yaw (the direction the drone faces) and altitude. The right stick controls forward and back movement and side to side strafing. It takes a bit of practice to get these all going and flying smoothly with regards of where you want the drone to go, but become second nature after a few outings. There are two wheels on the sides of the controller. The left controls camera angle from straight ahead to straight down, the right is for flying speed.

Above the right stick is the flight mode toggle. Smart Mode keeps things safe so the drone will fly close to the pilot, but stops at 26 feet and goes no closer. In this mode you can also use the Follow Me and Watch Me commands, respectively. Angle Mode is where most people do their flying once comfortable. The drone will fly everywhere you send it, no stopping, no questions asked. Just make sure you avoid the trees. Lastly is Home Mode. Flip the toggle down, and the drone flies right back to the controller. This is handy if it’s at a distance and you lose sight of it, just make sure there aren’t any tall objects nearby. You won’t have control of the machine unless you toggle back to one of the other modes.

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Taking pictures and video is super easy with the controller. The button on the top left will snap a picture, and on the opposite side the button will start or stop video recording. The photo and video settings can be changed quickly and on the fly, with basic photography settings on the main screen, or by going into the settings button on the bottom right of the screen for changing video quality/frame rate, audio, photo color settings and file selection. If you want to do this while flying, the drone will hover nicely in place until you are done and ready to go again, as long as it isn’t too windy. Also the drone comes with a neck strap which you can hook to a spot in the centre of the controller in case you need to use both hands for changing batteries or for whatever else is needed.

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Nice bright touchscreen and all the info you need while flying!

The drone itself has a nice sleek design. It’s grey and black with orange and silver lettering. The legs have soft pads to cushion any hard landings, however I prefer to grab the gear and then stop the motors instead of landing straight on the ground if there’s no good flat spot to land on.  There are four lights, one under each motor, and have differing purposes. During normal flight, the back two will be red, the front two white so you can always tell which way the nose is facing. This is especially helpful during night flying. Also, when the batteries get low the lights will start blinking and the controller vibrates to let you know to find a safe landing spot soon, or risk a crash. The camera sits at the very front edge of the main drone body to counterbalance the weight of the battery at the back and is easy to slide on and off if you want to shoot with the modular handheld unit it comes with. More on that in a minute though.

I’ve flown in all types of weather the last year and have to say the Yuneec Typhoon handles most of it quite well. If there’s a bit of a wind blowing, the drone will lean into it to stay as level as possible, unless it’s too strong and starts to move away if you don’t use any input. Flying is this type of weather is not recommended. I did a fair bit of winter flying as well and only noticed a bit less battery life, the drone handling as well as always. As far as I can tell, the camera operates just as well in cold weather as in warm, if a little noisier when used on the handheld unit. The Typhoon feels and looks solidly built and able to handle a few hard landings and possibly crashes if they aren’t too severe. I have yet to test this theory, but hopefully not anytime soon.

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Bit of winter flying. Always remember your gloves!

If you want to record something in a tighter space that’s closer to the ground, the modular handheld unit is perfect for this. Sliding the camera and gimbal off the drone and onto the unit is super easy and straight forward. Once you download the CGO camera app and turn on wifi, you connect to the camera and then use all the same settings through your phone. This is very handy for getting up close and personal with your subject matter, if that is what you like. Also it’s handy for recording audio since any audio from the drone will just be the propellers buzzing and therefore unusable. On the top, there’s a battery power light showing green or red if the batteries are close to dying, a mode button which enables camera pitch control, and a thumb wheel to control the pitch. I would have to say I use the handheld just as much as the drone itself. When I’m done flying, I usually switch over to it and get some ground shots before heading back home. Overall it’s quite a nice unit and a fine addition to the package.

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Out and about shooting with the handheld!

I purchased the drone along with some extras as part of a package deal from Amazon for $1199. In the main box came the drone, the controller, two sets of propellers, the modular handheld unit, a neckstrap, two batteries, a battery charging unit, controller charger, controller sun shade, a battery car charger, a microfibre cloth, and a 32 GB micro SD memory card with adapter. The extras were another battery and battery charger, another set of propellers, an extra set of landing gear, and another 16 GB micro SD card with adapter. Buying separately, all this would set you back another couple hundred dollars, but the package deal saves you most of that!

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One extra thing I purchased afterwards and completely worth the money was a drone backpack, this one made specifically for the typhoon. It has a covering for the main body and socks that go around the motors to keep them safe and dry. Inside, the main compartment is separated into two sections, the front being the largest, and has mesh pockets for extra batteries, chargers, etc. There is a small zippered pocket on the top of the backpack which looks like a spot to keep the camera, however it is just barely too small to fit the camera and attached gimbal. If you rotate everything, it will fit but only just. I only keep the microfibre cloth and the handheld unit batteries with the extra memory card in it.

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A must for traveling: Yuneec Typhoon Backpack

Overall I’m quite pleased with my purchase and have spent many hours flying and filming or just taking pictures, trying out the different settings as I go. Obviously with how technology goes, there are newer drones out now with more features and are more compact. I may upgrade later on, but for now, the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K does me just fine!

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