DJI Phantom Alternatives
The DJI Phantom 4 has set new standards in the world of drone flying. Boasting first class features such as object tracking and collision avoidance combined with a high top speed and long flight time duration, the Phantom 4 is the one to beat.
This review takes a look at some of the pretenders to the Phantom 4’s throne.
Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K Quadcopter
Coming with a transmitter and radio controller, the Typhoon Q500 4K is pretty much ready-to-fly (RTF) straight out of the box. Or in this instance an aluminum case for safe storage and transportation.
This drone combines excellent flying abilities with advanced aerial photography and video capabilities. It has an integrated CGO3-GB camera and gimbal.
The Typhoon Q500 comes equipped with two 5400mAh batteries, which on a full charge allow up to 25 minutes of flying time each. With high-performance propellers, the Typhoon H is agile, fast and very responsive to commands. These propellers are very simple to set up and dismantle thanks to quick release buttons.
The Typhoon’s six arms are also foldable, and its landing gear is retractable which allows the camera a clear 360° view.
The Typhoon Q500 has a CGO3-GB system that features a 12 MP, 4K camera along with a 3-axis brushless gimbal. These are built as a single unit and offer a very stable, relatively vibration free camera platform.
As well as 4K, the camera can record videos in 1080p at 120 fps. You have the option of taking stills while the camera is running in video mode.
Images are stored as JPEG or DNG RAW on a Micro SD card that has a maximum capacity of 128GB. You can also save lower quality and upload-friendly images on your smartphone.
The camera has a wide-angle 130-degree FOV lens. The gimbal has a control angle accuracy of ±0.02°.
There is a built-in microphone for audio recording that can be turned on or off using the controller or mobile app.
• Complete ground and aerial imaging solution (including handheld stabilizer).
• Control box does not require a smartphone or tablet.
• Great for beginners.
• Short flight preparation time.
• Flight distance of about 500 m
• Easy to see at a distance.
• Video quality not as good as Phantom 4.
This drone features the latest GPS features with a broad range of autopilot modes, including the very impressive Realsense Collision Avoidance system.
Typhoon H Pro autopilot features include:
• Point of Interest. This mode allows you to select a subject and Typhoon H will orbit that target autonomously.
• Follow Me Drone / Watch Me. In Follow Me mode the drone will keep pace with you. Watch Me makes the Typhoon H follow you while always pointing the camera at you.
• Collision Avoidance
• Journey. Here the drone will go up and out, as far as 150ft, and capture the perfect aerial selfie.
• Orbit. In this mode, the Typhoon H flies a circular path around you, keeping the camera trained on you the whole time.
• Curve Cable Cam. This allows you to program a route for Typhoon H to fly along. Typhoon H will fly between pre-set coordinates while independently controlling camera position.
• Auto Take Off
• Dynamic Return to Home. By flicking a switch, the drone will return and land within 26 feet of you.
ST16 All-In-One Controller
The Typhoon H has the ST16 Ground Station, which is an integrated transmitter, receiver, and Android platform. This gives you complete control over the drone including the ability to program autonomous flight and capture stunning photos and videos. The large 7-inch integrated screen displays real-time flight footage.
The Typhoon H Pro is a beautiful drone to look at. With excellent autopilot features, a top-notch camera, good GPS system, and competitive price, the H Pro is definitely one of the top drones out there right now.
The Typhoon Q500 4K currently priced at a shade under $800.
Yuneec Breeze 4k
Yuneec’s Breeze is simple and compact that has been described as a drone for people concerned with taking selfies rather than actual flying.
As such the Breeze is relatively affordable, easy to fly and weighing less than 1lb can be carried around in a small backpack. Indeed it doesn’t even need a control box. You just connect the Breeze to a smartphone or tablet via WiFi and control via your iOS or Andriod device.
Easy to Fly
The Breeze has five autopilot modes - Pilot, Follow Me, Journey, Orbit, and Selfie. This makes it incredibly simple to operate. Take-off and landing are fully automated with a tap of a button. GPS and downward-facing camera sensors keep the Breeze flying relatively steadily.
• Pilot mode.
This lets you fly the drone via on-screen controls. It is not as precise, nor does it offer the range of movements that a more conventional control box drone is capable of. However, you can use it to fine tune the position, direction, and height of the BREEZE.
• Selfie mode.
This is the equivalent of a very long maneuverable selfie stick. The drone will fly out to a pre-set distance and altitude with the camera always facing you.
• Orbit mode
On this setting, the drone circles a central point with the camera always facing the target.
• Follow Me mode
This makes the drone track a moving target using GPS signals.
• Journey mode.
Set in this mode, the drone will fly a set distance away from you and them return.
Since the Breeze only uses WiFi, its range is limited to about 100m and 80m in altitude. The battery also only lasts for about 12 minutes, and charging takes 30-40 minutes.
The design of the Breeze is very straightforward. It has four folding rotors, four fold out landing gear feet and a camera built into the nose. The battery can be removed for recharging.
Although the rotors do not fold into the body, the Breeze is already small enough to fit into a reasonably sized bag. It also comes with a compact, hard plastic carry case to keep it safe while you find your flying spot.
Made of lightweight plastic, the Breeze is none-the-less strong enough to stand up to a few bangs and scrapes. However, it is unlikely to survive a full on crash into, say concrete. Replacement parts are readily available from Yuneec if you do need to repair the Breeze.
The package also comes with a set of prop guards which a very useful if you are going to fly the drone indoors.
Despite the fact that the Breeze comes equipped with a 4K Ultra High Definition camera, image quality is not great. Due to its tiny sensor, stills or video are best suited for online sharing or viewing on the phone.
The video quality itself is a bit flat no matter whether you are recording in 4K, 1080p or 720p. However, the latter two resolutions do incorporate some electronic image stabilization.
Arguably the biggest drawback to the Breeze is the lack of a three-axis gimbal to keep the camera steady and level during flight. If the drone tilts, then the camera tilts along with it. At high altitudes, the buffeting and juddering from winds is very noticeable. There is also no vibration dampening.
The camera takes stills at 13MP, but as the videos, these images are a little lacking when it comes fine detail and contrast.
There is no option to shoot in RAW, but some of the settings are adjustable. Things like white balance and shutter speed can be tweaked in the default automatic exposure mode.
Overall the Breeze is not a drone for someone who is interested in piloting a drone. Instead, it is ideal for people who want a camera for simple ariel photos and video. Even then. You are unlikely to win any major photography awards.
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone
The X-Star Premium drone is another high-performance drone that is capable of outstanding aerial photography. It has an excellent flight control system and intelligent autopilot functions.
Camera and gimbal
This drone has a 4K camera with an integrated 3-axis stabilized gimbal. It can capture 12 MP stills or record Ultra HD videos.
The camera has a 108-degree FOV which allows for a wide-angle perspective in bright colors and striking clarity.
The camera is capable of recording videos in 4K at 30 fps, 2.7K at 60 fps, 1080p at 120 fps and 720p at 240.
The gimbal makes for stable and smooth video footage by keeping vibrations and shakes to a minimum.
Both the gimbal and camera can easily be removed for replacement or upgrading.
The X-Star Premium has a very well designed control box with ergonomic joysticks for agile maneuvering. Aircraft flight-assist modes can be activated directly from a function key.
There is the option of attaching a smartphone or tablet to the control box. This is useful for a live view of what the drone is recording. It is also good for viewing and gauging important flight information on the screen.
Autel Robotics X-Star Main Features:
• 4k Ultra HD camera with 12mp on a three-axis gimbal.
• Capable of streaming 720p video up to 1 km away.
• Dual GPS/GLONASS satellite system.
• Flight time of about 25 min
The X-Star Premium is available for just over $900.
Horizon Hobby Blade Chroma
The Blade Chroma Drone is a great drone if you are just starting out in the world of 4K aerial photography. Packed with excellent features and a good camera, it includes everything you need in one package.
The Blade Chroma 4K is very similar to the Yuneec q500 and is equipped with the same camera. Indeed the Chroma 4K can be used with Yuneec’s wizard wand controller.
The Chroma has the same technology inside as the q500 but is a much smaller and lighter drone, making it much more portable.
The Chroma’s controller uses Andriod and has a 5.5-inch LCD monitor that runs on Android. The drone has good tracking and flowing me autopilot options
This drone is straightforward to fly and comes with an easy-to-use ST-10+ controller, making it ideal for beginners. A Smart Mode will fly the drone in the direction the joystick is being pushed regardless of here the nose is actually pointing. This mode also creates a SAFE Circle buffer, and there is an auto hold for position and altitude.
The Blade Chroma is also equipped with Advanced SAFE Plus technology that offers a number of flight modes specially designed to make it easier to capture smooth and steady pictures via 4k camera’s no-distortion lens.
The drone utilizes both GLONASS and GPS via a mast mounted antenna for accurate flying and control.
The Blade Chroma can fly for up to 30 minutes thanks to an 11.1V 3S 6300mAh Li-Po battery.
Some of the Blade Chroma’s other intelligent flying modes include:
• AP Mode.
This is designed for more experienced fliers and provides more control with the SAFE Circle turned off. You still have the option of auto-hold for position and altitude.
• Follow Me Mode.
This sets an altitude and distance on a target, allowing you to focus on getting the best shot.
• Tracking Mode.
In this mode, the drone will aim the camera and follow at a set distance and altitude to whoever is holding the controller.
• Return Home
If you lose the signal, this mode is automatically activated, and the drone returns to its starting point. It is also a very useful mode for beginners who haven’t quite yet mastered landing. It allows them to flip a switch and to get the drone back and automatically land safely.
• Adjustable Flight Boundaries
This mode makes it easier for fliers to make sure the drone flies within the new laws regarding flight boundaries/privacy.
Horizon Hobby’s Blade Chroma is currently retailing for slightly less than $700.
This Chroma 4K is a good, compact little flier for someone who wants a relatively simple drone. It offers a simple but limited alternative to the Phantom 4.
XIAOMI Mi Drone
The WiFi Mi quadcopter is another competitively priced option to the DJI Phantom. It provides aerial photography and video with clear images and a long distance FVP at a much lower price.
The Mi drone has a modular design with detachable gimbal, rotors, camera and landing gear. This makes disassembling and transporting the drone very simple. Parts damaged in a crash can also easily be removed and replaced
With a High Definition 1080P camera, the Mi Drone can record videos up to a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080p at 60fps. It is equipped with a Sony 12 MP vision sensor, one BLF, six sets of professional glass lenses and two sets of aspheric lenses.
Upair One 4K Drone
Built by GTEN Innovation Company, the Upair One 4K quadcopter uses PVC composite materials in a U-shape anhedral design to provide optimum camera stability and GPS signal reception. It has an inbuilt flight control system, camera, and gimbal.
Upair has a SONY camera with a 1/2.3 inch lens with Backside Illumination CMOS. This can take stills in 12 Megapixels at a rate of 11 per second. There is also a time-lapse mode. The camera records video in 4K at 24 FPS.
The camera makes use of specific algorithms that are capable of setting distortion degrees for various shooting angles.
The Upair’s brushless gimbal provides a good degree of stability and shock absorption. It has a ±0.2°Accuracy of Angle Control, and the Controllable Rotational Range of Pitching is -30° to 90°. The gimbal’s Maximum Controlling Rotational Velocity of Pitching is 15°/s.
With a –inch LED screen, the drone’s remote control box is very easy to use, with a range of about 1,000 m at a frequency of 2.4G. The FPV is transmitted directly to the control box screen.
DJI Phantom 3
The Phantom 3 series comes in three models - Professional, Advanced, and Standard. Up until the introduction of the Phantom 4, these were the top drones on the market. However, now with lower prices combined with excellent performance makes the Phantom three still worth considering as an alternative to its newer cousin. It is after-all one of the best selling drones to date.
This review is concerned with the professional model, considered by most to be the best of the three. Described as an aerial photography drone for the masses when it was first released, the Phantom 3 is a ready-to-fly 4k camera drone.
The chunky white Phantom 3 is incredibly easy to learn to fly. It has a motor tilt for better stability, smart braking, wide landing gear and ground-scanning sensors.
These optical sensors underneath the quad help stabilize the drone. They provide positional data so the Phantom 3 can hover in a precise spot even when there is no GPS signal. This feature is particularly useful for indoor flying or where there is a lot of signal interference.
An automatic return home safety features will also bring the drone back to your location and land when it detects that the batteries are critically low. The Phantom three is pretty sturdy and will survive the odd bump or small crash.
The Phantom 3’s official top speed is rated at 35mph, with a range of just over one mile. It has a flight time of around 20-23 minutes with a fully charged battery. Acrobatic and higher altitude flying will cut this time down quite considerably. Compared to the other Phantom 3 other models, the Professional version has a special fast charger. The batteries are removable, and you can buy spares.
Rather than Wi-Fi, the Phantom 3 uses DJI's own Lightbridge technology which is pre-built into the drone. You just connect your phone or tablet, with iOS or Android, to the USB port, and you're ready to fly. In a nice touch your phone will actually charge while connected to the controller.
The controller is very easy to use, with two main sticks and a clamp to hold a tablet or smartphone. Your media device acts as the display for the drone's camera via the DJI Pilot app. This app is designed for use with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 3, Sony Xperia Z3, Xiaomi Mi 3, ZTE Nubia Z7, Mini Google Nexus 7 II and Google Nexus 9, along with the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus.
The controller has buttons on each top corner to operate the onboard camera. These can be sued to stop and start recording or to change the camera setting such as angle of view and exposure.
Other controls tell you things like the distance of Phantom 3, altitude and location on a map in GPS mode. Along the top of the controller is a display showing how many how GPS satellite signals are being received and other more general settings.
There are buttons for auto takeoff or landing/return to home.
The Phantom 3 professional is equipped with a 4K camera (the other versions have a 1080p camera) and a first rate gimbal for stability. The 4K captures excellent stills, but its real strength and the what it was designed for is taking video. The camera has advanced optics and shoots in raw, delivering some of the best footage outside of a high-end professional drone carrying a professional camera.
The 4K is good enough to make it suitable for light commercial production such as streaming/ web video, festivals, real estate, short clips. It can stream video from a distance of up to 1.2 miles.
Walkera Voyager 4
The Voyager 4 is an excellent ‘’professional drone’’ from Walkera. This company really crams in as much technology as possible into their drones, often making different spec versions of the same model. The Voyager 4 is no exception and offers a first-class flying experience combined with a great camera set-up.
Some of the Voyager 4’s features include a retractable landing gear, 20 minutes flight time an 18 channel remote controller. This drone also has a comprehensive range of apps and is capable of live HD transmissions up to a range of 1km.
The Voyager 4 intelligent flight modes include:
• Destination Planning Waypoint
• Fly Around Object
• Altitude Hold Mode
• Circle Flight Mode
• One-Key Back To Base
• One Key Take Off And Landing
GPS and GLONASS
Like most of the drones in this review, the Voyager 4 uses both GLONASS and GPSnavigation systems to pick up more satellites for better signal reception and location.
Walkera Voyager 4 Main Features
• 18 Channel Remote Controller
• Live HD Transmission To 1 KM
• Detachable gimbal
• Comprehensive App
• Retractable Landing Gear
• Flight time of 20 minutes
Gimbal And 18x UHD Camera
With a newly designed three axis brushless gimbal, the Voyager 4 offers a very stable camera platform. It also has advanced shock absorption technology to reduce vibrations and movement built into the gimbal. This detachable gimbal allows the camera to produce clear images even when the focal length is magnified.
With an 18x zoom, the Voyager 4’s camera is one of the few on the market to offer such a large magnification range. The Inspire 1’s Zenmuse Z3 also has a zoom, but it is only 7x optical magnification.
3D Robotics Solo Drone
The Solo Drone is 3D is regarded as one of the best value drones on the market.
It has a flight time of 20 minutes when fully loaded or about 25 minutes when the camera and gimbal are detached. It incorporates a range of features that allow you to film and fly at the same time.
The Solo has excellent software, with two 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processors (one inside the drone and the other in the controller). It is also equipped with the Pixhawk 2 autopilot.
With a 3-axis gimbal, the Solo’s camera is not bad for the price. It is capable of video streaming using a GoPro’s Hero3+ camera direct to your smartphone or tablet.
One of the best things about the Solo is its controller that has an adjustable arm to attach a tablet or smartphone using Android or iOS apps.
The controller features easy to use adjustable buttons and a big screen. This color screen displays all the relevant flight data and will notify you if there are any problems.
For emergencies, there is a ‘’Pause’’ button that will immediately halt the drone mid-air.
The camera can be completely operated via the control box, which also has an HDMI port to attach most media systems.
The controller automatically records all flight data and so in effect acts as a black box if the drone crashes. If you do have a malfunction, you can download this data and send it to 3D Robotics for analysis.
Most other quadcopters on the market only store flight data in the drone itself, which means it is often destroyed during a crash.
DJI Mavic Pro
The fold up Mavic Pro is DJI’s smallest drone currently available. Compact it might be, but it is packed with the latest technology.
One of the best things about the Mavic Pro is that it handles equally well both indoors and outside. It has excellent collision avoidance sensors with multiple autopilot flight modes. The drone has a massive 4.3-mile transmission range.
The Mavic Pro also comes with a first rate 4K camera.
GPS and GLOSNASS
Like all drones, the Mavic Pro uses both the GPS and GLOSNASS navigation systems. With a possible connection to as many as 20 satellites, you should rarely lose an outdoor signal.
Combined with the satellite signals, the Mavic Pro’s two vision sensors give you unrivaled flying precision. The drone has DJI’s new improved precise landing system complete with a first class return-to-home point ability.
Excellent Flight Stability
DJI’s “FlightAutonomy” system consists of seven separate components that work in conjunction to give the Mavic Pro unrivaled flying accuracy and stability.
This system has five cameras (dual forward and downward plus the primary camera), two ultrasonic range finders, redundant sensors and the dual-band GLONASS and GPSpositioning plus 24 powerful computing cores.
The right and left-hand side cameras are at the front of the Mavic. They are secured in place with a bracket made of aluminum to give them the best alignment.
In flight, the onboard computer creates a 3D map. All four cameras take pictures to measure the distance between the drone and any obstacles.
All the intelligent flight modes including ActiveTrack, Terrain Follow, and TapFly use this very effective obstacle avoidance system. It is especially useful in Return to Home mode allowing the drone to come back without colliding into any objects.
The dual forward and downward vision sensors can only operate during daylight, but if it is bright enough, either indoors or outside are capable of seeing up to a range to almost 50 feet.
Filming and flying at the same time is very easy with the Mavic Pro thanks to its ActiveTrack with five autopilot modes.
• Spotlight. This will set the drone to circle a stationary or traveling object. It will also follow either in front of or behind a moving target.
• Profile. In this mode, the drone will keep pace with and fly alongside an object.
• Trace. This keeps the camera focused on any target allowing you free to concentrate on flying.
• Terrain Follow Mode. Here the drone will automatically fly at the same height above the ground no matter what the terrain.
• TapFly. Once you have programmed a straight line the DJI Go App, you can get the Mavic Pro to fly in this direction simply by tapping the screen.
All of these autopilot modes are fantastic if you want the drone to film you while cycling or running etc. You can keep up with the action no matter what’s going on.
4k Stabilized Camera
The Mavic Pro’s camera gimbal is the smallest designed by DJI’s engineers. With brushless motors on all three axes, the gimbal allows the cameras to be very precisely controlled. It is also is very good at canceling out the vibrations and movement from the drone.
This 4K camera itself uses technologies found in all DJI cameras. Perhaps its stand out feature is the 1/2.3 inch CMOS image sensor, a type usually found in professional sports cameras.
Aerial photography is optimized by an integrated lens with an equivalent focal length of 28mm. The camera provides smooth 4K video at 30fps and 1080P video at 96fps or 12-megapixel photos.
Overall, the Mavic Pro camera gives you crystal-clear photos and film.
Walkera Scout X4
The Scout X4 from Walkera Technology, Scout X4 is packed with great features and high-end technology. It has an advanced GPS flight control system for precise flying plus an excellent GPS position holding capability. The GPS, flight control system includes a Failsafe Return To Home feature and a one button start and hold option.
Autopilot With Ground Station
One of the standout features of the Scout X4 is its waypoint mission planning. You can program up to an impressive 128 waypoints including flight designation via either the included Bluetooth ground station device or your tablet or phone. The drone can be set to follow a particular course or circle a GPS waypoint. The Scout X4 also has a built-in “Follow Me” mode.
One of the X4’s most innovative features is its ability to change from a quadcopter with four motors to one with eight engines for extra power. The landing gear is also retractable so doesn’t get in the way of filming.
Compared to other drones the X4 has an impressive flight time of up to 25 minutes.
Walkera Scout X4 Main Features:
• Transforms from 4 motors into eight motors to improve its load ability.
• Designated Flight – Set up to 128 waypoints
• Circle Object With A GPS Waypoint Mode
• Follow Me mode
• GPS Position Hold
• Intelligent Controls – Auto take off, one button return to home
• High Capacity Smart Battery – up to 25 minute flight time
• Real Time Telemetry Monitoring
• Camera and Gimbal
The X4 comes with a three axis, G-3D Brushless Gimbal. It is equipped with the wide-angle lens iLook+ camera that shoots film at HD 1080p video and 30 fps. There is a built-in 5.8ghz transmission system, which allows for a seamless uplink to the Devo F12E Transmitter.
The iLook+ is capable of taking very high-quality pictures and can be completely controlled via the transmitter.
If you want to change the camera for your more preferred model, the X4 is a gopro drone which can accommodate most types including GoPro’s Hero3 or Hero4 action cameras.
Other cameras equipment can be used with the X4 including the GoPro Hero3 or Hero4 action cameras.
If you liked this article, check out our article on the DJI F550 Hexacopter