The DJI Phantom 3 Pro
is one of the very best selling drones in the industry.
Some people see Yuneec as a potential long term rival to DJI
in the consumer-to-professional drone market. The Chinese company has a background in much larger electric powered aircraft than drone quadcopters. In 2009 Yuneec International's E340 two seater electric aircraft made its maiden flight. It has a 7 metre wingspan.
Since then the company has produced electric powered microlights (ultralights), in both fixed wing and flex-wing varieties, and motor gliders.
But it's with unmanned aerial vehicles that Yuneec appears to be flexing its wings.
Yuneec's Q500 Typhoon 4K drone is a potential rival to DJI's market dominating Phantom 3 Professional
. And just around the corner is the Typhoon H - a folding hexacopter with some sense-and-avoid input from Intel.
On the face of it Yuneec cram more into the box. The Q500 arrives complete with many of the parts that are extras on the Phantom 3
. The controller includes a built-in Android powered device and screen, You get two batteries, a screen shade, a car charger, an aluminium case and a SteadyGrip handheld camera mount.
DJI Phantom 3 Professional
However the Phantom 3 has a good pedigree and a great reputation. The P3 Professional
has set the standard for small, ultra high definition drones. It's compact, speedy and stable with a high quality camera and gimbal combo. It's also had a recent price cut. In the UK it's now £949!
- down from £1159.
By comparison the the Q500 is chunkier, although it is bigger and more purposeful in its styling. To save on weight, the girder-like construction is reinforced with triangles here and there.
Triangles for strength. Weight saving on the chunky Typhoon Q500 4K
It's when the Typhoon gets into the air that the differences become more apparent. Every review I've seen comes up with a different way of saying that it's slower than the Phantom 3. Descriptions like "sedate", "smooth and steady", "not a speed machine" and "not a racing drone" are used. The controller has a slider switch on one side that controls the speed of response of the aircraft. Think of it as a variable beginner/expert mode control. It's labelled with a tortoise and a hare or, as the Americans call them, a turtle and a rabbit. My mother-in-law's mobility scooter uses the same symbols.
Typhoon's response control
Mother-in-law's mobility scooter
Even in hare mode, the Typhoon is not as nippy as the Phantom 3 but reviewers say it's quieter, makes a lower pitched noise and is smoother but then you can fly the Phantom smoothly if you want to. Some of that may be due to the airframe's larger size and to the larger props - 13 inches. That's the same length as a DJI Inspire's. The Phantom's are 9 inches.
Reviewers like the all in one controller. It has a built in Android tablet. There's a stop/start button to control the motors and you do get haptic feedback from the controls. I'm not sure why the screen is at the bottom of the controller rather than the top where most monitors go.
Some reviewers had problems with the angle of the camera/gimbal. This may have been fixed by a firmware upgrade but a slant of up to 45 degrees which you have to cure by switching it off and on again is not something I'd want to have to deal with.
Flight time and video range
The maximum flying speed is around 14 mph. Flight time appears to be shorter than the Phantom 3. Some have recorded just 12-13 minutes. The charging time is very long - around two hours or even longer - but it does have an extra cable which allows you to use your own balanced charger, if you have one.
The Yuneec's video range, over a 5.8 MHz feed, is less than the 2.4 MHz Lightbridge signal on the Phantom 3. That goes for the Advanced as well as the Professional. There have been some reports of the video signal failing after just 200 metres, not good when the UK distance limit for drones is 500 metres.
A few reviewers have criticised the Typhoon's performance near the ground. When it encounters ground effect on the way into land it goes into a bouncing cycle and is also prone to tip over on landing.
Yuneec Q500 4K CG03 camera and gimbal
There are differences in picture quality. The Typhoon has a slightly wider lens (115 degrees) compared to the 94 degrees on the Phantom. Both claim zero distortion but I think the Phantom has the edge because of the narrower field of view. Colours are perceived to be more natural on the DJI drone. The two cameras have similar sensors and both produce 12MP stills.
I'm not sure what to make of the tilt speed on the gimbal. Early reports suggested it was too fast when the Q500 was released now reviewers are saying it's too slow.
The Yuneec has a Follow Me mode but it also has a Watch Me mode. Without having to do any set up other than tapping an icon on the screen, the Q500 will turn to face the pilot (the transmitter) and will orbit with a bit of right or left stick.
OK. So this isn't a definitive, personal, hands-on review but it is an aggregation of other people's reviews as well as test reports from within the industry. Eventually I'd like to have a go at flying the Q500 myself but the overall consensus seems to be that it's bigger, slower and less responsive than the market leading Phantom
. As an all-in-one package it appears to represent good value but, until the various niggles are sorted out, it's not really there yet.
DJI Phantom 3 Professional