On a video shoot for a commercial earlier this year, I helped operate a high-end drone over the Pacific Ocean. My first experience with a drone, it was a blast. While the quality of the video turned out amazingly well — as it should for a product this expensive — I was less than impressed with the horrible battery life. Just 15 minutes per charge. In fact, the videographer brought three batteries with him because he can’t even get through a typical shoot with two of them. Each battery cost several hundred dollars, I believe he mentioned.
Fast forward to this month. My teenage daughter has been asking for a drone. I know how expensive they can be. But being a loving father, I jumped at the chance when offered to test out a new model for this column. It’s the SkyViper V2450 GPS Streaming Video Drone ($150) that promises tons of features at a relatively very affordable price. It’s got the likes of built-in GPS that provides an autonomous flight experience similar to that of much pricier hobby-grade drones. Using what the manufacturer calls a network of satellites to keep its position in relation to waypoints, the unit can maintain its coordinates in a hover mode without drifting away in the wind — it self-adjusts the coordinates as needed. Positional awareness also enables it to return to home, a feature in which the drone flies back to its launch point simply by the operator touching a button. It works well, too. In my testing, the unit came right back to my feet.
And of course, through its included camera, video streams live directly to a smartphone screen. All you have to do is preload the app and sync it to the drone. The smartphone can latch into the lightweight hand controller — right above the joystick so you can easily watch it as you control the flight. My daughter was wowing over how easy it was to operate. I barely got my hands on it. Essentially, she controlled everything with one finger — at one point, she actually set the controller down and let the drone just hover. Pretty simple.
It’s very lightweight, at just 118 grams. HD video streams at 20 frames per second to smartphones, but if you insert your own MicroSD card in the drone, it will record video at 30 frames per second — without relying on the phone. The resolution is 1280 x 720, and the camera angle can also be pivoted up and down.
The company claims the drone has an “improved flight range” but offers no reference or exact numbers. I know it can soar extremely high up. During the two times I took the drone to a local park, I got the unit up to at least 60 feet. But my daughter claims to have gotten it much higher in a previous solo session. Company officials claim it can reach 400 feet in altitude. And for what it’s worth, our battery lasted 20 minutes — longer than the much-pricier versions. The unit recharges fairly quickly via an included USB cable.
If your kids are looking for a fun, relatively affordable drone for the holidays, definitely give this one a look.
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