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Selfies from the sky made simple by Yuneec Breeze

The Yuneec Breeze perfect for people who want a camera drone for aerial photos and video, but have almost no interest in actually piloting a drone.

Genry o Dean

With little more than some taps on your phone’s screen, you can put the Breeze in the air and have it perform a handful of automated camera moves to grab photos and video clips of you and your friends and family. Then you just download them to your phone, edit, and share – all from within the drone’s app.

You can also fly it around manually with onscreen controls if you want to get specific aerial shots, but the range is limited to a maximum height of 80 meters (262.5 feet) and a maximum distance of 100 meters (328.1 feet). Flight times tap out at 12 minutes, so you won’t want to fly it too far away from you anyway.

The Breeze is not a toy, though. Its price tag pretty much quells that notion: $500 in the US and AU$700 or £450 in Australia and the UK, respectively. It’s not for racing around, either, and it’s also not going to compete with something like the DJI Phantom 3 Standard, which is priced similarly, but has a better camera stabilized with a three-axis gimbal and far greater range and capabilities.

However, the DJI isn’t going to slip into a shoulder bag or backpack and is not nearly as discreet as the Breeze. It’s basically a point-and-shoot camera attached to a flying robot — a selfie drone.

The mobile app, available for iOS and Android, is split into two sections: Tasks and Gallery. Tap on Tasks and you’re given five options to choose from: Pilot, Selfie, Orbit, Journey and Follow Me. The pilot has the manual controls for flying around the way any other drone would with a regular controller. However, the Breeze is designed to have the camera pointed at you and not away from you like other camera drones, so the controls are reversed. (An onscreen toggle quickly switches this to what experienced pilots would consider normal.)

Selfie mode takes away the traditional stick controls and uses sliders instead to get the camera into just the right position for your photo or video. Orbit lets you set up the Breeze to automatically circle you or another subject, while Journey sets the copter to fly away from you and back again using the camera’s angle to calculate its trajectory.

Follow Me uses GPS and your phone to track you and follow you around. If you’re close to the drone, the movements can be jerky. In my experience, the best way to use this is to have it fly over top of you or from behind with it far away to take advantage of the camera’s wide-angle lens.

The Breeze performed really well overall and each mode has instructions for how to use it, so you’re never left guessing how to set up your shots. And when you get the video or photo you’re after, you can tap back out of Tasks and head to the Gallery for editing and sharing.

If you’re used to the smooth, stabilized aerial video from drones with cameras on motorized gimbals, you’re likely going to be disappointed by the Breeze’s video or at least its 4K-resolution video. Other than some vibration dampeners in the body there is nothing to stabilize the video at its highest resolution, 2160p at 30fps, so the slightest wind or drone movements cause shake and jerkiness in videos.

Drop down to 1080p at 30fps or 720p at 60fps, though, and you get digital image stabilization that works pretty well. It won’t take out all movement, but even in high winds the video looked fairly stable. It is no replacement for a gimbal, but as long as the drone is performing one of its automated moves or you’re just flying it, it looks good. At least good enough to share on social or when viewed on a phone or tablet. The quality won’t blow people away, but the fact that it’s from a flying camera will.

And really, that’s what the Breeze is all about: getting a great aerial shot of you and your friends to share online so that people can view it on their phones or tablets.

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DJI Mavic Pro review

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Design

Having flown drones from the Phantom range extensively, I’d considered them to be impressively compact and lightweight for their capabilities – but the Mavic Pro is in a whole different league when it comes to portability.

When the postman delivered the box to my house I thought there’d been some mistake – surely this package, smaller than a shoebox, couldn’t contain a £1,000-plus quadcopter, a controller, and a battery charger? But it did because the Mavic is shockingly tiny compared to its Phantom cousins – about one-sixth of the size when folded.

My immediate concern was that its small size would detract from its in-air stability and/or its image quality. But even with that niggling in the back of mind I couldn’t help but be impressed by how neatly the drone and its controller folded down. This is the first 4K drone I’ve seen that feels like it could genuinely be carried all day without any thought. The Phantoms require being lugged around in special, bulky backpacks or cases, but the Mavic Pro will happily fit in the smallest of bags.

It’s solidly built too, with the majority of the quadcopter being constructed from tough plastic – handy to know, given that anyone who buys a drone is likely to have at least one or two slight aerial mishaps during their ownership. The gimbal-mounted camera feels more delicate, but DJI supplies a clear plastic cage that protects it from harm while you’re carrying it around.

Features

The camera is small but fairly powerful on paper: its 1/2.3-inch sensor can capture 12MP stills in JPEG or DNG RAW format, as well as video at a variety of resolutions and frame rates: 4K at 30fps or 1080p at up to 96fps.

It’s mounted on a tiny motorized gimbal that, in combination with the drone’s suite of sensors, is able to make near-instant adjustments to keep itself level at all times. You can also set it to a POV mode, which tilts and turns it along with the drone.

There are four other cameras on board, but these aren’t for photography; they’re to aid in-flight stability and safety. Two downward-facing cameras help keep the drone from drifting around indoors or in areas of poor GPS coverage (usually, GPS data is used to maintain position), while another pair faces frontwards, detecting obstacles in a forward arc and preventing the drone from hitting them. It’ll stop moving if it comes within a few feet of anything solid, but only when it’s in front – the obstacle detection won’t prevent a crash if the Mavic moves backward or sideways into a tree, lamppost or neighbour’s window. So beware.

Then there’s the tiny controller, which unfolds to accommodate an Apple or Android smartphone in its grip – the phone plugs into the controller with a short cable, and the controller automatically connects to the Mavic via Wi-Fi or RC. This way, you can view the drone camera’s live feed (in smooth-running, crisp 1080p) and change settings via the DJI Go app on your phone’s screen while keeping the physical flight controls within reach.

It has a long transmission range, too – DJI says up to 4.3 miles, depending on obstacles and other interference. I haven’t attempted to test that out, as flying a drone beyond visual range would be breaking UK law.

If you want to use a tablet or a phone too large to fit within the grip, there’s a full-size USB port on the bottom of the controller. Plug your device into there and it’ll work much the same as a phone – albeit much more awkwardly, as you’ll need to prop the screen somewhere while also holding the controller.

Gallery

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Video

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Our score

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Where to buy

Do you want a tiny flying camera that doesn’t compromise on battery life, flying agility and image quality, all the while maintaining a relatively affordable price tag? If so, the Mavic Pro is the best choice right now.

DJI has outdone itself with this dinky drone, which brings together the best attributes of the Phantom range while adding more features and massively boosting the portability. It’s a soaring success.

If you’re not after something quite so advanced, the dinky DJI Spark is worth considering, but for our money, we think it’s worth stretching for the DJI Mavic Pro if you can owing to superior video and battery life.

 

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Price History

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