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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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AirSelfie, a pocket-sized camera drone, launches on Kickstarter

What is AirSelfie?

AirSelfie is the world’s smallest portable flying camera. Who said selfies were confined to sticks? With this groundbreaking device, you’ll be able to snap aerial photos directly from your phone. Sky’s the limit.

AirSelfie is a registered trademark and all its components are protected by filed and granted patents.

 

How it works

Take AirSelfie out of its cover and launch it from your phone using the AirSelfie app available for iOS and Android.

Fly AirSelfie and control it directly through 3 different flight functions:

  • Selfie mode, the easiest one, with just two directional buttons to make AirSelfie move far or close to you.
  • Selfie Motion Control mode, control AirSelfie in real time with the virtual joystick provided by App.
  • Flying mode, where the device is held horizontally and replaces a classic controller. Once you’ve found the perfect positioning for the shot, AirSelfie stays still, thanks to the hovering function.

Land AirSelfie onto your open hand and place it back in its case where it will be recharged.

The pics will be immediately downloaded to your mobile device via wifi, ready to be shared through your favorite social media platform.

Why AirSelfie?

How many times have you found yourself trying to fit twenty people or more in that group selfie? How many times have you tried squeezing in that beautiful sunset in your couple selfie? And how many times have you had to cut out that landmark while snapping one simple selfie?

Say goodbye to your selfie stick or stretching your arm out till it hurts.

You can place AirSelfie in its designated phone cover (which acts as a charger too) and unchain it whenever you want to take an aerial picture or video.

Imagine being able to revolutionize perspective completely.

Fly AirSelfie – micro-device HD camera – comfortably from your phone, by using the AirSelfie App and take the most amazing selfies. AirSelfie is compatible with all iOS and Android Operative Systems.

You’ll be able to build unforgettable memories through a new perspective.

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DJI adds an offline mode to its drones for clients with ‘sensitive operations’

DJI is working on a “local data mode” for its apps that prevents any data from being sent to or received from the internet. The feature will be welcomed by many, but it’s hard not to attribute the timing and urgency of the announcement to the recent ban of DJI gear by the U.S. Army over unspecified “cyber vulnerabilities.”

“We are creating local data mode to address the needs of our enterprise customers, including public and private organizations that are using DJI technology to perform sensitive operations around the world,” said Brendan Schulman, the company’s VP of Policy and Legal Affairs, in a press release. The new feature should arrive before the end of September.

The Army memo, first published at Small UAS News and dated August 2, said that “due to increased awareness of cyber vulnerabilities associated with DJI products, it is directed that the U.S. Army halt use of all DJI products.”

It’s not clear what these vulnerabilities actually are, or whether the mere possibility of sensitive information being transmitted was enough to spook someone at HQ.

DJI’s flight control apps, from which users can launch and control drones, does indeed regularly phone home to make sure it is up to date, using current maps and so on. And if the user chose to, it would back-up flight logs and media to DJI’s servers. But the online functions aren’t necessary for ordinary operation and flight, so local data mode doesn’t affect airworthiness or anything like that.

Although DJI was not made aware of the Army’s concerns ahead of time, the new mode has been in development for several months, according to the press release. So either a little bird told the company this was a possibility, or more likely it’s just a smart option to include when your craft and apps are being put into national security and life-and-death type situations.

A DJI representative told TechCrunch that today’s announcement isn’t in response to the memo. Schulman, however, told The New York Times that “the Army memo caused customers to express renewed concern about data security.”

These statements may seem contradictory, but it’s not hard to imagine that when a major client like the Army raises security concerns, others will join the chorus. So DJI can say the announcement today wasn’t in response to the memo — not directly, anyway. But chances are we wouldn’t be hearing about the feature until later had the memo not been publicized.

“We’re not responding to the Army, which has never explained its concerns to us,” explained Adam Lisberg, DJI’s corporate comms director for North America, in response to my inquiries along these lines. “We’re accelerating the rollout of something we’ve been working on for a while. We announced it today because enterprise customers with serious data security have made clear they need something like this for a while, and the Army memo reinforced that concern for them. So we’re addressing it quickly as part of our commitment to delivering what our enterprise customers need.”

It matters because DJI isn’t a military-specific drone maker, like General Atomics, which makes Predators — though the chances of a Chinese company ever being so are slim, to say the least. It’s also a matter of public image: they’re a company looking out for consumers and the occasional government contract, not a major participator in the military-industrial complex.

Clearly, the company wants to signal that it takes its feature requests not from foreign governments, but from its valued users all over the globe, of which the Army happens to be one.

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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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