Clearly, in 2016 we are now living in the age of the drone, with new and exciting drones of different sizes and abilities being released all the time, each more wow-inducing than the last. Generally, drones are associated with aerial photography and video, however this isn’t always the case. More and more companies are turning to drones to see how they can use them as security measures, and more and more drone companies are coming up with ideas to suit this very purpose.
Amongst all of these drone companies, there is a company you may be familiar with called Yuneec, which has been designing RC aircraft for over a decade, and producing some of the most sophisticated drones on the market today.
The Yuneec Q500 Typhoon 4K
Not long ago came the release of a drone made by Yuneec called the Q500 Typhoon 4K, which was developed for amateur pilots, and came with a price tag of under $1000.
Coming complete with a truckload of great “smart” features that promised to improve aerial video capture for the relative novice, we have decided to dedicate this review to the Q500 Typhoon 4K and take it for a little ride, in order to see if its all its cracked up to be. Here’s some actual footage to kick things off…
Out Of The Box Features
When you go to unpack your Yuneec Q500, you will feel a bit like a kid on Christmas morn unwrapped the ultimate toy. At around 8 inches in height, and measuring roughly 16.5 inches in length, here we have a drone that weighs around 4 pounds when you include the battery as well as the payload together. As you will see, the drone comes out of the box with the following:
- A built-in 4K camera
- The ST10+ Personal Ground Station controller
- Two sets of rotors
- All the required adapters and plug-ins
- One 16GB SD card which comes loaded with tutorials
The Q500 has the ability to appeal to both amateur photographers and those who have the know-how to take advantage of more advanced settings alike, as it can easily produce images and video that look extremely professional. With the included 3-axis gimbal camera, you will be able to pull off all sorts of artistic shots, as it is under your complete control.
Whether you want to get a straight-ahead shot or swivel the camera 90 degrees straight down to capture some impressive overhead shots, the Q500 has you covered. Although drone companies are currently racing to make sure this feature is part of the package from the get-go, the folks at Yuneec already are one step ahead of the competition in this regard.
Besides the fact that the images this drone can deliver will have viewers doing double-takes because they’re so awesome, this drone is not simply designed for photographers. Also, it is the controls which make the Q500 Typhoon 4K special. With “Follow Me”, pilots of the drone are given a mode which keeps the drone tethered to them, as long as they’re holding the controller. In this instance, the drone is operating on its own, but more or less “aware” of the pilot’s location. And then there is the “Watch Me” mode, which tells the drone to always keep the operator within its view frame and in focus as well, no matter which way the drone is going. These two features alone are extremely handy, and you can tell that Yuneec has put a lot of time and effort into the design of the Q500 Typhoon 4K.
ST10+ Personal Ground Station Controller
This controller comes with every version of the Q500 and is the key to its flexibility. The ST10+ contains all the buttons, joysticks, not to mention settings for all you will need to both fly and land this drone, as well as accessing its features which will allow it to capture video or photos. With its vivid and precise clear-as-a-bell touch screen, the ST10+ allows you to see whatever the drone sees as it takes to the sky. Although for the most part this controller is meant to give the pilot a live video feed, it has other features as well, such as a constant battery life update, as well as ground speed, the drone’s distance from the controller, GPS status, and more.
When it comes to drones, its quite easy for a company to manufacture one that has at least something not quite right about it. In the case of the Q500 4K Typhoon, one thing you can easily see once you get it out of the box is that this thing is no toy. It is made to be sturdy, and it comes complete with SteadyGrip and aluminum casing. Considering the asking price of this drone, its nice to see that the product looks about appropriate for the cost of the unit.
Another cool thing about the Q500 4K Typhoon is that it doesn’t wear out easily. After many flights, your drone will still come back looking shiny and new, and even the four foam pads that you would expect to get worn out relatively quickly manage to hold up very well after repeated take-offs and landings.
Depending on the exact unit you purchase, you may get an extra battery, or maybe not. You should know that a single one of the lithium polymer 5400 mAh batteries that come with the drone provides you with a little less than half an hour of flight time (around 25 minutes), which you will learn when you start to use this drone. Not bad, but that’s only if you do very little with the drone. If you decide to use the drone as one might – taking lots of pictures, flying here and there – the battery time does drop to closer to 20 minutes, which is something to consider. This is particularly true if you are using either of the two modes “Follow Me” or “Watch Me”, which also acts as workout for the Q500. Overall, we find that the flight performance of this drone is really quite good, and perhaps one of its best features of all.
If 20 minutes in the air doesn’t seem very long to you, then just remember that by having that extra battery handy, you actually can get your Q500 right back up there in no time, effectively doubling the amount of airtime you get at once. With the ST10+ controller, you do get very responsive battery life indications, including alerts when the battery gets too low. Although it is recommended to get your drone down once the warning pops up, you can actually keep it up until it reaches to around 10.7V, at which point, you should really land that puppy.
This is where we come to one of the downers of using this drone, which is the two hour wait for batteries to fully recharge. And as an added bummer, you do need to do this out of the box, which means that even though the drone is ready to soar into the wild blue yonder, you need to wait for batteries to charge first. This means you must do everyone’s favourite pass time – waiting. This is why we recommend the two-battery package deal with the Q500, since waiting 2 hours to have your drone in the air for 20 minutes doesn’t necessarily seem fair. Included in this package is a car-charger, so if you decide to take your drone out anywhere, you needn’t be dependant on a wall charger to power it up. As for the ST10+, this takes even longer to charge at about five hours or so in order to reach full capacity. Here, you can use a typical USB power source with the micro USB cable that’s included, or the AC Adaptor.
When it comes to how it flies, the Q500 is quite possibly one of the easiest drones to fly ever constructed. As we mentioned, this is a smart quadcopter, and so all of the modes that are included with it are equally easy to learn and use. Even first-timers should have no problem guiding this drone around with ease, using its dual joysticks to experience some very natural free-flying.
To get the Q500 going, just push up on the stick on the left, and then, after waiting for a couple seconds, your Q500 will begin its ascent so long as you continue to press on the stick. When controls are released, the GPS system of the Q500 will permit it to hover easily in one place, and it is actually very difficult for a strong wind to carry it away from where it is.
Once you’ve got it airborne, flying the drone is quite simple, as it operates much like an old school video game – forward being up and backward being down, and left being left and right being right. After even just a few minutes of piloting the drone, it will no doubt begin to feel like second nature to you. The reason this drone performs so well is just how sensitive the controls are. With just a flick of the controls, the drone senses your every movement and will done in the designated direction you send it in. Apply more pressure, and the drone will race one way or another – again, in the desired direction.
As we mentioned before, there are two “smart” modes that come with the Q500 4K Typhoon – “Follow Me” and “Watch Me”. With “Follow Me”, the drone is very good at keeping track of the pilot all while keeping about 25 feet from the controller. In terms of autonomy, the “Watch Me” mode really highlights the smarts of the drone, as the camera is able to stay fixed on the person controlling the drone the entire time without fail.
Yuneec says that the Q500 4K has a maximum speed in “angle” mode of about 17 miles per hour, while “Follow Me” and “Watch Me” modes max it out at 22 miles per hour. These numbers match our research, which is good to see.
Great, But Not Perfect
Although buyers who have purchased the Q500 have generally said nothing but good things, there is the occasional report on record where there have been miscalculations. We do have to keep in mind, this is a drone, and since the reports of this drone not following orders is relatively rare, we can chalk it up to “nobody’s perfect”. Still, these drones are not toys and a miscalculation on the part of the controls could potentially lead to your drone deciding to fly through someone’s window and landing on their kitchen table. At the same time, we have to remember that this drone is programmed not to crash into the pilot, so that means that if you are guiding it to come back in your direction, and you’re not careful, you might simply guide your drone into the nearest tree as it tries to avoid hitting you. And so, there is a learning curve with the Q500 that you’ll need to figure out.
As the name indicates, the Q500 4K Typhoon has that “4K” there for a reason – this is one outstanding video camera as well as being a slick, autonomous quadcopter. On the base of the drone, you will find the CGO3 camera, packing a field of view measuring 115 degrees with 1080p full HD, as well as the as-advertised 4K HD going at 30 frames / second. Using the ST10+, you can customize the settings of the camera if you so choose, or you can stick with the automatic settings. To get the images you want, it might be a good idea to explore these advanced settings to get a particular result, but this will take practice.
One thing you will notice once you put the CGO3 camera to use it its ability to capture amazing horizons, skylines, and wide shots with lots of great detail that you will have to see to believe. As we mentioned before, with very little effort, you can go from aiming at the horizon to aiming downward in a matter of moments to get a whole different type of shot.
If you want to try something else, you can use the Q500 to capture slow motion video at 1080p/120fps, giving the user even more flexibility. In order to use this function, all that is required is a quick change of the settings using the ST10+ and you can toggle between the two modes seamlessly.
Note: You might have read that the Parrot Bebop 2 is a better drone, offering better specs, a longer flight time, and overall more autonomous (click here to view this product on Amazon now), but the fact remains that with the Q500 this quadcopter is good to go out of the box, and requires nothing extra to make it work and no need for upgrades.
We think the Q500 is a great drone, and has everything you might want in a quadcopter / camera. From an easy learning curve for beginners, to one of the most impressive built-in cameras on the market, we think you will find that this Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon one of the best drones out there. Its uses are multifunctional, but we leave it up to you as to how you would want to use it, but just remember that it does have a 20 minute flight time before it has to return to the roost and recharge.
There are definitely more expensive drones out there, but we recommend this one because it offers professional quality video without having to pay too much. Its built-in camera is definitely on par with similar hand held models, and the controls are smooth and you’ll pick them up quickly.