Yuneec Typhoon Q500 Drone with 4k Camera
OVERVIEWIn the world of small consumer market aerial drones with photo/video capability, the competition is steadily heating up and some awesome newcomers to the market have arrived on the scene on a regular basis for the last couple of years. One of these is the wonderfully aesthetic and rather powerful Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K UAV that we’re reviewing here. In a direct confrontation with DJI’s bestselling Phantom drone line, the Typhoon offers many of the same features as the Phantoms but packages them into a machine/controller combination which is decidedly much cooler looking and heftier.
Furthermore, while coming at a price tag that’s very similar to that of DJI’s latest and most powerful, the Phantom 3, the Typhoon Q500 4k offers several key navigation, design and spec differences which make it into a more than interesting offer in a market that’s growing more popular and versatile by the month. Thus, despite some design and video capture flaws which we’ll cover shortly, the Typhoon Q500 4k is a definite top-level candidate for being just what you need if you want aerial 4K and HD video capture abilities in some remarkably agile flying machinery for a price of less than $1,500.
THE GOODFirst and foremost, the actual look of the Typhoon Q500 4k is a definite winner. Unlike the somewhat clunky looking DJI Phantom 3, which looks virtually identical to its predecessor the Phantom 2, the Typhoon Q500 4k offers a dramatically different and in our view much cooler visual aesthetic. Yes, as a small battery-powered quadracopter drone, the Q500 has the same essential frame and four rotor design aspects of many other drones but its manufacturer has managed to load the machine up with plenty of extra decoration which just looks great on the ground or in the air. We know that a lot of this look is just visual fluff but who cares. The Q500 looks great!
Next, we can’t say we don’t love the Q500’s video and photo capture capacities. While they’re decidedly of an inferior quality to the kind of video and photo stills the Phantom 3 can produce with its superb built-in native 4K camera, Yuneec still isn’t any slouch in this regard and their video remains for the most part crisp, clear and decently colored. Furthermore, the rotating gimbal mounted camera design of the Q500 is apparently more versatile than that of its Phantom counterpart, being de-mountable for use as a handheld Steadicam which goes beyond the specific world of aerial video recording.
Finally, the overall range of navigation and control features as well as included accessories available for the Typhoon Q500 4k is excellent and in our view superior to what comes with the DJI competitor camera drones for sale. With the Q500, you get your hands on an included hardcase, a removable handheld stabilizing gimbal for using the UAV’s camera while on foot and a controller that has its own built in Full HD navigation and viewing screen, unlike the smartphone/mobile navigation app dependent remote that comes with DJI’s main drones.
THE BADOn the other hand, while the Typhoon Q500 4k beats or matches the DJI drone line in physical characteristics and accessories, it definitely lags behind the Phantom 3 when it comes to video capture. Yes, you’re getting your hands on 4K UHD video reproduction at 30 fps and Full HD filming with enough frames to even do slow motion video but the general quality of the video isn’t as realistic, bright and crisp as that produced by DJI’s own native UHD camera. Of course, this can be offset by using a third party 4K action camera like the GoPro Hero 4 instead of the Q500’s own native video technology but that means a lot of added expense, expense which DJI’s superb native 4K shooter eliminates in that company’s flagship drone. We’ll go into further detail on video defects in other sections here.
Furthermore, the Typhoon Q500 4k can be bit erratic in the air and also has a slightly shorter than normal flight time. It’s larger than many comparable drones and this might be a contributing factor to these minor flight control issues but since drones are most fundamentally about getting the most from their flying abilities, improved aerial performance is something that Yuneec should have put more emphasis on developing. We have heard of reports of the battery charger heating up considerably and the camera’s gimbal reacting slow to movement instructions, though unconfirmed.
FINAL OPINIONThe Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4k is an excellent piece of drone technology that comes packed richly with cool features and control specs. For this reason, we certainly do recommend it as a serious contender in its market and a potentially worthwhile purchase if aerial 4K or Full HD video is what you want. We love how easy it to get started on the drone. The learning curve is much shorter and friendly. However, DJI’s Phantom 3 4K drone model does provide better video quality straight out of the box.
Speed: 8m per second, or about 18 miles per hour
control accuracy: + or – 0.02 feet
Max altitude: 1968.5 feet
Flight time: 25 minutes but variable depending on conditions
Flight control: ST10+ 10 channel controller, powered by Android, with 1080p navigation/control screen
Transmitter Frequency: 5.2GHz–5.8GHz
Connectivity: USB, HDMI, 1 x charge port
Camera: Gimbal mounted 12 megapixel video/photo camera with Aerial Optimized Fixed Focus and 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor
Camera Resolution: up to 4K ultra HD at 3840 x 2160 for video, Full HD at up to 120 fps and up to 12 megapixels for photos
Recording Media: microSD Class 10 ~ 4 to 128 GB
Gimbal: CGO3 dismountable gimbal with a 115 degree field of view
Weight: 60.0 oz (with battery and propellers)
Dimensions: 22.2 inches diagonal from prop tip to prop tip
DESIGNThe main aim of the Typhoon Q500 is, according to Yuneec itself, “to create a superior, modular, integrated aerial and ground imaging solution for multi-rotor copter devices”. And in essence, the Q500 pulls these design aims off.
The Typhoon looks streamlined and aerodynamic, definitely more so than its rival the Phantom 3 and is also a slightly larger machine than the Phantom competitor. Furthermore, while being made mostly of plastic, it has a pretty robust, tough build that’s flexible enough to handle a fair bit of stress while also being reasonably hard. Some reviewers have claimed that the Q500 feels rather “plasticky” and basically toy-like in their hands but we don’t consider this to be a major issue as long as the drone performs well at its flight duties, which it does.
In basic terms, the Typhoon comes with the essential quadracopter look of many drones, with four rotor arm extensions emerging from a central body which houses the brains, battery power and hanging gimbal mounted camera of the machine. However, unlike the rather plain looking curvy Phantom 3 from DJI, the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4k features a whole bunch of lean, mean and enticingly angular lines that we definitely loved. They probably give it better aerodynamics and they definitely make the Typhoon look like a more impressive, high-end drone when on display or in the air.
The legs and camera can be removed from the main machine body and the rotors are also removable to boot. All of this can be done quickly and easily.
Beneath the main drone body lies the camera itself, which is a small baseball-sizes sphere with a microSD slot for storing video on the included 16GB card that comes with this drone as well as a power cable which connects to the drone’s main body. Furthermore, the camera is stabilized by a bunch of rubber joints and small motors that steadily and minutely shift the camera to remove vibration or shake during flight. Furthermore, the cameras mount can pitch the camera 90 degrees straight down or rotate the camera to nearly 90 degrees left or right. Interestingly, and this is something we definitely loved about this drone, the Typhoon Q500 4k also comes with the addition of a standalone steadycam grip with its own built-in gimbal. You can thus detach the drone’s camera from the body, attach it to the separate steadygrip and carry it around for on-foot filming. The image stabilization in the steadygrip is the same as that built into the drone’s camera platform.
Finally, we need to mention the Typhoon’s ST10+ ground station remote control. This is one controller that definitely beats the simpler remote of the Phantom 3 in terms of versatility. It’s universal to all of Yuneec’s drones and comes with a body that’s half classical joystick controls and half tablet touchscreen powered by an Android OS. Thus, with the Q500 4k, you can not only fly your drone around with the joysticks, but also control the camera and watch what it’s seeing from the built-in 5 inch tablet screen. This screen comes with its own control options that augment the physical controller buttons for still shots, video and other manipulations and the levers on the controller’s side for flight speed and camera pitch.
SETUPSetting up the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 is pretty straightforward when it comes to each flight after the first one in which you unpack the drone from its box. The process of setting this device up consists essentially of removing it from its box, screwing on the four rotors, attaching the legs and making sure the batteries for both controller and drone are fully charged. Once these things are done, you can simply activate the little machine and be up in the air in moments.
Since the Typhoon Q500 comes with its own built-in display screen for a live feed from the camera, there’s no need to download a fancy app to your smartphone, as you’d have to do in the Phantom drones from DJI. Instead, just fly and enjoy.
CAMERA SPECS & HIGHLIGHTSThe camera on the Typhoon Q500 4k is a Gimbal mounted 12 megapixel video/photo shooter with Aerial Optimized Fixed Focus and a 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor. It comes with a fairly wide lens that’s the equivalent of a 14mm full-frame camera lens and it manages to avoid fish-eye distortion in its captured photos and videos. As for these videos and photos, the footage from the Q500 can be captured in 4K UHD 3840 x 2160 resolution and 2560 x 1440p resolution at 30 frames per second or in Full HD 1080p resolution at a range of frame rates that consist of 24/25/30/48/50/60/120FPS. Furthermore, the camera can also take 12 megapixel still shots during flight as directed.
As for video and photo quality, while we do like the drone camera’s lack of fisheye distortion and smooth stability during flight, we’re not 100% happy with the brightness and color quality of the generated images and video. In this regard, DJI’s Phantom 3 drone in particular definitely offers the far superior camera quality. Video quality at the center of the frame in the Q500’s video footage is superb and possibly as good as that of the Phantom 3’s camera but moving out from the edges reveals increased lack of sharpness and detail to the point where video right at the edge of the frame is downright blurry to at least some degree. This we did not entirely like. Furthermore, white balance in the 4k camera can be a bit iffy at times, at least according to some reviews, though we ourselves haven’t noted this. In any case, there is a white balance control option that can be manually adjusted if you as a user want to create better color temperature in your video shots.
Photo capability out of the box in the Q500 is defaulted to 12 megapixel JEPG images with pretty good natural color but putting the Q500’s camera into Pro mode allows you to also capture RAW images in the DNG format for better overall image quality and detail levels.
IN-FLIGHTThe Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4k drone is a great flyer for which it’s really easy to learn the ropes, though responsiveness during maneuvers is a bit weaker than that found in the DJI Phantom 3. However, on the whole, the flight experience with the Q500 is very flexible and feature-rich.
The Typhoon won’t take off until it manages to generate a GPS lock but this feature can be manually overwritten if you don’t care about using the GPS. Furthermore, unlike the DJI Phantom 3, the Q500 4k doesn’t come with a built-in positioning system so flying it in tight spaces, between trees and indoors is certainly a proposition that can lead to accidents more easily. Likewise for having the drone automatically follow you. It does indeed come with a cool “follow-me” mode by which it will trail along behind you like a puppy but if a branch or other unexpected object happens to get in the way, the Q500 acts more like a blind puppy and crashes right into whatever blocks it path. Luckily though, the body of the drone is pretty tough when it comes to mild impacts and Yuneec has included two sets of props, just in case some of them break during in-flight accidents.
The controllers left stick moves the Q500 4k forward or backward as well as left or right and the right stick rotates the drone along its axis while also being an elevation control. Furthermore, there is a speed control lever on one side of the controller that can set speed as either tortoise or rabbit. Rabbit will get you a maximum speed of 18 miles per hour according to the drone’s specs but we suspect it’s really closer to about 15 or 16 mph. Finally, and most crucially, the Q500 can last about 20 minutes in the air at full speed and with lots of maneuvering. Lowering the resolution of the video capture and moving slower might increase your flight time to roughly 25 minutes.
As for flight modes, there are three general modes available as far as we can tell. These consist of the beginner mode “Smart”, which flies the drone in whichever direction you push the control stick regardless of where the drone’s nose is pointing, “Angle” mode, which causes the drone to fly wherever its nose is pointing when you want it to go forward, and “Home” mode, which does exactly what its name implies: It send the drone on the most direct path back to you and the ground station.
PRICEThe Yuneec Typhoon Q500 drone is currently retailing on Amazon.com for $1,298.96 and includes the CGO3 4K camera, 2 batteries, 2 sets of props, a handheld steadygrip and an aluminum hardcase for storage. All in all, this package offers a better deal than what you’ll get with the Phantom 3 at a higher price.
• Great design
• Awesome remote control with built-in tablet
• 4K UHD video and 12 MP photos
• Lots of accessories included
• Excellent price
• Solid flyer
• Easy to learn and flip switch to return home
• Slightly less agile than the Phantom 3 from DJI
• Slightly lower flight time
• Heavy battery