2016 is huge for consumer drones – big names such as AirDog and Phantom 4 have already been released and in just a couple of weeks we are expecting Typhoon H to officially launch for the public as well. Later this year GoPro will launch their own drone called “Karma”. Those are all products which are a topic of vivid discussions, because as any other tech product, people are extremely interested in knowing which product is the best and which drone should they buy.
In this article we’ll have a deeper look at the two of the most anticipated drones of the year – namely Typhoon H from Yuneec and Phantom 4 from DJI. We all know every drone has its own strengths and weaknesses, and those two are no exception, so I’ll do my best to compare the two in a way that you can form your own opinion and decide for yourself which one you like best.
Here’s a quick summary of the drones’ most notable features:
Typhoon H Pros:
- Built-in display in the remote
- Retractable landing gear & folding arms
- Team Mode
- 360-degrees rotating camera
- Six-rotors, providing additional flight security
Typhoon H Cons:
- Battery life is average
- Lower maximum speed in angle mode
- Limited range (1000 meters)
Phantom 4 Pros:
- Large number of flying modes
- 28 minutes of flight time
- Great range and altitude
- Fast flying speed
Phantom 4 Cons:
- DJI is not particular known for their great customer support
- Sometimes there are weird bugs in the DJI GO App
- Firmware updates could crash your experience
Let’s start with the fact that both drones are RTF (Ready To Fly). This means they come equipped with everything you need to start flying (gimbal, camera, battery, propellers, etc.). You can literally get those drones in air a few minutes after your first unboxing 🙂 The frames of the drones are made of strong materials (carbon fiber for the Typhoon and magnesium for the Phantom4) which should make them pretty durable against little crashes and when landing. However I have to give a little advantage to the Typhoon for its strenght – you can expect less stress cracks on its body compared to the Phantom 4.
Both drones have easy to install propellers, which simply snap on/twist and lock. Both also come with 4 additional props in case you need to switch them.
From external point of view, you can immediately see that the drones are different from each other. The Typhoon H is a hexacopter, meaning it has six rotating rotors, whereas the Phantom4 is a quadcopter. Yuneec states that even if one rotor fails during flight, the hexacopter will be able to fly back safely with no issues whatsoever – something which is not possible for any quadcopter so far. In addition, the six rotors of the Typhoon make it a bit heavier than its competitor (1850 grams vs 1380 grams), but also more resistant to heavy winds – a fact that is worth considering. The overall increase in the stability results in a lot less shakiness during filming.
Speaking of filming – both drones have amazing 4K cameras, capable of filming at 30 fps and slow-motion video at 1080p (120fps) with identical viewing angles – 115° vs 94° . However, what separates their cameras is that the Typhoon H has an unlimited rotating 360-degree camera, which means you can continue rotating it as much as you want.
On top of that, the landing gear (the arms) of the Typhoon H is retractable, giving you a whole 360 degree freedom of view while filming. In my personal opinion this is a huge advantage over the Phantom 4, because phisically rotating the drone during flight in order to capture a specific viewing angle is not always easy. After finishing filming, you can even fold the Typhoon’s arms even more, allowing it to fit safely in a backpack or carrying case for better transportation. On the other side, the Phantom 4 does not fold at all.
Both drones have built-in 3-axis stabilization gimbal, which simply put is an attachment that helps keeping the camera steady while taking pictures or video.
Interior & Connectivity
On the inside, both the devices are very smart and capable. They support some of the coolest features you can get in a drone in 2016, such as different flight modes, obstacle avoidance and auto-follow.
But let’s start with the basics, namely the remote controllers, as here comes one of the biggest differences between the two drones. The Typhoon’s remote has a built-in 7″ display, which allows you to see in real time what the drone’s camera sees. This eliminates the need of using an additional device, such as smartphone or tablet, which is the case with the Phantom 4.
Also, numerous users have reported issues when connecting phones/tablets to the DJI App which you need in order to fly your Phantom 4. It’s interesting to see the way Yuneec tackles this problem, by giving you a built-in display in your remote. Of course, some people can argue that the display is smaller than the one on an Ipad Air2 for example, and this could make it more difficult to see where you’re flying, but in my personal opinion 7″ is big enough for what you need to see during a flight and I would’t list that as a con.
Another huge plus for the Typhoon H is Team Mode. This mode allows you to bind one Ground Station to the drone, and another Ground Station to the camera at the same time – this means you can have one person controlling the drone in the sky, and another taking care of the footage. Undoubtedly this is a feature which if used right could greatly increase the quality of your footage. Old controllers such as ST12 are also supported, so you don’t need to buy a new one.
When it comes to the range of the drones, it is very (and I mean very) different. Here the Phantom 4 easily takes the crown with its range of 5000 meters. The Typhoon H has 5 times less range – a maximum of only 1000 meters. Other similar specifications of the drone are also all in favour of the Phantom – it has a better max speed (20 m/s vs. 10 m/s for the Typhoon), better flight time (~28 vs. ~25 min), and better altitude (6000 meters above sea level vs. a software limit of 122 meters).
Actually, the maximum altitude is a huge topic of discussions at the moment, because it seems that the Phantom 4 is crushing the Typhoon H by this indicator, which is not really the case. DJI is stating the maximum altiude in which the drone is capable of flying, whereas Yuneec is only stating that their drone can reach the regulated maximum altitude from FAA. Anything higher than that is prohibited in the US, therefore not stated in the specifications (although I’m pretty sure the Typhoon H can go much higher than that).
Let’s begin with the flying modes of the Typhoon H. The drone supports:
- Point of interest – You select an object and the drone will orbit around it autonomously
- “Orbit me” mode – the drone flies a circular path around you, while keeping the camera pointed at you
- Journey – The Typhoon H will go up (as far as 150 feet in the air), showing off your location from a distance
- Follow me mode – It keeps the drone around you while pointing the camera at you at all times
- Dynamic return home mode – With a press of a button the drone flies back to you within a safe distance
- Curve cable mode – You select waypoint coordinates, which then the drone follows
On the other side, the Phantom 4 has support for the following modes:
- Waypoints – you fly a specific path first, selecting waypoints, hight and speed. Then the drone flies the selected GPS coordinates by itself, while maintaining the pre-selected settings
- Points Of Interest – The same as Typhoon H’s “Orbit me” mode
- Follow Me – The same as Typhoon H’s “Follow me” mode
- Home Lock – Easily pull back on the control stick to bring the aircraft back home, or push forward to fly further away, no matter which way the drone is facing.
- Course Lock – this feature locks the current Phantom 4 front direction as the aircraft forward direction. The Phantom 4 will move in the locked direction no matter what its orientation.
- TapFly – You tap the screen and the drone flies in a straight line to the destination you’ve selected. You can also tap a number of different times and the Phantom 4 will follow that path
- ActiveTrack – You can simply draw a box around an object from your control screen and the drone will automatically follow it
- Sports Mode – as the name shows, this is the speed mode, in which the drone flies with a maximum speed of 45 mph
- Beginner Mode – the drone will only fly up to 100 feet (~30 meters) higher and beyond the set home point.
When it comes to obstacle avoidance, the drones have a slightly different approach from each other.
Starting off with the Phantom 4 – on the outside of the drone you can see a pair of front-facing cameras, which are positioned in the landing legs. There are also two rear cameras below, with the help of which the drone can detect when there’s an obstacle in front of it and avoid it on its own. For example, If you point your drone against a wall, it will fly until it detects the obstacle in front of it, then it will lower its speed and hover at a safe distance. This is an incredible feature which changes the way users are interacting with their drones, as they now don’t have to constantly worry about obstacles in their way. However, it’s important to mention that this feature does not completely eliminate the chance of collision, but greatly decreases it.
On the other side, the Typhoon H has front sonar sensors, which allow it to stop short of obstacles automatically, ensuring a more stable, safer flight. In addition, a third party add-on for this has been introduced. It’s called Intel RealSense technology, and it could sense objects close to the drone and will fly the drone around them in order to avoid crashing. So far the exact price of this additional technology has not been confirmed, but it’s considered to be between $200-$400. It’s surely a new, innovative way to pilot your drone, but you can expect more details on this once the product launches officially later this month (May 2016).
In the meantime, here’s a video clip which demonstrates RealSense’s capabilities:
Price & Where to buy
Currently, the Phantom 4 is priced at $1399 on Amazon, whereas the base version of the Typhoon H costs $1375 on Amazon. You can see different packages of the drone here. I always recommend buying drones from Amazon, as their return policy is much better than many of the retailers that sell drones online, which for me is a great peace of mind. Shipping is also handled faster, so overall it’s a great place to look at customer reviews and buy your drones.
Finally, here’s a comparison video showing the differences in the footage, taken from Yuneec Typhoon H and DJI Phantom 4, taken in 4K:
What you get in the box:
- Typhoon H drone
- ST16 Remote Control
- 5400mAh Battery
- Charger with Car Adapter
- USB Adapter Cord
- Neck Strap for ST16 Ground Station
- Sun Shade for ST16 Ground Station
- 2 x Quick Release Propeller Set
- 16GB microSD Memory Card with Adapter
- Foam carrying case
- Phantom 4 with gimbal and camera
- 5350 mAh Battery
- Remote controller
- Cables & Chargers
- 8 propellers (4 extra)
- DJI pouch for the extra propellers
- 16 GB micro SD-card
These two products are without a doubt the next big contenders for drone of the year. They both have their strenghts and weaknesses, and are surely going to push the boundaries of the other manufacturers’ ideas and prototypes. It’s extremely hard to pick a winner, as those two products are simply stronger in one area and weaker in another, so they both could be winners and losers at the same time. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.
If you are interested in mine, i’ll give it to you: I’d bet on the Phantom 4 !
Are you interested in other types of drones? Check out my Drone Buying Guide and pick the best quadcopter for you.