It might have been the silver medallist in the drone race for the last few years, but the Breeze 4K might be exactly what Yuneec needs to rip the top spot away from DJI.
This compact ‘copter is half the cost of a flagship Phantom, but it’ll still shoot 4K video, and let you rack up flight time without having to lug a load of extra equipment around with you while you’re at it.
Instead, you just need your phone - Yuneec’s app takes care of the rest. The very reasonable price should open the skies up to less experienced pilots, too.
I was given some pretty serious no-fly orders at IFA, but I’ve seen one in action, and it looks like a ton of fun.
COME FLY WITH ME
Yuneec’s more serious Typhoon drones are big black beasts with six rotors - compered to them, the Breeze is almost cute and cuddly. Or as cute and cuddly as four flying blades of pain can be.
Yep, it’s a quadcopter, complete with fixed wings and four rotors. There’s a set of safety guards in the box, which might just save your fingers if you have an accident. The arms are pretty stubby, though - keep the rotors straight and the 24cm-wide Breeze should slip into a backpack without too much fuss.
It feels light at 385g, but it’s not so svelte that it’ll get blown about once the wind picks up. GPS keeps it steady in the air when you’re outside, and there are optical sensors underneath so you can fly inside as well - although only safely if you’ve got a serious amount of space.
AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL
Ditching the complicated flight controller certainly makes things simpler for first-time flyers. You don’t have to learn what all the buttons and switches do, or how twin stick flight works when you can’t remember which direction you’re pointed in.
Yuneec’s app puts everything on your phone screen, with virtual RC sticks and buttons for take-off and landing. If that still sounds a little complicated, you can tilt and move your phone to control it instead. The app reads the gyroscope and accelerometer to turn your motions into movement.
The only problem I can see is range. Other phone-flown drones I’ve tried can manage about 100m before the Wi-Fi signal gets a bit choppy - any more and it’ll cut out completely, leaving your quad hovering, or on an automatic flight home to its take-off zone. That’s why Yuneec says 80m is your limit, but that’ll still depend on how powerful your phone’s Wi-Fi signal is.
Admittedly, you won’t get far before the Breeze’s battery life gets you, either. 12 minutes per charge really isn’t a lot, so it’s a good job the battery pack is removable. You only get one in the box, so it might be worth picking up a spare if you’re going to be out all day.
PRETTY AS A PICTURE
There’s no stabilised gimbal here - the camera is mounted right in the nose of the drone, a bit like Parrot’s Bebop and Disco.
It’s not a fisheye lens, but has got vertical swivel, so you don’t have to nosedive at the ground just to point the camera at what’s directly below you. It’s electrically stabilised, too, which should cancel out a lot of shake from the rotor vibrations and wind movement.
Yunnec’s UHD demo footage looks suitably crisp and clear on a 4K TV, but it’s a shame you’ll have to drop down to 720p to get a 60fps stabilised recording. 1080p is locked at 30fps, just like 4K shooting.
At least there are plenty of video modes to choose from. Orbit and Follow Me have shown up on more complex drones before, but they make a lot of sense here: they’re tricky manoeuvres to pull off for a novice, but you’ll get great results every time when they’re just a button press away.
Yuneec reckons the Breeze is a great selfie stick substitute, too: set distance and height with onscreen sliders, then snap away. The airborne duckface is the future of Facebook profile pictures - you heard it here first.
YUNEEC BREEZE 4K INITIAL VERDICT
The Breeze is flying into uncharted territory for Yuneec. It’s not got the flight time, controller or range to scare DJI, but that price is difficult to complain about.
If it can rival the Bebop 2 for range, there’s not much else out there for the price with as much photo and video chutzpah. I thought Parrot’s drone was great for newbie pilots, but this might just be even better.
We’ll have to wait until October to give it a full flight test, but from what I’ve seen so far, I can’t wait to clear the Breeze for take off.