The UPAir One Plus 4K, A Quality GPS Drone
All my life I have loved RC (remote control) devices. My fondest childhood memories are of an RC A-Team van. That van went forward until you clicked the control which then made it reverse which always turned left. Another click and it then returned to going forward. Since then I have had a few here and there. It wasn’t until I was older and making more money that I finally started getting into my RC airplane and helicopter collection. I started big, with a 5 foot nitro plane. It was a lot of fun to build but hard to fly. I had someone train me but I was still too nervous to destroy the plane I spent hundreds of dollars on and took many hours build. So, I turned to park fliers and helicopters. They were tons of fun until I had kids and got busy with less of a budget. I even got to the point where I was building my own park fliers from plans posted on the internet which was fun. When you have all the hardware you can experiment.
I have many printers from my reviews and decided to trade some for the next big RC craze—drones! The only problem is that I traded for a couple of FPV racing drones which are a challenge to fly. Then I got the UPAir One Plus 4K. The Plus being the Wi-Fi model. The UPAir one comes in 4 models:
- Max Takeoff Weight
- Flight Time
- Working Temperature
- Sat. System
- Image Sensor
- Max Photo Pixels
- Photo Shooting Mode
- Max Video Resolution
- Supported microSD
- Photo Format
- Video Format
- Video Compression
- Charger Output Voltage
- Gimbal Axis
- Controllable Range
- Control Accuracy
- Supported Phone Size
- Battery Type
- Charge Time
- Mobile App
Unboxing the drone packaging is pretty straightforward. It has a cardboard liner that is formed to fit the parts. Above that are the manuals. One quick guide user manual, one full detailed user manual, and a third, enhanced version, which is in German. All of the manuals are available on their website, www.upairdrone.com.
The drone and parts fit well in the box so until I get a proper travel case, this one will have to do. The UPAir One is close to the same size as the Phantom series from the ever popular DJI company. The gimbal is 2-axis, and flops around until the drone is turned on.
The Phantom 3 propellers also work on the UPAir One. The UPAir One is very stylish. However, being white, it will be hard to keep clean. The charging cable came with a foreign (EU) end on it. Good thing I had plenty others laying around.
The drone battery is an 11.1v, 59.94wh, 5400mAh smart battery. With one click of the front button the 4 LEDs show you roughly the power level. To power the drone, you need to push the button with one short and one long press. The controller battery is a simple 11.1v 1500mAh. It doesn’t need charging as often as the drone’s one, which powers 4 strong motors.
The controller looks flashy but isn’t perfect. It is bulky and has little to grip. It helps that it is well balanced so it stays in your hands okay. Although, kids may have a hard time holding it. Being the Wi-Fi version, this model doesn’t include the 7-inch screen for viewing the camera feed. The Wi-Fi version has a longer range and gives you the wireless application connection. The controller has a USB connection which you can use to connect to your phone or tablet to use the UPAir App.
As I said the drone is roughly the size of the DJI Phantom, weighing in at the 1.3kg (2.86lbs). This is unfortunate as it puts the drone 0.3g over the recreational weight limit here in Canada, but more on that in a bit. Having a drone to take nice aerial photos and videos is great. I love the view from the sky and have always had a thing for flying.
The drone has green lights on the back two motor arms and red ones on the front;; you can turn these on or off with the application. Unlike most GPS drones, the UPAir one has a bowl-shaped top instead of the usual flat or dome shape. I’m not sure if it helps with aerodynamics but it does help keep the props from getting into your photos and videos. I find the landing skids to be a bit short, leaving the camera vulnerable to hits while landing. There is a mod for that in the modification section.
As I stated, the controller is large and smooth leaving it feeling a bit slippery. I suggest using a lanyard to keep it from hitting the ground if you do drop it. It does feel well built though. The phone holder grips the phone well and stretches enough to hold my Samsung Note 8 which is a large phone. It will not hold a tablet which is a shame because the phone screen looks small. So, if you have trouble seeing your phone you are better off with the non-Plus version which comes with the 7-inch screen. The buttons are well placed and were easy to use with my winter gloves on. (I can’t wait for warmer weather.) The camera buttons are conveniently located on the left corner and the tilt scroll is on the right corner.
The switches feel well built. The 2-way switch on the left toggle is the return-to-home mode. While in that mode the drone does not respond to input commands. You need to be ready to flip the switch because if there is an object in the way you need to be able to take back control. The 3-way switch on the right changes between altitude hold, GPS mode, and headless mode. Altitude hold is exactly that, it holds to a specific height and will drift with the wind. GPS mode holds the drone in a specific location. If you grab the drone (Which I don’t advise) and drag it away, when you let it go it returns to the original spot. Headless mode means the drone will fly in the direction you point the right stick regardless of which way it is facing. The power switch has three settings but the manual doesn’t say what the 3rd position is for. The USB port is for connecting to your phone. It serves two purposes: one is to connect to the app and the second is to keep your phone charged.
Things To Consider Before Flight
Before you fly any drone, you should read over the rules for your country and area. In Canada we have some of the toughest regulations. We are not able to fly over 90m, which is 295 feet. That is 105 feet shorter than in the US and other countries. I’m not going through all the rules and changes, but feel free to read them here: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/opssvs/flying-drone-safely-legally.html
All that is to say, please follow the rules to prevent getting fines or even jail time. Yes, they mention jail as a penalty.
Before You Fly
Before I get into the UPAir application I want to mention the UAV Forecast application. I hope it works in your country because it is a VERY useful app. This app is choc-full of information.
The bottom icons let you select the different screens. The first screen consists of blocks of information with the top one telling you if it is safe to fly or not. Also it shows info like weather, sun up/down, temperatures and wind; it even tells you cloud cover and how many satellites are available in your area at any given time.
This is great and all, but the other two screens are even more useful. The next being an hourly breakdown of the first screen and the third being the wind at stages from 10m up to 1500m. This tells you how high you can fly your drone. The fourth uses a Google map with an overlay that gives you locations of the airports and helipads around. So, if you travel with your drone you will know if it is safe and legal to fly. Let’s face it, not flying close to airports is just common sense.
The best feature is that it lets you set the values for your preferences, such as the wind speeds your drone can handle, and how far you have to be from different size airports.
I highly recommend you try this app. I use it every day.
The UPAir GPS Drone Application
This app gives you control of your drone’s GPS through the Wi-Fi connection. The first screen has three functions. One is to enter the camera view, the second is Academy (help and settings), and the third is Media. I don’t know where the media is coming from. Mine has some of my pictures but a few others I don’t recognize. Besides, the drone images are stored on the SD card of the drone and not the phone. They look like the ones I shared on Facebook.
After you enter the camera view you are greeted with the view from your camera if you are connected. If not, you see a black background and the empty information fields. The map in the bottom left lets you swap between the camera and Google maps. The map shows where you are and where your drone is. It is represented by a red arrow pointing the direction your drone is facing. I find that very handy for controlling.
Although the Canadian laws say you have to fly within field of view I wouldn’t recommend flying lower than the highest tower or building in your area. The app lets you take off and land, and has an auto return home button. It also lets you set the resolution of your images and videos. Although, it doesn’t save the settings which is very annoying. Another annoying aspect is that if you let your video go too long and the app doesn’t respond, you lose your video. I’m not sure if that is due to file size or not. I do know that it only writes the video if you stop the recording before you turn off the app or drone. The app and drone need more work, for sure. I hope the firmware update will fix this. I just wish updating it didn’t require a hack of the drone.
Flying The Drone
One thing I’m not, is a photographer. To me, a photo is a photo and I look at the subject matter. Sure, I can tell if an image is blurry or dark, but beyond that I wouldn’t know what to do to correct it anyway. Things like shutter speed are beyond my knowledge and interest. But I do love seeing nice scenery, and having a sky view makes all that much sweeter. This drone takes photos in 8, 12, and 16 megapixels and they all look great. The videos are taken at 2K 30fps, 2.7K 30fps, and 4K 30fps. Although, my 4K videos were chippy. I don’t know what caused it, but I used a class 10 Kingston SD card.
My time with this drone had its ups and downs (pun intended). I had a lot of fun flying around my little town. It is so easy that my 11-year-old flew it with no problem. I did make the mistake of taking off too close to the phone lines. It took off okay and I flew it around town. After I was done I told it to return home, it flew back to that spot. On the way down a gust of wind blew the drone into the line and it flipped over. The drone did not seem to know or simply did not do anything about it, it just flew right into the ground and kept on drilling.
Turning off the drone from there is another problem. It wouldn’t let me turn the motors off with the controller. I had to pick up the drone by the skids and turn it off by hand. The battery lasted less than 20 minutes but I had been flying in below 0 temps and that drains it faster. Overall, I’m happy with the flight time. When the weather is nice I’ll take it out and see how far it can go. I’ll get someone to follow the drone in the car.
So, the last thing I tried was the follow-me feature, which, well, makes the drone follow you. It does work, however, I wouldn’t trust it to not bump into something. If you are using it in a wide-open space like the beach it will work great. To be fair, I have only seen one drone with 100% obstacle avoidance.
- Easy to fly
- Great photos for the average user
- Adjustable image and video resolutions
- Hard to remove the battery
- It doesn’t seem to know when it is in trouble
- 4K video image stops and starts
- The app defaults to 4K every time
- Follow needs a lot of space
There isn’t much to modify on this GPS drone. Having a 3D printer helps, so I printed the skid extenders to keep the camera from hitting on uneven ground. The other thing I printed was the gimbal support to apply while not in use.
Other mods I may print are a battery cover, and a battery case to construct other batteries.
I just love the perspective that drones offer! If you can’t afford a plane or to be a pilot, then this can be a great alternative. Wearing first-person-view goggles makes you feel like you are a pilot. Sure, there is VR (virtual reality), but that isn’t quite realistic enough yet, and you don’t get to explore your area or any area you want to. The UPAir One has its down sides but for the most part I’m very happy with it, and I’m sure I’ll be out flying EVERY chance I get. If you can’t afford the Cadillac DJI Phantom drones this is a great alternative.