We’re at InterDrone 2017, spending time with a drone we’ve seen before, but never like this – join us for a close up and flight demo of the Yuneec H520.
You may recall we put hands on a prototype of this drone back at CES in January, 2017. We were impressed then, but maybe only because of the cameras. As it turns out, the H520 is much, much more than just an orange Typhoon H. Allow us to explain.
Truth is, we’ve visited Yuneec several times in as many months. The Yuneec H520 was made official during IFA 2017 in Berlin, for example. Again, the initial concept of this machine was exciting, but not earth shattering. The more we learned, however, the better and better this machine proved itself.
Before we talk about what we learned about the drone and its systems here are InterDrone, let’s revisit the official announcement of the Yuneec H520 from just over a week ago:
You and I at home may consider purchasing the H520, it’s not beyond affordability. Actually, you can get a well equipped Yuneec H520 for less than a DJI Inspire 2 with camera.
We’re not the target market though. The Yuneec H520, along with the ST16s ground station remote control make for a flight platform that is robust, reliable and very efficient. At InterDrone, Yuneec rented out the back lot to the expo center for a live flight demo in conjunction with the Nevada Highway Patrol.
That’s right, the state police have been using a demo drone for testing purposes already. With smiles on their faces they showed a live accident reconstruction data capture. The best part, the entire setup, flight, takedown and data transfer happened in less time than the traditional equipment took just to setup.
There is certainly more one can do with the Yuneec H520 than re-open a closed highway, sometimes hours faster than current tech allows. This is a platform, more than just a drone, and we think Yuneec has considered most all needs from the machine that flies, all the way down to what you do with the captured from the sky.
Yuneec has worked closely with Intel in the past, they still utilize Intel’s Real Sense object detection technology. Having said that, we feel Yuneec and Intel both have a grand concept of what drones are all about. That is, drones are tools to capture data, big data. Photos and video from the sky offer a new look at things like buildings or car accidents, allowing more in-depth analysis.
The H520 is proving a very capable machine, able to fly in high-winds, able to hot-swap cameras to capture different data without having to power down and more. The basics of being a hexacopter adds a huge layer of safety as well. You can safely loose one propeller mid-flight without an imminent crash.
Having six propeller arms allows for the failure or damage of more than one propeller, actually, it all depends on which propellers stop providing lift. You could lose two opposing props and still have a functioning quadcopter. In the most extreme case, depending again on which you lose, three propellers could keep this machine from outright plummeting to the ground. That is true of most quadcopters, where three props could mitigate a full crash, but that’s one failure vs three failures before reaching this point.
That was too deep into flight theory, sorry. I hope you get that this design, if not just this drone, is fairly resilient, that the security at play allows uses that a quadcopter may not be allowed.
Break for safety
We’ve been here before, but for those first looking upon this orange machine, here is a quick rundown of the specs of the Yuneec H520.
The H520 is a hexacopter design, meaning it has 6 propellers. Each of the arms folds down from the fuselage, this does not reduce the height, but greatly reduces the overall size of the drone for transportation. The full dimensions ready to fly are 520x x 457 x 310 mm.
While flying, the landing gear is able to lift up out of the way, allowing the camera to spin 360 degrees. There are multiple cameras available, each can be hot-swapped onto the drone mid-mission. Infrared, zoom and standard cameras with 4K video capture and the high-end E90 camera able to capture 4K at 60 fps on the newer HEVC codecs. It’s a 1-inch, 20 MP sensor and the 3-axis gimbal offers all the stabilization and rotation you’d expect from a $1200 camera.
Back to the drone itself, it weighs in at 1.6 KG (3.5 lbs) and the 5,250 mAh, 4S battery keeps it aloft for as much as 28 minutes.
Soaring along, you’ll get about 30 mph with stabilized video, bump that up to near 40 mph if you go full manual.
The remote control, the new ST16s Ground Station, has a built-in display, transmits safely to about 1 mile and is powered by Android. It is not cross compatible with the older ST16, at least not today.
Should you buy the Yuneec H520?
Yuneec said it time and again, this is a commercial drone, ideal for inspections and mapping type services. That sounds simple, but it extends to emergency services, search and rescue and a bunch more. If you are in any of these fields, you are sure to be Part 107 certified and already understand the restrictions for these sorts of flights, but this drone is a great choice for you.
For the rest of us, let me be straight with you, if I were purchasing a higher-end drone for myself, I am a little torn between the Yuneec H520 and the DJI Inspire 2.
For capturing video there is little question that the Inspire 2 is the more capable drone. 5.2K video recording with hot swappable batteries and a large camera with interchangeable lenses. There is a ton more about the Inspire 2 that makes it ideal for Hollywood level videography, but what if you don’t need that good of video?
The Inspire 2 also flies higher, further and faster, and yet, I still think there is room for a H520 in my world. The hexacopter design makes for super stable flight, for starters. The ST16s ground station controller and mapping services make for a robust set of tools to do more than just shoot video and the orange color, well, I’m not a fan, but it is the color of choice for high visibility purposes for a reason.
I keep coming back to the Yuneec H520 as a viable option for my needs. You do not get any follow-me modes, sure, but I rarely use them anyway, I usually manually fly my drones. That’s actually why I fly drones, to be honest, I want to pilot them. Being able to do more stuff once airborne, including capturing great video, that’s all just icing on the cake for me. Or work, depending on the day.
As one last thought, the Yuneec H520 was built in heavy collaboration with people like Douglas Spotted Eagle in the United States. Actual field testing and a focus on building within the existing rules from the FAA ensure that this drone is as good as they can produce for the North American commercial drone market.
We’ll have more to say on their work with the Nevada Highway Patrol and their accident reconstruction efforts soon, stay tuned.