EHang Ghostdrone 2.0
A DRONE ANY VIDEOGRAPHER CAN HANG THEIR HAT ON.
A SET OF VR goggles might not be considered a core ingredient for a consumer drone, but the GhostDrone 2.0’s inclusion of a headset has given EHang a novel tool. The headset acts as an intermediary Wi-Fi signal forwarder for the drone, so you can get a more stable and responsive connection while using the eHang Play smartphone control app. A 5GHz Wi-Fi transmitter delivers the 480p image to the headset while a second 2.4GHz transmitter pushes around the control and sensory data. This setup is powered by a generous 1,700mAh battery with around 60 minutes of juice — far outlasting the flight time of the drone and saving your phone from battery-draining video transmission. The other main feature of the headset is an inbuilt gyroscope that allows the drone’s vertical gimbal to be controlled simply by tilting your head, making vertical shot tracking a particularly intuitive process.
The simple smartphone-based control scheme makes this one less intimidating for a beginner, although for anyone accustomed to the controls and range of drones with dedicated controllers, manoeuvering the GhostDrone can feel a little imprecise and constrained.
Fortunately, because of the Wi-Fi forwarder, there aren’t any of the range issues that generally accompany direct phone-to-drone connections and you’ll get a stable connection up to the maximum recommended working distance of 500m. Using the eHang Play app in ‘Avatar’ mode, the drone is controlled by the gyroscopes in your phone. Holding your phone flat with the screen up will keep the drone hovering in the one spot, while tilting it causes the drone to accelerate in that direction. Altitude is adjusted by swiping the screen up to climb and pulling down to drop.
If you really don’t like the whole ‘flying’ aspect of drones and just aim to use them to film, then the GhostDrone’s raft of semiautomatic shooting modes will likely appeal. The drone will take off and land on it’s own, but it’ll also move using map pin drops that can be chained into waypoints and can even utilise the smarts of your phone to automatically perform camera shots, from vertically panning to fully autonomous orbital tracking.
The drone uses one of the more interesting batteries we’ve seen, featuring an inbuilt display that gives you real-time information on the energy levels of each cell, the overall power percentage and even an estimated remaining flight time. Despite all that, this 4,500mAh powerpack will still only keep the drone in the air for a standard max flight-time of 25 minutes. Another trick the GhostDrone has up its sleeve is a spherical camera with a 93º field of view and an aperture of f/2.8, which can capture 4K video at 30fps. If you prefer the silky smooth viewing of 60fps, then you’ll have to pair back the resolution to 2,716 x 1,524. The image quality produced by the camera’s sensor and lens is excellent. The crisp, well-lit and naturally coloured images and video show no sign of barreling or distortion, despite the generous lens angle, making it one of the only options at this price that we’d comfortably say could produce video quality at a professional level.
Still, the option to include a VR headset rather than a dedicated controller feels like a bit of a mistake, especially when you consider that the outstanding video quality produced by this unit is more than enough to distinguish it from the competition. That said, the GhostDrone 2.0 VR is very reasonably priced, has an excellent camera and even comes with a 12 month replacement warranty (that includes accidental crashes), so if you’re looking at drones for cinematic purposes, then it’s arguably the bestvalue proposition out there. [ JOEL BURGESS ]