Before reviewing the Autel, EVO camera drone, we had zero experience with drones of any type. This review, will give a novice’s perspective of experiencing the EVO drone, for the first time, right out of the box!
Our first impression is noticing the superb packaging. Autel took some cues from Apple and has efficiently and carefully packaged the EVO in a container which is a delight to unpack and explore.
Unboxing the drone
Immediately apparent is the highly refined finish and excellent construction quality of the drone, controller and other parts. The EVO stands apart from other drones in that it boasts a glossy orange finish on its belly and back. This will make it easy to spot from below when in flight and when laying on the ground, partially hidden by green or brown vegetation, in the event of an emergency landing in a foreign location.
Since we had zero familiarity with flying drones, we spent about an hour on Youtube watching drone enthusiasts flying and reviewing the EVO and other drones. Autel does provide some simple manuals and instructions in their nice box and you can also download a more thorough EVO manual from their online website.
Autel’s website provides some videos demonstrating the intelligent flight features of the EVO. Autel hasn’t spent a lot of time refining their website. Autel Robotics is fairly new to the drone business and apparently their priority is the drone rather than their website, which will probably improve over time and provide more information about the EVO.
The main information that is lacking from their manual and website is how to get the video content off the micro SD card, mounted in the drone, downloaded to an Apple computer. We had to contact Autel through their website about how to get the video files off of the drone. Autel responded quickly that they are still working on the direct transferring procedures to Apple computers and suggested using a SD card reader to transfer the data.
Learning to fly
So, after charging up the drone and controller, looking over all the material supplied in the box, downloading the EVO manual, smartphone App and watching a few Youtube videos, we were ready for our maiden flight of the EVO.
We placed the drone on the ground in the middle of a round cul-de-sac, checked that the LED warning lights were correct, front solid red and rear slow flashing green, and moved the 2 joysticks on the handheld controller to what we thought was the take off position. Apparently, we misread the instructions and moved the joy sticks to the bottom or left and right positions. The correct position is the down, left and right 45 degree, diagonal position.
Once we got this right, the propellers quietly started spinning. This was an exciting moment in our maiden flight. We then pushed the auto take off button, the propellers sped up and the drone lifted quickly off the ground and hovered perfectly at about eye level. The prop noise is fairly quiet. Kind of sounds like a muffled swarm of hornets rather than a loud chain saw. We did not feel like we would disturb the surrounding neighbors at all.
Advanced flight features
The AI algorithms kept the drone hovering in a stable position, giving us plenty of time to experiment and learn how to use the joy sticks to fly the EVO. From here it was very easy to fly the drone. Left stick for up, down and cw/ccw rotation and right stick for forward and back flight and left and right banked turns. We practiced flying around the neighborhood and moving the camera view up and down. When the power was getting low we hit the home button and the EVO responded quickly and returned and landed within a few feet of its initial take off spot.
After recharging, we were ready for our second test flight where we wanted to test some of the automatic intelligent flight features. Taking off was easy, now that we knew the correct stick positions.
We manually took off this time, by pushing up on the left joy stick and reached a safe altitude to try out the orbit or circle about a point and tracking flight modes. The EVO easily and precisely tracked our movement and flew a radius around a point with ease and with very smooth camera control.
How does it compare?
The consensus from a few online reviews is that the Autel EVO is very similar to the DJI Mavic 2 Pro with the exception of the orbit mode and camera quality. One reviewer felt the EVO had some trouble with holding a stable picture while in the orbit mode, but that the EVO had a better quality video image. We did not find the camera stability problem with the EVO in orbit mode. Perhaps there was less wind during our test or perhaps Autel has corrected the camera shift, while in circle mode, with a software update.
The EVO controller allows flight control with and without an attached smartphone. Apparently the EVO is, currently, the only controller with an OLED screen that can work without an attached phone. The EVO can be flown and transmit video to the controller, but the intelligent flight modes and some other status reports are not available when used without a smartphone attached.
Autel does not provide a micro SD card reader or a mini-usb to usb-3 cable to connect the controller to an Apple iPhone. These items have to be purchased separately.
We purchased a Unitek, USB3.0 Type-C Multi-in-One Card Reader from Amazon for about $15.00. The reader easily read the micro SD card and we downloaded our files to a MacBook Pro and imported them into iMovie. As expected, the video is superb, since it is 4K and 60 fps. The video was very smooth during the tracking modes we experimented with. We were not able to compare the video from the EVO with video from other drones, but must say that the video quality from the EVO camera is excellent.
In conclusion, we found the Autel EVO drone very easy to set up and fly, for an absolute drone novice, after a short time reviewing the instructions provided in the box and online.
The EVO maintains level and stable flight and automatically avoids flying into objects, while patiently waiting for flight commands from the pilot through the controller. The EVO can be flown manually or with intelligent flight modes like Orbit, Dynamic Track, Viewpoint and others. The 4K camera takes excellent images, both video and still.
If you are looking for an easy to fly drone with all the expected features, and a few more, that takes excellent video, you won’t be disappointed with Autel’s EVO drone.