In a huge year for drone tech, here are some of the most useful new aerial accessories.
As in each of the past several years, drone technology has grown and advanced at a tremendous pace in 2017. It feels like every time we turn around there's a new drone or accessory being released. From the tiny DJI Spark, small enough to be held in your hand, to the big cinematic visuals from the Zenmuse X7 camera for the Inspire 2 which is the highest-resolution drone cinema camera ever at the lowest price, this year was no exception.
We've covered most of the big-ticket releases in the drone world this year, so here's a short list of (mostly) affordable new accessories that could make the perfect gift for the drone operator on your holiday gift list this year.
Flytron STROBON Cree LED
Want to fly your drone at night? The FAA will grant you permission as long as you meet a few safety requirements. One of them is that your drone be visible for at last 3 statute-miles and to do that, drone operators need to fit their drones with lights that are up to the challenge. These Cree LEDs from Flytron are great because they are simple to attach to your drone using adhesive tape, glue, velcro, or other household adhesives. The best part is that they are battery operated so they don't require the dismantling of your drone and running wires before use.
Flytron STROBON Cree LED $24.99 via Flytron
4Hawks Raptor SR Antenna
Looking to get some extended range with your drone? The Raptor SR Antenna from 4Hawks is your friend! Available in configurations for a variety of drone systems including Yuneek Typhoon H and DJI Phantom/Mavic/Spark, the Raptor claims range extensions up to 400% thanks to optimized wave propagation as well as an improved video signal with the use of the Raptor SR Antenna.
Raptor SR Antenna $119 from 4Hawks
Litchi is a flight control app that works with DJI's Mavic Pro, Phantom 3 & 4, Inspire 1, Inspire 2 and Spark drones. With features like Tracking, Focus mode, Waypoint Missions, Panorama, Orbit, and Follow modes, Litchi helps create high-quality and repeatable flight patterns for your DJI drone. Litchi also offers Airdata UAV which automatically creates flight logs. Available in the App Store or Google Play Store, this app makes it easy to fly complex missions and create quality aerial cinematography movements.
Litchi $22.99 from Litchi
Drone Deploy is an app that has been gaining a lot of traction in the professional drone community with its automation of data management which allows drone operators to create maps and 3D models from locations and structures that they photograph with their drones. While Drone Deploy is mainly used for industrial mapping, its ability to create 3D models of structures and locations could prove extremely valuable for filmmakers during pre-production. Pricing ranges depending on your intended usage but the lowest priced option is free, and who can argue with that?
Drone Deploy (Various Pricing Plans Available) from Drone Deploy
DJI Crystal Sky
The DJI Crystal Sky monitor is designed specifically for use with DJI drones. Until now, most drone operators have had to use an Android or iOS device in order to preview footage and change settings on their drones. The Crystal Sky provides an improved user experience in several areas that are lifesavers for commercial drone operators.
For one thing, the monitor is really bright and the screen has far less glare than a typical smart device, making it much easier to see on bright, sunny days. The Crystal Sky also has improved video decoding capability which translates into lower latency and higher image quality —crucial in a professional production environment. No one has time to re-shoot because you couldn't really see what you were filming. The third improvement over off-the-shelf smart devices is the Crystal Sky's temperature control. iPads regularly shut off when filming in the cold, leaving operators flying blind and unable to frame shots—a terrible situation to be in. The Crystal Sky claims it can operate in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit.