For years now we have all wasted money on crap drones from KickStarter. Drones that promised to fly by smart-phone, fly by them selves, do automatic selfies. etc etc etc. all of them were monument crap.
FINALLY. I have in my hands a mini-quad smaller than my iPhone that ACTUALLY WORKS..
The guys at ZERO-TECH have produced the DOBBY which while dramatically overpriced is a very good indicator of the likely future of consumer drones. Click through for the full review.
ZERO-TECH is not a big name (yet) in drones, however they have a couple plays already, including a dual-IMU flight-controller, so its safe to say they are playing with some good ideas. their experience with advanced flight-controllers is visible in the DOBBY, the little aircraft is surprisingly stable and solid in the air.
So what is so awesome about the DOBBY.? well hold on already.
Bottom line is.. there is nothing "new" about the DOBBY, and that is really whats so cool. We have gotten to expect cool technology, rock-solid GPS stability, drift-cam for flying indoor without GPS. and ultra-sound altitude control for low-life flying. You know the kinda stuff on the latest Yuneec H, DJI Phantom, AUTEL xStar and similar high-end consumer drones, this stuff just works and we don't think about it even.
The DOBBY is simple, they did not really re-invent the wheel, they just shrunk the wheel. So here is whats right about the DOBBY. they simply made a drone with basically the same features as a P3 or a Autel xStar, with real brushless motors. just super small and lighter. and it simply works. end of story. its not a kickstarter disappointment like the ONAGOFLY and similar which mostly came with a gazillion promises that they more or less failed to deliver on.
The DOBBY is simple, its a flying smart-phone camera that can fly indoor or outdoor. its specifically designed to take great selfies. you can fly it manually or you can use some of the pre-set features like the "short movie" that will fly out and away from you for 10seconds to take a quick selfie-pull-out shot.
The DOBBY is famously flying the SnapDragon processor, 4 core 2.3ghz, lots of processor power, and Zero-Tech seems to putting it to good use. INTERESTINGLY there is a dedicated graphics processor onboard, the Adreno330.
OK I have not heard about the Adreno330 before, but this is interesting, basically the DOBBY have a build in graphics processor, its more like a flying handheld computer than a traditional drone.
More thoughts on the graphics processor when we talk about the camera.
Motors & Props
Tiny unspecified brushless motors. awesome little things.
the DOBBY is equipped with tiny folding props. they tend to be a bit unbalanced, but I do realize the folding props help keeping the folded size small.
Ive got one small issue, I generally like to see spare props in a kit, the DOBBY arrive with only the installed props. I would suggest putting at least two spare props in the kit so new users can keep flying even if there is a small mishap the first day.
Battery & the cool Charger.
The obscenely expensive stock battery is fairly pedestrian 2S 950mah affair, actually a surprisingly small battery. I do find it a bit hard to justify paying $60 for a 2S 950mah battery, EVEN in a slick case.
The little battery is rated to get you 8 minutes of flight time, probably a little less the way I fly generally In my experience, I have been getting maybe 5+ minutes before the drone start to auto-land.
With the kit come a slick little charger. and what looks like a traditional power-brick for the wall-outlet.
When you look a little closer at the charger and the provided USB cable, you will notice that the plug on the charger end is a rather uncommon choice of a USB-C plug, the cable come with a adapter plug that can go on the end and convert the cable to a "proper" USB cable, this is so you can use the cable to connect to the DOBBY USB port..
Back to the funky plug on the battery charger. Turns out the little power-brick have a little extra trick. when you read the fine print on the power-brick, you will notice the brick provide 5v and 9v, when I plug the charger USB cable into a regular USB port, the charger will use the 5V power and the charger will show a red light while charging. but if you plug the same cable into the Zero-Tech power-brick, after a couple seconds the red light change to yellow, my guess is the power-brick recognize the charger and change to 9V power. regardless how it figures out when to provide the 9V, the 9V charging is much faster than charging from a regular USB plug. but the upside of the USB charging option is naturally that you can take this backpacking and charge from a USB battery.
The Jewel of the little DOBBY quad, the camera is basically a 4K smartphone camera with a lens thats looks a bit like a 35mm FOV on a full-size camera.
The still shots look a bit like soft images from a 8megapix smartphone, pretty OK.
The VIDEO is where it get really interesting, the camera is hard-mounted, no gimbal to level the images. and this is maybe the most innovative part of the DOBBY, they saved a ton of complexity by removing the gimbal, and Im sure this will be the future of drones.
Officially the camera product 1080p video, however while the pixel size is 1080p, the image looks more like a soft 720p image. Im talking about the detail resolution of the file, not the actual pixels.
The front facing camera can be adjusted from straight forward, 22 degrees up, and down to 90 degrees down. Interestingly. Zero-Tech did not index the position of the camera, so when you tilt down, then you need to select the camera angle in the app. its not the end of the world, and the stabilized images are worth the little step-around.
720p EIS stabilized video
YUP. the detail resolution feels like 720p, basically the source image is 4K, and Zero-Tech is then applying post-processing live to the image to stabilize the file. most drones that do that, use a specific stabilizing chip to process the image.. however the DOBBY's specific graphic processor (the Adreno330) may suggest they are doing this in a firmware-upgradable environment.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a possibility that we will see firmware upgrades to the EIS performance.
Personally I would love to see a option also to record the raw un-stabilized 4K video, the plug-in lock-n-load on FCPx would easily be able to create beautiful 1080p from the 4K source.
First of all. the DOBBY surprises, I have seen so many little mini-quads promising to be selfie quads.. the DOBBY is the first I have seen that actually works.
Furthermore, while this is the first of many, Im fairly convinced that the DOBBY shows of a lot of what to expect from consumer video drones the next 2-3 years.
The 720p video is a bit underwhelming, they could have done higher resolution from the 4K, however. its not that big a deal, because when all is said and done, the DOBBY is a flying cellphone camera for selfies. and it fill that purpose well, even with the 720p video limitation.
The obscenely expensive batteries with 5 minute flight time, is a party-pooper, you will want more batteries as they charge painfully slowly. if you go hiking its far easier to have 3-4 batteries, rather than charging the one battery repeatedly. however Im pretty sure we can hack the battery and use off the shelf 2S 1500mah's
So what CAN you do with the DOBBY.?
Well its NOT really a free flying video drone. for that you need something like a Autel xStar or a Yuneec H. the DOBBY is limited to operate inside the WiFi range of your phone.
That said, inside its comfort zone, the little DOBBY perform quiet well. its able to do crane-shots, dolly and track shots. and slick little push back selfie shots in 720p. If you this is something you want, then the DOBBY may be a interesting item for you.