We spent a few minutes with Yi at the NAB Show 2017 in April. Mostly, our Joshua Vergara was learning about the 360 degree cameras for our partner site VRSource, but they had a treat on display, a drone.
At first, I mistook the three propeller Yi Erida by Atlas Dynamics for a prop, a fun way to show off their handheld camera. It is a good thing we went back for a second look, Yi is promising a serious tricopter in the Erida, with flight capabilities greater than DJI’s Mavic Pro.
[related_articles title=”Related Articles”][/related_articles]
Built almost entirely of carbon fiber, the triangle drone weighs in at just a few pounds with it’s 22-inch length and 18-inch width. Add on the tiny Yi Action Camera and you have a fully functioning camera drone.
The up front promise is for a drone that far outperforms anything we’ve seen on the market today. Just how much better, you ask? I have a brochure in my hands this very moment that claims up to 75 mph speeds and up to 40 minutes of flight time per charge.
Diving deeper into the spec sheet, the Yi Erida is a 3.5 pound machine with camera installed. I mentioned already that is is a triangular shaped drone, with three propellers, but they give the measurements as 22 x 17.7 x 6.7 inches (56cm x 45cm x 17cm) ready to fly, then 16.5 x 13 x 4.7 inches (42cm x 33cm x 12cm) folded up for travel. That’s a diagonal size of 550 mm – if that means nothing to you, know that that is a pretty big drone compared to the competition.
The drone is equipped with GPS / GLONASS and Beidou for hover accuracy below 0.5 meters vertically and 1.5 meters horizontally. The Erida will operate up to 19685 ft above sea level, has a vertical speed of 22.4 mph and can scoot along the ground at up to 120 km/h, that’s 74.6 mph. Actually, they also say 35 m/s, which I convert to about 78 mph, so let’s just wait for a final production unit to find out for sure.
One of the more impressive stats that make this drone very real, 12-inch carbon fiber propellers. They’re not messing around on that one.
Finally, the Yi Action Camera mounts to a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal with range from -90º to +30º. That action camera is a 12MP shooter with 4K video and a 155 degree field of view lens in front of a Sony IMX377 1/2.3″ Exmor R CMOS sensor.
Control and Flight modes
Yi makes mention of a simple one-handed remote that you can use to operate up to 4 miles away, but they think you will fly using their app on your mobile device. The app, like the drone, is not available yet.
As for flight modes, you’ll find the familiar set of Follow-Me, Orbit and Mission (waypoint) modes. What is totally unique to this drone, I hope, is a Random mode. That’s right, tap that Random button and the drone will decide what to do next. Not only that, it will change modes at random during the flight. This could result in ingenious film making, or total disaster, we’re scared, but totally intrigued to find out.
The drone sends a 720p @ 30fps FPV stream to your mobile device with a minimum latency of 220ms. This is enough to assist in your flight, but maybe do some test flights in tight situations to ensure that that latency doesn’t jump up too high.
The highlight of this drone, if you ask me, is the reported battery life. At up to 40 minutes of flight time, this would be one of the best flying options on the market today. Packing a 6700 mAh LiPo 4S battery, with operating temperatures below freezing, we’re excited to see this in action.
We are always eager to see new players in the drone market. Yi Action cameras, and now 360º cameras, have always been an affordable alternative to GoPro. It is not for us to say that they are still not as good as GoPro cameras, but we are led to believe this is the case. If we follow that assumption, that Yi is almost as good as GoPro, and apply it to drones, does that mean the Karma is the slightly better drone?
It is way too early to make any judgment calls here, but the facts are simple, if the Yi Erida delivers as promised, at a decent price point and without any shipping delays, it will make for a fun, fast and effective drone.