Introducing the Q500 Typhoon Aerial Imaging Drone

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Though perhaps a new name to many in the RC aerial video market, Hong Kong-based company Yuneec has been making electric aircraft since 1999, most notably, a "full-scale," two-seat electric airplane, the E430.

With the Q500 Typhoon, unveiled at CES last week, Yuneec has stepped forth into the prosumer aerial photography market; "aerial photography" being a blanket term that covers both video and still photo purposes. The aircraft follows a quad-rotor design, which seems to be the default for UAVs in this size class and smaller—22" diagonal, without the propellers, in this case.

For aerial photography, the Q500 includes Yuneec’s version of the CGO2-GB camera with integrated three-axis gimbal stabilization. The camera features Full HD 1080p video recording at up to 60 fps and can take up to 12MP still photos. A kind of rail attachment makes it very quick to remove the camera, should you need to dismount it. For example: you might wish to reduce the overall size of the aircraft for storage, or for increased flight times when you’re not capturing images. 

Featuring a GPS-based flight control system, the Q500 offers the control modes we've come to expect from multi-rotors, including a nearly autonomous beginner mode, called Smart Mode to Angle Model, which enables the greatest manual control and most diverse camera angles. In addition, a so-called "No-fly  database" records the published locations of FAA restricted zones, and apparently  instructs the autopilot to avoid them, helping ensure your flights remain safe, as well a legally compliant. In Smart Mode, you will also be locked into a 26 to 300' maximum radius, ensuring that visual contract is maintained while at the same time keeping the quadcopter a safe distance from the trainee pilot.

One of the more unique features of the Q500 is integration of a ground station solution into the transmitter, the ST10 Personal Ground Station. For control, the ST10 features a standard dual-joystick RC transmitter (radio controller) operating on 2.4 GHz. Beneath the transmitter part is a 4.5" touchscreen display providing access to the ground station. A "ground station," in RC lingo, is a system that supplies the pilot with a feed from the FPV (first-person view) camera along with flight telemetry data. In the case of the ST10, it also allows you to operate camera settings beyond just basic start/stop and taking photos (I'm not sure yet if the gimbal can be operated manually). Since the ground station runs an embedded version of Android, you can think of it as having a smartphone (with no phone reception, of course) built into your transmitter. There is also a CGO2 app if you do want to control the camera from your mobile device, though the range of your device's Wi-Fi won't extend very far unaided.

For those times when you want to use the CGO2-GB camera closer to the ground, Yuneec makes an accessory called the CGO SteadyGrip. This grip powers the camera, and features a mount for mobile devices (mainly smartphones) with screens up to 6.4". It allows you to take advantage of three-axis gimbal stabilization while shooting handheld, which makes the Q500 seem like a somewhat better ROI when you consider the camera can be repurposed.

The Q500 Typhoon is available for pre-order now.

At the moment there is no estimated shipping date for the CGO SteadyGrip.