Hands On-Review: LowePro DroneGuard Kit, a Lightweight Transport for Drones
The LowePro DroneGuard Kit is one of three new bags designed with the drone enthusiast in mind. This product is designed to fit mid-sized consumer drones, such as the 3DR Solo, the DJI Phantom series and the Blade Chroma and 350s. I tested it with a Phantom 3 Professional and a 3DR Solo, as well as some racing drones, in the 250 class and below. It is available now, at B&H Photo.
The DroneGuard Kit reminded me, at first sight, of a tool bag a contractor would carry to the job site, only it is made of lightweight nylon instead of slash-proof Cordura. Much like construction contractors, drone guys carry a lot of gear to and from their fly sites. Some of it requires heavy waterproof cases, but a lot of the backup gear or smaller drones really just need an easy way to transport them in the trunk or back seats of cars. This is where the DroneGuard Kit stands out from every other competitor's bag on the market. While the heavy foam-walled protection of a backpacks is great, you may not always be going far with a medium-sized quadcopter, so you don't always need to carry it on your back. Your everyday backpack can carry your laptop, sweatshirt, pad, pens, and other accessories. This is what the DroneGuard Kit is made for.
With its modular design, you can quickly change its configuration to fit a multiplicity of camera drones. I was pleasantly surprised to find it had no problem carrying my 250-class racing drones to a few practice meets, including all the extra gear that comes with that. The outside shell and main floor are made of a semi-rigid nylon shell with a handle that comes together when the sides are folded upward, for easy one-handed transport of all your gear. There are two large main zippered compartments in the walls, which make carrying an iPad, tool kits, extra antenna, FPV monitors, and flight permits easy and organized. On the inside of the walls are enough retention straps to carry plenty of spare propellers, smaller Allen wrenches, screwdrivers, and even your keys while you are flying.
When the walls are folded together, they are held upright by a plastic buckle, which also helps to keep your drone stabilized. The inside walls are two shapeable flat pieces that can be formed around the legs of drones, just hugging the underside of the bodies. These walls connect to the floor of the main carrier with hook-and-loop fasteners to keep them in place, and they keep delicate gimbals from swinging wildly as you transport them. The drone should then be held down with an elastic strap, since there is a hook-and-loop receptor on the top of each of the inner walls but, unfortunately, LowePro neglected to include one. On the outside of both of these walls is a small pocket, which is a perfect size for a few pairs of pliers, extra batteries for the transmitters, or a pair of sunglasses.
The Kit has two shapeable baskets which fasten to the floor by hook and loop and hold the front and back of drones in place. One basket is a multi-sided oval, which can be manipulated into a custom size for whichever radio transmitter you are carrying. There is room inside this compartment for an extended-range antenna, and everything is held in place with another over-the-top hook-and-loop elastic strap (included). The second of these compartments is a removable, sub-divided five-compartment tool kit, which holds chargers, spare LiPo batteries, cables, action camera, cell phone, small tool kits, FPV goggles, and even more spare parts. The basket-like piece is easily removed from the main design of the kit and carried out onto the field for a quick battery change or minor repair. The semi-rigid walls keep it upright and within reach anywhere you carry it.
The LowePro DroneGuard Kit is well built, with the company's trademark great quality and craftsmanship. Camera owners with other LowePro gear will recognize the company's soft grip handles, modular rigid-walled compartments, and elastic retention system throughout the product. The kit is not built for airline travel, as it would not survive being handled roughly by ground crews or possibly flipped over, since it is an open design. However, if you need to travel with your drone, Lowepro also manufactures the HARDSIDE case, which is extremely protective and can be checked for airline travel. It was just the right product for transporting my Phantom 3 or my 3DR Solo around town with most of the gear I would normally bring with me.
When I set the kit up for my Phantom 3, which is an X-frame drone and a few inches shorter than the Solo, I was able to fit everything together in the main shell very nicely. Inside the outer shell walls I had plenty of propellers, GoPro batteries, screwdrivers, and FPV antennas. The radio transmitter lies on its side, strapped in on one end and, on the opposite side of the drone, the tool-bag with two extra batteries, a few small tools, and some extra cables. Had I carried my normal three spare batteries, the entire load would have been too unbalanced-in my test, the hook-and-loop on the tool bag's bottom even failed a few times. With two batteries and not too many heavy tools, the DroneGuard Kit is an excellent companion to the Phantom series of drones.
The 3DR Solo is more of an elongated H-frame drone and has a larger footprint than the Phantoms do. Because of this I had a little more trouble with balance. When the radio transmitter was strapped into the mobile device holder, it had to be upright, therefore forcing the transmitter to push against one wall of the shell holder, resting against the Solo itself and risking pulling the hook-and-loop fastener apart and dropping the transmitter. As with the Phantom, I was only able to carry two extra batteries comfortably for my Solo, or the Kit would be leaning toward the battery side and would cause another failure and more dropped batteries. Overall, I didn't find the issue of having to balance my gear to be too inconvenient. The ability to hand-carry my drone meant I could finally bring my favorite backpack along with my laptop, extra layers of clothing, and other essentials that drone bags never seem to accommodate.
I was very impressed with the DroneGuard kit when I set it up for my racing drones. I stacked a 180mm racer on top of a 250 H-Frame and walled them in. I loaded up the side retention walls with dozens of extra propellers, which are necessary for even a few hours of racing practice. I put an FPV monitor in the outer wall pocket and some extra electronics and tools in the other one. My Spektrum DX6 was a perfect fit in the oval compartment and, in the tool-bag side, I could get eight 1300mAh batteries, a charger, and some cables without any balance problems. I even had room on the side of the drone to put my FPV goggles before closing the sides and buckling it all in. This was the first time I ever got all of my necessary race gear into a single bundle, and a huge bonus!
- Top loading for easy access
- Lightweight and easy to transport in the car
- Plenty of room for everything you need with your midsize camera drone (3 batteries total)
- Easily customizable Hook-and-Loop fastener system
- Not a bad heli-pad when dusty ground or tall grass threaten your motors
- The best thing that's ever happened for racing drones
- Tool-bag and transmitter holder can come undone if not balanced properly
- Limited number of flight batteries can be carried
- One more elastic strap with hook-and-loop fasteners to hold the drone down would have been great
About the author: Craig Cohen attends many flight demonstrations, teaches drone classes, and shoots a lot of B-roll with his 3DR Solo and Phantom 3 Advanced. Living on beautiful Long Island, he does much of his flying, teaching, and transporting of his drones within fifty to one hundred miles of his home.