Early morning walk to the empty fields
and the blue sky filled with birds.

Wind through the trees
refreshing as closed eyes

cleared the mind
making room for nature.

Two videos from early Christmas Day with crystal blue skies, strong wind, and below 0 temperatures.

Shadows from high-clouds
in the early afternoon

pass over our faces
soaking in the autumn wind.

Video taken of Lake Superior waves on the first morning of 2017.

Video taken of Lake Superior waves on the last morning of 2016.

Lake Superior fog
rolls north across
the open waters
and in another time
these were the first
settlers of the new land.

A beautiful day to capture an autumn skyline above the clouds and crashing into a tree at 15mph.

I have been flying the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium for over a month now. During that time, I have crashed, missed landings, made landings, taken beautiful videos over the top of a northern pine forest, and dealt with the nuances of a new product. Here are some of my thoughts so far.

  • For the cost, this is a great and easy to fly mid-level drone.
  • I have some concerns how it will compete in the long-term with DJI, especially with the ongoing lawsuit.
  • I have not seen any 3rd party accessories or additional accessories from Autel. The top of my list includes sturdier propeller guards to keep them out of videos and photos on windy days, and a battery charging hub.
  • The latest concern is with quality control. I upgraded the firmware to version 1.2.8 about 3-weeks ago and flew a bit and noticed a lot of drift when hovering, and it was really pronounced when nearing the landing zone. I visited the downloads recently checking to see if there was a new version, and now only 1.1.3 is available. There was no information on the site regarding the issues and I received no emails or notifications,. Only by contacting support did I find out that drifting was a known issues in the 1.2.8 release. I requested a list of other known issues and when they might be fixed, but received no response.  Issues can and should be expected with new products, but support and communication are critical and will be the key difference when someone is deciding between 2, 3 or more options as the market becomes more flooded with drones in the price range.

While I am in the beginning stages of building a business around commercial drone operation, my experience so far is showing me that the Autel Robotics is not quite ready yet.  I have been looking into adding a second drone, and was considering another Autel, but have decided on the DJI Phantom 4.  The Autel is still a good drone, but would be better for learning and practice flights.

Once I get some flight time with the DJI I will post a more thorough and side-by-side review.

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I have spent a few hours with learning and flying a drone, crashing a into trees a couple of times, and missing the manual landing more than hitting the pad.  All of this is get practice and build skills for eventual commercial piloting (more information below).  I have found the Autel Robotics drone to be an excellent mix of performance, quality of photos and video, support, and cost.  In the next post, I will talk briefly about other manufactures and how they compare to the Autel Robotics.

Some useful websites for the FAA Part 107 drone operator testing and certification for commercial operation.

The following website is for registration of your drone if it meets criteria outlined by the FAA, which applies to most drones on the market today.

The following is a short list of drone manufactures that I have experience with, either from flying or researching the next drone that will be added to the Willow River Dynamics fleet.

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