Jameel is a long time photography enthusiast and a drone hobbyist when he has a break from writing.
The drone producing company Parrot has been described as being "what Nintendo is to video-games for the drone industry." Despite the pioneering role they play in bringing high-quality drones to consumers, Parrot has always leaned a bit more to the playful side of the spectrum. While rival companies DJI and Yuneec were producing state-of-the-art drones with environmental sensors and 4k cameras, Parrot was busily designing drones that could do impressive backflips and shoot foam pellets.
The Anafi, the company's latest drone, represents Parrot moving in a new direction, one that will see a departure from the casual side of the drone market. This drone was designed from scratch to be extremely proficient at aerial photography and videography, two tasks at which it performs exceedingly well.
This is a unit built for travel, and like DJI's Mavic line of drones, the Anafi is designed with folding, hinged arms that allow the drone to fit inside a carrying case that is no larger or bulkier than a traditional soda bottle. It is certainly too big to be carried in your pockets, but it will fit easily inside the standard rucksack or purse.
This is the only readily apparent feature worth talking about; all the other no-less important features are hidden away in the drone's impressive design. A triple-axis gimbal, vibration dampened for improved performance, contains a powerful 4k camera more than capable of recording impressive HDR videos. Also equipped with digital zooming and 180 degrees of tilt freedom, this combination of tilt, zoom, and HDR is one that you will find in no other drone at this price range.
The Anafi also comes equipped with a long list of smart filming and flight modes. Some of these such as the standard orbit, auto-follow, and way-point flying modes are common features in most drones on the market, but the Anafi has some that are conspicuously unique; Dolly Zoom, Slow Motion, and Hyperlapse will be found on no other drone currently available.
In addition to this, Parrot has also included a number of very thoughtful design elements into the Anafi's snug chassis that certainly add to its worth; a launch from hand function, controller-less flying, and 3D mapping software are just a few of such designs that the small drone incorporates.
Quality and Durability
Building a good drone is harder than most people would think. One must balance strength and sturdiness without subsequently making the drone too heavy and therefore impacting its flight time and battery life. Designers constantly run the risk of creating drones that are too fragile for what they are designed or, in reverse, drones that are too heavy to perform the fast aerial maneuvers that make UAVs so popular. The answer is simple, yet complicated: find and achieve balance.
Traditionally, Parrot's creations have been a little bit on the flimsy side, and the Anafi is no different. With its flexible and thin arms, it is certainly very well built, but it does not achieve the levels of sturdiness that can be found in DJI's Mavic line of drones. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. A review of Parrot's other drones has shown that this flexibility in their design allows their drones to be extremely resilient and able to be unaffected by all but the most serious of crashes.
Flight Time and Battery Life
The Anafi comes equipped with a 7.6 volt, 2,700mAh lithium polymer battery which the company has stated provides a flight time of 25 minutes. This is of course based on the perfect flying conditions, and on personal testing, it was found that the Anafi's flight time in more realistic weather comes just short of what was promised, at 21 minutes. In a hover endurance test (where the drone is sent up with a full battery and just hovers in place until it comes down for the emergency landing), the drone managed to remain airborne for 22 minutes. 25 minutes or not, this is still incredibly impressive for a drone of this size. The similarly sized Yuneec Breeze only manages to sustain around 11–13 minutes of air time while the Hover Camera Passport can only hover for around 10 minutes. The Mavic Air, the Anafi's only serious competition, can only stay aloft for 18 minutes (in ideal conditions).
The Anafi charges via a USB-C charging port, allowing the owner to recharge almost anywhere but one may see differences in the time taken to reach full power. This is because different USB ports will provide different levels of power. The small one that you can plug into your car will give out significantly less power than say, the one you got with your iPad. That said, with the proper port, you can expect a 2 hour charge time for the Anafi.
The Anafi is quite easy to fly, even for those who are new to piloting drones. The controls are nice and responsive, intuitively simple master. Possibly not as athletic as the drones recently released by DJI, but at the same time not as clunky and unresponsive when compared to some of the other drones on the market.
In terms of autonomy, the Anafi is more than adequate. The autonomous flight modes all perform as they are advertised, while the filming modes have consistently been used to produce reliable and stunning results.
There are a few things that weren't all positive, however. The auto-follow technology is not as strong as that found on DJI drones and the Anafi suffers from one other serious drawback; the complete lack of obstacle avoidance technology which is absent on most of Parrot's drones. The Anafi has the common-place ground detection sensors, but it cannot detect and avoid other obstacles such as buildings and tree branches. While this is not the end of the world, it does force the pilot to be a lot more careful when flying.
Almost every other feature that is seen on this drone can be found elsewhere, possibly not all incorporated into the same design, but the Anafi's camera is what puts it apart. In terms of raw tech jargon, the Anafi contains a 1/2.4-inch CMOS Sony sensor, partnered with a wide-angle f/2.4 ASPH lens, allowing it to capture 21-megapixel still shots as well as shooting video in 1080p FHD up to 60fps, 4k UHD at up to 30fps and Cinematic 4K at 24fps. It also comes with an optional HDR mode which basically boosts the contrast and allows the pilot to capture high-quality images even if both dark and light areas are present in the image. In other words, this is a seriously high-quality camera that can be widely used to source stunning imagery.
The camera also has 180 degrees of tilt freedom, not as impressive as the full 360 offered by some other models, but still making it a fun and flexible means of image capturing. Combine this with the anti-shudder and vibration mentioned earlier in the article, and anyone who owns the Anafi is well-equipped to practice photography in almost any environment.
Is This the Drone for You?
Honestly, if you put more value on flight performance and reliability, then one of the Mavic series from DJI would be more suited to your needs. They are far more responsive and equipped with the latest in obstacle avoidance technology which is essential if you want to confidently race around a forest for example.
But if taking incredible imagery is what you are after in a drone, then the Anafi is the best bet by far. The Mavic Air, Hover Camera Passport, and possibly the Yuneec Breeze are all just as portable and usable as the Anafi, but all suffer when it comes to camera comparisons. The powerful image capturing abilities of the Anafi put it well ahead of the current competition when it comes to taking high-quality pictures, and for the time being, at least, it looks as if it is going to stay there.
© 2019 Jameel Evans