California-based PowerVision have produced with the PowerEye a professional level drone which is not just capable of great footage, but can also carry a payload and comes with tons of features. Capturing quality stills and video is a pre-requisite from drones these days. Not just rocksteady footage, but also plenty of manual control over how the footage is captured.
The PowerVision PowerEye being aimed at the professional market isn’t exactly compact with 513mm x 513mm x 310mm dimensions and weighing 3950g. On first viewing the drone looks like a large, high-tech bug, with the three forward facing cameras and a large camera underneath for capturing footage. The drone can fold down nicely into its own carry case and the landing gear can be detached. Everything can fit into an ample sized backpack, just.
The dual camera set up allows two simultaneous video streams, along with a 4K UHD camera and thermal and natural light camera. That’s not all, you can even change the lenses on the main camera. These come in the form of a Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH as standard, an Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8, Olympus M.Zuiko ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ(zoom), Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f1.8 and an Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8.
The SMV camera features a MFT mount, a micro four thirds lens and which lens you receive depends on the model. The PowerEye Professional model has the 11mm F2.5 while the PowerEye Thermal has two integrated light sensors, with two lenses that can switch from the Thermal to Natural Light modes via the app. The thermal capabilities on this drone could mean applications for some of the emergency services detecting fires or heat signatures, all in one unit and in high quality.
The dual view sets it apart from other drones allowing first-person view (FPV), viewable in a picture-in-picture mode or split screen with the PowerEye App, while the main camera, which sits on a 3-axis gimbal is for subject matter view (SMV). The two views can be monitored on two separate devices, one for the SMV and one for the FPV.
The SMV camera has a 4/3″ CMOS sensor, producing still images at 4,640 x 3,480 pixels with some very wanted manual control, such as shutter speeds from 8 to 1/8,000 of the second, ISO from 100 – 1,600 for stills and 100 – 3,200 for video and various photo modes such as burst shooting, timer and Auto Exposure Bracketing. Video can be shot in 4K at 24fps and UHD at 30fps. Storage is via SD card with 64GB of memory.
With the ability to carry a 6.6 pound payload and a 30 minute flight time with a single charge, this drone is starting to shape up to be similar to having your own aerial camera crew at your disposal.
Flying wise, the drone is aimed at the experienced pilot, which means it doesn’t have some of the flight mode you would find on some of the DJI type models, which also have high quality cameras. There is object detection showing the distance and warnings to near objects and an optical positioning and sonar system to enable more accurate indoor flight. The power modes give various types of flight automation, but it’s not always clear how they work.
Operating distance for real-time HD video streaming is an impressive 3.1 miles(5 kilometers) with air speed of 64.8kph in professional mode and a flight height of 4,000m. It’s clear that more autonomous flying modes would be a fantastic addition in the future, but it’s also realised that this drone is aimed at the professional market. This means that it’s going to be more than likely that more than one person will be on the shoot and a professional drone pilot is employed. Automation is great, but an experienced drone pilot can set up shots out of the boundaries of autonomous flying.
As far as image quality goes, the added manual controls definitely make a difference for creating ideal exposures and dynamic range. The 4/3″ CMOS sensor and lens choices are a fantastic addition and definitely expand the creativity of shots with this drone.
How Does It Compare?
The nearest comparisons are going to be professional camera level drones. The most obvious is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro Drone. The DJI has a 20MP 1” CMOS Sensor equipped with a Hasselblad L1D-20c camera, has a 31 minute flight time and a maximum speed of 44 mph. DJI always provides tons of functionality and features and these include more professional video assets like a 10-bit Dlog-M color profile and 4K 10-bit HDR support. However, no interchangeable lenses. The price is also a lot cheaper at $1,445.00, compared to the PowerVision power at $2,999.00.
DJI Also has a more cost-effective solution in the Mavic Air, which supports 4K video at 30 fps, but with only 21 minute flight time.
|PowerVision PowerEye||DJI Mavic Pro|
|Sensor||½.3 CMOS||4/3″ CMOS|
|Video||C4k, 24p||C4k, 24p|
|Flight Time||29.5 minutes||21 minutes|
The PowerVision PowerEye is clearly aimed at the professional with a rock solid build and plenty of professional features. A high-quality camera with interchangeable lenses, dual view and plenty of flight time makes this drone an interesting proposition. The Micro Four Thirds and interchangeable lenses will appeal to those who want that extra bit of quality and don’t mind the more manual way of flying.
The price of the PowerVision PowerEye has dropped significantly making it a more viable option, but DJI have some premium models packing tons of features at a better price point. The decision for this drone will ultimately come down to the need for the quality of a Micro Four Thirds camera, interchangeable lenses and possibly the extra payload it can carry.
The thermal capabilities are a definite selling point for certain applications and the ability to manually control the drone to go where others fear to tread could be a definite dealbreaker for things like emergency services.