Yuneec Typhoon Q500 and Typhoon Q500 4K Review

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With decades of experience in making remote control toys and the support of Intel technology, Yuneec seems poised to be the main rival of DJI in the market for consumer and professional drones. Yuneec drones are known for being exceptionally durable and easy to fly, and their technical specs have generally been at par with their DJI counterparts.

One of the more popular drones that Yuneec has released, the Typhoon Q500 and Typhoon Q500 4K, have remained relevant despite being released more than 3 years ago. In this article, we look at Yuneec’s “Phantom Killer” and determine if is still worth it to buy the Typhoon Q500 drones today.

Design

In contrast to the chic white look of the DJI Phantom drones, the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 has a more industrial black and gray color scheme. Its angular design fits right in with most high-end drones. The Typhoon Q500 is also a big drone – it measures more than 100mm bigger diagonally compared to the Phantom 3.

Despite its size, Yuneec has made an effort to keep the Typhoon Q500 portable. Its landing gear and camera can be detached for easier transportation. The drone bundle also comes with a sturdy but lightweight aluminum carrying case with high-density Styrofoam compartments.

The chassis of the Typhoon Q500 is mostly made of plastic which keeps it lightweight, but also makes it feel less durable. The rotor arms can be deformed with a little bit of effort, so we are not very confident that the Q500 can withstand major crashes. Fortunately, the Q500 is an agile and responsive drone that is very easy to fly.

The Typhoon Q500 comes with dedicated landing gear with skids lined with soft foam pads. This drone also features 5 lights for safe nighttime flight – 1 under each rotor, and another on its rear side.

The Typhoon Q500 comes in two versions: the standard Typhoon Q500 sports a 1080p HD camera, while the Typhoon Q500 4K can capture 4K video. Aside from the camera, all other hardware is identical between the two units.

Camera

The camera is the main point of difference between the two Q500 variants, but either one performs exceptionally well. The standard Typhoon Q500 features a CGO2-GB camera that can capture 12MP stills and 1080p HD video at 50 fps. It has an integrated 3-axis gimbal that offers mechanical image stabilization.

The Typhoon Q500 4K takes is camera game a notch higher with the CGO3 camera, a mechanically-stabilized camera that can capture 4K video at 30 fps and 1080p video at 120 fps. The slow-motion capabilities at 1080p is a nice addition and can be a boon for creative filmmakers. The CGO3 can also capture stills at 12 MP. A 3-axis gimbal gives it a wide range of movement, further augmenting its 115-degree field of view.

The CGO3 camera records at a high bitrate of 50Mbps, allowing it to capture an exceptional amount of detail. The quality of videos capture by the CGO3 is not the best, but they look great on small screens such as in tablets or laptops. If you’re shooting videos for uploading in YouTube or in your social media, then the Typhoon Q500 4K is more than up to the task.

A unique feature of the Typhoon Q500 and its 4K version is the ability to detach the camera and gimbal assembly and attach it to the battery-powered SteadyGrip mount. This effectively converts the CGO2-GB and CGO3 camera into handheld gimbal-stabilized action cameras. A smartphone can be attached to the SteadyGrip to act as a viewfinder.

The basic SteadyGrip model is powered by 8 AA batteries, which is a huge inconvenience. If you are planning on using the SteadyGrip regularly, then you are better off purchasing the upgraded ActionCam that comes with a rechargeable LiPo battery.

Remote controller

Both models come with the dedicated ST10+ ground station, which is one of the best accessories that we have experienced with any drone. The ST10+ remote controller comes with an integrated Android-based 5.5-inch LCD touchscreen, totally eliminating the need for you to tether a smartphone. The transmission range of the remote controller is at around 2600 feet, while the real-time video downlink works up to a range of 1312 feet.

The ST10+ features a pair of analog sticks which are very precise and responsive. Physical buttons allow you to capture images and start video recording with a single press, while control levers regulate the drone’s maximum speed and set the pitch angle of the camera. A physical switch controls changing between different flight modes.

The controls for the drone feel great, especially with the smooth analog sticks. However, there is often a small lag between the drone and the video downlink. This is usually not a problem, and the real-time video is still very useful for setting up shots. However, you will not be flying FPV with the Typhoon Q500 anytime soon.

The ST10+ ground station has a battery that should last more than six battery cycles of the Typhoon Q500. Charging the battery is done via a USB-C port in the remote controller and takes four hours for a full recharge.

Battery

The Typhoon Q500 comes bundled with two 5400mAh LiPo batteries that slot right into the rear end of the drone. Each battery can provide up to 25 minutes of flight under ideal circumstances. A more realistic estimate of 20 minutes can be expected should the camera be continuously engaged while flying the Typhoon Q500.

The battery must be physically removed to be charged and takes about two hours to be charged to full capacity. If you are planning to use the Typhoon Q500 for professional drone photography, then we recommend purchasing more spare batteries. The good news is that they are very reasonably priced.

Collision avoidance system

Perhaps as a relict of times gone by (this drone was released more than three years ago, after all), the Typhoon Q500 and Q500 4K does not come with any sophisticated obstacle avoidance system. It does have a way to sense the presence of the ST10+ ground stations and maintain a good distance away from it, but that’s just about it in terms of obstacle identification.

The point is, don’t go racing around with the Typhoon Q500 if you’re not in an open field.

Flight performance

The Typhoon Q500 drones are one of the models that truly live up to their “fly out of the box” claims. With no need for a smartphone, no app to download, and no complicated pairing process, you can have your Typhoon Q500 drone up in the air in a few minutes after you unbox it. The drone bundle also comes with an SD card that includes everything you need to know to learn how to fly the Typhoon Q500, including manuals and tutorial videos on how to use charge the batteries, how to install the propellers, and how to use the individual flight modes.

In terms of ease of use, the Typhoon Q500 is one of the most user-friendly and has one of the lowest learning curves. Out of the box, the drone defaults to “Smart mode”, where the drone is controlled using directions relative to the ground station (similar to Headless mode). This can be changed to Angle mode with a flick of a switch on the ST10+ ground station. In Angle mode, the drone moves at directions relative to the drone.

Flicking the flight mode switch another time shifts the drone to Home mode, where it makes its way home automatically. This is a great function for when weather conditions start to go bad, or if the drone’s battery reaches critical level.

The controls of the Q500 are surprisingly smooth and responsive, although it suffers a little when making sharp turns. However, this sluggishness should not be a problem if you’re not flying at full speeds. The quality of control of the Q500 is a welcome relief, especially in context of our concerns with its build durability.

Perhaps due to its lightweight frame, the Q500 in not quite as rock-solid in the face of heavy winds. Even in light winds, the drone shows a little wobble even as it attempts to hold a hover. This is not a drone that was built to withstand rough conditions, so it’s recommended to you put off flying in heavy winds or light rains. When the conditions are clear, the Q500 shows off a very stable hover aided by its onboard GPS technology.

One advantage of being a lightweight drone is the fact that the Typhoon Q500 is very quiet, especially compared to its peers in the Phantom series. The constant buzzing sound of drones can be very irritating, especially if you’re using it to cover events for a drone photography gig. Any level of noise reduction in drones is welcome, and the Typhoon Q500 has managed to exceed our expectations.

A notable feature that the Q500 lacks is an automatic takeoff and landing button. Taking off will require you to turn on the propellers and press up on the left analog stick, and landing is pretty much the same process in reverse. We did not find this as much of a problem even for beginners, as the Typhoon Q500 is very stable especially in low altitudes.

Flight modes

The Typhoon Q500 only has two automated flight modes, both of which are standard.

In Follow Me mode, the drone focuses on the pilot who is holding the ST10+ ground stations and follows them around as they move. In Watch me mode, the drone keeps the pilot on focus while it is free to move around.

We are a little disappointed that these are all the automated flight features that the Typhoon Q500 can offer, but Yuneec makes up for it with the Wizard controller. This is very compact controller that can work with the Follow Me and Watch me commands so that you do not need to bring the bulky ST10+ around. It also provides limited control with some gesture controls and a basic directional pad.

Despite GPS capabilities, the Typhoon Q500 does not offer waypoint navigation or the Curved Cable Cam (CCC) function found in most other Yuneec drones. This is an especially disappointing oversight that fails to take advantage of the high-quality cameras of the Typhoon Q500 drones. It also severely limits the number of creative options that drone photographers and filmmakers can take when using the Typhoon Q500.

Overall impression

Despite its age, the Yuneec Tornado Q500 and Q500 4K are still one of the most user-friendly drones that happen to be equipped with cameras that can capture high-quality images and videos. The intuitive ST10+ ground station greatly enhances the flight experience with its simple interface, integrated touchscreen, and very responsive controls. We consider the drone’s maneuverability to be middling – it is very stable in ideal conditions but is not robust enough for rough weather. It also struggles in making tight turns at high speed.

Our main points of concern with the Q500 drones is in their plastic bodywork that makes them feel cheap and fragile. Although there are advantages to being lightweight, we think that these do not offset the drone’s issues with durability. The lack of more automated flight modes also makes the Q500 drones inadequate for high-level professional drone photography.

One factor that makes the Typhoon Q500 4K attractive is its low price point. In fact, it is probably one of the cheapest 4K-capable drones out in the market today. This is a great opportunity for novice drone photographers to start shooting in 4K at a price that is more wallet-friendly.

Is it worth it?

In terms of price and capabilities, the closest rival of the Typhoon Q500 4K is the Phantom 3 Pro. They both cost less than $1000. A summary of the comparison of the two models is shown below:

ParameterYuneec Typhoon Q500 4KDJI Phantom 3 Pro
Weight1700 g1280 g
Camera12 MP stills

4K video @ 30 fps

1080p video @ 120 fps

12 MP stills

4K video @ 30 fps

1080p video @ 60 fps

Stabilization3-axis gimbal stabilization3-axis gimbal stabilization
Flight time25 minutes23 minutes
Obstacle avoidanceNoneVision Positioning System
Remote controllerST10+ ground station with integrated LCD screenStandard remote controller (requires smartphone tethered)

The Typhoon Q500 4K is clearly the bigger and heavier drone of the two, which may be important for on-the-go drone photographers. The camera specs of the two drones are very similar, with the Typhoon Q500 4K holding the slight advantage with its slow-motion 1080p capability. It also has the slight advantage with its 25-minute battery life and a remote controller with an integrated LCD screen.

However, the biggest advantage of the Phantom 3 Pro is its intelligent obstacle avoidance system that allows it to fly over and around obstacles automatically. This is a valuable tool that can help beginner pilots avoid crashes, especially when flying around areas that are dense with obstacles.

Recommendation

If you appreciate the additional heft and the slow-motion capabilities, that come with the Typhoon Q500 4k, then it is a very good value-for-money purchase. Take note that it does not come with obstacle avoidance technology, which you’ll find with the similarly priced DJI Phantom 3 Pro.

If you must stick to a budget and do not need to buy a drone right away, your best alternative is to wait for the DJI Phantom 4 Pro to go on sale. Its standard price is a little over $1000 but it can be discounted to a price that is comparable to that of a Typhoon Q500 4K or a Phantom 3 Pro. Considered one of the best professional-grade drones, the Phantom 4 Pro is one of the standards by which other camera drones are measured by even until today.