Autel Robotics Evo Nano+ review

Autel Robotics Evo Nano+ review

Creators and hobbyists shop for a Drone Airplanes with a takeoff weight of 249 grams are often targeted to avoid the hassle of FAA registration. Autel’s concept is the Evo Nano series, which matches featherweight geometry with a camera gimbal stabilization for perfectly stable aerial shots. Like the basic Nano ($799), the Nano+ ($949) we’re reviewing here supports 4K HDR video, sports sensors to prevent collisions, and can fly for about half an hour between charges. It’s a good performer overall, but it’s not quite as polished as our Editors’ Choice, $669 DJI Mini 3 Prowhich offers better video quality for less dollars.

A Lightframe Sidesteps Registration

We don’t think of ounces and grams as a highlight for many products, but the Nano+’s 249g takeoff weight is significant for drone pilots. For those traveling in the US, it makes it a little easier to get started since you won’t have to bother with the FAA registration expenses. Instead, you simply need to take an online knowledge test. And for pilots in other regions, Canada and Europe are much less strict on ultra-light drones.

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(Credit: Jim Fisher)

Autel markets the Nano+ in its signature orange color scheme, which we received for review, as well as Arctic White, Blazing Red, or Deep Space Gray. I love the orange tinted version, which stands out clearly against the blue sky — it’s easy to see from a distance compared to a gray drone, especially on cloudy days.

The plastic construction goes a long way in keeping the weight down. The materials used in the Nano+ are a lighter grade than the composites DJI uses in the Mini 3 Pro, but they’re just ashamed of being called shoddy. The fan arms fold securely into the body for storage and transport, and the battery is held firmly in place.

Autel Evo Nano+, front view showing the camera and obstacle sensors

(Credit: Jim Fisher)

Autel markets the Nano+ on its own for $949, ​​a configuration that includes a drone, remote control, and one flight battery. PCMag received the Premium Kit for our review, a $1,099 bundle that adds two extra batteries, a multi-charger, and a small carrying case. The multi-charger is useful and works with the included USB-C plug, but while the case is well-made, it’s difficult to carry the drone and accessories comfortably.

There’s no internal storage on the Nano+, which is a slight surprise considering it’s the largest Evo Lite + It comes with 6 GB memory. Instead, you need to add a microSDXC card to save the video; The card slot is located on the back of the airframe, just below the battery and next to the USB-C data port. The Nano+ does not support in-body charging for its battery; You need to use the included external charger to replenish it.

Autel Evo Nano+, rear view showing memory card slot and battery

(Credit: Jim Fisher)

The Nano+ is rated for about 28 minutes per flight by Autel, and came close to that on our test flights. Our tests indicate real-world performance is close to 26 minutes of flight time, although how the drone flies and the surrounding conditions play a role. The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a slightly better performer here, with up to 34 minutes of streaming with its standard battery.

Remote control and Autel Sky app

The Nano+ is the first in a new series from Autel, but drone pilots familiar with the brand may remember the old second evoOne of the few drones that ships with a remote control with a built-in screen to view and control the camera. This design is out. If you want a mini drone that you can use without a smartphone, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is available with a touchscreen DJI RC Remote for $909.

Autel Evo Nano+ remote control with attached iPhone

(Credit: Jim Fisher)

The remote sports new USB-C connectors for charging and connecting your phone, as well as updated removable joysticks so they can fit into the drone’s ultra-comfortable Premium Bag. Autel collects short connector cables for iPhones, as well as micro USB and USB-C devices. Everything is a good remote, though I have one minor complaint: There’s no onboard storage compartment for the removable joysticks, so you have to take extra care to keep track of them.

The Autel Sky app is a free download for Android and iOS. I tested the Nano+ with two different phones during the review period, first with an older iPhone 8 Plus and later with the slightly smaller iPhone 13; The remote’s phone clip handled both phones, even when using a case with the iPhone 8 Plus.

Screenshot of the Autel Sky app

The Autel Sky app is used to control the camera

The Sky app shows a view from the camera on your phone screen, along with telemetry data to show airspeed and altitude, and a map showing where the drone is at any time. You’ll also see a readout of expected battery life, visualized using a virtual fuel gauge as well as numerical percentage and (estimated) remaining combat time readouts. If the gauge turns yellow, you’re in danger of not getting home to the firing point on the remaining battery, so keep an eye on it.

The battery gauge isn’t the only safety feature to note. The Nano+ includes GPS for its location, and supports automatic return home if the battery runs low or the remote control signal loses connection.

Autel Evo Nano+, an upright standing drone displaying its underbelly obstacle sensors

(Credit: Jim Fisher)

The drone also supports downward, forward and backward obstacle avoidance sensors. These effectively detect obstacles within the flight path and stop the Nano+ in place. That’s about functionality, however, since the Nano+ isn’t quite as nimble as the DJI Mini 3 Pro in this regard — the Mini 3 Pro is able to adjust its flight path to avoid obstacles, not just stop in place.

DJI is also putting an ADS-B receiver in the Mini 3 Pro, which can warn you if a manned aircraft is flying near the drone, not included in the Nano+. On the other hand, pilots who might be frustrated by DJI’s strict FlySafe fencing will find Autel’s drone to be a breath of fresh air. It will not prevent take off based on airspace restrictions, so be sure to double check with the FAA B4UFLY software(opens in a new window) Website to make sure drones are allowed in your area.

4K video with RYYB color

The Nano+ uses a camera new to Autel, a 1/1.28 type CMOS chip compatible with a 23mm f/1.9 wide lens. The camera supports 4K30 video with standard, HDR, or 8-bit color, and can capture 12-megapixel or DNG still images, as well as 50-megapixel JPG images.

Autel Evo Nano+ sample photo, landscape at sunrise

JPG off camera (Credit: Jim Fisher)

The high pixel count isn’t the only feature that sets the camera apart; Technically, the color filter matrix uses an RYYB color filter matrix, rather than the more typical RGGB. Yellow filters transmit slightly more light than green, to get the advantage of image quality in dim light.

In practice, I found it to be a modest benefit for shooting video and JPG, but it does make working with Raw DNG images a little tricky. in Adobe Lightroom Classicthe red turns yellow, which is quite noticeable when you compare the early morning sunrise scene in JPG (above) with DNG (below).

Autel Evo Nano+ sample photo, landscape at sunrise

Raw processed using Lightroom’s default color profile (Credit: Jim Fisher)

Adobe doesn’t offer a custom profile to match RYYB color, but if you’re savvy enough in Lightroom to install a custom profile, you can rely on one created by photo(opens in a new window). It does a better job with colors; I used it to make a third copy of the same image below.

Autel Evo Nano+ sample photo, landscape at sunrise

Raw processing with Lodge Photo profile (Credit: Jim Fisher)

A 50MP photo mode can come in handy, depending on your subject. When comparing overhead shots of the landscape, creek, and surrounding landscape, I was blown away by the 50MP’s output; For intricate details like foliage and grass, 12MP thumbnails look best.

Autel Evo Nano + sample photo, suburban neighborhood top view

(Credit: Jim Fisher)

But for urban and suburban antennas, as well as close-up scenes, the 50MP results are sharper, with sharper views of homes and parked cars. I’d still say that, for most everyone, 12MP is the way to go, but you might find the higher pixel count option useful for specialized cases, such as scan work.

For video, the 4K30 footage provides accurate and good-looking color, and the 3-axis gimbal makes aerial footage completely smooth. You also get a useful digital zoom—the 16x maximum zoom is a bit blurry, but at the mid-range setting the results are crisp.

I do have one complaint though, and that is that the video profile is very sharp. It leads to some shimmering effects and a rocking look. Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust the video profile, a feature Autel dropped for this generation.

If you want more control over how your video looks, you can switch to a record capture profile. It’s only available with automatic exposure settings, which is confusing because it’s a feature that has more appeal to experts who are likely to use manual settings. An HDR profile is also available, which is also limited to Auto mode.

In addition to the basic photo and video modes, the Nano+ has a few other capture modes, some more useful than others. We love Hyperlapse, where the drone takes a series of photos and stitches them together into a quick time-lapse video, and there are a few automated snapshots (Fade Away, Flick, Orbit, and Rocket), as well as dynamic subject tracking. Portrait mode, which is supposed to blur backgrounds like a smartphone camera, is less useful; I’ve tried it on several Autel drones and it doesn’t really work.

All in all, the camera is a bit of a mixed bag. For stills, the image quality out of the camera is great, and while the 50MP capture mode isn’t necessary for every shot, it doesn’t remove anything either. But it’s very hard to get the right color in-camera if you want to use Raw DNG. For video, the 4K30 footage is clear, colorful, and stable, but it’s a little over-processed.

The little drone that can

Autel drones have their fans, and I can see why. The Evo Nano+ is a racy little flyer that’s travel-sized, light enough to avoid FAA registration requirements, and offers long battery life. Add in safety features like reliable GPS and obstacle avoidance sensors, and there’s a lot to like.

However, Nano+ has some drawbacks. Its retail price is a bit high compared to the DJI Mini 3 Pro, and Autel’s offering simply isn’t as powerful or ergonomically designed as DJI’s. Similarly, the Mini 3 Pro wins out for image quality, with better 4K60 and 10-bit image quality.

Autel Evo Nano+, front view

(Credit: Jim Fisher)

If you want to try a brand that isn’t DJI, Autel drones are as good as they come. The EVO Nano+ is safe to fly and has a very capable camera; It is an especially good choice for beginner pilots. The Nano+ isn’t as polished or as well-designed as the Mini 3 Pro, which remains our Editors’ Choice, but it still offers plenty for drone, photography, and videography enthusiasts looking for an alternative to DJI.

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