3rd Party Product Evaluation

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3D Robotics RTF X8+

Pros

Has seamless integration with GoPro cameras, 3-axis solo gimbal, incredible lift, and frankly it looks bad-ass (some would call it sexy). Despite that, it still fits in a backpack. 1-Touch functions for flight modes make it easy to look like a pro, and get pro results.

Cons

While easier to operate than most prosumer-level drones, like any drone, it still takes a little practice to get perfect flying – unless you use its 1-touch flying apps. Also, you may need scissors to snip the retaining zip ties when it arrives, due to their perhaps overly-thorough packaging.

Performance

This very slick-looking drone has a standard payload that is incredible – nearly two pounds. The standard flight time is 15 minutes, more than enough to get those aerial shots. But it can carry a lot more than that (over 1 kg ) with reduced flight time. 3DR recommends you don't fly it above 400 feet to avoid hitting airplanes, so it has plenty of lift and range. It circles very smoothly, and handles impressive flight gymnastics without straining its capabilities. Frankly, it'll deliver more performance than most operators can use, so your results will improve right along with your skill operating it.

Features

This is where the 3DR RTF X8+ drone truly sets itself apart. Besides being the first drone made for your GoPro, the features are what you'd expect from a truly professional-level drone, including adjustable battery indicator to make sure you don't run out of power mid-flight, and a top of the line GPS unit.

The controller itself is as gorgeous as the RTF X8+, and just as functional. This drone's first-person view (FPV) capability comes through on the controller high-def screen with no lag I could see. While a lot of high-end drones have this capability, the data transfer rate on the RTF X8+ is blazing fast - maybe the controller's onboard 1-GHz processor.

While drones can take a while to master, the RTF X8+ quad drone has four 1-Touch capabilities that are worth the price by themselves; push-button controls for both the camera and the drone. The cable-cam feature lets you set a flightpath start and end point. The drone will then fly smoothly along this path so you can focus entirely on operating your camera of choice. Other smart button settings for this drone include Orbit, to circle an object for a perfect "wrap-around" shot; Selfie, which puts you in the middle of a great aerial pull-out shot; and the hands-free Follow mode, which makes the RTF X8+ follow smoothly along wherever you go, keeping you at the center of the picture (great for chases).

Other features include built-in WiFi hub and an HDMI port, as well as some pretty amazing software. DroneKit is an SDK and API that lets you easily develop apps for the drone, if you are so inclined (expect a lot of user-created apps!), while 3DR's Services app handles the drone interactions so you can focus on developing the front-end.

Accessories & Supplies

The best accessory they offer is the 3-axis gimbal, the first to interact in-flight with GoPro controls, so you can just do things with the RTF X8+ that you can't do with other drones. Other accessories include a sleek hardcase for your drone, and of course rechargeable battery packs. There's a whole line of products for developers, including a really cool 3D Mapping app.

Also, since the 3DR community of user developers is about the most active around, and everything is built on an open-source foundation, they're sure to have many more apps and accessories in the very near future, via the "Made for Solo" incubator program.

Help & Support

The 3D Robotics website offers terrific support. What is really impressive is that if the drone shows anything amiss as it monitors 500 parameters in flight, it offers to submit a ticket for you with the press of a button on your smart phone. You can't beat that level of support.

Summary and Verdict

The 3D Robotics RTF X8+ prosumer drone is rugged, powerful, and has a slew of the best standard and optional features available at any price point, which makes it about the smartest choice on the market, especially if you're into aerial camera work – and it's the only one with in-flight GoPro controls.

Given that this powerhouse is RTF, and has so many features you can't find elsewhere, our verdict is that this is a must-have for drone enthusiasts and aerial/action photographers alike.

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I started out editing and then ghostwriting in the tech industry in the late '80s, and have written or contributed to several non-fiction books during my career. I have been a freelance writer and editor for over 20 years, ten of which I also spent in Public Relations. When I worked in PR I also wrote numerous client-byline articles for such trade publications as Dr. Dobb's Journal. My experience provides excellent insight into creating effective business collateral. I have ghostwritten five genre fiction novels, and I'm working on two more. My primary background is in SEO-friendly content creation and copywriting. My biggest value-add, according to my clients, is a reputation for being easy to work with, very fast, flexible, and quick to adapt to new technology and evolving client processes.

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