Autel Robotics announced its long-awaited EVO II series drone at CES 2020 in January, promising vast improvements over the original EVO model launched back in 2018. Its most notable feature is a modular camera system, offering three models that cover a range of features that meet different users' needs, from consumers to professionals.
The camera on the standard EVO II uses a 1/2" 48MP Quad Bayer sensor and is the first consumer drone to offer 8K video. The EVO II Pro uses a larger 1"-type 20MP sensor that gives 6K recording, and the EVO II Dual features both an optical and a thermal camera in a single unit and also maxes out at 6K recording. The modular system allows users to switch cameras if needed on a single drone.
Key specifications (not including camera)
EVO II Pro
EVO II Dual
1/2" CMOS (optical)
FLIR BOSON sensor (thermal)*
48MP Quad Bayer
640 x 512 (thermal)
Max photo resolution
Max video resolution
8K/25p, 6K/30p, 4K/60p
6K/30p, 4K/60p, HD/120p
6K/30p, 4K/60p, HD/120p
26mm equiv. (F1.8 fixed)
29mm equiv. (F2.8-11)
29mm equiv. (F2.8-11)
8x (up to 4x lossless)
8x (up to 3x lossless)
8x (up to 3x lossless)
1150g (2.5 lbs.)
1191g (2.6 lbs.)
1150g (2.5 lbs.)
*FLIR sensor size not specified
When buying an EVO II, you can choose the model with the camera that best fits your needs. If you want to switch cameras at some point, you can do it without buying a whole new drone.
The EVO II was released in June following several delays, beginning with a software bug and supply chain shortages. Has the company ironed out the glitches that delayed its launch for a few months? And, how does it compare to similar models from DJI? We'll explore both questions in this review.
We tested the standard EVO II, thanks to our friends at Drone-Works. Chicago-based professional Antoine Tissier lent us his EVO II Pro model for some additional tests. We did not test the EVO II Dual.
Aircraft and controller
The EVO II bears a strong resemblance to DJI's folding Mavic series of drones, though its body is substantially larger, and it doesn't quite fit in your palm. One thing that's a bit perplexing is that the bottom propellers don't fold neatly under. They jut out slightly, making it more difficult to carry the drone in-hand.
The EVO II features a total of 12 computer vision sensors located on the front, rear, top, bottom, left, and right side of the aircraft for omnidirectional obstacle avoidance. There are also two ultrasonic sensors located on the bottom of the drone for precision hovering.
The Owner's Manual points out that there are blind spots on all 4 corners of the drone. When I flew the EVO II in diagonal directions, I noticed that obstacle avoidance didn't activate at times. You should always fly your drone within visual line of sight, regardless.
The bottom of the Autel EVO II aircraft is equipped with 2 Ultrasonic sensors (closest to the camera) followed by the Downward Vision System (in the middle and back) and the Downward Vision Lighting LED (middle-right).
Autel claims a 40-minute battery life while flying and 35 minutes when hovering without wind. I found this figure extremely accurate. For comparison, the Mavic Air 2 clocks in at 34 minutes while the Mavic 2 Pro tops out around 30 minutes. That extra 6–10 minutes of battery life will matter if you're performing an inspection or mapping a site.
The battery is huge at 7,100 mAH and slides in and out easily. According to Autel, a 'patented Battlock system' prevents the battery from ejecting during fast flights or crashes.
8GB of onboard storage is available if you're without a memory card or as back up if you run out of space while capturing imagery. Media stored on the drone can be accessed through a USB-C port located on the right-hand side. On the opposite side is a microSD slot that can house a card up to 256GB.
Controls and flight modes
The EVO II is powered by the same type of remote as the original EVO, which is disappointing for several reasons. Because you're using it to maneuver your drone, the remote should be ergonomically friendly. Unfortunately, that's not the case with this particular design. Two rather awkward handles fold out from the bottom that are made of slick plastic. While I didn't fly in hot weather, I couldn't help but wonder how challenging it might be to hold on to the remote should my palms sweat.
Your mobile device clamps in on top of the remote, and you don't need to remove your smartphone case. Much like the original EVO or competing Mavic models, tablets will not fit. The main part of the controller features a built-in 3.3–inch OLED display.
The controller's 3.3–inch built-in OLED display gives you critical flight information.
It's possible to operate the EVO II using the remote controller on its own. This works for taking photographs or video clips on the fly. However, Autel recommends using its Explorer app on a smartphone to access all of the drone's features.
Unlike recent Mavic controllers, there isn't a simple routing solution for connecting your mobile device if you're using Apple's iPhone. Instead, a USB Type-A port can be found at the bottom of the remote. This means you need to supply your own connecting cable, much like the DJI Phantom 4 models of 2016. For all other smartphones, a USB Type-C connector is included.
Another issue stems from two buttons labeled 'A' and 'B' on the remote's backside. They're way too easy to accidentally press while flying and activating, for example, the Voice Assistant or an Intelligent Flight mode. It's possible to program the buttons to perform different functions, but you're likely to activate a feature unintentionally at least once per flight, and it's distracting at best.
I can't help but wonder why Autel didn't take a cue from DJI, who made it incredibly simple to switch flight modes by featuring them front–and–center on their Mavic Air 2 remote. For example, to activate 'Ludicrous' mode, the equivalent of Autel's Sport mode, which allows the drone to travel at its top speed of almost 45 mph, you need to go into the app's settings menu to switch over.
The sticks on the remote are easy to maneuver with just the right amount of resistance. When powering on, you'll have to press down on the drone battery button for three or more seconds before it powers up or down, a bit different for DJI users accustomed to a quick tap followed by a two-second hold.'
Odds and ends
Drone-Works sent me the EVO II 'Rugged Bundle,' which includes a hard case designed specifically for this product by GPC. It also has two extra sets of propellers and an additional flight battery. The case is rather large for what is fundamentally a compact drone and will be a hassle, especially with airport security, once air travel becomes commonplace again.
On the right is a Mavic 2 case I purchased for myself. Though the drone isn't too much smaller than the EVO II, the case that comes with the 'Rugged Bundle' is overwhelmingly large for a foldable drone.
The Autel Robotics Evo II
(Evo 2) is an exciting update to the initial Evo. Sharing much of the same ideology for form-factor and flight characteristics, the newer machine is an update in almost every way. Primarily, pilots should be excited for 40 minute flight times, extended connectivity range, and an 8K camera. Sure, you can upgrade to a Pro model that has a larger sensor and only a 6K camera, but base model Evo II buyers are getting their hands on one of the first consumer products to shoot 8K video, not just drones, one of the first, period.
This orange folding drone is a machine that satisfies consumers, but also tackles commercial and professional needs. Notably, the top model of the new Evo II line comes with a dual-camera configuration, sporting an 8K sensor and a decent IR camera. The base model and the commercial model each get that 1/2-inch 8K sensor, while the pro model gets a full 1-inch 6K sensor. They can all send the camera feed back to the Autel Robotics Live Deck, for your studio and independent recording needs as well.
The Autel Robotics Evo II will be available in early 2020 starting at $1495. Exact prices and availability yet to be announced.
Autel Robotics Evo II
USER SCOREYOUR SCORE
The original DJI Inspire may have set a tone for what a professional drone should look like, but the newer DJI Inspire 2 set the tone for what it should be able to accomplish. At launch, the Inspire 2 was equipped with the Zenmuse X5, a 5.2K camera with interchangeable lenses, ready to take on tasks in Hollywood. Since then, DJI has added the Zenmuse X7 camera, a 6K shooter even more capable of professional filming tasks.
DJI Inspire 2
USER SCOREYOUR SCORE
605 mm frame
Max service ceiling
19685 feet (Variable with different propellers.)
Max ascend/descend speeds
19.69 ft/s (6 m/s)
13.12 ft/s (4 m/s)
Dual 4,280 mAh Lithium Polymer - Removable.
Max 27 minutes
Ensure safe landing: 22 minutes
Max 4.3 miles from controller
Zenmuse X7 - 24MP 4K 16/24/35/50mm F2.8 lenses
Zenmuse X5S - 21MP M4/3 4K variable lenses
Zenmuse X4S - 1-inch CMOS 20MP 4K
Varies between cameras:
Cinematic 4K - 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (4096x2160) @100Mbps
4K - 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (3840x2160) @100Mbps
2.7K - 24/25/30/48/50/60fps (2704x1520) @ 60/65/80Mbps
FHD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1920x1080) @ 50/60/65/80/100Mbps
HD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1280x720) @ 25/30/35/45/60/80Mbps
Up to 64GB micro SD
Dual 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz range
Max 4.3 mile operating range
6000 mAh rechargeable battery
Up to 7-inch tablet
microUSB, Lighting and USB Type-C
ATTI, GPS, Visual
Follow-me: behind, in front, circle, side
Tap to fly map navigation
Return to home
Horizontal: 1.5m GPS, 0.3m Vision
Vertical: 0.5m GPS, 0.1m Vision
Optional Cendence remote controller
Amazon's smart home security division Ring has unveiled a flying camera that launches if sensors detect a potential home break-in. It is designed to activate only when residents are out, works indoors, and is limited to one floor of a building.
According to an Amazon blog, this autonomous indoor security camera flies an user's chosen, personalized paths so that users can easily check in on their home for peace of mind — like whether someone left a window open or forgot to turn the stove off.
The Ring Always Home Cam also integrates with Ring Alarm — Ring's home security system. When Ring Alarm is triggered while in Away Mode, the Always Home Cam will automatically fly a set path to see what’s happening. Users will be able to stream video while the camera is in-flight via the Ring App, making sure that users are aware of what is happening at home.
Amazon says the autonomous indoor security camera was developed with "privacy and security" in mind. They note the device rests in the base and the camera is physically blocked when docked. The camera will only start recording when the device leaves the base and starts flying via one of the preset paths. Obstacle avoidance technology in the device allows it to avoid unexpected objects as it moves on the pre-set paths, and its small size, lightweight design and shrouded propellers enable it to move safely throughout the home, Amazon claims.
Cybersecurity professionals, however, raise questions and concerns over the device's privacy.
“Smart home devices, such as Ring, collect an inordinate amount of sensitive personal data in real time – this is typically transmitted to a cloud service for processing. A critical question is who has access to the data collected by the device, and whether it is processed and stored in a lawful manner that protects personal data from unauthorized use," says Emma Bickerstaffe, Senior Research Analyst at the Information security forum , a London-based authority on cyber, information security and risk management.
"A privacy concern raised by existing smart home devices is the ability to take the personal data captured by sensor technology and together with connections to devices, identify patterns in an individual’s daily routine and build a comprehensive, digital picture of their activities. The ability for Ring to conduct private videoing within an household exponentially accelerates the ability for organizations to track individuals’ daily life, habits and preferences, and use this information for commercial gain."
Rick Holland, Chief Information Security Officer, Vice President Strategy at Digital Shadow , a San Francisco-based provider of digital risk protection solutions, also notes that for privacy advocates, the concept of an untethered IoT device surveilling the house is disturbing. "Coupled with Ring's controversial privacy practices, the adoption of the drone could be low. However, those that have already embraced the concept of in-house security cameras are likely to be excited. The prospect of having a single drone monitor your house instead of multiple individual cameras could be alluring," Holland explains.
Joseph Carson, chief security scientist at Thycotic , a Washington D.C. based provider of privileged access management (PAM) solutions, claims that the responsibility of drones falls on both manufacturers and regulators within countries to ensure that they meet minimum safety specifications preventing them from being easily abused. "Moving forward, drones should require a basic safety requirement, registration or automatic prevention from flying in certain areas that require a code to unlock, which is of course pre-registered,” Carson adds.
"Close attention should be paid to the security controls adopted by Ring. Cybercriminals are already maximizing the opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities in smart home devices as a stepping stone to target the network on which these devices are installed. Now that much of the world is currently working from home, smart home devices play even more to the advantage of cyber attackers, presenting an attractive way for adversaries to access and compromise valuable business information,” Bickerstaffe says.
Holland adds, "For those that do opt for the security drone, the proper configuration will be critical to minimize security and privacy risks as much as possible. Consumers must enable multi-factor authentication and automatic software updates to ensure that any vulnerabilities are quickly resolved.”