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About a year ago at this time, I was considering my quad-copter options. A higher-end model, one that offered then-advanced features like waypoint plotting and follow-me flights would cost at least $1,000. If I wanted a 3-axis gimbal: another $300. Oh, don’t forget the GoPro camera ($400) to attach to that gimbal.
Much as I loved all this stuff, I wasn’t about to spend $1,700. My name is Cheapskate, not Billgates.
Flash-forward to today: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Wellbots has the DJI Phantom 3 4K drone for $599 shipped when you apply coupon code CHEAPFLIGHT at checkout. It originally sold for $999 and normally sells for $799.
This is basically the DJI Phantom 3 Professional, but with a modified controller that employs a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi video downlink from the quadcopter. Translation: live video feeds (to your phone/tablet or YouTube!) with a range of up to 0.75 mile.
That video comes courtesy of a 4K camera, one that’s mounted on an integrated 3-axis gimbal for rock-steady video. (To be clear, the actual feed is limited to 720p, but recordings can hit 4K.) Unlike a GoPro, it limits you to a 90-degree field of view. Said CNET reviewer Andrew Hoyle: “The narrower angle does make a huge difference, with considerably less distortion of the image. As well as just producing nicer-looking footage for your Facebook feed, professionals among you will appreciate the time saved by not having to digitally correct it.”
I’m also super-excited by DJI’s Go app, which offers a variety of “intelligent” flight modes: follow-me, course-lock, point-of-interest and so on. It also lets you adjust a ton of video settings and issues a warning when the battery is running low.
Speaking of which, the battery is good for around 20-23 minutes of flight time. I consider that pretty good, perhaps because most drones I’ve owned topped out at 15 minutes. Now for the bad news: Extra batteries will cost you $149 each. Ouch. Ugh. I did find some on Ebay for around $100, but that’s still a painful price to pay.
Especially when you consider the price of the drone itself. For $599 out the door, this is an amazing value. The Phantoms are surprisingly easy to fly, and this model comes packed with advanced features. I’m going to splurge, because I suspect this will be the last quad-copter I need for a long time.
Bonus deal: An oldie but goodie, the Jabra Solemate is “a compact, well-constructed Bluetooth speaker with an eye-catching design, decent sound and battery life, and speakerphone capabilities. It comes with a water-resistant ‘sound bag’ and has a hideaway line-in cable for connecting non-Bluetooth devices.” It originally sold for $200, but while supplies last, Yugster has the refurbished Jabra Solemate ruggedized Bluetooth speaker for $29.97 shipped. It’s available in your choice of black or yellow. These won’t last long, I fear.