Today, we are going to take a look at an aspect of premium aerial photography drones that doesn’t get enough attention. I’d even go to an extent and call it underappreciated. Of course, I’m talking about drones with retractable landing gear, a simple yet very effective mechanism that serves a noble purpose.
Instead of giving you any glimpses into the topic here, at the very beginning, I decided to divide it into 2 sections. So, without much further adue, let’s see what’s up with the most underappreciated aspect of premium drones.
6. DJI Inspire 1
First in line, in the 6th place, we have the original Inspire by DJI. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Inspire lineup, there are 2 outstanding models specialized for aerial photography. Each with their own exceptional traits among which is retractable gear. Obviously, both of them have made it onto this list, but first, we are going to dig deeper into the original one!
As far as range is concerned, DJI Inspire 1 is only shadowed by its successor, DJI Inspire 2, but only due to its state of the art OcuSync technology that does wonders to its flight range. If we are to be more precise number-wise, DJI Inspire 1 has roughly 3 kilometers of range no matter the flight conditions. If you ask me, for an aerial photography drone, that is more than enough to get the job done.
Moving forward to the battery, DJI Inspire 1 packs a TB47 6S LiPo battery that has 4500mAh (another, more powerful battery for this drone is also available). If you’re more interested in the actual flight time, there’s no need to worry since Inspire 1 can fly as long as 18 minutes. When it comes to photography solution, this birdie sports X3 FC350 camera with 12MPX sensor and, of course, comes with its dedicated gimbal for ultimate image stabilization. Overall, even though DJI Inspire 1 is quite an old model, it has aged well and is definitely a worthy option to go for.
5. Yuneec Typhoon H
In addition to their Q500 model, Yuneec has also made 2 excellent premium AP platforms which are well-worthy of their name. First up we have their Typhoon H model which can boast with the great build quality and awesome camera. Oh, and it is one of the drones with retractable landing gear as well. Is it worth purchasing? I’ll tell you more about that down in the next 2 paragraphs!
In terms of specifications, Yuneec Typhoon H fairs quite well with the rest of drones in this list (except DJI Inspire 2 which is on a whole different level than the rest of this bunch). With roughly 25 minutes of flight time and approximately 1.5 kilometers of range, there’s nothing to worry about in this department. Lastly, it is also important to add that its ST16 controller features a huge 7-inch display for FPV purposes (5.8G FPV) which runs on the Android operating system.
As far as features are concerned, Intel RealSense technology is probably the first thing you should know about. It is basically a highly sensible obstacle avoidance system that does wonders in terms of sensing and avoiding any possible dangers that are in your drone’s path. In addition to that, you will also have plenty of smart flying features at your disposal, making any type of aerial photography a breeze with this birdie.
4. DJI S900
When it comes to professional hexacopters, it does not get much better than DJI S900, an outright monster across all departments. This huge drone, obviously, comes with retractable landing gear but also boasts with A2 flight controller and Z15 gimbal but we will talk more about that later on. For now, let’s see what’s this monster all about in terms of specifications!
If you want the RTF package of DJI S900 (yes, it comes in ARF kit too), you will have to dash out more than $3,000 for it. But, truthfully – it is worth every penny. Not only is the build quality nothing short of brilliant but it also comes with A2 flight controller from DJI and your choice of Z15 gimbal. If you want the ultimate photography experience, I suggest getting Z15 that supports Panasonic GH4 as that DSLR camera will make the most out of your brand new aerial photography platform.
Moving forward to the insides, you will find that DJI S900 lacks a battery (and controller as well, but I’ll let you take care of that on your own since it’s really a personal preference on the line). For the best possible results, I recommend getting a 6S LiPo battery with 16,000 mAh. If you do just that, chances are your flight time with DJI S900 is going to range from 12 to 15 minutes… even close to 18 in some scenarios. All in all, if you’re buying a drone with retractable gear and you’re heavily interested in personalization, then DJI S900 should be your go-to option!
3. Walkera Voyager 4
Even though Walkera is a drone brand more popular for their racing (and toy-grade) quadcopters, their Voyager series brings a lot of joy to drone enthusiasts from all over the world. That’s why, on the 3rd spot of this list I decided to place the newest in their lineup of professional-grade drones – Walkera Voyager 4. For those of you who don’t know anything about this birdie, here’s the 101!
First of all, let’s talk about its camera. IT sports a 4K capable sensor with 18x optical zoom and wide-angle telescopic lenses that will further improve the image quality. It can record 4K at 30fps and FHD at 60FPS… In fact, you can even shoot decent slow-motion footage (120FPS) in standard HD resolution (1280×720). SO, as far as the camera is concerned – Walkera Voyager 4 looks to be ready to take your money away!
The operating range is good as well. Even though the official specs sheet mentions something about 4G connectivity which theoretically has unlimited range, I’d say this birdie flies up to 1 kilometer which is nothing special, but decent nevertheless. Battery-wise, you are looking at a powerful 6S LiPo with 4500mAh that can provide a lengthy portion of juice to Walkera’s flagship model. If you want more precise numbers, Walkera Voyager 4 can withstand up to 20 minutes in the air, although you shouldn’t squeeze every last bit of juice out of it. Lastly, Devo F18 controller comes with the package and it’s safe to say it’s a great support. It’s intuitive, well-built and fits greatly in one’s hands!
2. DJI Inspire 2
After taking a look at the original Inspire, it is time to dwell deeper into this successor – DJI Inspire 2. This beast of an aerial platform comes with everything you might need (and truthfully, even certain things that you won’t ever need) and truly deserves the title of the best mainstream aerial photography platform. As a matter of fact, it was a very tough job for me to decide which is better – DJI Inspire 2 or Yuneec Tornado H920… but as you can see, the latter model prevailed, but solely because of its extremely durable carbon fiber body.
When it comes to the official specifications of this bad boy, you are looking at quite the treat. As far as specifications are concerned, there are no doubts that DJI Inspire 2 is at the top of this bunch. Period! With roughly 27 minutes of flight time and up to 7 kilometers of seamless operating range, DJI Inspire 2 breaks the limits and provides the ultimate aerial platform capabilities.
In terms of photography, the situation with DJI Inspire 2 looks even better. Believe it or not, this baby comes packed with Zenmuse X4S camera and gimbal combination (other options are available too) which is, truth be told, freaking epic. Not only does it record in 4K (5.2K as well) but it also supports RAW format which is perfect for professional photographers. The set of features is terrific too – it comes with everything you should expect from a DJI’s flagship which is not surprising at all considering it costs a proper fortune. But, is it worth it? Hell yes, it is!
1. Yuneec Tornado H920
Finally, we have reached what is, at least in my opinion, the best ready to fly a drone that features retractable gear at the moment. Keep in mind that it was a close contest between Tornado and Inspire 2, both of which could’ve been placed on the top spot. But, due to Tornado’s extreme durability, I believe it deservedly sits at the top. So, with that said, let’s see what is this beast all about!
First things first, this baby packs a mighty punch in terms of photography solution. It has a dedicated gimbal that can move freely in full 360 degrees as much as you want without getting its wires all tangled up. How? It’s wireless from gimbal below. Plus, the best part is – Yuneec Tornado H920 sports the all-mighty Panasonic GH4 DSLR camera that shoots 4K footage and provides with perfect aerial shots time and time again.
Moving forward to the features and specifications, you should know that this birdie comes with several smart flight modes topped off with safety sensors that will give you a worry-free experience no matter your drone flying experience. Furthermore, Yuneec Tornado H920 has exceptional specifications too. They’re not as good as those on DJI Inspire 2, but they’re definitely amazing. We are talking about 24 minutes of flight time and roughly 1.5 kilometers of range. To top it all off, Yuneec Tornado H920 has an incredibly durable carbon fiber frame that can take quite the beating. It’s lightweight as well, making it the perfect solution for all sorts of work, not just aerial photography!
What are the benefits of drones with retractable landing gear?
As I have already mentioned above, landing gear’s main purpose is to protect your photography equipment from getting damaged during clumsy landings. But, in addition to that, did you guys know that retractable landing gear has an extra benefit?
For instance, in several premium models that are primarily meant for aerial photography, the landing gear can get in the way of your perfect shot once you start tampering around the camera’s orientation with its dedicated gimbal. However, something like this would never happen if those drones featured retractable landing gear. Why is that? Well, when you fly up in the air with a drone that sports retractable landing gear (for example, DJI Inspire 2), by simply pressing the retract button your camera is going to have a clear 360-degree view with no obstacles getting in its way.
Obviously, this is a great solution for professional aerial photographers who require perfect shooting conditions with no room for compromise. That’s why, if you’re a professional aerial photographer (or you wish to become one), I highly suggest opting for one of the models featured down below. They’re all excellent in their own right, but there are still certain differences that make some better than others. If you would like to know more about that, check out the full list below which features a total of 6 models!
With Yuneec Tornado H920, I’m afraid we have come to the end of this list. At the moment, there are not so many ready to fly models that come with retractable landing gear. However, if you’re a drone enthusiast looking for this solution, then you’ll be happy to know there are several ARF kits which include retractable landing gear or feature support for retractable landing gear kits purchasable separately. All in all, if you want a drone that comes with this simple mechanism, there are several ways of obtaining it, and RTF drones are just the beginning.
In the end, I would like to thank you for reading this article with the hope that it shed light onto the topic.
Until next time…