The Parrot Anafi is the first folding quad-rotor drone that the French manufacturer has ever made, despite being on the drone market with other, non-folding models for some time. It's clear that the Anafi was designed—and is being marketed—as direct competition to drone giant DJI. DJI is arguably the one to beat, with drones offering a full range of desirable features, excellent camera quality, and flight controls that even novices could (relatively) master in a few short sessions. In this article, we take a look at the Parrot Anafi and compare it to three DJI drones to see how it holds up.
Just like DJI's Mavic Air, the Parrot Anafi features folding flight arms that tuck in snug against the drone's body, allowing it to be stored in a case for easy transport, and, like the Mavic Air, the Anafi shoots 4k video and excellent stills—but at a price point about one hundred dollars cheaper than the Mavic Air. This puts this drone in a position to take the more established DJI drone down. But can it hope to favorably compare to DJI's drones, considering that company's dominance in the arena of camera drones?
The Parrot Anafi: An Overview
Image via Amazon
The Anafi can be flown from a connected smartphone app or from the included remote control, but lacks DJIs gesture-controlled selfie modes, which it makes up for with a number of tracking and automated camera modes that will position the Anafi in-flight for optimal shots and smooth video. It's slightly larger than the Mavic Air but is designed so the front arms swing out and away from the body while the rear arms tuck into the shape of the fuselage for storage, which results in a long, thin silhouette that feels a little fragile (but has a certain elegance) when compared to the Mavic Air's inward-folding arms.
It's slightly larger than the Mavic Air, but with a carbon frame that gives it a weight of only 320 grams, which is considerably lighter than the Mavic Air's 431 grams. As you can guess from a drone that is larger than the Mavic Air but still lighter, it feels a little flimsy in comparison, and we wouldn't want to risk a collision with this drone, especially considering it doesn't feature any of DJIs active obstacle avoidance features, which feels less like an oversight and more like a design limitation.
But it is well-built and constructed with exacting detail, and at that lower weight it is less likely to cause injury or damage if it does crash. Another design concern is the location of its SD card slot, which is under the battery and protected by a hinged metal latch that appears quite fragile and easily forgotten once the SD card is in place—one could easily imagine this latch being damaged by an incautious operator re-installing a spare battery.
The Parrot Anafi has a few features that DJI's drone don't have: both the battery and the remote control can be charged with a USB C connecter, giving you flexibility and an easy replacement path, whereas DJI uses proprietary charge cabling on the Mavic Air. With DJI's drones, you're stuck using their branded recharger instead of, as with the Parrot Anafi, being able to use any nearby USB port, which is especially useful for portable power packs.
The Parrot Anafi comes with an ASPH f2.4 wide angle lense, HDR, and a 2.8 x digital zoom which shoots amazing 4k video, 2.7K videos (2704x1520), or full HD, and takes clear, high-quality 21 mega-pixel still images. It also features various wizards to assume control of advanced settings, a burst mode that captures 10 shots per second, and a timer setting allowing you to position the drone and then position yourself for an ideal, hide-the-controller selfie.
The Anafi will fly for up to twenty-five minutes while filming and slightly longer if not actively shooting. Its intelligent Li-Po battery charges 60% faster and optimizes charge life, and again, can be recharged with any USB C cable, which is a huge advantage. It will unfold in about two seconds and reaches a top speed of about thirty-four miles per hour. It comes with a folding "Skycontroller 3" remote control but interfaces well with a smartphone whether you use the remote or not, as it can also be controlled from the app.
The smartphone integration is brilliant, as it will activate the vibrate function on your phone if it needs your attention. It also has a geofence and "find my drone" function, and Smart Return-to-Home feature which minimizes its chance of being lost. The FreeFlight 6 app software can be updated to introduce new modes or additional features, which makes the included remote control feel like a bit of an afterthought.
How It Compares
We compare the Parrot Anafi to three of DJIs drones. They are:
- This drone with a camera equipped with f/2.4 wide angle ASPH lens, HDR, and up to 2.8 times digital zoom captures...
- The ANAFI Parrot Drone can have up to 25 minutes of filmed flight time thanks to an intelligent Li-Po battery that...
- With its ultra-compact and lightweight carbon frame (320 g), this quadcopter drone unfolds in less than 3 seconds,...
- Ease Of Use
- Design Quality
You can find the Parrot Anafi at online retailers, making this drone the second cheapest on our list, beat only by DJI's mini-drone Spark.
Novices might find the Anafi a little tricky to fly, and it has no active obstacle avoidance which makes the learning curve unforgiving. The included remote control does an adequate job, but more options and modes are available from the smartphone app, which makes us wonder who would use the remote over the app.
With a range of around two-and-a-half miles and its "find my drone" and "Smart Return to Home" features, combined with a top speed of around 34 mph, this drone is a little slower, but goes just a little bit farther, than DJI's Mavic Air. You'll have to step all the way up to DJI's much more expensive Phantom before you see a theoretical range that will beat it—and even then not by much.
It's lighter but larger than the Mavic Air, which is the closest DJI drone in terms of design and size. That light weight leaves it feeling a little flimsy. We managed not to crash one in testing, but one decent crash would leave this graceful, perhaps fragile drone needing more than replacement propeller blades.
- 32.0MP sphere panoramas - In addition to horizontal, vertical, and 180° panoramas, Mavic Air stitches 25 photos...
- Lightweight and compact foldable design - You can take it anywhere with you.
- Supports 4K video at 30 fps - The 12.0MP camera with Adobe DNG RAW support is ready to shoot. The three-axis gimbal is...
DJI is, no question, the industry leader in camera drones. The Mavic Air features some of the bells and whistles of the higher-end but several years older Mavic Pro, but at a lower price point. In size, the Mavic Air is roughly between the larger Pro and the company's smaller, more casual Spark drone. The Mavic Air has improved obstacle avoidance and a better 4K video camera.
The Mavic Air does feature an incredibly, intuitive fly-by-gesture mode they call SmartCapture, which you can have the drone recognize your outstretched hand and respond to movements to fly in or out, higher or lower, even take off and land; and of course it will track with you as you move, which is perfect for airborne selfies without a controller or smartphone app.
You trigger still image capture with an outstretched peace sign and start and stop video recording by making a square "frame" with the thumb and forefingers of both hands. We found the gesture control a lot of fun, but did wish the Mavic Air had longer flight time between recharging or swapping out the battery.
- Ease Of Use
- Design Quality
The Mavic Air is roughly $130 more than the Parrot Anafi and can be purchased via online retailers like Amazon.
Flight is intuitive enough after a few test flights even for novice pilots, and the gesture control is really outstanding. It also has various tracking modes that will have it circle, "boomerang" around you, or fly in a helix shape as it records.
With around the same range as the Parrot Anafi, but with some trouble navigating air filled with WiFi signals, the Mavic Air doesn't fare quite as well as the Anafi in flight tests, but its obstacle avoidance technology and the Return to Home feature bring its score to within half a star of the newer Anafi.
Smaller, but heavier than the Parrot Anafi, the Mavic Air is constructed a bit more durably, and feels more solid (and a lot less fragile) than the Anafi.
- 2-Axis Stabilized Gimbal Camera
- 12MP Still Photos / 1080p/30 Video.Maximum Ascent Speed 9.8 ft/s / 3 m/s. Maximum Descent Speed 9.8 ft/s / 3 m/s
- Gesture and TapFly Control,Maximum Speed:31 mph (50 km/h) in Sport Mode without wind
The DJI Spark was released in early 2017, and incorporated some of the technology of the much larger Mavic Air and Mavic Pro drones, but in a much (much!) smaller package. That comes with a price, though: drastically reduced performance, tiny range, and lower image quality. Still, for the price, it's a great drone for casual users who are only interested in snapshots and lower-quality video (which is still pretty good, all things considered).
Gesture control may be the saving grace of this otherwise underpowered little drone. You can take it out of its case, unfold it, and with a series of hand gestures have it airborne and recording in about fifteen seconds in "gesture control" mode. Gesture control was fun and intuitive, but the more complex gestures and maneuvers were a little glitchy and called for repeating a gesture several times before the drone recognized it. Still, gesture control was a great feature for a drone this size—no fussy pairing needed, but it does (of course) need to stay within visual range.
DJI does offer a separate remote control for around $100, which increases its top speed to an impressive thirty-one miles per hour and extends range to just about a mile, but which also brings the DJI Spark dangerously close to the price of the larger, more powerful Parrot Anafi. If you're considering the optional controller, you may wish to opt for DJI's "Fly More" bundle, which combines the remote with additional rotors, an extra battery, and a portable charging hub, all for around $500, but at that price you may as well opt for the Parrot Anafi (unless you really want gesture control, which is pretty cool).
- Ease Of Use
- Design Quality
DJI Spark is the cheapest drone on our list, but its limited range and short battery life leave something to be desired.
We were tempted to give this drone a lower rating because of the Wifi problems, but the gesture control really is impressive and the ability to fly and take video and still images without pairing is a fantastic feature.
260 feet out and 160 feet up is tiny. It's fun, it gives you a taste of what this drone is capable of doing, but frankly it almost feels like a demo mode and consumers are likely going to resent paying more for increased range and speed.
It feels very sturdy and durable for it's small size, and it's so lightweight it feels like a crash wouldn't do much but snap off a (replaceable) blade unless it's traveling at top speed.
- Auto takeoff and auto return home with GPS technology, makes controlling easy. App enables monitoring/camera operation...
- Capture 4K ultra HD video at 30 fps, supported resolutions include: 12.0MP (4000 x 3000) photos. The f/2.8 lens with a...
- Gimbal stabilization technology, along with a hover function allows you to capture smooth, clean footage while the...
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone is an upgrade from the company's earlier Phantom 3 design, and the newer model features a 20 mega-pixel camera capable of delivering 4k video and high quality still images. The Phantom 4 has a mechanical shutter, making it the only drone we're aware of on the market with this innovation, which gives it an adjustable aperture, which is a feature professional photographers may be interest in, combined with the impressive one-inch photo sensor.
Though the drone has great features, we cannot recommend it. Stick with the cheaper, just as capable mid-range drones reviewed on this list.
- Ease Of Use
- Design Quality
Phantom 4 is the most expensive drone on our list.
It just isn't reliable, and even when we could get it to fly, we were too cautious to take it up to its top speed of around 45 miles per hour or explore its extensive range.
At 3.1 miles, this drone has the largest range of any of the drones reviewed here, which one would expect at this size and price. We've deducted points due to the bugs, as we didn't get the chance to fly this drone anywhere near its full advertised range.
This drone is, to put it bluntly, solid, which is a good thing considering it crashed on us through no fault of our own. Deducting points here again feels a little unfair, but the software is part of the design.
Image via Amazon
With the disappointing performance of the DJI Phantom 4, we're left with three drones contending for the top spot. The DJI spark has an impressive showcase of technology in a relatively tiny form, but can't compete with the larger drones' impressive range and flight time. So it's the DJI Mavic Pro vs. the Parrot Anafi, head to head. When considering all of the criteria, including gesture control, we were nearly tied in our decision, but in the end give the nod to the Parrot Anafi, which is lighter, cheaper, and hash slightly more impressive video than the Mavic Pro.
Featured Image: Image via Amazon