You read the title correctly. Yuneec has announced a new camera drone – the Yuneec Typhoon H3 – in partnership with Leica. Right now, we don’t see a ton of video on the camera drone, but Yuneec does have a product page up on its website.
There are a lot of unknowns, but we do know more specifics than normal for what amounts to a soft announcement.
What’s the Partnership Between Yuneec and Leica?
Based off marketing, this isn’t the same kind of deal DJI pulled when the company bought a controlling stake of Hasselblad. Instead, Yuneec has let Leica come in and co-engineer the camera drone. In this case, the camera.
The drone is the same Typhoon H body. More on that later.
Yuneec Typhoon H3 Camera. The headline is obviously Leica. The 100-year-old camera company is bringing a wealth of experience from the photography and videography world. If you’ve ever used a Leica, you know the stunning photos that emerge straight from the camera. I’ve used both its APS-C and full-frame cameras, and each is fantastic. Expensive. But fantastic.
The color science is spot-on. The lenses are great. Video is crisp and clean. It’s what you want in a hybrid camera. Leica tends to charge a premium. That red dot doesn’t come cheap.
That same price premium isn’t expected here. Yuneec knows who it’s up against, and will price accordingly.
Yuneec Typhoon H3 Sensor. Outside of Leica being a headlining feature, the Yuneec Typhoon H3 is getting a 20 megapixel, one-inch CMOS sensor. On the video front, it will shoot in 4K at 60fps with a 100Mbps bitrate. Yep, a consumer drone returning to 4K60p. If that doesn’t push the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 returning to shelves, nothing will. And Yuneec will happily snap up the pent up demand.
The one-inch sensor at 20 megapixels is important here for photography. The Yuneec Typhoon H3 is a big camera drone. You won’t confuse it for a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It’s that extra room which will allow the entire sensor to be used. The Mavic 2 Pro advertises 20MP, but thermal issues of a one-inch sensor prevent it from achieving it on a regular basis. Having a bigger camera unit means heat isn’t an issue. It’s a choice between quality or portability.
Other Camera Features. The rest is what you’d expect out of a camera drone. Along with some marketing speak from either Leica or Yuneec. Probably both:
- Integrated 3-axis gimbal with unrestricted 360° view
- Leica optimized and calibrated image modes (AWB, color reproduction, sharpening, de-noising, etc.)
- Leica calibrated DNG with corresponding ADOBE profile
- Lossless digital zoom
- 10-bit YLog video mode based on Leica specifications (It’s a LOG profile)
- Semi-automatic ISO/shutter & 1/3 step setting of EV/ISO/shutter
- Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) – Probably a new way of saying High Dynamic Range.
- Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)
- Short JPEG intervals for hyperlapse videos
- User-defined picture mode & sharpness settings
- Professional histogram
- Panorama shots
Here’s the Yuneec Typhoon H3
Now that the camera is out of the way, what about the drone itself. It’s basically the six-rotor Yuneec Typhoon H with a new camera. Seriously, it uses the same batteries. Remote controller. The works. The product sheet reads nearly the same:
- Sturdy hexacopter with 6 rotors & up to 25 minutes flight time
- Retractable landing gear
- PX4-based flight controller
- Cruise control for controlled shots
- Intelligent auto flight modes: Follow Me, Orbit, Journey, Curve Cable Cam
- Return Home and Auto Landing functions
- Obstacle detection
- 5-rotor mode activation in the event of rotor failure
- Redundant control signal & Geo Fence setting
- Team mode option for separate copter and camera control (additional ST16S required; sold separately)
The range is the same at around 1.6km. Expect that to be a ding against it with DJI’s camera drones able to fly for miles. The counter to that is FAA rules mandate all consumer drones stay in line-of-sight.
The Unknowns. Pricing is one. Nothing from Yuneec on pricing. On pure speculation, I’d say in the $1899 range. That’s where the out-of-stock Typhoon H Plus sits. Why not slide the typhoon H3 right in there and have a head-to-head with DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro. Availability is another, though I’d expect before the holidays. It’s way too tempting to have a flagship camera drone on shelves with DJI holding until 2020.
And the camera. Sure, it’s co-engineered by Leica. But what exactly does that mean? It all sounds fantastic, but details matter. We should get our answers soon as PhotoPlus approaches.
How Does DJI Respond to Yuneec?
DJI has had an interesting 2019. The U.S. Government can’t decide if it wants to ban them or use them. Then again, that’s a typical day for this administration. Add in the trade war, and it’s been a wild one for the company.
It has been radio silent on camera drones outside of announcing all new drones will have ADS-B receivers beginning in 2020, which essentially says nothing new until January at the earliest.
Can DJI possibly hold the line until against Yuneec’s partnership with Leica and the upcoming Skydio camera drone? At the very least, the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 needs to get back into production. It’s now listed as out-of-stock versus unavailable in the United States. That might be an indication of the company leaning that way.
What DJI does have is time. How much time is debatable. The company has enjoyed consumer drone supremacy for years, but things change. Companies suddenly pop up with a camera partner like Leica and start chipping away at market share.
Let’s not forget there’s another camera company with a drone patent who absolutely loves releasing products at a blistering rate. Sony. Before Yuneec and Leica teamed up, it seemed like a patent for the sake of a patent. Now? It wouldn’t surprise me to see a Sony camera drone.
What it all says is the consumer drone market decried as dying just weeks ago by analysts is about to go hot in a hurry. And that benefits consumers.