The Yuneec Mantis Q is a compact, folding drone at a similarly compact $499 price. It makes a lot of promises, including 4K video capture and best-in-class battery life, but it doesn’t deliver. The 4K footage is shaky and, frankly, unusable, and the actual battery life, while good, isn’t what Yuneec claims. If you want an affordable drone that’s small and shoots in 4K, spend just a little bit more on the Parrot Anafi, or stretch your budget and pick up the DJI Mavic Air—both are enormously better than the Mantis.
Very Small and Light
The Mantis Q is one of the smaller folding drones on the market. It measures 2.3 by 3.8 by 6.6 inches (HWD) when folded for storage, and 2.3 by 7.4 by 9.8 inches with arms open and ready to fly. It doesn’t add a ton of weight to your bag, tipping the scales at about a pound. It’s heavy enough to require FAA registration, even for noncommercial use.
The camera is mounted in the nose, but it doesn’t benefit from a three-axis gimbal for stabilization, as most other drones that cost this much do. It’s mounted on a tilt mechanism, so it can be pointed forward, straight down, or anywhere in between. But the Mantis Q relies on digital tools for stabilization, and as I’ll talk about in a bit, that’s not a good thing.
A dedicated remote control is included, a feature Yuneec skipped with its first effort at making a tiny drone, the Breeze. You do have the option of flying the Mantis with a smartphone app alone, but I don’t recommend it. On-screen flight controls aren’t nearly as pleasant to use when compared with the dedicated, analog flight sticks you get with the remote.
Instead you’re better off downloading the Yuneec Pilot app, free for Android and iOS, and attaching your phone to the remote. It has a clip to secure your phone—it’s just barely big enough to handle an iPhone 8 Plus—but it does place your phone at a rather steep angle that makes holding the remote at an angle where you can see the phone’s screen a slightly uncomfortable proposition. The ergonomics here aren’t as well thought out as we’d like.
In addition to the sticks, which control flight, the remote has a dedicated Return-to-Home button and a switch to enabled the high-speed Sport mode on its facade. At the top there are dual control wheels—one to set camera tilt, the other brighten or darken video or images, along with Record and Photo buttons. There’s a USB-A port to connect your phone and a USB-C port to charge the remote.
GPS stabilization and positioning is included. The Mantis is able to communicate with the satellites orbiting the planet in order to obtain its exact location. This allows it to hover in place when flying outdoors, and automatically return to its takeoff position. Indoor flight is possible too, thanks to sensors that recognize patterns on the ground below the drone.
The Mantis doesn’t have any sort of obstacle avoidance or detection system. The onus to avoid flying the drone into a tree is entirely on you. It’s not a surprising omission at this price point—to get a small drone with 4K support and obstacle detection, you’ll need to spend around $800 on the DJI Mavic Air. If you’re happy with 1080p, the DJI Spark is a good low-cost option with better stabilization and obstacle detection, but its battery is paltry.
In standard mode, which we used for all of our test video footage, the Mantis chugs along at a top speed of 13.4mph—just a little slower than the Mavic Air (17.9mph). Like the Mavic, the Mantis has a Sport mode that ups the top speed to around 44mph, although I wouldn’t recommend using it for video, as the digital stabilization system struggles enough at slower speeds as it is.
In addition to manual flight, the Mantis has some other control options. It supports Journey, which flies upward and returns for a fun reveal shot, and Point of Interest, which orbits a subject. There are also voice controls, captured using your phone’s microphone. You can say, “Take a selfie,” or, “Record a video,” and the drone will respond just as if you were pressing a button on the remote.
The Mantis doesn’t have any sort of internal memory, a feature we’ve started to see in more drones. Instead it uses microSD for storage. A 16GB card, which is included, holds about 40 minutes of 4K video or around 105 minutes of 1080p footage.
Yuneec promises up to 33 minutes of flight time on a fully charged battery. I won’t go as far as to say that’s a lie, but it’s certainly an exaggeration. The numbers manufacturers provide for drone battery life typically are tested via hovering—not exactly a true test of real-world use. Our battery test, which is averaged from multiple flights, is more in tune with real-world use, and typically lags behind advertised life by a couple of minutes.
The Mantis Q lags behind by more, netting an average maximum flight time of about 25 minutes—a full eight minutes behind what Yuneec promises. It’s in line with what we see from the Parrot Anafi, and a little behind the 28 minutes we got with the DJI Mavic Air. Don’t get me wrong—25 minutes is still a good mark, I just wish Yuneec was a bit more transparent in its marketing.
While the remote charges via USB-C, the flight battery does not. Yuneec includes a dedicated charger which is compact, by itself, but hampered by a large AC power brick. It can charge three batteries at a time, although only one is included with the Mantis. Additional batteries are priced at a very reasonable $60.
Shaky, Underwhelming Video
When you think of drone video, the first thing that comes to mind is likely a sweeping, wide shot of a landscape—so smooth and steady it’s as if it was captured with the aid of magic. Those shots aren’t made with alchemy or incantations—they’re the result of powered gimbals, which keep the camera perfectly level and steady, even when the aircraft is not.
The Mantis Q doesn’t have a powered gimbal. It can record 4K footage without any sort of stabilization, and it looks as shaky and terrible as you’d expect—take a look at the sample clip above to see for yourself. It’s not just the shake—the lens shows some barrel distortion, very noticeable if your horizon is not positioned near the center of the frame height, and detail from the small lens and sensor is not great, despite a decent 50Mbps recording rate.
Dropping the resolution to 1080p definitely adds some digital stabilization, but it’s not anywhere near the level you get with a gimbal, as you can see in the video embedded above. The lowered resolution doesn’t do any favors, though—details are even less pronounced than with the 4K video, and the video looks noisier, no doubt in part to a low 20Mbps bit rate. As with most drones, video is silent, so we added a music track to our sample clips.
Still images are captured at 12.9MP resolution in your choice of JPG or Raw DNG format. The image quality is just okay, similar to what you’ll get from an older smartphone. Photos show a good amount of noise and not a ton of detail, even under bright light. The sensor is a tiny one, a 1/3.06-inch design. To put it in perspective, that’s about half the size as the image sensor used in most current flagship smartphones.
Despite the tiny imager, the Mantis Q’s lens doesn’t even completely cover its corners. Raw images don’t have automated corrections built in like JPGs do, and show a very heavy vignette at the corners of the frame, as well as some barrel distortion that’s removed from JPGs by the Mantis Q’s image processing engine. Compare the out-of-camera JPG above with the processed Raw image below—it’s easy to spot the vignette and distortion.
Not Worth It
Yuneec has made an effort to compete with its main drone rival, DJI, but the Mantis Q is a sign that its priorities are all wrong. It does address our biggest complaint with the DJI Spark, battery life. The Q gets you 25 minutes in the air on a charge, while the Spark only manages about half that figure. But, despite offering 4K, the Mantis is no match for the Spark when it comes to imaging and video quality.
Despite being a pretty decent aircraft in its own right—responsive, speedy if desired, and with strong battery life—the Mantis Q’s camera is just poor. Instead of putting effort into gimmicky features like voice control, those resources should have been devoted into making a better camera—perhaps one with real stabilization.
If you want to buy a small, 4K drone, the Mantis Q may jump out at you because of its price. Don’t be tempted, even if your bookkeeper is asking you to rein in your spending. The Parrot Anafi is a better pick for budget shoppers—it’s priced at $700, but often sells for less. We also like the DJI Mavic Air, which is priced at $800, and is tremendously better than the Mantis Q.