If the new foldable, 4K drone released at the InterDrone conference in Las Vegas looks vaguely similar to a DJI Mavic Pro, there’s a good reason. Rival dronemaker GDU took the stage yesterday and launched a drone that is squarely aimed at the DJI Mavic Pro.
DJI’s Mavic Pro, and it’s recently released upgrade ‘Mavic Pro Platinum’ is the world’s first foldable, 4K professional drone. And along with the well established line of Phantom drones it has enabled DJI to dominate the global drone market.
But looking at the features that GDU is bringing to market in the new GDU 02 and GDU 02 Plus, they haven’t just taken a page from DJI’s playbook…GDU looks like they’ve been paying attention to the wish list of existing Mavic Pro pilots.
So first the basics. The new GDU 02 comes in a basic and ‘Plus’ version.
The primary difference between the GDU 02 and the GDU 02 Plus is distance. GDU 02 can travel up to 1km (0.6 miles) using the 5.8 Ghz contoller, while the GDU 02 Plus has a range of 4 miles on a 2.4 ghz controller.
Unlike the Mavic Pro, and other DJI drones, that have an SD slot for storage, the GDU 02 and 02 Plus have built in memory of 16GB and 32GB respectively. We’re more than a little iffy on this feature, as the ability to swap cards in and out is infinitely more convenient that tethering hardware to offload files. +1 to the Mavic here.
Just like advanced DJI drones the GDU 02 has built in GPS, GLONASS for precise flight logistics and peripheral sensors for obstacle avoidance.
On the hardware side of things, we think GDU has taken the foldable arms of the Mavic Pro and definitely improved upon them. Unlike the Mavic, the GDU 02 motors and propellers actually slide right into the drone body. Nothing protruding. This keeps propellers from being exposed to catching on gear or breaking when tossed around in bags. This feature isn’t a deal breaker, but definitely a +1 in GDU’s favor.
Where things get interesting is with the GDU 02 remote controller. Designed to mate with the 02 drone for storage and transport, it nests and connects perfectly with the drone forming what’s best described as a brick. Super convenient and practical, it helps to reduce (if not eliminate) the ‘peripheral yard sale’ that usually involves drone ownership. This neat and tidy feature is another +1 for GDU.
The remote control itself is foldable, very similar in concept to a Nintendo Switch in how it wraps around the smartphone. And speaking of smartphones, GDU has taken a page from the DJI Spark playbook by integrating an app based virtual controller that allows the drone to be operated from the phone only, allowing live streaming of photos and video to social media platfrorms in real time.
Photos come in at 13 MP (versus the Mavic Pro at 12.71) and the GDU 02’s 4K video is achieved with a 1/3″ CMOS sensor that records at 25 and 30 frames per second (while Mavic shoots at 4K with 24/25/30 fps and C4K at 24 fps). We’ll give the upgraded Mavic camera the +1 here.
But there’s one thing about the DJI Mavic that we’ve noticed in the forum discussions, and that’s a hunger for pre-programmed flight modes similar to what is found in the DJI Spark (and the GoPro Karma).
On the surface it looks like GDU might be listening, as the first incarnation of this drone allows the operator to capture slow motion and time lapse video directly in the app using the pre-programmed modes. We would expect future firmware upgrades to expand on these features as well.
Other flight modes built into the GDU 02 (and many of these will be familiar to DJI fans) include:
- Follow me
- Dronie mode
- Rocket mode
- Circle mode
- Gesture control
The GDU 02 Pluspacks a battery life of 20 minutes, which might be a deal breaker for some pilots. With the new Mavic Pro Platinum reaching 30 minutes of flight time, it might be difficult to settle for 33% less air time. And unless there’s a big difference in price, that would definitely be a deal breaker.
The GDU 02 is available for pre-order now until September 30th and will include and extra battery and fashion bag ‘worth more than USD $300’. Shipping starts October 18th and only 500 units will be available. The basic package includes Drone, Remote Control, 2 Batteries, Charger and 2 sets of Propellers. All-in this pre-order package is $732.
Which compares very competitively with the DJI Mavic Pro basic bundle at $999.
So for drone enthusiasts looking to save $267 or close to 30% on a Mavic and have some features (both hardware and software) that users have been begging for makes the GDU 02 a very compelling proposition.
No word yet on pricing or availability for the GDU 02 Plus version, but you can register on the GDU website to be notified when ordering is open.
We’re looking forward to putting this drone in the hands of our test pilots. The features, price and imaginative engineering that went into this drone really have us wanted to test it out!
What about you? Would you give up 10 minutes of battery life to have features not available in the Mavic? Or do you consider this a slightly more expensive verion of the Spark with better battery life and video? Let us know in the comments.