AEE has recently announced two new drones to its Toruk line of quadcopters, the AEE AP9 and AEE AP11, which will be replacing last year’s sole AP10 model. By bringing in two different models, AEE hopes to capture both the starter market (with the AP9) and the professional market (with the AP11) by offering differing
AEE has recently announced two new drones to its Toruk line of quadcopters, the AEE AP9 and AEE AP11, which will be replacing last year’s sole AP10 model. By bringing in two different models, AEE hopes to capture both the starter market (with the AP9) and the professional market (with the AP11) by offering differing features at two price points (the same strategy that DJI uses with its Phantom 2 lineup). Both of these new AEE models will face stiff competition from their competitors, with the likes of DJI and Parrot already dominating the industry. We will now look at how these models fare when pitted against their bitter rivals.
AEE AP9 and AP11’s Design vs. The Competition
So what makes these two new models unique? To start, the AEE AP9 and AP11 are actually quite similar in terms of design and basic features, with the AP9 using a fixed camera mount and a smaller 5300mAH battery while the AP11 uses a 3-axis brushless gimbal with a camera mount and a larger 6400mAH battery. The AP11 also includes a Wi-Fi range extender in the box, which is an optional extra on the AP9.
Both of the AEE models feature an airframe that concentrates the mass in the center of the body instead of distributing it over the arms like the DJI Phantom. The result is a concentrated, oval body with the extended arms being quite slim as they do not have extra girth associated with them.
Comparing the look of these new drones with the look of the Phantom, it is really evident to me that AEE has come up with a more slender and eye-catching design than the Phantom. The Phantom’s airframe basically looks like a slab of plastic that has been pulled at the four corners to create its short, stubby arms. It is for this reason that I believe that the new AEE drones have a better looking design than the DJI Phantom.
AEE’s Features vs. The Competition
Both the AP9 and AP11 are controlled with a RF remote that has an inbuilt mount for attaching a smartphone (iOS or Android) that is used for controlling the camera. There are two flight modes on both of the models: manual and GPS mode. Unlike the Parrot Bebop, there are no smart modes available such as follow me or selfie mode. Also, unlike the DJI Phantom 2, autonomous flight using waypoints is not possible on either model.
However, I believe that such modes aren’t really necessary for starter UAV pilots as it can be a lot of fun to fly a drone in manual mode. In fact, I have always found manual mode to be the best way to fly a drone as it always keeps me in complete control, which is the most enjoyable part of flying a drone in my opinion.
As a backup, there is always the return to home option available on both models to avoid crashes; something that the competitors also offer. So if you ask me, the lack of flight modes should not be an issue for starters at all but, professionals may miss these helpful features.
Available Camera Setups on AEE and DJI Models
The Toruk AP9 comes with only a static camera mount, while the more expensive AP11 not only comes with a 3-axis gimbal, but also an AEE S61 camera that records 1080p videos at 60FPS which can transmit video in real time to a smartphone. This setup is quite a bit better than the Phantom 2 Vision+, which uses an included gimbal that can only accommodate its stock camera.
The real clincher which puts the AP11 ahead of the Phantom 2 is that the AP11 package includes a Wi-Fi range extender, which is a $189 extra for the DJI model. Even with the extender and camera, the AP11 is going to be cheaper than the Phantom 2 Vision+, which is simply a stunning value.
Smart Batteries on AEE AP9 and AP11
The AP9 and AP11 both use 11.1V 3S Li-Po batteries of 5300 mAH and 6400 mAH respectively. These are smart batteries and can be directly connected to the wall adapter using the included adaptor. The DJI Phantom 2 also utilizes a similar solution.
While this seems to be standard for many drone models, I absolutely loathe these types of batteries as they add additional weight to the drone via the charging circuitry. On top of that, these batteries also require a proprietary AC cable for charging.
Many people take a large capacity sealed lead acid battery with them to the field and charge their drones with a DC balance charger for additional flights. In my opinion, this entire class of consumer drones is set back by the use of these smart batteries instead of universal ones which can be easily replaced and charged separately, such as the one present in the 3DR Iris+.
The Upshot: How do the AEE AP9 and AP11 Ultimately Line Up?
Both the AP9 and AP11 are excellent solutions for casual or small business drone users due to their low buy-in prices. The AP9 is a great drone that has an expected starting price from $479 and easily rivals the basic Phantom 2, which retails from $679 for the basic model. The AP11 is expected to have a price between $799-899 and to include the Wi-Fi extender, which is also quite a lot cheaper than the Phantom 2 Vision+.
That said, after a long, hard look, I cannot recommend the AEE A9 and the AEE A11 for professional use ahead of the DJI Phantom 2, especially given the lack of assistive features such as autonomous flights in these models. If such features were included with upcoming models at a similar price point, professionals will surely start giving much more attention to AEE’s drones.
So boiling it down, if you want to see your amateur aerial photography or video aspirations take flight, the AEE AP9 and AP11 should be high on your list given the savings and value they offer over the competition. But if you’re looking for something more robust for your drone-related business, you’ll want a higher end model by one of their competitors.