Autel’s folding 8K drone could rival DJI and Skydio

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It’s been a few years since I walked over to the drone section of the CES show floor, but Autel Robotics gave me a good reason to finally revisit it this year. The company announced a total of three drones — the EVO II, the EVO II Pro, and the EVO II Dual — but the first two models have some serious specs that just blew me away.

All three drones have the same body with different cameras. Let’s start with the EVO II. It takes 48-megapixel photos and claims to shoot 8K video — which would make it not only the first drone to do so, but one of the first consumer-grade 8K cameras, flying or not. The company says it’s native 10-bit 8K at 24 or 25 fps shot on a Sony IMX586 sensor, one designed for phones, and it was able to achieve 8K video because there’s more processing power and battery in drones compared to phones, as well as more room to cool those parts down.

The 35mm equivalent lens also has a notably wide f/1.8 fixed aperture, which could help with filming at night and in other low-light environments, though the small 0.5-inch sensor will likely add a good amount of noise. Still, knowing that this lens adds a full stop (and a third) of light to what you typically get from a drone could help you keep your ISO low.

But that’s not all. The 7,100mAh battery gives you an estimated 40 minutes of flight time (at least, in perfect conditions with no wind) compared to 31 minutes for the DJI Mavic 2 line. Lastly, the company says its 12 obstacle-avoidance sensors make it as good at dodging obstacles as the Skydio R1, a drone that wowed us with its fully autonomous flying. (There’s a Skydio 2 now, though.)

To make things even better, you can also adjust the virtual protective bubble around the drone, similar to Autel’s predecessor, EVO 1, to theoretically squeeze it into smaller spaces without turning off obstacle avoidance completely. We don’t have specifics on how small that bubble could be or if it’ll limit your max speed. In general, Autel’s quoting similar speeds as the Mavic 2 Pro, including the same 44.7 mph / 72 km/h top speed in Autel’s “Ludicrous Mode.”

Moving on to the EVO II Pro. This version of the EVO II is tailored more toward pilots looking to get the best-looking footage. And yes, I know that 8K is automatically better than the 6K footage that Autel promises from the EVO II Pro. But this drone has a full 1-inch Sony IMX383 sensor and adjustable aperture from f/2.8 up to f/11, just like DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro and Mavic 2 Pro. It was a big deal when DJI added that ability to adjust the depth of field, and now, it may have competition. Unfortunately, this version doesn’t take 48-megapixel stills; instead, it takes 20MP shots. That’s still more than plenty of pixels even for larger prints.

Lastly, the EVO II Dual is more of an enterprise product since it sports a FLIR Boson thermal camera in addition to the 8K camera. They’re capable of recording simultaneously, though seemingly at a very low resolution in thermal mode.

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All three drones have a range up to 5.5 miles, built-in 8GB of internal storage, and come with a controller that has a built-in screen, in addition to the ability to plug in your phone. There’s also a bigger optional screen that you could buy, but we don’t have info on the pricing of that just yet.

On paper, this looks like one of the most capable drones out there, and, to be completely honest, it sounds a bit too good to be true. The drones are currently in production, and the company is expecting EVO II to start shipping in a matter of weeks. The rest of the fleet should follow shortly after. While the pricing isn’t final yet, the company says we can expect the EVO II to cost around $1,495, and the EVO II Pro will cost around $1,895.

Speaking of specs on paper, you can find the full spec sheets for these drones in our gallery below.

Photography by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge


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