Parrot Anafi is Ready for a New Flight to Take on DJI?
Interesting features by the French manufacturer in the race of the aerial image, but will that be enough to beat DJI?
Parrot has unveiled its new drone, Anafi. Small, ingenious, portable and of good quality, this new flying camera has many advantages to assert. But, is it sufficient to be a game changer in the Chinese market?
The drone market has changed in recent years. Really reserved for enthusiasts not so long ago, it begins to expand with products that are much more accessible to the general public, both in terms of simplicity of handling and allowing to make them much more portable.
One can think in particular of the arrival of the DJI Mavic Air, hardly bigger than a phablet once folded, or even with the Spark, and now with the Anafi of Parrot.
Since the release of the Bebop 2, we had the impression that Parrot is not able to innovate and unable to see helplessly the success story of Shenzhen giant DJI with the surprising Spark, Mavic Pro, and Mavic Air drones.
There had been the Disco with which we had loved flying. And then the Bebop Power, which was rather an update of the Bebop 2, but still suffered cruelly from a poor image quality confining it to exclusive leisure use, or to a sharing of images on the networks.
And finally, after waited for months, the new drone from Parrot has arrived. The French manufacturer has just woken up and launches a serious product that could boost a little competition in the world of aerial photography.
When folded, the Anafi measures only 244 x 67 x 65 mm, which is a bit long, but very compact, primarily since it is provided with a protective shell that allows it to be transported very easily at the bottom of a bag. Moreover, its weight of 320 grams is still bearable every day, even if its radio is a little heavier (386 grams) and a little massive (152 x 72 x 94 mm when folded).
By opting for carbon and fiberglass, but also by proposing a system allowing it to be unfolded in less than 3 seconds and operational in less than 20 seconds, Parrot wants to make the drone more mainstream and thus impose itself in all homes and businesses. The brake of the legislation risks, of course, being important, but the bet is ambitious, and the French company gives itself the means to succeed.
And indeed, the Anafi is rather light and very well thought out in its design, which gives it a top speed of 55 km/h in sports mode and the ability to brave winds up to 50 km/h. We appreciate the attention to detail, even in the integration of the USB-C port on both the drone and the radio control (Parrot Skycontroller 3, only dedicated to the Anafi). It is also easy to recharge, especially since it is compatible with 24 W Power Delivery.
Special work was also done on the propellers to reduce noise by 35% compared to Bebop 2. Parrot also promises Anafi to be 50% quieter than those of the competition.
But the strengths of Parrot Anafi do not stop there. Inspired by bio-design and insects, it is based on a flexible carbon and fiberglass platform that allows it to be folded down for easy transport.
4K in the belly
Although small, the Anafi can shoot in 4K at 30 FPS (or 24 FPS for a cinema effect) and in 1080p at 60 FPS. Moreover, it prides itself on being the first drone to be able to film in HDR to improve the rendering of scenes, especially against the light. The photo part is provided by the Sony IMX230 21-megapixel sensor coupled with f/2.4 optics.
In addition, Parrot promises a lossless zoom (without damaging the quality) capable of magnifying the image 2 times in Full HD and 1.5 times in 4K. The zoom can go up to 3X if we accept the loss of quality. This gives a focal length of 23 to 69 mm (equivalent to 35 mm) in the photo and 26-78 mm in the video.
But the real novelty put forward by the French manufacturer, it is the gimbal of the camera. It allows optical stabilization on 3 axes (in addition to digital stabilization), and above all a tilt of 180 degrees of the camera. The Anafi is, therefore, able to make low-angle shots, previously impossible with this type of drones.
Inspired by the shots of masters Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, and taking advantage of the power of its digital zoom without loss of quality, the new Parrot offers the new feature Dolly Zoom, a spectacular cinematic effect that is the combination a zoom in and a back shot, or a backward zoom and a forward shot.
As for 4K, Parrot is the first drone producer to take the 4K HDR (4096 x 2160) on a drone of this category. The 4K HDR offers incredibly detailed videos and a better balance between light and shadow. For example, to shoot against the light, or at sunset or under a very bright sky. The 4K Cinema format offers more pixels with a 17: 9 ratio for professional quality videos.
The radio control
As said earlier, the radio control of the Anafi is a bit heavy (more than the drone) and a little more massive than an Xbox controller. The sticks are nice and the lever buttons at the triggers to manage the camera are well thought out.
As soon as it is unfolded, it lights up, and the drone becomes operational in a few seconds. It uses a proprietary modified WiFi to connect to the less congested bands automatically and thus maintain a constant flow of good quality. With the Anafi’s 4 dual-band antennas (2.4 and 5 GHz), which allow omnidirectional transmission, Parrot promises a 720p image return up to 4 km, regardless of the position of the drone.
Free Flight 6
The Parrot Anafi inaugurates version 6 of the Free Flight application, redesigned to display all the action buttons on the bottom of the screen, within reach of an inch. The top of the screen is dedicated to the vital information of the drone, such as its autonomy.
Anafi is intelligent enough and will calculate the time it will need to return to its starting point and come back if necessary. However, unlike some competitors, the Anafi does not have sensors to detect and therefore avoid obstacles. Be careful when you fly!
The application makes it possible to disengage the controls to pass entirely in manual mode to control white balance, ISO, shutter speed, etc.
Free Flight 6 will bridge with Anafi and take advantage of all new flight modes and automatic shooting. The tracking mode has been improved to recognize topics. And the SmartDronies or CineShots modes will allow realizing a whole lot of captures automatically without having to manage at the same time the flight and the framing.
Thanks to the zoom function, a Dolly mode to imitate the Vertigo effect has been added. Slowmotion x2 and hyperlapse x240 modes are also part of the game.
One of the biggest problems highlighted by users of Bebop 2 is the easy loss of connectivity between the drone and the smartphone. Parrot claims to have added antennas to each of the four feet of the gadget to address the issue.
Parrot promises 25 minutes of autonomy for the Anafi (measurement hovering in 4K). At the same time, it recharges completely in 1h and 30 minutes. As said before, it is USB-C compatible with the standard Power Delivery, so it can be easily recharged from any source, even a power bank if you are in no hurry.
The battery level is indicated by 4 LEDs located on the back of the device.
Price and availability
The Parrot Anafi will be available on July 1st at a price of $699.99 in Fnac, Boulanger, Darty, Amazon, and Parrot stores. The base package contains the Anafi, its radio remote control, its protective cover, a spare set of propellers and a 16 GB SD card fast enough to enjoy all the recording modes.
Success in the Chinese market?
This display of technology will not call into question the absolute hegemony exercised by the Chinese DJI, which quadrilles the global market for entertainment devices it holds more than three quarters. The main objective is to get Parrot out of the impasse and pursue a strategy that also foresees an increase in sales of drones.
Anafi, named after a small Greek island in the Cyclades, is aimed at the general public, but its level of sophistication also makes it suitable for professional use (digital mapping, rescue interventions, video recordings for the media, insurance companies or real estate agents.
Another challenge of Parrot is to beat DJI Spark, which is one of the best performance drones in every respect: portability, efficiency, video quality, gimbal excursion, etc. It will be a tough task for Parrot, considering the market reach of DJI in China market.
For Parrot, the game will be played mainly on the American market, where the company has reorganized its distribution network and enjoys a pioneering image. The world’s largest market (1.6 million units in 2017), the United States also sees stagnant sales drones but take off their average price, which grew by 33% last year according to NPD.
Another point: although we appreciate the latest news from DJI (and in particular the Mavic Air that slashes its price), we think that it is never very healthy, especially in a market economy, only one actor reigns in a position of quasi-monopoly. First of all, because competition stimulates the different players always to do better, but also because it is crucial that the consumer has the opportunity to create affinities with different products.