The Ghost is Back and Better Than Ever
By Stephanie Player
This article was originally published in the October/November 2016 issue of The Drones Magazine.
Those who are familiar with the consistent advancements within the drone industry over the last year, have likely heard of EHANG before. Earlier this year, the company shocked everyone at CES 2016 by unveiling its prototype autonomous aerial vehicle designed to carry a single human occupant, the EHANG 184. This innovation really brought the Jetson’s ﬂying car to life. While the company was just granted clearance to begin testing in Nevada later this year, EHANG also has also been in development of their consumer drone, the GhostDrone 2.0 VR. This model is an improvement upon their original GhostDrone 1.0 design that was released in 2015 and the company continues to strive to improve the ﬂying experience for their consumers.
PRICE: ARF (without Goggles or Action Camera): $599.99
RTF (with VR Goggles, 4K Camera): $1,099.99
• Beginner friendly and easy to ﬂy
• Self training with Touch & Go mode
• Voice telemetry alerts
• Great efﬁciency thanks to the new 2-blade props
• Smart battery with voltage monitor and charge timer
• Unparalleled warranty
• Goggles could have a better ﬁt
• Head-tracking feature only allows for tilt control
• Short range with the WiFi/Bluetooth connection
• Unreliable video capture on several occasions
One of the biggest barriers for drone enthusiasts to bite the bullet and start the process of becoming drone pilots is fear of spending a ton of money on a good quad and crashing it instantly. Usually that fear is paired with a lack of confidence that the aircraft will be difficult to control on a traditional transmitter (too many buttons, switches and joysticks to master). It might be easier to start with a drone that bridges that gap, allowing those who have never flown a quad before to take flight with the one piece of technology they are likely very comfort- able and familiar with: a smartphone.
Within minutes of unboxing the GhostDrone 2.0 VR, we were in the air and following the voice prompts from the app to adjust altitude and distance. While I (Stephanie) found it to be quite user-friendly (I am still very much a beginner pilot), my husband Trey who has been flying for years found it to be quite the challenge to transition to flying via smartphone. Smooth, fluid motions are not easily accomplished with this bird, because you just don’t have the same amount of control that you have when you’re flying with a standard transmitter. However, if you want to quickly jump into the world of aerial photography and video, this drone could be exactly what you’re looking for.KEY FEATURES
Ready to ﬂy right out of the box, the Ghost- Drone 2.0 VR promises a simpliﬁ ed set up for beginner pilots. Even if you’ve never ﬂown before, with a quick power-up of both the quad and the goggles, it’s as easy as twisting on the included props and connecting to the EHANG Play App via the WiFi/Bluetooth on your smartphone.
The GhostDrone 2.0 VR veers away from what we have begun to call the Phantom Replica Movement (a.k.a. all of the new drones that look like Phantom knock-offs). Its inverted blade design is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also ensures higher efﬁ ciency during ﬂight.
The included head tracking VR goggles, which also feature a built-in forward-facing camera, provide the pilot with the ability to adjust the up/ down tilt of the gimballed 4K camera in ﬂ ight.
Everything you need to start ﬂying (with the exception of a smartphone) is included in the VR package. Since this platform is intended for drone enthusiasts that want to easily learn how to ﬂy, but are scared to crash their brand new bird, buyers can be reassured by EHANG’s 1 year No- Hassle Warranty: you break it and they ﬁx it or replace it (up to 3 times in one year!).
IN THE AIR
The GhostDrone 2.0 VR flew exactly as we anticipated. After a quick introduction to the app and controls, we were easily able to maneuver
the bird in the air. The system speedily connected to almost 20 satellites, which really locked in the model as it hovered. On occasion, however, we did notice a bit of a drift while loitering. In Touch & Go mode, on-screen controls were very straightforward, allowing us to easily adjust altitude and position. If you’d prefer to go hands-free, Follow Me mode is available after a few practice runs; simply set a safe altitude and the quad will quickly track you and keep up with you.
Speaking of hands-free, within Touch & Go mode, users have the opportunity to set waypoints for the quad to follow. All of the modes are extremely beginner-friendly; the app literally walks you through each step to ensure that the user understands how to operate the quad correctly in each mode. Once you have mastered Touch & Go, you can then move
on to Avatar mode. This mode essentially connects to the gyros in your smartphone and translates your movements to the quad. One downside (yet overall a safety measure) to Avatar mode is that it is inaccessible if your smartphone has less than a 50% charge. Safety first folks!
Not all goggles are created equally. While the goggles have some really nice features (overhead strap for better adjustability and fit, forward-facing camera), the overall fit around the eyes just did not work for us. The eye cups were not designed to form-fit many differently shaped faces (and it’s not like we have weird-shaped heads), so we had a lot of light bleeding through from the area near our temples due to the large gap. It did not interfere with our flights, but it is somewhat of a distraction when you don’t have complete enclosure. Of course, a couple of carefully cut strips of spare foam taped or glued into place could work wonders to keep the light from getting into the goggles. The head-tracking feature is awesome, but you are limited to only tilt control. Considering the quad is equipped with a 3-axis gimbal, it’s somewhat disappointing to not be able to also maneuver the camera left and right, though the landing gear do not retract, so you wouldn’t be able to capture any usable footage panning the camera. Still, if you wanted to be aware of your surroundings, it would be nice if you could use the head-tracker to turn the camera left and right. Also worth mentioning, we are a multi-OS friendly household, meaning we use both Android and iOS devices. When you purchase your RTF package, you can only choose one OS for the goggles. In the granscheme of things, this is a minor issue, but we thought we’d mention it just in case you struggle to connect your Android goggles to an iOS device like we did for over 30 minutes before discovering that the goggles we received were designed to only work with Android devices.
No matter what direction the quad is facing, when you move the controls “forward”, the GhostDrone 2.0 will always move in the direction away from the home point, also known as Course Lock (headless) mode. This can be somewhat disorienting for inexperienced pilots who expect “forward” to mean when pushing the drone forward it will head
in the direction the drone is facing. Also to be noted, during a couple of our flights, when attempting to fly the quad forward away from us, the GhostDrone 2.0 decided to rise in altitude instead. It was easily reigned in, unlike the errant flights of its predecessor.
The head-tracking feature in the goggles is a nice touch, but it does take some time to get accustomed to keeping your head still while flying if you don’t want the camera to tilt while capturing your footage. If you have any worries about flying a drone of this size in FPV with nothing more than a phone controlling it, fear not, the latency is so minimal that you barely notice it. The app does give users the option to disable the head-tracking in the goggles and allow movement of the camera to be tuned into the movement of your smartphone.
Don’t expect to shoot the next Hollywood blockbuster from this quad. Let me put it to you this way: if you are interested in photography and want to buy a camera to start learning and growing in that hobby, you’re not necessarily going to go into a store and buy the most advanced, expensive DSLR camera available. You’re going to go with a more user- friendly model at first, which may not have the same high-end results as the pricier model, but it will help you to learn the basics while you practice your new hobby. This can be likened to the GhostDrone 2.0 VR in that you are not buying a top-of-the-line 4K camera, but what it captures is excellent for personal use. On several occasions, we attempted to capture footage (some of which was unable to be replicated – i.e. Fourth of July fireworks) and when we later returned home to review the footage, we were met with a corrupt video file. The moral to the story is … if you think you got that awesome shot, go back and get it again and again and again until you have no more battery power or memory left.
PROPELLERS: 2-Bladed 8.5-inch self-tightening props
BATTERY: 450 0mAh 4S LiPo (400g)
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Smartphone + EHANG Play App (Android & iOS)
CAMERA: 4K @30fps, 12MP
FLIGHT TIME: 25 minutes (hover)
The GhostDrone 2.0 is extremely beginner friendly. The assembly is quick and easy, and within minutes you’re in the air. The fact that you don’t have to worry about buying a compatible controller or goggles makes this all-in-one package a sweet deal for those who want to explore and/or quickly jump into the RC drone hobby. If you can operate a smartphone, you can easily fly this quad. The EHANG Play App requires all new users to undergo a mandatory training mode (Touch & Go); this mode keeps it simple for the pilot to learn the on-screen controls. After three successful flights in Touch & Go mode, the app then unlocks Avatar mode which enables the aircraft to mimic the tilt of the smartphone flying forwards, backwards, left and right. That’s quite an intuitive and resourceful feature that basically promotes self-training. The app also features a TTY voice indicator, keeping the pilot informed about the quad’s altitude, distance from home point, and battery reading. This consistent feedback is particularly helpful for beginners who may not have the experience to know when it’s time to bring the bird back home.
The included 4500mAh 4S LiPo battery features a built-in screen, allowing the user to monitor each cell of the battery, as well as the overall charge. When the battery is charging, the screen shows the charging progress for each cell and also gives a readout of the time remaining to achieve a full charge. Having only one battery included in the all-in-one package was a little disappointing, therefore if you want to have the luxury of making multiple flights in a row, you may want to invest in at least one additional battery. EHANG’s 1-Year No Hassle Warranty is one of the biggest selling points for this bird. New pilots are usually quite nervous/excited when flying a rig they just spent over $1,000 on; the last thing you want is the added stress/ expense of having to pay for repairs, not to mention a full replacement. While it would be very challenging to crash this quad, EHANG’s one-of-a-kind warranty definitely gives pilots peace-of-mind, because regard- less of the reason for damage (aircraft or pilot error) EHANG will either repair or replace the damaged equipment (up to three times during the 1-year warranty period) … AND they will cover the shipping both ways.
THE FINAL WORD
From our point of view, the GhostDrone 2.0 VR is a great quad for beginner pilots to begin learning the basics of how to fly. By no means is it intended for professional aerial video capture, but it is a stepping stone in the right direction for enthusiasts to get a taste of flying. The GhostDrone 2.0 VR really has the potential to bridge the gap for those interested in jumping into the drone-flying hobby, but want to begin by using a piece of technology they are more accustomed to: a smartphone. If you’re like 99.99 percent of people out there today, with a phone glued to your hip, you can fly the GhostDrone 2.0. So what are you waiting for? Stop watching all the cute puppy videos and do something useful with that smartphone!