Autel Evo Nano Plus: Really the best beginner drone?
I was 100% wrong.
Drones are not just for professionals. Not when you have the Evo Nano Plus from Autel in your hands!
While drones have been widely available for the last few years, they’ve often intimidated us “normal” folk. Typically drones are for hardcore photographers and videographers. They have ridiculous high specs for video and photos to capture all those stunning cinematic shots that we’re used to seeing in various YouTube videos.
It also looks like you need years of training to fly a drone so to me, it always seemed like it was not meant for the “average” consumer.
So when Autel reached out and asked if I wanted to test the Autel Evo Nano Plus, I explained that I was not a videographer, I had zero flying experience besides a toy drone and a pre-production drone, and I didn’t have the time to learn how to fly.
In other words, I would likely crash their precious little drone.
The cool people at Autel laughed and said that we could revisit this conversation after they sent me the drone as the Nano Plus is perfect for beginner pilots.
To be clear, this isn’t going to be your typical post about how the Autel Evo Nano Plus compares to its competitors. Those posts are great IF you have flown another drone and want to compare.
So I’m looking at the Autel Evo Nano Plus purely from a newbie pilot point of view: could this be a new hobby to get into? Is it even fun or will you be stressed the entire time? How difficult is it to fly? And equally important: will you crash it?
Before you fly a drone, know this:
The Autel Evo Nano Plus is lightweight (just 249g), which means it falls into a special category that still requires registering with the authorities but has fewer restrictions than its heavier brothers.
I am in no way an authority, but it looks like in the US, you head over to the FAA, complete a simple test, and pay a nominal fee. This gives you the ability to fly and you must have your info written, or stuck, on the drone itself. Presumingly if it comes crashing down they can track back the owner and ask questions…
Speaking of which, you can’t just take off anywhere. You need to ensure that you are in a non-restricted area that allows you to fly. Typically areas close to airports and other air traffic are either off limits altogether or you need to request special permission. All this info is available from your local authorities.
Autel Nano Plus: Design
The first thing that surprised me when I opened the box was just how tiny and light the Nano Plus is. Knowing just how much this drone is capable of, I was really expecting something heavier. But it just isn’t.
It looks like it is very well made and every part of the Evo drone just screams quality.
The arms of the drone are folded onto the drone’s body to protect them and the props. There is even a handy little strap that allows you to wrap the arms and props onto the body so there is less chance of damage when you transport it.
The gimbal, which is the camera and its “arm”, is protected with a hard almost see-through case. This is probably the most vulnerable part of the drone and you definitely don’t want anything getting in there that can damage it.
I have the Premium Bundle which means it comes with the drone and remote, extra batteries, a charging dock, extra spare props, a USB charging brick, that prop strap, and a carry case.
I feel pretty confident that when the Nano Plus is inside that case, it is well protected during your normal usage. If you are going to use it in more extreme places and activities such as offroad biking, paragliding, or skiing, a hard shell case is probably a good idea.
Preparing the Nano Plus for take-off:
The first task is to charge both the batteries and the controller. Simply use the supplied USB C cable and connect it to the charging brick.
To charge the batteries if you don’t have the charging dock, simply put the battery into the drone and connect use the USB C cable to charge.
There are LED lights on the battery itself so you can see how much juice is left in the battery which is a handy little feature.
While everything is charging, download the Autel Sky app. You will need this app to connect to the drone, set it up, change settings, and “see” what the gimbal is transmitting.
Important: always check to see if there is a firmware update. Good companies are constantly updating their software and Autel has recently updated their firmware to take care of some initial issues and bring new features to your drone.
Do this before doing anything else.
You also want to do any calibrations which are easy to do – just follow the prompts in the app.
With all of that out of the way, I was ready for my first flight.
Autel Evo Nano Plus: First Flight
As I nervously unpacked the drone, opened up its arms, and connected my phone to the remote control, all I was thinking about was how Autel said that newbie pilots will be flying with confidence in no time.
Time to put that to the test.
After switching on my controller, and app, and it connected to the Nano Plus, it told me not to take off yet as it was still picking up satellites for its GPS.
It also checked the gimbal to make sure it was all working.
My plan was simple: take off and then immediately land.
To do that, you just swipe in the app the icon to take off and the drone takes off and hovers right in front of you. You don’t even have to touch the controls; it just sits there in mid-air waiting for instructions.
To land, just swipe in the app, and the drone lands exactly where it took off from.
This little guy is so intuitive that anyone who has held a gaming controller before will be able to take off, fly around for a bit, and land with zero issues.
On the controller itself, there is a “Return to Home” button. Depending on the setting you have in the app, the drone uses GPS to mark its takeoff location. In a panic situation where you can’t see the drone or you aren’t sure what you are doing, simply hit that button and the Nano Plus comes right back to where it started from and lands by itself.
There is an additional safety feature built into the drone that in the unlikely event that you lose connection with the drone, the Nano will automatically return to home.
It’s all in the AutelSky App:
The AutelSky app is where it all happens. It can be intimidating at first, but as you click around everything becomes very intuitive.
The first thing I did was set the drone to NOVICE which immediately put heavy restrictions on the drone. It could only fly 30 meters high,100 meters away, and at 11km/h (6.8mhp) speed.
This is perfect as you are getting your flying hours and learning how to control it.
Once you are more comfortable, you can choose the Smooth, Standard Mode, or Ludicrous Mode which will change the setting to fit your flying level.
Within the app, you can set the maximum distance and set a height limit as technically the Nano Plus can fly up to 6.2 miles away from you. That is just insane.
Being able to control all these factors at a touch of a button in the app is a relief for us newbies.
Can you crash the Nano Plus?
Probably the biggest selling point of the Evo Nano Plus for us new pilots is the fact that it has an advanced obstacle avoidance system. It has three-way (front, rear, and underside) binocular vision sensors. This means that when it is enabled, if the drone detects an obstacle in front of it, no matter how much you push forward on the controller, the drone will not fly forward. The same goes for flying backward, and trying to land when there’s an obstacle underneath.
And it works incredibly well.
The only way to crash the drone is to deliberately fly it sidewards into a house or a tree!
What about Video from the sky?
While the flying wasn’t isn’t as difficult as I expected it to be, the next bit was to see what kind of videos and photos I could snap from the air.
I added a Micro SD card so it could save everything that I was capturing – the Nano Plus can support cards of up to 256GB.
Without getting super deep into the specs, the Nano Plus has: 4K/ 30FPS HDR Video, with a 50MP sensor, 1/1.28” CMOS sensor, an F/1.9 fixed aperture, and an RYYB filter.
Basically, what this all means is that even in AUTO mode you will get amazing images and videos. I found this to be especially true at sunset and the videos were remarkable. Again, I am using this as a regular user and not as a professional videographer who is going to play with the ISO F Stops and white balance. But, if you are “that” person, the Nano Plus has a Pro mode and you can really control your settings and save your files in RAW for later editing. You can choose your frame rate for your video too, which I believe is a new feature post the recent firmware update.
All this to say that even though the Autel Evo Nano Plus is pitched more at the newbie flyer, it still has some great features and your photos and videos are anything but “novice”.
Let’s talk about Flight Modes:
If you want those epic drone shots but don’t have the flying expertise yet, the Autel Sky app has you covered with various flight modes. When you choose any of those flight modes, the drone goes into autopilot to get you those epic shots.
With Rocket mode, the drone locks on a target, and while keeping it perfectly in focus, it flights straight up in the air.
For the Fade Away Mode, the Nano Plus gets up close to the subject and then flies away from it so you get this fade effect.
Orbit mode keeps your subject in focus while it flies in a circle around it.
When you use Flick mode, the Nano Plus locks onto the subject and then flicks around in the opposite direction.
There are also three zoom modes:
How long can you fly the Nano Plus?
Officially the battery life is 28 minutes but that does depend on how aggressively you are flying it. The weather also plays a big part. In windy conditions, the drone has to work harder to maintain its position, which of course takes a toll on the battery.
In Texas where we had a heat wave of over 100F, my flight time was around 20 minutes before I played it safe and returned it home to land.
I must admit that 28 minutes sounded like a very short period of time, but when your drone is up in the air, it’s plenty of time to capture some stunning scenery.
Verdict: To buy or Not to buy?
After only a handful of flights, I can report that I didn’t crash the Evo Nano Plus, and I had a fairly stress-free experience flying it!
I am getting more and more comfortable sending it further away as I know I have the safety of the obstacle avoidance feature and the Return Home option.
The Autel Evo Nano Plus is the perfect starter drone and great for amateurs who are dipping their toes into the drone world and who want pretty epic photos and videos from the sky. The drone is very capable of handing itself even in tight situations and delivers really stable video from way up high.
I can not wait to see what new features Autel will add next to the Nano Plus.
After only a few weeks, I can confirm that it is so much fun to fly this little guy. I can easily see how this will become part of the gear I pack whenever I go on a trip and want to snap those aerial shots.
For more info head check it out here!