Thank you to CRPAA Founding Member David Tolsky for offering his review of the GDU 02. Look for more reviews and articles from David in the future! – Eric Pensenstadler, Founder CRPAA
Maybe GDU (formerly ProDrone) knew what they were doing when they sent me the 02 for review. I am not a Mavic owner, nor do I have any immediate plans to be one. It’s not my objective to do a comparison review as so many other writers have done. It’s pretty obvious the two drones at first glance look similar, so many hobby flyers will be comparing the two. I also realize that most readers here are commercial pilots. I wouldn’t call the 02 a work drone, more a smaller aircraft for shooting personal footage and getting it onto social networks. The 02 camera does shoot 4k but it’s sensor is a mere 1:1/3rd” size, smaller than even a GoPro camera.
I believe the drone industry needs more competition so I am willing to give any aircraft a fighting chance. That’s not to say I won’t be honest if there are some shortcomings that need to be addressed. So let’s get to the GDU-02.
I first learned of the 02 at InterDrone in Las Vegas a year ago. The press gathering/screening was pretty impressive and they had prototypes on display in the exhibit hall. The compactness and mobility of the unit is what grabs you first. The 02 incorporates a unique design with prop arms that slide into and out of the main body, even with the props intact. The bottom landing legs of the aircraft will click into the top of the supplied controller, making a nice transportable unit you can pop into any backpack. This double-layered storage fits into the supplied draw-string bag to keep the unit clean.
A lot of thought has gone into this aircraft, from the 3-axis gimbal (one of the smallest you’ll ever see) to the smart shots the aircraft is capable of.
Opening the box: what you get: Upon opening the box, you get a controller that is designed to expand and fit your smartphone, two extra sets of props with small torx replacement screws, a torx tool for the props replacement job, the aircraft with one battery, a charger that charges both the controller and battery simultaneously (or you can charge one at a time for faster charging), a drawstring bag for storage, and quick-start guide. A full-on manual is available as a printable download on the GDU website. I recommend at least downloading the manual and looking it over to learn how to access the aircraft’s various features. You will also need to install the GDU Mini app on the phone to be used in the controller. (Note: you can also choose not to use the controller and will be supplied virtual sticks on the app if you do so-I prefer a controller at all times).
Smartphone based controller: I’m not crazy about having to use my phone to work with an aircraft. If you are in direct sunlight it is nearly impossible to see an image. If you seek shade to see the image better you risk messing with the GPS signal, etc. It’s advisable to make a sunshade that would fit around the controller, yet not interfere with the joystick controls; no easy task! There is no getting around the fact that this is a smartphone based aircraft utilizing an app so you must make it work for you.
So, what will it do? The GDU is a feature-packed drone in a compact package, which starts with the GDU-Mini app. This app is quite impressive. The home page monitors the temperature outside automatically, albeit in degrees Celsius. I’d like to get that transferred to Fahrenheit if possible. It also has a nice Find Drone button at the top right corner in case the drone has come down out in the distance. After you’ve established a wifi connection (sans controller) and click Start, the app labels for you all the important information you need to monitor while flying, including GPS Signal, Drone Battery Life, Ready To Fly Status, Altitude, Flight Distance and Setting Menu Tab. Continuing from there, you learn the other controls you have on either side of the app and finally your surprisingly sharp clear image appears on the screen.
When you click on the start tab, you get two choices; Novice and Professional. These classifications are a bit misleading because you can access different features in each category yet they are not interchangeable. For instance, in Novice you can access Smart Shot features such as Follow Me, Point of Interest, Vision Circle, Dronie, Gesture Shot and Rocket. I’ve gone out and tested most of these shots with good success. In particular, Follow Me, Point of Interest and Vision Circle are quite responsive. In Gesture Shot, for me at least while testing, the photo option where you hold up two fingers in a “V” shape, the 02 recognized the gesture and started a countdown from 3 before snapping off a shot. To shoot video, raise your palm up in a “Halt” position to begin recording.
In Professional mode, your alternate choice when opening the GDU-Mini app, you get into some more sophisticated flying with waypoints, as well as to be able to set geofencing parameters. The app also features map switching in which you can alternate between 2D map, satellite map and a hybrid type map of the previous two. That’s a neat inclusion for a small package.
The 02 comes in two versions, a 16g memory version rated at 0.6 mile transmission distance and the 02+ which has 32g memory storage and is rated at approximately 4 miles of transmission distance. Note that we’re talking about internal memory as opposed to a removable memory card. You will have to be tethered to your computer to transfer your footage and save it to your hard drive if that’s your goal. However, if your intentions are to share to social media outlets you can do all of that seamlessly from the app. Simply go to your media library, click on the photo or video you want to share, then in the upper right corner hit the 3 circle connected icon and a host of social media outlets appear for your choosing, including Facebook and Twitter.
The GDU-O2 serves it’s purpose as a good quality travel drone that fits into a supplied bag for storage in a suitcase or backpack. Even some spare batteries that you’re going to want for this drone won’t take up that much room as they’re flat shaped to become a part of the aircraft once installed. The flights are solid and this baby can move when the air is still!. Add some nice features like smart shots and you have a fun little drone with the options of some much bigger and more expensive aircraft.
David Tolsky is a CRPAA Founding Member and Ambassador. He is a member of ICG Local 600 as a camera operator and a regular writer for camera and drone magazines.
Cover photo by David Tolsky