Camera can be used separately. Includes Follow Me tracker.
Attempted to fly away in testing. Bulky. Clunky interface. Inconsistent video white balance. Short battery life. No obstacle avoidance.
- Bottom Line
The Halo Board Halo Drone Pro is a folding drone that costs too much for what it offers and has a bug that caused a near fly-away in testing.
The Halo Board Halo Drone Pro ($1,497) carries a premium price, but its features and video quality are nowhere near pro level. Even if I hadn't been forced to crash land it during my first test flight (due to a bug that Halo Board is aware of, and doesn't have a fix for), I found enough shortcomings to steer pilots with this much cash to spend in a different direction. If you want a high-end drone, go for the much more portable DJI Mavic Pro Platinum or the 1-inch-sensor-equipped DJI Phantom 4 Pro instead.
The Pro edition, which is regularly on sale for much less than its MSRP (it sells for $1,097 at press time), includes a fitted backpack for storage and transport. The pack measures 18 by 12 by 8 inches (HWD) and is quite sturdy. But anything that requires its own backpack for transport qualifies as bulky in my book. When folded the Halo is about the same size as the Karma (roughly 5.5 by 7.5 by 14 inches), and it weighs 3 pounds.
To get it ready to fly you need to unfold its arms and lock them in place with clips. And you need to install the rotors, as the drone doesn't fit in its backpack with them attached. The process only takes a couple of minutes, but it's not as seamless as the DJI Mavic series, which features folding propellers you can leave on at all times.
The drone ships with a remote control with a clip to hold your smartphone. It works with the Halo Drone app, a free download for Android or iOS. The remote and your smartphone communicate via Wi-Fi, and the app shows some important information, including a live view from the drone's camera and a world map. The video feed is very low resolution, not at all like the 720p feeds we're used to seeing, but it gives you a general idea of what you're recording. You do get real-time telemetry data when flying, but the app doesn't record it and save it as a flight log, which is a feature you get with DJI models.
In addition to the case, the Pro model includes a wrist tracker, so you can have the Halo track your movements. If you want the drone without the tracker and backpack, you can buy the standard edition. It has an $1,197 MSRP, but has been on sale for a while now. At press time it goes for $847.
Automated following is a plus for folks who want a drone to follow them and film them doing things, assuming that activities are taking place in a clear, open area. But the tracker watch is a bit of an antiquated concept. DJI includes subject tracking in its latest models, which do the same job without requiring a tracker—its camera system is able to perform subject recognition and keep it in frame.
We always fly a drone for as long as the battery can handle in testing, to get an idea of what its real-world battery life is like. After about 15 minutes of flying during my first test flight, I saw that the drone's battery was getting low—it estimated four minutes of flight time left—so I started to bring it in closer to home for a landing. But before I was able to land it manually, the drone recognized its battery was low and initiated an automated return-to-home and landing procedure.
I had been flying pretty low, but because there's no obstacle avoidance, the drone is programmed to rise to a higher altitude before making the beeline to the launch point. I opted to manually override the automated process. Had the drone been further away I would have let it fly home on its own, but it was only about 30 or 40 feet away from where I wanted it to land when the automated sequence kicked in.
But instead of returning control to the remote's joysticks, the drone immediately initiated an automated landing process. It was still above a muddy cornfield at this point, so I made the decision to cancel the landing, with the intent of bringing the drone about thirty feet closer to my location to land on neatly manicured grass.
But that didn't happen. Instead of returning conrols to my sticks, the drone became unrepsonsive and started to fly up and away from home. I couldn't pause its motion, nor could I adjust its altitude or heading—stick controls were completely unresponsive. The drone was flying away, and I had no reason to believe that it would stop until it ran out of battery. Even with only a couple minutes of life left, it could cover some distance.
I felt the only choice to ensure recovery of the aircraft was to kill the engines. Thankfully you can do so using the remote control, and the Halo did respond to the command to turn off the motors. It fell from the sky and landed on soft ground, but was damaged to the point where additional flights were not happening. You can watch the sequence in our test footage below, starting at about the three-minute mark.
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I reported the issue to Halo and a representative stated that it is a known issue. Halo does not recommend that you cancel landings. What the company describes in its FAQ isn't quite what happened to me, but very low power to the drone could explain why it stopped responding to controls. It doesn't explain the fly away, nor does it explain why the power was so low when the app was telling me I had four minutes of flying time left.
Halo claims the drone is good for 22 minutes of flight per charge. I found the figure to be closer to 15 minutes in reality. That's a big disparity. Especially when you remember that the svelte DJI Mavic Pro Platinum can fly for close to 30 minutes.
Operating range is very limited. I started to lose connection with the video feed at a distance of just 800 feet. Our test flight was performed in a rural area with very little radio interference, so this result is very disappointing.
Video and Image Quality
The included camera records video at up to 4K quality with a strong 50Mbps compression rate and H.265/HEVC compression. Footage looks clear, although the camera may be guilty of some oversharpening. But that's the least of its problems. White balance is all over the place. It changed dramatically throughout our test flight, despite flying over an evenly lit landscape.
You also don't get 24fps capture at any resolution. You can shoot at faster frame rates at lower resolutions, a plus for slow-motion, but these settings can't be changed on the fly. In order to adjust camera settings you need to physically make changes on the camera itself. This is a tricky process. You need to remove the camera from its gimbal, remember which buttons to hold down on the side to enable its rear LCD, and navigate through menus using control buttons. Once you've got it set, you need to remember to switch the camera back to its transmission mode (which disables the rear LCD display), mount it in the gimbal, and ensure that the video feed is properly working. It's a pain. Other drones, even those that work with external removable cameras, let you change camera settings right from the remote control.
The camera records still images as well as video. It can snap 8MP stills at the 16:9 aspect ratio and 12MP images at 4:3. Stills are saved in JPG format. Image quality is about what you get from any budget action camera—crisp, with a wide field of view—but not as good as what you'd snap with a smartphone.
I don't like to be absolutely dismissive of a product, especially one that takes much engineering and design to put together. But there's absolutely no reason to spend your money on the Halo Board Halo Drone Pro. It's not a bargain by any means, its camera isn't that good and makes it difficult to adjust video recording settings, and its battery life is way behind the competition. Even if I hadn't experienced the forced crash landing, there isn't enough here to recommend.
If you want a drone, get a DJI Mavic Air or Mavic Pro Platinum for about the same price and enjoy a truly portable—and extremely safe—aircraft. If you prioritize image and video quality over size, the Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Advanced use 1-inch image sensor cameras, which will give you the best aerial video and imaging you can get, short of buying a very high-end model with interchangeable lenses.
About the Author
Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at re… See Full Bio
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