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The GDU 02, a new drone that appears to be at least partially inspired by DJI's Mavic Pro

You know the saying: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

We know the answer: The DJI Mavic Pro.

What? Stand by, all will be explained.

There’s a new drone in town, and more than a few people were taking a close look last week in Las Vegas at the #Interdrone2017 conference. The drone is called the GDU O2, and it’s a collapsible drone with a number of appealing features. (There are actually two variants of the drone, and we’ll get to that).

First, though, let’s just have a look at the GDU video for this product. Nice, slick video showing off a number of desirable features:

Nice video (although it’s spelled “desert” – not “dessert”), and clearly there are some features that we like about this drone. The collapsible (we say ‘collapsible’ because nothing really folds the way it does on a Mavic Pro) arms bring it down to a portable size, and the fact it connects together with the remote in a single unit is a nice touch.

Here’s the spot where it’s worth mentioning there are two versions: There’s a WiFi version with a stated range of about a kilometre, plus a (still to-be-released) 2.4 GHz version with a stated range of about 7 kilometres. The latter is called the 02 Plus.

The company’s website states the following about the product: “O2 is designed for everyone, combining extreme portability, high-resolution image capturing, advanced sensors and onboard computing capability, and ease of use, to be the go-to option for your everyday drone.”

FEATURES

In terms of features, the drone has a lot of appealing features that are a bit like a cross between DJI’s Mavic Pro and its Spark. These features include: 4K video with a 3-axis camera, forward obstacle avoidance, vision positioning system, and “Smart Shot” – which is much like the Spark’s various dronie autonomous shot modes. Those shots on the GDU include circle, rocket, dronie, and what it calls “Advanced Follow Me.”

In terms of specifications, let’s have a look:

DRONE
  • Weight: 1.56 pounds (0.71 kilos)
  • Max speed: 33.6 mph (53.76 kph)
  • Max hover time: 20 mins (15 w prop guards)
  • GPS/GLONASS? Yes to both

As we move to the camera, here’s what the GDU website has to say:

Camera specs from the GDU web site

You know what? On paper (or on a screen), that’s all pretty respectable. The GDU has some features that we like, and we’re sure it will find some ready customers.

And when you look at the design, there can be little doubt that it owes at least some of its heritage to the Mavic Pro, which was launched one year ago this month. The remote, for example, has a number of similarities, including the look of the antennae, and the camera controls (which appear identically placed). And hey – that’s okay, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

One thing that we initially liked about the remote was how it slid apart to accommodate a cell phone. But we noticed, at least based on the videos that we’ve seen, that it may well be limited to a cell phone because of the ridge, or lip, that runs the length of the bottom of the holder. The Mavic Pro remote, when the handles/holders are spread wide, can accommodate a mini-tablet (it’s a perfect fit for the iPad mini).

Some entrepreneur will undoubtedly come up with an adaptor for that issue, or perhaps there’s a way to wedge a mini-iPad or other tablet in there. We haven’t had an opportunity to get our hands on it, so we can’t say. (GDU – that’s a hint!)

In terms of specs, the Mavic Pro has a significantly longer flight time: 27 minutes versus 20. The new Mavic Pro Platinum can stay in the air for 30 minutes, which 50 per cent longer than the GDU 02. When you’re in the air and want to frame the perfect still image, or capture the perfect sweeping video maneuver, that extra time can make the difference between rushing your job and taking that extra time for perfection.

It’s a personal thing, but we prefer the idea of the folding arms on the Mavic Pro; others may well prefer the aluminum arms that slide into the lower body of the GDU.

DJI Mavic Pro model

DJI’s website says it has tested the folding mechanism to 5,000 folds and it still holds up. That is likely longer than the lifespan of the machine, says the company. (We also like that the Mavic Pro can orient its gimbal to shoot in either landscape or portrait mode, something that does not appear to be a feature on the 02.)

PRICE

All that being said, the GDU costs less money than the Mavic Pro, and that certainly counts for something. The GDU 02 (the standard WiFi version, not the Plus) is $732 online now, including a bonus battery and backpack for the first 500 orders. However, it must be noted this is the standard model – and not the 02 Plus version. The 02 Plus is the 2.4 Ghz model with the 7-kilometre range. The price of availability of that model is not on the website. However, it will certainly be more expensive than the 02.

At $999 it’s pretty clear what you get with the Mavic Pro: A seven kilometre range, multiple redunancies, and a proven track record. DJI has more experience than any other consumer drone company on the planet, and sells more products. It has more engineers, more resources, and a lot of Intellectual Property at its disposal.

COMPETITION IS GOOD

It’s also a highly competitive company – one that doesn’t like to see its market share slip at all.

Just like there are people who prefer Apple vs Android, and vice-versa, we are admitted DJI fan-boys (and girls) here at TDC. If we were faced with the choice, we’d choose the Mavic Pro because of the company’s track record.

In fact, we know an aerospace engineer who was at #Interdrone2017. He looked at the GDU 02 long and hard, and said he liked the form factor and build quality. And then, do you know what he did? He ordered a refurbished Mavic Pro online. It was DJI’s reputation that sold him, he said.

But that doesn’t mean the GDU 02 is a bad drone. In fact, it actually looks like it’s pretty good. There are going to be people who will buy it, and like it. And that’s great.

The other thing about that reality is that DJI loves to compete. So if someone gives the Mavic Pro a half-way decent run for the money, you can anticipate that DJI will not rest on its laurels. Just a couple of weeks ago, we saw the release of the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum. That model flies for 30 minutes, and is 60 per cent quieter than the original Mavic Pro.

The Mavic Pro Platinum

In other words, DJI took an already solid product and improved on it.

GDU, we look forward to seeing both the 02 – and more competition – in the air.


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