Gone with the Grins

The Yuneec Breeze: My Travel Photography Drone

The Yuneec Breeze is small drone that is perfect for travel

When I began my search for a travel photography drone, I had two things in mind: it had to be small and it had to take excellent still photos. Yet, at the time, all the packable drones were toys with crappy cameras. The drones with good cameras were large and fairly expensive. It wasn’t until the “selfie” drones started appearing that I discovered the Yuneec Breeze. It was the first drone that fit my criteria of being both pint-sized and having a 13 megapixel camera. I recently took this little guy on a trip to Ireland, and here’s what I thought of the Yuneec Breeze, my travel photography drone.

The Breeze

The Yuneec Breeze comes with everything you need to get flying except a smart phone or tablet. The entire drone fits inside a hard case (which is included) that measures just over 8″ square.

Size Matters

I really don’t like to check luggage when flying, so my number one priority was that the drone had to fit in my Peak Design Everyday Backpack or carry-on suitcase. This immediately ruled out the larger drones like the DJI Phantom 3. The Breeze is small enough that I can even use the provided hard shell carry case and still have room in my suitcase or backpack for other stuff. 

The Fragile Bits

Physically, the Yuneec Breeze is very small and can easily be held in one hand. However, like most drones, it’s oddly shaped and has delicate appendages and electronics that must be protected. Take great care when packing the drone so that the propellers, camera, and ground sensor on the bottom aren’t damaged.

The Camera

The Breeze features a 13 megapixel camera that was designed to take pictures of people and their surroundings. When most folks think of drones they think video. I prefer using the drone for still photography… not necessarily selfies, but landscape and other photos. The Yuneec Breeze does feature 4K video but it is unstablized and, honestly, pretty worthless. The stabilized 720P and 1080P video is much better, even if it’s not up to the quality of the more expensive DJI drones. However, I use it mainly for still photography so the video feature is only a bonus for me.

Gimbal Capabilities

The Breeze’s gimbal tilts up and all the way down, allowing for some interesting overhead shots. It lacks the ability to pan, but it doesn’t really matter so much if you are only taking still photos. 

RAW File Capability or Lack Thereof

One of my main complaints about the camera is the lack of RAW file capability. You are limited to JPEG only with a choice of Medium or Ultra High quality files which is a little odd. You are able to change “Scene Modes” which will choose how the JPEG files will look. The modes are: Nature, Saturation, Raw, or Night. Do not mistake the Raw scene mode for a RAW image file. The Raw in this case just give you a flat, less processed JPEG file. Frankly, I can’t tell a whole lot of difference between any of the modes.

The Controls

The Breeze, like most popular drones, is controlled from a smart phone or tablet via a free app. While the app interface is nice, sliding your thumbs on a glass screen is not the easiest way to maneuver dual virtual control sticks. They do make an optional controller that has physical joysticks for better responsiveness; it also adds another $40 to the cost and makes it less portable. However, I find that for still photography the app is good enough for controlling the drone and framing the shot.

Range

The phone connects to the drone via Wi-Fi which can limit the range to around 80 meters. This  has caused issues for some Android users, though I’ve never experienced any of the Wi-Fi connection issues on my iPhone. Not yet anyway. If I was really worried about range, I’d trade up for the DJI Spark which has an optional controller that greatly increases range by using a high power RF transmitter instead of Wi-Fi. I really wish the Breezeā€™s controller had this, as well.

Visibility

One difficulty that I discovered by using the phone as a controller is the sun. In full, bright light it can sometimes be difficult to see the image on the screen. This isn’t unique to the Breeze but it’s nevertheless frustrating at times. One solution might be a hood of some type for my phone screen, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Suggested Accessories

1) Charger Plug Adapter

The first accessory that I purchased for my drone was a charger plug adapter that allowed me to leave the three foot power cord at home. While the power cord isn’t particularly large, it doesn’t fit very neatly into the provided hard shell carry case, which is why I dumped it for traveling.

2) Fireproof LiPo Battery Pouch

The second accessory I added was a fireproof LiPo battery pouch. Since LiPo batteries are prone to catch fire, I always store the drone’s batteries in the fireproof pouch when they are in my carry-on luggage. Having never tested their ability to contain a combusting LiPo battery, I can’t vouch for their efficacy. Maybe they’re just a gimmick, but I’m erring on the side of caution.

My Take-Away

The Pros

The Yuneec Breeze is a very capable drone that ticks most of my boxes for a travel drone. It’s small, lightweight, inexpensive, and well-constructed.

The Cons

The limited range, lack of a RAW photo format, and the fact that it is not very good for smooth video will be a deal killer for some. If I had to do it again, I would have purchased a DJI Spark or DJI Mavic Pro if either had been available at the time. Maybe. (Priced in the $600-$900 range, my wife might have had a few opinions on that.) They are second to none, though, in feature sets and overall quality. I can dream…

The Bottom Line

For a small, travel-worthy, selfie-type drone, the Yuneec Breeze is an excellent, less pricey compromise for still photography and basic video.

Sample Images

The images below are from a trip to Ireland which was the first real-world test of the drone while traveling.

And  Finally… Some Things I Learned while Traveling with a Drone

  • Expect the TSA to be very concerned about your batteries. Mine got tested for explosive residue, and I had to answer a number of questions about their use. However, the batteries for the Yuneec Breeze meet the TSA battery guidelines and are allowed on commercial aircraft. (TSA rules change constantly, though, so be sure to check before flying.)
  • Consider the weather where you are going. I took my drone to Ireland and it stayed in the bag most of the time because of gale force winds or pouring rain. That being said, I knew the weather would probably be exactly that. It is Ireland after all. But I took the drone anyway.
  • Check the local rules for drone flying. Easier said than done because many countries have very vague rules about flying drones that can be hard to suss out. Some countries, like Nicaragua, have banned drones outright and will confiscate yours at Customs.
  • Be considerate of others around you. Don’t be that guy/gal who is flying the drone over a bunch of tourists or a national landmark. I have never done this, but have noticed other flyers who seem to be pretty clueless, careless, rude… take your pick.

If you’re ready to get a travel drone for yourself, here are some quick links to items mentioned in this article:

Yuneec Breeze 4K Drone

Yuneec Game Controller for Breeze Quadcopter

Charger Plug Adapter

LiPo Battery Pouch

Peak Design Everyday Backpack

DJI Spark – If it had been available at the time, I most likely would have bought this one instead.

DJI Mavic Pro – This is probably the best travel drone on the market as of 2017.

DJI Phantom 3 – An excellent camera platform but not super portable.

GoPro Karma – I didn’t mention this one, but the Karma is GoPro’s travel drone that touts super stabilized aerial video footage.