January 9, 2015 Ehang’s Ghost Drone reached 784% Funding on IndieGoGo, making it one of the most popular drones that have been publically funded.
Fast forward to now: The Ehang Ghost Drone is in full production, and with the features, and lower price point than it’s closest competitor (DJI Phanton), the Ghost Drone makes the perfect hobby and entry-level professional drone on the market today. Not only is it good for advanced users, but as it’s touted as “the world’s easiest drone to fly“, novice users definitely enjoy flying the Ghost Drone as well.
The Ghost drone features uncommon inverted motors with tri-blade rotors, also untypical of common drones these days. The landing gear and rotors have to be attached, but this takes less than 10 minutes for a new user. The instructions are in Chinese, but you can find assembly videos on YouTube if you search for them.
The Propeller guards do come installed, but are also easily removable to reduce weight, especially if you’re carrying a heavier payload than a GoPro. You probably don’t want to remove them unless it’s absolutely necessary because they do protect the rotors, and you don’t get a spare set in the box.
On the Android app, the controls are self explanatory, with overlay buttons for taking off, landing, returning, and hovering. A map fills the screen, which allows you to tap anywhere you want the drone to go, and the drone’s orientation, altitude, and camera tilt are adjusted with the overlay sliding bars. For finer horizontal flight control, the app has a micro control pad and compass for orientation.
To connect your smartphone with the Ghost Drone, there is a proprietary “G-Box” transmitter, which allowed us to safely control the drone almost ½ mile away in an open field with no obstructions.
The programmers of Ghost Drone have been very busy, and they now have a unique tilt function that works similar to the micro control pad. To move the drone, you simply tilt your phone in the direction that you choose. They also have a proprietary controller in the works for more refined movement and control of the Ghost Drone.
The Ghost Drone included one custom labeled 5400mAH 3S 11.1V Lipo Battery that weighs 11.5oz, measures 4¼”L x 1½W x 1¼H, and uses an XT60 connector. There are no included battery level indicators built in to the battery. The Ghost Drone can last up to 20 minutes with the optional 2-D gimbal plus a GoPro camera installed, or up to 30 minutes without them. Fully loaded (prop guards, GoPro Hero 3+, and gimbal), we achieved flight times between 14 and 17 minutes.
To charge the battery, the Ghost Drone comes with a SkyRC e4 LiPo/LiFe 2-4S Balance Charger, that is simple and easy to use.
A GoPro gimbal is an extra option that one can choose for the Ghost Drone, and the unit that came with ours is what we would consider the industry minimum: brushless and 2-axis. The gimbal is controlled by a Basecam 32-bit 3-axis board, but was only configured for 2-axis. It would take a bit of work, soldering, and programming to get a 3-axis added. To tilt the GoPro camera up or down, there is a slider button on the smartphone app, but we were unable to view what was being recorded as our unit did not include an FPV feature. To secure the GoPro, a velcro strap was included, but the latest version of the Ghost Drone now has hard brackets for more security. We believe that the occasional rolling shutter we saw in our footage was only worsened by the velcro strap.
So how easy is it to fly the Ghost Drone?
It’s as easy as playing a game on your smartphone or tablet! To make the drone fly, you simply press the take off button on the app. Once in the air, you can direct the Ghost Drone to any place on the GPS map, granted the drone is over 10meters. To increase or decrease your altitude or to rotate the Ghost Drone, you slide a button up/down and left/right respectively. As the drone moves to your designated location, you can follow it’s progress on the GPS map. Height, speed, battery level, flight time, and number of satellites are all clearly displayed at the top of the app. When you’re ready to bring it home, simply press the return button, and the Ghost Drone will take the shortest path back to it’s point of of origin. Just be sure you’re clear of the highest obstruction in your flying area.
During the few flights we put the Ghost Drone through, our flying field was wide open, with no obstacles, and less than 10mph winds. The Ghost Drone flew well, and responded to our controls with very little to no delay. Without an FPV option on our unit, we found that we had to fly at a safe height above the tallest known obstacles to avoid any accidents. Flying intricate or complex patterns, such as subject tracking and smooth 360°s, proved to be difficult and challenging on the smart phone app.
One unique feature that the Ghost Drone has compared to it’s competitors is the Auto-Follow Mode. Our unit did not include this feature, but from our limited knowledge, it can only follow the user in a locked horizontal plane, and does not avoid obstacles. Also, from the research we’ve conducted, this mode isn’t as fluid as we’d like when the subject is turning.
What makes the Ghost Drone so easy to fly is it’s awesome smart phone app! It’s very simple and self explanatory. The Ghost Drone has a lot of potential with it’s Auto-Follow Mode, and we hope to test this feature out soon. We would like to see a 3rd axis on the gimbal, an FPV option or way to easily add it, and a slight change in the app to make flights more refined for tracking. For a beta unit of the Ghost Drone, it’s honestly a job well done, and we hope to see more hauntingly good drones from Ehang!