If you’re looking for a drone for under $100, this Pocket Drone from Odyssey is a great place to start.
First, it’s surprisingly durable. When you are first learning how to fly, you are going to crash. Probably a lot. When you do, you’re going to want a drone that will hold up under repeated bumps and drops. We’ve flown the Pocket Drone inside and out and have crashed it into walls, furniture, fences, and even took a nose straight into the gravel from about eight feet up, and this little thing just keeps on chugging. First, it does a great job of shutting down when it hits something, so it’s not just sitting there, blades spinning into whatever wall or sidewalk you crashed into. Second, the blades are very durable. After a couple dozen crashes, there is only a tiny dent in one of the blades, which so far has not appeared to affect its flight.
Also, it’s incredibly portable. While “pocket” drone might be a bit of a stretch, it is barely larger than a deck of cards when folded up. While there are other drones that are smaller, I have yet to see one that stores and travels as safely as the Pocket Drone. Even with the 4 AAA batteries in the controller, the whole thing bagged up weighs very little.
Once you have it trimmed – more on that later – it is also ridiculously easy to fly. I have a small drone in my office about the size of a hockey puck that, while fun to zip around the room, is almost impossible to control for beginners. Where the Pocket Drone differs is in its auto hovering ability. Novice pilots will find it hard enough to hold in one place laterally without trying to deal with maintaining altitude. Throw in altitude and spin control, and it’s like trying to juggle Rubik’s cubes while solving them. The Pocket Drone removes the vertical control from the equation. Just rise to a comfortable altitude and hit the auto hover button. Now you can worry about moving the drone about and trying to keep it going in one direction. In addition to auto hover, the Pocket Drone also has auto return functionality and what they call “headless mode.” This is especially nice for beginners who may have trouble piloting a drone whose orientation changes. By activating the headless mode, the drone automatically makes the furthest side from you the “forward” direction, allowing you to quickly orient and regain control.
The Pocket Drone is not without its flaws. There is only so much you can expect from a sub-$100 drone, and while it is apparent that the Odyssey folks focused quite a bit on flight control, some additional attention should have been paid to the battery, specifically the battery housing and the charging procedure. To charge the battery, it has to be completely removed from the drone. While a pain, this wouldn’t be so bad if the battery housing were not such a tight fit. As it is, though, the wires connecting the battery to the drone experience quite a bit of stress. After only a half dozen or so charges, I could see the wire beginning to fray and wear out. I wrapped a small strip of electrical tape around the wire and it seems to have solved the problem, but in future versions, Odyssey should implement an external charging port so the battery can remain within the drone. Also, the sticks being removable helps to make the drone more portable, but at the risk of losing them. As you can see from the photos, we lost one of the sticks in the back yard. Adding threads to the sticks instead of relying on knurling and friction to hold them in would be a nice fix for future versions.
Battery life is pretty decent, and with the charging cable being a standard USB-A connector, you can recharge it anywhere in about 45 minutes. At 6-8 minutes of flight time, it runs about average for this size of drone. Unfortunately, you can expect at least 30 seconds of that time to be spent trimming. When you first start the drone, it has a tendency to drift and spin. You need to adjust the trim settings to counter this before you can fly the Pocket Drone successfully. After a bit of practice, you can usually knock this out in just a few seconds, but when you’re first learning, don’t be surprised if you’re spending half your battery life just trying to get the thing to sit still. However, this is not a failure of the Pocket Drone specifically, as every drone experiences this drift, but it is something you should be aware of when you first start flying.
Finally, the video quality is good, but it suffers from the camera lens not being a wide angle. To capture anything, you have to be directly pointed at it, as there is no way to tilt the camera. A wide angle lens, similar to that of a Go Pro, would go a long way towards capturing much better video without the constant correction to keep the subject in frame.
Overall, this is a fun little drone to toss in a backpack and take with you anywhere. I think with just a few minor adjustments, the Pocket Drone could seriously compete with others twice the price.
I received a Pocket Drone from Odyssey for review purposes. All opinions are my own.