Drones have evolved rapidly over the past few years, but recently we have entered a new Time. Instead of cramming them with all the features, manufacturers are building drones with features and specifications that target a particular type of use, like racing, FPV, cinema, or photography. The Zero Zero Robotics Hover Camera Passport is a prime example of this trend. Instead of being a jack of all trades, this drone is specially designed for taking selfies. We therefore tested it for a few weeks to see how it behaves against the star drones on the market.
The most important feature on the Hover Camera Passport is definitely its foldable design.
We can just say that this is one of the most portable drones we have ever encountered and it is no accident. It’s intentionally designed to fit in a backpack or purse, so it’s always with you when you need it. The drone is also equipped with a rather decent small camera. It shoots 4K video, 13-megapixel stills, and even has a built-in flash. The Passport sets itself apart from other handheld drones thanks to its image recognition software which (with a quad-core Snapdragon processor) allows the drone not only to detect and track faces and objects, but also to maintain its position in the air. space without GPS.
Finally, to complete it all, the Passport comes with a multitude of autonomous flight modes.
In addition to standard modes like Orbit and Follow-Me, it has a 360 ° Panorama feature that you can activate with the push of a button, as well as a feature called Beast Mode, which lets you turn off engine limitations. imposed by the drone when you need to follow really fast objects.
The Hover Camera Passport has one of the brightest designs we’ve ever seen on a drone.
As you guessed it, it’s designed to fold up like a book when you’re not flying. It revolves around a thin spine that houses all the electronics of the machine and has 4 protected propellers under the spine that can fold up like the pages of a book. When everything is folded up, the drone is about the size of a pocket book. As for its weight, it is a featherweight with its 244 grams with battery included!
Another feature that we really like a lot is the Passport’s carbon fiber protective cages, which give it a number of advantages. First of all, they protect the propellers against impact with obstacles, which greatly reduces the likelihood of equipment failure.
We intentionally crashed into a wall during our tests, but thanks to the cages, the rotors kept spinning and the drone found a stable hover without being disturbed. Although it is small and light, it is a very sturdy drone.
More importantly, the protective grilles also protect the pilot from spinning propellers, allowing the drone to take off from your hand, or even catch it on the fly when you’re done.
This drone is a lot of fun to fly and quite accessible to pilots with little experience. In contrast, the Passport is definitely not the drone to buy if you are looking for a high-performance flight.
It flies at 27 kilometers per hour (in manual mode), has no GPS, and has a maximum range of only 20 meters. So it’s not as sporty or agile as some of the high-end drones we’ve tested.
But that’s a design choice. This drone was built specifically to function as a flying camera robot.
Instead of having super long-range, it’s designed to stay close to you and follow you wherever you go.
Instead of super-responsive manual controls, it’s more focused on autonomous flight and you can pretty much let it do its life in the air.
Even face and body tracking software reduce the need to worry about where the camera is pointing.
The entire machine is geared towards autonomous flight, so if you are looking for a drone to improve your piloting skills, it would be better to look for a drone other than the Passport.
It’s not really meant to be piloted manually although the Passport does have a pilot app that gives you a fair number of controller options.
You can fly with two virtual joysticks if you are familiar with traditional controls, use the simplified layout if you just need to put the camera in place or even activate tilt mode and steer the drone around by tilting your phone in any direction. As with most smartphone-based controls, the Passport’s manual modes feel a bit soft and imprecise.
Autonomous modes are one of the big strengths of this drone. It features Orbit Mode, in which the drone flies in a circle around you no matter where you are moving. It also has 360 ° Panorama mode, in which the drone will perform a 360-degree rotation and then stitch together a single panoramic image.
The most impressive modes are the two modes that use the Passport’s image recognition software: Face Track and Body Track.
To activate them, you just click on the face or body you want to track, and the Passport does whatever it takes to keep the subject in the frame. The software isn’t as robust or intuitive as DJI’s Active Track technology (which can track any object you select), but it’s pretty efficient and certainly one of the Passport’s best features.
BATTERY LIFE AND RECHARGE TIME
In a hover test, we found that the Hover Camera Passport can stay in the air for approximately 9 minutes and 32 seconds. Fly a little more sportingly, and you can expect a drop of 1 to 2 minutes. When the drone flies against the wind or follows you with all its might in Beast Mode, it pumps the juice from the battery at a noticeably accelerated speed. During our various flights, it never dived below 8 minutes in our most rigorous tests.
After more than a dozen flights, our average flight time was 9 minutes and 14 seconds.
So it doesn’t quite live up to the 10-minute flight specs printed on the box, but it’s worth mentioning that the Passport comes with two lithium-ion batteries so you can hit around 18 minutes of flight time if you leave with the 2 batteries 100% charged.
When it comes to recharging time, it took an average of 47 minutes for our Passport batteries to be fully recharged.
CAMERA AND ACCESSORIES
Despite the fact that the Hover Camera Passport is billed as a selfie camera drone, the camera is rather average compared to what is available on other drones.
It can take photos in 4K, 1080p, or 720p, but it’s limited to 30 frames per second regardless of the resolution. It also doesn’t have a gimbal, and relies on a combination of digital stabilization and a single-axis pivot to stabilize images.
Effectively, this means that you will need to shoot at 1080p if you want smooth video, as 4K video is only stabilized along a single axis and will likely be fragile.
That said, the camera’s weak spots are largely offset by a handful of smart features that help increase the usefulness of the camera.
In addition to the aforementioned face and body tracking software that locks onto your subject, the Passport also has a built-in flash, making it ideal for taking selfies and group photos.When it comes to accessories and upgrades, there aren’t many at the moment. Firmware updates are released quite infrequently but new modes will likely be added in the future.