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The Parrot anafi drone hits the sweet spot of quality and portability

·7-min read
In the UK, you need pilot and operator permits to fly most drones  (iStock/The Independent)
In the UK, you need pilot and operator permits to fly most drones (iStock/The Independent)

Drones are officially a big deal. No longer the exclusive domain of professional photographers and videographers, budding drone operators can get their hands on a quality drone at a price that would be unimaginable even 10 years ago.

The aptly-named Parrot has made its name providing high-end drones for that professional market, from first responders and search-and-rescue teams, to security agencies and surveying and inspection professionals.

Now, the brand has taken its wide-ranging expertise and thrown it all at the commercially available Parrot anafi, including a promising 180-degree tilting gimbal for its 4K camera.

At a penny under £630, it’s a hefty price for beginners looking to get into the drone game, so the question is: can the Parrot anafi manage to please the newbie market and enthusiasts who want to take the next step? We took to the skies to find out.

Remember: To fly most proper drones in the UK, you need to have both pilot and operator permits. Current drone-flying regulations state that any drone over 250g (8.8oz) has to be piloted by a registered drone pilot. While this sounds daunting, flyer ID registration consists of an open-book 40-question, multiple-choice exam that provides you with the basics of safe drone flying, and registering yourself as an operator (if you own a drone over 250g) costs £9 for the year.

Read more:

How we tested

After we’d become fully-fledged members of the drone pilots’ community, we took the anafi to a safe, open space – with a handy second pair of eyes to ensure we didn’t somehow cause a diplomatic incident – to give it enough room to show us the works.

To begin, we looked at its design out of the box, ease of setup and portability – after all, you want your investment to look good in your hands and the air, even if you look panicked on the ground. For beginners, easy setup is vital, as you’ll want to get to grips with your new purchase as quickly and safely as possible – it’s no use having a spanking-new drone if it’s a hassle to carry anywhere for you to show it off.

Once we’d made sure the anafi was ready to go, and switched on the Top Gun: Maverick soundtrack, we set it loose. Handling is the most important factor to consider as a beginner, so this was a central aspect to our testing, from the intuitive nature of the controls to any safety features. Finally, we looked at the camera performance, from its versatility to its still and video quality.

Parrot anafi drone

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Weight:  320g

  • Size:  244mm × 67mm × 65mm

  • Battery life:  25 minutes (2,700 mAh)

  • Max speed:  55km/h

  • Video resolution:  4K 24fps, UHD up to 30fps, FHD up to 60fps

  • Camera resolution:  21MP, 16MP

Looks

The Parrot anafi isn’t here to play any games. It’s geared towards functionality and performance, which means that while it doesn’t pull up any trees in the design stakes, it does exactly what you want from a quality drone. It’s impressively compact, coming in at a svelte 320g and folding up neatly for top portability marks. It feels durable in the hand, and manages any rough landings with ease, thanks to its durable frame. It’s a sleek, professional machine.

Setup, handling and performance

You can tell that Parrot has put a lot of its professional expertise into the anafi’s slender frame. The drone is designed to be deployed pretty much anywhere legal you can think of –it works in temperatures up to 50C and down to -10C, and gusts up to 80km/h. While its credentials are levels above the commercial market, its setup experience is clean and straightforward. The drone comes pretty much ready to go, besides a few propellers to click on, and instructions are clear for even the most novice of pilots.

The anafi offers a seriously impressive 25-minute fly time, thanks in part to the combination of its huge smart battery and laudably light frame. Battery time is monitored by the on-board computer, and its top speed is a pretty blistering 34mph (55km/h). Happily, this speed doesn’t come with any tell-tale noise pollution – it’s an almost silent assassin.

This speed might be intimidating to beginners, but handling is a breeze. Connected to your smartphone via Parrot’s free app, the sophisticated camera setup is fed through to your phone screen, with the smooth, high-quality feed giving you a more effective perspective than just craning your neck into the sky. Controls are easy and intuitive, and as easy as hooking your phone up to Parrot’s skycontroller 3, which is included with every package and works without a hitch. Parrot also provides a first-person view (FPV) goggle set for £100, for an extra level of immersive flying.

Read more: Panasonic lumix FZ1000 camera review

The anafi’s one downside is a lack of obstacle avoidance system. For beginners who are flying drones in an area other than a completely flat expanse of land, such systems can be a particularly handy way of not having your new gadget crunch directly into a tree. It does, however, have downward sensors to keep the drone steady while hovering, giving you a chance to have a breather. It also offers a ‘return to home’ mode, automatically bringing itself back to you when the battery level drops too low or your connection is lost.

The 2,700 mAh battery is a beast, but is quite pedestrian in its recharge speed via USB-C, coming in at around two and a half hours. Spare batteries are available for any longer flying sessions, with two spares included in the slightly more expensive anafi extended package, which also comes with extra propeller blades and a larger carry case in which to fit all your extras.

Camera

The anafi comes with a 16GB microSD card as standard, which gives you a good 20 minutes of 4K footage space. This is needed, as the camera is pretty much the equivalent of a good DSLR camera.

The front-mounted camera benefits hugely from a mechanical gimbal, stabilising footage through any movement, even sharp turns. It’s an impressive feat that elevates the anafi to the top of its price bracket. The camera also moves 180 degrees vertically, allowing for shots above and directly below the drone, and the 2.8x lossless digital zoom lens is exceptional, making you feel more like a secret agent than an enthusiast stood in the middle of a field.

Read more: 8 best instant cameras to snap and print on the go

Recording options are wide-ranging, with 4K UHD, 2.7K and 1,080p on offer, and 4K frame rate up to 30fps (60fps at 1,080p). Video and image quality (at 21MP resolution) is as good as a high-end smartphone, and perhaps the best for its price. It’s a comprehensive offering that most photographers would find more than does the job.

The verdict: Parrot anafi drone

While £629.99 is a lot of upfront investment in a hobby, there’s an argument to be made that the Parrot anafi is a case of investing early on. In a sea of other, less sophisticated models that would need upgrading as your drone experience climbs, it offers a bit of staying power that could turn out to be especially economical.

It’s a no-brainer choice for taking on your travels, hitting the sweet spot of portability and quality. Other drones might be smaller, but the anafi is a perfect size to throw in your bag (with the carry case sturdy enough not to worry too much) and, importantly, doesn’t compromise on camera and flight quality.

With a fantastic flight time, easy handling, supreme portability and a professional-level camera setup, this is a serious contender for not only the best drone that can feasibly be controlled by a beginner, but many others looking to get the most out of their footage. It’s the real deal.

Buy now £629.99, Parrot.com

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Not convinced? Read our round-up of the best drones for beginners to take to the sky

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