Tech review: Zerotech Dobby drone – annoying interface, low-res photos and poor battery life

A frustrating problematic app, unresponsive controls and a mere nine minutes of battery make the Chinese co-designed Dobby drone a pain to fly, but it’s a creative alternative to the humble selfie stick

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 December, 2016, 8:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 4:36pm

Zerotech’s Dobby is a portable, pocketable selfie drone from Chinese start-up Zerotech that backed and co-designed Chinese internet giant Tencent's drone Ying. It is the first drone to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Flight platform which is based around the Snapdragon 801 processor found on smartphones.

Design

Foldable rotor arms make it easy to carry around without worrying about damage to the rotors. Zerotech’s Dobby (basic model costs HK$2,999, currently on promotion at HK$2,699; model with extra battery and propeller guard is HK$3,499, on promotion at HK$2,999) has a curvy design but the motor is exposed and all it takes is one dive into the sand for it to stop working. It took about 30 minutes to fix with a screwdriver.

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Control/app

The app – called Do.Fun – is confusing. After loading it a stream of drone footage and photos from other people pops up on the screen. But where are the controls? After some searching I find a small icon that takes me to a sign-up page. Users need to create an account before full access to the controls is granted.

Then, having switched to the Wi-fi network broadcasted by the Dobby, I have to go back to my phone to get all the updates, then return to the Dobby for an update before take-off. This has already used up a lot of what is already quite a limited battery life.

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Flying/handling

Dobby’s rotors are powerful and noisy. The app offers motion controls, swipes or a set of virtual sticks as an overlay but none of them are very responsive. Commands are sequential and cannot be given simultaneously.

The Dobby isn’t made for fun flying and has a short battery life. One thing that’s impressive though is that it’s possible to change the control orientation of the drone so that it’s relative to the user. So when its front-facing camera are pointed at the user, the controls are forward-facing as well. One tip, don’t try the palm landing feature unless you know what you’re doing.

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Camera

The 13-megapixel camera can make 4k recordings with stabilisation. It can take shots in bursts, recognise objects (by colour) and orbit, so it should be well-suited to selfies. In practice, the app is frustrating and by the time you have things set up you have no more power.

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Conclusion

Dobby is a pain to fly with the app and it doesn’t seem compatible with any physical controller, either.

While the camera performs fine, the photos show a lack of resolution and are only good for social media sharing. Selfie fanatics with deep pockets might consider this an upgrade to a selfie stick, but will have to keep in mind that while it’s easy to carry around, a mere nine minutes of battery power doesn’t get you very far.

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