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Want to holiday with your drone? Lightweight, portable and foldable models that travel well are now available

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are now available in portable designs and sizes that travel well – but before you take one away, be sure to check out the flying regulations at your destination

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 9:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 4:37pm

If you’re among the growing band of amateur drone enthusiasts, and are planning on jetting off for a Christmas break, here’s some good news: the latest models of camera-equipped unmanned flying aircraft can be folded up, popped in your pocket or handbag, and taken with you on the plane.

To clarify: some airlines require drones to be in your checked baggage, others allow them as carry-on. So check the requirements of your carrier, and the flying regulations of your destination, and you should be good to go to capture some awesome holiday footage.

The foldable drone is one of the latest products developed by DJI, Shenzhen-based, world-leading manufacturer of easy-to-fly drones, which recently opened a new flagship store in Causeway Bay.

According to Kevin On, DJI’s associate director of communications for Asia-Pacific, the Mavic Pro drone – about one-sixth the size of the brand’s popular Phantom 4 – was developed to be lightweight and portable, with travellers in mind. If you’re out cycling or hiking, you can easily take one along without having to lug a bulky backpack. And when venturing further afield, it won’t take up any more space in your luggage than a regular camera.

It’s not the first of its kind – drones, like every piece of tech kit, have been getting smaller. And size doesn’t always matter: there are teeny tiny nano quadcopters that fit in the palm of your hand, like the Proto-X or the Blade Nano QX, but their battery life is typically only a few minutes (eight to 10 if you are lucky), their cameras are basic, and their functionality is limited. In other words, a fun flying gadget for children.  

Among the manufacturers of models for serious enthusiasts, few have managed to master the foldable. GoPro did with its much anticipated Karma folding drone released in October, but within weeks it announced a recall of all 2,500 sold due to the units losing power in “a very small number of cases”.

DJI’s Mavic Pro has four wings that fold underneath and to the sides in a compact design arrangement which when folded measures 83mm x 83mm x 198mm, and weighs just 743 grams. The rotors also fold, and slip alongside the main body of the aircraft, so they don’t need to be removed for transport as is the case with most serious camera drones.

It can fly for up to 27 minutes, and/or a distance of 7kms. And with Mavic’s 12-megapixel camera and ultra HD video, you’ll soon be shooting footage like a pro – maybe even post your prowess by joining the SkyPixel community. As the world's biggest drone photo and video sharing platform, the site is a great source of photographic inspiration, with tips from the professionals and competitions for members.

Before you pack up and head off to that holiday destination, Kevin On has a few more tips for travellers.

“Check out the local aviation authority’s guidance and regulations for the country of your destination – these may be found on relevant government websites,” he says.

“Be aware of no fly zones [such as airports, military zones, government buildings, among others], allowable altitude, and keeping the correct distance from crowds and buildings.”

In all situations, no matter where, use common sense: only fly in good weather, under clear visibility, and keep the drone in your line of sight. More tips may be found at http://www.dji.com/flysafe.