The DOBBY from ZEROTECH is a fun little drone, but there are caveats. The first being . . . it is a drone. Any claims a manufacturer might make should be taken with a grain of salt. If flying an object through space were so easy, we wouldn’t need the FAA. That said, let’s have a look.
When our DOBBY arrived, the first thing we noticed was the slick packaging. It is very Applesque. But ZEROTECH is not Apple, and after you have taken the DOBBY out of the box and begun to review the Quick Start Guide, that will become readily apparent. If you are flying a drone – any drone – for the first time, a quick start really is not an option. A number of drone manufacturers are attempting to crack the consumer market, and ease of use is key. But while ZEROTECH makes a valiant stab at it with the DOBBY, we are not there yet.
What is the DOBBY? It is a small attractive quadcopter designed to be easily transportable and give users the opportunity to take selfies in new and interesting ways.
What makes it special? It’s size. And its compact size is its key selling point. Here is how it looks with propeller arms folded and unfolded.
Folded up it can easily slip into a coat pocket or bag. The camera can take 13 megapixel photos and video at 1080 FHD.
The DOBBY can be launched from and landed on the palm of your hand. We have done both successfully and still have all our fingers. However, launching from a flat, smooth surface is our recommendation.
The DOBBY does not have a stand alone controller; it uses a smartphone app. The app offers three “control modes” for flying your drone: Motion sense, Sticks, and Safe sticks. That would be two too many in our opinion. In our flights, we used “Sticks,” because the other two did not work. Motion sense is designed to allow you to tilt your phone to direct its flight; but tilting an iPhone5 did not affect flight. We could not figure out how Smart Sticks was intended to work. Sticks, which emulates the standard controller set up (e.g. drone elevation with left stick, drone direction with right stick) worked fine.
The DOBBY uses GPS+GLONASS Dual Satellite for outdoor positioning and sonar + Optical Flow for indoor positioning. it has 2.4GHz/5GHz Dual Band Wi-Fi and withstands wind speeds of up to 28km/h (that’s approximately 17 mph for the metric deficient among us).
ZEROTECH touts that the DOBBY can also be flown indoors. You can in fact do this. However, “indoors” should be taken to mean a venue like, say, a gymnasium, and not your house where there are other objects such as lamps, plants, and relatively low ceilings. We do not recommend you fly this indoors. As with any drone, the preferred environment for flying is one that is wide open with no nearby objects of any kind such as trees, chairs, telephone wires, chandeliers, etc. And don’t fly over anyone who does not want to be a subject of your photograph. If you doubt us, give this Mashable article a read.
With regard to the ability to withstand wind gusts . . . be careful. The DOBBY’s key feature is its small size, and this results in trade offs. One is propeller size. Smaller propellers result is less stability. In our experience, the DOBBY was not especially stable when hovering. It tended to drift slightly. On one occasion, a slight breeze blew it behind us into the side of the house before falling to the ground and breaking a propeller. We ordered a new propeller, replaced it (you’ll need to have a magnifying glass on hand – seriously) and were back in business. This reinforces the recommendation that you should be a healthy distance away from any interfering object or structure. The specs note that hovering accuracy is:
- Vertical：+/-0.1 meters(During normal operation with optical flow positioning); +/-0.5 meters (Outdoors）
- Horizontal：+/- 0.3 metres(During normal operation with optical flow positioning);+/- 1.0 meters(Outdoors)
(You can find the complete specs here.)
The other trade off that comes with such a compact size is battery life. The specs state a battery life of ~9 minutes, but that was rarely the case. We went from 100% to 12% in 6.5 mins. Note that battery life if a function of use. If you are shooting video while flying, that will put more of a drain on the battery, and it will run down more quickly.
In playing with the DOBBY over the last three weeks, we encountered a couple of issues. There are frequent updates to the firmware. We updated on at least 4 occasions. This is a fairly straightforward process, but, consequently, the Quick Start guide and other online docs and tutorials become outdated. More problematic was having the compass go wonky. We received the following error message prior to a flight:
“Compass error, please contact the customer service”
We emailed customer service (there is no phone number), and after a few days received a reply suggesting we re-calibrate the compass. After several attempts, this addressed the problem.
After you become familiar with the drone and the software, you will be able to take a quick selfie shot in a matter of minutes and the quality is good.
The app includes the ability to post directly to Facebook and has “follow me” functionality. Here is a sample video illustrating the DOBBY’s tracking capability.