Moment Drone Review: Indoor selfie snapper struggles with a breeze
The capabilities of expensive drones are obvious by now: the DJI Mavic, for example, fits in a small bag, takes incredible footage and can be flown by almost anyone. But not everyone needs to fly a long way and take 4K footage. For some people, being able to fly indoors and take selfies is all that's required. That's where the Moment Drone comes in.
On paper, the Moment is made of the right stuff to succeed. It weighs just 400 g (0.88 lb) and folds in half for easier storage in the included hard case. The four rotors are housed behind a plastic cover, designed to make it safer to fly indoors – after all, exposed props are a recipe for damaged walls and sore heads. The battery in the middle of the unit promises 15 minutes of flight time.
Although it's compact, there are some big-ticket features built into the Moment. It has follow-me and return-home capability built in, both of which are useful for first-time flyers. There's no obstacle avoidance, but the cage around the propellors means hitting things is less of a worry. The camera uses software for a stabler shot – it isn't big enough for a proper mechanical system – and shoots 4K footage at 25 fps, or takes 12-MP stills.
Performance-wise it isn't going to win any awards: top speed is 18 km/h (11 mph), although the company says that figure is applicable in all sorts of different weather conditions. With a maximum transmission range of 100 m (328 ft) and a flight ceiling of 20 m (66 ft) above the pilot, it's only suited to in-close selfie work. With that said, it can be used at altitudes up to 4 km (13,123 ft), making it useful for mountain top shots.
Getting the drone ready to go is easy, even for a drone newbie like me. There's no controller in the box. Instead users need to download the Moment app from the Play Store or App Store, and connect their phone to the drone's wireless network. This was straightforward with the drone pairing quickly with my iPhone 6S Plus every time.
The app itself is easy to use. Having pressed connect on the home screen, users are taken to a control screen with large virtual joysticks for maneuvering the drone, buttons for the camera and options regarding the flight mode. There are three different modes on offer, starting with low- and ranging to high-sensitivity. There are also a range of camera modes, including single photo, panorama and video.
Although the claimed specs are impressive, real-world outdoor performance is less so. We tested the drone in a sheltered alleyway initially, keeping it below the line of buildings to try and protect it from the wind, but it was still incredibly difficult to get a stable shot. The drone was prone to wandering around of its of volition, drifting from side-to-side and hovering at strange angles. As you can see from the video we took outdoors, it's anything but stable in near-ideal conditions.
Things are slightly better indoors, where the wind (or gentle breeze, in our case) can't ruin its stability as much. We put the cages around its propellors through a serious test, crashing into walls and cabinets (all scientific, of course) without causing any major damage to either. It holds a hover better without any crosswinds to deal with, but there are still instances where you're just a passenger as it decides to go walkabout, and its response to controller inputs aren't fast enough to fight the constant wandering.
It's a bit like walking a boisterous puppy: although you're technically in control, it's always bolting off to pee on trees and smell the roses. That's an endearing characteristic in a floppy-eared pre-training puppy, but it's downright annoying in a drone.
And don't even get us started on the follow-me mode, which simply doesn't work. We tried in shady outdoor conditions, we tried well-lit indoor locations, but the system refused to track its subject. More work is needed from Moment on that one. We'll let you be the judge of the photo quality – we've included a few unedited images in our gallery – but it's passable for a drone of this size.
Right now, the Moment is available on Indiegogo, where it has raised 270 percent of its US$50,000 goal with 17 days remaining. Pledges start at $199, which secures you a drone, battery and charger. Deliveries are expected to start this month if all goes to plan. When it arrives in stores, pricing is expected to start at $349.
At pre-launch prices, the Moment makes sense. It's a fun toy, and will nab you some decent video or some cool selfies on Christmas afternoon. The bumpers are also a nice touch, for both professionals afraid of damaging their home or crash-prone newbies. But at full price, the drone is pushing toward DJI Spark territory – and we know where our money would be going if given the choice between the two.