Walkera Voyager 3 Quadcopter Drone – Walkera Sunshine
Sorry about the split infinitive in the title there, but you can’t name your product the “Voyager” without me sticking in a Star Trek pun. That’s low hanging fruit right there, my friend.
In any case, the Voyager 3 is a direct competitor to the DJI Inspire drones. It even apes the “transforming” design that shifts the rotor booms out of the way so that the gimbal can have a full view of everything.
Is it as good? Well, I intend to find out. The answer to that question could be quite important, given that the Voyager is significantly cheaper than the Inspire. It’s not a foregone conclusion either, as Walkera has been in the quadcopter game for a long time too. They may not have the mainstream reputation that DJI does, but they are definitely contenders in this match.
What do you get in the ready-to-fly package? Well, you get the drone, the camera equipment, gimbal, battery, charger, and transmitter.
The transmitter is worth highlighting straight away, I think, since it doesn’t use your tablet or phone as a live video monitor. Instead there is a 5” monitor built right into the unit, with a sunshade.
This is great for a couple of reasons. First of all, it removes one hidden cost from camera drone ownership. Sure, we all have a tablet and/or smartphone these days, but not needing one to use a drone is actually a very cool feature. Tablet and smartphone screens are pretty much unreadable in sunlight, as well, so the built-in sunshade is a godsend. Since the use of a mobile device is not required, it makes the cost of ownership for the Voyager 3 even cheaper compared to the Inspire.
There’s a big caveat here though. The transmission range of the remote is only about a mile (a little less actually), and that’s far less than the capability of Inspire’s equipment.
Boom! Another Star Trek joke. I’m on a roll now!
Seriously though, I like the bulky look of the Voyager 3. I really do. I can’t help but think that it looks more primitive and less refined than DJI’s Inspire. The Voyager looks fat in comparison; it’s not just an illusion either. With the battery on-board, the Walkera drone is 20% heavier than the Inspire.
Still, I think the Voyager 3 looks cool and definitely looks expensive – just not as good as the DJI offering.
Back of the Box
The most important specifications for this drone is probably its claimed flight time. At 25 minutes it has the 18-minute time of the Inspire soundly beat. Neither of those times might sound like much, but even the longest continuous scenes would never hit those numbers. Still, as always, it’s wise to buy several batteries since it takes quite a while to charge them up. It should also be noted that the Voyager uses two 3000mAh batteries as opposed to the single 6000mAh battery in the Inspire. That may affect the battery-buying equation somewhat.
Flight of the Navigator
The Voyager, like the Inspire, has dual positioning systems using both GPS and GLONASS; if one signal is weak the other can serve as backup. The included software allows for a few autonomous functions. You can also control the drone using nothing but an app with on-screen touch controls, although I personally would not recommend it.
Lights. Camera. Action!
So the real question is whether the camera is any good. In the end these expensive fliers are meant to provide professional footage; they are built around that function. The Zenmuse cameras in the Inspire 1 and the Inspire Pro have fantastic footage you can easily see for yourself on YouTube. The DHJ gimbal also provides exceptionally stable motion.
I have found it hard to find good third-party footage of the Voyager online, but what I have seen doesn’t really impress me versus the Zenmuse X3 DJI Inspire footage that’s readily available from independent sources. On paper the cameras are in the same league, but to my eye the Zenmuse is clearly the winner.
There is a lot to like about the Voyager 3; the most obvious thing being its price. Walkera is a name I trust in the world of quadcopters and I have little doubt that the Voyager 3 is a quality product. Buyer reviews seem to bear that out too, in general. The fact that you don’t need to use a smartphone or tablet also widens the cost gap between this and DJI’s offering.
The bottom line is that, in my view, the Inspire is a truly “pro” camera drone while the Voyager 3 feels like it uncomfortably sits between the high-end enthusiast and professional segments. If movie-making is your game, perhaps the Zenmuse-equipped Inspire is a better choice.
However, if you want to get into the business of aerial photography and non-cinematic video, then why not save a few hundred bones and go with the Walkera? It’s a compelling, affordable, and complete package. Two thumbs up from me.