Drones are becoming a (relatively) more affordable way to add extra depth to your home videos by sending cameras up into the sky.
And while the likes of DJI and Parrot are crafting more portable drones with better stabilisation, the Hover Camera Passport offers something slightly different.
For starters, the rotors are encased in a carbon fibre frame that makes it much safer around people. It also folds in half to create a really portable package.
It connects to your phone through a private WiFi network and requires you to download the accompanying app to fly it.
Once you’re up and flying, the Hover Camera Passport can stay aloft for just shy of ten minutes.
In terms of range, it won’t match the likes of the DJI Mavic or recently-released Parrot Anafi – but that’s less the point of this device. You’re not going to send it soaring over landscapes for sun-drenched shots of the beach.
Instead, it’s more akin to a flying selfie stick. You want to send it up at a moment’s notice and point it towards you. It’s ideally suited to capturing a big group of people – at a wedding, for example.
Here’s how I got on with the Hover Camera Passport ( available from Smartech at Selfridges for £600 ) after a few days of use.
Design is undoubtedly the Hover Camera Passport’s biggest positive. Because the rotors are encased, you can launch it from your palm and, similarly, pluck it out of the air when you’re done filming.
The whole gadget is light at only 242g and comes with a spare battery and a carry case included. When it’s folded up, it’s roughly the size of a paperback novel.
Batteries snap onto the spine of the drone and the single light-up power switch lets you know when you’re good to go.
On the front of the drone is the camera, which will shoot video at 4K resolution and pictures at 13 megapixels.
Overall, the design is extremely well thought-out and makes this a less threatening drone than some of the larger models on the market.
Flying and Performance
The Hover Camera Passport isn’t for anyone who wants to take a drone out for the flying experience – it’s for someone who needs to snap a quick picture (preferably of themselves) from a vantage point.
The app comes with several pre-set flying modes such as birds-eye (where it circles around with the camera pointing inwards) or follow-me (where it uses facial recognition to trail behind or in front of you). It’s good to get used to these as I’ve always found using the touchscreen controls on a phone to pilot drones is harder than having a dedicated physical controller.
Like most drones, flying in high winds or bad weather isn’t possible. During my time with the Hover Camera I found it was pretty susceptible to being buffeted by a sudden crosswind. It wasn’t a problem I faced often though, because you can’t really fly the Hover Camera more than 65 feet (20 meters) away from you.
It doesn’t have on-board GPS, its top speed stands at 17mph and the flight time is only 10 minutes on a single charge.
But it’s not designed that way – it’s meant to do exactly what it says on the tin, which is to act as a hovering camera with a few nifty features like facial recognition (you take a picture of your face through the app) to make it autonomous.
Annoyingly, for something branded as a flying camera, I found the footage a little bit underwhelming. Although it can shoot in 4K, you’re limited to 30 frames-per-second. There’s also no gimbal – just a single-axis up/down movement and a bit of digital stabilisation added to the software.
That said, it does have a built-in flash. And for hoisting it up and taking a quick group picture at a barbecue or party, I don’t think there’s much of a better option.
If you’re looking for a bit of serious drone action, then the Hover Camera is probably not what you should be looking at.
Think about the kinds of scenarios you will want to capture. If it’s epic overhead shots of your hiking trail during an adventure holiday, then you’re going to want a more fully-featured drone that can stay up in the air longer.
But if you want a handy flying camera that you can put up in the back garden and have it automatically follow your kids around for five minutes to capture footage of them playing, then this is going to appeal to you.
With a £600 price tag , this is way above a casual purchase – and that price may well be offputting for some people. Drones are continuing to improve so it’s likely that prices will come down in the future.
Given that it has a very specific use-case, I found the Hover Camera Passport to be a fantastic little gadget. The strongest assets are its design, ease of use and portability. If you want to take your selfie game to the next level, then this is the drone you should be considering.