- 2K Photography, 720p Video
- 18 minutes of flight time
- Return To Home(RTH)
- Auto Altitude Hold
- Real-Time FPV Transmission
- Built-in GPS
- Foldable propellers
- Stable in windy conditions
Selecting your first drone can be a daunting task, especially if you are new to the hobby. The market is flooded with all kinds of drones, and it can become a headache to select the one best suited for where you are in your hobby.
In this article, we are going to review a drone model that has been making quite some noise in the US & EU markets since its launch in 2017 – The Holy Stone HS100.
About Holy Stone
Holy Stone is a Chinese manufacturing company based in Shenzen. It was founded in 2014, and in this short period, they have proved themselves to be one of the key Chinese players in the low to medium range hobby drones.
Their main focus is on developing drones that are easy to operate so that more and more people can benefit from the hobby. In their words, ‘they want to enable everyone to be able to fly.’ Pretty neat. Right?
If you look at their product ranges, they are mostly focused on lower and middle range drone models except for a few high-end products in their catalog as well. For example, the HS720E which has a flight time of 46 minutes – among the highest in consumer drone categories.
They are a dynamic team of researchers and product engineers who have R&D partnerships with Japanese and US firms to make products that are not only of high quality but have the most cutting edge technology.
I see a lot of innovative products from them in the coming years and if someone can give DJI a run for its money, I believe its the Holy Stone.
Holy Stone HS100 Review
Holy Stone HS100 is easy to use and a beginner-friendly drone. It has a semi-large body that provides great wind resistance and helps with the stability of the drone during windy conditions.
The motors inside are not brushless, and this makes the drone a bit noisy. Also, brushed motors are more power-hungry and inefficient. It comes with a controller, propellers with guards, an SD card, and a pair of landing gears.
It comes pre-installed out of the box and you just have to install the propellers, camera, and landing gears on. The propellers and motor mounts are clearly marked to insert the correct CW or CCW propeller.
Let’s move on to some detailed items and feature-wise reviews.
Holly stone has put a lot of effort to produce a nice and sleek design even at this price. It comes with a matt black finished body and a white color band around the camera and motor mounts.
You can also see a Holy Stone branding on top, which is very minimalist and clean. At the bottom, you will also see LED lights on each arm that are really helpful while flying at night.
The body resembles the famous DJI Phantom closely. From the top view, its perfectly square with a 16.9 x 16.9-inch form. The ground’s height is around 7 inches, thanks to the landing gears that provide enough ground clearance for the camera.
Holy Stone HS100 weighs 750grams with the battery pack inserted and you are required to get it registered with the FAA.
The landing gears, propellers, and the camera come packed inside the box, which you have to assemble. The process is quite easy, which I will explain at the end of this article.
Battery, Flight Time & Range
Holy Stone HS100 uses a detachable 7.4v, 3500 mAh intelligent battery which is quite powerful to run the 4 brushed motors. It has LED indicators on the outside that can tell the current level of charge. It takes up to four hours to fully charge.
The flight time on a fully charged battery pack is 18 minutes according to the manufacturer but expect something around 15 minutes in real flight. The manufacture advertised flight time is based on perfect lab conditions, which are not very easy to meet in real life. Even a 15 min flight time is quite decent for a mid-range drone.
The Holy Stone HS100 has a range of 1968ft (600m) from the controller which is great. In most countries, you have to remain below a certain altitude level and within line of sight so this drone is perfect for that.
I took the drone to over 100m, and the stability was great and evident from the video feed. On windy days, you might face some shaky recording due to the absence of mechanical or digital stabilization, but it’s pretty stable on a calm day otherwise at high altitudes.
Don’t worry about losing your drone due to a low battery. The drone has a self-monitoring system that keeps an eye on the battery charge, and as soon as it hits a critically low level, it initiates the Return To Home function, which safely lands the drone at its take-off location before the battery completely depletes.
Let’s come to the hot topic – the Holy Stone HS100 camera quality.
The HS100 comes with a 2K camera for taking HD aerial images and record a 720p video. It has an impressive wide-angle FOV of 120°. The initial HS models used to come with 1080p camera sensors so this 2K is a great upgrade.
The images are pretty clear on a cloudy or semi-sunny day but on an unusually bright day, the images are a little white-balanced which might need some post-production correction in photoshop.
Although the camera is not the best in class, you can still take selfies and record great travel video shots from above. The video FPV is live-streamed to the connected smartphone and can be viewed using the Holy Stone App.
The drone also has a slot for a MicroSD storage card, so your videos are also stored onboard. This is especially useful in scenarios where you fly away from the FPV transmission range, and the feeds disconnect, but the video is still being saved to the onboard storage and can be viewed later.
The camera gimble can be adjusted even midflight via control buttons on the controller. The gimble can move through 90 degrees, which gives you great freedom for aerial shots. But as mentioned, the gimble lacks mechanical stabilization, so the videos are a bit shaky on a windy day.
Holy Stone App
The Holy Stone smartphone App is quite sophisticated and well designed. The App can be used in VR mode to view the FPV live stream in any supported headset, which is a great experience for some people. Apart from the live stream, the App displays all-important telemetry parameters like charge level, altitude, speed of the drone, etc.
Other important statuses like “waiting for GPS signals” or ” Transmitter not connected” are also displayed on the App which is quite helpful for people who are new to flying.
It’s a bit hard to find the App on App Store via direct search so an easy way is to scan the barcode on the official Holy Stone website that will redirect you to the App Store. To make it easy for you, I have attached the barcode below as well which you can scan using your smartphone.
Controller / Transmitter
The controller is very simple and easy to use, even if you are not an expert pilot. It has a rectangular form factor with a smartphone holder at the top and two extendable ‘legs’ at the bottom for easy handling.
The two standard joysticks are easy to handle with your thumbs. One joystick is for going forward/backward/left/right and the other is for up/down and rotation. You can configure these functions in two modes i-e Mode 1 & Mode 2 depending on your preference and previous habits.
The instructions to configure the modes are given in the instructions manual that comes with the drone (you can also download a PDF copy below).
The build quality of the controller doesn’t look cheap at all. In fact, the holy stone has got some inspirations from the newer DJI Mavic design and form factor to make it more compact and travel friendly. You can fold the extension arms, the two antennas, and the smartphone holder and easily carry it in your backpack.
As discussed before, the controller has a transmission range of up to 600 meters which is more than enough or even allowed in some countries. The FPV feed range however depends on your phone’s wifi range and is around 350 meters.
Holy Stone HS100 Review – Special Features
In this device, you have some important and very handy features which will make your life easy with this drone.
GPS Return to Home
The GPS-assisted RTH feature has become a basic function in high-end drones, but still, some basic models lack this feature. As it requires an onboard GPS, it might be absent in some cheaper models. Since the Holy Stone HS100 has a builtin GPS onboard, it also has implemented this very important feature as well.
What Return To Home (RTH) function does is pretty cool. It constantly monitors your drone for two scenarios:
- Has the battery hit a critical charge level with only enough charge to get back to where it took off?
- Has the drone lost its contact with the transmitter and is no longer in the pilot’s control?
If either of the above two scenarios is positive, either the battery is low, or the drone loses contact with the transmitter, the onboard computer initiates the RTH function which guides the drone back to the exact location from where it took off.
Pretty neat. Right?
I cannot tell you how helpful the RTH features are in every drone. It gives you the extra peace of mind when you are flying. You don’t need to worry about going low on battery and losing your precious drone. I have lost a few toy drones without the RTH function.
The RTH has another added use case – One Key RTH. You just push the home button on the transmitter, and that’s it. The drone will automatically start the RTH journey and land safely from where it took off.
I once lost my Mavic Pro in the white sky on a densely cloudy/foggy day, and the FPV feed was also blurred to the point that I had no idea where exactly the drone is. The RTH feature literally saved me, and I landed the Mavic without any manual effort.
Another plus feature of having a drone with a built-in GPS is the “follow me” feature. It basically locks to the drone camera on the phone’s GPS coordinates and follows you around wherever you go.
The “follow me” feature is particularly helpful while traveling or during sporting events (biking/skiing). You can set the drone in “follow me” mode and start peddling and the drone will follow you around making a perfectly stable video recording.
Altitude Hold (AltHold)
The drone’s altitude from the ground level is controlled by how fast or slow the propellers are spinning. While the pilot has a manual control on the thrusters (motors), it becomes inconvenient at times to keep a steady altitude.
The thrust produced by the rotating propellers also change due to environmental factors like a drop in air pressure, temperature, or humidity making it more difficult for pilots to keep the drone at a constant level.
The problem has been solved with a very simple solution – using the barometer inside the drone to measure air pressure and correlate it with the current altitude of the drone (air pressure decreases proportionally when you go higher).
This data is fed to the onboard flight controller that keeps the drone at the same level when the pilot relinquishes the manual control (release the thrust lever on the controller).
It’s simple but a great feature that allows you to enjoy your other aspects of flying without worrying about your drone crashing to the ground because you were too focused on making a perfect video.
The Holy Stone HS100 also has special flight features that can help new pilots fly without worrying about the relative orientation of the drone in the air. It’s called the headless mode. In headless mode, the drone always responds to your directional control inputs as if it is perfect aligned to you. Read more about headless mode on a drone in our recent blog post.
Holy Stone HS100 Review – Last Words
Holy Stone HS100 is a perfect drone for beginner and medium drone hobbyists alike. Holy Stone has packed many features in this budget drone, making it an ideal choice for those looking for some flying fun and decent aerial shots without going bankrupt.
The design is clean and minimalist, and the build quality is of good standards. The decent flight time of 18 minutes gives you ample time for aerial photography. Advance features like RTH, Follow Me, and AltHold makes it easier to fly without worry about losing or crashing your drone.
Overall, it’s a decent machine and if you can’t go for more expensive DJI or models, this is should be your next best choice.