DJI has been the industry leader in consumer and prosumer drones for years. Yet, on DJI’s heals is drone manufacturer, Autel Robotics.
Like DJI, Autel has a foldable drone model to fit most needs. I’ve been using a combination of DJI and Autel drones for personal and commercial client work for a few years.
In this article, we’ll be going into a deep dive, reviewing the Autel Evo Lite+’s hardware, software, and what to expect as a hobbyist, enthusiast, or professional.
To provide some transparency, I no longer fly drones recreationally, as I do not have the time. Whenever my drones come out of their rugged and waterproof cases, it’s for a commercial job.
With that said, I am specifically flying the Evo Lite+, at this time, both recreationally and commercially, making a point to focus on the strengths and possible weaknesses of the drone from both of these perspectives.
This review will be more of a practical, hands-on review, leaving out a lot of complicated spec talk and geared for those looking for a real-world usage review.
Evo Lite+ Pricing
Currently, the Evo Lite+ is a direct head-to-head rival of the DJI Air 2S.
Whereas the Air 2S only has one level (meaning the Air 2S only comes with one version of the camera – no Pro, Lite, or Standard version), the Autel Evo Lite has a plus model and a standard version, dubbed the Evo Lite, with a less spec’d out camera.
We’ll be talking more about the Lite+’s camera later on.
The pricing and corresponding packages for the Evo Lite+, in USD, are currently as follows:
- Autel Robotics Evo Lite+ Drone (Standard Package): $1,549.00
- Autel Robotics Evo Lite+ Premium Bundle: $1,849.00
I am currently using the Premium Bundle.
1'' CMOS Sensor with 6K HDR Camera, No Geo-Fencing, 3-Axis Gimbal, 3-Way Obstacle Avoidance, 40Min Flight Time, 7.4 Miles Transmission, Lite Plus More Combo.
As a business that uses drones a fair bit, having the extra batteries the Premium Bundle includes is a major plus in my book, as additional batteries would need to be purchased had they not been included.
Even if the Evo Lite+ is not being flown commercially, I always suggest new drone owners, regardless of the drone manufacturer, get the Premium (Autel) or Fly More (DJI) bundles initially, as the additional batteries will come in handy.
I have to say this, and I’ll mention it later in the review, the single batteries on the Evo Lite+ are fantastic. Again, more on this later.
3930mAh 40min Flight Time, Replacement Battery for Autel EVO Lite/Lite+ Drone (Orange).
What’s Included in the Premium Bundle
Autel was not kidding when they called this the Premium Bundle. There are so many high-quality items included:
- Autel Evo Lite+ Drone
- Remote Control
- Power Adaptor
- Battery Multi Charger
- 3 Flight Batteries
- Set of ND Filters (4/8/16/32)
- 5 Pairs of Propellers
- RC Charging Cable
- Lightning, Micro-USB, and USB-C Cables
- Shoulder Bag
Being a stickler for quality, I took extra note of all of the items as I took them out of the shoulder bag they are packed in.
Every item felt well made, not cheap or flimsy by any means.
Further along in the article, I will be speaking specifically of the build quality of some of the items.
Is the Premium Bundle Worth it?
This is a great question and is subject to what drone owners are looking to accomplish.
As was mentioned, the standard bundle with one battery goes for about $1,550.00 (as of this article’s writing). 2 Lite/Lite+ batteries are going for $160/each.
1 pair of props sells for $12. The ND filter set? $90. Lastly, the shoulder bag runs for $80.
For just the 2 batteries, ND filter set, and shoulder bag, we are already at $490.
Purchasing a standard model, then buying these items separately will run close to $2,050 when it is all said and done.
If you only want 2 additional batteries and have no need for a shoulder bag or ND filter set, then maybe the Premium Bundle is not necessary.
If you are a person that takes lots of video footage on the go, having the ND set and bag is recommended.
The Premium Bundle Bag
When I acquire a new drone, I generally, as a rule of thumb, order a waterproof hard case for it, regardless of the drone model.
Working on different job sites and in different environments makes this a necessity.
With the Lite+, I have no such hard case. Initially, I used the included Premium Bundle Shoulder Bag.
I then most recently used a photographer’s backpack for a client job where the Lite+ was playing the backup role.
What I can definitely say about the shoulder bag is that it was well thought out by Autel. Everything, and I mean everything, that is included with the drone fits in the bag.
The bag has a place for every item, with room to spare. I’ve even kept my cellphone, business cards, and cellphone portable charger in the bag with no issues.
All of the space in the world, however, wouldn’t amount to anything if the bag itself was not constructed well, which it is.
The bag is well-made and sturdy with heavy-duty zippers.
When going in and out of the bag I never feared the zipper pull-tabs breaking off or the zipper coming off track.
When out and about, having a reliable bag is a must.
ND Filters (4,8,16, and 32)
For anyone that is serious about shooting video, it is essential to have an ND filter set that covers, at the very least, ND 4,8,16, and 32.
What exactly do ND filters accomplish? ND filters are likened to sunglasses for your drone’s camera lens.
When shooting video, to achieve the correct motion blur that our eyes are accustomed to, you’d want to shoot double your framerate.
If you are shooting, say 4k at 24fps (frames per second), you’d want your shutter speed to be double this or 1/50th of a second. For 30fps, you’d want to shoot at 1/60, 60fps 1/120, etc.
When shooting in bright conditions, it is difficult to achieve the correct shutter speed without dimming the light that comes into the camera’s sensor. This is where the filters come into play.
The brightness of the sun’s light determines which filter you’d use.
I live in Florida and shoot a lot of Gulf Coast beach footage, with bright white sand. Having ND filters is essential.
Because of how bright it is here, I normally have to shoot at 4k 60fps with at least an ND32.
With the Evo Lite+, because it has a variable aperture, it is possible to shoot in these conditions without having to purchase a higher strength filter (i.e. ND64) or even with such a high shutter speed.
ND Build Quality
With all of this said, the ND filters that come with the Lite+ are really well made, seeming to be made of metal.
I also really like the design language Autel uses with their lens housing in general. Instead of a push/clip motion that DJI uses, Autel uses a screw-on method.
I find that Autel’s screw-on ND filters are easier to get on and off (for me), all the while minimizing stress on the gimbal while installing and removing the filters.
With push/clip filters, I always feel like I am going to damage the gimbal by fiddling too much.
Although not as expensive as, say, Polar Pro ND filter sets, the filter set included in the Premium Bundle are, again, very well made and have none of the weird color casts that less expensive filter sets are known for.
This Autel Robotics EVO Lite Plus accessory ND Filters Set includes: ND4 (2-Stops)*1, ND8 (3-stops)*1, ND16 (4-stops)*1, ND32 (5-stops)*1, Protective Case*1. These ND filters help reduce light entering the camera lens allowing for more adjustments and control over the exposure of your images.
3 Battery Charging Hub
When it comes to multi-battery hubs, I always have a slight love/hate relationship with them. Either they are too big, too small, don’t charge enough batteries, or are awkwardly shaped.
What I like
The batteries on the Lite+ are fairly large. Because of this, the multi-charging hub has to compensate for the battery’s size.
The hub is large but fairly flat, with non-slip feet on the four corners.
This design allows the hub to be pretty inconspicuous and fit in most places, including the shoulder bag (when disconnected from the AC adapter).
The batteries slide onto the top of the charging hub. For these types of batteries, this works well.
I have seen a review or two where the reviewers mentioned the batteries not “clipping onto the charger” as being problematic.
I don’t share these sentiments, as you normally wouldn’t be moving the hub around while the batteries charge. Also, the batteries don’t easily slide out of the hub, whether or not it is moving.
What I’d like to see
As an owner of the original Evo I, I really liked the multi-battery charging hub that housed four Evo I batteries.
I’m one who believes you can never have too many batteries when dealing with commercial shoots.
The multi-battery hub that comes with the Lite+ is by no means a negative. However, I would really love to see a 4 battery charging option.
With as long a flight time as the Lite+ has, per battery, having the option to charge 4 batteries would be outstanding.
Multi-Channel Charger for Autel Lite/Lite+ (Plus) Drone.
Evo Lite+ Remote Controller
So bear with me for a second. I’m a gamer. I’ve been one for decades and even built levels for Microsoft for many years, but I digress.
Anyway, as a gamer, I have become accustomed to the newer controllers (i.e. Xbox One) and love how they feel.
Autel nailed the ergonomics of the Evo Lite/Lite+ controller.
The Evo Lite controller has a similar design as the Xbox One controller and is very comfortable to handle. The sticks have the right amount of resistance, and the buttons press and click confidently.
Although this new controller does not have the LED screen the original Evo I and Evo II have, this new design, in my opinion, makes up for the lack of display.
One major complaint I had about each of those previous models of RC was the small rabbit ear antennas. They were very delicate and moved around quite a bit.
Autel has since ditched the external rabbit ear antennas on this controller in favor of an integrated system.
The antenna is built into the retractable device mount that rises from the top of the remote controller. This mount accommodates smartphones and special brackets (available online from various manufacturers) to hold larger devices.
I appreciate this feature, as there are two fewer failure points to be concerned with (the 2 antennas).
While I do really like the new RC, there are a few aspects of the remote controller I’d love to see improved.
- The retractable device mount slides up and down very easily. There is not much internal resistance or spring-loaded action.
I found when I used different smartphones with varying case materials, each phone behaved differently in the mount.
On my Samsung S20+, the case is hard plastic, and if I moved the remote a certain way, the phone would slide considerably.
On the other hand, when using my iPhone 13 Pro in a TPU-like case, the phone barely moved.
- There is nowhere to house the removable sticks.
I generally keep the sticks installed on my RCs, for quicker setup times. Not having a place to store the sticks isn’t an issue for me.
However, if you are one that likes to remove the sticks after each flight to minimize potential damage, there not being a spot on/in the RC to house the sticks once removed could be a slight inconvenience, as they’d need to be stored in a pants pocket, bag pocket, or loosely in a hard case.
The good thing is that there are solutions online that can be purchased to eliminate this concern.
- It would be nice to see the entire mount and antenna system retract flush into the remote controller.
The biggest advantage to this would be that the RC would take up a bit less room in a bag or even a hard case.
Of course, this does not hinder the operation of the controller one bit but would be a nice design modification.
- There is no flight characteristic/mode switch.
Meaning there is no switch to change from normal to stable to sport (aka Ludicrous) mode on the face of the controller.
What is good about the controller is that there is an FN (function) button that can be programmed to change the Lites flight modes on the fly.
Evo Lite+ Drone
The Lite+ looks a lot like its older brother, the Evo II. I have always liked the Evo II design. It looks serious and ready for an assignment.
Unlike the Evo II, the Evo Lite series comes in 3 colors:
- Classic Orange
- Deep Space Gray
- Artic White
Whereas I loved the high visibility of the Classic Orange on my Evo I, I really like the less attention-seeking Deep Space Gray color.
Having a choice of three colors is a welcomed addition and helps make the Evo Lite/Lite+ yours.
When I initially handled the Lite+, I was quietly surprised (and impressed) at how solid it felt. There is a fair bit of weight to the unit and zero play in any of the joints.
Each leg/arm opens with a firm thud.
The arms/legs are made of carbon fiber, as can be seen in the image above. These are very durable in feel and also lightweight.
Further inspection of the drone reveals 3-way obstacle avoidance systems: front, rear, and bottom sensors (more on this later).
Because of the type of commercial projects I shoot, I am always shooting downtown or in residential neighborhoods.
Because of this, drone noise levels are always a concern of mine. Many people hear a drone and come to investigate, whether out of curiosity or angst.
I’m happy to say that the propeller noise on the Lite+ is better than that of 2/3 of the drones I own and has not garnered any undue attention, if any.
One of the more exciting features of the mid-sized Lite+ series is the fantastic 1″ Camera Sensor.
The Evo Lite+ now joins the elite list of consumer and prosumer drones with large camera sensors, such as the DJI Phantom 4 Pro line, DJI Mavic 2 Pro and 3 lines, Autel’s own Evo II line, and the comparable mid-sized DJI Air 2S, to name a few.
1″ CMOS Camera Sensor
Having a 1″ CMOS Camera Sensor on a drone of this size is a pretty big deal.
The Evo Lite+ sensor size is the same size as found in many of the popular brands of professional mirrorless cameras manufactured by Canon, Sony, and Nikon, to name a few.
The Lite+ can shoot 20MP JPEG or DNG (RAW) images individually, or you can choose to shoot JPEG and DNG simultaneously.
The Lite+ being able to shoot such high-quality images in RAW format on a large 1″ sensor is especially important to professional photographers.
This is because the large sensor enables one to take photos with an increased dynamic range while keeping the ISO as low as possible (ideally ISO 100), thus minimizing image noise.
Below are just a few photos taken with the Lite+ in various lighting conditions, ranging from super bright to sunset.
Another welcomed addition to the spectacular Lite+ camera is the adjustable aperture.
Whereas many drone cameras have fixed apertures (around the f2.8 range, give or take), the Lite+ aperture adjusts from f2.8 to f11.
Without going through an extremely technical discussion on aperture, the aperture is used to control how much light enters the camera’s sensor and can also be used to adjust the depth of field as well.
The larger the aperture opening, in the case of the Lite+’s f2.8, the more light gets in and the brighter the image will be.
The smaller the aperture opening (i.e. f1), the less light gets in, resulting in a darker image.
Having an adjustable aperture completes the exposure triangle, which is so important when not only getting the proper exposure for taking pictures but also in capturing video footage.
To learn more about the exposure triangle, please see our article: Drone Photography: Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started.
The currently available photo modes are as follows:
- Single – single shooting mode.
- HDR – High dynamic range photos, comprised of 3 shots taken at different exposure values, then stacked within the Sky app to create photos with high dynamic range.
- Night – shooting mode enhanced for nighttime photography.
- Panorama – perfect for getting a wide view of land or cityscape.
- Timer – time-lapse shooting.
- AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) – takes a series of shots at varying exposures for you to later stack and merge in photo editing software.
- Burst – enables you to rapidly shoot a series of pictures in quick succession.
For many drone enthusiasts, shooting video footage is as important as taking photos. I personally shoot 50% Photos and 50% Videos.
As with the still photos produced with this camera, I was equally impressed with the video capabilities.
The Lite+ sports 5.4k video up to 30 fps with 4k supporting speeds up to 60fps.
Being able to shoot in 5k is especially nice for those, like me, that do a fair bit of video editing and like to zoom in during video post-production.
Something that I would like to see improved upon, but might not be an issue to many, is that while the Lite+ can absolutely shoot video in the Log Profile (a flatter color profile, good for color grading), you can only do so in Auto.
Again, for many, this is fine, as there is less to think about.
However, as someone who shoots everything in manual (photos and video), I would like to be able to completely adjust ISO, Aperture, and Shutter in Log, so as to fine-tune the video to how I shoot for clients.
One of the great things, though, about the Lite+ is that auto mode actually works well!
With many drones, when choosing Auto, the video is just ok. With the Lite+ when shooting in auto, everything looks good, even in the bright Florida sun we have here.
The Lite+ does a great job at exposing everything well, from the shadows to the highlights. Of course, much of this depends on the consistency of the shooting environment.
If shooting in super bright conditions, then it suddenly goes ultra cloudy, the Lite+ will fight a little with adjusting to the new white balance and changing light conditions.
In short, video on the Lite+ is really good, and I’d use the footage for many of the commercial jobs I have.
Evo Lite+ Flight Experience
Out of the box, with no adjustments, the Lite+ was very easy to fly. Anyone with a current drone can pick it up and fly right away.
If you are new to drones and looking to get a Lite+, likewise, it should be fairly easy to pick up and fly.
While I had no initial strong feelings (like or dislikes) about the flight characteristics of the Lite+ when I first took it out to fly, my flight experience got better and better as I began to adjust the EXP values associated with the sticks movement (forward, backward, yaw, etc.).
To those not aware, the EXP values control dialing back or increasing the responsiveness of the control sticks.
With these values individually adjusted for how I fly when in Normal, Sport, or Stable mode, I enjoyed flying the drone even more!
Personally, I do like the ascent and descent speeds to be a bit faster than they are on the Lite+.
The reason is that in Florida, we have a lot of predatory birds, whether along waterways or just in neighborhoods.
Because of these birds, it is oftentimes necessary to ascend really quickly so as to get out of their attack pattern or line of sight.
Birds (no matter how fast they move) cannot ascend 90 degrees straight up. So this is a tried and tested way to avoid them. Getting up there faster is better.
On the flip side, descending quickly is necessary due to helicopters being so prevalent.
I fly a lot in downtown Orlando and near many tourist spots. Because Orlando is such a tourist hot spot, helicopter tours can buzz by your location all day long, at really low altitudes.
Being able to descend quickly to give the right of way to these manned aircraft is essential.
I am not saying the ascent and descent speeds are slow, by any means. I just would personally prefer them to be faster.
Lately, Geofencing has been a super hot topic in the drone world.
Many drone enthusiasts feel that after spending thousands of dollars on a drone, they should be able to decide where, how, and when to fly their drones.
In short, geofencing is the process of restricting a drone from entering various airspace or geographical zones.
The Geofenced zone is pretty much an invisible fence of sorts, meant to keep drones out of areas deemed as protected or hazardous to airline operations. This is built into many manufacturers’ drones.
Currently, in the US, the Lite+ does not have any Geofencing built in. I personally appreciate this feature, and I’ll explain why.
Years prior to this review, I had a client job that was within a certain class of airspace. As an FAA Certified Drone Operator, I had the proper airport authorizations and approvals.
However, the drone I was flying then would not allow me to unlock it to fly, even with the unlock procedures being performed in its flight app.
Because I could not unlock the drone to get the needed footage, we lost that client. I immediately went out and purchased an Autel drone and have had them in our fleet ever since.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was flying another manufacturer’s drone for a commercial shoot in the vicinity of the Disney NFZ (no-fly zone).
On one side of the street, things went well, and I got all the footage I needed.
When I went to the other side of the street and tried to relaunch, I received a warning about the NFZ, and the drone would not spin up whatsoever.
Mind you, this was near the NFZ but not actually in it. I was more than a 1/4 mile from it.
I shut that drone off, took out the Lite+, and continued with the job.
If you are looking for a capable drone that is not hindered by Geofencing, the Lite+ definitely does the job.
Just remember to fly safely and follow the FAA’s guidelines and authorization procedures when flying in manned airspace.
I am and have always been an individual that turns off all sensors on my drones. This is because I fly in a variety of tight spaces where flying with sensors on will prevent me from getting many of these shots.
But, for those that do use sensors in flight, the Lite+ has forward-facing, rear-facing, and downward sensors.
When enabled, these can be useful in avoiding a crash when performing some of the intelligent video modes.
When I turned the sensors on for quick testing purposes, they worked quite well.
The sensors stopped the drone from colliding with a variety of test objects such as walls, telephone poles, trees, and tree branches, and the forward sensors even detected hard-to-see power lines.
This is a huge area for many. I know for myself that each drone I own has at least four batteries. This is because I need maximum battery life when on my shoots.
The Evo Lite+ has an advertised battery life of 40+ minutes, which is pretty insane.
Of course, though, the average person most likely will not get this expected time in the air, as there are various flight conditions that affect the battery life.
I will say that as someone who has their low battery warning set to about 30% on all drones, I was easily getting 30 or so minutes before I landed, which to me is unheard of.
None of my other drones stay in the air this long.
It got to the point that on my last long day of flying, I quit flying before the 3rd battery was even near the 50% mark.
The batteries seem to last and last, especially compared to various drone manufacturers’ batteries on the market.
3930mAh 40min Flight Time, Replacement Battery for Autel EVO Lite/Lite+ Drone (Orange).
When most people think of connectivity, they are thinking about how far a drone will fly before disconnecting from the remote controller.
In this regard, the Lite+ is rated to have a max flight distance of about 7.4 miles. This is on par with quite a few of the newer drones that have been released in the past year/year and a half.
Even though most drone operators wouldn’t fly out 7+ miles, it is nice to know that the drone is capable of some distance before transmission cuts out.
Now, when I look at connectivity, I am thinking about how strong the signal is between the drone and remote controller, not necessarily how far the drone can fly.
This is because I fly in a lot of urban and downtown areas where signal interference can wreak havoc when trying to get the needed client shot.
If the connection were weak on the Lite+, I’d be concerned about flying in such a populated and signal congested location. Thankfully it is not.
I am happy to say that the Lite+ has a very strong signal and a crystal clear downlink to the controller and smartphone, ensuring you will get the shot, even in heavy wifi areas.
The Evo Lite+ is a great drone, whether you are new to flying, a seasoned hobbyist, or an image professional.
As it stands, the Lite+ sits squarely between the DJI Air 2S and the DJI Mavic 3. Pricewise it is also in the middle of these two.
With its impressive photo and video specs, the Lite+ is the ideal drone for those looking to “do more” with their drones.
Couple the specs with the fact that the Lite+ has no Geofencing in the US, and you have a capable drone that will get you in and out of any location while still being able to capture great photos and videos.