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Potensic Atom SE Drone Review

The Potensic Atom SE is an ultra-light, foldable, pocket-sized drone, modeled in the style of a DJI Mini 2 or Mini 3. However, at a fraction of the cost of the big-name rival, it’s a very desirable entry-level drone .

Droneblog Verdict

The Potensic Atom SE is an excellent entry-level drone with intelligent flight features and ease of use that make this an appealing drone for beginners.

The relatively low price point makes it accessible, with the trade-off of limited camera stabilization and control, and no obstacle avoidance.

✅ Pros

  • High quality for the price
  • Sub-250g drone
  • Easy to use for beginners
  • Intelligent flight modes for ease of use

❌ Cons

  • Overly sensitive controls
  • Limited camera controls and performance
  • Hover stability is unreliable, especially in windy conditions
  • No collision avoidance sensors
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Atom SE design and functionality

The Atom SE has folded dimensions of just 3.5 x 5.6 x 2.3 inches / 88 x 143 x 58mm (w x l x h), small enough to easily slide into a jacket pocket.

The unfolded dimensions are 8.3 x 6 x 2.3 inches / 210 x 152 x 58mm, excluding propellers.

The weight of 8.8oz / 0.55lbs / 245g, including everything you need to have on board to fly (propellers, a battery and a microSD card) means this drone is under the weight required for hobbyist registration.

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03/08/2024 01:16 am GMT

Batteries weigh 3.6oz / 0.22lbs / 103g and provide up to 31 minutes of flight in ideal conditions. I got a comfortable 25 minutes of flight out of the drone before it initiated a return to home with 13% of battery power remaining.

The drone is surprisingly well-built for its price, offering great value for money. Not only that, the flight features are easy to use and the drone itself is very easy to fly, even for zero-experience beginners.

It feels well made and durable to the touch, and even after touching down in some tall grass, the propellers seemed unphased.

No crashes to date, but it seems this drone could stand up to a bit of wear and tear.

The camera is what you might call basic. While it is capable of taking decent photos (in both JPEG and RAW), the gimbal controls are limited and the stabilization isn’t stellar.

For these reasons, you’re going to be limited in terms of high-quality video.

The controller is a unique design that extends to hold a smart device in between the two joysticks. A notch makes space for the cord plug to connect to the device.

My only complaint with this layout is that I had to let go of the controller with one hand to reach to touch controls on the screen – it was too far away to stretch a thumb over while still holding on.

The kit comes with a variety of cords designed to connect to any smart device out there, whether Apple or Android.

The controller feels solid and comfortable to hold and holds a charge well, even when charging the phone while connected.

A small thing really, but it made me feel less in control than I wanted to be.

The Fly more combo, which I got to test out, includes an extra battery and a carrying case. The extra battery is handy of course to extend flying time.

The batteries themselves are small and lightweight and easy to charge with the included USB-C cable. It’s nice to not need a dedicated charger for anywhere, on-the-go charging.

The carrying case is water-repellent and sturdy, with an adjustable, padded shoulder strap and enough pockets and compartments to keep everything neatly tucked away.

How to set up the Atom SE before the first flight

  1. Before my first flight, I made sure to have everything charged up: the controller and both batteries.
  2. The next step was to download and install the PotensicPro app (available on the App Store and Google Play store).
  3. Find the correct cable to connect your smart device to the controller.
  4. Turn on the controller. The app will then guide you through all of the downloads, updates and calibrations that need to be performed.

Note: It’s helpful to do all these things at home before going out to fly to make sure you have a good internet signal for the downloads, etc.

Familiarize yourself with the app interface and adjust settings as needed.

Check RTH altitude, and limits on flight height and distance. These are automatically limited to 98 ft. in beginner mode.

If it’s your first flight, it’s a good idea to keep these as they are. You can always turn off beginner mode once you’ve gotten the hang of things.

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Flight performance

Launching the drone uses the standard procedure of pulling both sticks down and center simultaneously to arm the propellers. Then push the throttle up to take off.

The first time I put the drone up, I was surprised at how it bobbed around for a minute or two, apparently trying to figure out its location.

It did not go straight to a steady hover, but rocked around within the space of several feet before locking into a somewhat steadier stance.

I was also surprised by the responsiveness of the sticks; I would even say over-responsiveness. The drone seemed to jerk around at the least input, although this can be adjusted slightly in the settings.

More about the hover.

Unlike a DJI Mini 2 or 3 that will hover almost perfectly still, the Atom SE wandered around within a foot or two of its position. It also drifted in the yaw (heading) orientation one way or another.

A few very light gusts of wind blew it about even more than that. This is not a drone that can stand up against windy conditions.

And although this is a beginner drone, that lack of rock-steady hover could be a little bit disconcerting.

Not to say that it’s a bad thing for a beginner drone pilot to need to develop the skill of fine-tuning the controls to stay in position!

Putting the drone through its paces, I did feel that there were a few times, especially just after launch, that the drone was scooting around on its own, outside of my input.

Other than those few moments, the drone handled pretty much as I thought it ought to.

The drone is default set to beginner mode, but this can be switched off when you’re ready. Other speed settings include:

  1. Video
  2. Normal
  3. Sport

Video mode slows everything way down for smoother video, and normal and sport do precisely as you might imagine.

I enjoyed testing out the intelligent flight modes, including follow-me, waypoints, and circle flight.

The circle flight mode performed quite well and kept the camera oriented more or less toward the center of the circle.

The waypoints mode worked well, and this is a nice feature that similar level drones lack.

My only complaint in this department is that the map was very blurry and hard to pin-point the locations to drop the waypoints. But this could have been due to the phone signal and not any fault of the drone’s.

The follow-me mode seemed to challenge the drone a bit, even though I did nothing more complicated than jog around in a large circle. It didn’t seem to maintain an even distance, and the camera didn’t orient as quickly as it should have.

The return-to-home feature is enabled by GPS, so be sure to have GPS signals locked in before taking off if you want to rely on this to get your drone back.

The return to home is not super precise. In the 4-5 times I landed the drone in the test flights, the return to home brought the drone to anywhere from 3 yards to 2 feet of the take-off location.

You also have the option of manually adjusting the drone’s position with the sticks while it is automatically landing, which helps a lot in getting a more precise landing.

You’ll almost certainly have to do this if you want to land back on your launch pad and avoid trimming the grass with your propellers.

Another thing to be aware of with the Atom SE is the lack of obstacle avoidance sensors. This is standard with a drone of this size and price, but it does mean that beginners especially should be sure to fly in areas with few obstacles.

The flight range is limited to 2.5 miles, and while this is much less than you might get than with, say the Mini 3, it’s more than enough to get the drone beyond your visual line of sight, which is a no-no with FAA drone regulations.

If you’re staying within line of sight, you can take the Atom SE plenty far enough away without losing connection with the controller.

Camera performance

The camera on the Atom SE is a 12MP Sony CMOS sensor. It provides a 118-degree field of view and can be tilted vertically from +20 to -90 degrees.

There is no lateral gimbal control, and the only way to turn the camera left or right is through the yaw control on the drone.

As I noted above the stick controls are quite touchy, and this can impact the smoothness of the video as the drone bumps around with the controls.

The image stabilization is electronic, and does a decent job of minimizing video shake, but the lack of true gimbal comes into play with the horizon steadiness.

The three flight modes offer some measure of improvement here. Namely, the video mode (cinema mode) slows down the drone’s movements and steadies the responsiveness somewhat.

The other two modes prioritize speed, so are not ideal for video.

Video can be shot in 4K at 30fps, 2.7K at 30fps and 1080p at up to 60fps with a maximum bitrate of 40Mbps. Photos can be captured in both JPEG and RAW in a 16:9 ratio rather than 4:3.

There are no options to manually set ISO, white balance or shutter speed.

All camera settings (except exposure compensation) are fully automatic.

While this is perfect for a beginner who may be more interested in mastering flight basics than in mastering advanced photography techniques, it is a serious limiting factor.

The RAW photo capture is an interesting option that’s not available in a lot of similar level drones.

It certainly opens up the creative options, although if serious drone photography is your goal, this might not be the drone to land on, considering its other camera limitations.

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03/07/2024 02:21 pm GMT

Who should buy this drone?

The Potensic Atom SE is a great choice for beginners on a budget.

At almost half the price of the DJI Mini 3, it’s not surprising that you get a slightly underwhelming camera and limited intelligent flight features, not to mention no obstacle avoidance.

For a hobbyist wanting to break into the world of flight, the Potensic Atom SE provides a great alternative that will provide quality and performance that will be hard to beat at the price point.

It’s probably not for you if you’re a serious photographer though, even if you’re a beginner when it comes to drones.

The lack of camera settings and the lack of 3-axis gimbal will seriously limit your photo and video quality.

This would also be a great choice as a travel drone, for someone who would like a cheaper alternative to take along on your travels without having to worry about getting lost or damaged, as much as you might for a more expensive drone.

The compact size and sub-250 g weight also lend themselves to travel, especially as it falls under less restrictive regulations in most countries.

I really enjoyed buzzing around with the Potensic Atom SE, and even see it as a great starter drone for my older kids.

Potensic ATOM SE
$299.99 $229.99

Atom se drone weighs less than 249g, no need for FAA & Remote ID registration.

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03/06/2024 04:02 pm GMT

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