We love to find fun drones out there, even if from manufacturers that are more focused on, say, camera rigs than on avionics. FreeFly Systems is one such manufacturer, they build high-end camera gimbals, some hand-held gimbals and, of course, a drone.
Admittedly, a FreeFly drone is an expensive thing that few of us will purchase to fly at home. However, as far as a large and versatile camera rig goes, we have a serious contender on our hands.
What really sets FreeFly drones apart from most other machines on the market is their size. These are folding drones, but their folding size is still larger than some ‘big’ camera drones like the DJI Inspire 2. You can decide if that is a good thing or not for your needs.
Capacity is the name of the game, the Alta 8 is rated to get 40 lbs off the ground, that gives you about 26 lbs of payload. The puny Alta 6 only gives you 15 lbs of payload. If you are a DJI fan, the Matrice 600 Pro lifts about 13 lbs.
Finally, like few other flying machines on the market today, both FreeFly Alta drones can suspend the camera below or mount on top to shoot video upward. Of course, as a high-end camera rig company, the drones are designed to utilize some of the more portable gimbal systems from their extensive line.
Drone legal and safety: Don’t forget to get licensed and follow the rules of the sky
FreeFly Alta 6
The smaller of the two, the Alta 6 is a hexacopter that measures over 44 inches across ready to fly. There is enough juice in the motors to pickup 15 lbs from the ground. No compromises were made in terms of flight capabilities, you can expect all the best of GPS enabled flight, with return to home modes and more.
Depending on your battery configuration and final payload, the Alta 6 is rated to be airborne for as little as 10 minutes, all the way up to 45 minutes if you fly empty.
Folded down, the Alta 6 measures almost 22 inches across, so you’ll need a decent sized backpack to haul this thing around for fun. Of course, there is a price tag to these drones that may deter you from hauling it around on a whim.
The FreeFly Alta 6 is $12,000.00 for the base flight package. You’ll still need a camera and gimbal after that.
FreeFly Alta 8
Honestly, the Alta 8 is little more than the larger machine in the Alta line. Packing 8 propellers and enjoying improved capacity is another story, but otherwise the six and eight are near identical for features.
Measuring 26 inches across… Oh, sorry, that’s the folded size, the Alta 8 is a whopping 52 inches across without the props, about 60-inches when ready to fly. That’s machine enough to grab about 20 lbs of camera and hit the sky. Enjoying, of course, all the best drone connectivity that you would expect of a precision drone.
Flight time is slightly less impressive than the smaller machine, the Alta 8 will get from about 8 minutes with the weakest batteries and full load, up to about 34 minutes with no load at all.
The FreeFly Alta 8 is $17,500.00 with the tidbits you need to fly. Accessories and a camera are additional.
FreeFly Alta X
You may have wanted to call this the Alta 4, as the FreeFly Alta X is a powerful quadcopter offering in this line of big drones. Despite having a smaller propeller count, the Alta X is a larger drone. In fact, you must be careful not to break the FAA’s 55lbs weight restriction rule, as the maximum take-off weight with payload is almost 77 lbs. You could break the law by flying this drone fully loaded. Don’t worry too much, as the machine has an empty weight of about 20 lbs, and your camera should be less than that, so you’d really have to load it up to get to 55 lbs.
The Alta X measures 2,273mm across, that’s almost 90-inches. Flight time is determined by your payload, expect up to 50 minutes without attaching anything, or haul the maximum 35lbs to drop to 11 minutes. We expect your payload and flight time should be somewhere in between those numbers.
The FreeFly Alta X has a base price of $15,995, but you should budget at least $18,000 to also get some core accessories, extra batteries, a controller, and payload-specific landing gear.
Important note: FreeFly focuses on building to order, you can find the machines through Amazon, but you should mostly expect a few weeks delivery time when you place your order.
FreeFly Alta drones wrap-up
The two machines that FreeFly offers today are impressive drones. We always enjoy seeing them on the show floor of events like CES, the NAB Show and InterDrone. Perhaps one day we will get to take the controller and put an Alta into the air.
We hope FreeFly will dabble in some consumer friendly drones in the future. We do like DJI, but we appreciate great competition in the market, and we think FreeFly is building a backbone for drones that are reliable, safe and highly functional.
Have you seen a FreeFly drone in action, or just on a shelf?
Frequently Asked Questions
How big are FreeFly drones?
For those of you that are accustomed to something like the DJI Mavic Pro, a FreeFly drone is going to feel huge. In fact, each propeller on a FreeFly drone is longer than your entire Mavic drone, and the cameras that these drone are made to carry are also larger than a Mavic drone as well. Measuring the diagonal, the Alta 8 is about 60-inches from corner to corner, including the propellers. Even when folded down for transport, the Alta 8 is 26-inches in length. With a maximum payload of 20 lbs, and a full maximum take-off weight of 40 lbs, these are not the sort of machines you just slap in your backpack and go for a hike with.
Should I buy a FreeFly drone?
If it is within your budget, and you have a powerful camera or other large payload that you’d like to put into the sky, yes, a FreeFly drone could be great for you. Keep in mind that the DJI Matrice 600 Pro is practically the same as the Alta 6, so you should weigh the pros and cons of each to see which is better for your specific needs.
Do I need a drone license to fly a FreeFly drone?
Yes. In the United States, and similarly in many other countries, you will need a license, and that licensing is determined by why you are flying, not what you are flying. If you are legitimately flying a FreeFly drone for fun, you need to acquire your TRUST Certificate, and if you will be compensated for the flight, or for any media you capture with the drone, then you need the Part 107 commercial certificate.