Size: 7.1 by 1.6 by 1.25 inches (folded)
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Flight time: 8 minutes per battery (2 included)
Charging time: 40 minutes
What would you get if you crossed a flashlight, a camera, a portable battery, and a drone? You’d get something like the Holy Stone HS161, a small, portable drone that combines all of these functions into one package about the size of a small spray can. A USB port on the back of the case can be used to charge your phone or another device, channeling the charge from the 1000 mAh battery that powers the drone. Flip a switch on the back of the drone body and the front LED turns on without enabling the rest of the drone. Press a button, and the camera on the front starts recording video. Fold out the arms, and it’s a drone.
It’s a neat idea, but as our Holy Stone HS161 review will reveal, it doesn’t do a great job of any of these tasks: it doesn’t have that much charging power, is a weak flashlight, and is a pretty poor camera compared to even a cheap cell phone. It isn’t even a great drone.
Holy Stone HS-Series HS161 Drone review: Price
The HS161 costs about $80 and comes with two batteries, a spare set of rotors, remote control, and a set of clip-on rotor blade protectors. Not included is a micro SD card, which is required to capture video on the drone itself.
Holy Stone HS-Series HS161 Drone review: Design
The HS161 in its folded-down state looks like a large TV remote, with the drone arms folded neatly inside the case. A number of buttons on the top of the case control the functions, turning the device on and capturing still and video images. A slider switch on the bottom of the case turns on the front light, a moderately bright LED.
Below this is the camera, which captures 1080P video and which can be tilted down by about 15 degrees. There is no stabilization or gimbal, though, so you can’t move it independently of the drone. When you fold the arms out, the rotors have a reach of about 7.8 inches, not including the clip-on rotor blade protectors that come with the drone.
The remote control is about the same size as the drone itself, with a fold-out holder for the cell phone that runs the Holy Stone app. The controls are Xbox-style, with two joysticks surrounded by a number of buttons for auto takeoff, landing, and other features.
The shoulder buttons control the speed of the drone and start the photo or video: click once for a photo and hold down to start recording the video. Unusually, the remote control uses a rechargeable battery, which is juiced up with the same mini USB cable as the drone batteries.
Holy Stone HS-Series HS161 Drone review: Performance
The HS161 is a slow, but simple to fly drone. When you press the start button, the motors fire up and a simple touch on the left control gets you up into the air. The drone hovered nicely on its own, staying in place while you get used to flying.
Unfortunately, the drone doesn’t get much more exciting than that. It is fairly fast to turn and move up and down, but it isn’t fast when moving forwards or backward, moving only at a brisk walking pace, Even with the speed mode increased the maximum, it did not speed up much, and it never wowed us with power or performance. It doesn’t include any flips or other tricks.
The camera on the front of the drone captures HD video that is decent, but not great quality. The video is fairly sharp and has good color, but it gets jittery when the drone maneuvers and you get a view of the two front rotor blades at the edge of the frame. While they all cost a good deal more, the cameras on our best drones page will offer much better image quality.
Holy Stone HS-Series HS161 Drone review: Battery life
The small 1000 mAh battery that powers the HS161 offers about 9 minutes of flight, and two batteries are included. These can be charged with the included mini USB cable, which plugs directly into the battery itself. Any generic mini USB cable can be used, so you can charge both at once. The same battery can be used to charge another device by inserting it into the drone, then plugging a cable into the full-size USB-A port at one end of the drone body. It only offers 1000 mAh of charge, though: even a $20 USB battery can hold five times as much charge.
Holy Stone HS-Series HS161 Drone review: Verdict
The HS161 is a fun idea that tries to combine a drone with other devices, but it ends up being a jack of all trades, master of none. It’s a decent enough drone that is simple to fly and which captures decent quality video, but it’s pretty much useless in the other functions. Among the best cheap drones, there are plenty of other options that may not do a lot of other things, but are at least better as drones.