Weight: 8.8 oz / 249 g
Dimensions: 3.5×5.6×2.3 in / 88x143x58 mm folded / 8.3×6.0x2.3 in / 210x152x58 mm unfolded
Battery: 2330 mAh / up to 32 minutes flight time
Charger type: USB-C cable / Mains powered Fast Charging Hub
Modes: Video, Normal, Sport
Video transmission range: 3.7 miles / 6 km
Video resolution: 4K, 2.7K, 1080p
Frame rates: 4K up to 30FPS, 2.7K up to 30 fps, 1080p up to 60FPS
Potensic has taken a new approach with its drones in the past year or so with the release of the Atom SE in 2022. This drone marked a turning point for the company in terms of design and features and quickly inserted the Atom SE into the list of the best beginner drones available. It remains a great drone, but taking features and functionality even further, the latest model, the Potensic Atom offers a 3-axis mechanical gimbal alongside manual camera control and additional feature improvements.
The Potensic Atom, like most drones in a similar price bracket, doesn’t offer Collision Avoidance so you have to take care when flying close to obstacles. But despite the absence of this feature, the Atom provides impressive subject-tracking functionality. If you’re wondering what this is, it’s simply automated flight patterns, such as following a predefined moving subject or orbiting it, while capturing video.
These features are just the tip of the iceberg for what we can confidently say is one of the best non-DJI beginner drones available. The Atom is available in two kits, which we’ll cover in more detail later. But in terms of cost, the Standard kit which comes with everything you need to get started including one battery costs $299 / £279, while the more comprehensive Fly More Bundle which includes three batteries and other useful accessories costs just $399 / £379.
Potensic Atom: Design
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- Sub-249 g drone with a folding design
- Interesting and effective controller design
- Easy-to-use smartphone app
Thanks to a folding design that takes the Atom from a compact size of 3.5×5.6×2.3 in / 88x143x58 mm to 8.3×6.0x2.3 in / 210x152x58 mm unfolded, with a weight of just 8.8 oz / 249 g, the Atom is a highly portable model. It’s a small light grey drone that looks a little like DJI Mini 2 drones and offers a similar flight experience overall.
Flight times are advertised at up to 32 minutes and during testing, flights were averaging around 25 minutes before Return to Home was automatically initiated by the drone when the battery level reached 16%, so it was not too far off. Return to Home can be cancelled to continue to fly in this situation, but you have to take care when doing this because you need to ensure that you have enough power to get the drone back.
The Atom is a surprisingly powerful drone for its size and weight, offering up to level 5 wind resistance, which is up to 24 mph. During testing, it was flown in gusts of around 21 mph, and despite the battery running low faster, the Atom did perform well and couldn’t be faulted. When the Atom was flown to higher altitudes where the wind levels were higher than at ground level, the Potensic Pro app warned of high winds and suggested an altitude reduction.
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The Potensic Pro app is the latest app for communicating with Potensic drones and provides an intuitive user interface that’s easy to navigate whether you’re an absolute beginner or a more experienced pilot. There’s also a beginner mode which restricts the flight distance and altitude, which is perfect for absolute beginners getting used to flying a drone before switching the mode off to enjoy greater altitudes and distances with the drone.
The controller is quite different from those produced by other drone manufacturers; it extends lengthways to accommodate the phone between the two handgrips. The largest size smartphone the controller can hold is around the size of a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, which is the model used for testing. The controller is simply laid out with a Return to Home button, gimbal control, video record button, a shutter button for photos and the two control sticks that can be removed for storage and stowed away at the bottom of the controller.
Potensic Atom: Functionality
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- Quickshots flight patterns
- Upgraded GPS positioning
- Improved subject tracking
The Atom flies well thanks to responsive controls that make it easy to frame shots, whether capturing photos or videos with three flight modes – Video, Normal and Sport. These provide different flight speeds for a variety of shooting situations. The only criticism in this area is that when the gimbal is pointing straight down at the ground, pitching the drone forwards or backwards, or rolling it left or right can make the gimbal tilt the camera up slightly so it has to be repositioned. It’s not a major issue despite being a little inconvenient and is a quirk that will hopefully be ironed out in a future firmware update.
Alongside the flight modes, there are also Quickshots, which are automated flight patterns that allow you to capture cinematic video at the touch of a button. These include Pull-away, Rocket, Circle, Spiral, and Boomerang; the names are fairly self-explanatory of what the drone will do. These all work well, but with no Collision Avoidance available, you have to be sure that there are no nearby obstacles that the Atom could crash into. Then there are subject tracking modes that use an algorithm to identify and track subjects, and the feature works exceptionally well with some control over parameters.
In terms of safety and performance features, the Atom offers more precise GPS positioning than the Atom SE thanks to its connection to GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou satellites. This provides a steady hover where the drone maintains position well, and thanks to an upgrade to Potensic PixSync 3.0 transmission technology, video transmission is advertised at up to 3.7 miles / 6km with a solid connection within the legal distance limits. There’s also Return to Home that can be initiated manually using the button on the controller or activated automatically when the battery reaches around 16% charge.
Potensic Atom: Performance
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- 12MP photos in Raw and JPEG
- Up to 4K 30 fps video
- 3-axis mechanical gimbal
Image quality from the Atom is a little mixed, with video coming out superior to photos. Videos are perfectly sharp, but photos are only acceptably sharp with bright parts of the frame looking a little hazy. There’s also a slight vignette in photos, which is easy enough to remove in photo editing software such as Adobe Lightroom, but hopefully, these issues can be fixed with a firmware update; it’s likely that they could because the video quality is so much better and shows what the camera is capable of.
One of the main new camera features, alongside manual control of settings for both photos and videos, is the 3-axis mechanical gimbal; this provides smooth footage during flights thanks to the full stabilization, so when the drone is turned during flight there’s no tilt in the video like with the Atom SE, which uses a 2-axis gimbal combined with Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS).
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The gimbal provides a tilt range of +20 to -90 degrees, so the camera can be pointed upwards slightly as well as straight down at the ground. The tilt is also nice and smooth so you can confidently vertically pan the camera while capturing video for more dynamic footage. Some similarly priced beginner drones provide quite a rough gimbal tilt, which means that you can’t move it during video capture unless you don’t mind shaking in your videos.
The camera features a 12MP 1/3-inch Sony CMOS sensor with a fixed focus, f/2.2 lens that provides a 78-degree field of view. The Atom can capture photos in both JPEG and Raw formats, in a 16:9 ratio, so you can choose the format that works best for you. Video can be captured in 4K up to 30FPS, 2.7K up to 30FPS and 1080p up to 60FPS in the H.264 codec, but there are unfortunately no ND filters available for controlling shutter speed.
Potensic Atom: Cost
The Atom was released in September 2023 and is available in two attractively priced kits. The standard kit costs $299 / £279 and includes the drone, a remote controller, one battery, four pairs of spare propellers, eight spare screws, a gimbal protector, a screwdriver, a USB-C charging cable and three smartphone adapter cables (Micro-USB, USB-C and a Lightning connector) to connect the controller to a smartphone running the Potensic Pro app.
The Fly More Bundle is much better value and provides some incredibly useful additional accessories. This kit costs $399 / £379 and includes all of the above alongside two additional batteries, a three battery Fast Charging Hub with a power adaptor, four extra pairs of spare propellers, eight additional propeller screws and a carry bag. One battery is never enough, so the Fly More Bundle makes more sense considering the minor increase in cost. What’s more, the Fast Charging Hub allows you to charge three batteries in just 1.5 hours.
Should you buy the Potensic Atom?
The Atom is one of, if not the best non-DJI beginner drone available. Plus, it’s slightly less expensive than DJI’s Mini 2 SE which tops out at 2.7K video capture while the Atom can shoot up to 4K. These facts alone make it a highly competitive option for beginners who are not only on a tight budget but are also hoping to enjoy a great set of features for the price.
In a nutshell, the Potensic Atom is the best drone you can buy for less than $400 / £400. One point to mention here is that the Atom is best suited to beginners and enthusiasts, while professional and advanced drone pilots will naturally require a higher-spec drone to take advantage of a more powerful and comprehensive feature set.
If the Potensic Atom isn’t for you
Even if you’re a beginner, you may feel more confident flying with a more expensive drone that offers Collision Avoidance. Collision Avoidance is a feature where sensors on the drone identify obstacles and when the drone is close to these, it can often be set to brake or bypass the obstacle to avoid a collision. If you’d like a drone with this and many other advanced features, consider the DJI Mini 4 Pro.
Sub-250 g drones are small, lightweight and have smaller and less powerful motors than larger models. What does this mean? Less power and a light weight mean that smaller drones often struggle to fly in stronger winds, so if you’d like to fly safely in stronger winds consider the DJI Air 3 which is a mid-size folding drone with a dual camera.