The beginner drone market is constantly expanding, providing a balance with the more advanced models that are increasingly growing in cost. The Potensic Atom SE is the company’s latest flagship model and completely bucks the design trend of the Dreamer models that follow a more traditional drone aesthetic.
In terms of design, the Atom SE resembles the DJI Mavic Mini 2 where the front and rear propeller arms unfold for flight. Folded, the Atom SE is just 3.5 x 5.6 x 2.3 inches / 88 x 143 x 58mm (w x l x h), and even with unfolded dimensions of 8.3 x 6 x 2.3 inches / 210 x 152 x 58mm excluding propellers, it’s a small drone.
Combine this with a weight of 8.8oz / 0.55lbs / 245g (including propellers, a battery and a microSD card) and you have a highly portable model. Batteries weigh 3.6oz / 0.22lbs / 103g and are advertised to provide up to 31 minutes of flight; our testing was conducted in near freezing temperatures with wind, so flight times were shorter but still respectable despite these unfavorable conditions.
The controller features a unique design where the handgrips at each end extend outwards to accommodate even a large smartphone; reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. There’s a cavity to house the connection cable between the phone and the controller, and the control sticks can be stowed away at the bottom of the controller when not in use. The PotensicPro smartphone app for Android and iOS is easy to use.
The Atom SE is available in a Standard version, but the Fly More Combo comes with a handy carry bag and extra battery for not a great deal more, making it great value for money. Also included in the Fly More Combo are spare propellers, a screwdriver, spare propeller screws, smartphone cables and a USB-C cable for battery charging. The standard kit costs $250 / £250 (No AU$ price), while the Fly More Combo costs $300 / £300 / AU$xxx. The Atom SE is available now.
There’s unsurprisingly no collision avoidance so you have to take care when flying close to obstacles. Still, GPS positioning is provided by both GPS and Glonass satellites alongside flight features including Follow Me, Circle Flight and Points of Interest. These automated flight patterns work, but they’re certainly not as sophisticated and reliable as drones featuring collision avoidance. There are downward vision sensors and a ToF sensor for indoor flight, although flying a drone like this indoors isn’t recommended.
In terms of sharpness, image quality is good in the center of the frame with a fall-off in sharpness towards the edges alongside a visible vignette. And with control over exposure compensation only, for both photos and videos, all other camera settings are automatic. This is a shame because having control over ISO, white balance and shutter speed would be useful, and sometimes the camera sets ISO higher than you would manually. Noise is also an issue even at lower settings, so it would be great to see these issues addressed in future firmware updates.
Three flight modes offer different speeds for different situations: Video, Normal and Sport. And with a top speed of 35mph in Sport mode, the Atom SE is a fast drone despite its small size. Controls are sensitive, which makes the drone twitchy even in Video mode, so this is one thing that can hopefully be remedied with a future firmware update to allow for smoother and more precise flight control.
The camera provides a 118-degree field of view and houses a 12MP Sony CMOS sensor. The camera can be tilted vertically from +20 to -90 degrees, although, in reality, it doesn’t look straight down at the ground. Image stabilization is Electronic and successfully avoids shake in videos, but with no mechanical stabilization video is captured with an FPV-style locked gimbal. This also means that when flying in a side wind, the drone rolls into the wind and captures an unlevel horizon. 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.
Potensic Atom SE Sample Images
Low-cost beginner drone models often have limitations and the Potensic Atom SE certainly isn’t immune to this. Many of the issues could potentially be ironed out in future firmware updates, but putting camera control and the sensitivity of the drone controls aside, the Atom SE remains one of the best beginner drones available for the price. Not to mention, the Fly More Combo is a neat and easy-to-carry package that provides everything you need to get started with camera drones.
Potensic Atom SE Video Samples
With only Electronic Image Stabilization, the Atom SE captures FPV-style video footage.
Detail in 4K video is crisp and well exposed despite limited control over camera settings.
With no collision avoidance, care must be taken when flying close to obstacles.
Should I buy the Potensic Atom SE?
Buy it if...
You’re on a budget
Budget drones are getting better all the time and the Atom SE is one of the best budget drones currently available that’s a good option for beginners.
You would like a small and lightweight drone
Sub-250g category drones are extremely popular because they’re more regulator-friendly than larger and heavier models. Not to mention, they’re much more comfortable to carry.
You would like to capture FPV-style video
With no mechanical gimbal, the Atom SE captures FPV-style video footage where the roll (side-to-side tilt) of the drone and camera is captured but without the complexity of true FPV drones.
Don't buy it if...
You need fully stabilized video
With no mechanical gimbal, there’s only electronic image stabilization to reduce shake in FPV-style video footage, so if you require fully stabilized video this isn’t the drone model for you.
You require full camera control
Camera control is extremely limited to almost full auto with control for only exposure compensation, file type for photos and resolution for video. This could change with firmware updates, but it isn’t guaranteed.
You’re an experienced pilot
The Atom SE is a beginner drone with basic features and functionality despite having great build quality. If you’re an experienced pilot a more expensive and advanced drone would be more suitable.
How I tested the Potensic Atom SE
The Potensic Atom SE was tested over several days of flying in a range of locations, environments and weather conditions (excluding rain) to test flight performance, flight features, overall handling and image quality for both photo and video capture. All testing is conducted in a way that meets local aviation laws and restrictions to ensure that all flights are safe and legal.
Drones are always tested using manual flight patterns for video that are typical of professional aerial video to capture visually interesting footage. This also provides the opportunity to test variables such as the connection between the drone and controller, latency between the two and the accuracy of the controls and flight accuracy in general.
With nearly 30 years of photographic experience and 15 years working as a photography journalist, I’ve been covering drones in terms of shooting and editing techniques, alongside writing drone reviews for a number of years. As well as flying most consumer and prosumer models, I’ve previously held a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK, and now fly under an A2 CofC (A2 Certificate of Competency).
First reviewed December 2022