Blackhawk 3 Pro review: the newest camera drone from an American-based drone company 

Looking for an American-made camera drone directed at consumers? Yes, meaning an American-made camera drone that costs less than $1,000? By some metrics, EXO Drones fits the bill with its new, Blackhawk 3 Pro drone.

Though EXO Drones has had close ties to Chinese drone maker Hubsan, it was recently acquired by American company OpenStore. And with that new OpenStore tie, EXO is promoting itself as an alternative to Chinese drones like DJI. (More on whether it’s fair to call it an American drone company later.) OpenStore paid $2.9 million in an all-cash offer to acquire EXO Drones in August 2022.

We’ll dig into this drone to see if it’s really worth its price tag, which is just shy of $1,000. We’ll analyze its specs (including its camera and other intelligent features). And, we’ll compare it to some of the closest competitors from other brands, including the DJI Mini 4 Pro.

But first, let’s address the biggest question likely on your mind: Is the EXO Blackhawk 3 Pro really made in America?

Can you really call this drone American-made?

The idea of a U.S.-based consumer drone company is certainly compelling given the long list of great reasons to purchase an American-made drone. But the reality is that the best camera drones are not made in the U.S., largely due to factors like weak manufacturing infrastructure and high cost of labor. Knowing all that.

So, does the Blackhawk 3 Pro make the list of the best camera drones made in the USA? Well, not yet. While EXO drones (owned by Miami-based OpenStore) designs and handles the fulfillment of the drones, they are still manufactured outside the U.S.

The Buy American Act

And your definition of ‘Buy American’ might vary widely. For example, under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)’s Buy American Act, a drone is considered ‘American’ if 65% of its parts in terms of cost value were made in the U.S. So, minor items like screws could certainly be made elsewhere, but the high-value stuff, like the processors and sensors, would generally have to be made domestically.

That’s a surprisingly-high threshold to even achieve. For example, not even the Freefly drones (which are designed, assembled and supported in Woodinville, Washington) meet the Buy American threshold. Freefly contracts out the manufacturing of components from a variety of non-restricted countries to keep costs low. But even there stuff isn’t cheap. The Freefly Astro Base Industrial drone comes in at nearly $30,000. Luckily, the Buy American Act requirements only apply to a very small subset of buyers, such as those purchasing drones using federal grants.

For many drone pilots and photographers, the desire to buy American is simply that. It’s a desire to support local businesses. Alas, EXO Drones might fit the bill. So with that, here’s what you need to know about the Blackhawk 3 Pro drone:

Blackhawk 3 Pro: what this drone is all about

The Blackhawk 3 Pro starts at $1,249 but is currently on sale for $949 on their website and only $849 on Amazon. Given the lower price tag, plus other potential benefits of shopping on Amazon like ultra-fast shipping, an additional 5% back with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card, and easy returns, shopping on Amazon is a no-brainer.

The No. 1 reason why the Blackhawk 3 Pro stands out is its impressive 53 minutes of flight time. This is one of the longest flight times you can achieve on any consumer drone. Among other highlights of the Blackhawk 3 Pro: 

  • 200 Mbps HDR 4K video quality
  • 9+ mile range 
  • 1/1.3 inch CMOS Sensor

Am impressive 53-minute flight time (almost)

When I initially opened up the Blackhawk Pro 3, I was surprised to see only one battery included in the kit. However, after reading through the specs, I realized, you don’t necessarily even need spare batteries. 

The Blackhawk 3 Pro has a 53-minute battery life, something you don’t see every day in the drone market. For instance, DJI’s latest consumer drone release, the DJI Mini 4 Pro has 34 minutes (or 45 minutes when you purchase an additional intelligent battery).  

When I took the Blackhawk 3 Pro out to fly, I was out flying, the drone got very close to reaching that 53 minutes of flight time. I was notified of a low battery after around 47 minutes, and personally, I never risk flying once I get that notification. 

However, it is worth noting, that the controller still had plenty of battery left when the drone was low battery. By purchasing an extra battery (for an additional $150), you could fly the Blackhawk 3 Pro for hours.

The lengthy flight time is quite impressive, but there are some definite trade-offs, in particular the battery size and weight. 

It’s almost double the size and weight of the DJI Mini 4 Pro’s battery. With the battery, the drone itself weighs 600g at take-off, compared to the Mini 4 Pro at 249 g. 

The weight of the drone is important not only because it makes it easier to transport but for legal reasons. Drones under 250 grams do not need to be registered with the FAA for recreational operations

Blackhawk 3 Pro camera and intelligent features 

To fly the Blackhawk 3 Pro, you’ll need to download the EXO app and connect your phone to the controller. The app and controller are both user-friendly. The drone also has an extended exploration feature allowing you to fly with a 9+ mile range on a single charge. 

The first few flights were smooth with a sharp 4K video quality. The 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor allows for rich coloring and natural lighting transitions. The video quality on the Blackhawk 3 Pro holds up to the best consumer camera drones in the market.  The Blackhawk 3 Pro also has a allowing for low-light captures. But while the camera quality is great, the flying quality? Not so much.

The Blackhawk 3 Pro promotes a range of Intelligent Flight Modes, like ‘Follow Me’, “Return to Home’ and GPS Routing.  But while some features like return to home, worked fine, others didn’t work at all. When I put the drone into Follow Me mode the drone seemed to malfunction and crashed into the grass. 

I tried this mode a few more times, but I was unable to get Follow Me mode to work. I continued flying without using the intelligent features, however, I quickly faced another obstacle when I received an error alert regarding my gimbal. 

The error notification repeated over and over again with a loud beeping noise. Fixing and recalibrating the gimbal was simple. However, it takes some time and the beeping and error message repeats loudly until the error is fixed. 

I tried to find a setting to turn off voice notifications or the volume, but I could not. Overall, the footage captured was clear and high quality, but the overall flying experience was rocky. 

The Blackhawk 3 Pro battery (left) vs. DJI Mini 3 battery (right)

Blackhawk 3 Pro vs. DJI Mini 4 Pro

In terms of price, the Blackhawk 3 Pro’s closest DJI drone competitor is the DJI Mini 4 Pro. The DJI Mini 4 Pro starts at $759. The DJI Mini 4 Pro is $90 cheaper than the Blackhawk 3 Pro. 

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two drones: 

Blackhawk 3 ProDJI Mini 4 Pro
Price $949$759
Takeoff Weight600g< 259 g 
Dimensions (folded)(L×W×H)118.7 x 172.5 x 67.6mm148×90×62 mm 
Max Flight Time53 minutes 34 minutes
Max Wind SpeedLevel 810.7 m/s
Obstacle SensorsDownward Omnidirectional
Image Sensor1/1.3-inch CMOS1/1.3-inch CMOS
Max Video Res4K/30fps4K/100fps

The Blackhawk 3 Pro’s most impressive feature remains the battery life, along with the maximum wind speed. Both drones have similar camera features. The Mini 4 Pro has slightly better video resolution. 

In almost every way, the DJI Mini 4 Pro wins. 

The DJI Mini 4 Pro also has omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, while the Blackhawk 3 Pro has downward avoidance. This makes the DJI Mini 4 Pro a considerably more safe drone than the Blackhawk 3 Pro. The Blackhawk 3 Pro has obstacle sensors located on the bottom of the drone. On the flip side, the Mini 4 has them in every direction. 

With the Mini 4 Pro, you’ll save money and have a safer drone.

The Drone Girl staffer Caroline Dobrez flies the DJI Mini 4 Pro.

Is the Blackhawk 3 Pro worth it?

The Blackhawk 3 Pro’s flying experience was not seamless. Especially relative to how easy it is to get DJI drones up in the air, this was frustrating. Particularly with follow-me mode, I even struggled to get it to work. Not only is that problematic on it’s own, but that doesn’t incite a lot of trust or confidence in other aspects of this drone’s flight.

If patronizing American companies is a priority for you, then certainly consider purchasing this drone.  Without outright naming DJI, EXO’s marketing tactics have leaned into the crowd of anti-DJI pilots.

“For more than a decade, there has been little technical competition in camera drones,” according to a statement on EXO’s page. “One brand with no competition means they can do whatever they want- and they do. High prices, non-existent support, and selling your private data to China.”

That’s all a clear jab at DJI, which has been met with concerns (particularly from government agencies) about data privacy. It’s gotten so brutal for DJI, that the company is on a government blacklist.

But EXO isn’t exactly made in America, given that manufacturing occurs overseas. Don’t buy this if your goal is buying a “made in America” drone.

Still, with EXO you’ll experience many of the perks of buying American, like supporting the local economy and having more reliable customer service. And while the flying experience may not be as smooth as DJI and other China-made competitors like Autel (it can actually be pretty bad at times), here’s the silver lining: You’ll hardly notice the difference in post-production in terms of video and photo quality. 

Purchase the Blackhawk 3 Pro drone on Amazon today for $849.

Purchase the Blackhawk 3 Pro drone directly from EXO.


  • Dennis Evers says:

    My first thought is, EXO has put you on their payroll. I own both brands. My EXO has clearly stamped in its frame, “Made in China’. They heavily advertise as an American company in such a way that the general consumer believes these are made right here in America. Their deceptive advertising is enough to turn me away. I am still on some EXO drone pages and more often than not, people are left in the dark with questions or issues to EXO. I have noticed DJI is often an immediate response.
    EXO was off to a good start when the 20 year old kid bought into Husban and then would have China custom make his own brand, EXO. But once he made his quick million he sold out and it seems to be down hill ever since, EXCEPT for their advertising, that they have gone all out on, impressive adds, but their service appears to be lacking.
    If the US gov bans DJI and Autel, there is no reason why EXO should be allowed to stay, in my opinion.

  • s4erka
    Sergii says:

    The article missing important aspect of EXO support quality. Thanks Dennis for shading a light on it.

  • Foxbat says:

    How can Exo claim they are NDAA Compliant, when they cannot control what tablet or phone you are using to connect to the controller? Even Parrot says that the Anafi USA is not compliant because they cannot control what tablet or phone you are using to operate the aircraft (However, the USA GOV is compliant).

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