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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chapter 4: Your First Quadcopter Drone

Some hobbyists recommend  for your first quadcopter that you build your own.  Others swear by and recommend top of the line drones for your first quad.  Not me.  If you have little to no RC experience, either of these recommendations can be a very costly and dangerous mistake. 

Not a good way to learn how to fly.  Also, this guy was arrested.

Very low-cost, yet well-performing quadcopters are now available. Some of these quadcopters actually cost less than simulator software.  Nothing beats actual flight experience. Thus I consider them a much better alternative to learning the basics of flight than a simulator program,     or a DJI Phantom.

Yes you will crash, it's inevitable. Consider that if you're planning on building your own, or shelling out $500 on a basic DJI Phantom setup. Yes, you may also possibly break your quadcopter in the process. But this is the another reason that I recommend learning to fly using an inexpensive toy quadcopter. They are much lighter, and as such don't have much momentum when hitting the ground. Thus toy quadcopters can be very durable. By crashing you learn what to avoid doing (for example, never allow your quadcopter to fly between you and the sun).

Although durable, toy quadcopters can still break. Replacement parts are widely available, and are very inexpensive for these cheap quads. Repairs are also very easy with details of the most commonly needed repairs featured in the below video. By conducting these repairs yourself, you'll learn more about the details of your quadcopter and how it works.



The following quadcopters are presented as in my opinion, I feel they are the most appropriate for beginners to learn from. All have six-axis stabilization, making them very forgiving flyers for beginners.  If you get into trouble, and your quad is headed to the ground, just let go of the pitch controller and apply some throttle.  A six-axis quadcopter will immediately go into hover.  Although there are cheaper three axis quadcopter available, I would not recommend them is as they are not so forgiving.

If you're mostly interested in aerial video then you may want to consider either the WLToys V262 or V222 as your first quad.

The V262 is a large and powerful quadcopter, capable of lifting a GoPro Hero 3, or any of the other current mini DVR camera (I use a Mobius action camera). It has very cool and bright LEDS (as do all WLToys quadcopters), making this a great night flyer (your neighbors might be calling MUFON). It comes ready to fly at a cost of about $91. You will need to supply your own camera, and rig it to your quadcopter. I personally just tape a Mobius Action Cam to the canopy. Speaking of the canopy, as soon as you become semi-proficient in avoiding crashes, remove that heavy training canopy that it comes with to improve performance of this quad.  Also note that this quadcopter will require occasional maintenance and replacement of its brushed motors. But these motors are relatively inexpensive at under $4.



Example V262 flight video with Mobius Action Camera


Another great video quadcopter to consider is the WLToys V222. This also comes ready to fly out of the box (but you supply AA batteries for the transmitter), and includes its own built-in video camera and a 2GB memory card. The video resolution is 640 by 480 resolution at 60 frames per second. Although the video is not HD, it can still produce pretty good results, example included below. The camera can be remote controlled from the transmitter to turn the video on and off, and also take still snapshots. What's impressive is that this all comes at a price of about $68!



Example flight video from my V222 using its own camera     


If aerial video is not important, then please consider the following six-axis quadcopter, the WLToys V212 Quadcopter. It is essentially a V222 without the video camera. It's a very forgiving flyer in low rate, yet very agile at its higher rates. It's perfect for beginners and experts alike. Excellent flyer outdoors or in.  It also has lights for night flying (after you get plenty of experience).  It's ready to fly out of the box for around $45.


and  here is my V212 in flight


Worried about breaking your quadcopter? Do you really want an indoor flyer that can withstand impact to objects and the ground? Then maybe consider the HCW 553 or the UDI 816a.  These are both China's answer to the Air Hogs Helix X4, but at less than half the price : ) These quadcopters include a protective barrier around the propellers. Now you can crash into your walls or your cat with little consequences. But as you get proficient, and notice crashing less often, consider removing the barrier for enhanced performance (especially outdoors in the wind). They're both very affordable quadcopters, each under $40. The 553 is a 3 axis quad, but has 5 rate settings making it very agile. The 816a is a six axis quad, but with only two rate setting. But it's high rate setting is more than sufficient for advanced flying (Hint, I recommend the 816a for beginners, and the 553 for intermediate and above).







By the way, the U816A comes with both its protective "training wheels" canopy, but also comes with a much lighter outdoor canopy. This GREATLY enhances performance of this quadcopter, making it great for both beginners and advanced alike. Had a hard time packing this back in its original case as my brother's Christmas present.




35 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the info.
    Quick question though is the v222 also something for starters?
    Oh and next to this your link for the v222 is missing an W so it doesn't load the page.

    Regards,
    Valentijn

    PS
    Sorry for any grammar or spelling mistakes its not my native language (I'm dutch ;) )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the V222 is an excellent beginners quadcopter. As it has six axis stabilization it is very forgiving and easy to fly. Also thank you for informing me of the problem with the link. The problem has been corrected.

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    2. Well my V222 arrived today and I must confess I also bought a Parrot AR.drone V2 but after only flown it once I already prefer the V222 over the Parrot drone. It is extremly easy to start with (especially indoors haven't tried it outside yet. Thanks for the blog cause it most definitely helped with starting exercises and choice of copter.

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  2. Thanks for all the great info! I am learning to fly the U818a and want to get quadcopter for my brother so we can fly them together. Will their transmitters interfere with one another? I was thinking about getting him a v222

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    Replies
    1. No it shouldn't be a problem. The V222 is a great little quad. I still fly mine regularly. Please check the Aerial Video section of my YouTube channel (click here) for examples.

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  3. comparing the v222 and v262 whats better for windy conditions?

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    Replies
    1. Noah, sorry that I couldn't respond sooner. The V222 and V262 both respond well and similarly in the wind. But for beginners (sorry for my assumption if wrong), I always recommend the V222 over the V262. The V222 is smaller and has much less momentum in crashes. In other words, it's less likely to break in those inevitable crashes which all beginners must experience :)

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  4. I tried logging in with my wordpress account, it told me I didn't own the account!! :)

    This is a great site. On another site I read that I should break in the brushed motors on my new V262 by running them at the lowest rpm I can without liftoff until I hear them level out without surging. Is this necessary or recommended?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes very much so. It is important to do such to wear in the motor's brushes.

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  5. I am thinking about buying a V666 FPV. Is that a good choice for cheap FPV flying and filming, or do you recommend anything else?

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    Replies
    1. the v666 is a really good quad, but I would be careful, as when it crashes it summons satan.

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  6. UDI 817A versus the WL Toys V262.
    Which one do you enjoy flying the most?
    Which one is the better quality one?
    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Please keep in mind that this article was written over a year ago. There's been great advances since that time. Recommend viewing the following video as it provides reviews of the current three front runners that I recommend for beginners.
      JJRC H8C
      Syma X5C-1
      CG022

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    2. I have some experience with Quads. I still need pointers and the marked for R.T.F. quads is growing fast. The above suggestions are at this time almost 1/2 a year old. Have your opinions changed at all or are they still in line with the above?
      Valentijn PolderMay 14, 2014 at 9:28 AM posted an experience similar to mine in that we both started with parrot drones and found them to be fun but not what we want.
      For me the Parrot AR 2.0 is way to laggie and has a range that is just sad! The 30 US Dollar jjrc jj-1000A that I have is vastly superior for fun and range both in and out doors. The FPV flight the Parrot offered IMO a false illusion of potential fun and potential mischief to be had, as the FAA regulations about line of sight flight for hobbyist makes it illegal.
      In the end …
      Might you have any suggestions for 1. Range over 100M, 2. Built in video or can handle the weight of key chain dvr type recorder, 3. Flight time of more than 10 min.
      Thank you in advance for any help you might be able to provide.

      Delete
    3. I have some experience with Quads. I still need pointers and the marked for R.T.F. quads is growing fast. The above suggestions are at this time almost 1/2 a year old. Have your opinions changed at all or are they still in line with the above?
      Valentijn PolderMay 14, 2014 at 9:28 AM posted an experience similar to mine in that we both started with parrot drones and found them to be fun but not what we want.
      For me the Parrot AR 2.0 is way to laggie and has a range that is just sad! The 30 US Dollar jjrc jj-1000A that I have is vastly superior for fun and range both in and out doors. The FPV flight the Parrot offered IMO a false illusion of potential fun and potential mischief to be had, as the FAA regulations about line of sight flight for hobbyist makes it illegal.
      In the end …
      Might you have any suggestions for 1. Range over 100M, 2. Built in video or can handle the weight of key chain dvr type recorder, 3. Flight time of more than 10 min.
      Thank you in advance for any help you might be able to provide.

      Delete
    4. Yes, this article is badly dated, and it is difficult to keep up as this hobby changes from month to month. But regarding your quadcopter specifications, have you seen the new YiZhan Tarantula X6? Click here to see video reviews of the Tarantula.



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  7. I am learning on the Syma X5C-1, its a great quad, just don't take it out in windy conditions (over 10 MPH)

    ReplyDelete
  8. My UDI 817a quadcopter flew great for a week, but now does not lift up beyond 2 or 3ft. What could be going wrong? Battery voltage seems to be good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Slowly turn each propeller by hand, feeling for any unusual resistance. If you find one propeller more difficult to turn than the others, closely examine its gears for any dirt or sand stuck between the gear teeth. Dislodge this dirt with an old toothbrush or pin.

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    2. Thanks. One of the propellers rotates very freely. Others are also OK, I didn't feel any resistance. Anyways I cleaned them all with a brush, but problem still persists :(

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  9. What would you recommend now for beginners?
    Syma X5SC
    WL Toys V959
    Tarantula X6
    WL Toys V636
    or other model?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Is the UDI 818A HD better than the Syma x5c-1. Please answer because I can't choose between the two.

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  11. i like the way The UDI 816a Quadcopter looks an flies around smooth.. i thought it was a big one until he picked it up at the end.. and its a quiet flyer... iam now thiking about getting one

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  12. At this point in time what would you recommend that is under $200?
    I have looking at the Syma X8G and the UDU818A-1, but am open to any recommendations, thanks.

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  13. What is headless mode?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You choose a direction to be forward and that will be forward on your controller even if you turn your quad around.

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  14. Hi...i am a huge fan and have looked at most of your videos and decided to buy the wltoys v686k as my first quad. Unfortunately the wifi camera interferes with the transmitter and messes up the signal. I do not wish to pay $50-60 almost the price for a new quad on the fpv system plus as beginner i realise i won't be using it. What i would like your help with... I decided to buy a standard camera but can you tell me if the WLToys Part V262-33 Camera for V262 Cyclone Quadcopter can work with the V686? is the quality good? I really would appreciate your response. Thanks

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  15. I have an mjx x600 that Flys up for 3 seconds then flashes an drops and an x800 that jus won't come off the ground although it sounds like the engines are putting alot of power down

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  16. I have a JXD510G. I got it out of the box did the gyro initialising and binding. It does not hover at all and is very erratic ! Is the another way to initialise the gyros?

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  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. This may be a duplicate post? If so, sorry. Could you give us a more current list of quads that you'd recommend for newbies? I have the Syma X11...indoors...and am finding your videos and posts most useful! Thanks for your dedication!

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  19. My up and down is inverted how do i correct

    ReplyDelete