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Drone Nodes is online communication platform that brings together experts in drone research, start-ups, business, and education from across the globe.

Best Drones for Christmas Gift Ideas 2018

The Christmas is approaching and it’s very possible that a loved one or friend has a drone on their wish list! However, there are so many models that it may be a little overwhelming to choose the right one – so we’ve taken the liberty of categorizing the available drones into a way you can find the best one depending on who you are buying for!

As a very young kid i loved flying aircrafts, helicopters and drones, I’m pretty sure every kid also likes these flying toys, but usually the word “drone” is associated with Dangerous Machines or Expensive Aircrafts, not enough people know about toy drones, that are cheap and safe to fly both - indoors and outdoors.

And they are perfect Christmas Gift!

Drones, can be used as learning tools. Some drones on our list need building and programming, this can teach you the basics of programming or building your own drones. Programming is often associated with writing algorithms and coding, but programming drones is usually Dragging And Dropping boxes.

For a beginner drone, there are a few important things, you would want the drone to have. Most people look for long flight time, short charge time and functions like Headless Mode, Return To Home. You can also look for a camera, more features like Auto Land/Takeoff , small size or controller type, it’s up to you! There are many more functions but i think these are the most important one.

kids drones for christmas

RTF Drone

For young adults

EACHINE E010

For beginners and kids around 10 years old. It is really cheap, about $15 but you can find it for $12 on chinese websites. It’s a small quadcopter that comes with everything ready to fly.

It has prop guards so its perfect for indoors and young pilots. Sadly it doesn’t have a camera but it has headless mode and One-Key Return. It uses a small 2,4Ghz controller, that matches the color of the drone, the range is about 30 meters (100 feet) - that's enough for indoors and small outdoor spaces. You can do 360 degrees flips by just one button on the controller!

The quadcopters size is around 9 x 9 cm (3,5 x 3,5 inches) - its small, light, fast and agile. Flies up to 5 minutes and uses a 150 mAh battery that charges around 30 minutes. It has blue and red led lights which look beautiful at night or in the evening! It’s great for a beginner or kid!

PROS:

  • Small, lightweight, fast
  • Comes with its own controller
  • Charges quite fast

CONS:

  • Only one battery included
  • No camera

Modular Drone

Modular Build Program

AIRBLOCK

A modular drone you build and program yourself! It comes in a few pieces and you can build what only you want! A quadcopter, hexacopter, hovercraft that can hover on water, a car and much.. much more!

You use your smartphone or tablet as controller and you can use the build in presets or code your moves using a interface very similar to scratch - drag and drop. It has about 20-30 meters (65-100 feet) range and it can be used in many ways. It is durable, when you crash you put it back together and go fly!

It can even race and battle against other Airblock vehicles so you can compete against your friends. It is suited for kids above 8. It flies about 6 minutes (depends how it is build). Comes with an 700mAh battery. It uses the Makeblock App that is available for Android and IOS, sadly it has no camera. It is a great pick for kids that want to learn to fly a drone, to program and code working machines!

PROS:

  • Teaches you programming, coding and piloting.
  • Very universal, it can be a drone, a car or whatever you want
  • The Makeblock app works for both - IOS and Android phones

CONS:

  • The range is low

RTF Drone

Recommended RTF Drone

CO Drone PRO

A mini drone you have to program yourself. Great gift for a young kid. There are free tutorial videos online (on youtube or the CoDrone website) which teach you the basics of coding.

You can make your drone fly in less than 10 minutes! The coding is based of the well known and popular arduino. As a controller you use your smartphone, the app is using Bluetooth (At least 4.0), the range is 20-30 meters (65-100 feet).

The drone is small and quite durable,it has propeller guards and it’s made of strong plastic. it flies about 8 minutes and charges 40 minutes. It has IR sensors, a gyroscope and a barometer. It weighs 37 g which is very light. You can buy Add-Ons like the Drive kit which allows it to drove on wheels and the camera Add-On which allows you to use it as a camera drone. It is great for young kids.

PROS:

  • Coding tutorials online
  • Long flight time
  • Optional Add-Ons

CONS:

  • No transmitter

DIY Drone

Recommended RTF Drone

FLYBRIX

Kids around age 14+ can build their own drone using the Flybrix kits,that come in various different versions, the more expensive kits have more motors and a transmitter(controller)

For the cheaper ones, you can use your smartphone or buy an optional transmitter. Bricks similar to legos are durable, so when your quadcopter crashes, you can just rebuild it using the instructions that come with it. It is great for people that like learning, engineering - the app can show you battery power reports, barometer sensor and lots of other information.

The FLYBRIX aircrafts are very light and fast. You can start in around 15 minutes after unpacking the kit - That’s quick for building a drone. Isn’t it? Simple kits with great quality, recommended for young engineers and LEGO enthusiasts. The kits also have tips and tricks online.

PROS:

  • Very durable
  • Simple
  • Lots of ways to use one kit

CONS:

  • Quite expensive (Still, worth it!)
  • The app doesn’t support all devices like the IPad 2
  • The transmitter in not included in cheaper kits

RTF Drone

Recommended RTF Drone

EACHINE E013

A tiny whoop that comes with everything ready to fly, even with FPV goggles! Very similar to the E010, but this one has a bigger controller, a built in camera and FPV goggles for real-time video view!

The drone has prop-guards. Comes with a controller, bigger than the one that comes with the E010! It has very powerful motors, and it flies about 5-6 minutes. The range is around 50-100 meters (170- 340 feet) . The camera is 1000TVL, which means the camera has 1000 horizontal lines, it proceeds very high quality video. It’s size is about 9 x 9 cm and it weights 20g without battery.

It uses a 1s 200mAh and includes an USB charger. The goggles are the Eachine VR-006, they weight 170g and have a built in 3 inch display. The resolution is 500x300 pixels. they come with a built-it 1s 500mAh battery, it lasts for around 1h of working time. The goggles only consume 350-450 mA. They are small. light and have auto Frequency search so you don’t have to search your FPV video. Perfect for people wanting to discover FPV.

PROS:

  • Comes with goggles
  • It is light and small
  • Many features for both the drone and goggles

CONS:

  • Low capacity battery

Camera Drones Christmas Gifts

RTF Drone

RTF Camera Drone

Mavic Air

A great camera drone, from a popular company - DJI. Its foldable, so you can take it everywhere you want. It has a foldable controller which pairs with your phone.

You have a lot of range and even HD video streaming to your phone. The flight time can be as long as 21 minutes! It has a 4K camera, it shoots 32 MP Panoramas or 12 MP Stills. It also records 4K 100 Mbps video or 1080p 120 FPS for slow-motion. It has a camera gimbal so the footage is stable. It has 8 GB internal storage.

Active Track - you can choose a target (for example a car) and the drone will automatically follow it and record it,

QuickShots - you have 6 modes (Rocket, Dronie, Circle, Helix, Asteroid, Boomerang), using one button, it records an EPIC and smooth video, without you having to do anything,

SmartCapture - You want a selfie? Just use your hand to control it. It recognises hand gestures and does what you want.

TapFly - Lets you pick a spot on your video feed or map, the Mavic Air will fly where you want, while making a beautiful clip. You can adjust the speed so you can make the clip slow or fast, depending on how you want your video to look.

It has VIO, it brings a more stable footage and the flight is precise, also it has Return To Home and Sensors. It can fly 70 (68,4) km/h! You can pair it with DJI goggles and get live video feed in front of your eyes!

PROS:

  • One of the best camera drones
  • Stable, high-quality footage
  • ​Many flight modes

CONS:

  • High Price

RTF Drone

RTF Camera Drone

ALTAIR #AA108 Drone

A beginner friendly camera drone from Altair. Suitable for kids and older people. It has propeller guards and you can fly it indoors and outdoors. 

It has functions like Altitude Hold, Return To Home and GPS.It also has one-button take-off and landing. It is powered with a 1s LiPo battery and a USB charger.It has brushed motors and small propellers. It flies up to 10 minutes on one battery and comes with 2 batteries.

The camera has a 120 degree FOV and records stable 720p footage. The drone also streams FPV footage to your phone, using WIFI. The drone is very small and lightweight. It has 3 speed levels available, so you can pick the speed for your shot. It comes with a cardboard pad you can put on your controller, it tells you what every button does.

The drone has LED lights, which make it fun to fly at night. It is very durable and lightweight so you shouldn’t worry about destroying your 120$ drone.

PROS:

  • Lots of functions
  • Cheap
  • ​​Great camera

CONS:

  • No gimbal

FEATURES OVERVIEW

Controller Type - It’s the device you use to control your drone or vehicle. Most drones are controlled by a normal controller (also known as transmitter), but some of them can use a smartphone or even voice and hand gestures.

Body Durability - Drones on our list are durable, because beginners will crash a lot. Toy drones are usually made of plastic. Plastic is a good material for drones, it is light and because that, it is quite durable. It will survive most crashes.

Flight Time - For toy drones the flight time is around 5-8 minutes. For other drones (for example the Mavic Air from our list) the flight time can be up to around 30 minutes maximum.

Maximum Range - For toy drones the range is about 20-40 meters (65-130 feet), more professional drones can go from 300 meters (around 1000 feet) up to like 2 kilometers (1,2 miles)!

Camera - Lots of drones, have cameras. Some of them record HD footage and some send Live Video feed to your device. They can record beautiful footage like on the Mavic Air taht records 4k 100Mbps video!

Weight - Drones have to be light to fly, that’s why they are made of plastic or carbon fiber. Toy grade drones are usually up to 100 g, some basic and small aerial video and photography drones can weigh up to 500g.

Charge time - Most drone chargers plug into an USB port on your computer. Usually it takes from 20 minutes up to 2 hours.

Failsafe - It’s a setting, that will save your drone if it loses signal. Usually without failsafe the drone will do a flyaway. There are many ways of failsafing - your drone can land, return to home or maybe drop on the ground and make a loud noise so you can find it easily. Failsafe is very important.

Headless Mode - Usually when flying a drone, you need to keep orientation and know which way is which, even if the drone is rotated. It’s not that hard to learn, but for your first days of flying, you can use headless mode - it will move your drone corresponding to your sticks regardless of the angle, left is always left, and right is always right. It’s very useful for beginners, that find it hard to keep orientation or when your drone is far away and you don’t know which way it will fly back.

Altitude Hold - Usually you have to control your motor speed to keep the drone in a stable hover. Beginners may also find it very hard - the drone flies too high or flies in the ground. That’s why we have Altitude Hold - If you center your control stick, the drone will automatically find the right motor speed and will hover very stable. There is no need to struggle with keeping it stable in hovering.

Return To Home - When you are far away or your battery is running low, you should fly back and land your drone. This feature allows you to push one button and the drone will do it automatically for you! (Toy Grade Drones only fly in your direction, they don’t land and you have to stop the drone by sticks or it will just fly over you continue going that way. Professional drones will land in front of you)

Obstacle Sensors - While flying, you have to be careful not to hit anything, otherwise you will crash, drones with Obstacle Sensors will see the obstacle and warn you or fly away from it. It is a very useful function that will help you not to destroy your brand new camera drone.

Prop Guards - Usually a plastic basket or half-bowl to protect your propellers. They also protect people from getting hurt, because the plastic Prop Guards block the drone, before the propellers hit anything or anyone. It is very helpful if you want to fly inside, near trees or buildings.

TIPS

Charge your battery, get everything ready… then comes that moment - first flight. I think you should try to hover and fly forward/back and left/right. If you feel comfortable enough, you can try flying forward and turning. You might get lost while rotated, don’t panic, try thinking like if you were on the drone or use headless mode or return to home if you are scared!

You will crash a lot, that is normal. After many flights, you will get better, feel more confident while flying and still crash, but not so often! Try flying every day at least once, if you feel comfortable, if not - ask a parent to look and maybe help you if you lose orientation. Don’t be like me - watch out for high trees you could hang in and street lights you could fly in… 🙂

How to choose drone frame for racing or freestyle?

Whether it’s made of Carbon, Wood, Metal, Plastic or Fiberglass the frame is the thing that holds your Drone together. Without it, you simply would not be able to take to the sky. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as one perfect frame to rule them all. There is a lot of considerations you need to make based around what you want your Drone to do.

This guide will take you through all the things you need to know when you are picking the right frame for you. We will be focusing the most on quadcopter frames.

What is a Drone Frame?

The frame of your Drone is probably the first thing you need to decide when you want to set about building; the size, materials, thickness, space, style and even the geometry will play a critical part in your build, whether it is a Super Lite highspeed racer or a Battle-hardened Bando Slayer.

drone- frame-carbon-fiber

Your Frame (like a car chassis) is there for 2 reasons:

  • Protect the components inside
  • Hold everything together

However, in some racing frames, protecting the components comes secondary to ultimate performance. Aerodynamics do play some part in the design, the focus is on reducing drag and limiting the effect the arms have on the thrust from the prop.

The aerodynamics do not provide any lift or control surfaces like you would see in a conventional aircraft. Put quite simply a Drone will fall out of the sky without its motors.

My preference is for a strong freestyle focused frame which can be crashed with limited chance of a total write off. This means my quads are heavy compared to most race frames, but I don’t need that all out speed. I have a few racing frames, but my favourites are my 5 inch freestyle frames.

The main thing I look for in a frame are:

  • Strength - This is important simply because you’re going crash.If you’re a beginner, you will crash a lot. A strong frame will keep on going and will protect all the electronics you build into it.
  • Space - I am always impressed with people who make super neat tiny builds.However, I like the room to be able to install parts and to take the drone apart to work on it when needed. Therefore, having a little bit of extra room makes all that easier. Especially if it’s your first time building.
  • HD Camera mount - This is not critical for everybody, but for me I like to film my flights. I love the footage I can get.

Materials

Most Frames you will find on the market are made of carbon fibre because it is light weight, strong and rigid. The disadvantage is that it is not that cheap, it’s hard to work on and it conducts electricity so you need to insulate the wires (I think every pilot has a story of when something broke because a live wire touched their frame).

Also, carbon fibre is great at blocking radio frequencies, so you need to place your antennas carefully.

There are other frames that are made from plastic (Ragee). These are made of a plastic (HDPE) that is made to take significant impacts without breaking. The disadvantage with these is the weight and working area.

To get the same strength you need more material and to make the frame work you need to find parts that will fit in the predefined spaces.

Ragge-drone-frame

You also need to consider what the hardware (stand offs, bolts and screws) are made out of. Steel and titanium are often used for screws and bolts. Steel is softer and cheaper, whilst titanium is hard and more expensive, but can cause issues when mixed with other metals (galvanic corrosion).

Some frames have aluminium or titanium parts to them. This offers a great deal of strength, but normally it comes at the cost,with a higher price point and weight.

Construction

Frames have 3 main parts; a top plate, a bottom plate and Arms.
The top plate is normally thinner and often has holes for cable tie and battery straps. Also, people attach gopro mounts either by top plate screws or velcro straps.

The bottom plate is normally the thickest part of the frame. It is designed to soak up crash impact. It also has the holes to fit the stand off for all your electronics. This is in either a 20x20mm lay or 30x30 layout (most 5 inch frames are 30x30mm).

The arms may or may not be part of the bottom plate. They hold the motors and sometimes the ESC’s. They are either part of the frame or removable.

Drone Frame SizeS

Frames are normally measured by the diagonal distance between motors. This dictates the size of props you can run on any specific quad. Oddly we measure the frame in millimetres and the props in inches. However, it is common to refer to quads by their prop size. E.g. 5 inch or 6 inch.

While the frame shape can affect the size of props, mainly you can work to the following as a rule:

Frame Size

Prop Size

Use

Example

280mm+

7 inch

Long Range

Mode 2 Shredder 7"

250mm

6 Inch

Long Range / Freestyle / Racing

Halo Archon

210mm

5 inch

Freestyle / Racing

Impulse RC Reverb

180mm

4 inch

Freestyle / Racing

Armattan Gecko

150mm

3 inch

Freestyle / Racing

SlightClub Phuket 3"

112mm

2 inch

Freestyle / Racing

Emax Baby Hawk R

100mm-

Whoops*

Indoor / Limited outdoor

Tiny Whoop

* Under 100mm are not strictly Whoops ( Tiny Whoop type Quads), but they are by far most common.

By far the most common frame is around 210mm, which most people would refer to as a 5 inch frame. This is used in both freestyle and race as it often the best compromise between power, weight and responsiveness.

This is because the 210mm frame (5 inch) allows you to run 5 inch props, which give great power and efficacy. The weight of the frame is slightly lower and the centre of the props being closer to the middle.

This has a positive effect on the moment of inertia in that you have a greater amount of force being applied closer to the centre of mass of the quad.

The freestyle scene is pretty much dominated by this type of frame with a few outliers who use 6 inch frames.

example of 200+mm frame kit build

As you increase the size of the frame wind resistance does play a factor too.150mm (3 inch)frames are massively fast,but they get blown around and usually have short flight times because they need to carry smaller battery to compensate for the lack of thrust.

You would think this would make the 4 inch quad popular, but this is not the case. The speed is not a match as the 3 inch and the control is not that of the 5 inch. So you don’t tend to find many people who fly 4 inch quads.

When you step up to the 6 and 7 inch frames you find air resistance more of a factor. However, you have bigger props pushing you forwards, so power is readily available. Given you’re likely to be looking at long range flights you also have different goals.

You are looking for efficiency rather than all out power, so you are more than likely going to run lower pitched props with a more efficient shape. In addition to this you are probably carrying a larger battery and slightly more electronics (GPS etc).

As a rule of thumb you can use mostly the same electronics hardware between 7 inch and 4 inch frames. They mostly will take the same flight controllers etc (always check first) on a 30x30 mounting pattern, However, some do other both 30x30 and 20x20. 7, 6 , and 5 inch frames mostly all have the same motor mounts nowadays (16x16).

One word of warning, while a 210mm frame can take a 5 inch prop the clearance between the frame and the props on the both motors can be tiny (1 – 2 mm in some cases). Always check these clearances before you fire up.

Frame Shape / Arm Layout

The shape of the frame is dictated by the layout of its arms. We'll focus on the mainstream 4 arm setups. There are other options including more or even less arms as well as other layouts of 4 arms like V-tails or + frames. However, I am not going to discuss them here as they are much less common and mainly flown by specialists.

quadcopter-frame-shapes

The main layout used today are:

H: This is where the frame looks like an H on its side. The Arms stick out directly from the body. This normally leads to a longer body section to avoid the blades touching. While you may find some of these frames around, they are much less common due to the fact they are quite bulky and the motor position is less optional for good moment of inertia (due to the long arms).

True X: As the name suggests, this is where the frame is shaped exactly like an X. The Distance between all the motors is equal. This provides the most balanced performance as each motor operates equally. The angle of the arms means that the body can be smaller as it does not need the length to separate the arms.

Hybrid X: The title does not really describe it too well. This is frame type takes the best of the H and X frames and joins them together. You get a longer body which is good for space and you get the more optimal arm placement of the X frame. This setup is what you see in something like the highly regarded Impulse RC Alien.

Stretched X: The main objective of a stretched X is to move the front and rear propellers away from each other. Imagine either an X that has been squeezed from the sides or an X with a bit added to the middle. This frame shape is designed to reduce the effect the front and rear props have on each other. The aim is to improve the highspeed handling. However, due to the unequal distribution of force over the centre of mass, there is often a need to tune these frames more to get them to fly as desired.

Square: This is frame type is pretty much an enclosed X Frame. In effect you are joining the arms together with material between each motor. Like drawing a square around anX. There are a few frames that do this but the most obvious is the TBS Oblivion. The advantage of this type of frame is strength. This comes at the cost of increased weight as well as an increased surface area which is lightly to increase drag.

Unibody Design

What is a Unibody? It’s a frame that has all the arms as part of the bottom (or in some cases top) plate. The other option is separate arms. This can either be totally individual arm or pairs (e.g. Both front arms as one piece).

unibody-drone-plate

Why does this matter?

The Unibody design is normally considered to be stiffer and stronger due to there being less joints and thus less week points (or so the theory goes). However, if you break an arm then you have to replace the whole plate, which is not always that cheap.

In comparison, with separate arms you can simply replace the arm if you break one. This is very common in racing frame where they run light weight arms to decrease mass and are happy to just replace the arm if its get broken. There are some designs which pretty much overcome the issues of having more joints by having clever mountings and screws.

This is one of the areas that personal preference is the main factor.

Carbon Fibre Thickness

There are many factors to the strength of carbon. Quality, lay up, flexibility and thickness. It’s is not totally true that thicker carbon is always stronger. But it is fair to say that you want the thickest carbon on your frame to be where your frame is most at risk. However, the thicker the carbon the, heavier the frame.

So, where do you want thick carbon? Well the Bottom plate is always important, it normally takes the brunt of the impacts and also holds everything together. If you have separate arms you normally have 2 choices;light arms you are willing to replace when you crash, or heavy arms that will take a beating.

As a rule of Thumb 4mm Carbon will give you good rigidity and strength on your main components.You want this for your Bottom plate and Arms (3mm if you want to save some weight). For your top plate 3mm or 2mm is fine as these are easier to replace.

Filing Carbon Fibre Edges

Do you need to file down the edge of your Carbon?

Possibly, some frames come with chamfered edges which mean the hard work is done for you. Other more premium frames have very well-cut carbon where is it not really needed. Cheap frames quite often need some finishing off as they have very sharp unfinished edges.

Why do I need to do it?

Carbon fibre, like metal, when cut normally leaves shape edges. This can cut your hands when handling the craft, but also more importantly it can cut your wires if they are rubbing against a sharp edge over time.

Warning! If you do file the edges of your frame, do so outside or in a well-ventilated area and with a mask. Carbon when it gets into your lungs is bad for you. Your body cannot do anything with it, so you are stuck with it forever.
Tip: If I ever file carbon, I do so under running water so that it’s washed away.

Racing vs Freestyle

There are people that race freestyle frames and freestylers that use race style frames. There is not hard and fast rule. That being said, freestyle frames are normally stronger and have more space for gopro mounts, whereas racing frames are lighter.

fpv-racing-drone-freestyle

For me, I use both. Infact, having a dedicated race frame allows me to focus the setup on speed and responses. Whereas my freestyle setups are aimed at flow and Punch.

If you are starting out, I would recommend a freestyle frame as they are easy to work on and tend to take more punishment (because you’re going to crash, it’s inevitable).

Battery Location

Battery placement is a very much a preference. The weight of the drone battery is quite a large proportion of the craft, so where you place it very much effects the handling. The ultimate aim is to get it as close to the centre of gravity as possible. Ultimately you can put it in 2 places; on top or underneath.

top-mount-quad-frame-battery

Most free style frames have top mount batteries with the battery inline with the frame. This protects the battery in most crashes. However, it is not optimal for performance due to the weight being balanced above the centre mass of the craft

Bottom-mount-quad-frame-battery

Racing frames mostly opt for bottom mounted batteries. This means they are slung under the frame, so the weight is hung under the frame which is good for cornering as it has a positive effect on the handling as you are not having to balance the weight so much. However, the battery is more a risk in crash landings.

There is also the concept of a mid-mounted battery which is where your battery is sideways to the top of your frame. This spreads the weight in a more even way over the centre of the frame, however you need a very specific frame setup to avoid the battery getting caught up in the propellers.

Other Considerations

FPV Camera tilt angle, protection and size

quadcopter-frame-camera

Your FPV Camera is what you use to see, so you need to makesure it is well placed. You need to be in a location where you can get a good clean line of sight. It is common to have some props in view especially on stretched x frames, but you don’t want to have it blocking most of your view.

You need to be able to have a range of angles. The Camera angle is such an important part of your xxx. If you get it wrong you will make your life really difficult. If it’s too low, you will end up looking at the ground more often than where you are going. If it’s too high you will end up going to fast everywhere. If you are starting out 25 degree to 30 degree is a pretty good place to start. Some pilots use 60 degree tilts, but I would strongly advise not to start there if you are a beginner.

Camera protection is a preference. Some pilots will hang their camera out the front with no protection to give them best view and extreme angles. This puts them at a much great chance of being damaged or destroyed in a crash.

Others like to keep their camera slightly more protected inside the frame. This often limits the angles, but means you don’t spend your time constantly replacing cameras when you crash into something.

Finally, you must consider size. Make sure your frame can fit the camera. There are 3 main sizes of camera:

  • Standard: 28mm wide, often referred to as Hs1177 size cameras
  • Mini: 21.8 mm wide, but often come with brackets to fit standard mounts.
  • Micro: 19mm wide, Some come with upsizing mounts but most don’t

HD Camera Option

Most freestyle frames either have a built in Gopro (or other HD camera) mount, for recording high resolution footage or a space of a 3D printed mount. There are mounts for racing frames, but they not always the primary consideration.

I use 3D printed mounts as I want my gopro as well attached as possible to the frame. I don’t want to lose A: the Camera and B: the footage.
- Protection for the motors

carbon-fiber-drone-frame-protection

Damaging motors is a real pain. Usually, any damage means the end of your flying day, so protecting the motors is very useful. When you look at the ends of most frame arms you will see the end extend past the bottom of the motor. This is to protect the motors so the frame takes the hit first. In some cases, people use 3D printed bumpers, to help, however this add weight.

Spare parts

Having easy access to spare parts is useful to keep yourself in the air. If you have separate arms having at least one spare can make your day of flying might not be over after a heavy crash. Having a frame that is hard to get spare parts for can keep you grounded for a long time.

If you have a Unibody design you may not want to have the expense of the having a spare bottom plate, so you may just have to accept the downtime.

Stand off etc are fairly easy to come by if they are broken. In fact, in a lot of cases there are spares in the pack.

Warranty

For me this is one of my main considerations. There are some suppliers in the market who offer either a limited or unlimited warranty on their frames. Now there are rules to what qualifies (you need to see the suppliers websites for this information), but if you crash and break say a bottom plate or an arm, you can claim this under warranty and get a replacement free of charge (there maybe a shipping cost).

This really reduces the risk for me as I know that I am an email away form replacement part being sent to me for free (which on Unibody is fantastic). I have used this on more than one occasion and it has saved me money in the long run.

In my opinion Armattan offer one of the best Warranties on the Market. As long as you stick within their rules, they will always keep you in the air, and they have done for me for the past 2 years.

Top tip: If you have a Warranty and you have separate arms, having a spare arm mean when you break it you don’t have to wait for the replacement to come, you simply replace you spare with a new one.

Contributor: Paul Rose

Eachine US65 Review | Micro Brushless for Indoors

In this review we're gonna be taking a look at the Eachine US65. This is a 65 mm brushless micro quadcopter that runs on 1s lipo. It's not super powerful but absolutely well-balanced little micro, thus making it perfect for indoors whooping. Let's go over its features, show you how to set it up, and fly it both indoors and outdoors. 

The micro US65 is available in various country-design options. Not our favorite choice, but you can switch to other frame&canopy options, like from it's brushed counterpart UR65. You can choose between two types of receivers; Frsky and Flysky options. 

UNBOXING

eachine us65 tiny whoop

Package includes:

  • US65/UK65 Instruction manual
  • 3 250 maH 1S batteries
  • Six channel charger
  • Set of extra 4 blade propellers 
  • Rubber bands
  • Extra screws

The charger here is really nice touch, you also get three 1S 250 milliamps batteries, some tools and some extra propellers.

But pay attention that you're getting two types: one is four edge prop and the second one is a three-edged. So since you get in only one set of each propellers I recommend to get a couple of extra ones.

The instruction manual is detailed and straight to the point.  

Now the VTX isn't the greatest VTX on board. I did test it outdoors, it doesn't have much penetration. But again this is not meant for outdoors because it was fighting the wind like absolutely crazy. 

Features & Specifications

Let's take a closer look under the hood in more detail. The US65 is the newest micro quad from Eachine.

eachine us65 uk65 review

This little tiny thing has got 19,000 KV 0603 brushless motors. And I think we are now at a point where we can actually have usefull brushless motors in a tiny whoop. 

Up to now every brushless motor that's gone in at a tiny whoop hasn't really been a benefit, compared to the brush version. But with this one, Eachine has hit the sweat spot it terms of size and the power. In my opinion definitely better than a brushed tiny whoop.

eachine-us65 micro-brushless-motors

Eachine managed to keep the weight pretty similar to the original brushed tiny whoops that came out. Without a battery it weighs 21 grams. Around about 19 to 21 grams is where you want to be at with a tiny whoop. It is 28 grams with the included battery.

Eachine-US-UK-65 drone

We have got Crazybee all-in-one F3 board here. This is the version 1.2. It features a built-in receiver either Frsky or Flysky depending on the version that you bought.

Crazybee F3 board Eachine us 65 uk65

It's got ESC is built into it, they are DShot 600 capable. You can have beacon on the motors, you can also do the turttle mode.

It also has a SPI receiver built into it with telemetry. So if you are doing Frsky it will send the RSSI back to the transmitter. You can do Lua scripts, so you can do PIDs from your transmitter. It's got a built in 40 channel 25 milliwatts VTX that is connected up to smart audio. It really does do absolutely everything.

The camera of the front is a CMOS camera; but you really have to have that with a whoop anyways, and it's a pretty decent quality.

The batteries that you get are a high volt, they're 250 milliamp and it says that they are a 80C. I mean that doesn't really mean that much with a tiny whoop. And there is standard 2 millimeter JST connector to plugin the bat.

The charger input voltage is between 7 to 25 volts and you can power it using an XT60 battery,  DC 12V  charger or USB . In addition you can set the terminal voltage per cell. By default it is set to 4.2 you can also choose 4.35 volts. 

Binding 

Binding Eachine US 65 is done by pressing the bind button, which is located on the top of the Flight Controller. It is accessible without removing the top canopy, but I would recommend to screw the canopy off and have clear view there, or you might damage the bind button.

bind-button-eachine-us65

The default bind mode is D16. You can configure it also to D8 in beta flight.

In part 2 we're gonna cover all the aspects in detail. For now I ordered extra frame and canopy from UR65, just to upgrade the aesthetics 🙂

Part List:

Emax Hawk 5 Review

Emax is probably best known for their motors, they've released a series of pretty successful mini quads in the past the Nighthawk, then Babyhawk and the Babyhawk-R, both very popular at the moment. Emax Hawk 5 presents an excellent option for both pro racers and new pilots. 

There are lots of superb ready to fly quads available that are well SPECT really well built and incredibly well priced so how will this new Hawk 5 stand up in this busy space in the market? We'll try to cover all needed information about this latest BNF configuration from Emaxmodel.

Unboxing

It's an elegant package as we've come to expect from Emax. Let's take a closer look at what’s in the box:

emax-hawk-5-unboxing-review

We've got the usual gear: 

  • Frsky XM+, F4 Magnum All-in-one Tower and Foxeer Micro instruction manuals
  • Few bolts and nuts
  • OSD control for the camera
  • 2 sets of Avan Flow props
  • 2 Pagoda V2 VTX antenna's, left hand circularly polarized
  • Extension lead SMA to UFL
  • Spare Arm, very useful
  • Some tie wraps

First impressions straight out of the box; this is very very nicely built,  very strong and solid, excellent.

Emax Hawk 5 Bind and Fly Quadcopter currently 20% off on Gearbest

Features & Specifications

So let's take a closer look at this in more detail. The Hawk 5 is the newest five inch to 10-millimeter X-Frame Quad from Emax

hawk 5-emax

It is the first Emax quad aimed squarely at the racer market using high spec components. I'm sure this is their response to the other great FPV racing drone configurations being released from other manufacturers such as Diatone, Holybro and others.

Emax F4 Magnum Tower

It uses a flight stack connected together with pins and it's got very few wires, arms are incredibly thin but very strong.

hawk5-flight stack-emax

The electronics are built around this Magnum F4 Flight Tower.

emax f4 magnum tower

This is a very neat and tidy stack, with pinned board interconnects between each of the PCBs. The mainboard combines an F4 flight controller and LC filter, a 5-volt regulator, black box and buzzer. It uses an STM32F405 MCU and the popular MP6000 gyro, flashed with Beta Flight 3.30. This has got an OSD as well.

The integrated LC filter with the 5 Volt/3A voltage regulator. Means clean power for all the other components and boards. Then the black box flight recorder has got 16 MB flash memory, and there's a buzzer mounted on the PCB.

On the PCB, because the stack is pinned together with connectors, there's hardly any wires. Other than the camera, and the main wires to the quad motors from the 4in1 ESC, there's nothing to be seen really. This makes it an incredibly neat build and the quality of the soldering is excellent.

Frsky XM+ Receiver

The Magnum Tower also includes a Frsky XM+ receiver. Although it's very small, the downside of this is you don't get telemetry, but you do have the Beta Flight OSD to show your battery voltages in your FPV goggles. And it would be nice to have seen them using something like XSR receiver which is smart port enabled with full duplex transmission for telemetry. But I guess they don't see is being necessary for racing quad.

VTX

The VTX has 48 channels which are switchable from 25 mW to 200 mW which is perfect for race events.

It comes with a lightweight dipole whip antenna, but you also get this 80-millimeter extension with an SMA connector to U.FL, so that you can use your own antenna.

Additionaly, there's a couple of Pagoda V2 antennas in the box which is a really nice touch.

hawk5-dipole-antenna-left hand polarized

But watch out though these are both left hand polarized, they didn't provide one of each; left hand and the right hand polarized. To fix them on you'll only need to add the extension, flip it onto the board and tie wrap under.

ESC

And at the bottom of the stack is a 30 a 4in1 ESC and current sensing board running BLHeli_S firmware - they support D Shot, Multi Shot and One Shot 125, so take your pick. But I suspect it will probably be D Shot 600. Emax claims that this can run 6s with a lower kV motor.


Frame & Build Quality

hawk5-build quality

The build quality is outstanding. It's got nice tidy wiring and good solder joints. I pulled this apart before the review to take a look under the hood and I'd have been thriled if I built this.

The frame is a true X and it's amazingly solid and stiff. It uses the regular sandwich style of frame construction with top and bottom plates. This means it's very stiff and it's easy to change the arms if you break one.

emax-hawk5-true X-frame

The frame and the arms are nicely finished, and the arms have got a good amount of extra carbon outside the motor diameter here and this provides lots of crash protection. The camera is fairly well protected and easy to adjust with 2 mm dome head bolts on each side.

Other than the motor bolts all the bolts are countersunk and easy to get to, it's got a very nice finish. And each arm has got two bolts and they're easy to change without having to pull the whole thing apart.

hawk5-arms

The thickness of the arms is 4x5 mm by 9mm; these are pretty low drag arms. The quality of these is pretty good. And although they don't have sharpened edges, they're not sharp and there's some good degree of crash protection to stop the bell of the motor getting damaged.

Top plate is 2 millimeters thick and these interesting reinforcing braces along the side here. Those are 1.5 mm.

On the bottom, you've got the standard two plates sandwiching the arms. I have a good feeling this will be pretty tough to break in a crash.

The top plate has got a small cutout so you can see the VTX channel and the channel selector button. Although it's quite small here, is nice and easy to get to on the side.

hawk5-top-plate

And one thing I've noticed with most BNF quads is there's always something silly that hasn't been quite finished off: the buzzer isn't connected or the battery strain relief isn't there, and similar details which can frustrate you along the way.

But with the Hawk5, everything's just ready to go. The battery wires have got some strain relief with a cable tie, and the buzzer is integral to the flight stack and the flight stack uses these nice flexible vibration mounts.

They've even fixed a 470 microfarad capacitor across the power supply connectors on the PDB to suppress noise. It's a very nice touch, and very nicely finished.

470 microfarad capacitor

Motors

And as you'd expect from EMAX they've used some of these powerful LS 2206 2300 kV Lite Spec racing motors, and it'll be interesting to see how these nuts up using their new props. EMAX achieved to combine such requirements into a motor that can meet all aspects by reducing the weight while maintaining the durability and performance in check.

hawk5-motors-emax

Avan Flow Propellers

EMAX make quite a lot about these props. They're 5x4.3x3 and are designed to give a constant 4.3 pitch across the whole blade, which apparently gives a linear control feeling across the whole throttle band.

Most of the weight is around the hub which means it's got a low moment of inertia, basically that makes a very responsive propeller, because the way it is all centered around the hub.

avan flow props-hawk5-5x4.3x3

FPV Camera

For the camera they've used the low latency Foxier Arrow Micro V2. It's a 600 TVLine CCD camera with a wide-angle 150-degree lens which is perfect for fast racing.

emax-hawk 5 camera

Battery Mount

One clever feature of this frame is that you can choose where you want to mount the battery on the top or on the bottom.

battery mount-hawk5

Credit: Emax USA

Everyone's got their own preference and this is the first time I've seen this. It doesn't solve the problem of who's right: top mount or bottom mounters, there's arguments for each way and what flies best for Acro and what flies best for racing.

Personally I think it's what works best for you. And the Hawk 5 gives you this option. In fact you could easily do it back-to-back test if you wanted to.

If you bottom mount the battery there's plenty of room on the top for a GoPro. But there's no mount so you'll have to find your own. If you're going to use this to race you probably don't want the extra weight of a GoPro on the quad.

Weight  without the battery is near enough 260, with props on it's going to be 270 grams, which is what the spec says.

Conclusion

On the face of it this is an outstanding and properly complete mini quad that will get you racing straight out of the box.

Spares seem to be readily available although I suspect you won't be able to buy individual boards from the F4 tower.

Cost-wise this is only around 250 dollars, which is slightly cheaper than most of the BNF quads in this 5 inch range. But it doesn't compromise on parts, they're very high spec so it's great value for money which is always a good thing.

You just need a transmitter, some goggles and a few lipos and you're good to go
Racing. Hope you found this Emax Hawk 5 Review helpful  so you can make a proper decision that satisfies your needs.

How to Choose Best LiPo Battery for your Drone | Quadcopter 4S | 3S | 2S | 1S

Batteries for your quadcopter have a few more areas of consideration than simply how long it will keep your craft in the air. This guide is to help inform you of what those considerations are, and to help you decide which is the right battery for your individual style of flying, and your drone. Voltage and capacity are the most important things to consider, but weight and discharge rate (also called ‘C’ rating) are almost as important.

LiPo Basics

As we know from Christmas mornings as kids, not all batteries are the same. After unwrapping the biggest gift under the tree, and fitting the “no-name” batteries that came free with your toy, the buzzing and beeping, that drives parents to distraction, gets quieter and more distorted, until the batteries no longer work at all. We learn pretty early on that it is worth spending a few extra $$ on good quality batteries so our play time doesn’t get cut short.

Lipo Battery Size Chart

Number of Cells

Battery Voltage

Applications

1S

3.7V

Indoor whoops

2S

7.4V

30-75mm micro brushless

3S

11.1V

100-220mm brushless

4S

14.8V

220mm brushless

5S

18.5V

220mm+ brushless

6S

22.2V

220mm+ brushless

Battery Voltage (Cell count)

The nominal voltage of a LiPo cell is 3.7v, cells are put together in series to increase the voltage, the number of cells used in a LiPo pack is shown by a number followed by the letter ‘S’. So a 2S battery has 2 cells wired together in series to create a 7.4v battery, and a 3S has 3 cells to increase the voltage to 11.1v. The most common voltage for quads at the moment is a 4S 14.8v battery.

Capacity

The capacity of a LiPo has the greatest effect on flight times, the higher the capacity, the longer the flight time you will get from your craft, but the higher the capacity, the heavier the battery will be. As the LiPo is the single heaviest component on your quad, you will reach a stage where you get diminishing returns, and the battery is too heavy for your craft to carry efficiently. The most common capacity for racing drones with 5 inch propellers is 1300mAh, which seems to find the best balance between performance, flight time and weight, but there are, of course, exceptions to this.

Discharge Rate (C Rating)

The discharge rate is shown by a number followed by the letter ‘C’, the higher the discharge rate, the better. The discharge rating shows how quickly you can safely discharge your battery. A higher C rating means that you will use less throttle input to get your craft to hover, and it will provide more amperage to the motors at full throttle, making your craft faster and more punchy.

There is a phenomenon known as ‘Voltage Sag’ - The higher your throttle input, the faster you deplete your battery, but this depletion is not linear. At very high throttle the voltage drops even faster, but as you decrease throttle, the voltage will recover, the lower the C rating of your battery the more pronounced the voltage sag will be, and the longer it will take for the voltage to increase again.

With a high C rating, the voltage drop at very high throttle will be reduced. I recommend 45C as the very minimum to fly slowly, a 75C pack will be better for freestyle, but to get the best out of your quad, and particularly for racing you should be looking at C ratings of 80-100C and higher.

Note - Batteries with a higher C rating will usually be slightly heavier, than others with the same voltage and capacity.

Buyers tip - Some manufacturers inflate the numbers of the C rating of their batteries, which is why it is recommended to purchase your batteries from a reputable source.

Important Buyers Note - Unscrupulous manufacturers often inflate the advertised C ratings of their batteries, as such it is highly recommended to purchase batteries of a well known brand from a reputable retailer.

Battery Chemistry

Batteries store electrical energy by using a reaction between different chemicals, such as Lead and Acid - which is what is used for car batteries. Li-Po or Lithium - Polymer have a good power density, they can be made in various shapes and also inherently have good discharge rates, which make them ideal for our hobby/sport.

There are 2 other common chemistry types used for drones, these are LiHv (Lithium High Voltage) and Graphene. LiHV cells have a higher nominal voltage of 3.8v per cell, which provides a little more punch at full charge. Graphene batteries are said to have a slightly longer lifespan as they build internal resistance slower than a standard LiPo or LiHv.

Batteries don’t last forever

Like propellers, LiPo batteries are a consumable in the hobby, however they should last longer than your props, as long as you treat them well! I mentioned internal resistance earlier, this is what kills your batteries over time. The more you use a LiPo, the more the internal resistance increases. Internal resistance can be thought of as a component within your battery that uses electrical energy, leaving less power for your motors.

Over charging, and over discharging your batteries will cause internal resistance to increase more quickly, also leaving your batteries fully charged or discharged (past 3.2v per cell) for extended time periods will also cause internal resistance to build faster. Unless you are going to fly tomorrow, I would recommend that you re-charge/discharge your batteries to storage voltage, which for standard LiPo, LiHv and Graphene batteries is between 3.7 and 3.95v per cell, most say 3.8v for LiPo and Graphene and 3.85v for LiHv.

4S Battery Overview (14.8V)

A 4 cell/4S (14.8v) pack is the most common voltage for flying almost any size drone (apart from micro >120mm frames) at the moment. This voltage is very versatile and provides great performance for racing and freestyle on almost any quad using 2.5” props and over.

There are now components hitting the market that will support 5S and even 6S voltages, but at the current time these are quite specialized. A few years ago 3S (11.1v) was the most common and as such there are some who are slightly behind the times and suggest that this voltage is better for the beginner pilot.

However the throttle curve can be adjusted on your transmitter and / or flight controller (FC) so that at full stick input, your model is not actually running at its full thrust capacity.

If you do feel that your 4S model is a bit too fast for your current skill level, rather than buying 3S packs, you can adjust the settings to slow it down to a more manageable pace, and then revert or re-adjust these settings over time, to increase the thrust of your model as you feel

Our Top Five 4S Batteries for 5 inch models

  1. Tattu R-Line 2.0, 1300mAh 100C LiHv ~ $34 ~ 163g
  2. Acehe Formula, 1300mAh 95C LiPo ~ $33 ~ 167g
  3. Indestructible Quads Black Label X, 1300mAh LiPo 100C ~ $26 ~ 175g
  4. Race Day Quads Series, 1300mAh 100C LiPo ~ $20 ~ 164g
  5. Max Amps 1450mAh 175C Graphene ~ $65 ~ 184g

Our Pick of the Bunch

Picking just one of these is a really difficult call to make, with such a wide price range and great quality across the board. I think that if you are an all out, top class racer, then the Max Amps 175C pack is probably the best pack available for you, but the price is almost double that of the Tattu R-Line 2.0.

It is simply price that has put the Max Amps pack at the bottom of the list, however the R-Line 2.0 is widely recognised as one of the best racing packs available, and it is fully deserving of its place at the top of the class, due to its amazing performance.

For the freestyle pilot, the Black Label X 100C gives brilliant performance combined with a great low price. If you are flying on a budget, the Race Day Quads Series 100C has an incredible price and gets some really good reviews of its performance too, in fact some are left almost in disbelief that RDQ can create such a good battery at such a low price.

3S Battery Overview (11.1V)

As I mentioned above, up until a few years ago 3S was the most common voltage used in the sport, but as the skill of pilots improved and technology advanced, we saw the introduction of 4S compatible parts, until subsequently the higher voltage became commonplace.

As you may have learned, much of the hobby is a balancing act, the most important factors to balance are the thrust generated by your motors and props, and the All Up Weight/AUW, (basically, the weight of your model, including the battery).

These days generally 3S packs are used for smaller, lighter models and motors. Models designed for 3S voltages usually have a specific reason for using a 3S pack over a 4S, namely the additional thrust from the higher voltage battery will not show as much improvement as the decrease in weight of the battery.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, the exceptions here are that some larger craft with 8 inch or larger props, will use a high capacity 3S battery.

Remember that as capacity increases, so does the weight of the individual cells that make up your pack. Some long range craft, designed to optimise efficiency, will sacrifice the additional thrust from higher voltage, for an increase in mAh capacity.

Spending extra on long range components for a craft that only has a flight time of 5-6 mins is a needless expense because you won’t be able to fly to the limits of your range in 2.5-3 minutes, remember you always have to save enough battery power for your return journey!

3S Packs, Top 5 List

  1. Tattu 450mAh 3S 75C LiPo ~ $14.00 ~ 42g
  2. RDQ series 450mAh 80C LiPo ~ $10.50 ~ 46g
  3. Infinity 550mAh 70C LiPo ~ $12.99 ~ 53g
  4. CNHL Ministar 450mAh 70C ~ $8.69 ~49g
  5. Gaoneng GNB 550mAh 3S 80-160C LiPo ~ $11.99 ~ 50g

These 3S packs have been chosen to reflect the current popularity of micro models, you will notice that the capacities of the packs in this list are lower than the 4S list above due to the limited thrust of smaller props.

2S Battery Overview (7.4V)

2S packs are commonly used for quads with a wheelbase of between 100-120mm, but nowadays there are quite a few craft in this size category that will happily run on 3S and even 4S voltages.

Finding information on craft that work best with 2S packs is not actually that easy as smaller capacity 3S and 4S packs become more common. Some ultra micro craft such as brushless tiny whoop’s, which often run single cell (1S) packs, are now using components to support upgrades to 2S voltages.

These packs will generally have a very low capacity between 200-400mAh, which is not really enough to handle the current draw of 2” or larger props. Another thing to consider with 2S batteries is the connecter that is used, I think 2S voltage has the widest range of different connecter types as you can find Walkera/LOSI, JST PH, JST RCY, XT 30 and XT 60 are all available, so make sure you order the correct type for your model.

2S Packs, Top 5 List

  1. Gaoneng GNB 450mAh 2S 80-160C ~ $6.00 each
  2. Tattu 300mAh 2S 45C ~ $8.00
  3. Acehe 450mAh 2S 75C ~ $10.00
  4. E-Flight 200mAh 2S 30C - $12.99
  5. Turnigy NanoTech 250mAh 35-70C ~ $9.00

1S Battery Overview (3.7V)

1S packs are where many of us start, powering a toy grade model such as the Eachine H8 mini, blade inductrix or one of its many clones. There are many different non branded types of 1S battery which is what taught me (the hard way) that not all Li-Po’s are equal.

Some of the no name brand 1S packs I bought worked fine, others, from their very first use, failed to provide enough power to sustain a hover! Due to the popularity of Tiny Whoop’s there are now many well known companies providing high quality 1S packs and relatively cheap too.

Most of the packs listed here are available in standard Li-Po and Li-Hv chemistries, so ensure that your charger and model is compatible for your selection. 

1S Packs, Top 5 List

  1. Gaoneng GNB 450mAh 2S 80-160C ~ $6.00 each
  2. Tattu 300mAh 2S 45C ~ $8.00
  3. Acehe 450mAh 2S 75C ~ $10.00
  4. E-Flight 200mAh 2S 30C - $12.99
  5. Turnigy NanoTech 250mAh 35-70C ~ $9.00
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