What camera to get for your quadcopter?

Selecting a camera for your quadcopter

can seem to be hard,as there are so many choices. Fortunately once you work out what you’d like to use your camera for it will be easy to choose.

The three most common reasons to add a camera to a quadcopter drone are:

  • To use the camera for FPVflying.
  • To create a cool video of your flight, or use the camera for good quality aerial photography.
  • Or to create really high quality aerial photos and videos.

While these categories may not seem that much different at first, each category has different needs, so they are best served by different cameras.

There are a few counterfeit cameras on the market today – to save yourself from the trouble just choose Paypal at checkout as Paypal has great buyer protection, or buy from a reputable online store, for example Amazon.

Cameras for FPV flying

If you plan to use the camera for FPV flying, you will need a camera that is small and light and has low latency. FPV cameras are designed with specially these in mind.

When you are looking for an FPV camera, the most important attributes to check are:

Is the camera PAL or NTSC?

PAL has a bit better resolution,while NTSC has a bit better frame rate. In the end what really counts is the compatibility with your existing gear.

CCD vs CMOS?

The difference between CCD and CMOS sensors is decreasing year-after-year,still they are not the same. CCD has better low-light performance, and usually worse strong-light performance (for example turning towards the Sun will result in a whiteout). If you plan to fly a lot in strong light CMOS will be better for you.

CCD cameras have no jello, so their output will simply look better. Excessive jello can be a sign of vibration, and it’s a good idea anyway to balance your props, as it will slow down the aging of your bearings too.

The TVL number

simply shows the camera’s horizontal resolution, you can get cameras with up to 1000 TVL today. There is not much point of getting a higher TVL camera, as PAL or NTSC restricts you to less than 600 lines of horizontal resolution anyway. Instead of relying on the TVL number to gauge the image quality head over to Youtube and check a few videos of the camera you are interested in.

IR blocking coating

is usually applied to all cameras which make them usable for daytime flying. For night flying get a camera without the IR coating, they are great πŸ™‚

FPV transmitters use analog signals.

While the perfectionist in you may want to use digital signals, analog is better as it’s more fault tolerant. If your digital signal gets distorted for example due to flying behind a large tree trunk you will only see the blank screen.

With an analog signal you will only see some distortion on the screen and it will quickly get back to normal.

The camera’s field-of-view angle

is important when FPVracing. For FPV race you’ll want to get a camera with high FOV so you can see more of your environment.Otherwise just choose a camera with a FOV that you are comfortable with.

Of course it’s not only the camera that makes the picture perfect, the transmitter, receiver and the FPV goggle are important too.

Suggested FPV camera: The Eachine 1000TVL MINI FPV Camera

. This Eachine unit has a CCD sensor, so you will get no jello. The camera has IR coating so it’s ideal for daylight flying. It also has a locking focus ring, so once set up it will not slip and lose focus. The latency is ~40ms, the weight is 10.4 grams; you will need to get a transmitter, antenna and connect a 5 volt power source to get it up and running.

Suggested FPV camera: The Eachine 700TVL FPV Camera with transmitter

. This camera has a lower TVL rating and a CMOS sensor, so it’s expected to have a bit lower latency than the1000TVL Eachine camera. Strong light performance will be better too, however you can expect a bit of jello with this one. The weight of the camera with the transmitter is 15.2 grams.

Suggested FPV camera: The Crazepony FPV Micro AIO Camera

. This camera was especially designed for tiny quadcopters like the Blade Inductrix, has an integrated transmitter and weighs only 3.6grams. Choose this one if you want the lowest weight solution – the heavier cameras will have a bit better image quality.

Click here to check the prices of other CCD FPV cameras on Amazon, and hereto check other CMOS FPV cameras.

Cameras for flight recording and aerial videos

While FPV flying needs a simple solution to keep it reliable, action cams do not need to be that simple, choosing one is easy too.

A good action cam for flight recording should be light weight, should have a decent battery life, and should be able to take the beating survive the crashes.

Just as with FPV cameras the image quality and the field of view are important when choosing a camera for aerial photography.

When researching the camera probably the most useful thing you can do is to head over to Youtube, and check if you like the footage made with that camera.

Action cams are great both for aerial photography and for recording your high-speed flights.

Suggested: the Gopro Hero4 Silver

The Hero4 Silver weighs 83 grams without the case, and can take videos for1 hour and 50 minutes with one charge. As Gopro uses CMOS sensors, you’ll want to get a vibration dampening mount (like this one), or even better, a complete gimbal to improve the image quality. The Hero4 supports most of the popular video formats including 2704 x 1520 videos at 30 fps, or 1920 x 1080 pixel videos at 60 fps.

Suggested: the Mobius Action Camera

. The Mobius is a light-weight action cam that supports 1920 x 1080 pixel 30 fps videos. The Mobius has an 1 hour 20 minute battery life and weighs only 39 grams which makes it an ideal, lower cost choice for quadrotors.

Suggested: the Mate 808 Keychain Camera

. Keychain cameras are small and light-weight “spy” cameras, which make them ideal for quadcopters too. This cameras can record 1920 x 1080 videos for up to an hour.

Choose this camera if you need to save weight on your quad, the larger one shave better image quality.

High-end cameras for movie-quality aerial shots

Quadcopter drones are especially suitable for high-quality aerial shots and films, as they cost way less than using a helicopter to get up in the air.

With gimbal stabilization you can get as good quality as you’d expect from a blockbuster movie.

These cameras weigh a lot, so you will need a heavy lifting quadcopter for this job. It’s a good idea to get a high-end quadcopter, as there’s no point in getting a low-end $400 quad to save money, then lose $1000 by crashing it with the expensive camera on.For example, the DJI S1000is an octocopter that’s up to the job. (You can check the price on Amazon.)

To quickly find a high end camera for your quad it’s the easiest to headover to Amazon and do a few searches for “dji zenmuse camera-manufacturer”. Replace camera-manufacturer with the name of the camera manufacturers you are interested in, for example “DJI Zenmuse Canon”. This way you’ll easily find cameras which are supported by DJI’s Zenmuse gimbal.

Suggested: the Panasonic GH4

, a professional camera from Panasonic. TheGH4 can shoot 4K 4096 x 2160 pixel cinema quality video using it’s 17megapixel MOS sensor. The GH4 has a more than two hours of battery life and weighs around 820 grams depending on the lens used. DJI’s Zenmuse Z15 line of gimbals support the GH4.

You can check theZ15’s and the GH4’s price on Amazon, or check the camera specs on the Panasonic website.

The videos shot with the GH4 are simply stunning, just take a look at this one:

Suggested: the Sony a7S

, one of Sony’s professional offerings. The a7S can record 1080p (1920 x 1080) videos at up to 50 fps, has about an hour of battery life, and weighs a bit less than 500 grams – the low weight in itself is a huge plus. You can check the detailed specs here and the price here.The DJI Zenmuse gimbal supports the Sony a7S, you can get it on Amazon for example.

This video was shot using the Sony a7S and a quadcopter drone:


You can read even more on FPV gear selection in our What quadcopter for FPV?article.

Have fun flying πŸ™‚

What motor to choose for your quadcopter?

Choosing a quadcopter motor is tricky.

The real problem with choosing a quadcopter motor is that there are just too many variables:

  • you can choose a motor, which will affect both the quadcopter’s weight and the maximum thrust, so you may have to repeat the selection process
  • you can choose a frame plus battery, but then it’s hard to find a motor which can lift it
  • the propeller you choose will affect the maximum thrust, and the power requirements too (which in turn affects the motor, battery and ESCselection)

For mini and nano quadcopters which measure less than 180 millimeters diagonally the usual choice is a brushed coreless motor.Quads larger than size 250 use brushless outrunners – these are the real deal, as these motors have more power and better longevity than the smaller brushed motors.

A 4240 sized motor with the numbers visible.

Manufacturers usually mark these motors with four numbers, for example”2210″. The 22 means the stator’s diameter, while the 10 means the stator’s height. These numbers are not that important, as they do not describe the motor’s performance, just help you get a ballpark figure.

Quadcopter motors have three important parameters.

The most important parameter is probably the KV value – the KV value helps you find the motor’s RPM for a given voltage. All you have to do is multiply the the KV value with the motor’s input voltage, the result will be the RPM. This is important because a lower KV motor will suit larger quadcopters better, while a higher KV motor is better for smaller quads.

The next value that’s important is the efficiency.

Just avoid motors with low efficiency numbers, as these will turn your precious battery charge into heat, instead of driving the props. So go for a motor with as high efficiency as possible to get most out of your quadcopter. Efficiency numbers over 90% are common nowadays. This means that for every watt pumped into the motor, 90% of it will go towards rotating the propeller, and 10%will be turned into heat.

The third most important parameter of the motor is the maximum Ampsit accepts.

The maximum Amps the motor can handle depends on it’s wiring, while the maximum Amps you need depends mainly on the thrust you need, and the propeller’s efficiency. You will have to choose your ESC depending on the Amps you need too, however this is easy – just go for anESC which can supply 2x the Amps you’d need at full thrust to make sure it won’t burn out.

Three-bladed Gemfan 5030 props are used on 220 size fpv racers.
A good motor is nothing without an appropriately sized prop.

For your quadcopter to fly well, you will need an appropriately sized prop.Propellers have two parameters, the diameter and the pitch. The diameter is the prop’s diameter, while the pitch describes the tilt of the blades. For example a prop with a pitch of 4 is tilted such that the blade would be 4inches high if it reached around the center hub.

There are two ways manufacturers mark their props. A prop with a 5 inch diameter and a 3 inch pitch could be marked either as an 5030 or an 5x3prop.

If you’d like to maximize flight time, go for the largest prop you can fit on the frame. If you’d prefer to have an agile quad, select a prop that’s just one size smaller. For example if you have aZMR250 frame, an 5030 prop could be the best choice, while a 6040 prop would probably still fit.

When sizing your motors and propellers, go for a combination which would provide you with 2 time the thrust

of your quadcopter’s weight. This ensures that your quad will be able to keep balance, fight the wind and fly the way you want it to.

The method

At this point you have probably chosen what you want to build you just do not know what motor would fit the best, that’s why you are here πŸ™‚ To start, you should find out the usual weight of the your model – for exampleZMR250 based quadcopters usually weigh around 500 to 600 grams. A quick google search will help with this one.

Next you should find out what is the largest propeller you can fit

on that model. Larger props are usually better from efficiency point of view. If you like DIY solutions, here you can get creative – reorganizing the frame can help you fit a larger prop. For example on a standard ZMR250 quad you can fit props up to 6 inches in size, while the 5030 prop is the one that’s usually used.

Once you have these details ready, head over to ecalc.ch.

The free version is a bit restricted, so you may consider signing up – if you build a quad you will spend an order of magnitude more on broken parts anyway.Open the xcoptercalc atecalc.ch, and fill in what you already have. You can get our annotated screenshot here. It’s a good idea to set the weight near the higher end of what you expect, never the lower end – it’s hard to build a light quadcopter, and it’s likely you will overshoot. Do not be afraid to choose an unrealistic setup at first – the idea here is to have something to start out, and improve gradually. After entering the weight, choose a 3Sbattery, let’s say an 3000mAh one, and an oversized ESC, let’s say a 90 Amps one.

Next, bluff your way through the selection process.

Select a motor manufacturer you know, next select a motor size you think could work. For this example I selected a DualSky ECO 2208C motor and an APCElectric 6040 propeller. Now this is not realistic, but we have a winner here – this thing would fly if we could reduce it’s weight. Ecalc is kind to us, and shows the errors in red right bellow the table.

If the bluff is viable, refine it.

In this example we got lucky, and all we need is to reduce the weight a bit.Replacing the 90A ESC with a 20A one does the trick in this case.

Do not stop here!

It’s important to collect multiple configurations that could work – it canv ery well happen that the 4th one will be the best. Try out bit smaller props, different motors and a 4S battery instead a 3S one and write down the details of each that’s likely to work.

If you found one you like you may want to ask others about it too, for example Reddit’s multicopter forum or RcGroups.

Here are a few example setups

for different quad sizes. These are known to work, still it’s a great idea to double check the components.

220x sized motors with ~2300 KV are great for 220 size quads.
Size 220

Motor: Lumenier RX2206-11 2350Kv Motor
ESC: Lumenier F390 30A BLHeli ESC OPTO (2-4s)
Propellers: Lumenier 5x4x3 – 3 Blade Propeller
Battery: 1300mAh 4S

Size 220 #2

Motor: KingKong 2205
ESC: RacerStar RS20A V2
Propellers: DAL 5040 tri-blade
Battery: generic 1300mAh 4S

250 size quads need a bit larger motor with a bit lower KV.

 

Size 250

Motor: DYS MR2306 2100KV
ESC: DYS XM20A or DYS XM30A
Propellers: Kingkong 6040
Battery: Generic 4S or 3S

Size 250 #2

Motor: DYS BE1806-2300kv
ESC: Afro 12AMP BEC Ultralite
Propellers: DAL bullnose 6045 props
Battery: 3S

A 2830 motor is a heavy lifter, use it only for overweight 350 quads.

 

Size 350

Motor: D2830-11 1000kv
ESC: Afro ESC 30Amp
Propellers: Hobbyking Slowfly Propeller 10×4.5
Battery: generic 3S 4000mAh

Size 450

– this one is available as a set from Amazon.
Motor: XXD A2212 1000KV
ESC: generic 30A
Propellers: generic 1045
Battery: 3S

900-100KV motors are great for size 450 quads.

 

Size 450 #2

Motor: Hobbypower 2212 920KV
ESC: HP Simonk 30A
The ESC and the motor are available as a kit from Amazon.
Propellers: Gemfan 1045
Battery: generic 5000mAh 4S

If you’d like to build your own quad, our How to build a quadcopter? article can be a good starting point. To make even more components at home, What is a DIYquadcopter?can give you great ideas. Oscar Liang has a great article on quadcopter motors too.

Have fun flying!

Akaso X5C Review

The Akaso X5C is great looking value quadcopter,with all the features you can expect from a quad in it’s size and price range: it is 6-axis stabilized, has a transmitter-controlled camera,headless mode, and will do flips on button-press.

While the Akaso K5C is a clone of the Syma X5C it has some differences. As with the Syma X5C the build quality is high, the quadcopter has legs and prop guards for protection, and the box comes complete with a pair of replacement propellers. For the video functionality the box also includes an MicroSD-Card and a USB card reader.

The X5C is well stabilized, and you will not have to work the sticks just to make it stay planted. The control range is 50 to 100 meters, depending on the charge level, and environmental conditions. Just as other quadcopters which use the 2.4 Ghz technology the X5C will simply drop out of the sky if it gets out of range.

The X5C can fly as high as it’s range permits – then again be careful when pushing the limits.

Replacement batteries and chargers are available, however other parts can be a bit hard to find. The Syma X5C part set is probably compatible, however it was not tested.

The Akaso X5C can lift quite a few grams, however it will not be able to lift a GoPro even if you remove the camera, landing skids and the prop guards.

The quadcopter supports both indoor and outdoor flying, and has three speed modes for beginner, intermediate and advanced pilots. The beginner mode is particularly suitable for indoor flight. The quad’s bright LED lights make night flying fun, and help the orientation too.

The K5C’s wind tolerance is a good, it’s even better than the Syma X5C’s, as it does not have the Syma wind bug.

The suggested age group is 8 years and up. The quadrotor has small parts, so keep it out of the reach of small children.

The quadcopter is a basic unit, so it does not have GPS or automatic take off and landing. It does have headless mode, which means that the left-right-forward-backward stick will interpreted with respect to the quadcopter’s takeoff direction. So using the back stick will bring the quadcopter towards you.

The propellers are gear-driven which cuts the costs, the motors are the coreless brushed type known for their high acceleration, so the X5C is fairly nimble in the air. Even though the X5C is geared it does not make much noise.

The size of the X5C is 31.5 x 31.5 centimeters and the weight is around a100 grams (so it does not need FAA registration). The packages weight is 2.5pounds.
The box contains everything you need for flying, except for the 4xAAbatteries for the transmitter. Even bundles are available with extra batteries for the quad and extra charger.

The camera

is an average-quality item, it can take photos at an 1280×1024 pixel resolution (1 megapixel), and record videos at 640×480 pixel resolution (0.3 megapixels). The video frame rate is 30 fps, the video format is simple AVI, so all players can play it. The camera does not have night vision.

The camera functionality can be controlled from the transmitter, which has buttons for taking photos, and to start/stop recording. The red LED will keep flashing while the camera is recording, so it’s really easy to see ifit works.
The videos and photos get recorded onto the MicroSD card in the camera,which is included in the package. To view them you will have to remove the card and use the supplied USB card reader.
For best results always stop the video before powering off the quad, or the file could get damaged and will be unplayable.

The X5C does not have a live video feed, so you do not need a smartphone forthe video functionality.

The camera is removable so you can lighten up your quadcopter if you do not want to use it. The camera does not have a servo so you can only look around by turning the quadcopter itself. The camera is angled downwards, so it’s best for ground shots.

The battery

is a single cell, 3.7 volt, 500mAh Li-Po unit.The flight time is quoted as 5 to 7 minutes by the manufacturer, in reality you can expect more than 10 minutes of flying on a single charge. The charge time is about an hour.

Replacement batteries and chargers are available – they are great to extend the flight time and get more out of your quadcopter.
USB power banks can be used for this purpose too.

The charger is USB based and works with any USB socket. To charge the battery remove it from the quadcopter, and connect it to the USB charger.Next connect the charger to an USB socket. Charging is finished when the red LED in the charger turns on.
Fully charge the battery before storing the X5C for long time.

The battery does not use the JST connector which is common with quadcopters,so it’s best to go with the official chargers and batteries.

The transmitter

is a full-sized unit so it fits nicely in the hands.
The transmitter uses the interference-free 2.4 Ghz spread-spectrum technology, so you will be able to fly with others together.

The transmitter has buttons for every function of the quadcopter, including flips, taking photos and starting/stopping the recording.

Binding the quadcopter to a different transmitter is not possible, as the Akaso X5C uses a special protocol.

The transmitter is mode 2, with the throttle on the left stick.

Binding the quadcopter and the transmitter is easy, just follow these steps:

  • Fully charge the battery of the quadcopter.
  • Turn both the quadcopter and the transmitter off, and set the throttle stick to the minimum.
  • Turn on the quadcopter, then the transmitter.
  • Push the throttle up to the maximum, then down to the minimum again.
Overall

the Akaso X5C is a great value quadcopter – it is not as polished as it’s competitors, however it’s price is unbeatable.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†

Resources:

If you liked the Akaso X5C you will surely love the Syma X5C andX5SC. For live video check out the Syma X5SW.
For more insight on the Akaso X5C check out the reviews on Amazon.

Syma X5SW Review

The Syma X5SW is the FPV variant of the Syma X5line. Thus the X5SW has much in common with the Syma X5 and the X5SC. It’s well built, has prominent legs and prop guards, so it can take crashes too, and overall gives a feeling of a high quality product.

It can do flips and rolls on button press, and has a 6 axis stabilization system, which makes flying very smooth.

The X5SW is suitable both for indoor and outdoor flying, however it really shines when flying outside on a calm day. Wind resistance can be a weak spot of this quadcopter, as some of it suffer from a slight wind bug. The wind bug can be counteracted by applying forward trim by pushing the trim button on the left of the right stick forwards multiple times. Just remember to push it backwards before landing. These steps are not necessary on calm days.

The X5SW also has a WiFi camera which can stream live video to your smartphone, or you can use it to take photos. It’s excellent for recording and aerial photography because you actually know what you are recording. However all WiFi based FPV solutions have a distinct lag, which can make FPV flyingΒ  bit of a challenge.

The X5SW’s range is around 50 meters, and it can fly just as high too. TheX5SW will simply shut down once out of range, so push it only above soft surfaces.

In general the flight is very stable due to the 6 axis stabilization, and the high and low settings make it suitable both for beginner and advanced pilots.

The legs and the prop guards the X5SW comes with make it very sturdy; upgrades and replacement parts are readily available too, for example replacement batteries with charger, upgraded motors, motor + gear set combos, replacement props, legs and guards.
All these available parts make the X5SW one of the best supported quads on the market.

Being a large quadcopter it can lift considerable weight too, particularly if you remove the camera. However a GoPRO is just too much for it.

The X5SW supports headless flight mode, which is very handy if you lose the orientation. The X5SW does not have a GPS.

The suggested age group for the X5SW is 14 years and up. Keep the quadrotor out of the reach of little children, as it contains small parts they could ingest.

The X5SW also has bright LEDs for orientation, green in the back and redLEDs in the front. Besides helping the orientation, the LEDs are used as low voltage indicators too: they will start flashing before the LiPo battery runs out.

The X5SW is 31 x 31 x 10 cm in size, and it’s weight is around 120 grams with the camera on. As such the X5SW does not need FAA registration.

The box size is 41 x 35 x 10 cm and weight is around 1 kilogram. The box contains everything you need for flying except for the 4 x AA batteries for the transmitter (for the video functionality you will need a smartphone).

The low and high settings and the flipping function can be activated by pressing the shoulder buttons of the transmitter.

Even though the X5SW has a geared drive with brushed motors, it’s not noisy.

The X5SW’s video

is a 640 x 480 pixel 0.3 MP unit. The FPV system has a 0.5 second lag – so it’s ideal to try out FPV flying, however you will probably want to move to another solution later.

The X5SW does not record audio. If you need audio you may want to check the Syma X5C.

The X5SW’s FPV supports WiFi capable Android and iPhone smartphones, and transmitter has a cellphone holder for this. The videos are recorded onto the smartphone, you can use a file manager to save them to your computer.Viewing the live video feed on a computer is not supported.

The camera is removable, so you can use the X5SW as a normal quadcopter too.Flight times will be longer this way, due to the reduced drag, weight, and battery usage.

The WiFi range is around 50 meters too, so you will not run out of WiFi range with this quadcopter. The camera is usable without the X5SW, all it needs is a 3.7 volt LiPo battery for power, so you can mount it on other quadcopters or RC vehicles too with a bit of tinkering.

A cellphone app is required for the camera, which is downloadable using the QR code on the box. To start the FPV turn on the camera and connect to the”FPV WIFI_****” WiFi network with your smartphone. Next start the smartphone app. The smartphone app has buttons to record a video, take a photo, or replay previous videos.

If you have issues with the camera try powering up the quad first, and connect the camera only afterwards. The WiFi can have interference issues,so if it’s not working at home it still could work out on the field as there are no other interfering hotspots there.

The smartphone apps are available from Syma, or directly on Google Playand the AppStore.

Handbrake can recode the videos into MP4 or MKV formats.

The X5SW is cannot be controlled from a smartphone, so you will still need the transmitter.

The X5SW’s battery

is a single cell, 3.7 volt, 500 mAh LiPo battery. Flight time is around 5.5 minutes, after a charge time of 2 hours.The charger is USB based, and is compatible with most USB sockets, for example iPhone chargers work well with it too.

Replacement chargers and batteries are available, even huge, 1200 mAh batteries too which can give the X5SW much longer flight times.

The X5SW has low voltage protection, and will signal low battery voltage with flashing LEDs. When you see this land as soon as possible to avoid damage to the quadcopter.

The X5SW’s transmitter

is a full sized unit,which has everything you need to control the quadcopter, except for the video functions, which are handled by the smartphone app.

The transmitter uses the interference-free 2.4 Ghz technology, so you will be able to fly together with others.

The transmitter is mode 2 (throttle on the left); to toggle mode 1 and mode2, turn of the transmitter, then turn it on while pushing the trim button bellow the right stick to the right. It’s that simple.

The quadcopter and the transmitter bind automatically, all you have to do is turn on the X5SW first, next the transmitter with the throttle set to minimum. Next push the throttle to the top and back to the minimum again to bind them together.

To reset the X5SW’s gyros, simply move both sticks to the bottom right corner after binding, and wait for the X5SW’s LED to flash.

Binding to other transmitters is doable, but is generally not supported. The Walkera Devo line of transmitters can drive the Syma quadcopters using a hardware modification and the deviation firmware.

If your Syma X5SW has low transmitter range try to hold the trim button next to the right stick up while you are binding the quad and the transmitter.

Overall

the X5SW is a nice quadrotor to try out the basics of FPV flying, and good for taking photos. Still it’s far from perfect, and the FPV lag, low camera resolution and the wind bug clearly show that it’s a toy – even though a fairly advanced toy.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…

Resources:

For even more details on the X5SW you may wantto check out this flitetest thread and the manual on manualslib.com. The reviews on Amazon.com are very practical too.

Syma X5C Review

The Syma X5C Explorers is a well built, great looking quad for those who prefer a professional-looking quadcopter. The quad is 6-axisstabilized (3 gyros and 3 accelerometers), which grants it a smooth flight. The range is quoted as 50 meters, however you will be fly to a larger distance without losing contact (more on this later). It can fly just as high too.

The quad can do flips at a press of a button, and is very stable in the air,so you will not have to boss it around just to keep it planted.

The Syma X5C comes with prop guards and a solid plastic shell which makes it pretty well protected from crashes. It’s also said to be water resistant, but it’s better to stay safe, so keep it away from ponds and the rain. Spare props are included in the box too, depending on the seller, for example this one has them.This set comes is almost ready to fly, all you need are 4xAA batteries for the transmitter.

Weighing around 102 grams it’s not a small toy quad, which makes it ideal for outdoor flight. Fortunately indoor flying is a possibility too. Still,weighing less than 250 grams you will not have to register this quad with the FAA.

Spare parts are available, there are even pre-packaged quads with the parts included for example this nice box, which includes additional batteries, MicroSD card, and propellers. Crash sets, replacement motors and upgraded batteries are available too.

Being larger than average (the quad is 31.5×31.5×7.5 cm), it can lift quite a few grams of weight, so you can safely attach small objects to it. To lift even more, you can remove the camera. However it will not be able to lift a GoPro.

Wind resistance is good too, so small gusts will not take it away.

Indoor flight is a possibility too, though it’s a bit large for that, so leave indoor flight for later, once you are accustomed to the controls.

Being a large quad it’s a bit less nimble than it’s smaller counterparts,however it’s still wicked fast.

Being simple as it is, this quad does not support headless mode, return home function, or automatic landing. Still, being priced between 30 to 60 USD this quad is great value for the money. It has landing skids, so it will not get damaged if you happen to land it hard, and holds it’s position nicely in the air.

The box is 51.5 x 29.5 x 7.5cm and weighs 2 pounds, which is good to know if you want to take it with you on a holiday.

The quad has bright LEDs which make night flight great fun, and make daytime orientation easier too.

The video

on the quad is HD quality, that is 1280×720 pixel resolution with a 30 frame per second framerate.

The camera records to the on board microSD card which comes with the quad.The microSD card is enough for a dozen of flights, so you it’s enough even if you buy a bunch of batteries to enjoy the flying.

The quad is non-FPV, so you do not get a live video feed from it.

The video quality is as good as you can expect from such a cam. Stable, low speed flying can improve it a lot.

Audio is recorded too, some post processing is required though due to the noise from the propellers. For example Audacity is a great tool for such work.

Video recording and taking photos can be triggered from the transmitter,which is a plus compared to simple models where you have to push the buttons on the quad itself.

The videos are in AVI format, and most video player will play it without any problems. Just make sure you stop the video recording before turning off the quad and removing the microSD card for viewing, otherwise the files will get damaged.

The camera is fixed, so you will not be able to rotate it around, but is removable for improved flight performance.

The battery

is a 3.7V 500mAh LiPO one, which grants the quad a 6-9 minute flight time, (4 to 7 minutes if the camera is recording). Charge time is up to 100 minutes, so getting multiple batteries is a great idea.This pack will give your quad an even longer flight time, and includes a charger too.

The battery uses a JST plug which standard for quads nowadays, so it’s really easy to find compatible chargers.

The factory charger is USB based, so you will need an USB port for charging(iPhone wall charger works too). Just plug the battery in the charger, and the charger into the USB port and wait for the LED to turn off.

The quad has low-voltage cutoff to protect the battery: it’s LED will start blinking once the battery is getting low, and you will have a few seconds to land safely.

The transmitter

uses the interference-free 2.4 Ghz technology, so you will be able fly with other quads together. The range is50 meters, which is larger than the average. You may even find that the real range is 100 meters larger, just make sure you test it out close to the ground. If the quad goes out of range or the transmitter gets turned off it will simply drop from the air, just like the others.

The quad can be bound to other transmitters too, so you can use your own if you already have one.

Getting the quad without a transmitter is possible too.

Mode switching

is really easy: turn off the remote, pull the trim switch bellow the right stick to the right and turn on the remote.This will toggle between mode 1 and mode 2; the LCD will show the new mode.

Binding the quad and the Tx

is simple too:

  • Turn on the quad, the LEDs will start flashing.
  • Move the transmitter’s throttle to the lowest position and turn it on.
  • Move the throttle to the max position, then to the lowest again. You will hear two beeps, once when the throttle is pushed to the max, once when it’s down.
  • The Tx and the quad are now bound, you can start flying!
Overall:

Great quad for outdoor flight with above average range, and looks good too.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…


You may want to check out the Syma X5SCtoo, which is an upgraded version of the X5C. The Syma X11 is worth a look too if you prefer smaller quadcopters. RCGroups features a detailed review of the X5C too.

Holy Stone F180C Quadcopter Review

The Holy Stone F180C is one of those well-built, high quality quadcopters that immediately catch your attention. It’s well built, American hobby quality. It has a really rich feature set, supports flips,video recording and photo making, and even has a headless function to simplify the pilot’s job. The quadcopter can fly both indoors and outdoors.It can take slight gusts easily, however heavy winds will blow it away.

The range is 30 to 50 meters and the F180C can fly just as high too. If you fly out of the range it will simply stop flying, so experiment only above soft surfaces.

The box comes with everything you need for the flight, except for the 4xAAbatteries for the transmitter.

The Holy Stone F180C has 6 axis gyro stabilization (3 axis for the accelerometers and 3 for the gyros) so it drifts only a little, and is a very stable flyer.

It also has trim buttons on the transmitter, so any tendency to drift can be easily counteracted.

The Holy Stone F180C has 4 level of controls, which make it suitable for beginner and advanced pilots too, and indoor flight is easier using the lowest setting.

The quadrotor comes with good looking crash and prop guards, and has a nice shell, which make it very durable.

The motors coreless, and they drive the propellers directly, the quad flies quietly without any gear noise.

Replacement parts are available too, would anything happen to your quad you are covered.

The quad is 13.5cm x 13.5cm x 3.5cm in size, so it can lift tiny objects if that’s something you expect from a quad. The shipping weight is around a pound. Being a light quad you will not have to register it with the FAA.

Suggested age is 14 years and up.

While the quad does not have automatic landing, it does have headless mode which makes return home much easier than your average quadcopter.

The video

on the quad has a 2 megapixel resolution (1280 x720p), the video and the audio is saved onto the miniSD card in the quadcopter. The quad comes with 2GB card and a card reader too so it’s one less thing to worry about. The video is non-FPV so it’s viewable only after landing. For best results make sure you turn off the recording before switching of the quadcopter, otherwise the video file could get damaged. The video format is AVI, and is playable by most players. Fortunately the video has no overlays.

Video controls are on the transmitter, which is rare in this category.

The video camera is neither removable nor turn able, so positioning is simply done by positioning the quadcopter. Simplicity is key for these light machines.

Video recording is signaled on the LCD screen of the transmitter, which is really handy. Night vision is not supported, on the upside the quadcopter records audio too.

The battery

is a 3.7 volt Li-Po battery, which grants this quadcoptor an 5 to 8 minute flight time. The batteries use the JST connector standard,so you can use other chargers too, not just the USB based one which comes in the box.

The Holy Stone F180C comes with two batteries

, which makes this offer unique.

The charge time is around 45 minutes. The charger can charge the two batteries together. The charger’s LED will turn off when charging is complete.

Low voltage cutoff protects the batteries, and the Holy Stone F180C’s LEDs will start blinking to remind you to land.

The transmitter

uses the interference-free 2.4 Ghz technology so you can fly together with your friends without a hassle.

The range is 30 to 50 meters, just make sure you fly low when pushing the limits.

Pairing is automatic, all you have to do is power up the quadcopter, then power up the transmitter with the throttle stick in the lowest position.

Our rating:

Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
The single flaw of this quadcopter is the need to rest between flights to avoid overheating, so the fun factor is a tiny bit lower than usual.


If you liked the Holy Stone F180C you will surely love the HubsanH107C too! Looking for something smaller? The Hubsan H107L isa great alternative to check. For a video review of the Holy Stone F180C check this RCGroup post.

Eachine E10C Review

The Eachine E10C is a nano-sized drone complete with a good quality 2 megapixel camera, weighing only 15 grams. Being a nano sized drone it does not have a wide range of features – it’s just not possible to squeeze so many things into such a small package. Still it supports flips on button press, flight is very stable, and is fairly fast too.

The E10C supports both indoor and outdoor flying, and has bright LEDs too(blue in the front, red in the black) which help with the orientation and act as low voltage warning too.

The mini-drone is well built, and can take crashes like a champ, so it’s definitely a high-quality product. It does not come with a prop guard, however it’s available as an add-on.

Even though the E10C is well built accidents will happen, fortunately the quadrotor is well-supported, with a crash set, body shell and spare charger all available.

The control range of the quadcopter is 20 to 30 meters, and it will fly just as high too. Once it goes out of range it will simply drop out of the sky, so take care.

While the flight is very stable it may need small adjustments.

As the E10C is very small (6cm X 6cm, 15 grams) it can’t lift any additional weight. On the upside it also means it is very quiet, and does not need FAA registration.

The quadrotor supports both indoor and outdoor flying, and will tolerate small gusts, larger winds will carry it away. The drone has three modes fo rbeginner, intermediate and advanced pilots, which help with the indoor-outdoor switching too. In advanced mode the quadcopter is extremely agile – if you have doubts start in beginner mode.

To cycle the modes just depress the left stick. One beep signals beginner mode, two beeps intermediate mode, and three beeps advanced mode.

Suggested age for the quadcopter is 14 years and up. The quadrotor contains small parts, so keep it out of the reach of little children.

Headless mode and GPS are not supported by this model. Motors are the coreless brushed type, the propellers are simply pushed onto the motors shafts.

The box size is about 12.5 cm X 7.5 cm X 8.5 cm – fairly small given that it contains both the transmitter and the quadcopter.

The package contains everything you need for flying, except for the 2xAAbatteries for the transmitter. For the video functionality you will need a MicroSD card and a card reader as these are not included.

The camera

of the E10C is an advanced unit, it can take photos in 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution (2 megapixels) and record videos in 1280 x 720pixels (0.9 megapixels), at 30 frames per seconds.

The quality is fairly good, the camera records the photos and the videos onto the MicroSD card inserted into the quadcopter. Taking photos and recording videos are controlled from the transmitter, which is fairly clever for such a small aircraft.

The quadcopter has a LED for camera status. It’s important to stop the recording before turning off the quadrotor, as the video files could get damaged.

The E10C does not have live video output, so a smartphone is not needed for the video functionality. If you are looking for a nano sized quadcopter with FPV support, check out the Eachine E10W.

To view the photos or the videos, first turn off the recording, next turn of the quadcopter and remove the MicroSD card. Finally use a card reader with your computer to view the contents of the card.

Being a tiny quad there is no place for a microphone in it, so audio is not recorded.

The video format is plain .AVI, and is playable by any player.

The camera is fixed in place, it’s neither movable nor removable. The MicroSD card and the card reader are not included in the package.

The battery

of the E10C is a single-cell, 3.7 volt LiPo battery with 150mAh capacity. This gives the mini-drone a 5 to 6 minute flight time after a 30 to 40 minute charge time.

The charger is USB based. To charge the battery, first connect the quadcopter to the charger, next the charger to a USB socket. Charging is finished when the LED on the charger turns off.

While the charger is compatible with any USB socket, including the iPhone charger,or USB power banks for in-the-field charging, for best results use your computer’s USB socket. This way you will not charge the battery too fast.

The battery was not designed to be removed, still it’s a possibility if you need to replace it.

Replacement chargers and batteries are available, battery upgrades are not possible however, as larger batteries would not fit the battery cage.

The quadcopter has low voltage alarm, it’s LEDs will start flashing as the battery starts to run low – make sure you land ASAP.

The transmitter

of the E10C is a toy-like transmitter,which best fits small and normal sized hands, even though it’s larger than what you get with other nano quads. It uses the 2.4 Ghz spread-spectrum technology, which makes it immune to interference. This means you can fly together with your friends, all you have to do is bind the quadcopters to their transmitters one-by-one.

The transmitter is fixed in mode 2, with throttle on the left stick.

The camera functionality is on the shoulder buttons of the transmitter, the sticks can be pressed as if they were buttons. Depressing the left stick will cycle through beginner, intermediate and advanced modes. Depressing the right stick will activate flip mode – move the right stick afterwards to start a flip in the given direction.

The control range is 20 to 30 meters, and the E10C will simply shut down if you fly out of range.

To bind the quadrotor and the transmitter first power both off and set the left (throttle) stick to the minimum. Next power on the quad, then the transmitter, and push the throttle up to the maximum, then down to the minimum again.

After crashes the quadcopter can start to drift. To fix this issue reset the gyros: place the quad on an even surface, bind it to the transmitter, and move both sticks to the bottom left position to start the recalibration.

Overall

the Eachine E10C is a very nice quadcopter, it’s only drawback is that it can lose lot of height when flipping. Besides this minor issue it is very agile, the camera is good quality, and it’s LEDs make it great for night flying. Support is great too.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…

Resources:

RCGroups has a short but informative thread on the Eachine E10C, it’s possible one of the best reviews of the quadcopter. Youtube has great videos on it too,for example this one. If you like nano quadcopters, you will surely love the Cheerson CX10and the Syma X12 Nano too. For a bit larger quadcopter with a camera you may want to check out the Holy Stone F180C.

What is a quadcopter?

Quadcopters are four-rotored flying machines

, they are lifted by four propellers: two spinning clockwise, and two spinning counter-clockwise. As such quadcopters are “rotorcrafts”, and belong to the same family as helicopters do. While helicopters work by changing the pitch of their rotors to control the aircraft, quadcopters usually work changing the RPM of their propellers. The quadcopter’s spread is closely related to the advent of high performance microcontrollers, which are used as the flight controller, the brain of the quadcopter. These tiny computers have the computing power required to balance the quadcopters. Quadcopters are mechanically simple (you do not need pushrods, servos or any kind of complex mechanical devices to make them work), and flight controllers are readily available, making quadcopters easy to build.

Quadcopters have a long history

, they were built from the beginning of the 1900s, with various levels of success. Just as with any new technology, the level of refinement increased gradually. The first quadcopter, the Breguet-Richet Gyroplane built in 1907, could barely fly. 50 years later the Convertawings Model A Quadrotor could already fly fairly well in 1956. However it was just around 2005 that the first electronic quadcopters appeared. Since 2005 the number of quadcopters and manufacturers have grown exponentially, today you can get quadcopters in all shapes and sizes, from palm-sized quadcopters with built-in camera to the huge Kopterworx HammerK8.

As quadcopters are simple, reliable and easy to build you can will surely meet them in new roles the following years.

Two props spin clockwise, and two counter-clockwise.
How do quadcopters work?

Quadcopters use a gyroscope to work out their own tilt angle, and then speed up or slow down their propellers to compensate and keep themselves stable.

The quadcopter’s propellers spin independently using 4 motors, 2 in clockwise, and two in counter-clockwise direction. Would the quadcopter tilt left, it can speed up it’s left side propellers to compensate. Tilting forwards, backwards, and right are taken care of the same way.

In forward flight the rear props speed up, the front props slowdown.
To move forward

the quadrotor will slow down it’s propellers in the front slightly, and speed up the ones in the back. This way it will tilt forward,the props will start pushing the air down and towards the back, which will make the quadcopter fly forward.

To turn left, the quad speeds up it’s props turning right.
To turn left

(counter-clockwise), the quadcopter will speed up the propellers turning right (clockwise), and slow down the props turning left (counter-clockwise). This way the faster turning props will get more resistance from the air, and the quadcopter will start turning counter-clockwise. Turning right is achieved in a similar fashion, by speeding up the counter-clockwise turning props,and slowing down the clockwise turning props.

To ascend, the quadcopter will simply speed up all it’s propellers.
To ascend and descend

the quadcopter will simply speed or slow down all of its propellers.

These are the basic movements a quadcopter is capable to. Fortunately you do not have to take care of the propellers speeds yourself, the flight controller does it all for you based on the stick inputs from the transmitter.

Quadcopters can be equipped with even more advanced electronics, to create a more versatile flying machine. For example by adding a high performance flight controller and a GPS you can program it to follow a pre-determined flight plan.

What are quadcopters good for?

Quadcopters and drones are great for recreation, both flying and building them are lot of fun. Just watching how it reacts to your inputs is a great way to let go after a long day. Some quadcopters support first person view flying too – their on board camera transmits the video signal to the pilot’s goggle which can be even more engaging.

Besides flying for fun, quadcopters are great for aerial photography, for example DJI’s Phantom line of quadcopters are professional video recording machines.

Quadcopters are also used by the law enforcement and the military as a surveillance tool: they can fly fast to the desired location and takeΒ  a photo or video of the bad guys without endangering the pilot’s life.

Drones make good use in the agriculture too, where they can survey the crops or spray pesticides.

Though not yet used for this, drone will probably be used as last-mile delivery agents too.

Finally, quadcopters make great research platform too, scientists and engineers use them to study autonomous and cooperative behavior, object avoidance, and many other subjects.

Overall

quadcopters are very cool, and you can get lots of fun and enjoyment out of them. If you find them interesting you may want to check out a few of our reviews too.

How to build a quadcopter?

Building a quadcopter at home is not as hard as you’d think. However it takes a lot of time and effort, soldering skills, and patience, patience,patience.

Building your quadcopter is not something you have to do: there are a lot of high quality quadcopters on the market today, and you can easily buy one that will suit your needs, skill level, and budget. Building is a great option if you love putting things together, and you will learn a lot doing it all yourself.

The quadcopter’s parts need to be in balance

, so if it’s your first build, the best is to go with a proven design. This will save you lot of hassle, as the motors, ESCs, batteries and propellers will all be properly matched together. If you fail to match these items, your quadcopter will likely have lower than expected performance, or could totally fail too.
For example a too large motor without the proper battery and ESC will weigh just too much to fly well, and will likely overload your ESC.
On the other hand, and undersized motor will not have enough power to lift your quadcopter, and will likely overheat too. If you’d still like to go with your own part list, eCalc.ch has very detailed quadcopter calculator which can help a lot.

The quadcopter parts list

The ZMR250 is a proven air frame, a lot of kits use this one. It’s the easiest to order one such kit online, for example this one from Amazon. The upside is that you will not have to go through selecting all the right parts:

  • The ZMR250 carbon frame kit,
  • 4x MT2204 2300KV Brushless motors,
  • 4x 12A SimonK ESCs (more info on these ESCs here),
  • 4x 5030 (clockwise) 2-blade Propellers (2 spare),
  • 4x 5030 (counter-clockwise) 2-blade Propellers (2 spare),
  • CC3D Flight Controller in protecting case
  • and the power distribution board.

Still missing and you will surely need:

  • An appropriately sized battery, something around 1300-1600 mAh, 3S (=three LiPo cells in series), fo rexample this one.
  • a 2.4 Ghz receiver and transmitter, for example this combo from Flysky,
  • 4xAA batteries for the transmitter,
  • soldering iron and solder,
  • and finally a balancing charger for the Lipo battery, for example aΒ SKYRC iMAX charger.
Let’s build our DIY quadcopter!

The ZMR250 frame parts laid out.
The motor screws should not be too large.

The first step is to mount the motors on the arms. To do this simply screw the the bottom of the motors onto the arms. The arms are symmetric, so you can’t go wrong with this step. Take care to align the wires from the motor with the arms, so they are protected in case of a crash. To achieve a good fit, tighten the screws only once they are all in. The screws should not be too long, as that will ruin the motor’s wiring.

Motor – ESC detail.
The next step is to connect the motors and the ESCs

For the best connection you may want to solder the motor’s wires onto the ESCs. It’s a good idea to solder them such that they have the best chance to turn in the right direction. To achieve this, solder two motors with the wires straight to the ESC, and two motors with crossed wires. Make sure the wires are not too short, or you’ll have a hard time reaching the power distribution board. Once finished, cover the ESCs with heat shrink tube or simple tape for insulation – shorts can cause fire and you could lose your quadcopter to it. It’s best to make sure they can’t happen.
Choose the simple solution here, and fix the ESCs onto the arms with additional tape.

After the ESCs are in place, screw the arms between the baseplates.

The arms should line up to give the quadcopter the “H” outline. Note the motor’s rotating directions when placing the arms with the quad looking away from you – they should be CW (straight wiring) front left – CCW (crossed wiring) front right – CW (straight wiring)rear right – CCW(crossed wiring) rear left.

By this time the quadcopter should be shaping up pretty well, so it’s time to move onto the other electronics.

The arms mounted between the two baseplates. PDB is on the top.
This is how you wire up the PDB. The CC3D flight controller accepts anything between 5-15 volts.
Soldering the ESCs onto the power distribution board is straightforward.

Just make sure you do not mix up the poles, solder the black wires to the negative pads, and the red wires to the positive pads. Once done you can move on to soldering the battery connector, again red to the positive and black to the negative pads. Once ready you can screw the standoffs onto the baseplate, then the power distribution board onto the standoffs. Use another pair of standoffs to fix the flight controller onto the power distribution board.
The flight controller will get it’s power from one of the ESCs via the wires between the ESC and the flight controller, so there’s nothing to solder here.
The receiver will get it’s power from the triple-wire connector from the flight controller – again it’s something you do not have to care about.

CC3D flight controller – FSiA6receiver wiring.
Connecting the flight controller and the receiver.

After connecting the power wires, you can start connecting the data wires too. First up is the connection between the flight controller and the receiver: plug the connector into the flight controller, next plug the individual plugs into the receiver. White is the throttle, blue is the roll,yellow is the pitch, and brown is the flight mode.

The CC3D’s ports.

Next connect the ESCs to the flight controller.
With the quad looking away from you, the front left ESC is #1 (CW), front right#2(CCW),rear right #3(CW), and finally rear left #4(CCW). When plugging in the ESCs,the yellow wire (the signal) should connect to the innermost pin, and the brown wire to the outermost pin. If your flight controller is ready use more spacers and screw it onto the top of the PDB.

Having put almost everything together it’s time for a quick test.

Charge the battery and connect it to the quadcopter, and power up your transmitter. Using a smoke protector is a great idea – it can save you a lot of hassle. You will have to bind the transmitter and the receiver – just see this short video, it’s less than 2 minutes. After binding is complete you should check that the quadcopter works as expected. Do not put the props on yet -they could cause trouble.

  • if you throttle up, all the motors should start spinning
  • they all spin in the appropriate direction
  • if you push the “tilt forward” stick forward (right stick in mode 2,left stick in mode 1) the rear motors should start spinning faster.
  • if you push the yaw stick left (left stick), the CW direction motors should speed up (front left and rear right) while the CCW direction motors should slow down (front right and rear left)

If there’s anything amiss you will have to debug it with clean flight. There are quite a few guides on it, this one on youtube is really good; if you prefer reading check this guide.

Everything looks good? It’s time to install the props!

Clockwise prop cross section.
To install the props on your quadcopter

When installing the props make sure you put the clockwise props on the clockwise motors, and the counter-clockwise props on the counter-clockwise motors. To identify the propellers, look at them with the blade pointing towards you. The cross section of the counter-clockwise props is the mirror image of the clockwise props. Tighten the props with the nuts.

The large standoff with the screw visible.
Getting ready for the first flight

To get ready for the first flight, use the large screws with the long metal standoffs to install the top plate. Finally mount the battery on the top – velcro and zip ties work wonders here πŸ™‚

The top plate on the standoffs.
Now your quadcopter is ready for flying.

Quadcopters are dangerous, so before trying your quadcopter out make sure that

  • your are out in the open, away from anything you could hurt – people,cars, animals, windows
  • increase the throttle only gradually, never push it up to the maximum
  • take your time to expand the flight envelope
  • if in doubt slowly throttle down
  • the quadcopter propellers can cause serious injury so do not flyclose to humans or animals (I actually cut my mattress with a spinning prop.)
  • make sure it’s actually legal to fly in your area.
  • if you are in the US and your quad weighs more than 0.55 pounds (250grams), you’ll have to register it with the FAA. Your ZMR250 will probably weigh around the double.
Happy flying!
3-2-1 and we have a liftoff!