About

Owning quite a few quadcopters ourselves, and seeing the amount of
disinformation available on the ‘net today we set out to put together
well-research quadcopter reviews, for those of you wanting to learn more on
these wonderful flying machines.

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What is a quadcopter flight controller?

The quadcopter flight controller is the brain of the quadcopter. The flight controller includes a processor, an array of sensors (a 3 axis gyroscope, a3 axis accelerometer and optionally a barometer, a magnetometer and a GPS), and takes the input from the receiver.

Using this input, the code running on the flight controller’s CPU works out how you want it to fly, and combines it with the sensor readings to calculate which rotors it should speed up and which rotors it should slowdown.

This way the flight controller translates your instructions into motor speed. Without a flight controller you’d have to drive the props directly from the receiver, so you’d have to assign a motor to a channel and use the sticks accordingly. For example the horizontal movements of the left stick could drive your front left motor, the vertical movements the front right, and so on.

While this could work with a large quadcopter for a short time, the first gust would blow you away because you just could not react fast enough. And besides it would not be much fun flying this way.

So the flight controller is there to help you, and it does this all hundreds or thousands time a second to keep your quad balanced.

Flight controllers consist of a software and a hardware part.

The hardware and software are only lousily coupled – you can run different flight controller software on the same hardware. For best results it’s good to match the two together.

The same hardware-software combination can support different kind of flying machines. Quadcopters, hexa- and octo-copters are usually supported, some flight controllers support tricopters and airplanes too.

The flight controller software comes with a computer based GUI tool too, which can help setting up and testing your quadcopter.

To choose a flight controller

you’ll have to decide how you’d like to fly. Flight controllers are specialized, and a flight controller tailored for autonomous GPS based flying would not perform well for FPVracing. The basic choices here are generic and FPV flying, aerial photography and finally autonomous, GPSbased flying.

For flight controller software

the most important is to get one that has all the features you need, and has a large enough community.

A controller software which only a few people use will not be well tested, and it will be hard to find solutions to your problems.

For simply flying around Cleanflight is probably the best choice today.

For flight controller hardware

choose one that’s wel lsupported by the software of your choice.

Besides this the two most important things to look out for in FC hardware are the processor and the gyro model, and the manufacturer’s rating. Flightcontrollers are complex and it’s easy to mess them up, so double check the number of FCs sold by the manufacturer, and the rating they got from the buyers.

In general the flight controller’s processor should have a high performance floating point unit, which is used for the in-flight calculations. If the floating point unit is slow or missing, a less precise integer based method will be used, which will result in a slightly worse flight performance. In the future more and more flight controller software will expect a high performance FPU.

Practically every flight controller on the market today uses STMicroelectronics’ STM32 CPUs, the F1-F4 versions. The F4 is the newest and fastest, so go for this one if possible, otherwise choose an F3 based flight controllers. While the F1 based controllers are real ubiquitous workhorses, there isn’t much point in buying one nowadays.

The flight controllers gyro should be resilient both to electrical and mechanical noise,otherwise the quad will show hard-to-pin-down instabilities. TheMPU6500 is known to have issues, the MPU6050 seems to be OK.

Flight controllers for generic and FPV flying

The most popular flight controller software for this category are Cleanflight (a fork of Baseflight), Betaflight (a fork of Cleanflight for code cleanup), Raceflight (a fork of Cleanflight for better racing), and Librepilot (a fork of Openpilot due to internal issues). As Cleanflight is the most popular of the four, it is the safest choice.

For generic and FPV flying a wide range of hardware is available, forexample:

The Seriously Pro SPRacingF3, which is an STM32F3 based flight controller board. It supports the trio of Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight. Buying this board will help support the development of Cleanflight. As the development of this board is closely tied to Cleanflight, this is the bes tcombination. The SPRacingF3 is available on Amazon and other online stores.

The Taulabs Sparky is another STM32F3 CPU based flight controller board which supports Cleanflight, Betaflight, Raceflight andTaulabs’ own flight controller software. This is a good choice too.

The X-Racer F303 is another good choice for Cleanflight, a sit’s one of the most popular boards for quads based on Oscar Liang’s survey. The X-Racer sports an STM32F3series CPU, and supports Betaflight besides Cleanflight.Various versions of the X-Racer F303 are available online – go for the highest version number with the best reviews.

The Taulabs Sparky2 is an upgrade of the Sparky. TheSparky2 is a high-performance STM32F4 CPU based flight controller board,which supports Taulabs’ own software. As Betaflight and Raceflight support is underway it’s safer to revisit this board later. You can easily get the Sparky2online.

LibrePilot Revo also known as the OpenPilot Revolution is anew STM32F4 based board for LibrePilot. This is the best choice for LibrePilot. You can get a lot of versions from major online stores – make sure you double check the rating.

The OpenPilot CC3D is a very popular flight controller,based on the STM32F1 CPU series. This is a not a new model, but due to it’s sheer popularity it’s definitely worth mentioning. The CC3D supports Cleanflight, Librepilot, Betaflight and Raceflight. Choose this one if you want to go with a 110% proven, low-priced board.

The Naze32 is another old-school workhorse, based on theSTM32F1 series. This FC board supports the Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight. The best Naze32 board to date is the Naze32 rev5, the rev6 is currently missing pass through mode for ESC configuration. You can get both the rev5 and the rev6 online.

Flight controllers for aerial photography

For aerial photography the best flight controllers are probably built by DJI. These flight controllers run DJI’s own software and have all you need to build a professional video or photography platform.

The DJI Naza M-Lite is the smallest of the two flight controllers. The highlight for aerial photography is the support for gimbal stablization – one less problem you have to solve with your quad. The Naza M-Lite also supports return to home on lost connection, has intelligent orientation support (this is a a GPS enhanced headlessmode). Besides quadcopters the Naza M-Lite also supports hexacopters.Choose this, except if you want to get the best of the best. You can get various versions of the Naza M-Lite online, including this great 450 size kit.

The DJI Naza M V2 supports everything the Naza M-Lite does,end even more: it comes with a free iPad-based ground station software,and supports octocopters too. A smartphone based assistant software can help with changing the settings out in the field via Bluetooth. With hexa- and octocopters the Naza can keep flying even if one of the motors have stopped- this can help to save the photography equipment and the quad itself. Just as the Naza M-Lite, the Naza M V2 is available on Amazon too.

Flight controllers autonomous flying

For autonomous GPS based flying, the two most popular flight controller software are Paparazzi and Ardupilot. Choose the Paparazzi if you want the largest possible feature set, even at the expense of a bit lacking GUI. Go with the Ardupilot if you’d prefer a bit more polished product.

The two best flight controller boards for autonomous flying

are probably the fully-featured Pixhawk for the Ardupilot, and the tiny but still powerful Elle0 for the Paparazzi.

The Pixhawk and it’s derivates are the best choice for the Ardupilot. These are high performance flight controllers, which sport a really wide range of hardware, including multiple gyros, magnetometers, accelerometers, and a barometer. There is a wide choice of attachable hardware too, including multiple GPS and GLONASS receivers, cameras etc… The Pixhawk is available from a wide range of online retailers, including Amazon.

The Elle0autopilot is an STM32F4 based board for Paparazzi. The Elle0 is equipped with a 3 axis gyro, accelerometer and magnetometer. It has a barometer too for altitude readings. The sensors are connected via a low-latency SPI bus, so performance should be better thanI2C using boards. The Elle0 is tiny, measuring only 30.5 x 30.5 millimeters,so it’s suitable for 250 and smaller sized drones too. The Elle0 is available in 1bitsquared’s online store.

For more information on flight controllers for GPS based flying check ou tthe flight controllers section in our “What is a GPS quadcopter?” article.

The quadcopter flight controller is the brain of the quadcopter. The flight controller includes a processor, an array of sensors (a 3 axis gyroscope, a3 axis accelerometer and optionally a barometer, a magnetometer and a GPS), and takes the input from the receiver.

Using this input, the code running on the flight controller’s CPU works out how you want it to fly, and combines it with the sensor readings to calculate which rotors it should speed up and which rotors it should slowdown.

This way the flight controller translates your instructions into motor speed. Without a flight controller you’d have to drive the props directly from the receiver, so you’d have to assign a motor to a channel and use the sticks accordingly. For example the horizontal movements of the left stick could drive your front left motor, the vertical movements the front right, and so on.

While this could work with a large quadcopter for a short time, the first gust would blow you away because you just could not react fast enough. And besides it would not be much fun flying this way.

So the flight controller is there to help you, and it does this all hundreds or thousands time a second to keep your quad balanced.

Flight controllers consist of a software and a hardware part.

The hardware and software are only lousily coupled – you can run different flight controller software on the same hardware. For best results it’s good to match the two together.

The same hardware-software combination can support different kind of flying machines. Quadcopters, hexa- and octo-copters are usually supported, some flight controllers support tricopters and airplanes too.

The flight controller software comes with a computer based GUI tool too, which can help setting up and testing your quadcopter.

To choose a flight controller

you’ll have to decide how you’d like to fly. Flight controllers are specialized, and a flight controller tailored for autonomous GPS based flying would not perform well for FPV racing. The basic choices here are generic and FPV flying, aerial photography and finally autonomous, GPSbased flying.

For flight controller software

the most important is to get one that has all the features you need, and has a large enough community.

A controller software which only a few people use will not be well tested, and it will be hard to find solutions to your problems.

For simply flying around Cleanflight is probably the best choice today.

For flight controller hardware

choose one that’s well supported by the software of your choice.

Besides this the two most important things to look out for in FC hardware are the processor and the gyro model, and the manufacturer’s rating. Flight controllers are complex and it’s easy to mess them up, so double check the number of FCs sold by the manufacturer, and the rating they got from the buyers.

In general the flight controller’s processor should have a high performance floating point unit, which is used for the in-flight calculations. If the floating point unit is slow or missing, a less precise integer based method will be used, which will result in a slightly worse flight performance. In the future more and more flight controller software will expect a high performance FPU.

Practically every flight controller on the market today uses STMicroelectronics’ STM32 CPUs, the F1-F4 versions. The F4 is the newest and fastest, so go for this one if possible, otherwise choose an F3 based flight controllers. While the F1 based controllers are real ubiquitous workhorses, there isn’t much point in buying one nowadays.

The flight controllers gyro should be resilient both to electrical and mechanical noise,otherwise the quad will show hard-to-pin-down instabilities. TheMPU6500 is known to have issues, the MPU6050 seems to be OK.

Flight controllers for generic and FPV flying

The most popular flight controller software for this category are Cleanflight (a fork of Baseflight), Betaflight (a fork of Cleanflight for code cleanup), Raceflight (a fork of Cleanflight for better racing), and Librepilot (a fork of Openpilot due to internal issues). As Cleanflight is the most popular of the four, it is the safest choice.

For generic and FPV flying a wide range of hardware is available, for example:

The Seriously Pro SPRacingF3, which is an STM32F3 based flight controller board. It supports the trio of Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight.Buying this board will help support the development of Cleanflight. As the development of this board is closely tied to Cleanflight, this is the best combination. The SPRacingF3 is available on Amazon and other online stores.

The Taulabs Sparky is another STM32F3 CPU based flight controller board which supports Cleanflight, Betaflight, Raceflight andTaulabs’ own flight controller software. This is a good choice too.

The X-Racer F303 is another good choice for Cleanflight, as it’s one of the most popular boards for quads based on Oscar Liang’s survey. The X-Racer sports an STM32F3series CPU, and supports Betaflight besides Cleanflight.Various versions of the X-Racer F303 are available online – go for the highest version number with the best reviews.

The Taulabs Sparky2 is an upgrade of the Sparky. TheSparky2 is a high-performance STM32F4 CPU based flight controller board,which supports Taulabs’ own software. As Betaflight and Raceflight support is underway it’s safer to revisit this board later. You can easily get the Sparky2online.

LibrePilot Revo also known as the OpenPilot Revolution is anew STM32F4 based board for LibrePilot. This is the best choice for LibrePilot. You can get a lot of versions from major online stores – make sure you double check the rating.

The OpenPilot CC3D is a very popular flight controller,based on the STM32F1 CPU series. This is a not a new model, but due to it’s sheer popularity it’s definitely worth mentioning. The CC3D supports Cleanflight, Librepilot, Betaflight and Raceflight. Choose this one if you want to go with a 110% proven, low-priced board.

The Naze32 is another old-school workhorse, based on theSTM32F1 series. This FC board supports the Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight. The best Naze32 board to date is the Naze32 rev5, the rev6 is currently missing pass through mode for ESC configuration. You can get both the rev5 and the rev6 online.

Flight controllers for aerial photography

For aerial photography the best flight controllers are probably built by DJI. These flight controllers run DJI’s own software and have all you need to build a professional video or photography platform.

The DJI Naza M-Lite is the smallest of the two flight controllers. The highlight for aerial photography is the support for gimbal stablization – one less problem you have to solve with your quad. The Naza M-Lite also supports return to home on lost connection, has intelligent orientation support (this is a a GPS enhanced headless mode). Besides quadcopters the Naza M-Lite also supports hexacopters.Choose this, except if you want to get the best of the best. You can get various versions of the Naza M-Lite online, including this great 450 size kit.

The DJI Naza M V2 supports everything the Naza M-Lite does,end even more: it comes with a free iPad-based ground station software,and supports octocopters too. A smartphone based assistant software can help with changing the settings out in the field via Bluetooth. With hexa- and octocopters the Naza can keep flying even if one of the motors have stopped- this can help to save the photography equipment and the quad itself. Just as the Naza M-Lite, the Naza M V2 is available on Amazon too.

Flight controllers autonomous flying

For autonomous GPS based flying, the two most popular flight controller software are Paparazzi and Ardupilot. Choose the Paparazzi if you want the largest possible feature set, even at the expense of a bit lacking GUI. Go with the Ardupilot if you’d prefer a bit more polished product.

The two best flight controller boards for autonomous flying

are probably the fully-featured Pixhawk for the Ardupilot, and the tiny but still powerful Elle0 for the Paparazzi.

The Pixhawk and it’s derivates are the best choice for the Ardupilot. These are high performance flight controllers, which sport a really wide range of hardware, including multiple gyros, magnetometers, accelerometers,and a barometer. There is a wide choice of attachable hardware too,including multiple GPS and GLONASS receivers, cameras etc… The Pixhawk isavailable from a wide range of online retailers, including Amazon.

The Elle0autopilot is an STM32F4 based board for Paparazzi. The Elle0 is equipped with a 3 axis gyro, accelerometer and magnetometer. It has a barometer too for altitude readings. The sensors are connected via a low-latency SPI bus, so performance should be better thanI2C using boards. The Elle0 is tiny, measuring only 30.5 x 30.5 millimeters,so it’s suitable for 250 and smaller sized drones too. The Elle0 is available in 1bitsquared’s online store.

For more information on flight controllers for GPS based flying check out the flight controllers section in our “What is a GPS quadcopter?” article.

Have fun flying!

Holy Stone U818A Review

The Holy stone U818A is a well-built quadrotor from Germany.It gives you everything you can possibly expect from in a beginner friendly quadcopter, and even some more: it has a 6 axis stabilization system, a built-in HD camera, and will do flips on demand. The quadcopter has built-in prop guards, so it’s more robust than the average drone. Due to it’s gyros flying is smooth, you will not have to fight it.

The on board electronics guarantees a perfect flight. You can fly this quad indoors and outdoors too, even light winds will not carry it away.

The radio range for the Holy Stone U818A is 30 meters, and it has no height limit, so it can fly just as high too. Flights last between 6 and 9 minutes,the charge time is 1 to 2 hours.

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

As this quadcopter is compatible with the UDI U8181A HD, there is a wide variety of spare parts available, for example propeller bladesand motors. The good compatibility means that the Holy Stone U818A is really easy to repair would anything bad happen to it.

The size of this Holy Stone quadrotor is 13.4 x 13.0 x 2.2 inches, and the weight is 4.2 ounces. The light weight means you will not need to register it. Still it’s more than strong enough to lift tiny objects, for example Lego men, 808 keychain cameras, etc.. (However it has it’s own camera, but more on that later)

The suggested age for this quad is the usual 14 years.

The Holy Stone U8181A is equipped with headless mode. This means it will remember it’s starting orientation, and fly accordingly. For example, in normal mode if you turn the quad right, and then forward the quadrotor will fly right. In headless mode it will fly forward. It will help you return the quad if the it’s is far away, and you lost the orientation, so it’s a really handy function.

The Holy Stone U818A has a return home function, but it does not always seem to work. The quad has a high and low speed mode, which makes it ideal for both beginner and advanced pilots too. Indoor flight is safer in low speed mode.

The shipping size is 55 X 37 X 10cm, and the shipping weight is around 2pounds – good to know if you plan to travel with it.

LED lights are a standard feature of the Holy Stone U818A, so it looks great on the night sky, and orientation is easier too.

The U818A flies very quietly, you will not disturb anyone with the noise.

The U818A’s camera

has a HD resolution (1280×720 pixels),photos and videos are both supported. The photo and the recording button are on the transmitter. Audio is not recorded

Video is recorded onto the removable 4GB Micro-SD card, which is more than enough for several flights. The quadcopter comes with an USB Micro-SD card reader, so it’s one less thing you might need.

The image and video quality is pretty good, for best results avoid quick movements with the quadcopter.

The transmitter

uses the interference-free 2.4 Ghz technology, so you can safely fly together with similar or other quadcopters. The quad should be able to bind to to other 2.4Ghz transmitters too, which can be useful for extending the range. Live video output is not supported, as it’s a non-FPV quadcopter.

Binding the quad and the transmitter

is simple, use these steps:

  • Turn the transmitter and quadcopter.
  • Turn the transmitter on, and push the throttle to the maximum and then to the minimum.
  • Put the Holy Stone U818A on an even surface and turn it on. A bit later you will hear the beep which indicates the successful binding. The LEDs on the quadrotor will turn on.
  • If you move the right stick to the to the bottom right corner the quad will start gyro recalibration. It’s LEDs will start blinking, and will turn solid once the recalibration is complete.
The U818A’s battery

is a 3.7V 500mAh Li-Po one. Usual flight time is 8 minutes, the usual charge time is 100 minutes. The Holy Stone U818A comes with two batteries.and 2 hours. Replacement chargers and batteries are available, for example here (this set is originally for the UDI U818A, but it is compatible). As usual with quadcopters, the battery uses a standard JST plug.This means that other JST chargers work too.

Using the factory supplied charger is easy: plug in the charger into an USBport (iPhone charger works too), plug in the battery, and wait for the LED to turn green. The charger can charge the two batteries together.

It’s good to check the battery temperature after flying – if it’s hot to the touch fly more gently to increase the battery’s lifetime.

To get even more out of your Holy Stone U818A, larger batteries are available too, which give you longer flight times.

Our rating:

one of the best quads out there.
Fun:★★★★★
Value:★★★★★


There is also a great review of the Holy Stone U8181A over at Reviewing Things.The UDI U818A is compatible so worth a reading too.

What is a GPS quadcopter?

What is a GPS?

The GPS system uses GPS satellites, a GPS receiver and software to calculate it’s own position – the latitude, longitude and elevation with 6 to 4 meter precision. Besides the GPS system which was originally created by the US Department of Defense, modern GPS receivers can use the Russian GLONASS system too. In the future the number of global positioning systems will extend even further, and the receivers will probably support the European Galileo, and later the Chinese BeiDou-2 and maybe the Indian IRNSS system too.

What is a GPS quadcopter?

A GPS quadcopter is a quadrotor which has an integrated GPS receiver. With a GPS receiver onboard the quadrotor will know where it is, which makes advanced behavior possible. If quadrotor gets equipped with a GPS and a good flight controller, it will be able to fly to preset locations, follow a flight plan, visit waypoints or return home automatically.

In general these functions are useful for surveying crops and buildings, by flying over them and taking photos automatically or recording other kind of data.

Quadcopters with a GPS will be very useful as automated parcel delivery agents too, as they could handle the “last mile” part of the delivery without needing human control.

Law enforcement and the military benefits from GPS enabled quadcopters too,as they can be used for gathering intelligence, surveillance, and will be able to fly to the requested location automatically, without putting the pilot in danger.

Why have a GPS in your quadcopter?

If you buy or build a quadcopter with a GPS, it will be able to autonomously fly back to it’s takeoff location for landing, automatic “follow me” mod becomes possible too.

A quad with a GPS can send it’s current location back to you regularly,which can help you find it would it get lost.

Besides these simple uses cases you could use it to regularly tour your property to secure it for example. This”scanning” mode is available in the Paparazzi autopilot, but emulating it using waypoints is easy too.

Quadcopters usually use one of ublox’s GPS modules.

A quad with GPS will still need calibration.

A GPS enabled quadcopter will still need the same calibration as a quad without a GPS: the magnetometer, accelerometer and the gyro is not replaced by the GPS. So do not get one just to get rid of the magnetometer dance 🙂

Ready-to-fly quadcopters with GPS

You can simply buy or, if you are a bit more adventurous, build your own GPS enabled quadcopter. GPS functionality is available in these popular ready to fly quads:

The Cheerson CX-20

supports GPS position hold, GPS based return-home functionality and automatic landing. The CX-20 is fairly clever,as it will return to you and land if the transmitter signal is lost – all this is possible due to it’s integrated GPS. The CX-20 is available on Amazon too.The CX-20 is among the cheapest GPS quads you can get. The CX-20 comes in multiple flavors, the Open Source edition is based on ArduPilot. As such it’s compatible with the Mission Planner software, which makes features such as flight planning possible. Click here for the CX-20’s official page.

The Cheerson CX-22

is the larger brother of the CheersonCX-20. In short it has the same GPS features as the CX-20: GPS based position hold, GPS based return home and landing. Compared to the CX-20 the CX-22 has a gimbal and a built-in camera, it’s capable of FPV and the transmitter works at 5.8 Ghz. The CX-22 supports flight planning out of the box, so you will not have to fish for open source versions, which is a plus compared to the CX-20.Still it’s not as professional as could it be – the flight planner software is available here as a simple download. Click here for the CX-22’s official page.

The DJI Phantom 2

is a professional GPS quadcopter from DJI. The main GPS based features are position hold, automatic return-home and landing. Flight planning is supported too, using DJI’s own iPad app. Beware though, it is not included in the Phantom 2’s price. Click here to visit the official Phantom 2 page. The Phantom 2 is available from Amazon for example. The Phantom 2 is running out of stock, so get it while you can.

The DJI Phantom 3

is the bigger brother of the Phantom 2,it has upgraded electronics, longer flight time, and longer range too. As there are a lot of differences between the Phantom 2 and the Phantom 3, they need different ground station software too. For the Phantom 3 you have to use the DJI GO app for flight planning. The app supports waypoint planning so you can command your drone to fly to a location you choose without having to control it using the sticks. The DJI Forum has more information on using waypoints. The DJI GO app is available for free both from the App Store and from Google play An alternative flight planner for the Phantom 3 is available here. The DJI Phantom 3 itself is available from various stores,for example Amazon has them too.

The DJI Phantom 4 and the Inspire 1 are supported by the DJI GO app too, sofrom point of view of GPS support they are the same.

The Yuneec Typhoon H

is a professional hexacopter for aerial photography and video recording by Yuneec. Out of the two most popular Yuneec multicopters, the Typhoon H and the Thyphoon Q500, the TyphoonH has much better GPS based features: it supports waypoint based flying, GPSbased return home and follow me, and GPS based “circle around a location”(the Q500 lacks waypoint support). Both multicopters have their own controllers which act as their ground stations too – you’ll only need this single device both for stick based and waypoint based flying. Both the Typhoon Hand the Typhoon Q500 are available from Amazon and other vendors.

You can get more information on these multicopters on Yuneec’s Typhoon Q500 and Typhoon H pages.

Conclusions

If you need waypoint planning just go with the Phantom 2 or the Phantom 3,you’ll get much more bang for your buck this way. If ou need the follow me/circle location feature then go with the Typhoon Q500. If you need both the waypoint planning and the follow me feature, get the Typhoon H.

Quadcopter flight controllers with GPS support

Besides ready-to-fly quadcopters, home-built quads can have GPS functionality too, as lot of flight controller hardware and software supports GPS in some form. This way you can build your own quad at home (read more on this here and here), add a capable flight controller, and start waypoint-based flying.

For a flight controller board to support GPS it has to be able to connect to a GPS,must have enough RAM to hold the code for the GPS support,and a high performance CPU to run that code. For example the CC3D flight controller does not support a GPS as it’s just not powerful enough.

These systems usually use one of u-blox’s GPS modules.

The Ardupilot Copter

(also know as APM:Copter) supports GPS based flight planning, and has a nice looking mission planner too. The mission planner supports waypoint based flying,circling a location and it has follow me mode and automatic landing too. Even advanced modes like scanning an area in a grid pattern are supported.

The ArduPilot runs on a very wide range of flight controller boards (click here for the full list). For best results use a Pixhawk flight controller board, for example the Pixhawk Mini. Other flight controllers which support a GPS out of the box are the EMLID Navio2 and the Snapdragon flight kit.

To start GPS-based flying even faster, it’s possible to run the ArduPilot on the Parrot Bebop 2 Drone. The Bebop 2 is available inonline stores too. Another possibility is to get the Open Source edition of the Cheerson CX-20..

LibrePilot

(homepage) supports GPS too,as long as it runs on the OpenPilot Revolution or the OpenPilot Revolution Nano hardware.

The LibrePilot Ground Station supports waypoint based flying, GPS based position hold and circle, and lot of other modes including automatic takeoff and landing. Still,the ArduPilot is more advanced than the LibrePilot.

The Paparazzi UAV

(homepage) is yet another autopilot software with GPS based navigation features.Paparazzi has more features than many commercial offerings, for example it supports waypoint based flying, circles, ovals, eights – read the full list for more information. A simple flight plan editor is available too, but in the end you’ll probably have to resort to editing the XML flight plan file manually. You can verify the flight plan with Paparazzi’s built-in simulator.

The Paparazzi flight controller software runs on a wide range of hardware,including the Apogee, Elle and Krooz line of boards.The Elle and Lisa lines are available at 1bitsquared.

Paparazzi also runs on AR Drone 2 and Bebopor Bebop 2 quadcopters -for quick results get a Bebop quad, check out the free Paparazzi course, and start your GPSbased flights.

Conclusions

If you need a good-looking ground station solution, select the ArduPilot. If you want the largest feature set even if the GUI is lacking, go with the Paparazzi.

To learn about general purpose flight controllers, check our What is a quadcopter flight controller? article.

Syma X1 Quadcopter Review

The Syma X1 is a great little quadcopter for those of us looking to enter this hobby. It’s sized such that you can fly it both indoors and outdoors,and it is fairly durable even without a prop guard or crash guard.As such, it’s US hobby quality, not the usual Chinese junk you might expect.

In outdoor flight mode, this little machine tolerates winds fairly well too,while being fairly quiet, great to have a bit of fun outside.

The quad comes in multiple styles

, however the only difference is the canopy: you can choose from simple UFO, mean bumblebee (the personal favorite), or video game-style spacecraft look. It does not have LEDs, however you can buy them as extras, for example here.Also, the visibility is fairly good without LEDs too.

While this mini-drone can do flips on button-press, it is not really suitable for hard flying. It has brushed motors – these are great for beginner quad copters, but are not adequate for the advanced pilot.

The quad is non-FPV

, and it does not have a camera. It also comes with it’s own remote, so a smart phone is not required for it. Being small it will not lift your GoPro, however it can easily lift a 808 keychain camera so you can do aerial videos with it.

The flight time

is around 8 minutes on a charge (depending on how you fly), and it takes around40 minutes to charge the battery. The Syma X1 will not tell you when it’s battery is getting low, so do not fly high after 7 minutes.

The quad comes with a single battery so it’s a great idea to buy replacement batteries to extend the flight time. Batteries can be bought for example on Amazon(check the price).

It’s good to know that the battery uses a “JST” plug, so may you need a compatible charger, that’s what you will have to look for. This is a great example. The battery is a Lipo battery ~300mAh, so it could be possible to use your own.

There are also options to charge more batteries at once, for example with this nice little charger. Once your charger LED turns green you are ready to fly!

The expected range

is around 40 to 100 meters, and it will fly just as high too. The Syma X1 uses standard 2.4 Ghz transmitter technology, so it works with other transmitters too, making a longer range a possibility. The quad flies pretty well, so you will not need to adjust it all the time. Getting back to the transmitter, it’s fairly simple, so driving another servo or other functions is not possible. However being a standard 2.4 Ghz Tx, you and your friends will be able to fly together without interference.

Both mode 1 and mode 2 flying is supported, so you will not feel lost if you know only one of these modes. To switch between the modes, just push the right trim button bellow the right(A) stick to the right when turning on the transmitter. This toggles between mode 1 and mode 2. The unit is usually shipped without batteries for the transmitter, so you will need 4xAAbatteries for it. Rechargeables are even better.

On first start you might need to pair the quadcopter and the transmitter:

  • first connect the battery to the quad, the LED should flash slowly
  • when it starts to flash rapidly, turn on the Tx
  • when the LED light turns solid, binding is complete

On next flight, you just have to set the throttle to zero, turn on the transmitter, insert the battery into the quad and turn it on. Binding is not necessary, and you will be ready to fly as soon as the LED turns solid.

The dimensions

: the Syma X1 is around 360mm long X 360mm wide X 55mm high,the rotor diameter is 135mm. The weight is only 68 grams, so you will not need to register this quadcopter. Shipping weight is 1.4 pounds, size is ~15*30*2.5 inches

Being a simple quadcopter without a GPS this will not return home, or do automatic landing (well this can land automatically, but it’s called a crash:)

Being a popular quadcopter

, Amazon has a wide range of accessories for it, for example:

The motors are replaceable to, so it’s not a big problem if you smoke one.

Good to know:

The suggested age range is 14 years and older. Warranty is 30 days.The quad is not water proof, so be careful over ponds 🙂

Our Rating:

This quad is great all-rounder and great for beginners, so it deserves the highest rating.
Fun factor:★★★★★
Value:★★★★★
You might want to check the rating on Amazon too for more information.


If you want to step up from the Syma X1, the X11is a high quality quad to fly. The UDI U818Ais a bit better protected than X11 so it’s a great choice too. Syma has a huge range of quadcopters, their website is worth a visit for sure.

How to fly your quad like a pro?

Flying a quadrotor is not that hard, as the heavy lifting is done by the flight controller. Still it takes some time, effort, crashes and bent props to become a pro pilot.

To start out your best bet is to get a high quality toy quadcopter, for example the Syma X5C and a few spare props. You could start with a professional quad too, still, crashing a Syma X5C is way cheaper (check the price) than crashing a Walkera Rodeo.The Hubsan H107L and H107C are good choices too.

Ordering a large number of replacement props (say 3 sets) up front is a great idea too, as they do not cost much, and you will not stay grounded while the props arrive.

Buying a flight simulator software you can use for training is a great idea too, for example the Great Planes RealFlight supports multirotor simulation. You will still need a transmitter with a trainer port for it – the Flysky FS-i6 is an overall well-rounded transmitter and should just work.

Got the quad? Got the props? Let’s start!

The stick functions.
Step 1 – transmitter controls

Whichever quad you got, your transmitter will have two sticks, one on the left and one on the right. Most of the transmitters are Mode 2, which means that the throttle and yaw is on the left stick, while the pitch and roll is on the right. As this is the most common setup, we’ll use it here too.Initially you will only use the throttle, that is pushing the left stick up and down. Using the other movements can wait.

Before flying your quadcopter, the first step is to bind it with the transmitter. It’s usually achieved by turning on the quad first, next the transmitter, then pushing the left stick up to the top and down to the bottom again. You will not need this procedure if they are already bound.Would the props start spinning, throttle down immediately.

Pushing the left stick to the left or right controls the yaw, the rotation of the quadcopter. Later you will use this to fly circles for example.

The right stick controls the pitch and roll of the quadcopter. If you push the right stick forward, the quad will bend forward and start flying forward. Pushing the right stick backwards, left or right will make the quad bend and fly backwards, left or right. We will get back to these in a few minutes.

Clean fields are great for flying, just stay clear of the trees.
Step 2 – flight environment

Choosing the appropriate environment for your flights will take some time,but it can save a lot of hassle later on. For safety keep clear of things you could hurt, including people, property, animals, cars, and yourself. Also keep clear of things that could hurt your quad, for example trees and power lines.

For best results fly only above soft, even surfaces, fields or a areas designated for R/C flying are the best. Avoid bodies of water as the quads are not water proof.

To improve the quads longevity do not fly above sand – the sand could get into the bearings and wreck them.

Start flying only in calm weather, as fighting the wind is surely not something you’ll want to start with.

Finally keep away from bushed fields, finding a quad in the bush is not fun.Also keep clear of hawks and other kind of birds of prey, as they love to attack quadcopters.

But enough of the rules, let’s start the preflight checkup!

Step 3 – preflight checkup

Before your first flight, double check the battery levels on your quadcopter and transmitter. Check that the propellers are fixed in place and show no damage. Damaged props will cause vibrations, which in turn will cause premature failure of the motor bearings, and the flight controller will have to cope with the additional noise too.

Check the quad for lose arms and wires too, to avoid mid-air shorts or vibrations.

In case of a crash or emergency throttle down immediately – this will save the props, motors and the ESCs.

All looking good? Let’s start flying!

Slowly push the left stick upwards to start ascending.
Exercise 1 – gentle liftoff and landing

Place your quad on an even surface far from anything it could hurt, power it up, and get back to keep some distance. You may have to bind the quad and your transmitter by powering up the quad first, next the transmitter, and pushing the left stick up to the top, then down again.

Once you are ready gently raise the throttle. Patience is the key here – you should see the props spinning up faster and faster, and the quad will slowly rise from the ground. Start slowly lowering the throttle once the quad is up in the air in a few centimeters, that’s all we want now.

Would your quad start drifting or turning do not panic, just throttle down slowly. These issues can be fixed either using the trim button or by recalibrating the gyros.

Repeat this a few times until you feel confident you can get up the air and land safely too.

Exercise 2 – hovering

This exercise will need more room than the previous one. Use the previous exercise to get up in the air with your quad. Once up the air keep raising the throttle gently, until the quad starts ascending. Once the quad is a meter from the ground start lowering the throttle until its tops ascending. Try to keep this height for a minute or so. The key is to gently raise and lower the throttle to keep the altitude. Would your quad start drifting, just follow it around for now.

Repeat this exercise a few times, until you get familiar with hovering and keeping the altitude of your quadcopter.

Exercise 3 – small movements

This exercise builds on Exercise 2, and will need just a bit more room. The objective of the exercise is to get a bit more comfortable with the sticks before moving on to flying more actively.

Start this exercise by lifting off to hover from the ground. Next very gently push the right stick forward so that the quad starts flying forward slowly. Then center the stick again, and repeat by moving the stick gently backwards, then gently left and right. The quad will fly a bit back,then left and right.

In the second part of this exercise we’ll focus on using the yaw on the left stick.Very gently move the left stick to the left and watch the quadcopter startturning left. Center the stick again, so that the turning stops. Next movethe left stick gently to the right, and watch the quad turn right. Center the stick again to stop the turning. Try to isolate the left-right movement of the stick from the up-down movement, so that the quadcopter’s altitude does not change while it’s turning.

The key for this exercise is to move the sticks only very slowly, and not letting the quad to speed up. Try to keep the altitude constant during the exercise.

You will have to move the right stick in a cross pattern for square flying.
Exercise 4 – square and circle flying with the right stick only

Get into stable hover as you did in the second exercise. You will need larger room, as you’ll start flying for real!

For square flying,move the right stick gently forward, and let the quad fly forward about a meter. Let the right stick center, then move it to the left to fly left 1 meter, then let it center again. Next move it backwards to fly back one meter, and let it center. Finally move it to right to fly right one mete rand let it center again.

Congratulations, your square is finished!

You will have to move the right stick in a circle pattern for circle flying.
To fly in a circle with your quad

, all you have to do is move the right stick gently forward until the quad starts flying forward, then move it around slowly in a circular fashion and watch the quad fly a circle. Let the stick center to stop the quad. The circle you just flow is simply a rounded version of the rectangle you flew before.

As your quad gains speed it will loose altitude, so you will have to compensate by giving it more throttle. Just take your time to get comfortable with this.

Exercise 5 – circle flying using yaw

When flying a circle using the yaw, the quad will rotate to face you for some time. In this phase the right stick may not behave as you’d like it to- as the quad is facing you instead of away from you, the right stick’s behavior will get mirrored. So would you push the right stick left, the quad will start flying towards the right. Some quads support headless mode to counteract this behavior.But enough of the talk let’s start!

To fly in a circle, first get into hover as you did in the previous exercises. Next push the right stick gently forward, and let the quad start flying forward slowly. Next move the left stick slowly leftwards, and the quad will start circling slowly. To keep things simple, let the quad go a full circle before landing. If you do not have enough space for this, let the right stick center and move the left stick towards the middle to stop the movement before landing.

Syma X5C gyroreset combination from the quad’s documentation.
Trimming and gyro recalibration

Quadcopter’s internal gyro can get messed up during a crash – the quadcopter will start drifting if you try to fly it. If you experience this, you will have to reset the gyros. You will find the exact reset sequence in your quadcopter’s documentation, these are the required steps common to all quads:

  • Place the quad on an even surface.
  • Bind it with the transmitter by turning on the quad first, next the transmitter, then move the left stick up and down.

The next part depends on the quad, but usually involves moving both sticks to one of the corners and wait for the quad’s LEDs to flash. In case of the Syma X5C:

  • Move both sticks to the bottom right corner and wait for the LEDs to flash.

After the reset the quad should not drift anymore.

The trim buttons.
Another solution to the drift problem

is to use the transmitters trim buttons,which are usually right next to the sticks. You can use buttons to counteract the drift and rotation you see on your quad. First you’ll have to find which trim button to use.

  • If the quad is drifting forward or backward, you will have to push the button right of the right stick backwards or forwards a few times to counteract the drift.
  • If the quad is drifting left or right, you will have to push the button bellow the right stick right or left a few times to counteract the drift.
  • If your quad is rotating left or right, you will have to push the button below the left stick right or left a few times to counteract the rotation.
Conclusion

Flying a quadcopter is not that hard, just take your time and do not rush it. If you are unsure of yourself, try a simulator first, or check our review section for one of those indestructible toy quads. There are quite a few flying lessons on Youtube too, this is one is basic, and really easy to understand.

Have fun flying 🙂

Cheerson CX-10 Mini Review

The Cheerson CX-10 Mini is a great looking nano-quadcopter, only4cm X 4cm in size. It’s high quality product made in China, it competes with the Estes 4606 reviewed here earlier. It’s fairly advanced, has a 6 axis stabilization system, LEDs for better orientation, and can even do flips on button press.

The range is around 40 meters, with no artificial height limit. The CX-10will simply shut down once it’s out of range so take care! Being a really tiny quad you will not want to fly it far away from you anyway. High altitudes are no problem for this quad, so it’s safe to order wherever you live.

The CX-10 flies smoothly, thanks to it’s advance stabilization system, so you will not have to fight it to stay planted. Bad behavior can be easily fixed by recalibrating the gyros:

  • Put the quad on an even surface and turn it on.
  • Turn on the Tx.
  • Move the throttle (left) stick to the top and the bottom to bind them together.
  • Now move the left stick to the bottom left corner, and the right stickto the top left corner.
  • Wait for the quad’s LEDs to turn solid.

That’s it.

To start flying all you need is 2xAA batteries, the rest is included in the package: the quad with the Li-Po battery inside, the transmitter and the USB based charger.

The quad comes without prop guards, but the guards are available from third parties, for example this one, or this one (includes replacement propellers too). To replace the propellers gently pull them off, and put the new ones on. The new propeller’s direction must match the one you replaced.

The CX-10 can take the beating, as it has a fairly durable plastic shell.The guards make it even better and cost next to nothing, so it’s a great idea to buy them.

Indoor and outdoor

flight is possible too with the CheersonCX-10. Being really tiny it can only fly in calm weather – only 7 cm X 7 cm with the blades. Weight is only 11 grams and it’s very quiet. FAA registration is not required for quadrotors this small.

The CX-10 does not support automatic landing, headless mode, or automatic return home- no quadcopter supports these functions in this size – and price category..

Suggested age is 14 years and up. The quad has tiny parts, so make sure little children can’t reach it.

The CX-10 has three modes for the beginner, intermediate and advanced pilot,so you will not outgrow it. To change the modes just push throttle as if it was a button. Single beep indicates beginner, two beeps indicate intermediate, and three beeps indicate advanced mode.

The instructions are detailed and easy to understand, so you can’t go wrong with it.

The transmitter

is nice looking and packed with functions.It uses the interference-free 2.4 Ghz technology so any number of these little quads can fly together.

The CX-10 uses a special protocol, so binding it to other transmitters is not supported.

The Cheerson CX-10 comes with a mode-2 transmitter (throttle on the left). Switching modes is not supported. Mode-1transmitters should be available too, but they seem to be out of stock now.

Pairing the quad and the transmitter is automatic:

  • Turn on the quad.
  • Turn on the Tx.
  • Move the throttle (left) stick to the top and the bottom to bind them together.

The range is around 40 meters.

The battery

is a 3.7V 100mAh Li-Po one, which grants theCX-10 mini a 4-8 minute flight time, with a 30-40 minute charge time.

The battery is integrated into the housing of the quadcopter, so replacing it is not supported.

The charger is USB based, and it connects directly to the quadcopter. It’s compatible with iPhone wall chargers, or you can plug it into your computer too. Charging from the transmitter is supported too, which makes this quad unique.

While the charger is special, replacement chargers are available.

The quadrotor has low voltage protection, it’s LED’s will start flashing before the battery runs out – you will always know when to land.

The charging is finished when the LED in the charging cable turns off.

Our rating:

This tiny quad is a joy to fly!
Fun:★★★★★
Value:★★★★★
Looks:★★★★★


Other small quadcopters you may like:

Other CX-10 reviews:

Estes 4606

The Estes 4606 Proto X Nano

is an absolutely tiny quadcopter, measuring only 1.8 x 1.8 inches. Inside the package, you’ll find:

  • The quadcopter itself
  • An 2.4 Ghz radio transmitter for the quad
  • An USB charging cable
  • Four replacement rotor blades
  • And finally the instructions

The quad is well built, and can take a beating. Due to it’s small size it can’t crash really hard. While it really shines indoors, you can fly it outdoors too if there is no wind. Be careful though – the quad comes without guards (though they are available). Replacement props are included, so it’s one less thing you will have to worry about.

The quad is tiny (1.8 x 1.8 inches, 0.4 oz), so the range is small too (you would loose sight of it anyway). The quad has LED lights: blue in the front, and red in the back, which help with the orientation during flight.Due to it’s small size it’s fairly quiet, so indoor flying will not disturb your peers (harassing your friends is never recommended 🙂

Automatic landing is not supported, but landing is easy: just start hovering, then gently lower the left stick to let it land.

Due to it’s tiny parts it can be dangerous to little children, so keep it out of their reach. The suggested minimum age is 8 years, in reality you will want to wait a bit more.

If you happen to have a Hubsan X4 V2, you may want to pair the Estes 4606with it’s transmitter: they are compatible, and you might get additional functions, like turning the LEDs on and off, flipping, and so on.

Stability is great so you will not have to keep adjusting it. The accelerometers might need recalibration after an accident; to do this put the Proto X on a flat surface, and throttle down. Move the left stick to the bottom right corner, and move the right stick to the left and to the right until the LEDs start flashing.

Shipping weight is 3 pounds, shipping dimension is 5.5 x 4 x 2.5 inches – good to know if you plan to take it on a trip.

Third party crash guards and rotor blades are available, would you be into hard flying 🙂

Quads this tiny do not need to be registered, which is a plus.

The battery

is a 100mAh one, with a flight time of 4 to 6minutes, and a charge time of 40 minutes. The battery is not replaceable,which is the Achilles heel of this otherwise perfect quad.

Charging is through a USB based adapter, so you will need either a computer,an adapter or – if you are out in the field – an external USB charger is great too.

The transmitter

is tiny, simple, but more than adequate for the purpose. It needs needs 2xAAA batteries, which might not be included. Using rechargeable batteries is a great idea!

The transmitter uses standard 2.4 Ghz technology, so you will not get interference, and it also makes it possible to replace the Tx with a more powerful one.

The transmitter is mode 2 only – if you are new to flying this is not a problem though. Also, this issue can be solved by using a different transmitter.

The transmitter and the quad are bound at the factory, but rebinding is easy too:

  • Turn on the quadcopter.
  • Push the left stick (the throttle) down and turn on the transmitter.
  • Wait for the on the transmitter to turn green.
  • If the LED is flashing, replace the transmitter’s batteries.
Our Rating:

While this quad flies great and is fun to boss around, the non-removable battery is a minus.
Fun:★★★★★
Value:★★★★☆


You may want to check what others think on Amazon too. The CheersonCX-10 is in the same class with a bit softer looks, so you will want to check that too for sure. To learn even more about the Estes 4606 the RCGroups thread is a great source, and the manufacturer has his own list of reviews too.

Syma X5SC Review

The Syma X5SC is professional-looking,well built quadrotor with video recording capability. The quadrotor has a6-axis gyroscopic stabilization system, so it flies very nicely. quad is 6-axisstabilized (3 gyros and 3 accelerometers), which grants it a smooth flight. The X5SC’s range is huge – up to a 100 meters, so it will get out of sight before getting out of range. The X5SC has no height limitation, so it will fly just as high.

The Syma X5SC has great acrobatic capabilities, it can do barrel rolls,flips to every direction, and is generally very stable in the air.

The X5SC has both prop guards and fairly large legs, so it’s pretty robust.The external shell is made of durable plastic, which helps even more. The quad is not water proof, so stay away from bodies of water unless you are sure what you are doing.

The box contains almost everything you need for flying (the quadcopter itself with the battery, the transmitter, USB charging cable,leg, prop guards and replacement props), except for the 4xAA batteries for the transmitter.

The quadrotor weighs around 114 grams so it’s bigger than your average toy quad. Even though large it’s controls are fairly soft, so it’s ideal for indoor flight and outdoor flight on calm days. The X5SC is way below the FAA’s 250 gram limit, so you will not have to register it.

Spare parts are easy to find, for example this set includes replacement motors, legs, propellers and prop guards. Upgraded batteries are available too, so you can enjoy your quad even more.

The quad rotor’s size is 31.5×31.5×10.5 centimeters, and it’s strong so lifting objects is a possibility. You can even remove the prop guards, legs and the camera to lift more weight. Still, a GoPRO would be too much for thi squadcopter.

The X5SC’s wind resistance is not as good as the X5C’s mainly because the quad can’t fly so aggressively to counter the wind. The upside is that this quadrotor flies better indoor. You can even start with indoor flying, and switch to outdoor later once you know your quad better.

The X5SC can fly pretty fast, so even though it’s just can’t be as nimble as the smaller quad rotors.

The quadcopter supports headless mode, which means that the forwards/backwards left/right directions will not change even if the quad turns around. It’s a really handy feature to fly your quad back if you lose the orientation mid-flight, or just to fly around without having to think about the direction. Altogether the X5SC is a lot of fun to fly and provides great value.

The box the quadrotor ships in is 16.5 X 13.5 X 3.75 inches, and the shipping weight is 2 pounds – great to know for traveling with it.

The Syma X5SC has LEDs which make both orientation easy, and night flying spectacular.

The X5SC’s video

2 megapixel HD quality, resolution is1280x720 pixels, the frame rate is 30 frames per second.

The X5SC’s camera records onto the 4GB MicroSD card which comes with it. The4GB size is enough for dozens of flights, and the USB card reader means you will be able to load them onto your computer right away.

The camera does not have a live video feed, so the results are only viewable once you land. However third party FPV extensions are available, for example this one.

The video quality is pretty good, and the fine controls are great for the recording.

The X5SC’s camera records audio too, however the propeller noise can be pretty strong, so cleanup is required.

Both the recording and the photo making functions have their buttons on the transmitter, so you will not have to fiddle with the quadcopter to start recording.

The camera records the videos in AVI format, and the video players fortunately have no problems playing them. It’s important to turn off the video recording before powering off your quadcopter, otherwise the files might not play.

The video camera is fixed but is removable for more agile flying.

The X5SC’s transmitter

uses the interference-free 2.4 Ghz technology, which means you will be able to fly with others together. The range is quoted as 50 meters, however it can be up to 150 meters depending on the environment, battery state, and so on. If you want to push the limits be careful – once out of range the quad simply stops flying and will crash.

You can bind the quad to other 2.4Ghz transmitters too, which is great if you already have one. X5SC without transmitter is available too.

The X5SC supports both Mode 1 and Mode 2 flying.

To toggle the modes, turn off the transmitter, then turn on the transmitter again while holding the trim switch bellow the right stick to the right.The LCD will always tell you which mode you are in so you can’t go wrong.

Pairing the X5SC and the transmitter

is just as easy too:

  • Turn off both the transmitter and the X5SC
  • Turn on the X5SC, the LEDs will start flashing.
  • Move the throttle stick on the transmitter to the minimum and and turn the transmitter on.
  • Now move the throttle to the maximum, then to the lowest again. You will hear two beeps, and the LEDs on the transmitter and the X5SC will turn solid.
  • The transmitter and the X5SC are now paired, and you are ready to fly.
The Syma X5SC’s battery

is a 3.7 volt 500mAh LiPo battery,the quadcopter can fly around 5.5 minutes with it. The charge time is up to2 hours. So the easiest way to get more out of your quad is to get replacement batteries. For example this set increases the flight time, and includes a charger too.

The X5SC’s battery has a JST plug, for which a lot of compatible chargers are available, so finding a replacement is really easy.

The charger which comes with the X5SC is USB based, so an USB port is enough for charging. Any USB port works, iPhone wall charger is good for the purpose too. To charge the battery, just plug the battery into the charger,then the charger into an USB port and wait until the LED turns off.Just plug the battery in the charger, and the charger into the USB port and wait for the LED to turn off.

The X5SC is equipped with low-voltage protection, it’s LEDs will start flashing as the battery gets low. It’s a great idea to land as soon as possible, to avoid damaging your quadcopter.

Overall:

Great looking quad with a long range, ideal for calm days.
Fun:★★★★☆
Value:★★★★★
Looks:★★★★★


You may want to check out the Syma X5C too -some people prefer it to the X5SC. The Drone Files has a great Syma X5SC review too. If you prefer smaller quadcopters, the Syma X11 is a great choice.

Syma X12 Nano Review

The Syma X12 Nano is a nano sized quadcopter, similar to the Cheerson CX-10 and the Estes 4606. It’s available in multiple colors, for example red, black and silver.

The quadcopter is well built, in fact it’s better than the average nano quadcopter: screws keep it together, so you won’t see those pesky clips break off. It does not have prop guards, however the motor holders serve as legs, so landing will be no problem.

The Syma X12 can do flips at the press of a button, has a 20 to 45 meters range,and can fly just as high too. The range is really good – you will probably lose sight of it before it flies out of range. High elevation is no problem for this quadcopter.

The X12 has multiple flight modes, which makes it suitable for both indoor and outdoor flight, and beginner and expert pilots too.

In “high” mode the X12 flies aggressively, so it can cope with winds fairly well. It flies fast too, the bright LEDs will help you keep track of itwhile in the air. All in all the Syma X12 has 5 LEDs: one bright white LED looking forward, and two green LEDs looking upwards in the front, and two red ones looking up in the back.

Crash are not available, however replacement propellers, motors and chargers are available. The propellers can be simply popped of, and the new ones pushed (forced) on.

Being really tiny (4.5 cm X 4.5 cm, weight: 13 grams ) it can’t lift anything, however it’s a great flier and gives other nano quads a run for their money. FAA registration is not required for such small flying machines. Being small means it’s quiet too, so you will not wake up anybody with your night flights.

As the Syma X12 uses the 2.4Ghz technology, it will simply shut down once it gets out of range, so push it only above soft surfaces.

Being a simple nano quad, automated landing is not supported.

Shipping size is 22 X 4 X 10 cm, shipping weight is around 310 grams -taking it on a journey with you will easy. The box contains everything you need for flying (including replacement propellers), except for the 4xAA batteries for the transmitter.

The transmitter

is larger then the transmitter of the average nano quadcopter, so it won’t get lost in your hands. The Tx uses the interference-free 2.4Ghz technology, so you will be able to fly together your X12s with your friends.

Binding the Syma X12 quadcopter to other transmitters is not really possible at the moment. The Deviation firmware for the Walkera Devo transmitters is a DIY solution to this issue.

Mode switching is possible only between mode 2 and mode 4, to switch modes press the rightmost button under the right stick while powering on the transmitter. Mode 1 is not supported.

To bind the X12 and the transmitter all you have to do is switch on the quadcopter, set the throttle (left stick) down to the minimum, then switch on the transmitter and push the throttle stick up to the maximum and down to the minimum again.

The range of the Syma X12 is around 20 meters which is fairly good for such a tiny quad.

The battery

of the Syma X12 is a 100 mAh, 3.7 Volt Li-Po battery integrated into the quadcopter. As such replacing it requires soldering.Replacement batteries are available, and you can get replacement chargers easily too.

The Syma X12 has low voltage cutoff, the LEDs start blinking before the quad stops flying to save the battery.

Charging is simple: just plug the USB charger into an USB socket, connect the quadcopter, and wait for the charger’s LED to turn solid when charging is complete.

The charge time is around 40 minutes but can be shorter, and the flight time is 5 to 6minutes, both of which are respectable for such a small quad.

Our rating:

the X12 is probably the best nano quadcopter on the market today.
Fun:★★★★★
Value:★★★★★
Looks:★★★★★

Resources

RCGroups has a long thread on theX12, and HeliFreak has a short overview.
If you like nano quadcopters, you will surely love the Estes 4606 and the Cheerson CX-10.