No, not really.
In the six months since I have started flying, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a “best drone”. Big surprise right? I own a total of five drones at present, they all get flown and each one excels in its own realm.
Gear in a nut shell review…
1st Quad – DJI Mavic: Amazing drone, extremely portable, capable. Incredible value for what you are getting. Limited flight capabilities compared to acro / traditional FPV drones.
2nd Quad – EZDrone Tiny Whoop Micro FPV: cheap introduction into FPV quads. Extremely durable and capable for such a small device. Was essential in my progression from flight stabilized mode to “acro” mode.
3rd Velocidrone Simulator: there are many out there but this is the only flight simulator that I have used. Made by Team Black Sheep (TBS), one of the top tier leaders in the FPV community, this simulator allowed me to really hone my skills and begin diving further into the world of acro without having to destroy countless props or other components.
4th Quad – QQ190 Falcon RTF: This quad is sold by quad questions but can be purchased directly from Team Black Sheep as they are the designers of this quad. RTF stands for “ready to fly”. You have to set up a few things but it more or less lives up to it’s name and is ready to fly out of the box. The power difference of this unit compared to the Tiny Whoop is like comparing a Formula 1 race car to a kids Fisher-Price Power Wheels. By using velocidrone strictly for a week, this helped me step up to this unit rather seamlessly. I fly this unit the least as it requires me to find a large open space to fly which involves me having to travel 15 minutes from my home to an appropriate location.
5th Quad – Self Built Tny Whoop No Camera: I am far from being proficient in flying racing / acro quads so this is the next step I have taken to help develop my skills further. Taking a step away from FPV and focusing more on LOS (Line of Sight), this allows me to maintain a visual of the quad and how it functions relative to my joystick movements. LOS in acro is significantly harder to master in my opinion. You must develop a constant awareness of your joystick movements relative to the quads initial starting orientation or things can quickly get mixed up. As you begin to fly further away the orientation of the quad becomes increasingly harder to determine and so you are learning how to mentally visualize what the quad is doing relative to muscle memory in the form of joystick inputs.
6th Quad – Gnarly FPV “Guppy”: This is the micro of micro brushless FPV quads. I took this unit to a hobby store where the guys have typically seen everything and their eyeballs almost popped out of their heads. Because I like flying at home more than anywhere I need something that is small so I can shoot gaps under my chair, tables, tree branches etc. I moved from a brushed Tiny Whoop to the more powerful brushless Guppy. Virtually the same size as a Tinywhoop but with a significant increase in power, the Guppy is the perfect balance of everything I have been looking for in an FPV quad.
Which quad to I fly the most?
At present I am flying the cameraless Tiny Whoop that I built because my focus is more on developing my LOS abilities. Second to this I probably fly the EZDrone Tiny Whoop because my dog can attack it, I can crash into walls, I can use it for aerial surf checks and honestly… it is just a ton of fun to fly. As I am becoming more proficient and better at maintaining control of my quad I am flying the Guppy more frequently but due to it’s lack of prop guards and my dog’s affinity for these quads, I regrettably do not fly this unit as much as I would like. The QQ190 is being flown more frequently as I progress and begin to develop a relationship with the beast. I am still a bit terrified of its power and acceleration. The Mavic gets flown the least and is reserved more or less for travel, recon be it surf or backpacking, epic surf days when I want to harass people at the point and exceptionally beautiful sunsets.
The Long Review:
I have lightly followed the evolution of the quad industry since it’s inception. I always thought they were cool but I felt they were a bit gimmicky. What was the point of flying something for only 5 to 6 minutes, only to have to swap out the battery and then repeat. The range of these units was not that great and it seemed like a lot of work to just buzz something around in the air. As a surfer, I hated quads. I happened to be on Youtube and stumbled across this blogger with a unique face and paint all over his glasses who was reviewing a new drone that had just been released onto the market. It had a compact remote that interfaced with your smart phone, had 4k video capabilities, a worthy flight time and insane range capabilities. Enter the DJI Mavic…
1st Quad – DJI Mavic Pro Base package Cost: $1,000
The DJI Mavic – this is the quad that managed to finally get me interested in the industry. I was sold on the unit from the perspectives of functionality and practicality. This unit was compact enough that I could take it with my on my travels and it had capabilities that actually made it useful for a wide range of applications. I had to have it. Compared to the other drones I own this unit is by far the most impressive unit I own. Like people before me have said, it is more of a tool than a toy. When I travel and because the Mavic is so compact, it goes with me. I use it for capturing video of places we are going and routinely use it to do recon surf checks when I want to see what the swell is doing in various locations I don’t feel like riding my scooter too. Because it can fly to 500 meters (not that I fly that high), you can see what the swell is doing miles down the coast. If we go hiking into hot springs I will use the Mavic to try and scout out any secret pools or campsites that have historically been reserved to locals.
- Quad & Controller break down into a very small form factor.
- Long Flight Times (25+ Minutes)
- Insane range capabilities (8000 meters & 500 meters altitude), that can actually be achieved unlike the Parrot Disco that I returned.
- Impressive photo & video capabilities
- Impressive flight stabilization capabilities
- Impressive camera stabilization capabilities
- GPS Auto Return To Home
- The list goes on…
- I can’t really list the price as a con for this unit because the cost to capabilities ratio of this unit compared to virtually anything else on the market is insane.
- Limited maneuverability (compared to traditional acro / fpv quads).
- Less fun to fly than my other quads.
- FRAGILE CAMERA GIMBLE: this is the bane of the Mavic Pro. If you look at this gimbal the wrong way it will break.
- DJI Customer Support: when the gimbal breaks, welcome to the hellish world of DJI Customer Support. It is terrible
After flying the DJI Mavic for a week, I began feeling limited by its maneuverability capabilities and so began my journey of acro / racing / FPV quads.
2nd Quad – EZDrone Tiny Whoop FPV
$100 Tiny Whoop
$19 Fatshark goggles battery charger (Why fat shark does not include this is beyond me)
$34 Fatshark ImmersionRC Antenna (Used to connect to goggles to receive video signal from camera feed on quad)
$40 Fatshark Diversity Receiver Module (Allows goggles to have two antennas to increase video feed quality. It basically will switch between near field circular polarized antenna (a small sphere around you) or long range (more focused wavelength) which uses a di-pole antenna.
***NOTE***The cumulative costs to get into FPV are almost the same price as a DJI Mavic. I could have done this for cheaper but I wanted a quality controller that I could grow into (eventually I want to build a long range 1.3 ghz Skywalker X8 long range fixed wing drone), and I needed goggles that were compact so that I could easily fit it into my backpack. Once you have these core components you are set and the cost of the quads and their components are actually quite affordable compared to other hobbies I have taken up.
EZDrone Tiny Whoop – When I first get into anything and before I take to the web, I always like to seek out people in my area that I can talk to and try to get personal guidance from regarding buying decisions. I visited a store locally called EZDrone and was fortunate enough to be met by extremely helpful, passionate, and informative staff that answered all of my questions and educated me on things I did not even think to ask about. I probably fly this quad more than any other quad I own. I fly it when taking breaks from my work, when I want to harass my dog, when I am too lazy to look out my window to check the surf, when I want to harass surfers parking in front of my home… basically any time I need to get an FPV fix and I don’t feel like going anywhere.
- It is virtually indestructible when you use a carbon fiber support brace.
- Parts are cheap
- Batteries are cheap
- It has prop guards which means I can fly this indoors or outdoors with little concern about damaging the props (weakest and most likely component to be damaged in quads).
- The FPV setup at 25 MW has surprisingly good range. I can fly this thing 150+ feet above my house with little to no loss in video feed.
- It has flight stabilization mode which helped me learn how to fly FPV quads.
- It can be switched to “acro” mode which is flying without the aid of flight stabilization. Once you are proficient with acro mode the fun really begins.
- My dog can chomp this thing (100+ times) and it just keeps on going.
- Because it is small, it is audibly and visually non-intrusive to neighbors.
- Compact size allows me to transport the whoop with 20+ batteries in a case smaller than a set of dive goggles.
- It is really fun to fly.
- Limited Power: Even with “insane” motors this unit is severely underpowered. When the breeze is in this quad has a difficult time flying in such conditions. If done right, because it is so light you can almost glide in the wind but it gets pretty squirrelly. That’s the only negative I can think of.
3rd – Velocidrone Simulator
Velicidrone was hands down the best investment I made for getting into FPV flying. The full version of this simulator allows you to fly a wide range of pre-built quads including the QQ190RTF that I intended to purchase. This simulator is extremely realistic in terms of it’s physics engine and how the quads handle relative to real world conditions. You can crash as much as you want and fly as long as you want since you are not limited by a battery. I experienced a bit of nausea when I first started flying this simulator. As I became more accustomed to it visually, and my controls became more controlled and I was able to make the quad do what I wanted it to do, mentally I was able to more effectively anticipate / determine turns / inversions, etc. It is similar to how many can drive a car with no issues but easily get car sick when they are a passenger – their brains aren’t able to anticipate maneuvers and must then rely on their inner ear to maintain balance / orientation. One solid day on velocidrone is like a week of real world flying. You get way more time and this time is invaluable for developing the necessary muscle memory and mental understanding of how the quad operates in various axis’s relative to joystick position.
- Unlimited Flight Time
- Excellent physics engine that recreates real world conditions.
- Multiple terrains to fly in to experiment with.
- Interfaces with my FrSky controller so I can develop the muscle memory for maneuvers on my controller which then translates extremely well to my actual quads.
- The multiplayer function does not work yet.
4th Quad – QQ190 Falcon RTF
This is a full sized quad that uses 5” props. This unit makes gobs of power and to this day I treat this quad with a ton of respect. This quad utilizes what is referred to as a “powercube” which is basically an improved solderless approach to integrating all of the various computer components / modules that are necessary for this quad to operate. The benefits of this setup is that visually you have a much cleaner setup, you have reduced potential failure points by eliminating areas where wires need to be soldered and repairing boards is as easy as removing one and swapping it for another (no solder needed). The costs of these components is probably higher but to this day I have not had to replace a single component on this setup which brings me to my next point.
This quad is a TANK. I have literally dropped this thing from 150 feet in the air, watched it come falling down like a shuriken and then lodge one of it’s arms into the grass all the way up to the body of the quad. I pulled it out of the ground, bent the prop back into position, got as much debri out of the motor as possible and I was flying again. I have flown this unit full speed into tree branches, tree trunks, crashed on concrete, you name it and this thing keeps going. I have abused the shit out of this quad and not one component has failed me as of yet. Kudos to TBS and Quad Questions on an incredibly well built design.
I fly this quad the least due to the space requirements it needs to fly safely and responsibly but when I fly this unit I have a blast. Even with stock PIDs the power is instant, very snappy and very predictable. I have been working on my LOS with this unit and I am really falling in love with it now. I will cut the throttle from 100 feet, let it fall till I am two feet above the ground, punch the throttle and I am just sitting there. Because of it’s immense power it is very predictable to fly and wind has little to no impact on it’s flight characteristics when compared to my micro setups. As I continue to progress with my LOS I will fly this more and more.
- Virtually indestructible
- Has telemetry that gives me vitals information, my favorite being that it displays a “battery low” warning so I know when I need to bring the quad in to prevent over discharge.
- The quad features an on screen setup that can be configured via goggles in conjunction with the controller. This is a great feature when you don’t have a PC nearby. You can configure the transmitter strength, a range of telemetry features, video settings (all in Chinese so not really), and a slew of other configurations.
- Powerful full sizes makes this unit very predictable
- 800 mw transmitter strength allows you to fly to insane heights and distances relative to my 25 mw micro drones ( not that I do ).
- Solderless design means increased reliability and ease of repair in the event of damage
- Looks evil
- Can be flown with a gopro to record 4k video
- Longer flight times due to larger size (9+ minutes if you aren’t punching it like me since I still suck at flying and actually prefer smooth flight transitions a.k.a cinematic flying).
5th Quad – Gnarly FPV 60mm Brushless “Guppy”:
Gnarly FPV’s Guppy represents the culmination of everything that I have been seeking in a quad. Small form factor with plenty of power to do acro, cheap batteries and the build seems fairly robust. I’ve crashed it into a few trees now and the tiny carbon fiber frame has held up well thus far. It is the same size as a Tiny Whoop but packs a real punch thanks to its brushless motors coupled with a 2 cell 300 mAh battery. Flight times for me are averaging around 4 minutes which is totally acceptable. I keep 20 batteries charged which gives me more than enough flight time for a day out.
This quad is fantastic because it gives me that real FPV feel due to it’s increased power but I am able to fly virtually anywhere due to it’s small form factor. Areas I would not dare fly the QQ190 are a non-issue for this unit.
Because it is so small and compact, the clearances on this thing are extremely minute. I am talking 1 to 2 mm of clearance between props, the camera holder / guard.
Because of this if you crash it some times take a bit of adjusting to get it back into spec but it does not bother me that much. It would be nice if Gnarly FPV released a prop guard for this unit so I could fly in-doors and around my dog. If dog chomps with guards it might snag her tooth but it wont slice her nose or eye open. The props grazed my arm once and managed to draw blood which I was impressed by. Powerful!
When I travel my kit will consist of the Tinywhoop, Guppy & Mavic. The guppy gives me all the rush I need in terms of acro flying, the Tiny Whoop I can fly anywhere and the Mavic is just another extension of my camera bag, a tool I can use to capture great moments.
6th Quad Camera-less Tiny Whoop:
This tiny whoop was built intentionally without a camera as I am becoming increasingly focused on developing my LOS abilities. Without the camera and plastic body, the weight reduction has increased punch, responsiveness and flight times dramatically. Throttle is still a bit delayed but it represents a dramatic improvement in performance, flight timers (5 minutes) and responsiveness. I fly this quad almost exclusively now when I am at home as I am really trying to develop my LOS abilities. LOS is a slow process as you are trying to wrap your head around how the quad functions with different pitches, roll and yaw inputs. I experiment quite a deal, try to disorient my self from its position and recover, and crash a ton. LOS is tough but its extremely rewarding.
Other essential accessories I have acquired and consider a must have for people looking to venture down this path.
- A 1s Lipo Charger – I have the HiTec unit that works wonders. Invest in a good unit. I usually use 4 batteries per session and when I am done I pop them back into the charger and they are set 30 minutes later.
- A 2s,3s,4s, etc. Balance Charger – this unit is very competitively priced and works fantastic in conjunction with a balance charging board. I have no issues charging 4x 1300 mAh 4s batteries on this unit.
- A balance charging board that supports multiple batteries to charge simultaneously.
- Tons of extra props
- Guppy Props – These are the best IMO, they take a beating and hold up well.
- QQ190 Props – Anything made by DALPROP is amazing. They come in a range of colors, shapes and sizes but they are the best quality you can get in my opinion. They are extremley durable and bounce back easily after a hard crash. I have bent a prop entirely backwards, straightened it out and its flying again and still fairly balanced. The props that came with the QQ190 Falcon (blue ones) shatter on impact, I would not recommend these to anyone.
- Tiny Whoop Props – these are the best props you can get period. Do not get any thing else. I’ve used every variation and these produce the greatest punch and responsiveness, they are much more durable than the cheaper options as well.
- Johnny Weld & Thick Super Glue – This is an essential In my opinion. Johnny Weld is basically baking soda mixed with glass beads. When super glue is applied to this material it hardens instantly. The way I use it is by applying thick superglue to an area I want to reinforce or “spot weld” and then I pour a little of the Johnny Weld on it. I used to trash the antennas on my Tiny Whoop camera very quickly. Using this method I have yet to replace any of my antennas. Many people use rubber bands to hold cameras in place so they don’t fall off from the body. I simply put two dabs of super glue on both sides of the camera and then pour the Johnny Weld on it. It is easy enough to remove if needed but it will not break or fall off prematurely.
- Spare Tiny Whoop Camera
- Spare Inductrix Frames – this is the best frame you can get. Do not get anything else as they are shit. This frame is flexible but will not break prematurely. Used in conjunction with an x brace, you will be hard pressed to break one of these frames.
- Tiny Whoop Carrying Case
- Micro Tool Kit
- Battery Tester