Saturday, 8 March 2014

Hubsan X4 H107C 2.4GHz Quad Copter Adventures

Recently I acquired from eBay one of these:


It's a little tiny quadcopter! I first became interested, not so much in RC, but in quads after watching the TEDTalk by Raffaello D'Andrea - The astounding athletic power of quadcopters. I found this amazing and further found it amazing watching this from TEDTalks by Andreas Raptopoulos: No roads? There's a drone for that. These devices are pretty awesome and could revolutionise the way we do so many things - from deliveries to rescue, precision work in the air, even video recording at the Winter Olympics!

Given the X4's small size I've been constantly surprised by it's speed and stability - even under fairly strong wind conditions. Throughout our house we have ducted air and when the A/C is up high the breeze is really quite strong. The X4 handles it quite well - I never use more that 60% of power to push against the air currents and can keep it fairly steady. Comparatively my much larger RC helicopters struggle mightily and frequently can do no more than skim along the floor.

Bravely (I thought) I took my little X4 out yesterday afternoon. Our small yard is quite sheltered, but the breeze we do get swirls through the area, generating all kinds of random currents and eddies. It's amazing how much the quad gets pushed around. Getting used to the control surface is taking a while - it's easy to overcompensate for a swirl in the air, getting myself into more trouble and then desperately trying to recover from that before crashing. The X4 is incredibly agile, far more so than the other RC helicopters I have, and also far more stable.

Long story short, being the brave adventurer I am, I rocketed the throttle to 100 and watched my little X4 zoom up into the sky. Immediately it became apparent the wind was much stronger up there. Uh oh - tree, oh no - roof, arrgh! - tree again - each time these hazards came up I was able to "gracefully" recover and not hit anything. I always forget though to increase power when manoeuvring. The quad tends to drop a bit when you execute movements - the more extreme the movement, the more it impacts on your altitude. As the X4 soared over the roof of the house I momentarily forgot this: tried to reverse, lost altitude, tapped the roof with the front rotors, flipped and that was that.

Getting it off the roof was a real chore and the blades of the rotors were quite badly damaged. Luckily the X4 comes with spare blades - interesting they are labelled A and B. If you put them on the wrong pylon the thing won't take off. As you can see in the first TED talk above, you can cut the blades off and it will still fly. Get the wrong blades on the wrong rotors though and its not going to get off the ground.

The X4 was about $80 AUD ($20 + postage) from Hong Kong. I've already ordered more blades, new plastic protective ring (for flying indoors) and larger capacity batteries. I get about 6-7 minutes flying time and then it's a 40 minute charge on USB. This particular model has a 0.3 megapixel camera built in to it too. Camera on/off doesn't seem to knock the battery around too much, and the footage is OK. When I eventually take some footage that doesn't cause motion sickness I'll post it.

The packaging says this isn't a toy and it really isn't. You've got to really pay attention to it and fly with some care to avoid crashing and damaging it or other things. I accidentally ran it into myself and have two 3cm superficial scratches that bled!

There are quite a few videos on YouTube of this quadcopter available. Some of them are very nice. I'm looking forward to flying mine in a large open area and seeing how it goes. I've included the specs from the manufacturer Hubsan below:

Hubsan X4 H107C Quadcopter


Item No.H107C
Item Name:The Hubsan X4
barcode:6922572400030(EAN-13)
Motor (x4): Coreless Motor
Frequency: 2.4GHz
With 4 channels
Battery: 3.7V 380mAh
Flight time: around 7 minutes
Charging time:40 minutes
Latest 6-axis flight control system with adjustable gyro sensitivity
Permits super stable flight
Lightweight airframe with nice durability
4-ways flip(left,right,forward,backward)
USB charging cable allows to charge by computer.
Flying outdoor ability
Transmitter: 2.4Ghz 4 channels
Camera: 0.3 MP
Video recording module included
memory card:Micro SDHC(excluded)

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