One of my other hobbies, apart from writing for this fantastic site, is flying drones. These are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV’s. My current setup is able to hold a GoPro camera on a 3 axis gimbal which gives excellent super smooth clear footage. The drone itself can go to height in excess of 2,500 feet and can easily fly up to a mile away from its controller. The whole thing retails at close to £1,000.
The world of drones is quite strange. The more expensive setup, the easier the drone is to fly. High-end features include GPS lock to stop the device flying outside of a 1 metre circle and also altitude lock which means a drone will hold itself at a set altitude. These features make photography and videography from a drone extremely stable. I can set my drone to hover, let go of all the sticks and it will happily sit there until the batteries run out or I move the drone myself .
Lower priced drones don’t have these features and are inherently more difficult to fly, but I think you should begin with these smaller one. They’re more difficult to fly and all the hard work needs to be done by you, but you soon pick up the flying skills.
I have been set through the Arcade OrbitCAM XL drone for review, which is a entry level drone with a built-in video/stills camera.
Good Points :
- Complete and ready to fly from out of the box.
- Built -in camera for video and stills.
- Ability to do simple stunts and flips.
- Spare propellers included.
- Ideal first drone.
- Robust Construction.
- Battery charges from normal USB port.
Bad Points :
- One 1 supplied battery.
- Short flying time
- Long charge time for battery.
- Low power thus struggles in breezy conditions.
- Motor gears exposed
What’s In The Box.
This drone is a ideal starter kit and comes with everything needed to get you up and flying, included is
- The done itself, with included video/stills camera.
- 4 Channel controller.
- 4GB micro SD card for use in the camera.
- Camera transfer cable.
- USB Charging cable.
- 4 Spare rotor blades.
- User Manual.
The first thing I had to do was to charge up the included 3.7v 580 mah battery. This charges from a standard 5v USB port with the supplied charger. It took about 1.5 hrs for the battery to charge to full. It then slides into a bay in between the drone body and the camera.
The drone is made of a impact-resistant plastic, which is extremely light and robust. When handled you can feel that the drone will take some knocks and bangs, which is essential with a start-up drone (you’re going to crash it numerous times). It has two joysticks – left and right – along with an antenna that gives an impressive 100m range. This means there is very little chance of you losing total control of your drone in high thermals. The remote control also has a very useful display screen which indicates % speed and rotor movement.
Also included are spare rotors, USB charging cable for the battery, and another USB cable for transferring footage from the camera.
Once the power was on to the controller, it was just a case of connecting the battery. This immediately powered up the drone and the LED’s start to flash rapidly indicating that the drone is ready for pairing with the controller. This is a simple task and involves you moving the left stick of the controller (power) from the bottom to the top and back down again,
The OrbitCAM XL drone comes with a 4 channel controller, which has the ability to control the camera, to either start video recording or to snap a stills picture. I was was quite surprised that it even included a camera at this price, let alone one with a 3000,000 pixel resolution. Sure, it’s not true HD and this footage is far from big-screen Hollywood, but it’s a great opportunity for you to see the world from a birds-eye view.
Unfortunately the flight time is short. You would be looking between 7-10 minutes as an average rule of thumb from a full battery, which is great for getting started but once you become familiar it is a shame the fun is cut short so quickly. The 1.5 hour wait has to be considered too. I would have preferred to see a number of batteries included in the box to increase the fun time between charge-ups.
Once you have mastered standard flight and the modes, you can start getting into trimming. This is the calibration for your drone which means you can use the four switches on your remote to isolate each rotor and tailor each motion to fit your own technique. Now you have the basis of flight, you can change the mode of the drone. which increases the speed of the motors and allows you to do some simple flips and spins – this moves beginners up a level.
I took the drone out today for some flights, albeit it was quite a grey blustery autumn day. Here’s some sample pictures and video (of note I think the lens may have picked up some water from the grass).
The OrbitCAM XL is available from Amazon for £79.99 and, with Christmas not that far away now, it will make a ideal present. It comes ready to fly, with a camera for stills and video, which is easily controlled from the handheld controller. The drone itself is robust and I can see it taking some knocks and bangs.
The flying time is about 7 – 10 minutes which does get reduced if you’re using the video camera all the time or if the drone is fighting against the wind. There is only one battery included in the box and this takes about 1.5 hrs to charge, so purchasing further batteries is a must to keep the fun going. Overall this is a cracking drone which with plenty of practice you can get some very rewarding flying from.