Yes, I’m being sent drones to review now. What I know about drones can be written on the back of a stamp. I’ve had a play with some cheaper ones in the past and, usually, they take off and then crash.
My flying skills aren’t the best, and knowing which stick does what is perhaps part of the learning curve. However, I’ve watched them fall, go out of range or inexplicably head in one direction for no reason at all. I even had one “for kids” that was supposedly “tough” and could be flown indoors. It took off, hit the wall and then one propeller stopped working. I’d killed it within two minutes.
The people from Drocon asked me to take a look at this Bugs 3 drone which is £119.98. Then, rather fortunately, a company called TEC.BEAN asked me to have a look at their 4K Action Camera, costing £49.99. I’m going to review both devices separately but, after finding out that the drone had an action camera mount dangling off the bottom, I just had to include both in this drone review.
The Blue Bugs 3 drone has a certain amount of construction you’ll need to do before flying. It’s got landing legs and protectors which you need to attach around the propellers so that you don’t slice your fingers off. There’s some pretty good instructions on how to do all this and me and my son had quite a bonding experience putting it all together.
You’ll need to put the propellers on the right way, the landing gear, the guards and the camera mount. There’s a screwdriver included to help with this and a propeller changer too.
While you’re doing all this it’s perhaps a good idea to plug the 7.4v 1800mAh battery in. It will keep you flying for 18 minutes or so. This, which I didn’t know but later found out, is longer than a lot of drone batteries and other drones in this price range.
Here’s a little gallery showing the construction process..
The big thing about this, it would seem, is the brushless motor technology. This will reduce the friction, resulting in less heat, more power and longer battery life. That remote control, which you’ll also need to construct a little, is a two-way model, meaning that the 2.4GHz transmitter can also tell you when the battery of the drone is running low.
It’s worth pointing out here that the camera I also used in this review does not come as part of the kit, but I was very grateful to have that screwdriver as it really did help with the landing gear and the guard attachments.
The flight range is around 500 meters and the remote control itself is quite imposing when you first pick it up. There’s a range of buttons to decipher and “trim settings” which I didn’t even want to try.
I left the battery charging overnight. A supplied charger comes with an LED which signifies how charged the battery pack is. Red for flat, green for full, orange is obviously somewhere in between. It takes about 4 hours for a full charge.
When we did take it out, I was pretty apprehensive. I’d definitely advise taking it somewhere far, far away from others for your first trip out. A local park isn’t going to cut it, and I was slightly disorientated because, despite the bright white LED light up on the front of the drone, I sometimes couldn’t tell which direction it was facing and I ended up sending it off in the wrong direction. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment.
During our walk to the fairly empty field we tested it in, I suddenly realised that I’d not brought the instructions with me. We ended up Googling as, for several minutes, we couldn’t get the remote control to talk to the drone. It was a combination of a “calibration button” and a short press on an “unlock button” in the end, but it’s worth doing a bit of reading otherwise you’ll end up in a field wondering what the heck is going on.
I could tell you what each and every button does on the remote but I’ve decided to take the easy option and just steal the page from the manual. You’ll notice that there’s two speed options and you can whack a button to do a roll too – something I’ll show you on video below.
The two speed settings are great for learning. If you keep the drone within a certain distance you’ll soon learn how to fly it and the controls are very responsive, either banking, rotating the drone, tilting it forward or back, increasing the power or lowering the power to make it land. With the camera I’d attached, I could also have the little TEC.BEAM cam beam out a WiFi hotspot so that I could see exactly what the camera saw. This is the “next level” for flying and means that you get a real flight view of what’s happening rather than having to guess.
That said, if you’re not in very bright sunlight (like I was) there’s LED lights underneath and another light up front so that you can tell which way it’s pointing. Great for getting your bearings.
Here then, once I’d slotted the battery into the cradle and fired up the connection / start-up process, is a typical take off. You’ll notice from this and the bumpy landing that happens later just how sturdy this is. One particularly bad crash resulted in one motor not starting up again, but a quick unplug and re-plug of the battery soon reset things and I was off again.
Oh, quickly talking about batteries, you’ll need to supply your own for the remote control as they don’t come in the box.
Here’s the takeoff…
As you can see, it’s very smooth and stable. Something we really started to appreciate and, whilst keeping it in “low speed” mode it wasn’t at all daunting to fly. You could do low passes overhead, fly over trees and even try the odd flip, as we did here…
You can do the flips and the rolls incredibly easily. People will think you’re some sort of super drone pilot, but really you just push a button and wiggle a stick like this.. ;)
Landing the thing was something that took a bit of getting used to, and I quickly appreciated why those landing legs were there. It helps cushion the rather hefty “plop” landings that I seemed to be doing.
Apart from that though, there was a lot of control and confidence when flying this..
Then… then something happened. The remote control started beeping and, because I’d not read this part of the manual…
I somehow lost any idea of which way it was pointing and it shot off into the distance. I then started to panic and pushed it as high into the air as I could so that I could see it above the trees. Then, once I lost sight of it, I told it to land.. which it did… somewhere way out of sight. It’s at this point that your quickly realise just how far these things can go. This states 500 metres, and I’d lost it completely. We all went running after the thing but it was gone. All we had to navigate was the signal strength beeps on the remote, which tended to be beeping faster or slower depending on our proximity to it.
Here’s some more videos, filmed via an on-board camera…
We were about to give up. We’d been looking for about 30 minutes in the sun and we were all thirsty. It’s surprising how easily you can lose almost £120 and I was a bit gutted. I decided that it would probably be a good idea if all drones could have a GPS lock on them – one which sync’d with the remote control and returned if the battery was running low or it was going out of range. Then, somehow, one of the kids just turned on the remote again and pressed the up stick. There, like a phoenix, far, far away from where we’d been looking, came the drone – hovering like some mad fly. We were gob-smacked.
This is a properly solid drone which has a great design and stylish appearance. It’s a huge amount of fun and far less frustrating than drones I’ve used previously. It’s easy to get going (if you actually read the manual, unlike me), easy to fly (on the lower-speed mode) and comes with extra stickers so that you can customize it. Definitely take your time on the lower speed mode, learn all the tricks and the controls. Definitely go to a massively empty field in the middle of no-where and definitely do some practice before you switch it into high gear.
Now, from under the belly of the drone, here’s some footage from the TEC.BEAN camera. I’ll be putting a separate review soon on this great little action camera…
Overall, highly recommended from me and the kids. Yes, the kids – we helped them a little but they flew it too. Head to Amazon.co.uk to get this Bugs 3 drone for £119.98 and, if you like the on-board footage from the camera, the TEC.BEAN 4K one we used underneath the drone fitted perfectly. It’s £49.99 and comes with a dizzying array of mounts for biking, sticking it to cars and more.
Love this drone. I really do.