November 15, 2012
After a few months of moving, starting a new job, and settling in, I am finally ready to resume adding new material to this blog! I won't say my move hasn't gone without some hitches (getting internet access here being one), but at this point most of the problems are calming down. Anyway, that being said, let's move on to a blog post! I've wanted to post some mini-reviews here for some time; so here goes...
I just recently received one of these neat little toy quadcopters from one of my Chinese sources. Actually calling it a "toy" doesn't really do it justice, as with a little practice, this quadcopter really flies quite well! When I purchased it in September, they were about $35 U.S. (plus a few dollars for air shipment). Anyway, at this point I only have an hour of good practice with it, and can manage a few minutes hover at roughly eye level indoors. I still get a little out of control at times, but I can usually shut it down before I seriously crash into something, I suspect a bit more practice time will take care of that. :-)
I didn't get an actual box with mine, but I have seen some of these in actual retail boxes. It came very well packed in a molded Styrofoam container, which was thoroughly wrapped in packaging tape. It took a bit of careful cutting to get it open.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the instruction manual was printed in both Chinese and English - although I will say the English was poorly translated - but nonetheless readable enough to determine what they were really wanting to tell me. After a few comical minutes of studying the manual I braved putting batteries in. This was a bit of a problem as the drawing in the battery box in the remote shows the batteries drawn with the + terminal toward the top, but the + and - symbols alternate as you would expect. The + and - symbols in the battery box show the correct polarization for the battery installation (the springs were also a clue as they usually are the - end of the battery in most battery boxes I have seen). Note that the drawing in the instruction manual itself is correct.
The UdiR/C U816 quadcopter comes with two Lipo batteries and a USB charger that you plug into your PC to charge the batteries. I would highly recommend charging the batteries before loading batteries into the remote as the Lipo batteries take about an hour to charge! It probably is a good idea to order extra batteries (and maybe even an extra charger) for your quadcopter - I get about 10 minutes or so of flight time out of mine before the battery is exhausted - which means even though you can charge two batteries at a time, your charge time vs flight time is still rather long.
The charger plugs into any standard USB port on your PC or laptop. The LED's flash until you plug in the battery, and are constantly on while the batteries are charging. When an LED goes off it means that battery is charged and ready to go.
The display actually is in English, although the labels on the remote are in Chinese. You will note in the photo above that I added my own paper labels to the remote (just below the right stick). After a few comical moments of reading the manual and then trying it on the remote, i finally figured out the way it actually works. When you first turn on the power switch (just below the red LED in the photo above), the red LED will be blinking rapidly. This indicates a throttle calibration mode - move the left stick all the way to the top and then all the way to the bottom. Once you've done that the LED will be constantly on, which indicates the remote is now ready to use. If you move the left stick up and down you will note the number in the display will go up to 100 and back down to zero as you move the stick.
The Lipo battery fits into a rather tight little cage underneath the quadcopter. Don't push too hard or the cage could break! I sort of wiggle my battery into the cage, and center it - if the battery is offset in the cage it will affect whatever trimming you do to your quadrotor when flying it!
A little tip on getting it ready to fly. The battery connectors are rather small - make sure the red wires and the black wires are paired up before you plug the connectors together. The tabs in the connectors are rather easy to bend, and if the red wires and the black wires aren't paired together, you could bend the tabs and possibly damage the electronics!
Another tip - the quadrotor's electronics depends on being properly leveled when it powers up. If not level when it wakes up, your quadrotor could be hard to control! I usually set it on a flat surface and then plug the battery connectors together. It's okay if you move it when plugging it in, but make sure it is flat a level within a couple seconds. The LED's in the quadrotor will blink while it is initializing, but a couple seconds later they will stay on continuously and it is time to fly!
Now that your remote is turned on and the quadrotor is battery is plugged in, you will very quickly hear a beep from the remote indicating it has established connection with the quadrotor and is ready for you to start flying.
Getting started with flying...
This quadcopter is quite touchy and requires a fairly subtle touch on the controls to fly well. Too much input will cause it to zip off quickly in some direction! You likely will crash numerous times at first (I know I did). But the UdiR/C U816 is fairly sturdy if you don't slam it into something at high speed.
To get oriented for your first flights, the black blades of the quadcopter should be the ones closest to you. The orange blades will be the ones further away. The controls of the remote map pretty directly to the quadcoptor this way. This larger photo below indicates what the controls do.
At first just give it enough power that it barely lifts off the floor. I am at a fairly high altitude here - so mine starts to lift-off at about 25-30% power. Chances are good that it will move off in some direction. This is what the trim switches are for. Click the trim switches in the opposite directions of where your quadcopter is going until it stops going in that direction. If it moves more quickly that way, you need to press the trim switch in the opposite direction. You will also note the trim is indicated on the display and the beeps change pitch each time you press on the switch. On mine, the trim switch next to the throttle stick (the one I did not mark in the photo below) is nonfunctional. I suspect this is because trim doesn't make sense for a throttle anyway :-()
When you have it trimmed so it isn't wandering around too quickly, you may add a little more throttle and start hovering. About 3-4 inches off the floor you experience a bouncing oscillation from "ground effect". Once you fly up a little higher the oscillation will smooth out. Try hovering at various heights and practice landing and taking off and moving around in different directions.
Once you get good with hovering and moving smoothly in the directions you want to go, try moving the throttle stick left and right. This action causes the quadcopter to turn clockwise/counter-clockwise on its center axis. This one is pretty fun once you get good at it!
The two buttons to the right of the display have special functions. The button on the bottom is the "mode" button and dictates how quickly your quadcopter will respond to your direction inputs. The display will show "mode 1" or "mode 2" indicating which mode you are in. For your first flights (especially indoors) use "mode 1". In "mode 2" your quadcopter will respond very strongly to any inputs - which is good for tricks and outdoor flying perhaps, but not a good idea, especially for your first flights!
The upper button is special trick button which causes the quadrotor to perform a mid-air loop. Don't try this one indoors in a small space! After you've spent a great deal of time with flying the quadrotor, and can handle it outdoors, fly it up high and punch this button... Hopefully you won't crash... :-o
There are also two larger buttons on top of the remote on each side of the antenna. These cause various beeping sounds, but as far as I know are non-functional (and are not marked in the instruction manual either).
Overall, the UdiR/C U816 is a lot of fun to fly, and is sturdy enough to survive most crashes unscathed. Oftentimes one prop or another may pop off and sometimes go flying off and get lost, It comes with spare props, but still a good idea to order more spares! The trick here when replacing props is to put the correct replacement on! The props have a top side and a bottom side - the hole in the top of the prop is slightly smaller and won't easily press onto the motor shaft. The black and orange props also come in pairs, and each one in the pair has a different blade pitch. It is easy to confuse which is which. Look at your remaining prop of the same color on your quadcopter and notice which way the blades are angled, The other blade of the same color has an opposite angle! If your quadcopter doesn't quite have the right sound pitch (yes, you can actually hear the difference!), and one corner seems anchored to the ground, then that prop is the wrong one!
Certainly the UdiR/C U816 is one of the most fun RC flying toys I have played with at a very reasonable price. However, I would NOT recommend this for younger children, as it requires a very subtle touch to fly and it can move very quickly and (maybe) dangerously if you are not careful!
The instruction manual is entertaining (or for some - frustrating) to read because of the poorly translated English - but despite the few downsides, there is a lot to like in this little quadrotor! Amazing technology at an amazing price!