I was in heaven when I got my Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter. Yeah, I spent $300 to buy the thing, but I didn’t buy an iPhone to control it. Originally, it took an iPhone or iPod Touch to make it go, and with truth stranger than fiction, some people actually coughed up to Apple just so they could have a Parrot drone. I waited until a version of the software was made available, and once I could operate the drone with my Droid 2 Motorola phone, I paid my money and got a drone.
The software I use is AR.Pro by Shell M. Shrader. There are other versions of Android software and I tried five ro so of them. They all suck. No better way to say it. There’s a copy of Free Flight, the original iPhone software for Android now, but even it isn’t as good as Shrader’s AR.Pro. But this isn’t about the AR.Drone, it’s about Blade’s new baby quadcopter, the mQX. I bought the BNF version, which means Bind N Fly. I used the same 4 channel controller for the mQX as I do my tiny Blade mCX, the itty bitty coaxial rotor helicopter. I flew two of them to destruction –not by crashing, by wearing them out with hours and hours of use. I got pretty handy with my mCX, able to thread it through obstacle courses that ran between chair legs, under tables, through open bookcases and a lot of other junk I used to make piloting difficult.
I’ve had good luck with Blade products, buying and flying a number of their helis, but all coaxials. I tried a variety of 4 and more channel collective operated helicopters like the Eagle, Falcon, and …aw heck, a lot of them. My latest collectives are all Trex 450 types, one using the CoPilot II stabilization and control recover autopilot. I have yet to find a big difference between the CoPilot equipped and plain helicopters. I’d been fascinated by multi-roto flyers, drooling over the terribly expensive (and fragile) DraganFly units. But waiting paid off when the AR.Drone came along. I could afford that, and only had to stop eating for two weeks to do it. I must have 100 or more hours on the Parrot, definitely preferring to fly it with the minimal outdoor hull, rather than the more protective indoor hull. I have yet to break a rotor on it in spite of making it a point to by eight spares. Maybe that’s why I haven’t broken any.
Then I ran into the tiny Blade mQX. I saw it on the XHeli website, and they were charging almost $200 for it, in spite of it being half the size of the AR.Drone. They were out of stock, and so I did some more browsing, and found the BNF version for $130 on Horizon Hobby on sale, and in stock. I nicked my account for the tab and sat back to wait for it. It showed up about a week later, which was actually faster than my Amazon purchased AR.Drone.
It arrived in they typical carry case type box, and with the kit was the quadricopter, a smart charger, a 500mA battery and an adapter for the battery charger. The charger is powered bya 12v wall wart. It comes with a manual that explained everything pretty well, except for the charger. But I typed the model number into Google and was rewarded immediately with a one page manual that told me everything I needed to know. Blug in the power supply and the adapter, then attach the battery. Use the + and – buttons to select the level of charge to give your battery. It will work on a variety of single and even dual cell batteries. It’s best for single cell. Anyway, once the right charge rate (0.7) is chosen pres the on-off button and hold it a few seconds until the led selector light begins to blink. Wait for the charger to blink all of the lights and you’re ready to go. A dead battery takes about 30 minutes to take a full charge, maybe slightly longer the first time.
The quad can be operated in two modes. X mode or + mode, X being a bit more responsive, + a bit more stable. It flies like any of the tiny 4 channel helicopters, but is a bit more stable. I had to fritz with my trim buttons a little to get it to hover somewhat stable-ish. It’s flying characteristics are very much like its coaxial cousin, the mCX heli. The five language manual does a great job giving flight pointers so I won’t repeat them here. But the manual shows you how to set the unit for each configuration, selecting which mode electronically as a function of holding over the throttle during the binding process. My DSM controller only had to be turned on after powering up the quad and it bound itself without incident after 10 seconds or so.
I was able to fly it indoors, but managed to collide with my couch a couple of times. No damage, but I decided the wiser choice was to go out where there was more room –outside. Make sure outdoor flying is when it is dead calm. Otherwise, the super lightweight will be difficult to control. A garage or gymnasium would probably be a better venue, but hey, we use what we have. I’ve managed to wear its battery out a couple of times now, each charge giving me about 10 or so minutes of flight time. I tried putting a camera on it, and actually got it to lift a FlyCamOne II, but just barely. It was difficult to keep it stable or control it being overweighted. Perhaps one of those 1/4 ounce wifi cams might be a better choice. But maybe no cam is better yet.
It has provided me with a lot of fun for the twenty or so minutes flying it so far, and I expect it was worth the money, but feel that $99 would be the fairest price for a bind n fly version. I get the sense it will bind to virtually any 2.4 gHz R/C controller. Here are a few photos of mine.