VIFLY R220 Review

By: Kathleen Hickey

If you're just starting out in FPV, it can be intimidating. A growing market, and an abundance of information online can make choosing the right drone, or "quad," a daunting choice. The first big decision in deciding what to purchase, is if you'd like to build your own quad, or if you'd like to buy a Ready To Fly (RTF), like the VIFLY. Both choices have advantages and disadvantages.

I decided to build my first quad. I really wanted to know how it worked, so I wanted to put one together. I also knew that part of racing is crashing, so you need to know how to fix it once it's broken. It took months to build. I had someone helping me, so between our schedules, build issues, and various technical issues, it took a while. Even after it was done, it was plagued with issues. It wasn't until my second build that I was actually able to do any decent flying. The benefit of an RTF is being able to take the quad out of the box, and start flying right away. There is no wait time, no soldering issues, no hoping and finger crossing that all of your lights will turn on.

The VIFLY comes with a lot of great accessories, so you really only need to have goggles, and you're set. Below are the items that come in the kit.

The VIFLY comes with a Flysky radio. Not all RTF quads on the market come with one. The most common radio for FPV at the moment is a Taranis, by Frsky, (I'm sure the similarity in names is not a coincidence), which is what i normally use. The Flysky runs on four AAA batteries (not included). It's really light in weight, and does not feel as good in quality to the Taranis.

The VIFLY is already programed in, so there's no need to do it yourself. When I took the VIFLY out to fly, I was also with my friend Josh Bryson, (WicketFPV). Josh also took a look at the equipment, and flew the VIFLY. Because Josh has more flight experience than me, I thought it would be helpful to have his input as a more experienced pilot, and mine as a beginner. I asked Josh his thoughts on the Flysky. "Are there better radio’s out there? Yes! But for a beginner quad it gets the job done and it is actually usable on future quads so long as they use the same protocol. It has some future proofing in that way and eventually if you decide to stick with RC and FPV you can always get one of the more expensive popular radios."

If you're used to a certain radio, it is a big adjustment to then move to a new one. It was a challenge for me to get used to new switches, and gimbals. I asked John Qin, Director of Sales and Marketing for VIFLY if it was possible to program the VIFLY to another radio. "What you have is a RTF version. Now we also have the BNF (Bind and Fly - Binding is the process of programming the quad to the radio so they "speak" to each other), version which pre-install Taranis receiver. So the customer can buy the BNF (Taranis) version directly. We have 3 versions now, FrSky(Taranis), Spektrum and Flysky. We will public it on our website soon." If you already have a Taranis or Spektrum, and you'd like to purchase the VIFLY, then look for the BNF version. 

You also receive a GoPro mount (which seems to be designed more for the older models, and not the Session), an extra set of DAL 5045 props, a lipo balance charger, and a 3C lipo. I used the lipo charger once, to charge the 3C that it came with. I already have a battery charger, so after the first charge, I used the one I have. Also, most of my batteries are 4C, which is currently the standard when flying FPV. The charger included in the set is really simple to use, and basic. It will get the job done, but if FPV is going to be more of an investment, it will be worth looking into other chargers. 

This is my own charger, not the one included with the VIFLY

This is my own charger, not the one included with the VIFLY

The VIFLY quad itself is a nice design. It is rather heavy, which is common to find in RTF. The more experience someone has in FPV, the more weight they want to take off of their quad, but for a beginner, the weight isn't as important. It will of course affect how the quad flies, and how much you'll get out of your battery, but again, for someone that's starting, the most important factor is being able to actually fly. It has an LED display for the the battery voltage when plugged in, and the channel display as well. The channel can be changed with one button, on the body of the VIFLY, which is really convenient. There is a DVR port reserved, a battery protector, and a VF-RC-2205 motor. 

The VIFLY comes with an instruction manual that covers all of the basics. I made sure to read it, even though I have been flying my own quad. Chad and I met Josh at the park, and I read through the manual several times, which again was pretty self explanatory. The Flysky radio arms a quad using "stick arming," which means to have the props start spinning, you have the throttle all the way down, and turn it to one direction for a couple seconds to arm. If you want to disarm your quad, you have to pull the throttle down, and move it to the opposite direction for a couple seconds. My Taranis arms and disarms using a switch. I can pull one switch down, and the quad is disarmed, which can take a second, as long as your finger stays near the switch, which it should. It may be a few seconds of time that's saved, but for someone that is not experienced it can make a big difference. If there's a situation where you would have to disarm quickly, a few seconds can mean a lot. The user would also of course have to remember which direction is arm, and disarm, even in a panic. I flew the quad Line of Sight (LOS) first, with the 3C to get used to it. There is a noticeable difference when you're used to the 4C and change to a 3C. Again, if you've never flown before, then there's nothing to compare it to, but since most people use a 4S it would be best to get used to a battery that has more power. 

Next I flew FPV. I'll be honest and say that most of my experience is flying LOS, but this was a great way for me to get more practice in. I use FatShark goggles, which again are an FPV standard and my recommendation, but there are other options available. I also switched the battery to a 4C. I use Tattu R-Line 1300. I thought changing the battery made a huge difference. I also thought the camera, which can be really easily adjusted, worked well and overall it was really easy to fly. Josh gave his input as well. "On 3S it was a little under powered but on 4S it flew better. I would say that some tuning was needed to really get it feeling “locked in” but I think for a beginner quad it is enough to get you in the air and going." The VIFLY also offers a free repair service, an free spare parts, by reaching out to their care department. Shipping is not covered, but I don't believe there is another RTF that offers free repair, and parts, which is a huge plus. 

If you'd like to see the VIFLY in action, you can also look on their YouTube channel:

Final Thoughts

Overall, the VIFLY is a really good option for someone that's just starting out. For $299 USD, it comes with a lot of extra gear, and with the care option the price is pretty hard to beat. People that have read some of my other blogs would know that I'm a big advocate for building your own quad. I think it's an important part of the process. With that being said, being able to trade in the months of build time on my first quad, to airtime on the VIFLY, has a lot of value as well. 

Something to also consider are additional costs. These are items you'll have to purchase regardless of the RTF you decide to go with, but just to keep in mind, you'll need:

  • Additional batteries
  • Goggles
  • GoPro (not mandatory, but most people like to watch their footage.

I would also lean more towards the BNF option when it is available. There's value in having a radio that most of the FPV community either uses, or has used at some point. It's easier to get help with troubleshooting issues, and compared to the Flysky getting a Taranis or another radio is something you can take to any quad after you've grown out of the VIFLY, or if you'd like to add another quad to the collection.

For more information on the VIFLY, their care program, or to purchase your own (there are 4 available colors!) Visit the VIFLY Website. You can also find them on Facebook, and Instagram

Happy Flying!

 

 

 

Quad Life: MY FPV Journey 2 - Show Me the Money!

By Kathleen Hickey

So, you've checked out a race or two, or hung out with a local FPV group, and you've decided that you want to fly. What's the next step? There are three ways you can go.

The first would be to purchase a Ready To Fly (RTF) quad. You can purchase a quad that's ready to fly out of the box. Some retailers also offer sets that come with Fat Shark goggles. Some retailers to check out would be Horizon Hobby, or ReadyMadeRC. The benefit of going to RTF route is saving yourself from figuring out various parts, and a build right off the bat. If you have never used a radio or controls of any sort, or if you're completely new to the RC and drone world, a RTF could be a good introduction. You'll want to make sure that the quad you buy has replaceable parts that you can purchase. 

The second option would be to build your own quad. I wanted to build my own for various reasons. First, I usually don't take the easy road with most things. I like to really challenge myself. Basically I'm a sucker for punishment. I also knew that I wanted to fly and there was no doubt that this was something I wanted do. Another fact to consider is that you will crash. Crashing your quad is part of the package. The very best pilots crash . The benefit of building your own quad is that you know how to fix it when something goes wrong. You can also customize the parts you'd like to use to make a quad that you like to fly. There are you tube videos on how to build your own, but if at all possible, find someone that is willing to sit down with you and teach you in person. You would be at the mercy of their schedule, and it may take some time to build it, but understanding how the quad works, and how to build it is very valuable. 

The third option would be to go to your local hobby shop, and see if they build quads for their customers. You would have to pay for their time to build it, but it's a way of using the second option, without having to go through the build process on your own. You may want to ask if they would be willing to take you through the process, so you can learn what it's like from start to finish. The benefit of going through a shop is you have a real person that you can talk to. Make sure to also get quotes on repairs, and labor for those repairs. I can't say it enough, but you will crash, so it's important to know what that cost will be before you commit to that shop building the quad. 

This might be a good time to bring up an important point. There are no absolutes in FPV. From your props to your radio to your quad, everyone has an opinion on what they believe is best. It's important to not get too overwhelmed with advice and suggestions. Also, ask people why. If someone tells you to build your own quad, ask them why they think so. If someone suggests buying a RTF, ask them why. Pilots feel very passionately about what they use, and how they like to use it, and once you find what works for you, you'll feel the same way. 

Space One FPV provided my 180mm Frame, four motors, four ESCs, and a flight controller. 

I decided to start flying Line Of Sight (LOS) first, before going right to FPV, with goggles. There were two main reasons for this decision. The first was because the people around me recommended that I being LOS first. They believe it's important to see how the quad flies with your eyes first, and learn how to hover, turn, and keep the quad even in the air, before moving on to FPV. Some people believe that you should go right to FPV, and not fly LOS at all. Another determining factor for me was the cost. I could start to fly the quad without purchasing all of the FPV equipment, and parts.

The list of things to purchase is long. And if you're like me, with no previous RC experience, it can be an expensive hobby to get into. Here are a few tips:

  • Have an idea of what you want your quad to do, and how you would like to use it. Picking parts for your quad is a chain reaction. The motors, ESCs, Battery, props, FCs, PDBs, everything is connected, and they have to support one another. Before buying things off of friends, or the internet, make sure all of your componets will play nice with each other. Otherwise you are spending money on products that won't work, or will need to be replaced sooner than later.
  • What kind of shopper are you? About 90% of the pilots I have spoken to about this topic, suggest that you buy good quality tools and parts from the start. The first reason being that in FPV, you really do get what you pay for. Secondly, it will be more costly in the long run to replace parts on your quad, or your gear because you didnt spend a little extra to begin with. Also, there is resale value. If you decide you don't like a certain part, and it's still in great condition, you have a better chance of selling it. With that being said, I don't suggest you buy the newest latest thing for your first quad build. Purchase reliable, good quality items. You don't need to buy the new hype motors, or ESCs. Not only do you want to avoid "testing" the newest thing when you're building your first quad, but it may also be more difficult to find people that can help, and answer questions if something comes up. 
  • When planning your budget, allow for extra parts. Don't buy just four motors, props, ESCs, because you just need four. Something may not work. You may damage your quad within the first couple weeks. Nothing is worse than waiting for extra parts to come, especially if that part is now out of stock. You don't need to become  a hoarder, but have a few extras around.

Sound daunting? If you just want to get your feet wet, another option is a mini drone, or quad. 

This is my Proto-X. There are also other small quads to choose from. They come with remotes, and are a great way to get down flying basics.

Regardless of how you want to do it, one guarantee is that things will break, parts wont work. You will have to replace things, and there are many little tools, parts, and equipment that you'll need. before you start investing, consider the costs and reality of the hobby. You don't want to get to a point where you're so frustrated you'll want to stop. 

Up next; The Struggle is REAL! My challenges...until then...

Happy Flying!

*Very Special Thanks to Erick Robles:

Custom RC Hobby: (626) 993-2999 - IG: customrc1

259 Sierra Madre Villa Ave
Ste A

PasadenaCA 91107

 

Dear Holiday Drone Shoppers...

By Kathleen Hickey

In a snap and a flash, it's over. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and takes with it - Black Friday. Many shops and websites had some amazing deals on drones. Did you take advantage of it? Do you wish you had? Do you think you bought that special someone the drone of their dreams? Did you buy yourself a drone of your dreams? Are you waiting for Cyber Monday? Here are a few things you should know before you give give the gift of a drone, to yourself, or someone you love.  

And I know that it's a lot to go through, and there's not a good amount of falala in rules, but if you or someone you know would like to take on the responsibility of owning a drone, it's important stuff to read through. 

Nothing Says Happy Holidays Like Regulations

It is estimated that a million drones will be sold this holiday season. Regulation can be a scary word. So can National Airspace, and Federal. And you know what, it should make a person stop and think a little. As much as some people would like to consider drones a toy, most of them are not. Drones are tools. They are very fun, addictive, useful, and can create beautiful images, and let the pilot explore a new perspective, but they can also be dangerous if not used correctly, or under the right circumstances. 

On November 21st, the FAA released the findings of a special UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) Registration Task Force. The Task Force was comprised of various members from 27 companies and organizations that ranged from DJI, to the Consumer Technology Association, and the American Association of Airport Executives. The group was given three days to come up with suggested registration requirements for drones. Here's a breakdown of some of their suggestions:

  • UAS that weigh under 55 pounds (55 lbs and over already require registration), and above 250 grams (8.82 oz) will require registration.
  • Registration is not required at point of sale, because the operator of the UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) is the responsible party to register.
  • Citizenship is not required for registration, and the minimum age to register is 13, (although many drones have a suggested age for use, so always check before purchasing a drone for a minor).  
  • They suggest registration should be free, but in the case a fee is required, they suggest that it's a penny. 
  • Registration can be done online, and DOES NOT require an outside company to process. There are companies already trying to take money from people to "help" with registration of drones. That is not needed. 
  • Operator will have to show proof of registration when asked (I imagine like a fishing licence). 

These are recommendations, and while it's fairly certain that the FAA will put a system of registration in place, The firm details have not yet been provided. If you'd like to read the full summary, you can do so here. There is a summary at the end, so if the drone talk has you scratching your head, you can check the last two pages. The FAA has also come out with a Safety Checklist so if you're giving a drone as a gift, it would be a great idea to print it out, and include it in your card. 

Safety First

Once you put your drone in the air, you are part of the U.S. aviation system. You are considered a pilot, and your drone is an aircraft. There are very strict and harsh penalties for not following flight laws. Not sure what those rules are? Take a look at Know Before You Fly, for safety guidelines. 

Now, have you may have seen some really cool things done with drones. Like maybe...

  • Flying at night.
  • Flying over animals (especially endangered ones).
  • Flying over groups of people.
  • Flying around power lines, airports, stadiums, freeways, and other heavily populated areas.
  • Pools, and beaches, and backyards with people getting some sun.

DO NOT DO ANY OF THESE THINGS!

What you may see from other drone operators, and what you can actually do are two separate things. Some drone operators have exemptions, and have asked special permission to take various shots. Some have contacted local authorities, as well as airports, so they can fly in what normally is a no fly zone. At times, a special group may ask a drone operator to assist in researching groups of animals. Different countries also have different flight laws. And some people are just breaking the rules. If you see something on Instagram or Twitter, it's not a green light to do the same. 

There are various tools to help pilots determine if they are in a no fly zone. Some drones have indicators that will let you know if you are not in an area that you can fly in. There are also Apps that indicate no fly zones. 

There are also temporary no fly zones, for special events, and times you should not fly due to bad weather conditions. It's also important to read the owners manual for your particular drone, and follow the manufactures pre flight instructions, and checklists. 

You Can't Always Take It Back

Drones are expensive. There's not just the initial cost, but everything else you have to buy to go with it. Make sure you fully understand the return policy, and warranty from the retailer you are buying your drone from. It's also important to note that it's possible to have an accident or crash, which is usually not covered by retailers. 

It's also important to note that there have been many thefts of drones from retailers, and not just one drone, but thousands of dollars worth. If you see a drone on Craigslist or Amazon, and the price just seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always purchase your drone from an authorized retailer. It will also guarantee that you will receive the help you need if any issues come up. 

Last But Not Least

Have fun! Have some good - responsible - safe - regulation compliant - non alcoholic - Know Before You Fly Fun. 

If anyone is a "good-time" person, I am. But I want to make sure anyone buying a drone is aware of the responsibility, and neighborly etiquette, before flying. The drone community is always happy to help anyone that wants to learn how to do it right.  Please join all of the responsible pilots, and be a good example. And as always...

Happy Flying