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

 

Do You Like to F....... Part 2

By Kathleen Hickey

The Recap

I hope those of you that read "Do You Like to F.......Part 1" enjoyed learning a little about the history of FPV racing, watching the You Tube videos that helped create the fan base, and basic flying information. If you didn't read Part 1... (tisk tisk)...but don't fear. Part 1 is available below. 

I again have to give a big thank you to Joe Scully Race Director of FPV Racing Events for giving me a full history and breakdown of FPV racing. FPV Racing Events hosts premier racing events in Canada, and the United States. Information on their upcoming events can be found by following the link to their website. 

I also need to thank AJ Goin, aka Awkbots, team pilot for Ready Made RC (RMRC), for sharing a pilot's perspective with me. 

To help with some of the terms, products, and lingo, I have also included a glossary, which is available at the end of the blog. I will add additional words per blog as they apply.

The Anatomy Of A Quad 

Now that you've seen a bit of what racing quads can do, here's a look at some of the main parts, and equipment you'll need to start flying.

  1. Frame: Quad frames are primarily made from carbon fiber. Frames are available in different millimeter sizes. Frames can be purchased already made, or if you're more advanced at racing, you can go with a custom built frame. 
  2. Motors: You'll need four, one for each propeller. 
  3. ESC: Electronic Speed Controller - Also four of these. 
  4. Props: You can't have enough...
  5. LiPo Batteries: Each battery varies in flight time. If you have added components attached to your battery, that can shorten how much air time you have. Which LiPo you decide to go with will depend on how much power you need, but you will probably want to purchase a good amount of batteries. Also, LiPo batteries can potentially be dangerous. You should never fly with a damaged battery. Any battery that has a damaged cell must be properly disposed of, even if the other cells are functioning. There are various ways to properly store batteries, but they need to be stored in a safe container of some kind. You should also never leave your batteries charging unattended. (Safety First!)
  6. Antenna
  7. Flight Controller: The most important part!
  8. Transmitter
  9. Receiver: This may come with the transmitter when you purchase one, but they can also be purchased separately and switched out. 
  10. Goggles: Fat Shark makes a variety of goggles. There are also Fat Shark kits you can purchase that come with the FPV camera, receiver, and transmitter. 
  11. Battery Charger

While looking for information on how to build a quad, I found this video on You Tube from Tested, which has a great step by step tutorial on the parts, and the building process. 

There are several other tools that you will need for the actual build. 

  • Soldering iron
  • 2mm hex driver
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Exacto knife 
  • Wire Strippers
  • Small Screwdrivers
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Double Sided Tape
  • Zip Ties (can never have too many of those...)

Additional tools and parts will be needed depending on the build. There are also various added components that were mentioned in the video, such as battery straps, locator, antenna tubes, spacer, etc. Some of these items you can purchase in sets. AJ recommends a tool set sold by RMRC, which you can take a look at here.

There are also ARF or RTF models available if you'd rather not build your own. It's also good to keep in mind that you'll have to replace parts due to crashing, so make sure to look into something that has components that can be replaced easily. 

As mentioned in the video,  it's important to understand what you would like to fly as a unit, and not purchase parts that are not compatible with the size and power needs of the quad you are building. There are various calculations for frame size, motors, ESCs, and batteries, to be sure you are purchasing parts that are the right size, and will give you the right amount of power to actually fly. There are also various race categories and/or requirements depending on the size of various parts, like your frame, or prop size, which is something to consider if you'd like to race. 

I asked AJ Goin (Awkbots), what advice he would give to someone wanting to get into FPV Racing, and here's what he had to say about building your own quad. "One thing I would say is, when getting into a hobby, don't buy the cheapest everything in fear of not enjoying it. I always buys the best the first time, because it makes the experience more enjoyable, and if you don't end up liking it, it's much easier to sell. Obviously not everyone can afford to get the best gear immediately, but do your research and get the best bang for the buck gear."

When just starting out, AJ believes the key thing keep in mind, is to keep it simple. "Get something in the air, line of sight first, and really try to get the hang of that, then graduate to FPV. Don't worry about trying to fly miles away or have GPS position hold...if it's something you want to do, watch as many You Tube videos on it as possible. If you're still interested after that then maybe try it. For me personally, I don't use a single bell or whistle, and never get more than 100-200 yards away. I don't feel like walking that far after I crash (and you will crash). No matter how many videos you watch and see amazing pilots do what seem like perfect runs, just know WE ALL CRASH!"  

Part three of the blog is all about the actual race. From the different types of races, requirements, pilots, and how to get started in an actual race yourself, I'll go over the race from top to bottom. I'll also be sharing a list of events in 2016, and the races I'm most looking forward to. Until then, take a look at what you need to make your quad dreams a reality...and as always...

Happy Flying!

Please keep in mind that all drone flying requires pilots to follow safety guidlines and standards. If you are in the US, please visit the FAA website, or Know Before You Fly to ensure a safe flying experience. 

Glossary

  • ARF: Almost Ready to Fly - a drone that requires some assembly before flight. 
  • Fixed Wing: Usually referring to hobby planes, which have wings, and not removable propellers, or props. 
  • FPV: First Person View - a method used to control a UAV from the viewpoint of the pilot. The UAV is piloted from a first person perspective by an on-board camera, which is fed with wireless technology to a video monitor, or FPV goggles. 
  • Multi-Rotor: Another name for multicopters, or quadcopters. 
  • Quad: Another name for a drone. 
  • RC: Remote-Control
  • RPV: Remote Person View - another term for FPV
  • RTF: Ready To Fly - No assembly required before flight.
  • Video Piloting: An alternate term for FPV and/or RPV
  • VTX: Video Transmitter System

Do You Like to F....... Part 1

By Kathleen Hickey

Going Down The Rabbit Hole

My interest in FPV racing started a few months ago. Watching You Tube Videos of FPV racing and freestyle is a very different experience from watching tranquil, slow moving aerial photography footage. FPV racing is fast and looks uncontrolled, when it is in fact very calculated (usually). While it may be the worst nightmare of any drone owner to crash, in FPV racing, crashing is more of a matter of when, and not if. When flying a standard hobby drone, there may be occasions when there is more than one in the air because you're flying with friends, or doing a demonstration. In those cases, pilots usually fly a good distance away from each other, to avoid getting into each other's shots, and for safety reasons. In racing, quads are racing in close proximity, at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. Instead of avoiding obstacles, racers and freestyle pilots want to go through them. Racing pilots seemed like the bad boys, and girls, of the drone world, and I wanted to learn more.

So take my hand and lets go together, into the world of FPV Racing. 

The Breakdown  

Because I realized there is so much content and information, I decided to break the blog down into three different posts. My method in writing is to seek out the information on my own, without asking someone for assistance. It helps me to understand what information is available for readers to find on their own, and the most helpful resources. Because racing is so new, it was difficult to find out about the history, and guidelines of drone racing on my own. 

I was very fortunate to have the assistance of Joe Scully Race Director of FPV Racing Events to give me a full history and breakdown of FPV racing. FPV Racing Events hosts premier racing events in Canada, and the United States. Information on their upcoming events can be found by following the link to their website. 

To help with a pilot perspective, I was lucky to have the input of AJ Goin, aka Awkbots, team pilot for Ready Made RC (RMRC)

To help with some of the terms, products, and lingo, I have also included a glossary, which is available at the end of the blog. I will add additional words per blog as they apply.

In the Beginning

FPV technology first became available almost ten years ago, when Fat Shark released the worlds first wireless FPV video goggle. Fat Shark's technology and importance in FPV racing was mentioned by Joe Scully in our conversation about the history of FPV. "It really developed that immersive experience where people could go inside the craft and see exactly what their craft was doing." 

Although the technology existed, application and accessibility were slow to follow. In the past ten years, as drone, and video technology have become increasingly better in quality, and more affordable, so has the demand and interest for FPV. People that are drone pilots are more easily ale to transition into FPV, or racing if they have found themselves looking for another type of flying experience, which is something Joe spoke to. "Once you put the camera, and the goggles, and the VTX on, you know everyone goes up and they see what their house looks like, and they see what their neighbors house looks like from the air. Then they get kind of tired of that, and then what’s the next step, and the natural evolution is racing and that’s how I’m thinking in short terms it has really taken off." 

Two years ago, FPV Racing found a place for racers and fans to share and watch incredible racing and freestyle videos, and like many other things in modern day life, we have You Tube to thank. Joe Scully broke down the four most influential FPV You Tube videos, and what they have done for FPV racing, and freestyle. 

"There’s one video that I like to refer to when I’m talking to people new into the drone racing world. It’s called “FPV Racing – Crash Session” and it is a German group that released this. It came out in about October 2014, so just over a year ago this video came out and it has had 2.2, almost 2.3 million views, and that’s the one that I think really sparked drone racing where it is now, and that was one of the first videos where the craft had LEDs on them, and the footage on-board with the GoPros was HD. it looked phenomenal and everyone really got excited, they were like 'this is like watching Star Wars' you know, in first hand."

"Shortly thereafter a group in France released another video. What they did, is they did the same sort of thing as the German people, but they raced on a bike course, like a mountain bike course, so it was actually defined,  and there was caution tape and so forth, and this was probably about the same time, about  November,  December 2014 and that video now has had 2.2 mil views."

"I think the third video in succession would be when Charpu was found on Tested, a video blog, and they followed Charpu, and his whole freestyle flow element of flying through really interesting locations." 

"Then people are now looking for the next bog location, so the next one I think was done by another German group they released another video around January 2015 and they did a race literally underground, in an underground parking garage."

Those four videos have helped to push FPV racing, and freestyle into the forefront of the drone industry. Due to its You Tube origins, most pilots go by their You Tube names. The names are used in their videos, and when they race, or compete. Freestyle is another component of FPV racing. In freestyle, pilots perform tricks, and try to fly under, through, and over various obstacles in unique locations. Drones for freestyle usually larger than ones used for racing, or competition quads, to accommodate a larger and heavier camera. Some pilots show videos in FPV only, and some use line of sight cameras, as well.  

Watching videos can help give a better sense of flying, and to learn about pilots, and their various styles. It can also work as inspiration to start flying, like it did for AJ Goin, aka Awkbots. "Justin Welander aka Juz70. I saw his videos 3-4 years ago and was instantly hooked. When I first saw his videos, I was still dealing with issues from a couple of concussions I had received from motocross. I couldn't ride any more but still wanted to be around the sport. At the time I was filming motocross races just for fun. I got a lot out of just being at the track, filming, and editing. That filled the void of not riding any more. Then I saw a Juz video and found a new thing. Every time I watched one of his videos I couldn't help but think how cool it would be to film motocross like that, and I eventually did film a race with a hoverthings 450 frame, that took me all week to get working, and managed to get flying the day before the MX race. It was line of sight only though. That was my first quad that I had built, and had bought a Blade MQX a few weeks prior to learn how to fly line of sight." After taking a break for a couple of years, Awkbots has become a Team Pilot for Ready Made RC, and has competed in two races, most recently at F3Expo in Atlanta, where he and his team won the ThunderDrone 500. 

Are you hooked yet? The next two parts will cover races, parts and components, how to get into racing, and a 2016 schedule of the FPV events you wont want to miss. Please keep in mind that all drone flying requires pilots to follow safety guidlines and standards. If you are in the US, please visit the FAA website, or Know Before You Fly to ensure a safe flying experience. 

And as always... Happy Flying

Glossary

  • Fixed Wing: Usually referring to hobby planes, which have wings, and not removable propellers, or props. 
  • FPV: First Person View - a method used to control a UAV from the viewpoint of the pilot. The UAV is piloted from a first person perspective by an on-board camera, which is fed with wireless technology to a video monitor, or FPV goggles. 
  • Multi-Rotor: Another name for multicopters, or quadcopters. 
  • Quad: Another name for a drone. 
  • RPV: Remote Person View - another term for FPV
  • RC: Remote-Control 
  • Video Piloting: An alternate term for FPV and/or RPV
  • VTX: Video Transmitter System