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!

 

 

 

FPV Racing: From Hobby to Money Maker

By: Kathleen Hickey

A New Era in FPV Racing

Anyone in the UAV, or drone community will notice one particular area that is on a steady rise; FPV Racing. In recent months FPV Racing has been riding a wave of attention, and growth that is seemingly unstoppable. Local races and meet-ups in parks have turned into large multi-day events, in incredible locations, all around the world. Companies like ESPN, Mountain Dew, and GoPro are all testing the waters to see if FPV Racing can be a viable source of marketing, and income. There is talk of introducing gambling to the sport. But with growth, and money come higher stakes for people involved, and leaves one to wonder what will become of a growing sport if put in the hands of people that want to monetize it. 

Racing With The Big Boys (and Girls)

This year alone has seen a number of incredible races. In January XDC had it's second race at the Zappos HQ in Las Vegas, which took place the same week as CES. 

The Track for XDC2 was more proximity, and show. There were large screens to show live feed, and share social media pictures. For the final, there was an audience of 500 people in attendance, which were able to participate in the race by voting by applause for the the freestyle pilot they enjoyed watching the most. It also ushered in one of the hottest course trends in FPV, the glowing gates created by FPV LighTrax, which is admittedly a stunning visual for any audience. 

At the end of January, I attended Flight Night, a race presented by ThunderDrone Racing. Although it was a single night event, it was full of production value not usually seen in FPV Racing. 

Then of course, came the announcement of an international race that claimed it would change the sport of FPV; The World Drone Prix in Dubai. 

Following the World Drone Prix were races in caves, multi-day FPV LighTrax courses for nationals qualifiers, and the integration of two prominant FPV organizations, IDRA and the Drone Worlds - Drone Nationals by Rotor Sports. This year the Drone Nationals will be held in New York City in August, at Governors Island and will be broadcasted live on ESPN, which is a huge change from last years race in Sacramento, CA. The Drone Worlds will take place in Hawaii in October, on Kualoa Ranch. 

The Mountain Dew sponsored DR1 Race was held at the end of June, bringing household brands to FPV Racing. 

The race was an invitational, which included twelve top FPV pilots, and was shot for release on a cable network. 

In recent months, FPV has captured the attention of major media outlets, such as 60 Minutes Sports. 

There was also a CorridorDigital You Tube video that features the flying talents of FPV pilots Chad Nowak and Steele Davis, through their show Rotor Riot. The video has gained nearly 2 Million views. 

Do I need to mention that it's just July....

Who is Actually Winning

Like many things that experience rapid growth, there are also some growing pains. The Drone World Prix which initially sent the FPV world a flutter with a one million dollar prize went through several race, and prize restructures. It went from an invitational, to a race with a video entry qualifier, something that had not been done before in FPV racing. The one million dollar prize turned to a 250K prize for the winner, with smaller prizes spread out to ranking pilots in the race, and freestyle competitions. The World Drone Prix also required pilots come in teams, so most pilots split their prize, which left winning pilots with much much less than what the promotional videos had touted. 

Instead of all teams having their accommodations paid for when it was an invitational, teams in the top 20 would have their travel expenses reimbursed. Four months later, some of those top 20 teams have still not received checks from the World Drone Prix for what they had to pay out of pocket for hotel, and travel costs. With pilots receiving less than a months notice that they had qualified for the race, for most teams travel was booked at a premium. People looking in may assume that pilots are being taken care of by large race organizations, and pilots are not ones to speak out publicly against an organization if they have not been compensated, which leaves an illusion of a grand race.

 For other big events, pilots are given prize money if they place, or (in one known case), an appearance fee, which pilots had to use to put towards their accommodations, which left some of them with less money then when they came. Some pilots have their travel paid for by sponsors, but the pilots that don't have those types of sponsorships have to attend the larger races on their own dime to compete with the best, and with the hope that a win may open doors to more lucrative opportunities. There have been instances where prize money has taken over six months or more to make it to the pilots. 

So with a growing industry that includes big RC manufactures, corporate sponsorships, and pilot sponsorships, who is walking away with the best deal. Although the number is growing, it is very rare to find a pilot that is able to make a living from racing alone, with no other source of income. As races get larger, and destinations get further away, who is making sure that the heart of FPV, the pilots, are receiving fair treatment for what they are giving? With no managers or agents, pilots are left to negotiate their own terms. The current group of elite pilots, may at some point need to set the standard for how pilots are paid for their work, including use of their footage, to consultation and appearance fees, and travel costs. In time, sponsorships may include money, and not just free products.

As it transitions from park meet-ups and fun flys, to a lucrative money making sport, it will be interesting to see the people and companies that will come out on top as the true money makers. Will FPV race organizers see the profit? Will the product manufactures see the most reward? Will the pilots see their fair share of the pie? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, regardless of what happens, we can only hope that the fun, community, spirit, and innovation of the FPV community is never overshadowed by the money. 

 

Happy Flying!