Category Archives: Reviews

Dromida’s new Ominus Quadcopter

By Colton Longstreth and Butch Paugh

The new Ominus from Dromida

The new Ominus Quadcopter from Dromida is a welcome entry to the list of affordable quads.  At $79.99 this quad delivers a lot of bang for the buck.  The first thing we noticed right out of the box was its nice size.  At 9.4″ long and 3.6 oz. in weight, it has a nice solid feel.  The size of this quad is comparable to the Alias offering from Traxxas.  It comes in 4 colors – blue, green, yellow, and red.  There are multiple LED lights for easy day or night navigation.

Everything you need to start flying is right in the box.  You get the RTR Ominus Quadcopter, two extra black and two extra colored blades, four AAA batteries for the transmitter, a USB LiPo charger, a 1S 3.7v 300 mAh LiPo battery, and an instruction sheet.

dide01-gallery10The very first flight was a nice surprise.   It was very stable and easy to fly.  Colton is an R/C car guy, and he had it hovering in a stable flight configuration right away.  Butch had it doing flips and zooming around the shop from the very start.

There are four flight modes – Easy, Normal, Advanced, and Expert.  The modes can be activated or deactivated with the push of just one transmittter button. The quad comes with an advanced stabilization with three-axis gyros and three-axis accelerometers. This means that the quad is stabilized in pitch, yaw, and roll, plus it compensates for unwanted motion on any axis.  We found the Ominus to be so stable that it just hovered in place in hands-off tests. To test the durability we purposely (wink wink) crashed it.  Turns it this things is so stable you almost have to try to crash it.  It looks to be very durable and should stand up to even the hardest of flyers.

To help keep track of the battery power level there is a bright on-board LED.  Our indoor test lasted an astonishing 15 minutes before the low battery indicator started to flash.

To pull off pro-style flips, simply push a button on the transmitter.

In summary, we think this is one heckuva quadcopter. It is durable, agile, easy to fly out of the box, and a blast to do acrobatics with. And at only $79.99 it is easily one of the best values in a mid-sized quadcopter on the market.  Colton’s only complaint was the bright status LED, which he thought was distracting.  However, to Butch’s more mature eye, it was easy to see from any distance.  Overall we give it 5 stars.

5-star

Parrot A.R. Drone 2.0 Review

by Don

Let me start by saying that I am not an R/C air guy.  If it runs on rails, that’s more my thing.  However, I decided to take a stab at the Parrot A.R. Drone, and I was pleasantly surprised.  After checking this quadricopter out, I believe it may be the easiest aircraft we have in the shop to fly.

The A.R. Drone requires a user supplied Smartphone or Tablet to fly.  It works on Apple and Android devices and the app is a free download.  The Drone supplies its own Wi-Fi signal, so no internet connection is required.  You can fly this quad virtually anywhere.

badge-ardrone-app
AR Drone Freeflight App

Once the app is downloaded to your device, simply plug the battery into the quad, go to your devices Wi-Fi settings, and connect to the Drone.  Then open the Freeflight app and you are ready to go.  You will see a real-time First Person View (FPV) on your screen.  In other words, you get a high definition live video stream right to your Smartphone or tablet as you are flying. See a clean, sharp image just as if you were in the pilot seat.   Once you have experience, you will be able to fly the Drone in out-of-sight situations simply by using your screen as your eyes.

AR Drone
Parrot A.R. Drone 2.0

The Drone comes with one 1000mAh HD battery that provides up to 10 minutes of flying time.  If you purchase the Power Edition, you get two 1500mAh HD batteries that provide up to 36 minutes of flying time (18 minutes per battery).  The Power Edition also comes with 3 additional colored propellers.

Flying is simple.  Simply tap the Take Off button on your screen and the Drone will rise about 3 feet and wait for further commands. That same button becomes the landing button and with a touch you can automatically land the Drone.  On your screen are two control “buttons”.  Touch and hold the left button with your thumb and tilt your device in the direction you want the drone to head.  Touch the right button and slide your thumb up or down for power (altitude) adjustments or slide left and right to rotate the quadricopter,  You can also set absolute control, which means that you can send the copter in the desired direction no matter the quad’s orientation.  So if the quad is facing you and you tilt your device to the left, the quad will move left, instead of to the right as it would in the normal mode.  All of the flight characteristics are fully configurable, from vertical speed to horizontal speed, maximum altitude, and rotational speed.  The Drone can even do flips with the touch of a button on the screen.

With two cameras, one forward facing and one downward, you can capture all of the action via video or still photos.  A touch of a button on your screen selects which camera to use and another button will snap a photo or start video recording.  Video storage is on the fly with Wi-Fi directly on your remote device or on a USB Key connected to the USB slot in the battery compartment.

The Parrot Drone also has an available flight recorder. This new accessory improves the features of the AR.Drone 2.0 and records more than 350 flight settings. It is the black box of your AR.Drone 2.0. This new accessory improves the features of the AR.Drone 2.0 and records more than 350 flight settings. It is the black box of your AR.Drone 2.0.  What can the GPS do?

FLIGHT RECORDER
– Geolocation using the GPS module
– Select your destination on the map
– Record flights and videos using 4 Gb Flash memories
– Review your flights modeled in 3D on the AR.Drone Academy map
– Make the AR.Drone 2.0 automatically return to its take-off point
– Improve stability in flight

NEW CONTROL MODE: “Click & Go”
– Select the destination on the map
– Set the altitude and cruise speed
– Click “GO”
– The AR.Drone starts its flight (operates within the limit of the Wi-Fi connection with the control device)

As I said at the beginning, I am not an R/C Air enthusiast and have minimal exposure to anything that flies by remote control.  However, I was able to immediately take off the Drone and navigate it around the shop.  And at any point that you feel like you are getting out of your element, removing your thumbs from the screen will stop the quad and put it into a stable hover, from which you can resume your flight.  I was able to increase altitude, spin the drone, start a recording, and land it without incident.  We have even had a number of customers that have never flown before come in the shop and take the Drone for short test flights.  The ease of control is remarkable, but with all the user defined settings, the quad can be set up so that even an experienced flyer can have loads of fun.

We even stock add-on light kits for the drone so that you can turn it into a flying light show!!  The Parrot A.R. Drone is a fun, easy-to-fly quad that allows novice and expert alike to fly and film.  The only negative I have on it is the limited flight time with the stock 1000 mAh battery.  8-10 minutes is good but not great.  Although given the size of the quad and the power demands of lights and video, 8-10 is still a reasonable flight time.  Add the two 1500 mAh batteries in the Power Edition (or purchase them separately) and you now have a quadricopter that can fly for a satisfyingly extended period of time.  We here at the shop love it and give it a 4.5 star rating.

4-5-star

 Technical Specs

• HD Camera. 720p 30fps
• Wide angle lens : 92° diagonal
• Video storage on the fly with Wi-Fi directly on your remote device or on a USB Key
• H264 encoding base profile
• Low latency streaming
• Traveling, Pan, Crane predefined autopilot modes for video recording
• JPEG photo capture

ROBUST STRUCTURE
Trying your most daring tricks won’t even challenge this cutting edge design which is made to last.

• Foam to isolate the inertial center from the engines’ vibrations
• Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) hulls
• Carbon fiber tubes : Total weight 380g with outdoor hull, 420g with indoor hull
• High grade 30% fiber charged nylon plastic parts
• Liquid Repellent Nano-Coating on ultrasound sensors
• Fully reparable: All parts and instructions for repairing available on the internet

ELECTRONIC ASSISTANCE
AR.Drone 2.0 on-board technology gives you extreme precision control and automatic stabilization features.

• 1GHz 32 bit ARM Cortex A8 processor with 800MHz video DSP TMS320DMC64x
• 1Gbit DDR2 RAM at 200MHz
• Wi-Fi™ b/g/n
• 3 axis accelerometer +/- 50mg precision
• 3 axis gyroscope 2000°/second precision
• Pressure sensor +/- 10 Pa precision (80 cm / 2.6 feet at sea level)
• 60 fps vertical QVGA camera for ground speed measurement
• 3 axis magnetometer 6° precision
• Ultrasound sensors for ground altitude measurement
• Linux 2.6.32
• USB 2.0 high speed for extensions

MOTORS
Fly high. Fly fast. Far away from the ground.

• 3 elements 1.000 mA/H LiPo rechargeable battery
• Specific high propelled drag for great maneuverability
• 8 MIPS AVR CPU per motor controller
• 4 brushless inrunner motors. 14.5 watt and 28 500 rpm when hovering
• Self-lubricating bronze bearings
• Tempered steel propeller shafts
• Low noise Nylatron gears for 8.625 propeller reductor
• Micro ball bearing
• Rare earth magnets
• Emergency stop controlled by software
• Fully reprogrammable motor controller
• Water resistant motor’s electronic controller
• Download AR.FreeFlight 2.0 control application for free on the App Store or the Google Play.
• Tilt your Smartphone or tablet to pilot the AR.Drone 2.0.
• Includes several control modes from beginner to expert including the new patented “Absolute Control” mode. Be a flying ace in 5 minutes!
• Record and share videos on YouTube and pictures on Picasa directly from the piloting interface.
• USB key recording option.
• Access the exclusive acrobatic flip move, letting you perform barrel rolls as you are flying!
• Store and share your flight data (time, speed, altitude …) to unlock community achievements*.
• Geolocate your flights and connect with a community of pilots to discover the best flying spots and videos from all over the world or check who is flying in your neighborhood.

Weight
— without the hull: 366g
— with indoor hull: 436g
— with outdoor hull: 400g
Dimensions
— without the hull: 45 x 29 cm
— with indoor hull: 51,5 x 51,5 cm
— with outdoor hull: 45,2 x 45,2 cm
Battery
— Lithium polymer battery (3 cells, 11.1V, 1000 mAh)
— Charging time: 1h30
— Running time: 12 mn
Embedded computer system
— CPU OMAP 3630 1GHz ARM cortex A8
— DDR SDRAM 128MB
— NAND Flash memory 128MB
— Wi-Fi /g/n
— Linux OS
Ultrasound altimeter
— Emission frequency: 40kHz
— Range: 6 metres
Front Camera
— 90° wide-angle diagonal lens camera, CMOS sensor
— Video frequency: 30fps
— Resolution: 1280×720 pixels (720p)
Vertical Camera
— 64° wide-angle diagonal lens camera, CMOS sensor
— Video frequency: 60fps
— Resolution: 320×240 pixels (QVGA)
AR.Drone 2.0 operating temperature
— 0°C – 55°C

LaTrax Alias Review

LaTrax Alias High Performance Quad-Rotor Heli Review

by Butch

The LaTrax Alias is a high-performance quad-rotor heli that has taken The Smoke Stack Hobby Shop by storm.  In short order it has become one of the most popular flying machines we offer.

alias

Out of the box it is very easy to setup and actually quite stable, requiring very little time spent in trimming the flight characteristics.  It comes in four vibrant colors (red, orange, blue, and green), each with its own set of matching bright LED navigation lights.  You can even purchase new lenses and bodies if you want to change out your quad to another color! It is a nice size, measuring 9.25″ on the rotor diagonals.

3.7v 650mAh LiPo

The Alias offers better than average flight times (10-12 min.) using a 3.7v  650 mAh LiPo battery and boasts automatic flips initiated right from the radio.  Flips can be done in any axis and in any direction.  Multi flips are even possible but must be programmed into the radio to initiate. The heart and soul of the Alias is the auto-leveling, six-axis flight system that features easy, fast, and expert modes.  You can literally throw the Alias away from you, then punch the throttle and watch this nimble quad immediately assume straight and level flight.

The Alias is one of the most durable multi rotor helis we have seen.  In the event of flight damage, it is also quite easy to work on.  If you need to repair a motor or blade , be careful to take your time and identify the correct part as both motors and blades are directional – meaning they are meant to spin clockwise or counter-clockwise.  If you are flying in the winter months, take extra care as the plastic becomes more brittle in the colder temperatures and is more susceptible to damage.

Alias radio

The radio provides visual indicators of trim level and flight mode as well as audible alerts to a low-battery condition.  The Alias also has a bright LED battery indicator that will blink to warn to warn of a low battery condition as well.

The LaTrax Alias has proven to be a well-mannered, versatile multi-rotor heli that has quickly become a shop favorite with both staff and customers,  It is right at home with both beginners and expert flyers. We highly recommend it and give it a 5 star rating.

5-star