Hubsan offers a complete micro FPV quadcopter package with a sleek transmitter design and nifty features, competing with the Walkera LadyBird FPV. It’s quite affordable and definitely in the toy category, but is it any good? Find out in our review!
A complete ready-to-use FPV package with micro-quad and fancy FPV-enabled transmitter? Sure, while Walkera initially sold the Ladybird FPV set for about 400 bucks, the price has droped down as low as $140 for the version with a Devo 4 TX. Now Hubsan joins the fray with a sub-$200 offer that features micro SD card recording on the transmitter, a larger screen and some other improvements.
What’s in the box
You can buy the quadcopter and transmitter separately or as a set. The copter comes with four spare props, one 380mAh LiPo battery, a USB charger (which works really fast) and a metal tool for removing the props. Also included is an optional prop protector which adds weight but greatly helps when flying in narrow corridors.
Aside from the fact that this is a quadcopter with six-axis stabilization and auto-leveling, the transmitter features a microSD card slot for recording your adventures. The quadcopter has a “flip” feature that allows you to initiate an automated flip maneuver by yanking the sticks hard left-then-right (or up/down, etc).
The LED lights can be toggled remotely on the transmitter by holding the throttle trim down button for one second.
The 107D is a successor to the 107C, though not just by name: Hubsan redesigned the cute little quad to carry an array of LEDs and the 5.8GHz transmitter in addition to the standard-definition camera. The result is a micro-drone that’s sturdy if a little on the heavy side. But boy does it look neat. The white color definitely takes some getting used to, but then again, every FPV drone these days has to be white and look a little bit like the DJI Phantom.
The first thing apparent when picking up the transmitter is its weight: It’s extremely light and feels very much cheap and plasticky. The sticks are quite on the budget side as well – but they move pleasantly light and don’t detract from the flying experience. It takes 4 AA batteries, and sadly the battery compartment is sectioned so you can’t easily fit in a LiPo without removing some of the plastic.
On the plus side the balance is nice and upon switching on you are greeted with a prompt to turn on your copter. Both sticks can be pressed down to trigger certain functions Pressing the elevator stick down shortly activates expert mode (which gives you full stick travel for complete control) or toggles back to normal mode (which means stick travel is reduced to 50%), pressing the throttle stick down toggles flip mode on or off, and pressing the elevator stick down for three seconds activates the menu.
The menu focuses on the important stuff, you can play back your recorded videos, set the time/date, format the micro SD card, reverse channels, and change the stick sensitivities for both normal and expert mode.
Last but not least, there’s an option for setting the 5.8GHz video transmission frequency. This change is transferred to the quadcopter via the 2.4GHz RC link immediately, which is awesome and makes switching to a free channel very easy.
The transmitter also features a mini USB port for firmware upgrades, as well as two video outputs for your Hubsan Video Goggles, or really any set of FPV goggles you wired up with a compatible connector.
One of the really useful features is the fact that the Hubsan system has built in telemetry! Right now only the battery voltage is being sent back and displayed on the transmitter – but that’s exactly what you need. It’s really nice to see that they thought of adding this, and it really helps a lot in being able to judge how much longer you can fly.
Another nice feature is the fact that the transmitter will work with batteries that are too low to power the screen. When this happens you lose the video display, but the controls still work.
The most important aspect of any multicopter is how well it flies and, well, the Hubsan H107D is a bit of a mixed bag here. First there’s the weight that hampers overall performance. This is most definitely not a model meant to be flown outside in medium to strong wind. Even light wind makes it a chore and the required tilt angles make FPV impossible. If you have to fight the wind head-on, all you’ll see on the screen is the ground.
Secondly, the indoor flight performance is good but not amazing. The craft seems to drift to a certain direction, which is easily corrected by trimming, only to drift the other way at the next battery. Yaw stabilization is also a bit iffy, sometimes it is necessary to fight yaw drift, and while according to Hubsan landing and waiting for three seconds will reinitialize the gyros, this should not be neccessary in the first place.
The drift never was so strong as to cause control issues. It’s more of a minor annoyance than anything else. It feels a lot like the FPV Ladybird, however a non-FPV Walkera Ladybird V1 is definitely more stable than the Hubsan H107D.
Flight time is decent at around 7 minutes max, though even with the 380mAh battery it’s not as long as a non-fpv Ladybird.
We were surprised at the strength of the video feed. The image was easy to see on the big 4.3 inch screen, interrupted only by short flickers now and then. Most of the video feed problems stem from reflected signals bouncing off the ground or walls and arriving at the receiving antenna with different phase shifts. This effect is called Multipathing, and could only be alleviated by employing a different antenna on both the receiver and the transmitter. Overall though, the video link was surprisingly good and definitely good enough for FPV flying.
Video recording however is another story. While even 32 GB micro SD cards work fine, you should be aware that the transmitter will immediately FORMAT any card you put into it, without any warning. So if you take the card out of your phone to give this feature a go, don’t say we didn’t warn you that all your photos and other stuff is going to go poof.
When the card is formatted it’s done using the FAT filesystem – but not really. Apparently the way files are stored on the card is not entirely done the way the standard suggests, and as a result no matter how much free space you have on your card, it will always read as 210MB free on your PC. Also, don’t pop the SD card into your Android phone because it will immediately try to “fix” the filesystem problems, which will result in the Hubsan transmitter being unable to use the card until you format it there again. Also, don’t delete any of the video files off of the micro SD card because, you guessed it, the Hubsan transmitter will complain about an “SD error” until you format it again.
When the SD card is formatted, recording works fine – you press the button on the right side and the display shows a blinking REC. The manual is adamant about reminding you to stop recording BEFORE you switch off the transmitter, and they are right: If you forget to stop recording, the video is basically broken and lost.
The video quality is pretty low, the recorded files are AVI containing Motion-JPEG. It’s less than standard-definition, in fact the resolution is just 720×240 pixels for recorded video, even though the display shows the full 720×480 resolution. If you play such a video with VLC it appears squished, and you have to force VLC to 4:3 aspect ratio to get it to show properly. Alternatively, you can download a converter from http://www.freemake.com/free_video_converter to rescale the video. The video is segmented into parts of about 120-130 megabytes, so if you want to get a single long video you will need a program like the one linked before. Luckily that converter program does support assembling videoclips quite nicely.
In essence, the video transmission quality is good enough for flying but the resolution of the recorded video files is disappointing. It’s okay for a toy but otherwise there’s not much you can do with this kind of resolution.
So… yeah, that kind of quality is essentially worthless for serious applications. It would have been much smarter to have a microSD card in the quadcopter and record with 720p or even 1080p, and just send the standard-definition signal to the TX for fpv piloting.
The good news is that you can use a separate 5.8GHz receiver and record the video at full resolution. The camera isn’t that great to begin with but the resulting quality is better than with the Hubsan recorder. For those interested, the supported 5.8GHz frequencies are 5.725 GHz – 5.945 GHz in 5 MHz Steps, which means you can use pretty much any 5.8GHz receiver out there, be it the ImmersionRC/Fatshark ones or the receivers sold on ebay or by HobbyKing. Ranges of up to 100 meters are definitely possible even with the integrated antenna, beyond that the 2.4GHz link is usually the first to give out. So essentially, outdoor flying is limited by the little PCB antenna for the control system rather than the video link, but it’s definitely more than sufficient for this little quad.
If you want more range, you’d have to modify the 2.4GHz antenna on the quad and the transmitter and maybe use a high-gain antenna with an external receiver, but that would kinda defeat the idea of having an all-in-one FPV solution without dangling wires.
The TX contains a single PCB with two processors, one has had the labels lasered off, the other is a M058LBN Nuvoton 32-bit Arm Cortex A0 at 50 MHz. The 2.4GHz RC system uses a pcb antenna which means flight range is not going to be amazing. The 5.8GHz video receiver employs a directional antenna with groundplane, which gives it quite a good range.
The Hubsan H107D uses a single-channel 2.4GHz protocol with a simple telemetry return burst once in a while. The frequency is dynamically negotiated when you power up the transmitter and connect the battery to the quadrotor. The system tries to work around interference but it’s not trying very hard – and there is no frequency hopping involved at all. Output power is around 10mW, more than enough for this little thing, and perfectly legal in most countries.
In the frequency analyzer screenshot below you can observe the single channel in use, as well as the frequency changing when power is removed and then reapplied. Also note the faint bursts of telemetry data to the right of the transmitter channel. Whatever channel the transmitter selects, the quadcopter latches onto that and then transmits its telemetry info on the adjacent channel.
The Hubsan H107D is a really cool looking quadcopter and the transmitter is sure to turn some heads. Perhaps the most appealing aspect is the “Bond factor”, i.e. it really feels like a drone a spy would use.
Sadly it’s great set of features is tarnished by a few problems: Flight performance is okay but not stellar, and the video quality – while certainly good enough for piloting – leaves a lot to be desired if the built-in SD recorder is used.
On the plus side the included USB charger is much quicker than the one that ships with Walkera helicopters, FPV range is more than adequate, the built-in telemetry and the switchable LED lights are great to have, and the whole thing is just a lot of fun to fly around on recon missions.
Finally, the price is a big factor here as well: At the time of writing, this is how the price stacks up:
Walkera FPV Ladybird + Devo F7: USD $299.-
Hubsan H107D + FPV Transmitter: USD $199.-
Walkera FPV Ladybird + Devo F4: USD $137.-
Neither the F4 nor the F7 transmitters feature integrated recording onto SD card, Walkera does offer recording but this is done via a microSD card inside their FPV aircraft, where available. Also, the Hubsan transmitter has a large 4.3 inch screen which is positioned above the sticks, instead of down below them like on the Walkera radios. Ultimately, you will have to decide whether the better looks of the Hubsan quad, the bright LEDs, the included propeller protector and the more ergonomic transmitter are worth the $60 price difference between the cheapest FPV Ladybird set and the H107D.
The H107D is not perfect, but if you are looking for a complete integrated FPV package to be used mainly for fun, you could do worse than picking up one of these. Serious FPV this one ain’t do, but its’ definitely a very fun toy.