Walkera Rodeo 150 Review

June 24, 2016 15:23 | By | Add a Comment

Anothert RTF/BNF quadcopter from china? Yawn. But wait, this little guy mixes up the game. Check out how this ready-to-fly FPV racing copter fared in our review.

Back in December 2014 we reviewed the Blade 200QX which, for under USD $250.-, provided an excellent high-performance flying experience in a well-configured BNF package. Since then, the FPV racing scene has burst into life and thus manufacturers finally had something to gear their products towards. No longer do you just buy a really quick quadcopter, now we’re looking at rows of “FPV Racing Models” entering the market.

Most look rather pedestrian, with the inevitable high power LED headlamps and possibly taillights providing both flair and visibility for FPV pilots. Walkera already offers several products in this category, with the GPS-enabled HD-recording Runner 250 and the smaller non-GPS F210 3D offering well tuned little crafts out of the box.

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The Rodeo is the latest entry in this line of products, offering both a unique design and great performance. The design isn’t all just for show either – the frame’s orientation in the air is easy to see, and the battery sits near the bottom of the body, allowing for a very neutral vertical CG. The props are just screwed on with a simple thread, and not locked in place with any nuts or bolts. Initial worries aside, we found this to be perfectly adequate for a copter of this size.

The F150 comes in two colors (Black/Gold and White/Black) and in BNF as well as RTF Packages. The box is really neat and has padded foam compartments for the Devo 7 transmitter, three batteries (one 850mAh 30C 2S LiPo is included), balance charger and spare parts. A full set of spare props is included as well. Essentially, you can hold the box in one hand with the included carry handle, fpv goggles in the other, and you have a complete setup. It doesn’t get much more portable than that.

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First a quick look at the supplied transmitter and charger – The Devo 7 is just about as pedestrian as a pack-in transmitter can be, and it’s powered by 8 AA batteries or NiMH cells. The backlit display is alphanumeric but not a dot matrix display, so the user interface isn’t stellar. Basic operation is simple enough, and there are a few oddities (sometimes you have to use the left up/down keys, sometimes the right up/down keys), but overall it’s serviceable.

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The stick gimbals are alright but not amazing. Walkera opted for their usual DSSS system, which uses three channels that are selected on powerup. Binding happens automatically at each powerup, there’s no bind button or bind plug. It’s an okay system that’s better than DSM2 (which used 2 channels), but less reliable than DSM-X, FASST or other FHSS-based technologies. We’d argue that on a busy flying field or FPV racetrack you are better off connecting your own FHSS receiver. Thankfully Walkera thought of this, and provides a port on the side to connect either an SBUS or CPPM compatible receiver, which deserves a round of applause.

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One oddity of note: The arm/disarm directions for the rudder stick are reversed from what has become standard with KK/CleanFlight/APM.

 

The battery charger operation is very simple: You take it out of the box, open the bin, and drop it into the bin. Seriously, don’t use that charger. It’s terribly slow (charging at 0.5A max), gets uncomfortably hot, and doesn’t deserve the name “Balance Charger”. Our charger consistently overcharged one cell to 4.24V, with the other bang on at 4.20V. This is not good for your battery at all, so bring your own balance charger. Battery and copter use the slightly unusual EC2 connector, which is essentially a smaller version of the EC3 connector used in many Horizon products.

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Note that while you can solder on your own connector, there’s little room for bulky XT60’s or similar. If you want to use your own charger but don’t have a cable with EC2 connector, simply use 2MM bullet plugs as they’ll fit nice and securely.

One battery will last you around 7 minutes, a bit longer if you’re not racing. That’s a little disappointing as the Blade 200QX was able to stay in the air for a third longer. However, it also didn’t have to carry an FPV camera and transmitter.

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The Rodeo 150 itself feels light and rugged with small rubber bumpers on the feet making it more forgiving towards hard landings. The two antennae fold out and click into place, for an optimal 90-degree angle towards each other.The 5.8GHz sleeved monopole antenna sits on the top, offering excellent RF radiation for the video signal, but being in a bad location for when your copter falls down on its back. Due to the location, the antenna has to be unscrewed to fit the copter into it’s handy packaging – meaning it’s easy to forget to screw on again next time you fly.

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The RTF set comes with a pre-configured transmitter that basically uses just one flight mode switch. You can toggle between autolevel mode, intermediate mode and professional mode. Autolevel mode is locked to about 45 tilt in any direction, but still feels very agile. This is excellent because it means you can even do light racing with that mode. Intermediate mode corresponds to what the multiwii/cleanflight fans know as “Horizon mode”, meaning that the copter will still auto-level when you release the sticks, but you’re free to rotate in any direction at any angle. And boy does this copter like to roll. The controls are perfectly civilised in the normal stick movement area, but if you pull that stick hard right, things happen. Finally we have the pro mode which is essentially unrestricted flight without any auto-leveling.

Flight feels smooth and very controlled. There’s really no speed at which the Rodeo 150 feels unpredictable or difficult to steer. Hovering and slow flight is as boring as it gets due to the excellent setup, with the PID values dialed in to perfection right from the factory. There’s a USB port on the side for upgrades and configuration, but we’re going to go out on a limb and say that it’s unlikely you’ll ever want to fiddle with any PID settings.

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We haven’t talked about the FPV stuff yet. The Walkera Rodeo features a 600TV-line mini CCD camera and a <200mW 5.8GHz video transmitter (<25mW for the CE version). There’s no OSD or anything, which is not surprising nor really needed for such a small quad. The image quality is good, but not amazing. There’s better cameras out there, but for the price and the size, this is absolutely alright.

Transmitter range of course depends on your antenna as well as whether you get the CR or FCC compliant version. With the FCC version that’s rated at <200mW as well as a cloverleaf antenna on both RX and TX we got 300 meters of range without any interference, up to 500 meters was flyable, and for reasons of legality we didn’t test flying any further. If you get the CE version, fret not – just get a directional antenna with higher gain on your receiver.

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We flew with the Quanum Cyclops HMD and can confirm that even pilots wearing glasses will have a lot of fun and good image quality. The 5.8GHz video transmitter can be changed to a different channel via miniature dip switches hidden behind a little rubber cover on the top of the quadcopter.

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In summary, in a sea of small and cheap quadcopters Walkera nailed it with the Rodeo 150. For USD $196.- shipped, you get the BNF version with everything except the transmitter, while USD $229.- gets you the RTF package with the serviceable-if-unexciting Devo 7 transmitter. (A nice alternative if you want to stick to the Walkera system is the Devo 7E which is a bit smaller and more portable, and features a graphic display with a much more intuitive user interface.)

What you get here feels very much like a quality product. If you’re in the market for a fun quadcopter or want to get your feet wet with FPV racing, this is a great choice.

Don’t forget to buy some extra batteries!

 

What we liked

  • Excellent flight performance
  • Good FPV image quality
  • Fresh design
  • Packaging is also a travel case
  • Great value for money

What we didn’t like

  • Top 5.8GHz antenna in a vulnerable spot
  • Flight time comparatively short (around 7 minutes )
  • Quality of the included balance charger

 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review. The product was purchased at our own cost and full price.

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FPVCentral is a private, independent news and review site for all things related to First Person View RC model flight. Covering everything from hobby, commercial and military drones, RC models and electronics related to FPV flight, we are not sponsored by any manufacturer or affiliated with any company or project.

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