…More Fun Than Unboxing.
Yes, last time, all we did was open the box and take out all the bits & pieces. Exciting when you first see the drone, but that feeling only lasts a couple of minutes.
Flying the drone is something else. This is a really nice hobby-grade drone. And let’s be clear on that; some reviewers have compared it to the DJI Spark, but they’re really totally different animals at totally different prices. I’m not sure the Spark could be considered a hobby drone, but if it could, it’s really at the top-end of that range. The CX-23 is an affordable, fun-to-fly, small-sized drone with rather average video capabilities.
Let’s get it in the air…
Well, my very first flight was a total disaster. I like to keep an untried drone in an enclosed space, usually in the street outside my home, which has buildings on three sides. That way, if something unexpected happens, sure, the drone may crash into someone’s front door, but it can’t fly away. Untested drones sometimes do that! Tested drones sometimes do that!
The CX-23, as I mentioned last time, has GPS. Give it long enough – thirty seconds at least – it can lock onto as many as fifteen satellite signals. So that’s what I did. I waited, and then flew. Erratically. It was like a drunken sailor, weaving all over the place. So I landed as rapidly as possible, and went back inside, a little disillusioned. I checked everything and found no problems, so concluded I must be doing something stupid. I was.
Satellite signals bounce off buildings, and in an enclosed space the drone was utterly confused. Every time it moved, the signals were coming from somewhere else. The moral of this story is clear.
That’s why drones that have GPS capability also have something called ATTI or Attitude Mode. It’s sometimes called Altitude Mode, which is more logical, as it can sense air pressure to maintain a constant altitude. However; in ATTI mode, the drone will drift with the wind, making flight more of a challenge. With most drones, ATTI is usually the default, presumably to stop dorks like me trying to fly between buildings while in GPS mode.
So, my second and subsequent flights – in open spaces – in GPS mode – have been a dream. The CX-23 is so stable, you can release the controls and it will just hover, moving only a few centimeters as the GPS signals work to keep it in place. The Return To Home feature uses the same technology, and no matter where you have flown, one button-press will bring it back to within half a meter of where it took off, often less. It’s almost spooky.
But of course, it’s not all good news, so let’s look at the pros and cons…
- Definitely easy to control compared to a non-GPS drone.
- The GPS feature works well.
- The drone does not have object avoidance technology but it does have the sense to go up before returning to home via the RTH button. This height you can set.
- It’s small, and therefore very portable.
- Despite its size, it feels solidly built, and isn’t going to fall apart if you crash into a tree or two. (Thoughtfully, I have tested this feature for you!)
- The FPV screen is clear, and gives you a good view of where the drone is and what it’s seeing. The video does break up from time to time, but this can be avoided by experimenting with the antenæ positioning. Pointing them downwards I’ve found to be the best.
- The screen also has a lot of useful information like the height and distance away from the drone.
- And talking of distances, the range seems to be good for a drone this size. 500 meters is probably further than you’d want to fly anyways, as you really can’t see the drone at this distance.
- Strangely, I think one of the nice features is the box. It’s solid, and has some cut-out spongy material that holds the drone in place during transit.
- Last but not least there’s the price. Somewhere around US$200. Good value for money. And now…
- The camera is very average. Video quality is not great as the drone has no gimbal to dampen the vibrations, and camera angle has to be set manually before take off. That said, when you figure out how to fly smoothly, it is possible to get some okay footage.
- The battery life could be better. 12 mins is about the safe amount of flight on one charge. For a small, lightweight drone, that seems low. At least the remote controller vibrates to warn you about a low battery status.
- Despite there being four screens of info, I don’t find it helpful to be told the battery voltage. It means nothing. A percentage figure would be much better.
- And taking of batteries, the FPV screen is a standalone unit that has it’s own battery. The controller has it’s own battery. (Okay, that’s better than buying a load of AAs.) And of course the drone has it’s own battery. That’s three chargers and cables, and battery levels that have to be monitored. Seems a bit excessive.
- The controller has everything you’d need, but I find the power button is too easy to press in error, which is not a good idea mid-flight. I’ve glued a large metal washer around the push switch to solve the problems. (If you’re into karting you may recognize it as a front wheel spacer.)
- It doesn’t have prop guards. Many drones now seem not to have them. If you’ve ever sliced a finger on spinning prop, you’ll wish you did have guards.
- Its size. Yes, I know, I listed the small size as a Pro, but, when the drone is several hundred meters away from you it’s real tough to see.
- Descents are always a bit rough. The props produce something called wake turbulence beneath the drone, and when descending, the drone drops into its own turbulence. The CX-23 seems particularly bad though and the video is positively vomit-inducing. I keep wondering if the drone will survive, but it does.
So there you have it. I think the pros far outweigh the cons, and I’m hoping the fun will continue.