Well, that’s a lot of letters and numbers. What the heck is this thing and who makes it?
As far as I can figure, FQ777 is the name of the manufacturer, and they have a whole range of drones. Needless to say they’re in China, but that’s about all I can discover.
The FQ31 is one of their series of small drones.
Now, I confess, I hadn’t realized how small until the shipment arrived. “There can’t be a drone in there” I thought. But I was wrong.
I’ve been hunting around for a while for a training drone, both for me and for training others. I think it’s important to fly as much as possible so that your hands develop what’s known as “muscle memory.” Personally I think “procedural memory” is a better term. It basically means you can do things without conscious thought. Like the way you drive a car or ride a bike. You don’t think about turning the steering wheel or pushing the pedals. It becomes automatic.
If you’re new to drone flying, these things are not automatic, and in the time you take to think “I have to move the right stick backwards” you may have crashed into the wall.
I wanted something cheap – the FQ31 is around US$35 – and small enough that I could fly it indoors. I figured lightweight was a good thing too, so I wouldn’t fly around knocking things off shelves.
Even so, I hadn’t realized the FQ31 was that small. Here’s the box, closed and open…
Yes, it’s a folding drone. Folded, it fits in the palm of your hand. But let’s take a look at everything in the box…
Clockwise from top left, of course, the drone, then the single cell LiPo battery, the phone holder that clips onto the remote controller – shown next. Below that, a screwdriver, for screwing something but I don’t know what. Next, going downwards is a paper with QR Codes to enable you to download the app, an instruction booklet, four spare props, and in the middle, the ultra-short USB cable to charge the drone battery.
The controller needs 3 AAAs, not included…
And the manual, whilst comprehensive and quite well written, is so tiny I had to take photos with my iPad, so I could read the pages on-screen…
So, here she is with her arms folded out, ready to fly…
Still pretty teeny. With props facing forward, just 15x11cms. The arms are easy to move, and just click into place. And, as I quickly discovered, they click out of place when you crash – which is probably a good thing, as nothing gets broken!
So, before flying, you need those 3 AAAs and you need to charge the drone battery. The manual says not to do the latter when it’s in the drone, but you can’t as the micro-USB connector is hidden inside the drone. There seems to be a red LED light somewhere inside the battery that comes on when the battery is charging. And there’s another on the outside that’s supposed to come on when the battery is fully charged. Mine doesn’t. So I charge for about an hour and then fly.
And not for too long. I think you’re supposed to get about ten minutes from one charge, but my experience is more like five. Maybe the battery is not 100% healthy.
My first impressions from flying are good. I was skeptical. I’ve flown tiny drones before – admittedly a couple of years ago – and that experience was not good.
Of course, reading the manual is a good idea. I didn’t. I assumed the red light was on the front. So, all my stick movements were back asswards. This is when I learned that the arms fold back in. The fridge door is pretty solid, but no damage was done.
Yes, I was flying indoors where there’s not a lot of space, but once my brain realized the red light is on the back, I found flying quite easy – and dare I say it? – fun.
But I’ve skipped over a few things you need to do first… like reading the manual! When turning on the drone and then the controller, they seem to bind quickly. Once the red light stops flashing you can fly. But it’s best to do a calibration first by moving the sticks to the bottom and then right. It takes only a few seconds.
Then you have a choice. There’s a one key takeoff button on the controller, or you can do like me and move the sticks to the bottom outside corners to arm the motors and then left stick up.
The first thing I noticed was some drift to the right. That’s to be expected given that the only sensors are for altitude hold. But – despite what some reviewers say – everything can be trimmed. You just need to RTFM. You push a stick down to enter trim mode, and then move it in the direction opposite the drift. So, if the drone is flying off to the right, you move the stick left until the drift stops. All of which is easier said than done, because while you’re thinking about how to do this, the drone is still drifting – towards the mother-in-law’s vintage crystal vase! No matter, you’ve always hated that thing anyways.
If you looked carefully at the pictures, you’ll have noticed the remote controller has lots of buttons. I mentioned one key takeoff, but there’s also a one key land.
I never imagined I’d use it, as my intention was to practice flying, but there’s a button to let you do 360° flips in any direction. They’re lots of fun. There, I’ve said it! Again.
There are three different speeds for slow, fast, and where the hell did it go. Not recommended to change from slow mode indoors. Unless you want to destroy the mother-in-law as well as the vase.
There’s an emergency stop button that makes it fall out of the sky. Why? Not sure. Oh, and there’s the dreaded (by serious flyers) Headless Mode button. I believe it works as advertised, but I haven’t tried it.
At this point I’m happy. I can practice flying whenever I want, and I can use it to train others. The lack of gizmos like GPS means you have to concentrate. Even trimmed, the drone will drift. It’s a good practice drone. But wait, there’s more.
I haven’t mentioned the camera. With good reason. It’s next to useless. I don’t care but you might. For starters it’s fixed. Not unusual on a cheap drone. But it’s fixed pointing at about 40° downwards. Pretty pointless. The drone is advertised as being an FPV drone, so – in theory – on your phone you can see where you’re going. But you can’t. If I cared, I’d try to open the drone and reposition the camera. Maybe that’s what the screwdriver is for.
Then there’s the phone and app. With a phone attached, the controller is top heavy and quite difficult to handle. Without the phone it’s really nice, despite being small. The app, as I mentioned, you can download using the QR codes, for iOS and Android. They both work as advertised.
The app “talks” to the phone via WiFi, so you have to make that connection first in Settings. Easily done. Then you can do things like taking photos, and shooting video. Of what? Your dog’s paw prints. Whatever turns you on.
But here’s the big problem. With the app running, I found the drone almost impossible to control. Other reviewers have noted likewise. There’s some kind of interference of frequencies between controller to drone and controller to app.
So, forget the app. Forget the phone. Forget making videos. Just fly the drone and have some fun. At US$35 it’s cheap fun.