19 June 2016

REVIEW: Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 3.0

Sorry to keep droning on...

In January we visited the London Toy Fair and saw some awesome new stuff. One thing that really caught our eye (and our excitement) was the Micro Drone 3.0. Very successfully funded on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, Micro Drone 3.0 was all about creating a small quadcopter that anyone could fly right out of the box, and which featured magnetic modular accessories. When one finally arrived at Test Pit Towers we took it straight out to our top secret flight testing ground. Here's what we thought...

First up, creators Extreme Fliers aren't joking about the 'micro' part of this little chopper. The Micro Drone 3.0 measure just 11cm by 11cm without the blade guards, and feels very light. Despite that, the support arms are metal, and that black dome is tough and not easily removed (unlike other quadcopters of this size). But the most striking element of the drone's design is the undercarriage,

The USB-charged battery slides into place and features three magnetic dots on the underside. It is here that the different modules can be attached - very securely, we might add - to both stick to the copter and also draw power directly from the battery. We were sent the 'Combo' kit which includes a HD camera module, as well as a smartphone holder for the remote control, and also a Google Glass-style VR headset.

Because this thing offers FPV, don't it? Yes, first-version-view is possible thanks to the streaming WiFi from the camera module, allowing you to either see what the drone is seeing on your phone attached to the controller (via the app), or straight up in your face with your phone in the cardboard headset. The camera is reported to be 720p HD, so lets take a look at an example of the footage we captured on our maiden flight:

You know what? That really isn't bad at all. Although the sensor might be capable of 720p HD, the camera is let down somewhat by the tiny lens. As you can see the field of view is also quite narrow (which made FPV quite disorientating with the headset on), but once we got the Micro Drone 3.0 nice and steady, the images were good. Can anyone spot York Minster on the horizon during the first ascent?

Sure, the camera quality isn't competing with those found on DJI drones, and if you were looking for a photography UAV we recommend you click here to check out DrDrone and all the flyers they carry.

The key thing to remember here is that this is just a start. We chatted to the creator Vernon Kerswell (who also appears in the app demonstration videos) and he mentioned that not only will future modules feature wide-angle lenses, but also potentially higher resolution cameras. The great thing about the modular design is that once you've bought the drone itself, you can pick and choose what modules you want for it - once a wider selection has been released, that is. We've got our eye on the micro gimbal. 

You might notice that the second half of the footage above goes a bit crazy. In that section we were purposely testing the handling of the drone, and less the camera's performance. The controller features three speed settings; Slow, Fast, and Insane, and as you can see we worked our way up through them as the video progressed. We're not exaggerating that this is the fastest quadcopter we've ever tested, and with 'Insane' selected and full throttle engaged, the Micro Drone 3.0 is capable of speeds of up to 45mph!

We've written before about fast drones requiring a upwards-pointing camera to get any decent footage, which the Micro Drone 3.0 unfortunately doesn't have - yet. That is why there is a hell of a lot of grass in the closing section of the clip - because the nose was down toward the ground as it blasted around.

Very little trimming was required to get this thing moving where we wanted it to go, so Extreme Fliers' claims that this is "a drone for everyone" is pretty spot on. However, it is also "a drone for everyone" to get lots of practice with, especially on the Fast and Insane settings (not to mention the ability to invert and do flips), as it may be a tad too nimble for some.

So has it lived up to the hype? To be honest, yes... but in a more subdued way. Although we really enjoyed flying it and reviewing the footage, there was nothing overly breathtaking or ground-breaking about it. However, the true excitement here is what the future holds and what future modules Extreme Fliers will bring out for the Micro Drone 3.0 next. As higher-end tech starts to become cheaper and smaller, we might soon find ourselves reviewing the likes of a 4K camera on the drone, or even an automated 'follow me' system of some sort. For that potential alone, the Micro Drone 3.0 is a clear winner in our eyes.


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