…Eachine E50: First Impressions.
Flight Time – 60 Seconds,
Repair Time – 60 Minutes.
That about says it all really. The thing is so lightweight, and hence fragile, that even the wake turbulence from a butterfly’s wings will send it into a nose dive. Of course, I’m joking, but it seems that way.
After the minor mishap I mentioned in The Drone Diaries Part 4 I swore I wouldn’t again try to fly the thing indoors. But for the past week we’ve had strong winds – palm trees falling onto the beach variety – and I became impatient. I really wanted to get the hang of the thing before risking flying in the outside world. I had visions of the drone disappearing off into the sunset never to be seen again.
So, I chose my bedroom. Lots of soft furnishings. Nothing much to crash into. Should be perfect, right?
Why don’t you tell them about how you flew it into the bathroom and came within two millimeters of landing it in the toilet bowl?
That’s a malicious lie…
How about two centimeters?
Yeah, that would be closer to the truth.
So, as you can probably imagine, that experiment didn’t last long. Eventually I ventured outdoors and found a field of long grass and bushes. That was only slightly more successful. As soon as I started flying, the trees that had been in the distance moved over to take a closer look. Trees and drones don’t much like each other. The result was inevitable. More repairs.
Why did I fly near the trees? Because there was a slight breeze, and even that renders the thing close to impossible to control, especially for a beginner.
Repairs effected, I ventured out again around dusk. That’s usually the time of day when the wind drops to zero. It’s also the time of day the mosquitoes come out to play. Do I know how to have fun or what?
Several bites later, I managed to make what I would call a successful flight. Take off, zip around, and land. I even had the on board camera working; and way back, I promised to show you all my flying attempts, however amateur…
Exciting eh? The landing in the long grass was deliberate. Honest. But even so, not without problems. When you try to retrieve your drone, you discover the grass has wound itself around the propellers. There are no prop guards. That takes a while to sort out.
Actually, after that, I decided that landing on a hard surface or gravel is okay. It seems to land smoothly and steadily, so if you hit the “Stop” button immediately after landing, there’s no damage.
As an aside:
By inserting that video into this page, I learned one more quirk of this drone. Buried somewhere in the mini manual it tells you to stop the video recording before turning off the power to the drone. Now; that’s easier said than done, because nine times out of ten, when the drone crashes, it turns itself off. I didn’t think that was much of a problem because mostly I found the video files stored in my iPad, and they seemed to play just fine.
However; it wasn’t until I inserted the video in here that I discovered it wouldn’t play… and I suspect that is because the file was incorrectly terminated. Three hours of fiddling around later, I had the bright idea of using VLC – everyone’s favorite multimedia player, to both play and record the video. The resultant output file is correctly terminated and works fine.
Sorry; a bit techie, but the important message is to try to stop the video recording before you crash!
At first, the type of damage I was doing to the drone when crashing was confusing. Mostly, one prop would get hit, and the whole motor cover would pop open, dislodging the minute gear and spindle…
I kept popping it back into place, and it kept opening. Then I noticed a small hole. “Why don’t I put a tiny screw in there” I thought…
Which is when I noticed the other three motor housings already had tiny screws! Seems it was shipped with only three motors securely housed.
Something else I learned from my first micro-flights, was that the controls are not very sensitive. Remember this is the drone you control with a phone or tablet. I was using an iPad. You can see virtual controls which you move with your thumbs…
But it’s like the drone says “Did he just move his thumb to the left? Not sure, let’s wait a couple of seconds. Oh yes, he did, let’s go left.” And then I noticed the “30%” symbol at the top. This you can tap to change the sensitivity to 60% or 100%. So I changed it to 60% and went out and tried again. Better. Definitely better. And having established that, I landed the thing and did some more damage.
Are you sensing the frustration here?
As I mentioned at the beginning, the thing is insanely fragile. And each time you damage it, it takes a while to figure out what’s wrong. This latest time, I could see all four props turning, but it wouldn’t take off. Rather, it was trying to dig itself into the ground. It took me quite a while to figure that two of the props were not turning as easily as the other two.
I’m guessing, because I haven’t yet found the patience to repair it, that the tiny spindles that hold the props are slightly bent. The fact the drone is shipped with spare spindles and gears is a bit of a giveaway. Most only come with spare props.
The other thing I’ve learned is that the battery life is very limited. And when it gets low, the motors still turn fine, but the receiver in the drone goes off. At which point you have no control. It just goes wherever it wants. Thankfully though it will respond to the “Stop” button, but this means everything turns off. And so it crashes. Again.
What are my thoughts?…
- It’s absolutely not a beginner’s drone. I’ve seen Youtube videos of people zooming this drone into the air, flying around smoothly, doing 360° flips and landing it back on their hand. Yes, all very clever and impressive. But drone reviewers are not amateurs.
- You can only fly when there’s absolutely positively no wind.
- The low battery life is a real problem. You can probably only make one flight per charge. If you want to use this regularly, you need umpteen spare batteries.
- You need at least some DIY skills, because the inevitable repairs are fiddly.
- Is it fit for purpose? That depends on what you think its purpose is. If you want something that is toy-grade, that you can tuck away in a pocket or somewhere in your car, and use on those occasions when you forgot to bring a real drone, then yes, it’s fit for purpose. If you think you can use it as your everyday #1 drone, then, no, it’s not.
- And last of all, you have to remember it only costs twenty bucks, and it’s worth every penny, but not one penny more.
I’m just glad I also bought a real drone. At least, I think I did. I haven’t really tried it yet. It’s had some teething problems (more DIY skills needed) but I think they’re sorted and I’m ready to fly. More on that later.