For Father’s Day this year my wife and daughter got me a cool toy! The Heli-Max 1SQ V-CAM RC quad-copter. I had a Sears Lobo when I was a kid (it’s probably still in my parents’ basement) and loved racing that thing around in the street, especially with Turbo mode. Now I can take to the skies instead!
I’d never flied one of these quad-copters, or even seen one in person. It’s tiny (about 6″ diagonal), light, and delicate, all of which make sense since it needs to get airborne! The V-CAM version has a micro digital camera on it that takes 1280×720, 30fps video (MJPEG, .AVI format) or stills (via buttons on the remote control). It also came with a 2gb microSD card, which was a nice touch, and a set of replacement propellers (blades).
Let me say first off: this thing is not easy to fly. It takes serious concentration and practice. My first hour with it in the backyard was about 30 seconds of flight time and 59 minutes, 30 seconds of frustration and crashes. I learned the hard way that the propellers are motor-specific, which again makes sense because two rotors are spinning clockwise and the other two are going counter-clockwise. Thus, the angle of the propeller blades is important. The blades aren’t marked or anything, so when the two front white ones came off in a crash, I just put them back on and then couldn’t figure out at first why the 1SQ wouldn’t take off anymore. Oops! In hindsight, I shouldn’t have tried to learn in our small backyard: the limited space and obstacles (fence, pool cage, roof, etc.) weren’t helping. I even crashed it on the roof once and had to get out a ladder to retrieve it.
Once we actually went out to the park and found a nice open space, flying the quad-copter got a lot easier. I still wasn’t that successful, but it was definitely easier to get airborne and actually fly around for a few seconds before crashing (my longest flight to-date is only about 15 seconds). Unfortunately, the freedom of the park let me fly the SQ1 higher and further than I should have while I was still learning control, and a bad crash ended up breaking one of the motor booms. This is not a cheap toy once you factor in replacement parts. I ordered a spare set of motor booms and propellers from Amazon and then repaired the broken part. I haven’t had a chance to take it out flying again but hope to soon (I really want to try the “acrobatic flip” button on the remote once I get it stable!).
Aside from learning how to actually fly the SQ1, the other problem I’ve been having is with recorded video. Too many times the video just freezes a few seconds in. The audio still works (although really the only sound you can hear is the motors, see this sample on-board video as an example) but the picture is frozen. I’ve lost a lot of what I thought would be cool footage because of this problem. Other people on the internet have experienced this and some of them attribute it to the cheap microSD card that comes with the SQ1. I wrote to Heli-Max support about the problem and they said it sounded like a defective camera and they would send me a new one. I’m still waiting for that new part to arrive but hopefully it will resolve the issue.
The 1SQ V-CAM is definitely a fun little toy, but it’s going to take time (and spare parts?) before I really can get the hang of it. Hopefully I’ll have some cool video to post soon!