In this day and age, having the best photos and videos is a must on many social media feeds from personal to professional and more and more people are looking to capture those memorable moments now with the use of drones. However, the most dauting task is learning to fly proficiently. It must take modelers hours of practice and hundreds of dollars in equipment to get something in the air, right? Not so. Blade has been on a quest to fill the skies with quadcopters for enthusiasts of any ability level and their latest release, the Blade Chroma Camera Drone, combines ease of flight with camera function built for the novice to make them look like a pro. The Chroma is a completely assembled drone in a box with everything you need including radio, camera, 3-axis gimbal, charger and battery so you just have to charge it and fly it. The experience will simply just amaze you so let’s dig a little deeper.
• The preassembled Chroma makes getting to the skies a breeze. The drone is well constructed with a white plastic, professional looking body. Gold anodized 780Kv motors mount to each arm where letters to correspond with what prop to use are on both the arm and the motor. Below the motor are LED light pods to help identify programming functions or operation modes. At the center top of the body is the on/off switch and GPS mast. The included 6300mAh battery slides into the rear cradle with a simple tab latch to secure it. On the bottom are two ports, one for the camera gimbal plug and a micro USB for program updates. The gimbal simply slides into place with use of another tab latch. The landing gear, too, simply latches into place for quick and easy removal.
• Blade teamed up with Yuneec to include the ST-10+ transmitter with the Chroma. The matching white radio has a large fascia that is made up of the touch screen at the bottom, stick controls in the center and several operation buttons at the top. The screen shows what the camera sees while you are operating the Chroma with some telemetry readings around its perimeter. If you go deeper into the menus, you find the calibration settings and ability to change modes. There’s no need to get too deep into the radio since it comes preprogrammed from the factory. The sticks perform standard throttle, rudder, aileron operations with the throttle stick being slightly different as it’s spring loaded to return to center. The red button on the radio is the start/ stop button to idle up the props or stop them. A simple switch lets you toggle between Smart, AP and Home modes. Buttons at the top let you take photo images or video easily by depressing the button and finally, sliders allow camera tilt operation on the left and cyclic speed rate on the right. A 3.6V Li-Ion battery powers the radio and there are tones and vibrations to help alert the pilot to warnings and settings.
• To keep the Chroma easy to use, Blade has simplified flight abilities to a 3-position toggle switch. Up on the switch is Smart Mode so the drone flies exactly the same as the stick movement no matter what its orientation is. In AP (Ariel Photography) mode it follows the standard controls of a drone for those who want a more precision feel when flying their model. The last position is Home where when flipped, it will return the Chroma to its start point and land. Inside the radio there are Normal, Tracking and Follow me modes of flight. Normal lets you fly the Chroma where you want. Tracking lets you set its position in the sky and it will track you wherever you go and Follow me lets you set the Chroma in one spot and the camera will follow your movements as you move with the transmitter.
• The Chroma comes in four variations depending on the camera set-up you desire. There is the CG03 4K version, CG02+ 1080p version which we are testing here, Gimbal version for use with a GoPro and a bare version with no radio and a fixed GoPro mount. The CG02+ is a 16megapixel camera with 1080p capability in full HD and shoots in 60FPS through its wideangle lens. The 3-axis gimbal takes all the bumps and jittery movements out of your photos or videos. To further enhance its ability, on the radio’s screen you can choose white balance settings or refine its exposure depending on weather conditions from sunny to cloudy to dusk; pretty much everything you can think of except volcanic ash fallout.
• We’re loving the completeness of the package including a mini USB cord for program updates that also serves as a charger for the radio. A charger is included for the main 6300mAh proprietary LiPo battery along with a charge adapter cord, then there is the power supply box with hook-up cord and the power cord. Lots of cords… Lots. A screen shade is provided and suction cups to the radios screen. This shade simply allows you to see the screen in the sun, but makes on the fly adjustments a little difficult. On a brighter note, Blade includes two full sets of propellers in case you break one which I don’t know how you’ll do as this drone is so easy to operate.
IN THE AIR
After going through the calibration processes of both the accelerometers and compass, the machine was ready to go. However, every time I get ready to fly anything, I get myself worked up to the point I start shaking. Flying the Chroma really had me worked up since I was thinking of its overall cost to the point that I could have held a gallon of milk and shook it into butter in a matter of minutes. Fellow editor Matt Maziarz gave me the advice, “Dude, just put the thing in the air” … so I did.
Setting the Chroma out about 25 feet from where I chose to fly and then depressing the start button for a few seconds the motors spooled up to an idle. I ensured my flight mode switch was set to Smart and gave some throttle input. Before I knew it, the Chroma was hovering about twenty feet off the ground so I let the throttle return to center and it just stayed there. That’s it! It just stayed there in a perfect hover in one spot even in the slightly breezy conditions. The Chroma lifted up so smoothly and simple, it instantly told me that this was an incredible novice-friendly machine.
With a little hang time under the belt, I gained more altitude and flew off toward a nearby pond to grab some photos. In Smart Mode, the Chroma flies with stick relativity so it will go in whichever direction you push the sticks no matter what direction it’s facing. So cool, so easy. Now that I was near the pond, I checked the screen on the ST-10+ to see what my shot would look like. I used the slider on the left hand side of the radio to tilt the camera down and then simply hit the photo button on the top left to capture the image. Next, I grabbed some video using the button at the top right of the radio. While the video was recording I gave the Chroma some right rudder to get a panning shot and while I was watching what was captured on the screen, I used the radio’s speed trim to slow it from rabbit mode down to turtle mode for a nice slow pan. These images are stored right onto the Micro SD card in the camera.
To get my bearings back, I simply flipped the switch on the top of the radio to “Home” and watched the Chroma fly straight back to the point where I took off and then slowly descend to the ground. Once it was about a few inches off the ground, the motors slowed up and resulted in a slightly bumpy landing as the system used the original coordinates to land. Using the Home function for auto landings never resulted in any damage, but I found it much easier to get a smooth landing by using the throttle stick in Smart Mode.
For flyers with some time under their belt there is an AP mode on the radio that allows you to fly it like a traditional quadcopter where the sticks are not dependent on GPS. Fully confident already, I tried the AP mode and was surprised how fluid the feeling was as I flew around the skies in the park. There is the potential of even removing the camera and gimbal for some basic aerobatics. Matt grabbed the transmitter and tried a few loops and rolls while I watched. The Chroma isn’t just a camera drone, it’s fun to fly as well!
Finally it was time to test the Tracking and Follow me modes. On the radio screen you tap the icon to set which mode style you want. Follow me mode works best for long “cable-camesque’ shots where the Chroma will follow the ST-10+ or move backwards if the transmitter is moved towards it. The Watch Me function is great for 360 pan shots or clips. Simply engage the Watch Me Mode and give the Chroma left or right aileron input. The camera will stay focused on the ST-10+ location while performing circles around it.
The footage and photos captured by the Chroma are truly something to behold. The CG02 gimbal keeps all the images rock steady while the full 1080 resolution offers great clarity. For a WiFi system, the latency isn’t bad at all and capturing whatever media you want is as easy as pushing one of two buttons.
The Chroma comes packaged in a professional looking box with the components nestled in a Styrofoam enclosure inside to protect them during transportation. The first thing you’ll notice when you pop the box top is a bag with the simple startup instruction manual, LiPo instructions, Saftey information sheet, the radio’s screen shade which simply suction cups onto the radio’s face, some hex wrenches and extra friction O-rings for the motors. Next will be an accessory box that contains a USB cable, charge cords and adapter plug. Inside the casing will be the assembled Chroma drone, Yuneec ST-10 radio, charger and box of blades.
Once you pull the goodies from the box and familiarize yourself with what’s in the kit, get the battery charger hooked up to the power supply and charge the battery pack. This may take some time since the included E-flite 3S LiPo balancing charger charges at a rate of 3.5A. Next, the radio should be plugged in via the USB cord to your home computer or approved USB charge adapter to top off the radio battery. On to assembling the Chroma. Get on your best pair of wrist sweat bands, remove two “A” and two “B” propellers (yes four extra are supplied) and screw them onto the motors that are clearly marked “A” and “B” (“A” props are reverse thread). Phew, that took all of forty five seconds and your Chroma is assembled. Go on, give yourself a fifteen second breather. You deserve it. Once the battery is charged, it slides into the back of the Chroma and snaps into place. You’re ready to head off to the field. Once there you’ll need to raise the GPS mast, remove the camera transport shroud, turn on the radio and then the quad. It’s a good practice to calibrate the compass before flying in a new location and this is made easy by watching a few simple videos at knowchroma.com.
WEIGHT: 45.9 oz. (1.3 kg)
MOTOR TO MOTOR DIS.: 15.7 in. (400mm)
MOTORS: (4) 780Kv Brushless Outrunner
ESCS: Integrated Main Board
PROPELLERS: 10.2 in. (260mm)
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Proprietary IMU
FLIGHT TIME: 30 min.
RADIO: ST-10+ Controller with Touch-Screen Display
RECEIVER: ST-10 Receiver
BATTERY: 6300mAh LiPo Flight Battery
ETC: CGO2+ 16MP 1080p/60 3-Axis Stabilized
Camera, ST-10+ Controller, Flight Battery
Charger, Extra Set of Propellers, ST-10+ Display
Screen Sun Shade, USB Programmer Cable,
Micro SD Card for Camera
♦ Absolutely complete camera drone that is pre-programmed from the box for complete flight and photo success
♦ Yuneec ST-10+ radio is easy to operate with large touch display screen
?♦ Instantly makes people think you’re cool when you fl y it
?♦ High capacity battery for up to 30 minutes of flight
♦? Follow-Me and Tracking modes allow you to get cool shots of you… being you
♦? Reduces the insect population.
♦? CG02+ Camera and 3-axis gimbal grabs some amazing footage
♦? Slight latency in video feed
?♦ Return to home landing can be a little rough
THE FINAL WORD
Blade created an amazing camera drone when it released the Chroma. If you didn’t think it was possible to get incredible aerial camera footage because you viewed flying as impossible then this is the machine for you. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can pick up the Chroma and easily fly it with just a little bit of knowledge of flying in a safe area. I went from a shaking mess at first takeoff to a confident pilot in under thirty seconds of flight. Now with the Chroma, the views I see from the places I visit or drive by are artistic possibilities with the photo and video ability of this professional grade camera drone in one of the simplest packages available.