FPV made easy… Real easy!
This article was originally published in August/September 2016 issue.
UDI makes a couple of different machines that include a number of different drones as well as a few boats, but the Discovery FPV is their latest release. Packed with all the features that novices need and pros want, this little camera drone can ﬁll a vast number of roles for pilots of all types. The original Discovery drone was wildly popular and sold in mass numbers do to its rock bottom price combined with stellar performance and durability to boot. Next came the Discovery HD, adding a camera to the mix for capturing aerial photos and video. Now, to keep with the industry trends, UDI has released this FPV incarnation of the Discovery. Yes, it is WiFi and not a true 5.8GHz system, so there is some latency … but it’s 140 dollars ready to ﬂ y with two batteries and a portable power pack!! Let’s take a closer look.
MANUFACTURER: UDI RC
DISTRIBUTOR: USA Toyz
TYPE: WiFi FPV quad
FOR: Anyone but the greenest of pilots
• WiFi FPV capabilities
• RTP feature is most welcome
• Durable, crash resistant frame
• Two batteries and a spare set of props included
• Headless mode for novices
• No camera functions on the radio
• The blade guards capture any wind a little too well
I’m a big fan of the more frugally priced camera drones out there, especially one as intuitive as the UDI Discovery FPV. Key features such as Headless mode, FPV and Return To Pilot are just what the doctor ordered for novice or training pilots, but that’s only part of what makes this machine so cool. It is also very durable, easy to ﬂy, takes excellent photos and video, but best of all … it’s also tons of fun to ﬂ y. Once you’re done grabbing that sweet footage from above, you can crank up the rates on the included transmitter and go dazzle the crowd with some loops and rolls. If you’re looking for your ﬁrst drone or an inexpensive “fun” ﬂyer, the Discovery is worth a look or two.
Gravity Induction mode (via the UDI RC-FPV app) allows the user to pilot the Discovery drone using only their smart phone, no transmitter needed. This is an awesome choice when hiking or biking with your quad as there is less to carry.
Not mentioned on the UDI or USA Toyz Website, but included with our test model was a portable power pack. It features 5v USB in and out ports to allow for charging of the onboard 2600mAh battery and then to charge the ﬂight packs for the Discovery while at the ﬁ eld when USB power is not available.
Among the many features of this machine that have become standards in the industry, the Return To Pilot (RTP) function was the one that caught our interest the most. Seriously; an RTP feature in a drone that costs less than 150 dollars? Yep, and it works.
The blade guards on the Discovery drone are comprised of a super lightweight and ﬂexible composite material. This not only makes the drone look much bigger than it actually is, but it will also keep the model in the air in the event of brushing up against an obstacle.
Though the 2MP camera mounted to the belly of the Discovery is the key selling point for UDI, you can also do some aerobatic ﬂying with it. 360 degree stunts … or ﬂips and rolls in any direction are easily achieved at the push of a button.
IN THE AIR
With a bit of wind on our test ﬂight day, we were slightly concerned about the Discovery FPV’s ability to deal with it. Nevertheless, it was getting down to the wire and we needed some invaluable stick time to get acquainted with the little camera drone. Powering up the transmitter, we cycled the throttle from zero to full and back before plugging the ﬂight pack into the model. Once initialize (on a ﬂat surface), we were good to go with the ﬁrst ﬂight to get a feel for the controls. A quick glance at the LCD screen on the radio conﬁrmed we were in mode 1 (low rates), so we advanced the throttle slowly and the Discovery gently lifted off.
Even with milder winds, the little drone began to drift away from us, but a quick control test revealed that the Discovery could more than compensate for a little wind. Even in mode 1, the model is highly responsive and could assume quite a steep attitude to combat the wind. Once things calmed down a bit, we were able to put the quad through its paces. Like we said, the control authority is great in mode 1, but switching up to mode 2, the Discovery is downright fast. It’ll carve hard turns with the best camera carrying “beginner” style machines and even if you’re packing years of experience, this machine will not leave you wanting more. One thing to note, even when we were ﬂying at high rates of speed and banging the sticks around, the Discovery was quiet as a whisper, which makes it perfect for indoor sorties in larger rooms. Around the 5 minute mark, the radio began to beep, alerting us to the fact that the ﬂight pack was nearing LVC. We puttered around for a bit longer to really see what to expect for ﬂight times and ended up with a solid 6 minutes 30 seconds; just as advertised.
For our second ﬂight, we went back up with the intention of testing out the ﬂ ip function and RTP feature. The manual states that you should gain altitude and apply careful throttle management to keep the Discovery aloft after a ﬂip and they weren’t kidding. With the camera strapped to the bottom, the quad loses a bit of altitude after ﬂipping, but keeping on the throttle once it comes back around helps immensely. If you’re only planning on ﬂight in a sport manner, you could always unbolt and unplug the camera to save weight and get better ﬂipping performance. We found it especially cool to get the Discovery traveling at a high rate of speed forward and then ﬂip it backwards while still carrying forward momentum. After the freestyle portion of the event, we put the Discovery out 50 feet or so enabled Headless mode (which must be employed to use RTP) and pushed the RTP button. True to form, the little drone was coming back to us. It is important to bear in mind, again, that the Discovery is homing in on the radio in your hands, not the launch point. Using RTP, we canceled the function by moving the right stick back, front, left and right to regain manual control once it was about 20 feet from us.
After a few quick charge-ups using the supplied power pack, we were ready for some aerial media capturing! We popped the included 4GB micro SD card into the cam, ﬁ red up the UDI RC-FPV app we had previously installed on our Galaxy S6 and powered the Discovery back up. The live feed displayed on the phone was excellent and all the control icons run along the top, so you get a nice, unencumbered view of the feed, which has very little latency for a WiFi setup. As we were still ﬂying with the radio and merely controlling the camera with the phone, we hit the third button from the left to rid the screen of the digital control gimbals. Once up at altitude, we put the Discovery in a pirouette and started snapping pics. The still images were readily available right on our phone while in ﬂight, which is a nice touch if someone else is operating the camera while you ﬂy. Video was good, with a nice clear picture, but it can only be viewed after uploading the ﬁles from the card. We also found that when traveling at a high rate of speed or ﬁghting heavier winds while recording, there is a substantial amount of “jello” in the end result. On calmer occasions when the Discovery was nearly stationary, the videos were much, much better. While shooting video in zero wind, the Headless mode comes in handy as you can track an object or scene while focusing on what the camera is shooting rather than worrying about orientation.
WEIGHT: 5.6 oz (159g)
MOTORS: (4) micro brushed
RADIO: 2.4GHz 4-Channel ESCS: 3-in-1 board
PROPELLERS: (2) 5 inch CW, (2) 5 inch CCW
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: 3-in-1 board
CAMERA: 2MP stills, 1280x720p video
BATTERY: 350mAh 1S LiPo
FLIGHT TIME: 5-7 minutes
MISCELLANEOUS: 4GB Micro SD card, USB and portable power pack for charging, a spare set of props, SD card reader, spare ﬂight battery and manual are also included with each Discovery drone.
The machine itself is really only a 230mm quad wrapped in composite blade guards that combine to also form a canopy for the Discovery. This composite material is extremely light in weight and very ﬂexible. That translates to safety for those around the machine, less of a chance for a crash as the props are impossible to interfere with from the sides and best of all, the durability factor is cranked up with this quad as the plastic will bend beyond belief before cracking. That also means that the onboard circuitry is protected, even in the hardest of “landings”. There are also LED lights beneath each motor for easy orientation cues and a single LED on the nose of the Discovery to denote what mode or function is being employed at any given time.
The features found on the Discovery are pretty standard fare (but at a wallet friendly price point), with the exception of the Return To Pilot (RTP) feature. No, it is not GPS enabled, but rather, it simply ﬂ ies back to the transmitter. Bearing this in mind, the Discovery will not land itself. If you need to use the RTP function, you simply press the button on the transmitter and hold it until the drone is back in front of you so you can either land it or continue ﬂying. Headless mode is nice for those just starting out as orientation is no longer a key factor. It’s also a great tool for capturing long, sweeping shots on video while tracking moving objects or providing a great panoramic. The camera itself is 2MP for stills and shoots in 720p for HD video, all while transmitt ing in WiFi for a live feed on your phone (which is easily loaded into the tray on top of the transmitter).
The UDI RC-FPV app is among the best we’ve seen for the “ﬂy with your phone drones”. It, of course, has all the controls for the camera built into it, but much, much more. You can also ﬂy the Discovery with the phone using the app in one of two ways. “Traditional” control displays two joystick- looking icons on the screen that you actuate just as you would the gimbal sticks on the radio or you can use the “Gravity Induction” mode which uses the sensors onboard your smart device to act as the controls. Want to ﬂy forward, simply tilt the device forward and the Discovery will oblige. From the app, you also have full control of all the functions on the included radio, EXCEPT for the RTP feature. Like we said before, when Returning To Pilot, the Discovery is tracking the transmitter as it’s home point, not where it commenced its ﬂight.
There really is nothing at all to assemble with the Discovery FPV. All you have to do is supply four AA batteries for the radio, download the app and read the manual at least twice. For instructions from an overseas company, UDI knocked this manual out of the park. The booklet describes every single step, from unboxing to post ﬂight, in great detail with illustrations to match. Familiarize yourself with all the functions before going out to ﬂy for the ﬁrst time. There’s a lot more going on with this little Drone than you might expect for 140 dollars.
THE FINAL WORD
UDI has really outdone themselves in the hobbyist market with this drone. I’m not usually a big fan of the WiFi enabled machines, but when I just want to go bang around in the back yard, the Discovery FPV is the perfect model for doing so. It isn’t suited for the purest of beginners, but anyone with limited experience on smaller drones or a simulator should have no problem honing their skills to take full advantage of the speed and agility the Discovery can off er in mode 2, not to mention the ﬂips and rolls! The features and spare parts included rival and even top most of the other competitors to this model and at the price that USA Toyz and UDI are asking for it, you just can’t go wrong with it. Discover your own FPV aerial adventures with the Discovery FPV from UDI RC.