This article was originally published in June/July 2016 issue.
While walking through the mall, I noticed a drone flying in the air with a small crowd of people standing in a circle around a kiosk manager with a radio in his hands. The crowd seemed pretty interested and all I could think to myself is “ugh, if they could only see the cool drone stuff available in the hobby world.” The storeowner’s drone looked like a handful to fly; yet he still sold a few when the demo was complete. Don’t get sucked into those mall drones. If you’re looking for the perfect ultra small drone to fly anywhere in your home, then you need to look at the newest tiny drone from Estes, the Proto-N. The Proto-N is a complete drone package meant for anyone to fly, from the person who has no clue how to fly to the pilot looking for a little drone fix while relaxing on the couch.
TYPE: Micro RTF Quad
NEEDED TO COMPLETE:
WEIGHT: .32 oz (9 g)
DIAMETER: 1.2 in. (31mm)
RADIO: Proto-N 2.4gHz transmitter
BATTERY: 80mAh 3.7V LiPo
Duratrax NiMH Rechargeable “AAA” Batteries
• Super tiny frame is great for indoor flying Easy to use and fly
• Has dual rates for nimble or quick response It flips…and flips…and flips!
• Solid frame
• Props can tweak or break easily in a crash
• This is one compact drone package. The Proto-N is so small, it fits in a small snap-lid storage case on the top of the radio; the clear case lid gives you an easy view of the tiny machine and simply snaps open and closed with a little push.
• A 2.4GHz radio controls the Proto-N with throttle, aileron, rudder and elevator flight control. Buttons on each side have function, speed rates on the left and flip-roll ability with the right button. A simple on-off switch is located on the front face with an LED light to indicate if the power is on. The unit is powered by four “AAA” batteries which are located under a snap-in, screw retained hatch. There are audible tones to indicate arming the throttle and changing maneuvers with the buttons.
• The Proto-N itself is a compact drone with a strong polypropylene body available in green, red, black or white. Upon inspection you can see
four tiny-brushed motors and a main circuit board sandwiched between the body halves. I tried to pry the body open to peek inside, but wound up breaking a tab, so I suggest not trying to peer under the body either. A switch is located on one side to turn the drone on and off and the charge tab that the included charge cord keys into is located on the back of the machine. You can see the small 80mAh battery through the bottom of the body vents along with red LED lights in the rear and blue up front to designate flying position. Also buried within the shell are a 3-axis gyro and three accelerometers for constant stability.
• The only other items in the kit are the USB charge cord that has LED lights in it to indicate charging, a set of four spare props and the user manual. All you need to pick up to fly are some AAA batteries for the radio and find a spot to plug in your USB charge adapter.
Looking for a drone to deliver instant fun no matter what your skill level or flying area is? The Estes Proto-N is pure instant fun in an ultra-tiny quad- copter package that is perfect for flying in your home or office. Whether it’s for yourself or a gift to someone, the Proto-N will keep the pilot entertained with high speeds, flips and barrel roll abilities.
In the days of ready-to-fly machines, fun comes out of the box ready to go, minus a charge and transmitter battery install and this is the case of the Proto-N. I popped the drone out of the box, plugged the included USB charger harness into my computer and then into the N. While it was charging, I removed the battery door from the transmitter, slipped in my AAA batteries and simply waited for the battery to finish charging. After a charge, all you have to do is flip the switches to turn the radio and N on, arm the throttle and you’re ready to torment your pet, err … fly around your living room.
IN THE AIR
Where to fly the Proto-N? Living room? Bedroom? Kitchen? The choices seem endless. Since the drone is so small, it can fly nearly anywhere in your house. I don’t recommend the bathroom though in case you get in trouble over the open “pond”. To fly my Proto-N, I headed down to my man cave, sat on the couch, put the N on the ottoman and throttled up for fun!
The little quad takes off nice and smooth and hovers fairly easily with the dual rates on low. I only needed slight correction of the sticks to keep it held stable in one spot. A few taps of the trims dialed the N in to needing even less correction, but I was always tweaking the stick to hover. I could tell, though, that this drone would be easy for anyone to take off and hover as long as they don’t jab the throttle to full on take-off.
Enough with the hover, it was time for figure-8’s around the support columns in the basement. With ease, I weaved in and around the poles, the bright LED lights giving me ease of visibility on which end was which. Then I tapped the button on the radio for the speed rate change and the N was moving at a high rate. The drone was way more responsive than I was comfortable with in the space, so I clicked the button until the N was in its easy-to-fly mode again. Even with the maneuverability dialed down I wanted to flip it and roll it, so I hit the right hand button on the radio, gave the N forward stick and it flipped and easily recovered. Cool! Tapped the button again and gave it some right aileron and it rolled. Very cool! With just an eight foot high ceiling I was able to easy flip and roll the N without issue. Then when my flight was over, I popped the Proto-N back in its storage case on the radio face and threw on the TV. That’s what happens in the man cave.
THE FINAL WORD
The Proto-N is small, I mean really small, but it delivers with big performance in that it’s easy to fly and has a few stunts up its sleeve to keep you well entertained. It’s nearly effortless to learn to fly the N and its flight times are long enough to deliver lots of fun. We had some pretty hard hits with the quad and although we snapped a few props, it came with spares and a set of ten extra is under five-bucks. At only thirty-five bills itself, the Proto-N is a pure bargain for the amount of drone action it pumps out. =