Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Flying the Cheerson Sanlianhuan CX-10C camera drone

This blog article is a companion to this youtube video on my channel.

Despite all their limitations, I like the Cheerson minidrones. They are inexpensive, rugged and fit into any jacket's pocket. So they're ideal to take with you on a walk and are great to teach the kids a thing or two about flying. Being a licensed pilot myself (well - for paragliding, that is ), I simply enjoy the occasional flight.

I have both the

  • CX-10 which used to be the world's smallest drone for some time

and  the

  • CX-10A which is a headless version of the above. The headless mode (tap the left stick 2x) takes a lot processing power off the pilot's brain and makes flying easier for the kids. 

We had a little fun with those two in the office and of course one of the first questions was:

"It doesn't have a camera, does it?"
"Naah, no way. That thing can never possibly carry a camera"

Little did I know that only a few months later, the world's smallest camera drone hit the market.
Once the price was down below the magic (German customs regulation) 22€ mark, I ordered one straight from the PRofC. It also has a CE mark on the box, which means it won't get stuck in customs for safety / EMI reasons.

Unboxing

Last week I was delighted to find that CX-10C drone in my mail.
Contents of the package

Setup

It is a little higher that the CX-10 / CX-10A and significantly heavier. I inserted a FAT32 formatted 2GByte micro SD card. - The card's contacts have to face UP when inserting.
PowerBanks are very handy to charge the CX-10C

I charged the battery from my XIAOMI power bank which has the added benefit that it turns off once the charging current drops below (TODO: measure current) mA. The charger does not appear to offer any protection against overcharging. (TODO: double check this) 
To my amazemt, the charge current drops to zero then the LED goes out. So the battery doesn not overcharge.
In all other blogs, the battery capacity is quoted as 120 mAh. On my box it clearly says: 80 mAh
Looks like it only has a 80mAh lipo cell

Flying

I took it to a nearby park for a first test. The first thing I noticed was the sluggish climb rate. The CX-10/A responds far more aggressively to the throttle. Pitch and roll are very low in the default ("junior") mode. That is great to get stable video recordings, but the copter will be blown away even in light winds.
During flips, the drone loses about 1 to 1,5 meters of height. In the older, lighter models this was very well compensated. It is still amazing that it still works, given the increased mass of the thing.

Still pictures

The stills are obviously not great.

Unprocessed still. - Original size

Video recordings

See my youtube video for some of my recordings.
Videos appear over-sharpened to me, which makes the 640x480 resolution appear better than it actually is. If the sun is low on the horizon, colours are a bit washed out.
It is amazingly good in low / artificial light.


Pros:

  • low cost (below 22€ on ebay)
  • CE mark
  • light weight / portable
  • safe - won't hurt too much if you accidentially hit someone
  • ok video quality for the money


Cons:

  • No camera gimbal, so any front/back/side movement will make the viewer seasick.
  • No headless mode. That would make it easier to concentrate on shooting video footage.
  • Poor flight-time vs charge-time ratio
  • No proper charging circuit
  • handles a bit sluggish / poor weight vs power ratio

Final word:
Yes, you want that. It's fun and it's cheap.

6 comments:

  1. I bought one. After charging I managed to get it to fly for about 2 seconds and than it stopped working. I had to turn off everything and go through the steps to start again. I can't figure out what is wrong. Any help will be appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should get at least 20m range and a few minutes of flight time. I read one report where the antenna wires had been coiled up in the enclosure (rather than being stretched out) which strongly affected the range.
      I own quite a few minidrones and the build quality is far from perfect. I had poor solder joints and pinched wires, all of which was repairable.
      But if you bought it new, I'd first ask for a replacement/refund before ripping it apart. The dealer will probably want a video showing the problem as proof.

      Delete
    2. I had a couple secs if flight time and the dealer sent me a new unit. It now flies for about 2-1/2 minutes.

      Delete
  2. I learn some new stuff from it too, thanks for sharing your information. Camera drones

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