Most helpful critical review
70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Cool Concept, But For Now That's About All....
on October 16, 2013
I love my AR.Drone. It's a fun little quadcopter that has quite a few features. With some upgrades to it, I've been able to get over 1,000 feet of range with solid video, so flying FPV using an iPad Mini proves to be a great bit of fun.
When I got my AR.Drone, I was very interested in the idea that the Flight Recorder was bringing to the table. Flying autonomously using GPS coordinates would be awesome!!! Not to mention, it gives me yet another way to control the AR.Drone...one that would be very easy for someone with no flight experience to be able to use...just tap the map, and off it goes!!!
All of these concepts seem great...however, the execution really brings down the overall package. I'm going to come right out and say it...I don't think this product was actually ready to be released yet. Let me get into the problems I had with mine.
1. It had trouble locating the GPS satellites. I found that the only way I could get it to locate them was to unplug the battery and plug it back in over and over until I finally even got the Flight Recorder light to turn on letting me know it was trying to find satellites. I will say that once I got the light to come on, it seemed to find the satellites fairly quickly and get a bit of a position lock.
2. If you just plug the thing in, the AR.Drone's internal compass can cause some problems. Let me explain...if you don't "calibrate" the AR.Drone after putting in the Flight Recorder every single time, it will think whatever direction it's pointing is magnetic north. The problem with this is in the way that it works with the GPS and the software.
For instance, if I turn everything on with the AR.Drone facing east, it now thinks that east is north. When I plot a waypoint into the AR.FreeFlight program's map, the system does the calculations it needs to know about how far to send the AR.Drone.
So, say I plot a point that is directly north of me, but remember, the system THINKS that east is north. So the AR.Drone sets off to the east, thinking it's north. Now here's where it starts to get a bit more tricky. When it starts to realize it's heading in the wrong direction, it tries to fix this by correcting everything, however, it's still way off because it doesn't actually know which way north truly is. So what you get is an AR.Drone that's desperately trying to get to where you've told it to go, but it's basically flying blind.
What makes all of this terrible?? When I had experiences with this...even telling the AR.Drone to stop by going back into the virtual joystick control mode, it would NOT stop trying to go where it was trying to go...and this ultimately ended up in a few pretty nasty crashes.
Okay, I get it...I need to calibrate every single time before using the GPS Flight Recorder...but to me that's just a strange hassle that shouldn't be necessary, and the one time someone DOES forget to do it, they could end up with an AR.Drone in a tree (or worse).
It should be noted that this issue with the internal compass seems to be something that does NOT affect everyone's AR.Drone. I've read where several people say theirs works just fine with no calibration procedure, but it seems more than that have the problem.
3. When using the Flight Recorder in virtual joystick mode, I had SEVERAL very bad crashes where suddenly the AR.Drone just angled down, sped off in a direction, and eventually slammed itself into the ground. When this happened, none of the times was I able to get control of the AR.Drone back before it met the ground at a pretty good velocity.
The other thing of note about this is that the AR.Drone will do this regardless of what you have the angle limit set at. I typically have mine set very low (I think it's set at "8" in the app) so that it moves forward slowly and is a bit more stable. However, when the AR.Drone pitches and starts to run away, it will go to a VERY steep angle...almost to a point of being perpendicular with the ground...which it should NOT be able to do based on how I have it set up.
Let me explain what I think is happening when this goes on. (Full disclaimer, I've taken a couple of years worth of classes dealing with GPS technology, I'm no expert but I have a firm grasp of how it works)
When flying in virtual stick mode (or when tilting the control device) the AR.Drone uses the Flight Recorder to help with position lock when it's at a height that it can't use position lock with it's camera system. So, the Flight Recorder should be causing the AR.Drone to "stay put" better than if it weren't in there at all, due to the GPS location showing it where it needs to stay.
What I think occurs is that the Flight Recorder suddenly loses signal, then tries to regain it and when it does, it doesn't have a full solid reading yet, and if that reading isn't showing where you're truly at, the Flight Recorder tries to get the AR.Drone there as quickly as possible. This could potentially be the issue even if it's not losing signal, but then somehow suddenly thinks it's somewhere that it's actually not.
Let's see if I can explain this a bit better, as it's hard to put into words.
Let's put it onto a bigger scale, just to explain. Let's say you have an AR.Drone that you are flying over Florida (we won't get any more specific, as it will make sense in a second). Your Flight Recorder knows you're in Florida, because it can tell that based on the GPS signals it's getting. Now, all of the sudden, your GPS THINKS (through glitching or a loss of signal) that you're actually flying over California, but it KNOWS you want to be flying over Florida. So, what does it do?? It tries to get you back to Florida as quickly as possible, despite the fact that you are still IN Florida. So, the Flight Recorder has to move you WAY east to get the AR.Drone to where it thinks it should be (but remember, it's already there) so it sends the AR.Drone on the 3,000 mile trip east...
Now, that's all fine and dandy, except you're already in Florida when this happens...but your Flight Recorder for some reason doesn't understand that, so your AR.Drone is STILL going to speed off to the east, and in this case it will crash somewhere out in the middle of the ocean.
I hope that makes sense. For the record, when I was having these crashes with the Flight Recorder installed, I was getting them regularly. However, when flying with the Flight Recorder NOT hooked up, I could NOT replicate these crash scenarios, which is why I concluded that the Flight Recorder had something to do with this issue.
4. Finally, as reported it makes placing the hull on the AR.Drone more difficult. I ended up just flying without the hull whenever using the Flight Recorder, and it wasn't a big deal to me...but I know to others it may be.
So, in closing, I think this accessory has some great potential. Unfortunately, that's all it is right now...potential. In practice, it's a device that could cause you to break (or worse, lose) your AR.Drone because of it's finicky nature.
I'm hoping to start reading better reviews of this product in the future, and maybe I will give it another shot. However, for now, mine was sent back to Amazon for a full refund.
Two stars because WHEN it works, it's pretty cool. The problem is, that's so few and far between it's not even worth trying.