Hands-on with the small but feature-packed Micro Drone 3.0
After exceeding its funding target on Indiegogo, the Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 3.0, a compact drone with live video streaming, is starting to ship to backers. We recently got the chance to take a closer look at one and see if it really flies as well as it does in the promo videos. We also checked out features including its modular design and First Person View flying mode.
We've been looking forward to getting our mitts on the Micro Drone 3.0 since it was announced in June last year, and recently did so at the Toy Fair in London. However, the working unit only arrived half way though the event, and just before we had to head off, so this is by no means a full review, it's more of an early impressions/hands-on.
The first thing we noticed about the Micro Drone 3.0 was that it looks and feels like a quality bit of kit. It's slightly larger than the Micro Drone 2, and the build quality, along with the removable protective bumpers, instantly make you feel like you are dealing with a more solid device which will survive real world use, not just trade show demos.
The modular nature of the Micro Drone 3.0 is something which makes it stand out compared to rivals. Most parts of the drone can be removed and replaced, which is handy if you crash, or want to upgrade. Users can also easily attach different modules via a row of magnetic connectors at the bottom of the detachable battery. This connection feels incredibly solid, which is good, because you don't want to worry about dropping a camera module on someone's head.
While it was interesting to inspect the Micro Drone 3.0 on the table, we were far more interested to see how it flies. Unfortunately, restrictions and conditions at the Toy Fair meant we weren't able to take control of the drone ourselves. Luckily its creator, Vernon Kerswell, was on hand to show us exactly what it's capable of and sent it hurtling around the exhibition hall better than we ever could have.
The flight of the Micro Drone 3.0 proved just as smooth as in the promo videos we've seen, and better than the vast majority of rival drones of a similar size. Vernon says this is due to the sensors in the device including a 6-axis gyro. An accelerometer will also identify if the drone is upside down and automatically flip it back the right way up, meaning you can even launch it by hurling it into the air.
In terms of controls, there are a number of options. This includes using an app on your smartphone or a dedicated remote control which the Micro Drone 3 can be bundled with. Using the 2.4 GHz dedicated remote increases control range to an impressive 150 m (500 ft) which was plenty to reach across the halls at Toy Fair. With both options you can see a view from the camera (assuming you've got the streaming camera module attached and are within Wi-Fi range). If using the dedicated remote, a smartphone can be mounted on the top to see the view from the camera.
Flight times are said to be six minutes with a camera, and eight minutes without, and we found this to be correct. This little thing can also reach speeds of 45 mph (72 km/h) which feels incredibly quick. It's surprisingly quiet too, and sounds a bit like a buzzing mosquito.
There's also the option of flying with the remote while looking at that camera view using First Person View (FPV) mode with a smartphone VR viewer like Google Cardboard. To demonstrate how this works we donned the viewer while Kerswell took the controls and flew the drone around the Toy Fair. After a quick tour he hovered the drone inches from my face, it was close enough that I could feel the breeze of the rotors, and read the text on the front of my VR viewer, I was also convinced my beard became a bit shorter too.
Footage from the HD 720p camera module looked good, on both the live Wi-Fi stream and the full quality footage stored on the memory card. While you won't be creating any cinematic masterpieces with the drone, the quality is about as good as you can reasonably expect for a camera of this size and at this price point. The footage was also surprisingly stable, and that's without the optional micro gimbal which will ship later in the year.
While the HD 720p (30 fps) camera was the only module we got to see at the show, there are more in the works with other cameras being developed, along with the possibility of things like a smart module for monitoring air quality. There has even been talk of a mini nerf gun shooter module, which we love the sound of.
It's also worth mentioning the Micro Drone app for iOS (and soon Android). When controlling the drone with the app, a nice feature is that the controls will snap to wherever your digits are on the screen, meaning you don't need to take your eyes off the drone mid-flight. In addition to letting users fly their drone and view live streaming footage, settings can also be adjusted in the app, such as turning on the accelerometer and the smart orientation feature, or adjusting inertia on a sliding scale of slow to fast. There's also the option to shoot still images and record video, which can be shared post-flight.
For its size and price the Micro Drone 3.0 looks like a great little drone, and the one which impressed us most of the many on show at the Toy Fair in London. It allows users to get a taste of features more commonly associated with bigger drones, but at a more budget-friendly price. Things like the dedicated long-range remote and the smartphone control option, HD video recording and the FPV mode mean there's plenty here to play with.
If you're thinking about getting this, or any other drone, you might also want to check out our Drone School series.
Indiegogo backers should receive their Micro Drone 3.0 soon, and the drone is now available for order priced at US$175 for the Micro Drone 3.0 with a HD camera module, VR headset, professional remote control, battery and charger.
Product page: Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 3.0