Hover-1 XLS Folding Electric Scooter Brake Upgrade

| Comments

I’ve had my Hover-1 XLS Scooter for somewhere around seven months now, and I’ve put over 200 miles on it. I mostly take it on short trips to the park—most of the time I take a round trip shorter than 1.5 miles, but I do tend to make those trips almost every day.

In the time I’ve owned the scooter, my only major complaint has been the brakes. Out of the box, they didn’t stop the bike very well. I was able to adjust them, and that improved the situation a lot, but they still weren’t great.

I believe I over-adjusted the front brake, leading it to start leaking hydraulic fluid. I noticed this after I was already out of warranty. I could have attempted to get the hydraulic caliper replaced anyway, but from what my research tells me, these cheap hydraulic calipers are horrible.

If you found this post, you’re probably looking to replace a broken brake caliper on your Hover-1 XLS. I’m not going to make you read the entire post to find out what I used.

Here’s the TL;DR. I bought a pair of Shimano M375 brake calipers. They aren’t hydraulic, so they’re less prone to having weird issues. They bolt right on, and they have so much more stopping power than the stock calipers, and they’re inexpensive. I’m able to lock up the wheels and skid to a stop. I wouldn’t recommend doing so, but the original brakes certainly couldn’t do that!

The long story

Do you know the story of the boiling frog? I was that frog. My brakes were performing worse and worse until just about stopped working. By the time any replacement calipers arrived, my brakes weren’t really brakes anymore. They could reduce my speed, but they sure wouldn’t stop me!

I procrastinated quite a bit. I’m not a completely useless mechanic. On cars, I’ve replaced brakes, swapped exhaust manifolds, upgraded fuels pumps, and done all sorts of tuning. Replacing calipers on a bike should be easy, right?

Shimano M374 brake calipers on my Hover-1 XLS

My biggest problem was not knowing what to order. There seem to be all sorts of sizes and mounting options for brakes. What kind of mount does the Hover-1 XLS have? Am I going to have to replace the rotor, too? If I order the simpler non-hydraulic calipers, will I need to replace brake levers and cables, too? Ugh!

I still know very little about bicycle brakes. I just looked for a set that were meant to fit the same size brake rotors—the Shimano M375, and I eyeballed the mounting hardware in the photos. The calipers I chose were less than $20 each with free 2-day Prime shipping. Even if I didn’t or couldn’t return them, I’d only be out $20, right? It seemed worth the risk!

I only ordered one caliper. I replaced the dead, leaking front caliper, and adjusted it using the business card trick. The I went for a ride. I didn’t even wait until I got home. I ordered a second caliper to replace the rear brake while I was still at the park!

My Hover-1 XLS Folding Electric Scooter

These calipers are an amazing upgrade and simple. They’re a little more sensitive, especially compared to my dying front caliper, so they did take some getting used to.

Two months and another hundred miles later

It has been two months, 100 more miles, and a fresh set of brake calipers since I last wrote about my Hover-1 XLS scooter. Was it the right choice? Should I have bought something else?

I know this isn’t a review. If you found this post, you probably already own one of these scooters. I’m still going to give you my opinion anyway!

It is disappointing that I had to replace the brakes, and that the less modern, less complex parts work better than the original hardware. Hover-1 wanted to be able to list hydraulic brakes on their spec sheet, and they didn’t even use proper hydraulic brakes—the good ones have hydraulics right up to the brake levers.

Shimano M375 brake calipers on my Hover-1 XLS

I always tell everyone that I probably should have bought an electric kick scooter, like the Xaiomi M365. They’re nearly as fast, have almost as much range, but they weigh half as much. Loading the 50-pound XLS scooter into the back of the SUV is an awkward maneuver.

I did learn one useful trick to help loading your Hover-1 scooter into a car. If the kickstand is down when you’re folding up the bike, you can use the kickstand as a handle. Then you can grab the other end of the scooter just below the handlebars. This makes the process much less awkward!

Another good option would be converting a regular pedal bike into an e-bike. Electric conversion kits are available at Banggood for around $400, and they look pretty easy to set up. With some time and effort, you could definitely DIY a proper e-bike that won’t cost much more than the Hover-1 XLS. You’ll have a much more capable bike that way, but you’ll need to invest an unknown amount of time. Ultimately, I imagine this is the best choice.

My dirty Hover-1 XLS Scooter

All that said, I’m not unhappy with my purchase. So far, I’ve invested something short of $600 and a couple of hours into my e-bike purchase. That includes the scooter, a helmet, and the brake calipers. Weather permitting, I ride the bike almost day. I’ve probably been on around 100 journeys this year, and I expect to continue to use the e-bike just as often over the next year.

What do you think? Do you have a Hover-1 XLS? Do you enjoy it? Are you happy with your purchase? Do you have some other form of electric transportation, like the Xaiomi M365? I’d like to hear about it in the comments, or you can stop by our Discord server to chat about it!

Six Months With My Ryze Tello Photography Drone

| Comments

Back in March, I ordered a Ryze Tello photography drone. Why on Earth would I buy a toy drone for photography or video purposes?

Myself and many of my friends fly FPV racing and freestyle quadcopters. It is a ton of fun. Some of those friends have proper photography drones: a DJI Phantom 4, a Mavic 2 Pro, and a couple of DJI Sparks. These don’t seem to be any fun at all.

Especially the DJI Spark drones. They’re constantly requiring updates before they’ll allow you to fly. The updates often failed and needed to be retried. By the time they were done updating, they’d wasted half of a battery just sitting on the ground.

The DJI Spark was the only one of those drones that I’d be willing to make room for in my already overstuffed quadcopter backpack. I just didn’t want to spend $350 to experience the headaches my friends were having with their Sparks.

Why was the Ryze Tello interesting?

The Ryze Tello is $100 and makes use of some of DJI’s amazing software. It is also extremely tiny—it is the smallest drone in my backpack.

My needs are simple. I don’t need a drone that can follow someone around. I don’t need fancy panning shots. I just wanted an camera on a tripod, but I wanted that tripod to be 20 feet in the air.

I don’t need amazing video. I just wanted some B-roll for my YouTube videos. I figured I could put the Tello in the air, aim it at where my friends and I were milling about, and leave it sitting there pointing at us for five to ten minutes.

For the most part, I actually can manage to do this. Unfortunately, it is terrible. Worse than terrible.

I haven’t recorded a single usable video with my Ryze Tello

I’ve tried so many times. I don’t know why the Tello is still in my bag.

During the first few months, the biggest problem I had was lighting. The Tello is just an aerial webcam, so I didn’t expect much in the way of quality. In April, the average temperature here is nearly 80 degrees, so we almost always find a spot in the shade.

We don’t exactly sit in the dark, but it is dark enough that the Tello’s footage looks horrible. It does better if your subject is in direct sunlight on a bright day, but we don’t usually want to spend much time in direct sunlight. Spending hours in the sun is how we get burned!

When we had cooler days, I made sure to spend some time flying my FPV quads while I was standing in some good lighting. The video I recorded is almost worth using. Almost.

This is the biggest problem with the Ryze Tello. It doesn’t record to local storage. All footage is streamed over WiFi and recorded by your phone.

Don’t let the Tello get too far away from your phone!

The farther the Tello is from your phone, the more often it drops frames. It doesn’t just drop frames, though. Your bitrate gets lower as distance increases. When the bitrate drops, the video becomes a useless, blocky mess.

I’ve sort of gotten around this by planting the Tello in the air and leaving my phone directly underneath it. It helps with the bitrate, but it is still far from perfect.

When you’re playing back your video, you can see every keyframe in the video. That’ll be the frame where everything looks crystal clear. Then everything gets blurrier and fuzzier until the next keyframe. This repeats every few seconds.

The Tello is often bad at holding its position

I’ve flown plenty of toy quadcopters with tiny brushed motors, just like the Ryze Tello. They don’t do well in the wind. That’s fine. That was to be expected.

The Tello uses a camera on its underside to help it hold position. It needs something to focus on. If you’re out in a grassy field, you’re in trouble. Dropping something large under the Tello seems to help, but it isn’t perfect.

It drifts quite a bit while attempting to record 10 minutes of video. I’ll often find that it aimed at my friends and I for two or three minutes, then it starts to yaw to the right, and it continues to slowly yaw for the rest of the video. It doesn’t take long before we’re completely out of frame.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a toy drone to fly around and play with, the Ryze Tello isn’t terrible, but there are much better toys. The Eachine E010 has no camera, but it is only $13. The Eachine E013 with extremely basic FPV goggles is about $60, and the bigger Eachine FlyingFrog with the same FPV goggles is $88. These are all a lot more fun than the Tello, and they’re much better stepping stones into the world of FPV racing or freestyle!

If you’re looking for a very basic, low-end photography platform, you should look elsewhere. I would be extremely pleased with the Tello at $99 if it recorded video to local storage. I don’t care if I have to add an SD card, or if it had a few hundred megabytes of on-board storage. Without local storage, the Tello is essentially useless for me.

The Tello’s ability to hold position outdoors is impressive considering its size—it would be difficult to do much better with this form factor. That ability is completely wasted if you can’t manage to capture a clean video.

Do you own a Ryze Tello? Have you managed to capture any compelling video with it? Are you using one of its competitors, like the Xiaomi MiTu? Let me know what you think in the comments, or stop by our Discord server to chat about it!

Why Did I Buy an Electric Bike? The Hover-1 XLS Folding Scooter

| Comments

Six months ago, we moved into a new house. Plano, TX has some amazing parks, and my friends and I make good use of them—we regularly fly our FPV racing quadcopters at these parks. There are miles of bike trails running through those parks, and those bike trails go right past some of our favorite flying spots. Best of all, those bike trails are now just a few hundred feet from our new house!

I thought I had a brilliant idea—I needed to buy a bike. Then I remembered that I live in Texas. In July, it is 105 degrees outside most days. When we go out flying in that kind of weather, I’m ready to pack up and get back in the car before I finish flying my first battery. Did I really want to pedal a bike for a couple of miles, get all sweaty and sticky, and then start flying drones?

I think I’m too old to learn to ride an electric skateboard, so I started researching electric scooters. I had my eye on box the Xiaomi M365 and the Razor E300 electric scooters. The Xiaomi scooter is the better of these two scooters, but it costs about twice as much as a Razor. I guess these sorts of contraptions are referred to as kick scooters, but these two don’t require the kicking.

Then my friend Brian noticed that meh.com has selling the Hover-1 XLS scooter for $550—about $300 off the usual price. Until then, I wasn’t in a hurry to choose a scooter, but deals at meh.com are only good for 24 hours!

The Hover-1 XLS weighs twice as much as the Xiaomi, but it also has a higher advertised top speed and range. I didn’t think the weight would be a big deal—I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve loaded the XLS into a car. I thought the additional range might come in handy, and having a seat seems like a bonus. Both upgrades seemed worth the extra $100.

You probably already guessed that I wound up buying the Hover-1 XLS scooter from meh.com.

Where do you use a scooter like this?

Not on the road, that’s for sure. At least not around here. My neighborhood is surrounded by a trio six-lane roads to the north, south, and west. To the east, there’s a busy two-lane road. I wouldn’t ride anything like a bike on any of those busy streets.

I’m getting a lot of mileage just using the nearby bike trails. I ride out to the park almost every day to fly. The two most common spots that I fly aren’t far away. One is a 1.5 mile round trip, the other is less than half that distance.

One of those spots can’t be reached by car. If we drove, we’d have to walk at least 1,500 feet. That’s at least five minutes of walking while carrying all our gear—my backpack full of drone gear is nearly 30 pounds! None of us want to walk. We want to fly—we do enough walking when we crash.

Does the Hover-1 XLS really have a 15 mile range?

Not in my experience. One day, I decided to see just how far my city’s bike trails actually go. The maps around the park claim there are six or seven miles worth of trails. I didn’t take a direct route, though. I explored several dead ends, and I didn’t start with a full battery—I had taken a 1.5 mile trip from the day before, and I didn’t charge the battery.

I crossed under a highway about six miles into my journey. When I looked up, I could see the sign stating that the folks heading north were about to cross into the next city. The path crossed underneath the freeway, and I was able to follow the path south for about a quarter mile. That’s when I decided to turn around to head home—I hadn’t even flown any of my quads yet!

I made it another two or three miles before I ran out of battery. I was surprised, because the display claimed I still had nearly half my battery remaining. I had to push the bike nearly half a mile and wait for my wife to come pick me up. It was 98 degrees outside that day. Pushing this bike in the sun was not fun! Especially since I was hunched over the handlebars while being weighed down by my heavy backpack.

Hover-1 XLS Folding Electric Scooter

I don’t know for certain how far I rode on that charge. The trip odometer automatically resets when you turn off the bike, and I stopped to wander around off the trail several times. Before stopping the first time, though, I subtracted the current reading of the trip odometer from the main odometer, so I was able to do some math when I got home.

I rode 7.6 miles that day. Adding the 1.5 mile trip from the previous day puts my total at 9.1 miles. There’s a slim chance that I had not just one 1.5 mile trip already logged on that charger, but I don’t believe that I did, and I have no plans to repeat this process to find out for sure!

I’m heavy, and the Hover-1 XLS hates hills

I’m about 6’ tall and 220 pounds. I had to pack light the day I ran out of juice—my backpack was only 12 pounds.

I grew up in a rather hilly city in Pennsylvania. When I was a kid, riding away from my house on my dirt bike was awesome—it was all down hill! Riding back up the hill to repeat the fun was an arduous task. When I was small, I was barely heavy enough to exert enough force to push the pedal down when trying to get back up that hill. Even when I got bigger, that hill was still tiresome.

Eight-year-old me would consider the entirety of my local bike trail to be quite flat. The Hover-1 XLS disagrees.

On flat ground, I have no trouble riding at 17 or 18 miles per hour. On much of my nine mile journey, though, I was lucky to reach 12 miles per hour at full throttle. The inclines weren’t all that steep, but it took everything the Hover-1 had just to keep going.

I bet it is possible to reach 15 miles with the Hover-1 XLS, but I never will. I’m at full throttle more often than not. I might be able to manage ten of my usual 1.5 mile round trips on a single charge if I keep the speed more reasonable, but I have no intention of trying.

Is the Hover-1 XLS worth $500?

If you live somewhere hilly, you won’t be able to use it at all. If I rode my Hover-1 XLS away from my parents’ old house in Scranton, I would have to push it home. It would never have enough power to make it up that hill. I’d also be terrified going down that hill. The brakes on the Hover-1 XLS work reasonably well—especially after adjusting them, but they aren’t spectacular.

UPDATE: The brakes on the Hover-1 XLS are pretty bad. My front brake caliper failed, but that might have been my fault. I wound up replacing both calipers on my Hover-1 XLS with simple mechanical calipers made by Shimano. They’re less than $20 each, and they stop the scooter so much better. It is like night and day!

You may be a braver soul than I am, but I would never ride this thing on roads with any sort of traffic. Then again, I wouldn’t ride any sort of bike on those same roads, so I may not have the best opinion here.

Hover-1 XLS Folding Electric Scooter

So far, the Hover-1 XLS is shaping up to be a good investment for me. I haven’t been keeping a log of my journeys, so I’ve just done some simple math. I have put a little over 100 miles on my bike so far, and my most common journey is a 1.5 mile round trip. I’ve made a few longer journeys, but I often take it to a spot that’s not more than a quarter mile away. My average journey may not actually me 1.5 miles, but I’m going to assume it is for simplicity’s sake.

As of today, each trip to go flying at the park has cost me about $7.50. If I continue to go to the park five days each week, that cost will be down to about $4.00 per trip by the end of the year. By this time next year, I’ll be under $2 per trip. Will the bike survive that long? Only time will tell.

Money is only part of the value

Things were different when I had to drive a car to the park. If I only had time to fly one or two batteries, I wouldn’t bother going out. I didn’t want to load up the car, drive to the park, walk to some shade, and unpack all my stuff for just ten or fifteen minutes of flying.

Hopping on the bike feels a lot quicker and more efficient. Once I pick up my backpack and start heading for the garage, I know I’ll be at the park powering down my bike in about five minutes. I don’t think it actually takes much longer when driving, but it feels like a much bigger task.

It is unlikely that I would actually take my quadcopters to the park every day if I had to drive.

That’s not the only advantage, though. I’m flying at new spots that I would never bother to walk to. There’s a small field with a few trees less than 500 feet from my house. If I were driving, I would never fly in this field—it is too boring for that kind of effort.

It is an awesome spot to ride the e-bike to, especially on a hot day. The bike path goes under a bridge. I can set up my chair under the bridge where there’s a lot of shade. There’s no grass under there, so there aren’t as many bugs, either. It works out great if I just want to fly a few quick batteries.

There’s another spot I fly that is nearly two miles away on my e-bike. It is a fantastic little parking lot for flying micro quads. It is awesome, because the parking lot is closed most of the time, so there are never any cars there. If we wanted to drive there, we’d have to park over a quarter of a mile away.

I wouldn’t fly there if I had to drive!

What about electric kick scooters and skateboards?

My friend Alex has a Meepo electric skareboard, and he wrote an excellent review of it. The Meepo is smaller, lighter, and faster than my Hover-1 bike. Its advertised range is lower, but I bet Meepo’s estimate is more conservative.

I am over 40 years old now. I’ve never had a skateboard. When I was a kid, we all had BMX-style bikes, and we were constantly outside riding them when it wasn’t raining or snowing. I’m comfortable riding a bike. I’d be comfortable riding a kick scooter. I don’t think I should attempt to learn to ride a skateboard.

Loading the Hover-1 e-bike into a car is a pain. 50 pounds doesn’t sound heavy, but when it is folded the shape and weight distribution make it rather unwieldy. It won’t fit in the trunk of a small car, so you end up having to slide it into the back seat. That means you’ve got to push it in while leaning way over in an attempt to take weight off the far end so that it will slide—not ideal at all.

A skateboard would be so much easier. I could pick it up and carry it short distances. I could throw it in the trunk without any real effort.

A kick scooter, like the Xiaomi M365 would have been a good compromise for me. It would be half the weight of my Hover-1 XLS, and much easier to hoist into our little SUV. I don’t need the extra potential range or speed of my Hover-1 XLS—most of my trips are less than a mile away.

If you had to do it over, would you buy the Hover-1 XLS again?

I think I would make that choice again, but I’d be tempted by the lighter, cheaper, smaller Xiaomi M365. The Hover-1 XLS has serve me well so far, and I think it will continue to do a good job into the future.

My wife just bought a 21-speed bike. A regular bike with manual pedals. It isn’t anything fancy—just one of the cheapest hybrid bikes we could find on Amazon. If she sticks with it, we’ll know what features are important to her, and then we can invest in the right bike. For now, this will do.

I followed her on my Hover-1 XLS the first time she went out. The first thing I noticed was how slowly we were moving. I’m used to cruising along the bike path at 15 miles per hour, but we weren’t even going half that speed most of the time.

I took her bike for a test drive. The e-bike definitely has me spoiled. Pedaling was so much more work! It doesn’t help that her bike is set up for someone a full twelve inches shorter than I am. I only rode a little over a mile, and my knees were unhappy—they have to bend quite far when the seat is so low!

I’m definitely happier with my electric bike. I say the same thing all the time. I don’t want to be tired and sweaty before I arrive at a flying spot with my quadcopters. I’d also prefer not to have to pedal my way home after walking a mile in the hot Texas sun searching for crashed drones. Some days I end up crashing a lot!

Conclusion

Sometimes I buy a new toy, gadget, or tool, and I immediately tell everyone I know that they have to get one. If they’re exciting enough, I’ll start giving them as gifts right away. The Hover-1 XLS folding scooter isn’t one of those toys.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy with my purchase. It meets my needs, and I use it almost every day. I started writing this post when the scooter had just short of 100 miles on it. Today, it has over 120. It just isn’t perfect.

The brakes aren’t great, even after adjusting them. It is a bit too heavy. Its range is good enough most of the time, but I’d like more. At around $500, though, the price is just about right for what you get, but I feel like they could have equipped it with better brake hardware at this price point.

Do you have a Hover-1 XLS or Xiaomi M365 scooter? What do you think of it? Do you prefer some other mode of electric transportation? Tell me about it in the comments!

Full Speed Leader 3 Micro FPV Racing Drone

| Comments

Back in December, I bought a Leader 120 micro quad. It was a fantastic deal. It was on sale for $85 at the time, and I just couldn’t pass it up. It had a few shortcomings—an under-powered 25mw VTX, and a low-end FPV camera. I figured it would be a good upgrade over my aging, beat-up KingKong 90GT.

The Leader 120 was an amazing upgrade. It has way more power than my old KingKong 90GT—even when using the same 550 mAh 2S batteries. I upgraded to a set of Infinity 550 mAh 3S for $8 a-piece, and that really opened up the Leader 120. It wasn’t quite as capable as my 5” racing quads, but it wasn’t far off, and it was tons of fun.

The Leader 3

About a month ago, I saw the Leader 3 show up on Banggood.com. It wasn’t in stock yet, but I was intrigued, and I told myself I would order one as soon as they started shipping.

It looked like a worthy upgrade over my Leader 120. The Leader 3 has a VTX that can be controller by the Betaflight OSD and dialed up to 600 mw. At first, the 25 mw VTX on the Leader 120 didn’t bother me much. If you crash too far away with a micro drone, they’re extremely hard to find. At some point, I added a Crossfire Nano receiver module to my Leader 120. That really made the 25 mw VTX feel limiting.

The Leader 3 has a much better camera—a Caddx Turbo F1. I often have to stop flying my Leader 120 in the evening due to a lack of light. The extra dynamic range and faster exposure adjustment on the Caddx Turbo F1 let me transition from flying above and below trees much more easily.

That would have been enough of an upgrade to justify the purchase for me, but it doesn’t end there. The 1106 motors on the Leader 3 are 50% larger than the 1104 motors on the Leader 120, and the frame is big enough to accommodate 3” propellers. The Leader 3 also comes equipped with an F4 flight controller and more capable ESCs.

How does the Leader 3 fly?

I was happy that I bought the Leader 3 less than a minute into the first flight. It flies more like a 5” quad than any micro I’ve ever flown. It is more stable than the Leader 120. The wind doesn’t knock it around as much—you wouldn’t think an extra 20 grams would make such a big difference there.

I was power looping trees and hitting gaps with confidence right away. The stock tune is pretty locked in, too. Snap flips and rolls are quite sharp with no bounce back. I haven’t experienced much in the way of propwash oscillation, except on a very windy day.

When flying on a 3S 550 mAh battery, the Leader 3 is very responsive. It has more bottom end power than the Leader 120. I haven’t taken the radar gun to the Leader 3 yet, but I have a feeling it has a lower top speed than the Leader 120 on the same battery. It isn’t a big gap in top speed, but it is almost certainly there.

I’m sure the Leader 3 has a higher top speed on 4S!

You’re running 3S batteries? Why not 4S?

I already have five 550 mAh 3S batteries that I used on the Leader 120. I had to solder XT30 connectors on each of them, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to buy new batteries.

The Leader 3 does support 4S. That means I have to give it a try, but I don’t think it will be ideal. I’ve heard of a few instances of 4S batteries burning out motors on Leader 3 quads, but I believe they were all with earlier versions of the motors.

The Leader 3’s 1106 motors are 4500 KV. That’s just a bit lower than ideal when running 3S on 3” props. My Leader 3 has a lot more oomph on the low end, but doesn’t seem to reach the same maximum speeds as my Leader 120. The KV of the motors is the reason for this.

If you’re going to run 4S, you should probably stick to 2.5” props. I’d recommend the Gemfan 2540—they’re fantastic props!

As I said, I will be sticking with 3S. I don’t want the fastest micro quad in the world. I want something that flies as much like my 5” miniquads as possible, and I’d like it to be durable and reliable.

Which batteries should you buy?

I wouldn’t buy my Infinity 550 mAh batteries again. They have the wrong power connector, and there are cheaper, better alternatives now with much faster shipping.

You can get a 3-pack of 450 mAh 3S batteries with XT30 connectors from China Hobby Line for $24. They have free shipping on orders over $50, and I usually get my batteries in less than a week.

I’ve been flying 5S 1300 mAh packs from China Hobby Line since February. I’m still flying most of those batteries today. The only one that isn’t still airworthy is one that got smashed in a crash.

If I have to buy new batteries for my Leader 3, China Hobby Line batteries will be my choice.

What makes a quadcopter durable?

The lighter your quad, the less inertia it has when moving through the air. The lower the inertia, the less force it will take on impact when you smash into a tree or concrete.

My Leader 3 weighs 156 grams with a 550 mAh 3S battery, a Crossfire Nano RX, and a TBS Immortal T antenna.

My friend Brian bought a heavier micro quad—a Diatone GT M3. Its 1408 motors each weigh about 10 grams more than the motors on the Leader 3. Not only is Brian flying a heavier 3” quadcopter, but he also has to equip it with a heavier battery. With a 450 mAh 4S battery, his GT M3 is somewhere around 200 grams. That’s a light battery. The 650 mAh CNHL packs he usually runs put his micro quad at more than 230 grams.

Brian’s Diatone GT M3 is nearly 50% heavier than my Leader 120, so all his crashes put significantly more stress on the quadcopter. In fact, he destroyed a bearing in one of his motors the first day he flew his Diatone quad!

A lighter quad will also do less damage to property when you inevitably crash into something.

Why fly a micro? Don’t 5” miniquads fly better?

The performance and handling gap between 3” and 5” quads is closing, but a 5” still wins by a large margin. The larger quads are more stable in the air, and they don’t get knocked around when it is windy. 5” quads are also much better for freestyle flying, because you can use their huge momentum to huck them over objects like launching a pumpkin out of a trebuchet.

I fly my 5” and 6” quads most of the time, but I always keep a micro quad in my backpack. It was inexpensive. It doesn’t weigh much. It doesn’t take up much space. A set of six batteries for the micro weigh less than a single battery for my 5” quads. It would almost be silly not to carry a micro quad in my giant backpack!

When do I fly my micro quad? Sometimes you’re out flying, and the location gets busy. If a park has too many people wandering around, flying a 5” miniquad can be dangerous and quite a nuisance. Nobody notices a micro quad flying around, and it is unlikely to send someone to the emergency room if something goes wrong.

And sometimes you just don’t want to risk a $450 quadcopter and a $200 GoPro HERO5 Session in a flight over a lake!

Propellers

The Leader 3 comes with a set of HQ 3x3x3 v1s props. They’re fantastic props. They feel great, they fly great, and they’re quite sturdy. I wanted to buy more, but I had trouble finding them. Every set I found for sale were for motors with a single hole to fit a motor with a 5mm shaft. I couldn’t find any 3-hole versions of the prop.

I decided to try the EMAX Avan 3024 props. They’re available at Amazon with Prime shipping, they’re reasonably priced, and they looked interesting.

The Avan props have a more aggressive-looking profile than the HQ props even though they claim to have a gentler pitch. The Avan props are shaped kind of like the Racekraft 5051 props—they are wide and aggressive near the hub while narrowing out towards the tip.

The Avan props are lighter and more flexible than the HQ props. I have to bend them back into shape after the majority of my crashes, but I’m quite pleased with how they fly. I expected them to be more efficient than the HQ props, but they’re so similar that I can’t tell the difference.

Should you buy a Leader 3?

In the early days, I thought that the Leader 120 was a fantastic value—it was constantly on sale for about $85! After mine arrived, and I got to fly it, I realized that it was still an amazing value at $100 to $120.

The Leader 3 is only a few dollars more, and you’re getting so much more for your money today. It has all the features of a modern 5” quad—a 600mw VTX with Smartaudio control, a quality CMOS camera, and an F4 flight controller. That’s pretty much everything my premium 5” and 6” miniquads are equipped with.

There are more powerful and faster micro quads that fly better than the Leader 3. They cost more, they’re heavier, and they require bigger batteries. You’ll pay less for your Leader 3, you’ll pay less for your batteries, and the lighter weight will make it harder to break things.

If you’re like me, you don’t need or want the fastest, premium micro drone. You want something that flies smoothly and is inexpensive to operate. Something you can put dozens and dozens of batteries through without requiring any serious repairs. That’s the Leader 3.

Do you agree? Is a little 3S micro quad with 1106 motors a good choice? Or do you prefer heavier micro with 1408 motors and a big 4S battery? Tell me your thoughts in the comments, or stop by our Discord server and chat with me about it!

Adding Another Disk to the RAID 10 on My KVM Server

| Comments

My NAS is a virtual machine hosted on my home KVM server. My KVM server has a RAID 10 array composed of two 4 TB drives. This gives me a measly 4 TB of usable disk space, and I can share that space with other computers in the house. Since it is a Linux MD RAID 10, it is super easy to add a third drive when I run out of space—at least, it should have been! I hit a roadblock in March, but we’ll talk about that later.

My NAS VM was spacious in 2015. I had more than 2 TB of free disk space available. The only thing that was steadily consuming more and more of my disk space was the constantly growing collection of RAW files from my Canon 6D DSLR. I was only taking about 120 GB worth of photos each year, so it seemed like I had quite a way to go.

In 2017, I started flying FPV quadcopters. It is a ton of fun, but I was saving a lot of video. My early quads weren’t powerful enough to comfortably carry a GoPro camera, so all my footage was standard definition video captured on my goggles. Even these small files were enough to really start eating into my free space.

This year, I started recording GoPro footage. A day of flying usually generates at least 15 GB of new video, and when the weather is nice, I fly three or four times a week.

In late February, I noticed that I was down to less than 400 GB of free space. It was time to add another disk. One more 4 TB drive would bring my RAID 10 from 4 TB to 6 TB of usable space. I figured an extra 2 TB would tide me over for nearly two years.

I hit a roadblock in March

I was excited when my third 4 TB disk arrived. I cracked the KVM box open, put the drive in, and got to work adding it to my RAID 10.

Except I couldn’t add it to my RAID 10. Why can’t I grow my RAID 10? I’ve done this countless times in the past! What’s going on here?

1
2
3
4
root@kvm:~# mdadm --add /dev/md1 /dev/sde1 
mdadm: added /dev/sde1
root@kvm:~# mdadm --grow /dev/md1 --raid-devices=3
mdadm: Cannot reshape RAID10 in far-mode

I created my original RAID 10 with far-copies. I chose far-copies, because the layout optimizes the disks for sequential reads. Writes are slower than the default near-copies, but read speeds are closer to the speed of RAID 0.

Unfortunately, you cannot reshape an array that is using far-copies. I had to convert to near-copies, but you can’t do that directly. I knew what I had to do, but it was going to be a pain in the butt—mostly because I had to open the server again!

I had to put another mirrored pair of disks into a fresh MD RAID device, add that new device to original Volume Group, and then use pvmove to migrate the data off of the original pair of disks.

Then I had to reverse the process. I tore down the original RAID 10 and recreated it with near-copies, added the new RAID to the Volume Group, and ran the pvmove in the opposite direction. Once that was done, I was able to remove the temporary disks from the Volume Group and tear down that array.

I have no good documentation of this part of the process. At this point, I am back to where I should have been when I started down this path in March—everything was super easy from this point on!

Adding a disk to a Linux RAID 10 array

The title of this section is a little misleading. There isn’t just a RAID 10 block device that needs resizing. There’s a Physical Volume (PV) that needs to grow, there’s a Logical Volume (LV) that also needs to grow, and there’s a file system on that LV that needs to grow.

Then I need to add more disk space to my NAS VM!

I’ll list the steps here, and then I’ll go into more detail.

  • Partition the new disk
  • Use mdadm to add the new partition to the RAID 10
  • Use mdadm to change the layout from 2 disks to 3 disks
  • Use pvresize to grow the PV
  • Use lvresize to grow the appropriate LV
  • Grow the EXT4 file system on that LV (lvresize will handle this)

At this point, the RAID 10 is roughly 50% larger, and the file system where my virtual disk images live has been appropriately expanded.

I had to go through a few more steps, because I needed to expand the storage of my NAS VM.

So what does this process look like?

I’ve done quite a poor job of saving my terminal output for this blog. I didn’t save the output of my work with fdisk, and I didn’t save the pvresize and lvextend output.

I can’t easily recreate accurate fdisk output, but I can at least show you the commands that I used. I’ll try to do better when I run out of storage next year!

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
root@kvm:~# mdadm --add /dev/md1 /dev/sde1 
mdadm: added /dev/sde1
root@kvm:~# cat /proc/mdstat 
Personalities : [raid1] [raid10] [linear] [multipath] [raid0] [raid6] [raid5] [raid4] 
md1 : active raid10 sde1[2](S) sdd1[1] sdc1[0]
      3906885632 blocks super 1.2 2 near-copies [2/2] [UU]
      bitmap: 5/30 pages [20KB], 65536KB chunk

md0 : active raid1 sda2[1] sdb2[0]
      243090240 blocks super 1.2 [2/2] [UU]
      
unused devices: <none>

At this point, I have added sde1 to my existing RAID 10 device. You can see that sde is followed by (S). That means that sde1 is currently configured as a hot spare. If sdc1 or sdd1 fail, the MD device will use sde1 in place of the problematic device.

This isn’t our intention. We want to store live data on sde1.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
root@kvm:~# mdadm --grow /dev/md1 --raid-devices=3
root@kvm:~# cat /proc/mdstat 
Personalities : [raid1] [raid10] [linear] [multipath] [raid0] [raid6] [raid5] [raid4] 
md1 : active raid10 sde1[2] sdd1[1] sdc1[0]
      3906885632 blocks super 1.2 512K chunks 2 near-copies [3/3] [UUU]
      [>....................]  reshape =  0.0% (146816/3906885632) finish=443.4min speed=146816K/sec
      bitmap: 8/22 pages [32KB], 131072KB chunk

md0 : active raid1 sda2[1] sdb2[0]
      243090240 blocks super 1.2 [2/2] [UU]
      
unused devices: <none>
root@kvm:~# 

Now I have told mdadm that I want to grow /dev/md1, and I want to grow that array two three disks. The (S) is now gone from sde1, and the array immediately began reshaping.

You’ll notice that the number of blocks in the array is still 3906885632. When you create a fresh array, it is usable immediately. When will our RAID 10 grow?

I believe it happens as soon as every single block from the original devices has been moved to its new home. In the case of going from two disks to three disks, that should be shortly after the 66% mark.

I wasn’t present when the array officially grew, but I was here in the 90% range. By then, it had already grown to 5860328448 blocks.

We’re not done yet. The underlying block device has grown, but LVM and my EXT4 file system don’t know that yet.

1
root@kvm:~# pvresize /dev/mapper/raid10_crypt

I’m sorry I don’t have any output for this commant. raid10_crypt is a LUKS encrypted block device sitting on top of my /dev/md1. /dev/md1 is my RAID 10 array.

You don’t have to tell pvresize how much to resize the PV. It will detect the size of the underlying device, /dev/md1 in this case, and it will resize accordingly.

There are three layers to LVM. The Physical Devices sit on the bottom. Volume Groups are made up of one or more Physical Devices, and those Volume Groups can be sliced up into Logical Volumes. You can think of Logical Volumes as partitions.

You don’t have to resize Volume Groups. They know how big their Physical Volumes are. When you grow the PV, you will immediately see more free space in your VG.

I do have an LV that I need to extend, and it contains a file system that needs to grow as well.

1
root@kvm:~# lvextend /dev/raid10_crypt_vg/kvm -r -L +2000G

kvm is a Logical Volume in my raid10_crypt_vg Volume Group. The kvm LV contains an EXT4 file system. The -r flag tells lvextend to resize the file system. The -L +2000G flag tells lvextend to make the LV about 2 TB larger. That leaves me with 326 GB free in this Logical Volume.

At this point, all the hard work is done!

This looks like a lot of work. How long did this take?

Correcting my far-copies mistake felt like it took forever. It took months! I had to borrow a hard drive. Then I had to help my friend Brian move to a new house. Then I had to buy Brian’s old house. Then I had to move into Brian’s old house. Then I had to deal with four weeks with a useless Internet connection.

For the purposes of this blog post, I’d like to assume that I created this RAID 10 three years ago using the default of near-copies. If we make that assumption, the upgrade was a breeze.

The only bummer is waiting for the RAID 10 to reshape long enough for it to increase in size. If you ignore that, it took less time to run the various mdadm, pvresize, and lvextend commands than it took to install the new hard drive!

FreeNAS and ZFS do this for me! Why would I want to use LVM?

You can’t do this with ZFS. Once a zpool is created, you can’t add new drives to it. You can either replace all of your existing disks with larger drives, or you can create an additional zpool.

Let’s say you’re using RAID-Z2 with six 4 TB disks in your zpool. You will be dedicating two disks worth of data to parity. That’s 8 TB of parity and 16 TB of usable disk space.

If you create a second identical zpool, you’ll be dedicating an additional 8 TB to parity. This will bring you up to 16 TB of parity and 32 TB of usable disk space.

Now lets say I do the equivalent with MD and LVM. I create a RAID 6 array with six 4 TB drives. I’ll end up with 8 TB of parity and 16 TB of usable disk space. So far, this is just like RAID-Z2.

Now I want to upgrade. I can add additional drives to my RAID 6 device. I can add four more disks, and I’ll have 8 TB of parity and 32 TB of usable disk space. If I added the full six disks, I’d be at 8 TB of parity and 40 TB of usable space.

ZFS has no trouble growing upward, but ZFS’s inability to grow outward forces you into a particular upgrade path. Every time I run out of space, I can just add one more disk to my array. ZFS either forces you to plan ahead, or forces you into a bigger investment when you suddenly run out of disk space.

I’m ignoring many of ZFS’s cool features

ZFS is fantastic. It checksums every block on every disk. It is a copy-on-write file system, and that means you get lightweight snapshots. You don’t have to decide how much space to dedicate to a volume, either. That’s handy!

I understand why growing arrays isn’t a feature in ZFS. ZFS was meant to live on expensive servers in huge data centers. I’ve worked in big shops before. It was rare that we upgraded anything. We just spent lots of money to make sure each machine was equipped to function for two or three years, then we replaced the hardware.

I tend to be more frugal at home. I’d like to have ZFS’s checksums, but I also don’t want to guess at my data storage needs for the next three years. Things changed for me, and my calculations all went out the window anyway!

I’d prefer not to buy six disks when I only need two. Saving $600 or more up front is nice. Not having a bunch of unnecessary disks spinning away 24 hours a day in my server is even nicer.

Hard disks fail. The older they get, the more likely they are to fail. Why put all those miles on four extra disks when I can put fresh disks in as I run out of space?

Conclusion

I am getting off topic. I could fill a rather long blog post with ZFS vs. MD/LVM. I will have to put that on my to-do list. It would be a good topic!

I don’t like writing how-to posts, even more so on advanced topics. I also don’t enjoy using too much hand waving in the middle of a post, either. My hope is that I managed to strike a reasonable balance in this post—especially considering that I didn’t save quite enough terminal output for you to follow along on a perfect step-by-step journey!

Just remember. If you want to be able to grow your Linux MD RAID 10 arrays, you have to create them with near-copies. Thankfully, this is the default, so most of you should be fine!

Have you made my mistake before? Are you using LVM at home on your VM host or NAS? Do you think I’m out of my mind? Do you have any questions? Leave a comment, or stop by our Discord server and have a chat!

Six-Inch Hyperlite Flowride Quad

| Comments

Remember when I posted my FPV quad builds for 2018? I figured I wouldn’t be building another quad until the second half of the year, but I just couldn’t wait that long. The calendar barely rolled over to April, and I was already building another!

I should start by saying that my pair of OwlRC Dragon quads are still flying great! I did manage to damage one motor on each quad. I was able to keep them both flying fine for a while, but I kept having to enable more and more filtering. I finally gave in, found the bad motors, and replaced them. The notch filters are turned off again, and they’re both flying great!

The downtime was disconcerting, though. I pushed the F40 Pro V2 quad’s bad motor far enough that it started acting really wonky. By the time I was repairing that quad, the ZMX FinX30 quad wasn’t acting quite right, either. I felt like I didn’t have anything to fly for over a week. It was time to add a third 5S-capable quad to my bag.

If I built this quad in April, why am I writing about it in June?!

I had a pretty serious hiccup. The Kakute F4 that I used in this build was faulty. On one of my first batteries, I had an extremely gentle crash. I hit the grass, and the motors stopped spinning. The OSD stopped updating. I couldn’t arm or disarm. I unplugged the battery, and everything was fine.

I had other similar incidents, but those crashes were usually a bit harder—no harder than the punishment I’ve put my other Kakute F4 quads through. One day, I was flying under a picnic table, and my GoPro just barely touched the bottom of the seat. The quad fell 6 inches to the ground and had to be power cycled.

Then it started locking up when doing snap flips and rolls. Sporadically at first, but then on almost every flip. I eventually replaced the flight controller, and it is flying great again.

We were in the process of buying and moving into a new house at the end of April and into May. I didn’t have as much time as I’d like for flying. I really didn’t have enough time to repair a quad, especially when the other two were flying just fine.

At least this was a good excuse to try Butterflight on a Helio Spring flight controller!

The Hyperlite Flowride

Ever since I started flying with a GoPro HERO5 Session, I’ve been interested in trying a frame that allows for a top-mounted battery. All of my 5” miniquads have had bottom-mounted batteries. That felt fine to me, until I tried strapping a GoPro on top. Rolls and flips felt like spinning a dumbbell. The center of gravity is close to the center, but the bulk of the weight is on the outsides.

It felt terrible on my Shuriken X1. It felt even worse on the less powerful BFight 210. Fortunately for me, my heavy, angry 5S quads have no trouble using their sheer power to muscle themselves through flips and rolls. That’s not efficient, though!

Hyperlite Flowride

Putting both the battery and GoPro on top may move the center of gravity much closer to the top, but it moves all that weight closer to the center. Snappy flips and rolls are much easier that way.

I decided to order a Hyperlite Flowride. A few days later, the Hyperlite FlosStyle was announced. I’m glad I ordered the Flowride—I wouldn’t have had the patience to wait for a FlosStyle! You shouldn’t buy a Flowride. Everything I like about the Flowride is done better by the FlosStyle.

I don’t have a FlosStyle frame, so I’m going to tell you why I like the Flowride! There’s only one reason I can think of to buy a Flowride frame today. If you’re still running individual ESCs, the arms on the Flowride are wide enough to fit them.

I thought about this, because it seems like a quick and easy upgrade for my OwlRC Dragon quads!

Why do I like the Flowride?

The Flowride is very much an Alien-style frame. It has the big, bus-like fuselage. The FPV camera sits pretty far forward, so the props won’t obscure your view too much. The GoPro mounts directly above the FPV camera, and the 3D-printed Hyperlite GoPro mount is phenomenal.

I don’t believe the Flowride has room for a full-size FPV camera. That’s fine by me. I’ve been moving all my quads over to the amazing Runcam Eagle Micro. It is an improvement over the already awesome Eagle 2 and Eagle 2 Pro cameras, but it is about 10 grams lighter, and it takes up so little space!

Like all of Bob Roogi’s other frames, the Flowride is extremely well thought out. It is made from high-quality carbon fiber. The arms are quite a bit wider than the FLOSS frames, and that shows in the additional weight. I’m OK with that. My quads have more power than I know what to do with!

The Flowride has a perfect SMA antenna mounting hole on its bottom plate. There is just enough room below the hole to fit a 90-degree SMA elbow. I was thankful for this mounting point when my attempt at using an MMCX Pagoda antenna failed—more on that later!

The full parts list

Here’s the parts lists. The total cost for each quadcopter was somewhere around $350.

  Hyperlite Flowride
Frame Hyperlite Flowride 6”
Motors T-Motor F40 Pro V2
2306 2600 KV
Props DAL Cyclone T5544C
ESCs Holybro Tekko32 4-in-1
FC Helio Spring
VTX Holybro AtlAtl HV
Camera Runcam Eagle Micro
Antenna TBS Triumph
Receiver FrSky R-XSR

This is similar to the parts I used in my previous two builds. The only difference is the frame and ESCs. After swapping out the defective part, the flight controller is different, too.

I’m a big fan of the Holybro stack, but it is a little too tall for the Flowride. I wound up using 30 mm standoffs. That gives me enough room for the three boards in the stack.

I’m probably going to need to look for an alternative to the Holybro AtlAtl in the future. There’s plenty of room to mount a VTX outside the stack, and all the frames I like are using shorter standoffs. I’d like to bring my center of gravity down 5 mm, but this is working fine for now.

2600 kv motors? On 5S?!

When I built my last pair of quads, I was hedging my bets. I loved my Shuriken X1 with T-Motor F40ii 2600 kv motors. I wanted to improve on and repeat that success. I built those quads to be capable of running on 5S or 6S batteries, but I expected to continue to use 4S packs—2600 kv on 4S feels fantastic.

That’s not what happened, though. The benefits of 5S are just too great—they’re inexpensive, they don’t sag, and they pack even more punch!

I decided to go with T-Motor F40 Pro V2 motors for this new quad. Lower KV motors would be a better match for the batteries I’m running, but I’m trying to make my quads more homogeneous. I already have F40 Pro V2 2600 motors on one of my other quads. Using them again means I can stock fewer spare parts.

I had planned to use the ZMX FinX30 2207 motors on this build, but they’re more difficult to source.

2600 kv motors? With 6” props?!

I don’t plan on running 6” props on this build, but they do fit. I had some on hand, so I just had to test them!

I have a switch set up on my Taranis X9D+ to limit my maximum throttle. On my 5” quads, I run with an 80% throttle limit. That still packs more punch on 5S than 100% throttle on 4S, and it gives me more resolution on the throttle.

With the bigger props, 2600 KV motors, and a 5S battery, that throttle limit switch is essential. At maximum throttle, I believe the tips of my 5.5” and 6” props are reaching the speed of sound. The noise they make is absolutely terrifying!

Hyperlite Flowride with Kakute F4

Math tells me that 2600 KV on 5S could reach mach 1.2 at the tips of the props. I am certain that physics gets in the way long before then, but I have also read that propellers get extremely unstable at around mach 0.9.

I’m sure that folks with lower-KV builds have an efficiency advantage over my Flowride quad, but I’m extremely pleased with my flight times. I’ve managed to finesse a 9-minute flight out of a single 1,300 mAh 5S pack while running HQ 6x3x3 props. As I always do, I headed in for a landing when the battery was at about 3.65 volts per cell.

DAL Cyclone T5544C

I’ve been running Racekraft props for a long time. I used Racekraft 5046 props on my BFight 210 and Shuriken X1 last year, and I’ve been running Racekraft 5051 props on my more powerful builds this year. They’re great props. I get reasonable flight times, and they pack a punch! However, they aren’t all that smooth.

I had a few sets of HQ 5.5x4x3 props left over from a previous experiment, so I tried those first. The only equipment that I’ve used in testing these props is my butt dyno—I’m not sure that I want accurate scientific data!

The 5.5” props feel like they generate at least as much thrust as the Racekraft 5051, but they feel so much smoother. I don’t know if they have as much power on the top-end, but I’m definitely able to fly fast enough for freestyle.

The HQ props felt great, but they seem fragile. I broke three props on my first outing. All three had broken hubs. Two of those props went completely missing.

When I got home, I did some research and discovered the DAL Cyclone T5544C props. I ordered some immediately. Unfortunately, I was already out of 5.5” props before they arrived, so I flew the Flowride with Racekraft 5051 props for an entire day. I would have liked to fly both 5.5” props back to back.

As far as I can tell, the DAL and HQ 5.5” props both feel quite similar. I get similar flight times. They both hit the speed of sound at a similar throttle level. They both had a ton of grip and generate a lot of thrust.

I’m breaking fewer Cyclones. That’s a bonus. They seem more likely to bend, and it isn’t difficult to straighten them back out. When they do break, though, they are breaking spectacularly.

The Flowride is getting longer flight times

This is the part of my testing that needs more science, and that will take time. In a couple of weeks of flying the Flowride, this is what I’ve learned.

The Flowride is more efficient than either of my OwlRC Dragon quads. One of the OwlRC Dragon quads is using the same motors as the Flowride. The Flowride has different BLHeli_32 ESCs and a different frame. Everything else is nearly identical.

The first day, I assumed the Flowride was getting more air time due to the longer props. One day, I didn’t have enough 5.5” props in my bag, so I put Racekraft 5051 props on the Flowride, and it was staying in the air about 20% longer than my OwlRC Dragon quads.

Later, I discovered that 5.5” props just barely fit on the OwlRC Dragon frame. I couldn’t believe it! I’ve had 5.5” props in my drawer for months. I thought for sure that I tested this. How did I miss it?

On the OwlRC Dragon, the 5.5” props nearly touch in the front and back, but it flies like a dream. Similar punch compared to the Racekraft 5051, but much smoother and more efficient.

Still not as efficient as the Flowride!

With a similar flying style and the same props on each quad, my Flowride will always see about an extra minute of flight time. That’s usually around 20% or so.

Why is the Flowride more efficient? The weights on all these quads are pretty close. Am I getting cleaner air due to the much longer arms? Can the Tekko32 ESCs be more efficient than the Wraith32 ESCs? I’m suspecting that the longer arms are the advantage.

This quad is huge

This is the biggest quad I’ve ever owned or flown in FPV. I don’t really notice the extra size while I’m flying. The lower profile with the top-mounted battery seems to make it easier to fit under picnic tables, but I do seem to be bumping props off the sides of gaps more often now.

Every time I crash and do a test flight line of sight, I am amazed at the size. It looks huge compared to my OwlRC Dragon DSX-5 quads.

The larger size has several advantages. You want to fly a nine-minute, long-range mission? Put some 6” props on. Going for top speed? Maybe switch to some moderately aggressive 5” props. Need a good balance of both? Run 5.5” props.

The extra length also seems to provide smoother responses from the quad. Is it due to the extra leverage? Is the air cleaner when the props are spaced farther apart? I imagine it is a combination of both.

The size has a major downside for me. One of my favorite features of my giant Thinktank FPV Airport Helipak backpack is that I can easily fit three 5” quadcopters inside. I don’t have to to resort to hanging quads on the outside. I still have enough room for OwlRC Dragon frames with 5.5” props, but the long arms on the Flowride are problematic.

I could take a few dividers out of the bag, but then I won’t have space for my Leader 120 micro quad or Ryze Tello. It is a conundrum!

I’m waiting for a good MMCX antenna

I want to eliminate the MMCX to SMA cable on all my quads. Each connector impacts the quality of your signal, and the extra SMA connectors are adding unnecessary weight. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of variety in antennas that plug directly into MMCX ports.

Half of the options have a 90-degree MMCX connector. Those don’t fit my layout very well. There are a few that fit my needs, though, and I decided to try one for this build—a Foxeer Pagoda.

It fit nicely, and it saved me a few grams. Unfortunately, my video feed on my first flight was absolutely atrocious. In my rather gentle attempt to disconnect it from the VTX, the antenna came completely loose from the MMCX connector. It is the first time I’ve had that happen to an MMCX lead, and I didn’t even get a chance to pull very hard at all.

I assume the antenna was defective.

What’s next?

I was worried that I’d like the top-mount battery and Tekko32 4-in-1 so much that I’d have to upgrade the other two quads. I’d have to buy a pair of new ESCs, frames, and flight controllers. Sure, I could wire the Tekko32 into the existing AIO flight controllers, but it wouldn’t be as clean and simple!

It would cost me another $120 per quadcopter to make the switch. I am relieved that I don’t feel the need to spend the money or the time on those upgrades!

I like the top-mount battery, and I like the Flowride frame. It is significantly more rigid than the OwlRC Dragon frames. This surprised me a lot, because I remember thinking the Dragon frame was amazingly strong when I first handled it. Have my constant crashes been taking their toll?

Hyperlite Flowride

The first time I flew my Flowride build, I was amazed at how clean the video feed was—even at full throttle! I assumed this was entirely due to the upgrade to a Tekko32 ESC. Fortunately for me, that wasn’t the case. The Tekko32 definitely provides cleaner video than my Wraith32 ESCs, but part of my OwlRC Dragon’s problem has been my choice of props. The Racekraft 5051 props just aren’t smooth.

As soon as I discovered that I can fit 5.5” props on my other two quads, my thoughts about immediately upgrading mostly went away. The DAL Cyclone T5544C props are a good enough upgrade for my Dragon quads for now. They’re smoother and more powerful. Best of all, all my quads will be running the same props—that makes it easier to keep the drone bag stocked!

If I’m not upgrading frames, flight controllers, or ESCs, then what should I do next?

How’s Butterflight working out?

The first quad I installed Butterflight on was my Leader 120, and that went very well. With nearly stock settings, it flew better than my tuned Betaflight. With a bit of tuning, the Leader 120 is flying better than I ever imagined it would.

That was a good enough excuse to try Butterflight on my OwlRC Dragon DSX-5 quads. I overclocked their Kakute F4 flight controllers and ran a 32k/16k loop, and that seemed to work pretty well, at least on the OwlRC quad with QMX motors.

I had a lot more trouble with the F40 quad. That turned out to be a physical problem. The gyro chip on the F40 was touching the VTX. That must have been getting worse over time, and it explained a lot of issues I was having with that quad. I’m guessing the foam is expanding slowly or the adhesive is loosening.

After having my Kakute flight controller on the Flowride on two or three different versions of Betaflight, I figured it was time to give Butterflight a try. It didn’t correct my issue, so I upgraded to the Helio Spring.

How is the Helio Spring?

This section and the previous section probably deserve their own blog post, but I can summarize well enough here.

I like it a lot. The layout is quite nice. The VTX pins are near the back, the camera pins are near the front, and it plugged into my Holybro Tekko32 4-in-1 without any problems.

I’m running a 32k/32k PID loop on the Flowride. I left everything pretty close to stock. I added a bit of antigravity and TPA. I don’t think I’ve touched the PIDs. Just about the only tuning I’ve done is lowering the Q values in the IMU-F.

The Q values default to 3500 on pitch and roll. With those values, I believe I had jello in my GoPro footage. I lowered them to around 1500, and that cleared up the jelly, but the quad gets really unhappy with even the slightest bit of damage to the 5.5” props. It starts with jello, but a slight bend of a prop was making my motors get quite hot.

I believe I am currently around a Q value of 800 on pitch and roll, and a Q of 500 or so on yaw. This is lowering the trust in the gyro. I still get jello if my props aren’t perfect, but at least it isn’t trying to vibrate the motors to death!

TBS Crossfire

I’ve been talking about upgrading to TBS Crossfire for weeks. I wanted the Crossfire Micro TX for my Taranis X9D+, but they’ve been out of stock. I thought about spending more on the full-size module, but that thing is huge. I don’t need its additional features, and I don’t want my transmitter gaining so much extra bulk.

Crossfire Micro TX modules are finally in stock again. The Micro TX module and a trio of Nano RX modules were delivered just now. How am I managing to continue writing this blog post when I could be setting up Crossfire on all my quads? The answer is simple. I’m not home right now, and I won’t be for a couple of hours!

I’m starting to push myself far enough that failsafes are becoming an issue. I haven’t had many full failsafes lately, but I have lost connectivity for a fraction of a second on a number of scary occasions. Whenever that happens, my confidence level drops.

Should I try that power loop? Maybe not. I almost failsafed on my last battery. What if I failsafe at the top of the loop? What if I failsafe and fly into someone?

I’m not that interested in flying long range. I am very interested in keeping my confidence level up. It sounds like I’ll have a very hard time losing connectivity with Crossfire at the distances I currently fly. Having one less thing to worry about is easily worth the $250 I had to pay for a transmitter and receivers.

I will definitely have to try flying long range. If I have the equipment, why not make an attempt!

Conclusion

The Hyperlite Flowride is an excellent frame at an amazing price, but it has been superseded by the Hyperlite FlosStyle. I like the Flowride a lot, but I wouldn’t buy another. I’d go with the FlosStyle at this point.

Are you flying a Flowride, FLOSS, or FlosStyle quad? What do you think of it? Tell us about it in the comments, or stop by our Discord server and let us know what you think!

Eachine QX65 - Tons of Fun and a Great Value

| Comments

My friends and I have been talking about buying Tiny Whoops for ages. Not necessarily real Tiny Whoops, but one of the clones. None of our FPV quads are gentle enough to fly indoors, and we all want to have an option for flying on rainy days.

I’m not interested in the real Tiny Whoop. They use the original flight controller from the Inductrix. They say it flies better, but even if it does, I’m not excited about flying an unconfigurable black box.

Eachine QX65 and a GoPro HERO5 Session

The next model I looked at was the NewBeeDrone AcroBee. Their full kit comes with the parts to build the brushed micro drone, four batteries, a charger, and three different sets of motors. You get all that and a case for about $136. That’s pretty reasonable.

Then I found the Eachine QX65 bundle. Eachine’s bundle isn’t directly comparable to the NewBeeDrone kit. The QX65 is assembled and ready to fly out of the box, but it doesn’t come with any spare motors.

With the QX65 advanced bundle, you get a drone with an F3 flight conroller, two spare frames, two spare sets of props, six 250 mAh HV LiPo batteries, a six-port charger, and a single-port USB charger. You don’t get a case, but you do get all of that stuff for about $90.

I’m not interested in becoming a professional Whoop racer. I just want to goof around in the house. More batteries, a parallel charge board, and the lower price convinced me to give the QX65 a try. I’m glad I did, too!

If you’re more serious than I am, the NewBeeDrone AcroBee might be a better choice

I’m certain that the AcroBee is a better quad, but probably not by a huge margin. The AcroBee uses the newer, larger battery connector. That bigger connector can push more power to the motors.

It would be easy to solder an upgraded connector onto the QX65, but you’re going to be stuck with half a dozen batteries with the puny connector. I don’t think this is a big deal—you can always have two connectors on your quad! It is just something to think about.

The AcroBee comes with better motors. It also comes with three different grades of motor, so you can try each one and see what you prefer.

I didn’t buy the AcroBee! I bought the QX65!

I’m pleased with the QX65. It was an amazing value. I was up, flying, and having fun in about five minutes. Since it runs Betaflight, I was able to quickly configure the rates and switches to match all my other quads, too!

I did some test flight at home, but a few days after I got my QX65, my friend Brian closed on a new house. His new house has a pretty good route where you can fly up the stairs to the second floor, through a room, and back down to the first floor.

Here’s some video of Brian flying his QX65 that day!

I noticed a problem at Brian’s house that I hadn’t experienced in my single-story home. When flying in angle mode, there’s a ton of prop wash when descending from the second story. So much prop wash that it is very difficult to not smack into the ground! For some reason, I didn’t experience this prop wash in air mode, but it is nearly impossible to fly well indoors with a Whoop in air mode.

The Project Mockingbird settings are fantastic

I had already heard about Project Mockingbird long before I even ordered my Eachine QX65. Even so, I wanted to try the stock settings before messing around too much with Betaflight. The stock settings work. Project Mockingbird is just so much better.

What is Project Mockingbird? Some folks are trying to come up with settings for Betaflight and your Taranis radio that will replicate the feel and responsiveness of a genuine Tiny Whoop.

I’m not sure how close they’ve gotten, but I can tell you that the Project Mockingbird settings are a huge improvement over the QX65’s stock settings.

The prop wash in angle mode is gone. It feels much better when banking or turning. You can definitely fly your QX65 with the stock settings, but I highly recommend trying out Project Mockingbird.

I didn’t follow all of their instructions. I thought their rates were much too high for me. My other quads all fly identical rates for roll, pitch, and yaw. I modified mine to match Project Mockingbird’s ratios. It seems to be working well!

Some minor issues

I’ve had trouble with the motors working their way loose from the frame. It was a minor annoyance on my first day of flying.

I had already decided that I was going to add a 3D-printed brace to the frame. When I installed that brace, I glued it in place with Welder glue. I’ve been using this stuff since I built my arcade cabinet, and I like it a lot. It is a bit like hot glue, but without the heat. It is a little stickier than hot glue, but not by a lot, and it doesn’t cure as fast, but it is more convenient.

While I was tacking my frame brace in place, I made sure to add a bit of glue to each motor. They’ll still be easy to remove when they fail, but they’re not getting knocked out of place anymore.

Four-blade props

I bought a whole mess of four-blade props. I’m not sure if they’re an upgrade. They don’t seem to have diminished my flight times, and they have made the QX65 a bit more twitchy on sharp stick inputs.

That leads me to believe that they’re providing more thrust. The quad is acting like it has just a little too much P-gain. I might try to tune that out.

The 6-way charger is awesome!

The 6-way battery charger that comes with the advanced QX65 is fantastic. You can set each battery to 4.2 or 4.35 volts. You can also set the charge rate to approximately 1c or 2c for each battery.

The input for the charger is an XT60 connector, so you can charge your batteries in the field using the LiPos you already have for your 5” quads!

I fried my charger. The label on the input claims it can handle 25 volts. I plugged it into the 23.8 volt power supply I use to power my ISDT Q6 Plus charger, and I let the magic smoke out.

The charger definitely handles 4S just fine. I want to tell you that I’ve used my 5S packs to charge my Whoop batteries, but I can’t say for certain. I’d suggest sticking to 4S packs!

Future upgrades

The heart of the QX65 is sound. The BeeCore V2 is an F3 flight controller with an integrated OSD. I have mine running with an 8k/8k PID loop, and the CPU utilization doesn’t even reach 40%. It should be a good, relevant flight controller for quite a long time!

I’m patiently waiting for my motors to wear out. A while back, Ready Made RC included a set of upgraded Whoop motors in one of my orders—they’re always throwing something extra in the box!

When those wear out, I’ll probably try one of the outrageous sets of motors from NewBeeDrone.

I tried really hard to convince myself that I should buy an AcroBee instead of the QX65. I love NewBeeDrone. Their battery straps are top notch. Their neat Fat Shark headset foam is amazing.

What sort of indoor quads are you flying? A brushless quad like the Tiny Whoop or QX65? Are you flying a 1S brushed micro? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below, or you can come chat about it on our Discord server!

My FPV Quadcopter Field Charging Setup

| Comments

My friends and I avoided field charging for a long time. Why should we charge in the field? Wouldn’t it be easier to just carry more batteries for the quads? We did the math. That would cost a bit more, but it was still a good value for us.

Our flying lives were simpler back then. All our quads ran on 1300 mAh or 1500 mAh 4S packs, so that’s all any of us carried. Then we started adding micro quads to our bags. The micro burshless quads use tiny 2S or 3S packs, our Tiny Whoop clones use 1S LiPos.

Our inexpensive, prebuilt quads like the BFight 210 still use 4S packs, but all our new builds are using 5S or 6S packs.

My 10,000 mAh 6S Field Charging LiPo Battery

It was easy to carry a dozen or more 4S packs. I’m not going to carry a dozen of each size pack. That’s expensive and heavy. Maybe it is time to carry one big, heavy battery that can charge all my other batteries!

Early experiments with field charging

I started experimenting as soon as I upgraded to an ISDT Q6 Plus charger. I picked up a cigarette lighter adapter, and I was able to easily charge from the tailgate of our miniature SUV.

This has its limitations. My ISDT Q6 maxes out at 14 amps. I do this all the time at home, and I am able to parallel charge six 5S batteries in less than 25 minutes. In the car, this wasn’t possible. When charging at around five amps, the input voltage would drop quite a bit. That was enough to parallel charge two 1500 mAh 4S packs in about 20 minutes.

That’s not fast enough to keep me in the air, but it was cheap, easy, and it would let me fly three or four extra packs on each outing. Also, our newer pilots don’t tend to have enough batteries to keep flying. If you lend out your own batteries, they’re likely to come back broken—it has happened to me twice so far! Charging someone else’s packs is a cheaper option!

Connecting the charger directly to the battery would allow me to push the ISDT charger to its limits, but that requires more effort. We only sit near the car at one park, too, so working on that option didn’t seem like it would provide enough value.

Replacing the car with a giant LiPo battery!

I’ve been on the hunt for a good power source for months. SLA batteries are cheap, but they’re way too heavy to carry around. There are all sorts of battery packs built out of 18650 cells. The most common of those are 42 volt packs for electric scooters. 42 volts puts those outside the input or output range of our ISDT Q6, so they wouldn’t be convenient.

I decided to use a big, heavy LiPo battery. Hobby King has a selection of large LiPos. They have 4S 8,000 mAh packs, 6S 20,000 mAh packs, and a dizzying assortment of sizes in between. As far as I can tell, one of those giant packs is always on sale. When that sale ends, a different size goes on sale.

The day before I decided to pull the trigger, I was looking at a 4S 16,000 mAh that was on sale. By the time I was ready to order, the price had doubled! I poked through their selection, and I found a 6S 10,000 mAh for about $70. That seemed about right, so I ordered one for myself and one for my friend Brian.

You should choose the battery that gets you the most watt-hours per dollar!

My giant LiPo was shipped with an XT90 connector. That is of no use to me, so I just soldered on an XT60 connector in its place.

What do I have to carry in my bag?

Including the battery, I have added nearly three pounds of hardware to my already gigantic ThinkTank backpack.

I had to snip the banana plugs off the JST parallel cable. I soldered on a Deans connector to fit into the extra port on the XT60 parallel board. I have a JST parallel charging cable at home that came with a Deans connector, but the one that came with banana plugs is higher quality. It uses thicker wire, and it just feels nicer. It was worth the extra five minutes of labor!

I haven’t bought a second ISDT charger, but I keep considering it. It is easy enough to pull my home charger off the Bat Safe and throw it in my bag, but I have forgotten to do that on at least one occasion!

How much can you charge in the field?

On each power up, the ISDT charger keeps track of how many watt-hours it has pumped into your batteries. There is some loss when transferring power from the source battery to the destination. When connected to a full 10,000 mAh 6S LiPo, the charger can output 220 watt-hours when discharged to 3.3 volts per cell. How many watt-hours does it take to charge one of my miniquad LiPos?

  • 3S 550 mAh – 5 watt-hours
  • 4S 1,500 mAh – 16 watt-hours
  • 5S 1,300 mAh – 23 watt-hours
  • 6S 1,000 mAh – TBD
  • 6S 1,400 mAh – TBD

My big LiPo can recharge 14 4S LiPos, 10 5S LiPos, or more than 40 of my tiny 3S LiPos. Any combination of those LiPos would weigh nearly twice as much as the charging battery!

Why is that? You lose quite a bit of power to heat when charging. Shouldn’t the charging LiPo end up being heavier?

I don’t fly my batteries all the way down to 3.3 volts per cell. If they get below 3.3 volts, they crash to 2.5 volts or twenty seconds and you’ll fall out of the sky.

Field Charging Some LiPo Batteries

That makes it difficult to fly home. I always stop flying when my goggles show a voltage near 3.6 volts per cell, and the batteries usually settle to around 3.75 volts while they’re waiting to be plugged into the charger. That means the batteries being charged aren’t completely dead—they probably still have 1/3 of their charge remaining.

I am discharging the 10,000 mAh LiPo all the way to 3.3 volts. It isn’t flying. I don’t have to worry about it falling out of the sky!

How many quad batteries would you need to carry?

This has been fun and interesting to think about. What is the minimum number of batteries you can carry and still fly nonstop?

It depends on how long your batteries last, how many amps you’re willing to pump into your LiPos, and your definition of nonstop.

I am comfortable parallel charging four of my 1,300 mAh 5S packs at 14 amps. That works out to a charge rate of about 2.7C and takes about 20 minutes.

When flying freestyle with my GoPro HERO5 Session, my 5S packs last a little over four minutes. If I hustle and use a pretty strict definition for nonstop, it might take me one minute to swap batteries and get back in the air. I never go that fast, though. There’s usually a minute of idle time at the beginning of all my GoPro footage, and the footage doesn’t start until my battery has already been swapped.

Let’s pretend I can go much faster than that.

I’d prefer to charge at 2C, so I’m already pushing things. That means I’ll need to carry at least eight batteries. I’d fly four batteries, then put them on the charger. By the time I fly the next four packs, the first four would be ready to fly. If I repeat that until the big LiPo is discharged, I would be able to fly a total of 18 packs. That’s 72 minutes of actual flight time.

To maintain that pace, I would need to hire a caddy to do my charging for me. Maybe they could swap batteries for me, too!

This isn’t how I spend my time flying, and seems like an unrealistic and extreme situation. I would never have the goggles on for 72 minutes straight. I take breaks. I watch my friends fly. I check Twitter. I go find my quad when it crashes—it crashes a lot! I help friends find their quads. I keep an eye out for pedestrians when my friends are flying.

This charging scenario might be realistic for somebody, but not anyone I know!

How many quad batteries do I actually carry?

I try to carry six batteries of each type. If I drop below six, I buy enough replacements to get up to seven or eight packs—I will certainly break more batteries!

I started field charging at the same time that I removed my final 4S quad from my bag—I really do miss my BFight 210, but I don’t miss the extra weight of those 4S packs! I was carrying more than six 4S packs. My 10,000 mAh field-charging pack weighs less than the 4S packs I removed from my bag, so I’m at a weigh savings overall.

I try to carry six of each size battery, because that’s how many ports my parallel charging boards have available. I have slots set up in my ThinkTank Helipak bag to fit two rows of three LiPos.

I’m currently carrying seven CNHL 1,300 mAh 5S packs and six 550 mAh 3S packs.

I don’t have a strict charging regimen. I’ll tell you about how things went yesterday at the park. I flew three 5S packs. I was mostly cruising around and talking to my friend Brian—I fly much slower when I’m talking. I was seeing flight times way up around six minutes.

I popped those on the charger at a little over 2C. The shade had moved, so we migrated our chairs back into the shade. I poured some water from my giant 2-liter Thermos, watched Brian fly, and I loaded a battery into my Leader 120 micro quad.

I’m nervous about flying freestyle around trees with the Leader 120. I don’t want to get stuck in a tree. I won’t be able to see it, and I don’t want to waste an hour trying to get it down. This fear usually leads to flight times of five or six minutes.

The three 5S packs were done charging before I finished two packs on the Leader 120.

What about sharing the charger?

If you and your friends are all flying similar batteries, this would be fantastic. My ISDT charger has no trouble topping off six batteries in less than 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, my friends and I are all running batteries with different voltages. I run 5S, my friend Brian runs mostly 6S, and our other friends all run 4S. We have to use separate chargers or take turns. Usually it ends up being a little of both!

The verdict

Field charging is legit. At the pace I tend to go through batteries, my field charging setup has no trouble keeping up with me. I carry enough 5S packs to keep me in the air for 20 to 25 minutes—even longer since I started flying with 5.5” props! If I need to fly longer, it is easy enough to throw some of those packs on the charger—the 10,000 mAh 6S has enough juice to give me another 35 to 40 minutes of flying time.

In terms of cash and weight, field charging is an excellent value. Ten more 5S packs would cost at least $250 and weigh roughly 4.5 pounds. The giant 10,000 mAh only cost me $75 and weighs about 2.5 pounds. The charger and balance board only weigh a few ounces, and I’m just unplugging my home charger and taking it with me.

Field Charging Battery Fits In My Bag

It doesn’t matter whether I carry 6 or 16 packs with me to the field. I have to charge every pack that I fly. Field charging moves the labor from home to the field. I find this to be a good trade-off, because I’m usually chatting with my friends in the field when I’m charging!

I’m still most excited by the versatility. Did it end up being a day for micro quads? No problem, I can charge those batteries all day long. No matter what type of battery you wind up depleting on a particular day, you can always top them back off and fly some more!

Are you field charging your LiPo packs? Are you using a big LiPo, or are you using something else to power your charger? Let us know what you think in the comments, or join us in the #drone channel on our Discord server!

I am Disappointed in Frontier Communications

| Comments

Is this title too strongly worded?

I’ve been a FiOS customer for more than six years. Our account was originally owned by Verizon. They sold their Dallas-Fort Worth FiOS lines to Frontier about three years ago.

We started with 35/35 symmetric FiOS Internet service. I believe it was during the second year of service that we bumped it up to 75/75. Speed and reliability were fantastic. I only recall one long outage during those six years, and my speed tests almost always came out at least 5 megabits per second faster than the advertised speeds. Moving large files back and forth from my own colocated server were just as fast.

Then we moved to a house not far away. Google Maps says it is a 2.1 mile drive. We’ve had amazing service from Verizon and Frontier for the past six years. We knew we had to order Frontier’s FiOS before we moved in.

This is where the problems started.

I don’t enjoy writing posts like this

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. If something is terrible, I probably won’t tell you about it.

If I find a video editor that’s much better that what I’ve been using, I’ll tell you about it. If I find some great, new shell plugin or terminal-based program, I will tell you all about it. I’ll tell you what I like about it, and I’ll tell you if it has any problems.

If I order something from Amazon, and it is a piece of junk, I will just throw it away. You’ll never hear about it. It isn’t worth mentioning.

I have escalated my issue with Frontier as far as I can. I don’t know where else to go.

Apr 20: Frontier doesn’t service this address

My wife called Frontier to order FiOS service. I may have the precise facts a little off here, since I wasn’t directly involved. This should be pretty close.

The first person she talked to said our address doesn’t exist. This seemed interesting to me. We bought this house from my friend Brian. He’s had FiOS since he moved in, and he was living in this house long before my wife and I moved back to town. I’ve seen the FiOS gear. I’ve used the service. This seemed weird.

She tried again later, and the next representative explained that their system was down, and they couldn’t check whether FiOS was available or not.

The next day, Frontier was able to schedule a technician to come out and install FiOS on May 2. However, they said it would be a completely new install. Frontier claimed that FiOS never existed at this address.

My chat logs seem to indicate that she started this process on April 20. I can’t verify what day she finally managed to order our service, but I would expect it to be April 21. May 2 was about a week and a half away. That was a disappointment, but other things had conspired against us anyway, so we pushed the movers back a week.

Mobile data

The few days between our move and the installation of FiOS were pretty rough on my mobile data. I don’t have a large data plan. Unless I’m traveling, it is rare that I use more than 500 MB. Even when I’m traveling, I only wind up using 2 or 3 GB per month.

My Data Usage

I realize this screenshot is a bit off. I’ve done a bad job, and I’ve used two different phones this month due to some photography drone experimentation. The screenshot says I’ve used 34.6 GB of mobile data. I really got closer to 40 GB in that billing period. I am thankful for large, accumulating data stashes.

I thought wouldn’t have to tether after Frontier installed our FiOS service. That was almost three weeks ago.

May 2: FiOS is installed

The technician was very excited. It sounded like he thought this was going to be a brand new installation. All he had to do was upgrade us to a new ONT, because we were upgrading to 150/150 symmetric Internet service.

I told him that my wife tried to explain this to customer service when she was placing the order, but they just wouldn’t believe her.

It took him a little while to replace the ONT. Once he was done, I ran a speed test, and I registered something like 160/30. The 160 was right in line with the 80/80 I used to get on my 75/75. The 30 was disappointing.

This is where I’m my memory gets a little fuzzy. I can’t remember why I let the tech leave so quickly. When I talked to my wife later, she informed me that when she ordered the service she was told that it might take up to 12 hours for everything to be configured on their end.

I was dubious, but I was seeing better than 150/150 later that night, so I didn’t worry about it.

May 3: The link goes down

I wasn’t saving a seemingly constant collection of speed test screenshots at this point, but this is when my uplink dropped into the toilet. I was involved in two different text chats with tech support that day. For some reason, only the first of the two chat logs was emailed to us.

The first chat started at 2:53 PM and lasted for about 25 minutes. They asked me to use Frontier’s speed test site, and I explained that I was seeing 155 megabits on the download test, and the upload test was erroring out after a short while.

At some point during out chat, my upload speed returned to 150 megabits, and our chat session drew rapidly to a close.

I do not have a good record of when the second chat began. My laptop was tethered to my phone, and I was in a text chat with tech support on that laptop for more than two hours.

Towards the end of our troubleshooting, I was asked to plug the Ethernet coming out of the ONT into a laptop. I used my wife’s Windows 10 laptop.

As with just about every time we reset the ONT, my speeds were alright at first. The tech decided my router must be bad, so they put in an order for a replacement. Just minutes after that my upload started dropping. One speed test, it was in the 70 megabit range. Then the 30 megabits. Then less than one megabit. Then the Ethernet light on the laptop went dim.

This was the common occurrence of the day. The Ethernet link was dropping out.

They decided my router wasn’t bad, but they couldn’t cancel the replacement order. They needed to send a tech out to replace the ONT. He was scheduled to come out on Sunday, May 5.

May 5: Replacing the ONT

The first thing the new tech noticed was that the original tech didn’t replace the ONT’s battery backup. He said the new ONT units need the new power supply, so that was the first thing he replaced.

It didn’t help the situation. Then he replaced the ONT, and the Ethernet link came back up. Upload speeds were still abysmal.

First we tried through the router. Then we plugged my laptop, a Core i7-7700HQ laptop running Linux, into the ONT. I was getting terrible upload speeds. I am not sure exactly what those speeds were, but the tech agreed that it wasn’t good.

He suspected the problem would be a bad PON card out on the street somewhere. He needed to run a test with a “special laptop.” He was vague about that, but he said they’d be out tomorrow.

May 6: Nothing works except Frontier’s laptop

A third tech came out on Monday, and he brought the magic laptop. What’s the magic on this laptop? Absolutely nothing. He was just running speed tests from the same Frontier site as me.

We spent a lot of time testing things, but he explained that the only way we could get anyone to look at the PON card was to see a bad speed test on Frontier’s blessed laptop while plugged into the ONT.

I’m never going to recall the exact order in which he tested things, but we tried a lot of configurations.

My laptop plugged directly into the ONT couldn’t do better than 30 megabits per second on the upload test. His laptop plugged into the Frontier router had just about as much trouble as I did with my speed tests.

It felt like we were making progress. He plugged the blessed laptop directly into the ONT, and everything was fine. We couldn’t reproduce the problem. He figured I had a bad router, and suggested I buy my own. He claimed the Frontier supplied routers—that I didn’t know were rented for $10 per month—are horrible.

I asked if he had another one of these routers in his truck, and he did. So we hooked it up. Guess what? He couldn’t get a good speed test on his blessed laptop through the second router.

At this point, my wife’s laptop, my laptop, the first Frontier router, and the second Frontier router were having trouble with the uplink when plugged into the ONT. Frontier’s magic laptop is the only one that worked, and it worked every time.

We were at the end of his road. There’s nothing more he could do. I told him I was going to go grab a spare router that was still connected to my network at our old place, but when that doesn’t fix the problem, where do I go next?

I couldn’t get an answer useful answer.

So after he left, I took a short drive to pick up my old D-Link DIR-860L. I was using it as a Wi-Fi access point, and I chose that router, because it is well supported by OpenWRT. I never did put OpenWRT on it, though!

My old $30 router worked fine for a few hours. Aren’t intermittent problems fun? When my uplink speeds fell under 1 megabit again, I turned to Twitter.

May 8: Contacted by an Account Manager on Frontier’s Social Media Team

The account manager seems like a great guy. I would never mention anyone by name in this post, but I’d say the same thing about everyone else I’ve dealt with. They all seem like good people, and they all seem like they want to help.

I don’t believe this is the fault of any of the lovely individuals I have interacted with. They just don’t seem to have the power to get my problem resolved.

May 9: I did lots of local troubleshooting, and spoke to my Account Manager on the phone

If I’m remembering this correctly, I had a weird pair of speed test runs. This has become my habit—running speed tests. I ran a test, and my desktop’s upload speed was well under 1 megabit. I almost immediately ran another test on my laptop over 802.11ac, and it was reasonably fast. I repeated the test on the desktop, and it was bad again.

Uh oh. Did I screw something up? I purposely tested the wiring from my home office to the wiring cupboard over the weekend. Everything should be working!

There’s a 5-port Gigabit switch in my office. There are a pair of 5-port Gigabit switches in my wiring cupboard. The router in the wiring cupboard has 4 Gigabit switch ports.

Every room in the house is wired with Cat-5e. I helped run all this cable in 2011!

I’m a fan of iperf. It is a client-server program used to test the raw throughput of your network. Copying files around is a great test, but it can be limited by disk speed or your file sharing protocol.

I have an Infiniband network in my office. I can’t saturate the link unless I run at least three or four parallel transfers of very large files at the same time. Iperf has no problem maxing things out. I can’t hit the 20 gigabit maximum speeds of my Infiniband ports, but I am right near the theoretical limits of my 4x PCIe 1.0 Infiniband cards—7.6 gigabit out of a maximum of around 8 gigabits per second.

I ran around the entire house with my laptop. I ran iperf tests on ports in almost every room. Every test allowed me to push 950 megabits per second in either direction between my laptop and desktop.

iperf gigabit test

For the final test, I plugged [my laptop][lt] directly into my D-Link router. The traffic to or from my desktop has to traverse the switch on that router if I’m talking to the Internet. My laptop could run perfect 950 megabit per second iperf tests without any issue.

I sent an email to my account manager explaining all of this, and making sure I reiterated everything we’ve tested so far. Three routers and two laptops have never seen reliable upload speeds. Only one laptop has appeared to work correctly—Frontier’s own laptop.

He emailed me back later that day to tell me that my upcoming technician visit on Friday was canceled. They believe the issue is the PON card, and someone will be working on that.

May 10: A second replacement router arrives

I don’t know which day the first replacement router arrived. I just put it off to the side. I figured I’d worry about sending it back when my issue gets resolved.

This tweet isn’t relevant, but I enjoyed it immensely.

On May 10, an extra replacement router showed up at our door.

May 12: I start posting daily updates on Twitter

If I’ve been counting, this was my 11th day since the installation of FiOS without a reliable Internet connection. I wish I had intermittent outages. Instead, I have intermittent bursts when things work somewhat well.

This is when other people begin taunting me with their FiOS and Google Fiber speed tests. I don’t want their 500 and 1000 megabit speeds. I just want reliable upload. Is that too much to ask?

May 13: I had to request an update

My account manager told me there was no change, but this time he said they were going to “add a gigabit splitter at the distribution hub.”

My job title hasn’t been Network Engineer in almost 15 years, but this didn’t make sense to me. This is a change. It sounds like a completely different issue than I was diagnosed with early.

I’m only getting a peek into the inner workings of Frontier’s FiOS network. It is like a black box from where I’m sitting. I can only troubleshoot so deeply, and I have to take their word for things.

May 17: Maybe it will be fixed in another week?

I’ve been avoiding copying direct quotes into this post. It just doesn’t feel right. I just don’t think I can summarize this email from my account manager.

I’m sorry to hear that. I’m thinking they should have this resolved fairly soon. If you’re not getting better performance by next Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning, I’ll run another ticket in for a status.

Wednesday morning will be May 23. That will be three weeks without a functioning Internet connection. Three weeks. I feel like I need to say that one more time. Three weeks.

May 19: Packing up Frontier’s hardware

It is the weekend, and I have some free time, so I started opening boxes from Frontier. I needed to get the return labels out of the boxes just so I could stick them right back on.

I also had a return box for the original router.

Remember that extra replacement router that arrived on May 10? It wasn’t a router. It was a set top box of some sort. We don’t have TV service.

There were no instructions for scheduling a pickup from UPS, so I asked about that on Twitter. Apparently, that isn’t a service they provide.

Frontier is happy to charge $10 per month for hardware that their tech’s claim isn’t worth using. They’re happy to send a replacement that I didn’t even need. They’re happy to send me a set top box that I can’t even use.

However, they want me to pay for the pickup or spend 20 or more minutes of my time making a round trip to the nearest UPS store. This is after all the time I’ve put into trying my very best to get a working Internet connection.

They said they forwarded my shipping complaint to my account manager. I’ll be genuinely surprised if he doesn’t make it right, but that’s beside the point. This shouldn’t be happening at all.

May 20: I’m about to publish this blog

I decided to run Frontier’s speed test again. My upload speed was a miraculous looking 156 megabits per second. Fantastic!

I immediately ran it again. This time it was in the mid-70s. I ran it a third time and got 10.5 megabits per second. The fourth test finished at 1.9 megabits per second.

It is too bad that it is a rainy Sunday afternoon. I’d rather be flying racing quads than working on this blog post.

May 22: FiOS still isn’t working

I am going to have to tether to my phone today to upload a five-minute video to YouTube. Usually if I leave the upload window sit around for an hour, I’ll eventually hit a spurt of working upload. Not today. You’d think I’d be able to stop wasting my mobile data like this after three weeks.

My account manager is going to send someone out to pick up the two routers and the set top box.

May 24: Lowering my maximum speed

My account manager suggested that we try dropping me down to 75/75 instead of 150/150. My friend Brian had 35/35 or 75/75 in this house a month ago, and it was working fine every time I used it.

The hope was that if the some piece of hardware can’t handle 150, it may at least handle 75. At first, it wasn’t going well. I was seeing 90/1 or less. A few minutes later, and I was getting some 90/50 and 90/80 or so runs on the speed test.

Then I got 0.3 megabits upload on a speed test. I kept testing while I was talking to my account manager, and it started doing well again. He was about to be leaving for an extended weekend, and he was going to set me back to 150/150 if it wasn’t working. I asked him to leave it at 75/75. It couldn’t be worse, but maybe it would be slightly better. Who knows!

I imagine the problem is that Brian was plugged into 100 megabit hardware on Frontier’s end, and they moved the fiber to a gigabit port (GPON) when I started my 150/150 service. I figure I’m hosed unless they either fix the unhappy hardware or move me back to a 100 megabit port (BPON).

May 25: Maybe better. Maybe the same.

I’ve spent a lot of time away from my desk today. I’ve gotten in the habit of immediately running a speed test when I sit down and posting it to Twitter. I forgot to do that today!

When I went to check, things were going quite well. Lots of 93/89 speed test runs. The worst I had before that was 90/10. Is my connection finally starting to work?

Nope. I just had a 91.3/0.5 megabit speed test. The first time I tried to tweet a screenshot, it timed out.

May 29: A tech is scheduled for tomorrow

We’ve officially hit the four week mark. My account manager called today to inform me that a tech will be coming out to move me to a different “gigabit splitter.” I assume this is some sort of passive optical device, but I didn’t ask for clarification.

My account manager seems like a really nice guy, and I think he’s doing everything in his power to help me. I have no reason to doubt that.

This is why I was afraid to ask a few questions. Why didn’t we do this three weeks ago? Is this the new gigabit splitter that was mentioned a few weeks ago? Even if we couldn’t move me to a new gigabit port or device, why didn’t they move me back to an older, slower BPON port?

At any rate, I hope this is all resolved tomorrow.

May 30: I didn’t mention the EIGHT HOUR window

That’s right. My account manager said the tech was scheduled today between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Eight hours. I asked if they’d call, and he told me they would.

I was woken up by an automated call to remind me that I had a tech scheduled today. It told me in English, and then again in Spanish, and started telling me which buttons to hit if I wanted to cancel the tech visit. I didn’t want to cancel the tech visit, but I had to stay on the line just to make sure I didn’t also have to confirm that I still wanted the visit.

There was just something about the robot lady’s tone that had me worried that I would have press a button to confirm that I did indeed still want a tech to come out. Having her repeat everything in a second language made the call take twice as long. I didn’t need this call at all. I was up late last night. I could have used more sleep.

I require functioning Internet access more than I require sleep.

The tech arrived around 12:30 PM or so. He messed around by the ONT, then asked me to unplug my router while he drove off to nearby remote CO—they don’t use the term remote central office for these boxes anymore, but I’m old, and I don’t know any better.

My FiOS connection is currently working great. He explained everything that he did, and I am going to do my best to repeat what he told me. My apologies if I’ve remembered any of this incorrectly!

He moved me from an older, congested Alcatel gigabit splitter to a newer Motorola splitter. He said I’m the second person on the Motorola splitter. I am assuming this is the gigabit splitter my account manager was talking about on May 13.

As I said, everything is working. I’ve been seeing better than 160/160 every time I run a speed test. Speedof.me even managed to reach 165/183!

I need to document this on my blog

Nobody reads my Twitter feed. I only have about 1,000 followers. Hardly anyone will see my daily FiOS connectivity updates, and in a few weeks, those tweets will be buried in the past.

People actually read my blog. Hundreds of people visit my blog every single day. Most of you arrive via search. I’m confident that when folks search for “Frontier Sucks” or similar phrases, they will see this page in their search results.

My struggle with Frontier will be here forever.

Time invested

Here’s a list of the time we’ve spent working with Frontier. It isn’t exhaustive, but it does have most of the major points.

  • Three phone calls just to get our installation scheduled (30 to 60 minutes?)
  • Showing the installer around so he could work (15 minutes)
  • Chatting with support and running around the house (2.5 hours)
  • Working with the second tech (at least 1 hour)
  • Working with the third tech (2 to 3 hours)

We have spent 6 to 8 hours of our time working with Frontier to get them to believe me that we have a problem, and getting them to actually work on that problem.

That’s an entire business day. Holy shit, right? I don’t even know what to say.

I don’t work a 9 to 5 job anymore. How many blog posts could I write in those six hours? How many times could I have taken my quads to the park for some flying? How many times could I have gone out to dinner or just hung out with friends?

I place a high value on free time, and I haven’t had as much as I’d like this month. We ordered new FiOS service, because we moved into a new house. You can imagine what that entails. Unpacking, setting up your utilities, unpacking, arranging furniture, unpacking, hooking up your washer and dryer, and unpacking. We’re still unpacking.

I’m not sure about everything I want to express in this section. I just thought it would be a good plan to tally up the big blocks of time my wife and I have wasted on this.

Why am I sticking with Frontier?

Frontier provides the best, most reliable Internet connection in my neighborhood. There is no worthwhile competition. In fact, my friends from out of town are always envious. They want symmetric service like I have. Google Fiber and other initiatives have made FiOS a bit less impressive, but it is still light years ahead of most of the United States.

My only other real option is a cable modem from Spectrum. We’ve been using Spectrum for years at my local makerspace. They have business class service, and it is is stupidly expensive—at least it was for the first two years. I believe they’re paying 200/20.

Spectrum has a 940 megabit plan for a very reasonable price, but I couldn’t find their advertised upload speed anywhere on their site. Some other Google search results suggested that it might be as low as 45 megabits per second. I need more upload speed.

If you’re at TheLab.ms’s weekly Video Game Night, and you join in for some online Rocket League, you’ll know just how bad Spectrum’s service is. The game will constantly drop connections. Your opponents on the Internet will be warping all over the place half the time.

When I take my laptop to TheLab.ms, I just tether to my phone. It is so much more reliable.

When FiOS works, it works great. Unfortunately for me, it has been like pulling teeth trying to get a working connection at my new home. It is frustrating and disappointing.

Conclusion

Everything is working now, and I am hopeful this trend will continue. It took 29 days to resolve my problem. That’s way too long. Ridiculously long.

My wife had to make three separate phone calls before she could convince Frontier that our address existed and that we were in their service area.

I had to work so hard just to get a working Ethernet connection from Frontier. There have to be errors or dropped frames showing up on an interface somewhere. I’m amazed that this isn’t something Frontier can immediately diagnose.

The technician that replaced our ONT spent at least two hours at my house. I had to spend that time just helping him convince his next level of support that I had a problem somewhere outside of my home.

From there, it only took three days for my account manager at Frontier and I to convince the right people that there was indeed something wrong.

To get from knowing definitively that there was a problem on Frontier’s end to getting the problem resolved took 20 days. Yes, 20 days.

As I said in the opening paragraphs of this blog post, I have been a happy FiOS costumer for at least six years. We’ve lived through a month of terrible customer service. It is inexcusable, but now that everything is working, I don’t expect to have any serious issues for at least another six years.

Was it worth the wait? I’m not sure. In hindsight, if I’d known this was going to take 29 days to install FiOS in my new home, I would have ordered Spectrum’s 940 megabit service. In the long run, I’ll be happier with symmetric FiOS service, but it has been an infuriating four weeks!

Have you experience similar problem with Frontier’s support? I’d enjoy hearing your stories in the comments below!

My Leader 120 Micro FPV Quad - Four Months Later

| Comments

I feels like I’ve been flying the Leader 120 for a long, long time. I checked the date on the first blog post I wrote about the Leader, and it was dated February 22. That didn’t seem right, so I checked my order history. I ordered my Leader 120 on December 20. I ordered one for my nephew on January 5—about the same day mine arrived.

I have two reasons for writing a follow-up post today.

My Leader 120 Micro FPV Quad

It looks like I’m about to reach my four month anniversary with this little guy. That’s a reasonable amount of time to let you know how durable the Leader 120 has been.

And last week, I thought I flew my last battery through my Leader 120. It wasn’t irreparably damaged, but it was showing enough minor problems that I thought it would be time to replace and upgrade some key components. Upgrade to a Tooth Fair frame that could fit a Runcam Micro Eagle. Upgrade to a Runcam Micro Eagle. Upgrade to a 200 mw VTX.

What was wrong with my Leader 120?

The battery that I thought was my final battery was epic. It was the best flight I’ve ever had on my Leader 120. I was power looping multiple trees at the same time, then immediately lining up a few gaps, and then lining up passes through The Lady Tree. It was awesome! I usually have to cut out the boring parts of these videos, but this was three continuous, interesting minutes of flight!

This is the smoothest I’ve ever gotten the Leader 120. I upgraded from the generic 2.8” props to Gemfan 2540 props. That alone made the Leader smoother and more responsive. I also upgraded to Butterflight, and I messed around with filters until I could disable as many filters as possible. I’ll go over those details later.

What have I broken? The 3D printed camera mount cracked on one side, the VTX often cuts out at full throttle when the battery is full, and I found three nylon screws with their heads popped off.

Be sure to keep an eye on your nylon screws. With these screws broken, the only thing holding my carbon side plates in place was the camera mount. That’s why my camera mount broke!

I should also mention that I bent one of the Leader 120’s arms back in February. Something went wrong at the top of a power loop, and I fell from the sky and landed on a sidewalk. I bent the arm back into place, and it has been flying just fine ever since!

What went wrong at the top of the power loop? I had my minimum motor speed set too low. It shipped with an 8% minimum, and that feels extremely high. If you fly inverted, it seems like the Leader 120 is accelerating towards the ground.

If the minimum throttle is too low, the motors won’t always spin back up in time. I thought I had a good minimum set, but it was too low. That’s why I fell out of the power loop. I currently have my minimum throttle set to 6.5%. It is a lot easier to do inverted moves with this setting, and I haven’t had any flips of death.

How did the repairs go?

I replaced the broken screws and glued the camera mount back together. That’s it. It was easy. It is holding together well, and I expect to get another four months out of the repairs!

The VTX is still acting up. You can see it in the first power loop in the video above. It seems like the VTX is rebooting when I go full throttle. It only happens when the battery is fresh. I don’t have an explanation for that, but I’m going to live with it for now.

What’s this talk about Butterflight?

I’ve been itching to try Butterflight, so I decided to try it on my Leader 120. That went well enough that I installed it on one of my 5” quads, and that went so well that I installed it on all my quads. My first day with Butterflight wasn’t fantastic, though.

I started my journey by bumping the PID loop up to 8k/8k. I was impressed that the F3 flight controller in the Leader 120 could manage that. I had to turn off the dynamic filter to free up enough CPU to do that. I thought this would be a good choice, but it wasn’t.

I tried tweaking all sorts of things from the Butterflight Lua script on my Taranis that first day, but I just couldn’t get rid of the oscillations. I tried more filtering. I tried less filtering. I tried all sorts of Q and R values. I just couldn’t make it fly as nice as my Betaflight 3.2.5 tune.

How can I run 8k/8k and the dynamic filter?

This was problematic on this tiny F3 flight controller. I turned on the dynamic filter, and my CPU utilization was through the roof. What could I disable to bring my CPU utilization down from the stratosphere?

The most obvious thing to disable was the accelerometer. That wasn’t enough. Then I thought about dropping from Dshot600 to Dshot300, but I didn’t like the idea of adding to my quad’s latency.

What about Multishot? It is faster than Dshot600, but should require less CPU. In fact, it requires a minuscule amount CPU power. Multishot is so friendly to the CPU that I could probably turn the accelerometer back on. I didn’t, but I could.

The only thing I’m giving up is turtle mode, but I have never successfully turtled the Leader 120. It is always embedded in the grass, and it just can’t get up.

If you switch from Dshot to Multishot, don’t forget to calibrate your ESCs!

Would you still buy the Leader 120?

Absolutely. It is a tremendous value. It is about $90 from Gearbest or $120 from Banggood. It is a great deal at either price.

I spend most of my time flying 5” or 5.5” miniquads, but I bet I fly the Leader 120 at least once a week. Sometimes I’ll just fly one battery. Other times I’ll burn through all six. It depends on my mood and it depends on what’s going on at the location.

If there are lots of random people around, I’m more likely to fly the micro quad. It is less noisy. It won’t scare anyone. It won’t do any serious damage to anyone.

I’d be surprised if I have run fewer than 100 batteries through my Leader 120.

2S or 3S?

I started flying my Leader 120 with 550 mAh Infinity 2S LiPos. I already had six of them for my KingKong 90GT. The Leader was fun to fly on 2S. It was pretty quick and nimble, but it didn’t really have enough thrust to pull off anything too acrobatic. It was very difficult to manage to pull up at the very last moment. I hit the ground a lot!

I ordered 550 mAh 3S Infinity LiPos, and you should, too. It is so much more fun on 3S. So far, we’ve clocked the Leader 120 at 67 miles per hour with the radar gun. I’m confident that I can break 70 with the Gemfan 2540 props.

I run my batteries down to 3.5 volts per cell, and I usually get five minutes out of a 3S pack. It has tons of power, and it is tons of fun.

My Butterflight settings

I have no idea if I’m doing this correctly. I most definitely have absolutely no idea how to correctly tune the Q and R values—I can say with absolute certainty that plenty of people could tune this better than I can! I just went out to the field, and I tweaked the Q and R values using the Butterflight Lua script until I liked the way my Leader 120 felt.

If my understanding is correct, my Q and R values make no sense with an 8k/8k PID loop, but I have trouble arguing with the results. Here are the relevant parts of my configuration.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
feature ANTI_GRAVITY
feature DYNAMIC_FILTER
set gyro_filter_r = 200
set acc_hardware = NONE
set baro_hardware = NONE
set pid_process_denom = 1
profile 0
set dterm_notch_hz = 0
set dterm_notch_cutoff = 0
set vbat_pid_gain = ON
set anti_gravity_threshold = 300
set anti_gravity_gain = 3500
set setpoint_relax_ratio = 50
set dterm_setpoint_weight = 75
set p_pitch = 33
set i_pitch = 36
set d_pitch = 34
set p_roll = 31
set i_roll = 36
set d_roll = 31
set p_yaw = 110
set tpa_rate = 35
set tpa_breakpoint = 1280

As I said, I am running Gemfan 2540 props. My Leader has always been a fun quad, but it has never been this smooth and responsive before!

Conclusion

The price of the Leader 120 seems to be increasing. Four months ago, paying $85 for a Leader 120 seemed like a good risk on an unknown micro quad. I don’t know that I would have bought one for $120 at the time.

Knowing what I know today, though, I believe the Leader 120 is still a good value at $120. It is quick, but not scary. It is reliable. It is a ton of fun to fly.

My Leader 120 FPV Micro Quad

The Leader 120 easily meets all of my minimum requirements for an FPV quad. The flight controller is fast enough for an 8k/8k PID loop, it has the Betaflight OSD, it supports telemetry and the Betaflight/Butterflight Lua script, and it can run Dshot600 or Multishot.

Do you have a Leader 120 or one of its competitors? What do you think of yours? Have you tried Butterflight? Let us know in the comments, or join us on our Discord server!