It was just last summer that Walkera announced their first RTF GPS quad. the x350 was a nice little plastic quad, flew OK but was not a run-away success.
And then BAM. Walkera start 2014 with the new and improved x350pro, it is still white, still have the cool pointed nose and rocket motors on the backside. but so much have changed.
Click through for the full story, video review and a build video.
Quick rundown of changes.
APM flight controller. welcome to full-featured flight control options.
Beefier battery, providing a solid 20 minute of flight time. Nice.
3S 5000mah battery for long flight times. NICE. (but expensive)
leg extentions for gimbals. Nice.
Body have been improved for better strenght.
Bo's QUICK START GUIDE for the QR x350PRO - Click to download -
Walkera original manual for QR x350PRO - Click to download -
Bo's step by step build video for the Walkera QR x350PRO
FIRST TIME USER - First Flight instructions
BIG BIG change, Walkera ditched their first generation GPS flight controller and went open-source. Welcome a APM ArdruCopter controller under the hood.
If you are not familiar with APM you may be wondering what is cool about this? Just like that you get a controller that is equal to the DJI NAZA, it can do ALL the tricks in the book, including advanced waypoint navigation, and a bunch of inteliget orientation flight moves, so you can program and fly waypoint based missions with auto-take-off and landing.
** taking advantage of the advanced modes in the APM require taking the time to understand the APM system.
Learn more about APM here http://copter.ardupilot.com
DYIdrone have made a exelent tutorial for setting up the APM mission planner, please realize if you mess with the mission planner and settings of the quad, it is no longer "original" so there is potential for creating problems here. Be careful, and make tweaks one step at a time.
I am excited about the APM controller, the one in the 350pro come preloaded from Walkera and works very well. you can upgrade it with the latest versions of arducopter and go wild if you like, however it works out of the box.
** As far as I know, Walkera is the fist "volume" manufacture of multi-rotors to adobt a opensourse flight-controller.
Personally, I think this was a smart, and appropiate move, Walkeras first gen GPS quad, the x350 suffered from a somewhat underwhelming flight-controller, this was very noticable in the competition with the first-generation Phantom, after all, DJI had already been making the NAZA for a couple of years before they made the phantom quad, Im sure DJI had hoped Walkera would continue making incremental improvements to their first generation flight-controller and continue to deliver a under-dog flight-controller. With the move to APM, Walkera have stepped up the game big time, they already build a nice quad, the x350pro is a big improvement on almost every detail compared to the orignal x350, and with the new APM flight controller the x350PRO really have stepped up, you can chose to use it as programmed from the factory, or you can unlock all kinds of cool flight modes, there is even advanced way-point flying mode with auto start and land available in the APM controller system. With this flight controller, users do not have to look envious at the NAZA, they have the same amount of abilities and probably more, in a equallty competent flight controller.
Back to the x350PRO... as the pictures clearly show, the x350 is a good deal more pregnant than the orignal x350. but that is OK because the space is being used to house a monster 3S 5000mah battery, the new battery will keep you in the air closer to 20 minutes.
I tested this with the 3S battery included in the kit, and got roughly 19 minutes from the naked x350 and 15-16 with the G-2D gimbal and iLook.
The x350PRO come with two sets of propellers, these are new 9 inch props from walkera, which are improved designs over the 2013 props, I found them to be in need of a quick balancing, but once balanced the quad flew smoothly and quietly with the new props. importantly, after 15 minutes of flight with GoPro and the gimbal, the motors were not overly hot.
A lot of people are eager to replace the stock props with expensive carbonfiber props, but to be perfectly honest, I did not see a significant increaste in performance over the stock props, and I like that plastic props break easier than carbon fiber, in case you do hit something. better to replace a prop than getting a deep cut.
Walkera recommend flying the quad in manual mode for lift-off. I second that. my typically flight goes like this; plug battery, wait for double-blink to confirm solid GPS lock, take-off in manual, flip to GPS for hold, fly and land in GPS. the manual feels like stabilized mode and is very predictable, and I often fly the entire flight in manual.
The manual mode show Walkera's history of making RC helicopters, and the x350pro is more "floaty" in manual, than most quads, this is great for video as the quad by default move smoothly, particularly if you are gentle on the sticks.
GPS mode.. this is the week point. and honestly un-excusable, because the APM controller is world-class quality and there is no excuse for not rocking with this controller. yet Walkera have not yet managed to setup the x350pro perfectly with the APM. Seriously walkera, this is like selling Mustang cars tuned to perform like a honda civic.
Using the GPS mode, the GPS mode is assigned to the MIX key on the Walkera radios, key pushed up is in the "0" position, this is manual, move the key down one click to the middle position for GPS hold. always have the throttle stick in the MIDDLE position when you click into the GPS hold mode.
Once in GPS-hold you can FLY the quad while in GPS-hold, moving the sticks will move the quad exactly as it do in manual, only difference is that once you let go of the sticks, the quad will stay where you leave it. NOTE it will not return to where you first put it into GPS mode.
RTH = Return to home, Yes it works great. Walkera call it "one button go home" - it does what its supposed to do. Nothing more to say.
IMPORTANT: when flipping between Manual / GPS / RTH modes. it is critical to remember to ALWAYS center the throttle stick to roughly 50% power before switching.
Switching out of RTH mode with the throttle stick low can easily cause a crash.
SCARRY: OK there is one part that really is not right. the low-voltage setting on the quad kicks in dramatically, first it start binking for a while.. when flying witht he camera and gimbal, I find the blinker kicks in around 11 minutes, the auto-land "executes" at about 17minutes, so call it 5 minutes later.. the problem is that the quad come down like a brick. it do not feel like a landing, but more like a controlled crash. and you want to cut the props quickly when it hits the ground to avoid bouncing.
Good news: there is a easy solution..
1. turn off the low-power auto-land using any laptop. Gektor instructions link here......
2. buy a low battery monitor and put it on the balance tab before the flight, the minder will start beeping when the battery is getting low, at first randomly, then constant beep beep beep.. then its a good time to get the quad on the ground.. cost for the fix is about $5...
Battery minder attached to the balance tab.
* Walkera.. please for the love of great beer. please put a $2 low-battery beeper in the quad, I mean, you already put a great flight-controller, why not put a battery alarm, the kind everybody (who know anything about quads) put on their quad. In Walkera's defence, there is no manufactures who yet is building quads with battery beepers.. but they should.
Battery minders from eBay, the left one is a general voltage checker, the right one is 3S specific and you solder the red and black cable to the aux power pads on the power distribution board in the quad. I would drill a hole for the buzzer or stick the entire thing on the belly of the quad.
Well, this is a tough one, lets be clear, I LIKE the x350pro, it is a nice and well build quad at a great price-point.
First the price is right, if you already have a walkera radio, you can buy a BNF x350pro for less than $400, consider the APM controller cost about $150, so you are basically paying only $250 for a well build quad. price is right. just do it.
BUT, the poorly implemented APM controller is a dissapointement, its not a big deal for you to edit the setup using the APM software, but seriously Walkera, the x350Pro should be setup perfect out fo the box.
The included iLook camera is only so-so and need to be the iLook+ but with the included G-2D gimbal, this is a complete and well rounded aerial video system, I am calling it the "real estate agent deluxe kit" becuase everything required to do a real estate video is in the box.
In the end. the price is right and its a wellbuild quad, the optional gimbal is plug-n-play with the x350pro. I like the quad and recommend it, but am dissapointed that the GPS implementation is not better than it is. (but you can help that by tweaking the APM flight control)
Walkera Gimbal & the iLook camera system
What about the iLook camera.? you will be excused if you have not heard about Walkera's latest all-in-one system camera. cleverly build exactly to GoPro size, but unlike the GoPro, the iLook have a build in 5.8gh video downlink. this is a surprisingly useful feature as this video source is visible on the screen of the Walkera F4 and F7 radios. so you have live video down by just attaching the camera to the gimbal. This is a great feature to get you started out, and will impress lots of friends. it also keep things simple. no extra wires required. the video quality surprisingly good for the price of this little unpretentious camera. - click to view Walkeras Sample video -
Walkera have also created a cool little lightweight 2axis gimbal for the x350pro quad, its the G-2D gimbal. Its worth mentioning that the G-2D can be purchased separately as well.
The G-2D clocked in at ONLY 134grams on my scale, that is ONLY 10 grams more than the $400 STELLA gimbal, BUT the G-2D cost only $125 Click here for the buy link
The G-2D is different in a couple of ways, I like that the control board is mounted behind the gimbal on the belly of the quad. Walkera also created a "track" mount, permitting you to slide the gimbal onto the quad and slide it back off easily, wish everybody had done something as cool as this.
iLook & iLook+
Walkera have finally ditched the cruddy old DV04 camera, and have in quick succession created first the iLook, which is a GoPro size camera with a build-in 5.8g video downlink, brilliant concept because its possible to get video downlink with no wiring or setup, totally plug-n-play. the iLook camera is the first version of this concept and deliver 720p recording at a fairly pedesterial quality, however at roughly $80 for 720 recording AND video downlink. the price is right and the quality for that price is totally acceptable. However, last month Walkera announced the new upgraded version, this time with 1080p recording, judging from the samples I have seen so far, the iLook+ is a great value, and if I was a real-estate agent wanting some aerial video of a listing, I would pick the iLook+ because its inexpensive and no-fuss setup.
The iLook camera is 80grams, so it will work smoothly in any GoPro gimbal. and obvisouly the G-D2 gimbal will work with either a iLook or a GoPro.
COST & Value?
Fully loaded with F7 radio, camera and gimbal, this baby cost about $750
That is a quad, with iLook camera, video downlink and a 2axis gimbal. compare to the main player in the field, a Phantom2 vision, cost aout $850 and up, and the vision camera can not be replaced with a GoPro. the vision also do not come with a screen in the controller like the walkera F7 controller.
Walkera QR35o PRO -
Walkera Lightweight gimbal G-2D Click for the buy link
BNF (Bind and Fly) with battery and charger included the QR x350PRO cost about $390
BUY online - the QR x350pro is available now at www.walkerahelicoptersupply.com
Build video from Walkera - click to view -
Build video from Honeycraft - click to view -
Walkera's iLook+ camera demo - click to view -
Another x350PRO review - click to view -
ONe more cool flight 350pro with G-2D gimbal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MF6-9f9xbgM
NIGHT video captured with the QR x350PRO and GoPro cam in the G-2D gimbal from Walkera
Great smooth and stable, the x350pro and the gimbal really shines in the hands of experienced users.