The last year or so, Walkera have been launching two "me too" 300 size quads, delivering "me too" performance and experience trying to catch up to the infamous Phantom. With the new TALI it seems they have taken a step forward, and delivered a RTH video hexa aimed squarely at the more professionals in the RTF aerial video market.
What you get for your money.
The kit I'm looking at here, is the fully loaded RTF kit, everything required to shoot aerial 1080p video is included in the box. the current market price for this kit seems to be $1899
That means, 1 body with 6 motors and two sets of propellers.
3 axis G-3D gimbal and the iLook+ camera with build in video downlink.
Charger & one monster battery.
DEVO F12e controller with build in video screen and telemetry options.
*The h500 come in several kit options, from hull with motors and flight control, via BNF to fully loaded RTF kit.
UPDATE - just finished the revised H500 quick-start guide Click to download / read
Aug 11th - Walkera have released the worlds first RTF system for Sony RX100.
This is a unique step, because nobody have shipped a system, ready to fly, for anything larger than a GoPro camera. (im not counting the awesome cinestars or S1000 which is large system copters, but not mass market systems) The new Walkera TALI kit comes with a 3axis gimbal for sony RX100.
Whats so unique about a oversize "Phantom" quad anyway?
Deliberately including the P word here, the phantom was the fist successful GPS supported consumer quad. it was 300 size and the first generation had about 10 minutes of flight time. Importantly, because it was everywhere, almost from day one, people started using it as a camera platform, experimenting with propellers, better camera mounts etc. and importantly the new style aerial video stated showing up everywhere in the spring of 2013. "Drone video" had arrived to prime time.
But while the Phantom delivered "drone video", the experience was not painless, the original phantom was underpowered, had short flight times, and was infamous for occasionally flying away. Companies like DSLRpros made huge money dressing up the Phantom for the more serious users. so your run of the mill $800 Phantom would frequently cost $2500 delivered in a box, equipped with fancy carbon props, multiple batteries, gimbal, GoPro and a nice radio system and more features.
Its safe to say, no quad have ever been so many things to so many people..
This prelude is what lead us to the TALI h500 from Walkera. The h500 from the beginning had a design goal of flying a larger camera, which Walkera clearly demonstrate by also offering a Sony RX100 gimbal for the h500.
Out of the box the TALI arrive with retractable landing gear, a 3 axis gimbal and a radio with build in 5" screen for framing video shots.
NUFF talking lets look at the TALI h500
The first thing that strikes you when looking at the h500 body, is that it looks nothing like any other hexa you have ever seen. the slick beautifully designed unibody conceals every cable inside itself. Unlike the average F550 hexa used for video, full of exposed wires and parts, the TALI looks clean and professional, if I was shooting video for real-estate agents, I would be picking up a TALI just for its appearance.
Unlike the higher end pro airframes like the DJI s800 / s900 / s1000, those are open airframes, and all designed to carry a heavy gimbal and a camera such as the GH3 / GH4, the TALI is designed to carry a GoPro and a large "compact camera" such as the Sony RX100 or the Canon EOS-M. it also require no folding, don't have a bunch of wires to hook up, and can travel in much smaller packages than my s800 with the Z15 ever could. The DJI pro series with flight-controller / gimbal and Futaba radio, start at about $4500 and up.
The Walkera TALI is designed for smaller cameras, and in terms of market, lands somewhere between the Phantom and the s800 / s900 segment. I am deliberately not including self build multirotors here, and the TALI probaly don't appeal directly to dedicated "builders". The TALI is likely to appeal to users who are interested in a larger aircraft, something able to carry a bit more than a GoPro. (like a RX100) and a RTF (Ready To Fly) system. The TALI deliveres on this. its ready to fly out of the box, can carry more payload, is pretty easy to fly. and come ready with a video screen on the radio to for framing video shots.
The standard "fully loaded" kit, come with Walkeras iLook+ camera, that is what I call a "GoPro form factor" camera, it fit perfectly into GoPro Gimblas. unlike the GoPro, the camera have a build in 200mw 5.8 mhz video transmiter. For only $200, the iLook+ is probably the simplest way ever to get live video down, obviously with only 200mw you should not expect to fly a couple of miles with it. but that don't really matter for shooting video where you are typically working inside 250m.
GoPro upgrade, nobody expect a $200 camera to beat the calss leading GoPro. the good news is, the gimbal in the kit is a GoPro gimbal, so you can simply remove the iLook+ and pop a GoPro into the gimbal instead. in addition you will need something like a immersionRC 600mw VTX. and a connection cable for the GoPro to the VTX. done, that is how easy it is to update, to make it even easier, Walkera have added two 12v power plugs on the belly of the h500, all you have to do is plug the supplied cable from the VTX into the power, and you are ready to go.
Broadcast? welll lets not go overboard, however Walkera have said they are releasing a 3axis gimbal for the Sony RX100, when that is released, it will make the tali a very interesting package for anyone looking for a ready to fly documentary / video production system.
She got legs...
The stock h500 have, retractable landing gear, AKA retracts. This is one of the features "serious" quad guys love to put on the Phantom and many other quad and hexas. I think the h500 is the first one to have it standard on a RTF product. at least on a mainline high volume consumer product.
The leg / servo system on the h500 TALI is maybe the best implementation I have ever seen, at least in terms of simplicity. If you put your thumb on the side of the TALI just over the top of the leg black servo box, grab around the leg with your fingers and push on the side of the TALI.. the leg will pop out in your hand just like that. Amazingly simple.. in the mount hole you will see the pins from a servo cable. so if you break a leg, you can order a fresh one and pop it back in. I have been removing both propellers and legs for traveling, its done in less than a minute.
The legs seems to be breaking well also. I have broken two pairs of legs so far. one on a crash landing and one while testing the empty battery hover.. you should not be doing any of the things I was doing, so you should not be breaking legs.. BUT if you do. they seem to break at the bottom "T" tube, or rather just over the T, so you can easily pull the broken part out of the T, then cut 2cm off the leg, and put the tube back in the T. good news, the G-3D gimbal is short enough that it have no problems even with the shorter legs.
Its fair to say, I have mixed feelings about the retracts. For most users the retracts is a bit like putting low-profile tires on a Kia for driving to the grocery store. The ONLY people who have a meaningful use for retracts, are people flying with a separate camera operator and a 360 pan gimbal. Walkera DO offer the G-3Dh gimbal which do in fact pan 360 degrees. however if you are not using a 360 deg panning gimbal.. then the retracts add extra complications, and in my opinion it would be fine if Walkera offered a non-retract option. that would remove some of the potential problems for people who don't intend to use the retracts. Realistic I do not expect Walkera to release this option.
Potentially while flying, you could experience a equipment failure and the legs might not deploy when you get ready to land, this is rare but happens.
MUCH more typical, the pilot forget to drop the legs before landing. and land on the camera / gimbal.
Along with the TALI h500, Walkera released their new flagship radio, the F12e which have a wopping 4 slider controls, for everything from your gains to gimbal pitch yaw and roll. its also gotten a build in 5 inch video monitor, capable of displaying both video and telemetry from the h500.
Build in Video screen. A couple of years ago, when Walkera released the original F4 and F7 FPV radios, my biggest gribe was the internal antenna sucked, So I and a lot of others modified the F7 to put a higher quality 5.8ghz antenna on the outside. FINALLY on the F12e, Walkera have heard us. It have external socket for a 5.8ghz antenna. so you can use the supplied 5.8 circular antenna.. OR you could buy a 5 turn helical antenna and keep it pointed to the quad.. that would get you video from pretty far away. Walkera included the socket, its your choice what you do with it.
TELEMETRY the new flight controller provide live telemetry, this mean the F12e will display live data from the build in screen. data options include temperature, battery power, GPS position, speed, altitude and distance from starting point (home)
There is one strange "missing" feature. it seems to actually view sensor data, you have to go into model menu, down to sensor-view and into the screen. I really want a option to leave the OSD data permanently on the top level screen. Firmware upgrade Walkera.?
My favorite telemetry feature, low power warning, the radio start buzzing and shaking when you have about 2 minutes of flight time left on the h500 battery.
Missing telemetry on the goggles. The F12e have a plug for video goggles, I figured that plugging into the radio, would get me the video with the telemetry. Turns out I was wrong, plugging into the radio ONLY get me video, no telemetry. Seriously Walkera, what were the engineers thinking when they did that.? Telemetry is the lifeblod of the FPV pilot, we nee to know how much power is left in the battery, and the system that tells me what direction is home.. is only useful if I remove my goggles to look at the screen. Seriously.? This is going to be a non-issue for aerial video shooters, but it make the radio pretty useless for actual FPV flying.
The F12e is a sweet radio but..... easy to program and with solid powerful features and a very logical layout of switches, its also cleanly based on the logic of previous DEVO radios, so this is very easy to use if you already have experience with DEVO radios. But its not all good with the F12e. When they build the new flagship radio, somebody figured that it need to be bigger. Thats cool, but I personally think its too big. Problem is, ive got big hands, but the switches are so far up that I have to move my hands to reach the GEAR and MOD switches. well I CAN reach them, but its reaching. I really prefer being able to reach all controls without letting go of the sticks while flying. I still can.. but its a reach.
Dont' get me wrong, while larger than I would have chosen, the F12e is a functional work space. and I think the telemetry features will help it find its way to make Walkera fans.
The G-3D gimbal and its cousins.
Since this summer, Walkera have been in the Gimbal market, first with the remarkable light G-2D gimbal, which were a two axis gimbal. The new G-3D gimbal is their first 3 axis gimabl. its avaiable separately or with the h500 or the x350pro. The gimbal is still quite light, and on the h500 it arrive with a quick-connect rail, simply slide the gimbal onto the rail and fasten the 3mm finger screw, finally plug the cable from the gimbal into the "complex port" on the side of the h500 body.. removing the gimbal is equally simple. This ease of operations means you can pack the gimbal separately for transport.
3 axis is all the rage these days. its safe to say, "2 axis is so 2013", once you have tried both, you can simply never go back to two axis gimabls. the G-3D is a YAW dampening version, meaing it keep the camera pointing the direction of the aircraft, but it smooth out the shock of right/left pan moves during flight.
You get what you pay for. the G-3D is not as smooth as a $500 gimbal.. but then it is only $150. out of the box the G-3D is a bit rough compared to higher priced gimbals, however the 3axis gimbal still deliver convincing results, and while the more experienced users definately can easily spot the short-commings of this gimbal, it should do fine for the average real-estage job.
Walkera have bigger ambitions than the budget G-3D, and is also releasing two more gimbals, the G-3Dh which is a 360 degree pan gimbal (now you need those retracts) the G-3Dh is another GoPro gimbal, but with full pan. shoot it with the GoPro set to narrow FOV for a more production video look.
Much more exciting for most of us in the serious user category. Walkera tells me they are also releasing a YAW dampening gimbal for the Sony RX100 camera. for 3 generations the Sony RX100 have been notorious for shooting the highest quality video from a compact camera. this is the camera you want if you need a "broadcast" look image, with a deep dynamic range and beautiful details. and its "light" for what it do. Im right now being bombarded by emails asking when the RX100 gimbal will be available.. I don't know, but I predict, the RTF h500 with RX100 gimbal, will likely be a big success with video makers.
Battery & Charger
The battery looks like nothing I have ever seen on a hexa.. well, actually it looks just like the battery system on the P2, but that is OK, the "Plug & Play" battery with Apple MacBook style power indicator lights, is a indicator that multirotor is going from being hobby science experiemnts, to becomming mainstream flying applainces.
The battery release with two push latches, one on each side, grab them firmly and push, then pull out. install the battery by simply sliding the battery into the boddy of the h500 push until you hear a click.
In technical terms the battery is a 6S 5400mah, 22 volts, battery. about twice the capasity of the battery on the x350pro. This battery provide about 20+ minutes of flight time. when flying gently in still air, I have reached 27 minutes. however the other day I flew fairly hard in strong winds and got the low battery warning after 14 minutes.. but any other quad or hexa would have given the same results, after all the pilot flying style & the wind dictates the power consumtion.
On the back of the battery there is a sliding switch for with positions for OFF / ON. for every day storage, and forcharing, leave the switch in the OFF position. After inserting the battery into the h500, slide the switch to ON. then push on the triangle for about 4 seconds to turn on the system.
*For start-up of the system, turn on the F12e radio, then right away, turn on the battery to power the TALI.
** You can turn on the battery any time and press the triangle to check the power level. you should not start flying even for a short flight if you have less than two bars of power.
The dual 12v power-outlet on the bottom of the TALI h500
The APM flight controller & Flight modes
The heart of the system is the APM flight controller hiding inside the TALI H500.
This is the second time Walkera choose the APM fligt controller for a RTF product. and before getting dirty on some fo the details. I have to say. the h500 flies WONDERFULLY. I have flown it for several hours and absolutly love the general flight experience, its easy and smooth, exactly the way I would hope a video hexa should behave.
OUT of the box.. RTF. the TALI come with a couple of flight modes..
MANUAL / Stabilize, do what it says, its for flying manually without suport from the GPS. if you let go of the stick, the TALI will try to balance itself, BUT it will not stop in place, and will continue moving in the direction it was moving when you let go of the stick.
GPS Position-hold. is really meant as a way to park the TALI, however you can fly the hexa in this mode as well, and I suspect this will be the mode 99% of users fly in 99% of the time. its convinient because if you let go of the stick, the TALI will stop and stay where it is.
Inteligent Orientation mode. select this mode, and the system drop the notion of "front" on the hexa.. with this mode selected, the world revolve around YOU, the pilot. push the "pitch" stick away, and the TALI will move away from you.. move the "roll" stick, right, and the TALI will move right compared to YOU when you are looking at the hexa.. so you need to turn and always look at the hexa.. then the orientation will always match you. you can YAW / pan endlesly in this mode, this is a mode sure to be the favorite of single operator video guys....
Important: you need to start and fly about 30 feet away before you can start using IO mode, and when you come back, please turn off the IO mode when you are about 30 feet away from where you started.
Return To Home. this is the classical feature for GPS supported quads, select the feature and the quad will instantly climb to 15 meters and start to return to where it started and land where you started the flght. You can manually select RTH if you get too far away. If your radio accidentally become disconnected, the h500 will automatically switch to RTH mode and return home.
*RTH do not override low-battery auto-landing, so if you flew 5miles away and started RTH, it is very likely you will run out of battery before getting home, in that case it may be smarter to find a suittable place to land instead of trying to get back.
** RTH Climbs to 15meters by default, if there are trees taller than 15m or buildings in between the h500 and the home landing point.. the h500 will crash into these. you can manually edit the altitude setting if you need more altitude for your flying area.
The GPS issue
Bad GPS lock can cause a fly-away, or a crash, the general concensus with APM based systems seems to be giving it time to get a better lock. Matt is telling me 3 minutes, and saying not to move, and more important do not rotate the hexa after the 3 minutes before flying. This seems to be a general APM issue more than a h500 issue.
The Throttle stick setting issue.
Walkera's instructions is to always center the throttle stick before switching between flight modes. this is generally correct, however within the first week, it have become clear to most people flying the h500, that is a real problem. Turns out the preset inside the APM flight controller is the problem, its set to 50% and if you switch from GPShold to manual on a fresh battery, things work fine. the problem occurs at the end of the day, when you have a low battery, because now when you switch, the 50% value is no longer enough to keep your hexa hovering. the flight controller need a value of 64 to hover. you could push the throttle stick up to 65-67% that would work. however I find its easier to land in GPShold mode, that way I don't have to worry about getting the throttle stick high enough.
The Throttle on low battery issue is serious, and you need to understand it to avoid being a victim. However its important to emphasize that Walkera is working on a firmware fix, and also that I am still flying the h500 every day, the TALI is a delightful hexa, easy to fly and well build. I do not feel the couple of issues have impacted my overall enjoyment of the TALI.
*** Matt have been working on a process to adjust this, and we will be releasing the process shortly, stay tuned.
Wrapping it all up.
What to make of the TALI? I have flown about 10 batteries so far, its a comfortable aircraft to fly and generally speaking very predictable in flight. Im comfortable recommending the TALI for aerial video shots. its easy to fly, and the package deliver a working system for just south of $2000. all in all that is pretty good. The TALI works great flying LOS, using the screen for framing shots. but Im dissapointed that it is not possible to get the telemetry information in the video when plugging goggles into the F12e. I can't help feeling that even though Walkera make better and better aircrafts, there is a disconnect between the engineers, the designers and the pilots ending up actually flying the products. Walkera have really improved their products hugely with the the TALI. I hope one day they will take the time to refine products together with experienced FPV and Aerial Video pilots, then they will knock it out of the park.
Walkera TALI h500
as tested $1890 "fully loaded kit"
Professional appearence Ready To Fly at only $1800.
3 axis YAW stabilized GoPro compattible gimbal
iLook+ have reasonable video quality for most users and build in video downlink.
No fuzz radio system with build in video screen
Hard to ignore vibrating low-power warning system.
Come with a real battery charger.
The G-3D is not perfect
The APM flight controller have short commings, nothing you can't work around but...
3minute pause to aquire satelites, do not fly without giving it a extra 3 minutes for safety.
The battery charger powersupply sucks.
The APM flight controller have been locked to prevent users from editing the settings.
*** honestly, the jury is out on the FC lock out.. it may be a good thing.
Risk of crashing when switching from GPS hold to manual on a low battery.