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Old May 14, 2014, 01:24 AM
The flightless bird
jameschen072's Avatar
Joined Aug 2004
2,292 Posts
Mini-Review
The WLToys V303 (350 sized) "Seeker" quadcopter review

The 350 sized WLToys V303 “Seeker” quadcopter review


Introduction


The DJI phantom is one of the first R/C aircraft that made it beyond the world of us hobbyists; offering a different perspective on how you see the world around you, it became hugely popular with everyone from hobbyists to film-makers alike.

Since then, a wide array of quads bearing similar resemblance and features has been flooding the market (it almost looked like everyone had a phantom clone at the Beijing show this year). WLToys, being the king of the clones, had to make their own of course- and here we have it, the V303 “Seeker” quad.

Before we begin, I would like to thank Banggood.com for providing the sample and for their continuous support of my unbiased reviews over the years; had a great time hanging out with their team at the Beijing expo just a few weeks ago.

From the box

WLToys has gone overboard with coloring practically everything white on this product. From the white cardboard box comes a white quad with a white transmitter and white blades… I really think that WLToys could have been a bit more creative with how they did the paint scheme, but that’s just me. As soon as the quad is removed from the box, I loosened the prop nuts and installed the propellers in their correct direction of travel. With the battery on charge, I proceeded to take everything out of the box.

Box contents include:

1x V303 “Seeker” quadcopter
1x 2.4GHz LCD radio
1x 2S/3S Lipo Charger
1x 11.1V 2700mAh 25C Lipo battery
1x Instruction manual (quick start guide)
1x USB cable and micro hex drive

Interestingly, once the props are installed, I couldn’t find any spares! Looks like they only included one set of spare blades with the quad. Everything arrived undamaged, so I inserted 4x “AA” batteries into the transmitter and waited for the battery to finish charging.

The transmitter

WLToys chose to use pretty much the same casing for the V303 as they did with the V922-955 series, the V966 and the V977; this time though, the transmitter is white instead of gold like the V977 or black like the V922 transmitter. On the left shoulder, a 2 position switch labeled “Heading to lock” is the trigger for the compass, and the 2 position switch on the right shoulder (labeled “Turn back”) triggers the RTH (return-to-home) function.
As the V303 uses a barometer to keep its altitude, the throttle stick is self-centering.

There are a few buttons to the right of the transmitter, nothing is mentioned in the manual about their functionality and they don’t seem to affect the aircraft’s flight performance. One of the buttons triggers a camera icon, which could mean that future V303s may come with a camera onboard.

Sticks feel a little too light for my liking (as in there’s not enough tension on the springs) but the V303 responds very smoothly to the stick inputs, so I’m extremely happy with it.

All in all, the transmitter feels nice to hold and provides adequate functionality for the V303.


The walk-around
Although elements of the Phantom’s design could be seen throughout the V303 quad, I’m quite happy to see that at least WLToys attempted to be at least a bit original with this particular quad. Four 950KV motors provide ample power for the V303.

The battery bay is accessed via a hatch in the nose of the aircraft; the stock battery uses a XT60 connector.


There is a tri-color LED located aft of the fuselage which flashes different color sequences to show flight mode, battery and GPS status.

The frame is quite rigid, and there were no noticeable vibrations in flight- good job WLToys.

I like how the space themed landing gear, there are rubberized rings underneath the landing gear to keep the quad from sliding on the ground… more on that later.


Pointers

The “quick setup guide” is quite difficult to read both in how small the text is and how it was written… as there was no Chinese manual; I had to practically guess what they were trying to say.

I’ve summarized some of the things you might need in order to fly the V303 properly.

Meanings behind the LED flash sequences
Self-check sequence: red-yellow-red-yellow
Ready for flight, no GPS signal: red-green-off-red-green-off
Ready for flight with steady GPS signal: green-off-green-off
Compass mode with GPS: green-green-red-green-green-red
RTH enabled/ TX off/ Loss of signal: red-red-red-red
Outside flight envelope (too much stick input): yellow-off-yellow-off
Low voltage warning: red-red-off-red-red-off
Low voltage protection/automatic landing: red-red-red-red-

To arm/disarm the motors:
Pull both sticks downwards and outwards to engage the motors and repeat to stop the motors. Once the motors start spinning, they will not stop even if the throttle stick is at its lowest position (except when the RTH function is activated).

To re-calibrate the compass:
1. Once the quad is in ready-for-flight mode (the LEDs will flash a green-red-green-red sequence), toggle the “heading to lock” switch for a total of 3 times; the LED will turn a solid green.
2. While keeping the V303 as level as possible, rotate it horizontally 360 degrees.
3. Toggle the “heading to lock” 3 times again
4. Rotate the quad vertically 360 degrees (as if the center of the quad was the hub of a wheel.
5. Place the quad on a level surface and the LED should show that the V303 is now ready to fly again (red-green-red-green or green-green-green-green)


Flight characteristics
The WLToys V303 "Seeker" quadcopter (7 min 12 sec)
GPS lock achieved after 30 seconds or so.
After I recalibrated the compass (the manual suggests that you do so whenever you fly at a new environment), I armed the motors and gave the V303 a little throttle; for those of you who haven’t flown “altitude-hold” equipped quads, the way in which the throttle works on the V303 may be a bit odd at first, but I find it quite easy to get used to after a few flights.

As I advanced the throttle, the V303 started to climb; I think the engineers have programmed the V303 so that it climbs out of ground effect in one go. After the V303 is out of ground effect, the barometer does a great job of keeping the quad at the last recorded altitude. To climb, push the throttle until it reaches the desired height, then let go of the throttle, descending is also just as simple and straight-forward.

I tried using the “Heading to lock” flight mode (intelligent orientation/Compass flight mode) and it works really nicely; the V303 registers its last heading before takeoff as “forward” and will move towards that direction regardless of the quad’s physical heading when the elevator stick is pushed away from the user.
If the V303 took off without a GPS lock, it will continue to look for a GPS signal whilst in flight; in most scenarios, if the quad is flown in a relatively gentle fashion, it will usually work out its position in less than a minute.

Once the GPS signal is found, the V303 becomes a point in space that you could drag around… once you have it in the position that you desire, let go of the sticks and it’ll stay there until further inputs are given.

Next I tested out the return to home (RTH) function: this is a failsafe function that could also be triggered by the right shoulder toggle (labeled “Turn back”); prior to attempting this function, make sure that the LED status light slowly flashes green- indicating that the V303 is picking up GPS signals.

“Home” for the V303 is defined as the position that the quad copter started its motors; this position could thus change depending on where you land and take off. I marked the takeoff position, flew a few circuits around my field, and then triggered the return to home function. Once the RTH function is triggered (on purpose or due to loss of signal), the LED turns red and the V303 will follow the shortest route back to its GPS coordinates at whatever altitude RTH was triggered at. Once above the “home” location, the V303 will make an extremely gentle descent (the pilots still has control over the rudder, aileron and elevator in the whole process). The V303 will land very gently and stop the motors a few seconds after that. My findings were that the quad usually lands within 2 meters (6ft) or so of the “home” position, but in certain conditions (heavy cloud cover etc) this distance increases somewhat.

As I mentioned in the “transmitter” portion of the review, the V303 responds really, really nicely to the transmitter inputs; there is no perceivable lag or dead zone. I did find somewhat of a problem with the flight characteristics though, being that it’s really not that hard to push the V303 out of its flight envelope (the LED turns yellow in these conditions). If the quad is pushed out of its flight envelope, it seems to play havoc with the accelerometers/gyros; this is not something that an experienced pilot can’t handle (especially if you have experience with smaller quads, it’s not hard to recover from at all), but for new pilots it sure might catch them by surprise.

A final thing I would like to point out here are the landing gears; since they have a foam-like material on the bottom, less-than-perfect landings may cause the quad to tip/trip over. I’ve had this happen to me on two occasions with the V303 and never on my other birds with traditional skids (350QX, Phantom etc).



Conclusion

I’m very impressed that a company like WLToys could make a relatively advanced product like the V303. Although it’s not perfect (nothing is), I could confidently say that it “works as advertised”.
The fact that WLToys has a lot of add-on modules planned for the V303 (a brushless gimbal, a Mobius camera mount after I repeatedly asked them for it, 5.8GHz video downlink etc) means that owners will have plenty of options and upgrades to play with in the future.

WLToys and their FC supplier (Zero UAV) have done a great job of making the V303 as simple to operate as possible; if you have any prior experience with micro/mini quads or helicopters, I think you will be able to handle the V303 without any problems at all.

Well guys, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this review; if you’ve any questions or suggestions, please feel free to comment below. This review was written on May 11th 2014 and is accurate per my findings.



Pros and Cons

Pros
+ Extremely easy to operate
+ Plenty of power to lift a Go-Pro and a brushless gimbal
+ ZeroUAV professional-grade flight control
+ Robust airframe
+ Compass and GPS flight modes

Cons
- No spare blades
- No flight envelope protection
- Landing gear sometimes causes the V303 to tip over (in less-than-perfect landings)

If you would like to pick up a V303, please visit this LINK. The V303 is now available for 339.99 USD




**On a hot humid day like the day this photo was taken, people (my colleagues) would gather underneath the V303 and use it as a mobile a/c unit!**
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Old May 14, 2014, 02:13 AM
The flightless bird
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Reserved for Video and FAQ (If necessary)

The WLToys V303 "Seeker" quadcopter (7 min 12 sec)
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Old May 14, 2014, 02:47 AM
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Great review James
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Old May 14, 2014, 02:54 AM
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Questions ....

1) Did you test range before fail safe ?

2) Using an existing WLtoys protocol ? or it's a new one ?
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Old May 14, 2014, 03:07 AM
Registered User
United Kingdom, Maidstone
Joined Jul 2013
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I was interested about range too . Any classic wltoys drop outs or signal problems ?
Also I have a question and sure it's a stupid one but here goes anyway! :
To arm/disarm the motors:
Pull both sticks downwards and outwards to engage the motors and repeat to stop the motors. Once the motors start spinning, they will not stop even if the throttle stick is at its lowest position (except when the RTH function is activated).

So how do you land it ! ? I have never flown anything complex like this before . Mostly just smaller wltoys where up is up and down is down and all the way down is motors off and then you have landed ! Thing this might be too much for me with all those different light combinations ! I can fly a v262 with ease and never crash anymore so is this a good step up from that ?
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Old May 14, 2014, 03:18 AM
The flightless bird
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Joined Aug 2004
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Hey guys,
The RF was developed by HiSKY but they chose one of HiSKY's older protocols... I couldn't push it far enough where it lost range... and no dropouts were experienced
@Mike_Harris, you lower the throttle until it "lands", then do the arm/disarm procedure to stop the motors... under idle speed, the V303 has no lift. Most other 350 sized quad do this as well.

By the way, no such thing as a stupid question
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Old May 14, 2014, 03:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jameschen072 View Post
Hey guys,
The RF was developed by HiSKY but they chose one of HiSKY's older protocols... I couldn't push it far enough where it lost range... and no dropouts were experienced
@Mike_Harris, you lower the throttle until it "lands", then do the arm/disarm procedure to stop the motors... under idle speed, the V303 has no lift. Most other 350 sized quad do this as well.
@James... If not already implemented in deviationTX, can you push HiSky to give this older HiSky protocol specifications for deviationTX ?
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Old May 14, 2014, 03:25 AM
The flightless bird
jameschen072's Avatar
Joined Aug 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeByDocKy View Post
@James... If not already implemented in deviationTX, can you push HiSky to give this older HiSky protocol specifications for deviationTX ?
Sure thing, I'll try to get HiSKY to release the file, but it may be up to WLToys instead of HiSKY whether or not they would like to release the file.

Oh, and I've uploaded the video... but I accidently cut a little bit of the first footage, so I'll re-edit and re-upload the file in high definition :P

The WLToys V303 (6 min 44 sec)
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Old May 14, 2014, 05:51 AM
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Hello, thanks for the review.
Few questions
Whats the usb cable for?
Does it support waypoints, and how?
Where can I find spares?
If there is no spares in the market can I use, for example, cx-20 propellers?
Banggood anounces camera, but it looks there is not any camera in your review.?
Think use of wifi instalation?

thanks again,

Javier
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Old May 14, 2014, 08:41 AM
The flightless bird
jameschen072's Avatar
Joined Aug 2004
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pataro View Post
Hello, thanks for the review.
Few questions
Whats the usb cable for?
Does it support waypoints, and how?
Where can I find spares?
If there is no spares in the market can I use, for example, cx-20 propellers?
Banggood anounces camera, but it looks there is not any camera in your review.?
Think use of wifi instalation?

thanks again,

Javier
Hey Javier,
I could only guess at what the USB cable is for, as there is no info on the quick start guide that indicates what the port is used for.. it might be for upgrading the aircraft firmware, but I will need to check with wltoys.
No camera or camera mount even, was included in the package. It could be that my unit was pre- or early production... but from what I heard, the camera was cancelled.
I don't think waypoints are supported... and Banggood will definitely carry spares for a reasonable price. Hope that helps!
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Old May 14, 2014, 09:18 AM
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Well done as always.We will try to sell the mobius version as soon as possible.
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Old May 14, 2014, 06:00 PM
The flightless bird
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Joined Aug 2004
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Thank you Aaron, I saw the Mobius mount at the show... I'm glad that WLToys were willing to listen and actually went to talk to the Mobius developers... think the Mobius would be absolutely perfect for the V303
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Old May 14, 2014, 07:32 PM
The flightless bird
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I've uploaded some pictures from the Beijing model expo, these are the prototypes mentioned in the review... a brushless gimbal and a mobius mount are in the works (there was no cutout for the heatsink on the mobius mount oddly enough)

The CX20 also seems to have received an upgrade in the form of an egg-shaped camera like that found on the Phantom and early V303s.
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Old May 14, 2014, 08:43 PM
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Nice möbius -mount
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