Walkera Infra X RTF Quadcopter
|Radial Length:||4.25" (10.8cm)|
|Weight:||2.57 oz (73g)|
|Construction:||Composite frame with carbon fiber and plastic radials; polycarbonate canopy; plastic propellers with spares|
|Transmitter:||Walkera deVention DEVO 4 2.4GHz four-channel spread spectrum park flyer with dual rates, servo reversing and digital trims; model may be flown with DEVO 6/7/8S/10/12S radios as well|
|Control Board:||Walkera RX2457H-D with six-axis gyro|
|Battery:||Fullriver 3.7V 600mAh lithium polymer with JST power lead and Team Losi micro charging lead|
|Motors:||Four Walkera HS-8520 brushed coreless|
|Operator Skill Level/Age:||Beginner; 14+|
|Claimed Flight Duration:||5 - 7 minutes|
|Available From:||Nitroplanes.com and XHeli.com|
|Price (USD):||$69.95 plus shipping and tax where applicable|
If there's one thing that can be said for certain in the radio control hobby, it's this:
Multirotors are hot.
Not surprisingly, a lot of manufacturers and distributors are jumping on the bandwagon, especially with models designed to aid beginners in learning how to fly and to grow as one's skills improve.
We're about to dig into just such an example, namely the Walkera Infra X RTF Quadcopter from our friends at Nitroplanes.com and XHeli.com.
This fun little quad, available with the buyer's choice of a red or yellow canopy, packs a lot of technology in a mini-sized package. In addition to a six-axis gyro system, the Infra X also has two ultrasonic sensors for height control and eight infrared sensors for collision avoidance. When the sensors are switched off, the Infra X becomes a fast, nimble indoor/outdoor multirotor for more advanced pilots. It's compatible with Walkera's full line of DEVO radio systems, which means flying the Infra X with a more advanced radio means additional control options such as exponential and user-designated dual rates.
What's more, it does so at a price to fit anyone's hobby budget. It's pretty hard to beat seventy bucks for a fully assembled mini quadcopter complete with a radio, battery and USB charger.
We're about to find out just how well all of this affordable technology comes together, so sit back, relax and read on.
The factory assembled Infra X comes with the following:
Needed to get flying are:
The first thing I did was to get four AA-cell batteries for the transmitter and get them installed. While not exactly easier said than done, there was a bit of a challenge in the guise of the battery holder itself.
It plugs into the radio via a JST connector and there isn't a lot of room to remove the plug with one's fingers. I had to rely on some pliers for "gentle persuasion." On the other hand, the access door is spring loaded, a nice touch which helps simplify things.
Once removed, I noticed the holder had some tabs molded into the holder between cells, presumably to help hold them in place. On my example, the tabs were warped and wouldn't allow the batteries to seat fully, so out came a hobby knife for a bit of "plastic surgery."
In went the holder, in went the plug, up went the power switch...nothing. No beeps, no lights. Just...nothing.
Some careful examination with a multimeter showed the culprit to be one of the doggoned tabs. It kept two of the batteries separated just enough to prevent them from making contact.
With the tabs completely trimmed away, I now had power going to the transmitter and the batteries were still nice and snug in the holder.
As for the flight battery, it's an unusual little beast with its JST power connector and a reverse-polarity Losi micro connector for the charger. It's actually a nice idea which literally cuts wear of the JST in half.
The charger's output isn't rated, but it brought the little 600mAh li-po up to a full charge in a little more than an hour, so figure an output of 0.5 to 0.6A.
Amazingly, the Infra X has to be bound to the transmitter before each flight, but it's easy enough to do.
When the transmitter is first turned on, it automatically enters binding mode, signified by some alert tones and a flashing red light.
The receiver must then be powered up before the transmitter exits the binding mode. So, if all goes well, the two units will be talking to each other and the gyros initialized inside of thirty seconds. That's signified by a second set of alert tones, a steady red light on the transmitter and a pair of rapidly flickering red LEDs on the rear of the model.
New users should be aware that the Infra X is shipped with the sensors switched off, so needless to say, an attempt to avoid a wall after takeoff will be met with a crash.
The first liftoff in the living room was nice and smooth, but the controls were very sensitive. I soon discovered that the transmitter's dual rate default is the high rate, an oddity to keep in mind.
While the controls are tamer in the low rate setting, the rudder is almost too low, but it's a nice compromise for a beginner. Hovering took some doing, however. The quad had a marked tendency to drift, especially to the right and continued to try and do so even with some left aileron trim. It will hover to be sure, but it won't do so hands off. Some later online research showed this to be a common lament among Infra X users.
Still, it didn't take long for me to get a feel for the little quad and I soon had it buzzing all over the living room with reasonable accuracy. I then took it outside, switched back to the high rates and let it rip. Now the Infra X was in its element with smooth, coordinated turns, high speed forward flight and almost impossibly fast stops from fast forward flight thanks to the six-axis gyro system paired with accelerometers. Orientation at a distance tends to be an issue with small quads even with different colored propellers, but not so the Infra X with its distinctly pointed nose and flickering "taillights."
Breezy conditions will generally ground a nano- or mini-sized model but mini quadcopters don't seem to mind and the Infra X is no exception. Subesquent flights in a fairly stiff breeze in the high rate mode were effortless thanks to the six-axis gyro. The Infra X handles like a much larger machine in forward flight with hovering in the wind being the only real challenge.
I ran into a problem with the battery connector during my first few flights; it was nearly impossible to unplug it from the board without resorting to a pair of pliers. I'll save our readers some frustration and share my solution.
There's a collar on the male connector coming off the control board which is easily removed by bending - or breaking off - its retaining tabs and which in turn allows for easier disconnection once removed. Inserting the battery in the frame with its warning label pointed downward will allow the battery to slide out of the frame while connected, making it even easier to unplug the battery without the aid of pliers.
I have a name-brand nano quad which lacks the accelerometers and while it does come to quick stops, it does so with a lot less accuracy than does the Infra X and with a price a full thirty dollars higher. In further comparison, the Infra X is larger than that other quad, has a six-axis gyro instead of a three-axis gyro, a larger flight battery and longer run times.
The big selling point of the Infra X is its ability to "see" and "hear" in order to avoid obstacles and to maintain a steady hover.
Turning on its "eyes" and "ears" means the canopy has to come off in order to access the microswitches on the control board.
The canopy is simply held on via tabs which open up to go around the radials, much like other quads in this category. This actually led to a bit of a struggle to remove each corner of the canopy without putting undue strain on the tabs; polycarbonate will eventually break along a crease or bend with very little flexing needed to weaken the material.
The eight infrared sensors are taped to the inside of the canopy and are plugged into the control board. The wires are long enough to allow the canopy to be raised out of the way in order to access the switches. They're tiny things which are best activated with care with the help of an X-Acto knife or other pointed instrument.
My living room served once more as the initial test site and I found myself immediately wishing I'd used another location.
There was still quite a bit of lateral drift, although the ultrasonic sensors seemed to do a good job af holding altitude - until the Infra X drifted over a throw rug and furniture.
It immediately zoomed toward the ceiling in an attempt to maintain the same distance between itself and the new obstacle. Good thing I was on the throttle; it was easy enough to throttle back to avoid a crash, but I have to admit that I was a bit startled.
As for the infrared, that was actually quite entertaining. Flying toward the front door resulted in the Infra X reversing direction away from the door. However, it pushes back in proportion to how fast it's approaching an object and it might not respond quickly enough if flown too fast toward an obstacle.
A test flight in my garage the next day netted marginally better results. The ultrasonics did a better job of maintaining altitude, but the Infra X's tendency to drift caused the system to overcompensate for any bank needed to get the model back on course, causing one more unexpected launch toward the ceiling.
The infrared sensors seemed to do a good job of pushing back against the garage door, but they pushed back toward a shelving unit at one point and it didn't look as if it was going to compensate. This in turn led to some more hyperactivity from the ultrasonic sensors when I banked away from the shelves.
To sum up, the switches are staying in the off position for the foreseeable future.
Off they would stay for the video shoot at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club in the rural desert east of Palm Springs. This would be the first time that I was really going to do some serious flying with the Infra X, but it was an admittedly tiny thing out on the club's newly renovated and extended 865' by 70' (263.65 x 21m) runway.
Tiny in this case didn't mean weak or slow and the Infra X was off for a series of turns and high-speed blasts in front of the camera of club videographer George Muir.
Neither George nor I were disappointed with the performance of the little quad; it simply went where it was pointed and under perfect control. This in turn led me to the conclusion that the Infra X's real element was outdoors. It's a surprisingly powerful little machine which, in my opinion, generates a lot more turbulence in an indoor setting than do other small quads, hence the tendency to wander.
No wandering here. The Infra X hovered almost perfectly outdoors, eventually coming down for a landing in the exact spot I'd chosen.
My next step will be to order some more batteries. Given the overall fun factor, one simply isn't enough!
This is a nice beginner's quad, but it isn't a very good first quad in my opinion. The very systems which are supposed to serve as stability and guidance aids simply don't seem to work well enough for a raw beginner to take the sticks and fly with any success.
However, a beginner with some stick experience on other quads should have a great time flying the Infra X in its regular mode. With the "bells and whistles" switched off, it flies as well as anything on the market if not better.
If one has access to a large indoor area such as a gym, the flight aids should work well. They're simply overwhelmed in smaller quarters. What's more, the infrared sensors are unlikely to work outdoors as stated in the instruction manual.
Here's a demonstration of the ultrasonic and infrared systems produced by XHeli.com. The systems seem to work pretty well in the warehouse where this was taped:
|Walkera Infra X RC Quadcopter w/ Altitude and Proximity Sensors (4 min 24 sec)|
Here am I flying the Infra X outdoors with the flight aids turned off:
|Walkera Infra X Quadcopter from Nitroplanes.com and XHeli.com (2 min 17 sec)|
The Walkera Infra X RTF Quadcopter incorporates some truly fantastic ideas in a truly affordable package. Its six-axis gyro system almost puts it in a class by itself. I just wish that the infrared and ultrasonic systems were more refined, although a better radio might go a long way toward improving their performance.
This leaves me in something of a quandary in terms of my usual thumbs-up ratings, so I'll give it a split decision with a two thumbs way up for the Infra X just so long as the sensors are switched off. I'll give it about 1 1/4 thumbs up with the sensors switched on and I'll go a step further to say that despite the weirdness I experienced with the sensors, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for a fun, great flying mini quad. I genuinely like it and I'm looking forward to a lot of stick time!
Thanks galore go to Bobby Guarisco of Nitroplanes.com and XHeli.com for supplying the review sample. Bobby is working tirelessly behind the scenes at Nitroplanes and its sister sites to improve the customer relations experience and parts availability and I'm proud to help showcase their products.
As always, I have to thank RCGroups.com administrator Angela Haglund for her equally tireless work which makes all of these reviews possible for our worldwide audience of R/C enthusiasts.
Finally, order an Infra X and get ready for some fun of your own!
Pluses are many where the Infra X is concerned:
As for the minuses:
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