Yuneec Q500 Quad Copter Review

Complete Aerial Video/Photography System

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Introduction

Rotor Diameter: 565mm Diagonal
Frame Width: 420mm
Frame Height: 240mm
Flying Weight: 1700g
Battery: 3S 5400mAH Lipo Proprietary
Price: $1299.99
Available at: Yuneec

The Q500 Typhoon from Yuneec is designed to be an all in one quad copter for capturing aerial video and photography. It comes with literally everything required and is already pre-tuned and ready to fly in short order. I've used a lot of high end systems that require dual operators for professional quality so I was excited to see how the Q500 works as a single man operation. Lets dive in and take a look at this sophisticated piece of tech.

What's in the Box

When you open the box you are greeted with a welcome message that shows some support information and lists the box contents. Here's what's inside:

  • Q500 RTF Airframe
  • ST10 Transmitter/Ground Station
  • ST10 Sunshade
  • ST10 Neckstrap
  • AC/DC USB Charger
  • USB to Micro USB Cable
  • USB Programmer
  • Two 3S 5400mAH Lipo Batteries
  • Battery Charger and Charge Lead
  • DC 12V Auto Socket Cable
  • AD/DC Power Supply
  • 8GB Micro SD Card with Adapter
  • Motor Holder Tool
  • Two Sets of Propellers

The packaging was very nicely laid out. Once you remove the top cardboard, you can see both sets of props nestled in their slots. Remove them and the foam layer and you get your first glimpse of the Q500 copter. You can actually use the box as a carry case as long as you remove the props. On the bottom is the ST10 transmitter and the batteries, chargers, and other accessories that have their own slots in the foam for storage.

First impressions after getting everything out of the box is that this is a very well put together package. The Q500 itself looks cool and feels like a quality product in your hands. The ST10 transmitter is comfortable to hold, although I think the screen being on the bottom will likely not be very user friendly compared to a top mounted screen. Even the quick start guide and other documentation you get looks professionally done. It's not quite an Apple like experience opening the box, but its pretty close.

Assembly

There is really not much to assemble so the first thing you'll want to do is get the batteries charging. Charge up the main flight batteries as well as the ST10 Transmitter. Next you can remove the gimbal protective cover and install the propellers. The props come in standard and reverse threaded depending on the motor rotation so they will stay tight while in flight. You can thread them onto the motors and use the motor tool if needed to ensure they are tight. That also makes it easy to get them on an off without having to pull out a wrench if you are going to store the copter inside the box. I was able to hand tighten the props without using the included motor holder tool. With that the Q500 is ready to fly. Before we get into the flight tests though, I wanted to go over the main features of the Q500.

Features

Flight Modes

The Q500 has 3 different flight modes that can be selected using the 3 position switch on the front right of the transmitter. The switch has a rubber cover and clicks at each position making it easy to use. All 3 modes use the GPS so if you plan to fly indoors or in an area with poor GPS reception, you'll need to manually turn off the GPS following the instructions in the downloadable manual. It defaults to on, so you will need to follow the procedure to turn it off for each flight where you don't want GPS active.

Smart Mode. Smart Mode is recommended for first time pilots. It puts the copter in an orientation control mode where the copter will move in the direction of the control stick regardless of where the front (nose) is pointing. If you have some flight experience this can easily confuse you as you won't expect it to respond this way and you'll be better off using Angle Mode. You should always face the copter and the control sticks will move the copter in relation to where you are as the Home Point. Regardless of which way the nose is facing, when you push the right control stick forward, the Q500 will move away from you.

Smart Mode also features Follow Me. With the Q500 in the air you can walk with the transmitter and the Q500 will follow you. There is a GPS unit in the transmitter so the Q500 knows where the transmitter is and will follow it. I tested this by running up and down the field and it worked perfectly. The orientation of the Q500 does not change so if you plan to use this mode for easily filming yourself, you will need to aim the camera at you before starting your movement.

Angle Mode. Angle Mode is like standard GPS mode on most quads. The Q500 will hold altitude and position if you don't touch the sticks. It will respond like a normal helicopter when you move the control sticks. Pushing the right stick forward will make the Q500 tilt towards the front proportionally to the amount of stick input. This is the mode that most experienced pilots will want to use as it feels natural to how you are used to flying. It's still safe for newer pilots as you can just release the sticks if you lose orientation and the Q500 will hover in place. You can switch back to Smart Mode and pull back on the control stick to bring it closer to you to regain orientation.

Home Mode. Home Mode will cause the Q500 to autonomously fly back to the take off point and autoland. This also worked perfectly in my tests. It responded exactly how I expected and landed within 10 feet of the takeoff point. I don't recommend using this mode to land if you are near obstacles. It is more of an emergency mode used in case you lose sight or orientation of the Q500 and cannot bring it back under your own control.

Transmitter/Ground Station

The transmitter is nice looking and feels like a quality product. The gimbals are smooth and work well. The throttle stick is spring loaded making it super easy to hold altitude on the Q500. When the stick is in the middle, the Q500 uses the pressure sensor to auto maintain the current altitude. The switches and slider are all easy to access while flying.

On the left side of the transmitter is the camera slider. This controls the camera tilt angle from looking straight ahead to nearly straight down. On the top left is the photo button that is used to take a photo. Below that is the Start/Stop button used to arm and disarm the motors. On the right front is the Mode switch that selects Smart, Angle, or Home mode. On the top right is the video button used to start/stop video recording. On the right side is the control rate slider. Move the slider to the Rabbit for more angle or move it towards the turtle to make the quad more docile.

The display screen is used to see a live video feed from the camera, as well as view important telemetry data from the Q500 while in flight. The screen is on the bottom of the transmitter which I don't really like. I prefer to have my transmitter mounted monitors on top making them easier to view while flying line of sight which you have to do with the Q500. You are warned in the manual to not fly the Q500 solely from the FPV screen. The screen itself is pretty reflective and has poor viewing angles. You need to do be looking straight on to view it and even then it has kind of a 3D effect that is just weird. You get used to it though and it really wasn't a big deal when actually out flying. I didn't use the sunshield during the test flights and I didn't have any issues seeing the live feed or data.

The screen is used to view a live feed from the camera and show the OSD data. There is a lot of info there. You can see the current mode, GPS status, number of satellites acquired, GPS position coordinates, battery voltage, altitude, ground speed, and distance from home. It functions as a touch screen and is based on an Android operating system. You can change the frames per second that the camera will record from 48,50,or 60 frames per second right on the screen. This affects the lag or delay in the camera feed. At 60fps, the delay is around a second and not very smooth. At 48fps the lag is reduced, but still there. Aside from that, the refresh rate seems pretty slow causing the image to judder slightly while moving in flight. I'm not sure what the resolution is, but it is much higher than the 640x480 used on standard definition video downlink systems and the clarity is a nice change from lower resolution downlink systems. Since you can't really fpv with the screen, you are left using it as a reference only. It's great for photos as you can get the shot lined up easily and snap away. Video is harder as you are just flying line of sight while peeking down at the monitor briefly to reference. I do like having everything built into the transmitter with only one battery to worry about to run the ground station. It is very convenient and portable.

Camera

The CGO2-GB Camera Gimbal System is a decent little camera and stabilized gimbal that comes preinstalled and ready to go. The camera records video at 1080P in either 60,50,or 48 frames per second and takes 12MP still images. The field of view is 130 degrees so you do get some fish eye effect like a GoPro. It has an auto white balance and auto focus system that works well. None of the photos I took were out of focus and they looked nice and sharp. The video quality is just ok for me. It comes out a little soft on focus, but overall not too bad. It's much higher quality than most integrated cams I've seen on quads to date though.

The 3-axis gimbal seems to do a really fantastic job of stabilizing and smoothing out the copter movements. Having the 3rd axis to smooth out minor yaw movements from the copter really take the footage to the next level. The rotation speed of the tilt control is pretty slow, but nice and smooth. I really have no complaints with the quality of the gimbal, it performed better than my expectations.

Software

The software is pretty limited on what you can do which is good for those who don't know what they are doing, but I wanted to be able to adjust the gyro gains to tweak the stability some. You do get four screens to view data and adjust a few settings though. The Sensor Information screen shows you the electronics status, allows you to test the ESC's, shows the battery voltage, accelerometer and gyro data, compass data, and pressure sensor data.

The Calibration screen allows you to calibrate the accelerometer and gimbal and also provides instructions for calibrating the compass. You can set up flight boundaries as well, but I was not able to test this function during my flights.

The GPS Information screen shows you a graph of the available satellites and signal strength as well as the positional coordinates which you can view on a map.

The Device Information screen shows the firmware version and allows you to update the copter's firmware when new releases are made available. You can change the unit of measurements from Meters to Feet and from Celsius to Fahrenheit from any of these screens.

Flying

I flew most of my flights in Angle Mode except when I wanted to test how well the orientation control or the follow me features of Smart Mode worked. Angle mode feels like a normal quadcopter and that's a good thing. The big props mean it has a low disk loading which is great for long flight times, but can make the copter bobble around in the wind or when descending. I felt like the gains could have been increased some, but there is no way to do that in the software. Other than that, it handles great and is as responsive as you want it to be using the control rate slider on the transmitter. I noticed that I felt extremely comfortable with it right off the bat. I didn't get any weird vibes from it if that makes sense. It was solid and did what I told it to do and stopped and held its position when it was supposed to. I put around 20 flights on it during my testing over the course of a week and didn't have a single issue, it just worked.

Take offs require just a touch over half throttle for the flight board to increase the power. It goes straight up and holds a solid hover. The position and altitude hold works amazingly well. It ranks up there with the best flight boards on the market. It is nice having a spring loaded throttle so that when you release the throttle stick it returns to the midpoint and the Q500 will hold that altitude. It even held attitude well while transitioning from moving forward to stopping.

Flying around as a sport quad won't be that much fun as even on full rabbit the control rate is just not that fast. This is really designed for taking photos and videos so the parameters are setup to make it smooth and steady. There is enough angle to penetrate some wind, but they don't recommend flying in anything over 12MPH. On one of my test flights the wind was around 10MPH and it handled it just fine.

Landings can be a little tricky with the Q500. Something about the motor algorithm or pressure sensor causes it to bounce some even if you have the throttle stick all the way down. You can make a good landing, but more often than not, it would bounce on me. I started getting ready to hit the Start/Stop button just before touchdown to kill the motors. Make sure you are landing on a flat surface. It's not as big of a deal as it sounds, it just handles differently while landing than I'm used to.

Photos

On Board Photos - These photos are untouched and straight out of the camera.

Video

Conclusion

The Q500 is a fantastic package that includes absolutely everything you are going to need to get up and running for capturing aerial photos and videos. Everything from the packaging to the quality of the gear makes it really feel like a prosumer product. It's easy to fly and simple to use. It just works right out of the box with no fuss at all. For the money, you won't find a better complete package out of the box.

Pros

  • Everything You Need
  • HD Ground Station
  • Long Flight Times
  • Two Batteries Included
  • High Quality Construction
  • Position and Altitude Holding
  • Camera Gimbal Stabilizes Footage

Cons

  • Props will enter camera view on forward flight
  • Landings can be bouncy
  • Video is a bit soft
  • Poor viewing angle on screen
  • Video lag makes it harder to precisely line up a shot

Check out the Yuneec Q500

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Feb 06, 2015, 01:00 PM
Ming's Avatar
Planning to use Q500 for a aerial filming course. This is the most easier one for beginner I can say.

Ming Lou
Feb 06, 2015, 01:23 PM
FPV it is!
Nice review! I'm very happy with mine so far; although I haven't had much of a chance to fly it because of lousy winter weather..
Feb 06, 2015, 01:40 PM
Mr. Electron
DeValk's Avatar
How long will it fly for ?
Feb 06, 2015, 01:44 PM
FPV it is!
says on the box 20 to 25 minutes; assuming proper temperature and just hovering.

I imagine I'll get slightly less since I added on some traditional FPV gear to mine
Feb 06, 2015, 03:00 PM
Registered User
Nice review, Jason. It answers more questions about Q500 telemetry than other unboxings posted to date. Thanks.
Feb 06, 2015, 07:01 PM
www.gunnphotoservices.com
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Pretty good clarity from the still photos!
Latest blog entry: www.gunnphotoservices.com
Feb 07, 2015, 12:28 AM
I <3 Green Energy!!!
Thank you for your thorough review Jason. I believe you experienced higher than normal 'video lag' because you set the system to 60 frames per second (based on your photos of the ST10 user interface). For best video link performance, please switch to 48 frames per second. This is essentially good for 'lining up' still photo 'shots'.

Kind Regards,
Mark
Yuneec USA

p.s. Our product technical support team provides lightning fast service and support. 1-855-284-8888 let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
Feb 07, 2015, 05:31 AM
Registered User
As a owner of a q500 i can see it takes fantastic photos at night this is one i took the other night
Feb 07, 2015, 01:01 PM
Lower, Lower
bc-slowflyer's Avatar
Great review.
Feb 07, 2015, 02:21 PM
Registered User

Q500 and Camera Control


Great Review. Does anyone know if a 2nd person can control the camera from another controller or smart device so the pilot can concentrate on flying?

Much Thanks,

Rick
Feb 07, 2015, 04:58 PM
AMA 697691 / FAA 13675
Hi Jason,

Great review! It was as complete as the Q500 package itself.

It was also nice to see LP Field and Nashville again.

All the best!
Latest blog entry: Greg's Web Hangar
Feb 07, 2015, 09:17 PM
RCG Admin
Jason Cole's Avatar
Thread OP
Quote:
Originally Posted by rickster30us
Great Review. Does anyone know if a 2nd person can control the camera from another controller or smart device so the pilot can concentrate on flying?

Much Thanks,

Rick
Not currently. The only control is pitch anyway on this version so the pilot would still need to control the pan axis by yawing the copter.
Feb 10, 2015, 04:34 PM
Working to make things happen!
HeliStorm (FPV America)'s Avatar
Subbing to this thread. I will need to read your review later, but this is one that popped up on my radar, and has me interested.
Feb 10, 2015, 06:05 PM
Quietly Scheming!!!
geekness's Avatar
What are the flight electronics based on?
I know Yuneec is a Gold Member of the Droncode organisation, so is it an ardupilot or Pixhawk type of FC, or something different?
I'm interested to see a review of the H920 when it is released. Especially interested to see the groundstation it comes with.


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