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Oct 27, 2016, 02:53 PM
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Eachine Pioneer E350 - full review / mods / owners' thread


Hey guys, this is my review and build log for the new Eachine Pioneer E350 RTF copter from Banggood.

You can find the reiview as well as a full parts list in my blog: ArxangelRC.blogspot.com

After loosing my Aegean v2 I was really bummed because I like to tinker with stuff, and the Aegean was a perfect platform for that! So when I saw the Pioneer E350 over at Banggood I immediately ordered one because it looked great, had the same tinkering potential as the Aegean, but it was 100 USD cheaper!!!
When it arrived the surprises just kept on coming! In addition to looking simply amazing, the quality of the plastic was definitely better than what I expected, and the copter looked much better in person than on the product listing photos. In addition it also flew very well out of box, needing only a quick compass calibration. This is truly what I would call a RTF package, and when you also get the gimbal for it and a compatible camera you will have a truly amazing aerial video platform for less than 400 USD! That is hard to beat! This machine is absolutely worth every cent.

Eachine Pioneer E350 - Review, maiden flight and gimbal test (11 min 35 sec)


SPECIFICATIONS
Motor centre to motor centre (diagonally): 350mm
Dimensions: 29cm x 29cm x 19.5cm
Flying weight: 895g according manufacturer (1041g with a 2-axis gimbal and the FireFly 6S camera)
Radio range: about 700-1200m


ARRIVAL STATE

Well... the copter arrived via DHL in 3 days from China in perfect condition... so not much to say here! I was surprised at high neatly this thing was packed, and even though it is the same size as the Aegean v2 and even has a larger radio the box it came in was noticeably smaller in volume!





WHAT I LIKE

Right, so first thing was the small size of the box. It does take just a few minutes more to assemble it and get to flying, so if you are one of the more patient out there it would be more than OK to disassemble the legs each time to store it back in the original box for easy transport.

And speaking of the legs, they are in fact removable via a set of thumb screws that are easy to access. In addition there are no antennas or compasses mounted on them, so this makes the copter really easy and quick to break down a very compact state.



Also featured on the bottom of the frame are a set of connectors. The Micro USB port allows you to connect the flight controller, which is an APM, to your computer for all sorts of calibrations and setting adjustments, if such are ever needed. Luckily there is a way to calibrate the compass without connecting it to a computer, so you can do it on the go.

The 5 pin connector on the left is for the optional telemetry module, which I definitely recommend people to purchase along with the copter, or if you are already an APM user and have one of those telemetry kits, you can plug it there and use it. I would just urge you to open the frame and verify the wiring so you don't burn out something!

The 3 pin connector to the right of the 5 pin one is for the gimbal control. It allows you to control gimbal pitch and roll via two of the channels from the radio receiver.

And the two larger 2 pin connectors on the bottom provide power for the gimbal and a video transmitter.



The copter comes along with all of the necessary cables for those connectors so you will not have to chop and solder to make your own cables.



It is worth mentioning that with the copter you also get the standard set of stuff for this type of copter - a 2200mah 3S 25C battery pack, a charger, a data cable for connecting the flight controller to the computer, a set of hex head bolts and a hex wrench for mounting the optional gimbal, and a user manual, which is not in the photo but is surprisingly understandable for one coming from China!



And now tell me if this isn't the most badass charger you've seen? Its not every day that you can have Batman charging your batteries! And at 2.1 charging current and an option to charge 3 types of batteries this is by far the fastest and most sophisticated charger I've gotten with a RTF kit. Not to mention the best looking, just like the Pioneer itself!



Moving back to the copter, its always nice to see metal threaded inserts into the frame to allow for mounting of additional gear, be it a gimbal or something else! Makes the whole ordeal a lot easier and quicker.



The underside of the motors features LED lights - blue at the back and red at the front. The blue LEDs are indicating the GPS status, while the red LEDs are indicating the battery status - when the battery gets low they will start to blink, so keep an eye out for that as you will not hear an audible indication of that.





And so we come to the motors. They are 2212 size at 920Kv, and not 980Kv like Banggood's product listing states, although this is based purely on information from the manual, the motors themselves have no markings on them. They should be 920Kv as this is the most popular spec for copters of this size, and after a flight come down cool as ice, so definitely not 980Kv. Also the motors come with threaded prop adapters, which makes installation of the self-tightening propellers very easy, and also makes them compatible with DJI Phantom 3 propellers, and there are some pretty cheap prop options from China.





The "eyes" of the copter at the front are also indicating the copter GPS status, so while on the ground you can use them to judge whether it has achieved GPS lock or not. Keep in mind that the GPS may not achieve a reliable lock until you calibrate the compass when you receive the copter, so make sure you do it before the first flight.



Another thing that I also like about this model, in addition to the good looks, is the material the top part of the frame is made of. It looks and feels rubberized, and is very smooth and nice to the touch. Definitely feels much more expensive than it is!



I also like the fact that the frame is very stiff! I can barely twist the arms at the motors, and that is a prerequisite for a good platform and stable flight.



And adding to the looks of the copter is the shark-like tail fin at the back! This is a marvellous design piece for me and it would have been soo cool if they had installed some sort of an antenna in there! As of this moment I don't think there is an antenna in there... but sometimes in the future I might think of something.



The copter also comes equipped with a standard XT60 connector, which makes it easily compatible with most 2200-3600mAh 3S batteries out there.



And now we come to the landing gear. The Pioneer is actually 20mm taller than the Aegean v2 was, which means more ground clearance for the gimbal, which means that a 3-axis gimbal will fit with room to spare.





And speaking of the gimbal, it is not anything spectacular at a first glance, but the non-metal parts do appear to be actual carbon, the flight controller is small and light, the wiring is tidy, and the wires are very soft and bendy and are wired through the structure of the gimbal so the whole thing looks very clean, and last but certainly not least it works VERY well.... and my FireFly 6S fits in it perfectly.







And finally we get to the radio. Its not as good looking as the Aegean one, but it is an 8 channel radio and you are able to use up to 5 flight modes and controll both gimbal axis.







The radio takes 4x AA NiMh batteries, which makes it very easy to get everything going, and not have to charge one additional battery for it. You just go to the store and buy a pack of AA batteries and off you go.



I like the top gimbal plate because it has proper mounting holes at a few locations and this allows us to mount the gimbal either more to the inside of the frame, or more to the outside. This allows us to adjust the CG in case a heavier battery is used and keep the craft well balanced. Moving the gimbal forward will also allow the camera to see less props and arms during flight.




WHAT I DON'T LIKE

As with other models... this one is not absolutely perfect, so this is what I don't like.

First and foremost, for some reason the designers have decided that the arms need to arch down from the body of the copter rather than level or up. The copter looks very good, but those down arching arms actually do enter into view of the camera more easily, especially if the camera is not angled a bit downward. I will have to see if they will get into view when the camera is facing down rather than straight forward, but in any case it would have been better if the arms were going up, or at least straight and level.



Opening the battery hatch you can see some sort of grey/silvery tape on the top of the inside of the frame, so this is probably covering the GPS unit. You will also notice that it is not in the middle of the frame and also that it is definitely NOT at the highest point of the frame, and also very near the battery power wires. This last thing will not be an issue if this piece of tape is lined with copper tape to shield the GPS from interference, but from the look of it and its thickness I doubt that.



Following the loss of the Aegean due to battery hatch opening in flight I am very uneasy with the way this lock operates and I definitely see the potential for something similar to happen here, however this can be easily solved by adding some velcro to tape over the hatch when the battery is in there for additional security.





There is also a small issue with the labelling on the radio. At least on my unit the pot labelled for gimbal pitch actually controlls the gimbal roll and the one labelled gimbal roll controls the gimbal pitch.





I am going to mention the radio battery situation in this section as well. I appreciate the convenience of using AA batteries, but it would have been nice if they could make it a removable battery tray that could be replaced with a NiMh battery pack, or a LiPo pack to last much longer.



And last, and this is more of a nuissance rather than a real issue, the provided cables for powering and control of the gimbal are way too long and when connected as they are it creates a bit of a wiring mess at the back of the copter. This can probably be remedied by a piece of tape, but in my view this is only half a solution... and it will get worse when you add in the telemetry connector and the video power lead.

When I add those in I will definitely redo all the leads so they will be the proper length and look as clean as possible.




THE VERDICT


Alright, so half the issues with this model are actually more of a nuissance rather than anything more serious and can be easily addressed and solved. The only real issue is the low hanging arms, but again you can mount the gimbal further forward and point the camera slightly downward, which will prevent the amrs from getting into view. This will also allow you to use a larger battery for extended flight times and still keep the copter balanced.

Considering the good about this copter really makes it very desireable. The plastic is very nice, the look of the copter is impressive and memorable, it is able to achieve around 10-11 mins of flight time with the provided battery and the gimbal and camera mounted, it is very stable in flight and quite fast when it needs to be. Furthermore, if any part of the electronics is damaged it can be easily replaced because the flight controller, GPS, compass, ESCs and power distribution board are separate modules. This also allows for easy upgrades should the need or desire arise. I also need to mention that fact that there were no vibrations on the video straight out of the box without any prop or motor balancing, which is quite impressive at this price point.

And I can't ignore the price either! This is actually one of the stunning things about this machine, it costs less than 200 USD, and add to that around 80 USD for the gimbal and very little for shipping and you have an amazing aerial video platform for less than 300 USD. The FireFly 6S camera fits the gimbal perfectly just in case you don't have a GoPro already, so in the worst case scenario you will shell out another 80 USD for a camera, although there are also cheaper models of this size and form. So, that puts you are less than 400 USD for an amazing copter with a gimbal and an HD camera, that also flies good, has RTH and position hold functions, and for just a little more you can add a video system to that. You just can't beat that package!

I can't wait to open this up and see what could be tweaked to make it even better, and I can definitely say that this marvellous machine is ABSOLUTELY worth the money!

Continues in next post...
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Oct 27, 2016, 02:54 PM
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...continued from previous post

ASSEMBLY AND MAIDEN


There is not much assembly for this model, you just have to mount the legs with the provided thumb screws to the main body... and you're ready for flight.



As a rule of thumb it is a good idea to fly the copter first without anything additionally mounted to it. Just in case there is something wrong with the copter you definitely do not want to crash with the gimbal and camera mounted to it. So, always do a few flights without an additional payload to make sure the copter is flying well and everything is working.

Also, before the maiden flight READ the user manual and do the compass calibration, otherwise you may experience issues with the Loiter and RTH flight modes.

After you have flown a few batteries and gotten used to the way the Pioneer flies, you can now install the gimbal. I chose to mount it using holes that would put the gimbal more on the inside of the frame because for the time being I will be using the stock battery.



As the dampers are quite stiff you can use a screwdriver to gently inser them in the holes on the other gimbal plate and assemble the unit.



Then just use the cables provided with the copter for the gimbal and connect everything up. When you plug in the flight battery do not touch or move the copter for 15-20 seconds so the flight controller and gimbal can properly initialilze.





Now we can really have some good fun with this great flying machine!



I keep thinking about it, but I can't figure out why the E350 label is the right way up, while the Eachine label is upside down.





The props are also nice, matching in colour to the copter very nicely!







Here is the video review and maiden flight again, just in case you missed it at the beginning of this thread:

Eachine Pioneer E350 - Review, maiden flight and gimbal test (11 min 35 sec)


With a little luck there is much more to come so stay tuned. This weekend I am planning to test the max range of the radio, adjust the voltage settings on the power module, and mount a video Tx so I can finally get some FPV flights in.
Oct 27, 2016, 02:55 PM
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Arxangel's Avatar
Reserved...
Oct 27, 2016, 02:55 PM
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Arxangel's Avatar
Reserved!
Nov 04, 2016, 08:35 AM
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Arxangel's Avatar
The Pioneer is on sale for a few days: https://goo.gl/yigPJ2
Nov 13, 2016, 03:47 AM
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any updates?
Nov 13, 2016, 04:56 AM
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Arxangel's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by birdshell
any updates?
Yup, soon, working on some other stuff right now but will update soon with some prop and motor balancing tips, telemetry installation, power module calibration, etc.

Have not yet done a proper range test... but will get to that as soon as the weather allows!
Nov 13, 2016, 12:22 PM
Registered User
how are you going to install a power module? there are only 3 wires going into the fc.
Nov 13, 2016, 03:24 PM
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Arxangel's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by birdshell
how are you going to install a power module? there are only 3 wires going into the fc.
The copter has a built in voltage sensor on the PDB, will have to see if there was a shunt as well, but it is already setup and sees a very accurate account of the battery voltage. My idea was to change the battery failsafe settings, because they engage too early for my liking and the copter tries to land.
Nov 13, 2016, 06:22 PM
Registered User
The gimbal seems pretty bad (try putting a sheet of paper over the video at the horizon height, you will see it moves a lot, including roll). Considering a like-new refurbished DJI Phantom 3 is around $300-350 (for example Newegg has one today for $314, shipped free to USA), I don't see how something like this is competitive anymore (the Phantom 3 includes a camera, and a good one at that, in the price)

It's true that DJI batteries and accessories are a lot more money, and that this uses APM letting people thinker with it more... but DJI is really making life hard for competitors
Nov 13, 2016, 11:03 PM
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Arxangel's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by robca
The gimbal seems pretty bad (try putting a sheet of paper over the video at the horizon height, you will see it moves a lot, including roll). Considering a like-new refurbished DJI Phantom 3 is around $300-350 (for example Newegg has one today for $314, shipped free to USA), I don't see how something like this is competitive anymore (the Phantom 3 includes a camera, and a good one at that, in the price)

It's true that DJI batteries and accessories are a lot more money, and that this uses APM letting people thinker with it more... but DJI is really making life hard for competitors
Yup... DJI is making it hard for the competition... but these products are aimed at different people after all!

If you want to just fly and take video without tinkering you will not buy the Pioneer... On the other hand my Phantom 3 Pro is great... but it is so boring! There is nothing to do with it other than fly and shoot video... and I love to tinker... and it leaves me with a sense of... weird unfullfillment (if there is such a word).

The tinkerer in me is always looking to fiddle with something, to improve, to change, to test... and with the Phantom 3 Pro, there is nothing to do! It is a weird concept for me... and I know it sounds weird... but there are people out there who will understand what I am saying and how I feel!

As for the gimbal... nobody is claiming it is perfect... but it does work quite well for what it is out of the box... and there are ways of improving its operation! Besides I think some of that "movement" you refer to is actualy from the PIDs on the Pioneer, rather than an issue with the gimbal, although the gimbal itself may benefit some softer dampers... so I will be looking into this soon enough!
Nov 14, 2016, 12:06 AM
Registered User
I own and fly various APM, PixHawk and Naze32 (F3) boards...so I know what you mean . I just wouldn't bother with the gimbal on the Pioneer 350, and just enjoy it as a stand alone flyer. If you want videos, a P3 is better. If you like tinkering and flying, the Pioneer is definitely a fine choice
Nov 14, 2016, 07:38 AM
Registered User
I am from a thrid-world country, so the deals like phantom above are not actual (no shipping or high price). And ive got a vtx and a firefly 6s for my bike already anyway.
I decided to use a simple nonstabilized camera holder for better flight times plus a higher capacity battery around 300-360g.
Nov 14, 2016, 08:33 AM
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Arxangel's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by robca
I own and fly various APM, PixHawk and Naze32 (F3) boards...so I know what you mean . I just wouldn't bother with the gimbal on the Pioneer 350, and just enjoy it as a stand alone flyer. If you want videos, a P3 is better. If you like tinkering and flying, the Pioneer is definitely a fine choice
That's the thing... I am playing around with the Pioneer to see how close to good video I can take it... and what it will take! I think it has some potential... but will see if the gimbal meant for it will cut it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by birdshell
I am from a thrid-world country, so the deals like phantom above are not actual (no shipping or high price). And ive got a vtx and a firefly 6s for my bike already anyway.
I decided to use a simple nonstabilized camera holder for better flight times plus a higher capacity battery around 300-360g.
Sounds good. Around 330 grams will get you a multistar 5200mAh 3S pack.... but it doesn't fit in the Pioneer... unless you enlarge opening somehow.
Nov 14, 2016, 10:35 AM
Registered User
Maybe zippy compact 5000 will fit with some minor modification pf battery bay. It s 45 mm high


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