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#UKDSM Sneak Peek 2

UK Distributor: HERE

Product Info Page: HERE

UK RRP: £1099  Item No: YUNTYHBUK

Package Includes:

ST16 Ground Station, CGO3+ Gimbal Camera, 1x Battery

 Key Features

  • Collision Avoidance - Fly Safer with Sonar Anti-Collision
  • Motor Redundancy - Land Safely with only 5 Rotors
  • CGO3+ Camera - 360° Unlimited Yaw - 4K Video at 30FPS/1080P up to 120FPS
  • Retractable Landing Gear - 360° View With No Obstructions
  • ST16 Ground Station - In-Built 7” HD Touchscreen for FPV
  • Team-Mode Ready - Dual Control Capability

We’ve been lucky enough to have our hands on a Typhoon H Advanced for a month now, and despite the worst the British Spring weather could throw at us we’ve been able to fly this much-anticipated hex enough to get a good feel for how it operates.

Fair’s Fair…

The first thing to say is that despite being the question everyone wants answered, we can’t compare the Typhoon H Advanced to the Phantom 4. Why? Because in “Advanced” spec as opposed to “Professional” the hardware just isn’t comparable, and that’s fair given the H’s £1,099 price tag versus the Phantom 4’s £1,299. When the Professional spec models start to shift we’ll be in a much better position to compare the packages, as the H “Pro” will come loaded with a visual/sonar down-looking positioning system and the exciting Intel RealSense device. We’re also keen to test out the “upgrade path” offered by Yuneec’s modular system and in a future edition we’ll take you through “pimping our ride” into Professional spec by retrofitting the additional hardware. The H Advanced relies solely on GPS for position hold, and whilst it does so admirably, it’s not as locked in closer to the ground as the VPS-equipped Phantom. Similarly, the collision avoidance on the H Advanced is limited to ultrasonics and a relatively narrow forward “view” (although it compensates for this by reducing the top speed when you switch anti-collision on, keeping things within limits the system can react to). RealSense promises much greater coverage with intelligent avoidance and a lot more tricks besides.

Having said all that, we reckon that for a smidge under £1,100 you get plenty to make you smile…

 

Love at First Sight (& Flight!)

We can’t tell you quite how much we love the ST16 transmitter. Being shallow, we love the aviation look to the switchgear, and the whole unit has a very professional “we mean business” look to it. It comes supplied with a neck strap, but to be honest we haven’t really felt the need to use it. The width of the unit spreads the weight nicely, and holding it with your arms more parallel than the usual RC transmitter stance is just...comfortable. The Intel-powered 7” Android tablet display is really very good. Being a “proper” tablet you can come out of the Yuneec interface at the tap of a button and check your email (no, really, we’ve done it), watch a video, order your groceries… or perhaps more usefully check the weather or look at Google maps (all assuming you’re near a wifi hotspot or you can get all geeky and tether your phone). You can also pump up the brightness to the max which, when combined with the neat little removable sunshade meant that we didn’t have a problem flying in bright sunlight provided, as with all screens, you don’t have the sun directly behind your head.

Battery life from the built in rechargeable pack is at least 5 hours on full brightness, probably more. Needless to say we haven’t had to worry about it for our casual flying. However if you are going to go for a whole day out in the wilds then you can either buy another battery pack from Yuneec and simply swap in a fully charged one, or carry a tablet-rated USB power pack and charge it via the micro-USB port as you fly - a really nice touch that frees you from proprietary connections. Another nice touch is that Yuneec supply a 12 volt car charging adapter with the aircraft to power their flight battery charger. This unit has a handy USB out as well, so you can easily charge flight battery and the ST16 in the car.

In use the touchscreen is responsive, and with a double-tap you can remove all the telemetry overlay and just be left with a 720p 7” full screen view of what the camera is seeing - great for framing shots or checking your settings. And speaking of settings, you can either keep everything on the camera  in automatic, or you can manually set white balance, exposure and shutter speed (including exposures up to 3 seconds in stills mode). Another “pro” feature is the ability to drill right down and adjust rates and expo for virtually every control on the unit. If you like things to fly “just so” then this setup is a fettlers dream. You can even save different profiles, making it easy to have a smooth, lazy camera ship one minute, then load up your “hoon around” settings for some speedy fun flying. We have to admit we’re still slightly scared at the depth there is to this feature, and we’ve only tentatively scratched the surface. Another thing that will impress the “if it’s stock, I’m not happy” modders amongst us is that the ST16 uses standard SMA connectors for it’s antennas - if you want to experiment with some third-party antenna goodness then there’s no need to wrestle the unit open and break out the soldering iron -  just plug (well, screw) and play.

The switchgear is pretty well placed. Crucial controls like the gear retract (we never get bored of that one) and the master power shutdown are positioned on the top of the unit, well away from being activated by an accidental finger. The latter needs to be held down for 3 seconds to cut the motors, and you need to take your hand off the sticks to do it, so even though you can do that in flight we can’t think of a situation in which it’s possible to hold a button down for that length of time by accident. Stills and video buttons are a handy thumb-reach away from either stick, and flight and gimbal mode controls are above the sticks ready to be switched with a finger. The one control we needed time to get our head around was the rotary gimbal control. Coming from quads with fixed gear and gimbals without 360 degree rotation we’re just used to using aircraft yaw, and for single-crew flying that’s still often the easiest way to set up a pan shot on the fly. However, the rotary control comes into it’s own for “set-piece” shots like the clichéd “climbing spiral”...setting a desired rate of rotation on the knob, then simply climbing away on the spot gives a super-smooth effect that’s completely consistent and better than almost anyone could do by hand. Similarly smooth, constant rate pans are child’s play to set up, and the results far more cinematic than our manual efforts.

 

Up, Up and Way…

So yes, we love the ST16 transmitter, as you can tell. But we need to know how the thing it’s controlling handles… And the answer is “really well”! The first thing that still surprises us is how quiet this aircraft is. It seems to be a trait of Yuneec that they somehow manage to get the pitch of the noise the props make a little lower than others, so it’s much less “in your face” and fades away quickly once you start flying off. The props themselves feature twist-lock fitting which is quick and easy, and there’s a reassuring click when they’ve lock correctly. The large distance between rotor disc and ground means there’s little ground effect and prop wash to trouble your take-offs - and if you’re not sure there’s even an auto-takeoff button you can tap on the screen to do it for you. In the hover at lower levels the aircraft shows its lack of visual positioning system as low level turbulence will cause some drifting as it can only rely on GPS accuracy. Give it some height away from the chop, though, and it hovers as well as any modern GPS/GLONASS equipped aircraft - we never saw fewer than 16 satellites during our flights and getting a lock was quick. Another nice touch we like is that return to home mode is accessed via the flip of a switch, and instantly cancelled the same way - simple and unambiguous.

The landing gear retract nicely - if you’re like us and you come from a long line of fixed gear multirotors you’ll keep forgetting though - and the aircraft has a good “presence”, and is therefore easier to keep in sight against the sky than a lighter-coloured aircraft. Against ground clutter, though, it’s just as easy to have it “disappear” as any other drone, so keep ‘em peeled. The onboard LEDs (one under each motor, one at the rear under the battery compartment) are not particularly bright, and appear to have been optimised to be viewed from below. This means as the drone flies away from you and the angle between your eyes and the lights shallows, they disappear from your line of sight pretty quickly. The rear LED which signals flight modes and satellite status, etc, is better, but still could be brighter.

The aircraft has a “tortoise and hare” rate control on the transmitter, which is infinitely adjustable between the two settings. For beginners we’d probably actually advise a setting about half way between the two. On the slowest rates the aircraft becomes wonderfully “soft” for filming, absorbing all sorts of ham-fisted stick waggling, but in critical phases of flight it’s probably too lacking in response to get you out of trouble quickly enough, particularly without a visual positioning unit fitted.. In “hare” mode the aircraft climbs aggressively and hoons around nicely. On our tests we saw ground speeds of 39mph indicated on the display flying crosswind runs. It certainly won’t win any races against the best-selling camera quads, but it’s a really fun aircraft to fly, and is nice and responsive when you want it to be. Landings are some of the most uneventful we’ve ever had. That tall stance means the prop wash is more dispersed and you really can just “touch down”, as opposed to some of the quads we’ve flown which need “flying to the ground” if their not to start hopping about. One thing to note, the aircraft will remember to put the gear down if it’s landing automatically (for example after you set return to home, or during low battery alert), but if you’re in control you need to remember to do that yourself!

Flight times with “real world” use for us are 20 minutes on average, with a mix of hovering, hooning around, 4K recording and stills. Doing any of the above constantly would probably impact that by a minute or so, just hovering in one spot might push that up a minute or so. A good vibrating feature on the ST16 lets you know when you start hitting battery level warnings, and the aircraft will start to descend if it feels it’s a little high to make sure there’s enough juice left for an emergency landing. Batteries take just under 2 hours to charge to full - that’s quite a long time, and you’ll need to factor that into your flying plans. The Advanced ships with one battery, additional batteries will be available at around £110. If you’re heavily invested into another manufacturer’s smart battery infrastructure then that might give you pause for thought, then again when we moved from a Phantom 2 to a Phantom we had  to start again collecting batteries too...

Read the full review in our 150 page #UKDroneshow Magazine available to download completely FREE by clicking HERE

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