Battery: Built-in 150 mAh, 3.7 volt
Flight time: 4½-5 mins
Charge time: 30-40 mins
Transmitter rates: 3 (variable yaw)
Transmitter compatibility: ?
Headless mode: ?
Competitors: RC Leading RC101W, Cheerson CX-10W, Axis Drones Vidius
First ever toy grade nano FPV quadcopter model 954, or “The Eyes” if you prefer your names steeped in mystery, comes to us from equally mystery-steeped manufacturer FQ777, perhaps best known for their well-rounded, portable nano model 124. As is customary whenever a leap occurs in the field of toy multirotors, the FQ777-954 is however – similar to what happened to the Cheerson CX-10C soon after release – already the target of intense imitation, probably due to the components – once researched and developed – becoming readily available.
To date, relative newcomer RC Leading has announced the RC101W, relative old-timer Cheerson has announced the CX-10W and US based Axis Drones has announced the Vidius, sold at more than double the price. Time will tell whether these are original products or simple rebrands and – in the case of the former – if they’re any good, but for now let’s focus on what’s at hand.
Welcome to this review and flight test of the 954 “The Eyes” nano FPV quadcopter from FQ777!
Before we get into the review proper, a word or two on FPV:
FPV is an abbreviation of first-person view and – as implied – this covers any type of driving or piloting of an RC vehicle from a first-person perspective via an onboard camera fed wirelessly to either a pair of video goggles or some type of monitor. There are two general solutions for transmitting this camera feed from the vehicle to the person controlling it: analog and digital.
The former, which could also be thought of as “traditional” or “real” FPV, is – not surprising – the more widely used of the two. “Analog” may sound anachronistic in our day in age, but using analog modulation does have a clear edge for the purpose of FPV as an analogue signal – for one – requires little to no time-costly processing on either side and – for another – isn’t going to suddenly cut out when transmission distance increases or interference is introduced. Instead you – much like with radio or terrestrial television – get gradually intensifying noise as the signal becomes weaker. Much preferable to no signal at all!
Digital FPV, Wi-Fi FPV more specifically, is a more recent and less widely used solution. Not so much because it has yet to catch on (remote viewfinder apps using Wi-Fi has been around for years), but because it – in its current implementation – is inferior. Something like FPV just wasn’t in the scope when the standards Wi-Fi relies on were designed. Encoding, decoding the image data and dealing with various protocols will introduce delay and a weak signal will – instead of causing interference – freeze or drop the feed entirely if the connection is lost and has to be re-established.
There are a few upsides though: For one, when it works picture quality is – all other things being equal – better, because – without getting into a lengthy explanation – data sent via Wi-Fi doesn’t degrade the same way as data sent via an analog signal. Packets may have to be resent, but once received a Wi-Fi data transmission is usually intact. For another, and why it’s found a home with Chinese toy multirotors like the FQ777-954, is that it’s inexpensive: There’s no costly ground station equipment needed as any Wi-Fi enabled device with a screen will do!
With that background out of the way, let’s have a quick look at the quadcopter itself, its transmitter and included accessories before moving on to the flight test!
The usual rundown of the quadcopter’s design and parts is just not where it’s at with the FQ777-954. It’s as standard and barebones as they come. The transmitter is your typical nano transmitter, the charger is your typical nano charger and the included accessories meet only the bare minimum. Even the quadcopter itself – while being available in three different colors: black, white and red – is so standard I wouldn’t be able to point it out in a nano quadcopter line-up.
The one distinguishing feature I can think of is this mysterious memory card looking slot here on the side. I initially thought it was a microSD slot and tried to jam a card in there, but upon closer inspection I realized that wasn’t possible. My best guess is that FQ777 is also developing or already have a non-FPV camera model with on-board recording (thus requiring a memory card slot) and that they use the same body for both.
The instruction manual is odd in the sense that it doesn’t mention either camera or FPV capabilities at all until the very last spread, where a couple of screenshots from the app has been inserted or transcribed. Not exactly thorough documentation and in the bigger picture, along with things like the already mentioned non-functioning card slot, gives the impression of a product rushed out the door.
Let’s begin the flight test of the FQ777-954 with its subject of “World’s First”, the FPV capability:
The companion app (here demonstrated on Android) is – once installed – surprisingly easy to use: Just turn on the quadcopter, connect your device to the wireless network that appears (which means you’ll also have to disconnect from any other Wi-Fi your device may currently be connected to) and start the app. It’s nothing fancy that you’ll want to show off to your friends, but does what it’s supposed to and haven’t crashed once over several days use.
As is appropriate, the user interface is dominated by the live video feed from the quadcopter and – left in this state – the app will function as a FPV monitor while you fly the quadcopter as normal with the transmitter. In the top of the screen however, you’ll notice a number of buttons which allows for further functionality like capturing photos, video and – interestingly – taking control of the aircraft with the app.
Flying “in-app”, you can use either a pair of on-screen sticks or the accelerometer in your phone. Both options are more difficult to fly with than the physical transmitter though. This is not so much due to shortcomings in the app itself (both options are in fact well implemented), but rather the latency introduced by the Wi-Fi and the lack of physical feedback. Flying FPV with the app ramps up the difficulty further due to the rather narrow field-of-view, which makes it difficult to place yourself in three-dimensional space.
The range of the FQ777-954 is listed as 30 meters and while this is probably about right, a few things should be noted:
- The Wi-Fi range is affected by the surroundings you fly in, most significantly other wireless networks competing for the same wireless channel.
- As distance between device and quadcopter approaches this range, the video feed will start to stutter as the framerate becomes more sporadic.
It should also be noted that – since it turned out the quadcopter itself doesn’t have a memory card slot – photos and videos are captured and stored by the app. This has several – both positive and negative – consequences:
- For one thing, captured video is subject to the same connectivity related issues as the live feed, but Instead of freezing when out of range the video will proceed directly to the next frame, causing “jumps” or make the video look sped up.
- For another, since the capture functionality is entirely “app-based”, you cannot access it from the regular transmitter at all (regardless if the app is active or not).
- Of course the upside of having the photo and video capture taking place on your phone or tablet is that it makes sharing the content on via social networking apps and the like much more convenient.
All things considered, I didn’t expect this much from the FPV aspect of the FQ777-954. Yes, the range is limited, there is some delay in the video feed and latency in the in-app controls, but I truly believe this is about as good as it gets with a Wi-Fi implementation. I came to the realization that my biggest obstacle perhaps wasn’t technical but rather mental, not looking at but rather from the aircraft you’re controlling is a much bigger shift than I imagined.
It’s unfortunate that this becomes almost a side note in the case of the FQ777-954, but used with the included transmitter it’s actually a very capable flyer! It has three rates with decent variety and nice, proportional yaw. It even does flips, seemingly unburdened by the extra weight it’s carrying. My one complaint is that the yaw seems to have some subtle smoothing to it which makes it prone to oversteering. This is mostly noticeable on the higher rates.
Flights with the quadcopter last surprisingly long. I pretty consistently get between 4½ – 5 minutes before the LVC warning kicks in, whether or not the Wi-Fi is connected. I think this is respectable considering it’s a nano FPV quadcopter and that the Cheerson CX-10C, which objectively does less, only manages 2½ – 3 minute flights. I have read reports of both longer and shorter flight times from other early adopters though, take that as you will.
In conclusion, it’d be easy to dismiss the FQ777-954 with an offhand judgment like “compared to a proper FPV setup, this is nothing!” Arguably that is true, but then why not also compare other aspects? To its advantage, it – in comparison – also costs next to nothing and requires nothing in terms of extra equipment.
In more absolute terms, the FQ777-954 is a fun-to-use and surprisingly feature-rich toy grade quadcopter. It certainly isn’t perfect and – if you go looking for them – you’ll find flaws in both design and execution. Ultimately though, I think no one would contest the statement that it delivers on its promise of nano FPV.