Battery: Removable 650 mAh, 3.7 volt (x2)
Flight time: 8 mins
Charge time: 60+ mins
Transmitter rates: 4 (variable yaw rate)
Transmitter compatibility: ?
Headless mode: Yes
Competitors: Syma X5(C)
Let me present you with a scenario and see if you can relate: You’ve just lucked out and happened upon a cool spot that’d be just perfect for flying your quadcopter. You’re excited, already planning the whole thing out in your head, thinking about sticking a camera on there so you capture the sights… and then it hits you: it would involve flying over water. What if something happens? There could be transmitter interference, the battery could run out, god forbid you could make a mistake! What about the quadcopter? What about the money? Enter the GPToys H2O Aviax, which aims to relieve this anxiety by a) not being very expensive and b) – more importantly – being waterproof.
This is the first time I see a toy multirotor claiming to be waterproof, let alone being marketed on this merit. Since the Aviax H2O in most other aspects – at least apparently – isn’t that remarkable, I’ll spend a significant portion of this review examining this “waterproof” claim. It is after all – I think – the thing that will catch most people’s attention and the main reason I’m reviewing it at all!
Welcome to this review and flight test of the H2O Aviax mini quadcopter from GPToys!
In terms of appearance, the H2O Aviax is basically another clone of the Syma X5: A design at this point as proven as it is uninspired. The only significant differences are the color, appropriately enough signal orange (although there’s also a silver-white version available), and the LED added to the top of the aircraft in the shape of this faux GPS thingamajig. This is also appropriate considering the four normal LEDs are not – albeit bright – visible from the top, which is the perspective from which you’ll be seeing it in the occurrence of a water landing or take-off.
Clone or not, the H2O Aviax feels solidly put-together in everything from the aircraft itself to the included accessories, of which a generous amount have been included: A full set of replacement propellers, sturdy screw-on prop guards, not one but two 650 mAh 3.7 volt LiPo batteries, an instruction manual in fully intelligible English… even the obligatory USB charging cable feels like a cut above! Charging still takes a good hour or so, but at least it gives clear indication as to the status of the process as opposed to the unpredictable flickering of your typical Chinese USB charger.
The transmitter is very nice for a quadcopter in the sub $50 price range, offering a more hobby grade like design as well as features such as back-lit display, extra buttons for things like headless mode or “cruise control” (more on this later) and a whopping four rates (called 20, 40, 60 and 100% respectively). Being stuck in the toy grade segment, this is now one of the nicer transmitters I own!
In flight the GPToys H2O Aviax manages to simultaneously impress, with its stability and wealth of features, and disappoint, with its slow and unvaried rates.
As mentioned there are all of four rates to choose from, but peculiarly, except for perhaps the highest, they’re all pretty much the same: Slow! The highest rate (called “100%”) offers some relief, but even it is not much faster than your typical mid-rate on any other multirotor. It should be noted that yaw speed does change between rates, just not by a lot and never becomes quite proportional to pitch and roll.
The H20 Aviax does offer some extra features for the inquisitive: Apart from a – from what I can tell – well executed headless mode there is also “Cruise Control”, which basically takes control and replays the last 40 seconds worth of transmitter inputs. It’s a strange feature that – albeit working – is hard to come up with good uses for. Keep in mind that while inputs are recorded, where the quadcopter is in three dimensional space is not. Therefore, whatever you use it for, make sure to be in a wide open area!
Using the H2O Aviax as a camera quad with something like an 808 keychain camera poses no problems, in fact its slow rates, exceptional stability, 8+ minute flight times and seemingly adequate range all lend themselves quite nicely to that sort of thing. It’s just too bad I don’t think there are any waterproof cameras in that 20 gram weight range, so while your camera platform is waterproof the camera itself isn’t.
Calling your product waterproof and having a picture of it half submerged into water on the front of the box is ballsy, because as sure as my channel’s name is RCview and you all should subscribe to it, people will fly this thing headlong into the very first body of water they see. What I’m saying is: If you are the proprietor of a product like this, you better be able to back your claim up or be prepared to drown (yes, pun intended) in customer complaints.
My immediate question was what waterproof really means in this context: Waterproof as in “can tolerate some light rain”, waterproof as in “can land in and take off from water” or waterproof as in “is basically a boat that also flies”? To test this, I put my GPToys H2O Aviax through a number tests involving gradually intensifying contact with water.
Test number one: Flying it in a sprinkler. Grade? Passing with distinction! This test, which I would argue simulates the conditions of heavy downpour, was no problem for the aircraft. In all regards, it kept functioning as normal throughout a full flight. If you happen to live in a seasonally or permanently rainy place, I guess the H20 Aviax would come in handy. Okay, so far so good…
Test number two: Landing in and taking off from water. Grade? Well… Okay, here’s where it gets complicated. I’ve tried this twice now. First time the aircraft remained operable throughout the entire flight, despite being well submerged at points. Although it did start acting worryingly towards the end (responding slowly to inputs, not having much lift), it fully recovered and flew as new again once given time to dry.
The second time I tried it, things turned bad about halfway into the flight when the H20 Aviax completely stopped responding and instead decided to paddle off on its own. This continued even after I switched the transmitter off. Luckily it eventually got stuck in some reeds and I could use a boat to go out and get it. Still, given time to dry it once again flew fine with no discernable damage from the incident.
So where does all this leave the GPToys H2O Aviax with regards to its claim of being “waterproof”? I guess it depends on your definition of “waterproof”. According to my experience, the H20 Aviax is unlikely to get permanently damaged by even quite severe water exposure. This is not the same as to say it’ll work perfectly while being exposed to water. A few splashes are okay, but don’t fly it over a significant body of water without a way to retrieve it.
In conclusion, I do like the GPToys H2O Aviax. In fact, I like it to the point I’m considering replacing my Syma X5, its main competitor and my current go-to all-round mini quadcopter, with it. It does everything the Syma does and is waterproof and offers additional features (however superfluous) like headless mode and “Cruise Control”.
The only negative things can I come up with concerns the waterproofing, which is perhaps not quite as extensive as one would have hoped, and the rates, which certainly could have been faster and more varied. Still, it’s not like any of the competitors offer weather-proofing at all and – at least the Syma – isn’t very sporty either.
All in all, the GPToys H2O Aviax feels like a quality product at a budget price point. Perfect for someone who wants to get into the hobby or anyone else looking for something easy-to-fly and slightly more rugged for light camera work or just messing around with.