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Written by Terry Dunn
As featured in Worth A Closer Look March 2014 issue of
Model Aviation.
See this RTF multicopter with a camera




I’ve been flying the Heli-Max 1SQ quadcopter since last December. It was my first multirotor aircraft and it has been ideal for showing me the ropes. Being able to fly in my living room opened up many previously closed flying opportunities.

I recently picked up a new 1SQ variant, the 1SQ V-Cam. First, I’ll explain what makes this new version unique. Then, I’ll delve into the RTF and TX-R versions of the 1SQ V-Cam and tell you what it’s like to fly them.


What’s New

The biggest and most obvious thing that differentiates the 1SQ V-Cam from the standard 1SQ is stated in the name. The V-Cam features a remotely operated camera that is capable of taking still photos or videos. The files are saved to an included 2GB micro SD card. A USB card reader also comes with the V-Cam.

Another new feature is the addition of LEDs on each corner of the airframe. With white lights in front and red in the rear, visual orientation is much improved during low-light flight. Anything that aids orientation with multirotors is a big plus. As with the original 1SQ, Heli-Max also provides a single-cell 250 mAh LiPo battery, a USB charger, and a full set of spare propellers.

A visual comparison between my two 1SQ models reveals few differences. Other than the camera pod and a few cosmetic changes, I can’t see any differences between the two airframes.



Plenty of neat features are stuffed into the 1SQ V-Cam’s tiny airframe.


The V-cam model weighs 6.5 grams more than the original model (40.0 grams versus 33.5 grams). That’s amazing when you consider that the increase represents a video camera. However, that increase seems more significant when you realize that it also represents a 19% weight gain. I’ll discuss the effects of this change later.



Tx-R or RTF

Similar to the original, the 1SQ V-Cam is available in Transmitter-Ready (Tx-R) or Ready–to-Fly (RTF) versions. The only difference between the two packages is that the RTF includes a transmitter.

The Tx-R version can be linked to a Tactic-brand transmitter, such as the TTX650 that I used. You also have the choice of using almost any other radio you like, when paired with Tactic’s AnyLink module.

I typically prefer Tx-R kits simply because the transmitters included with many RTF models have minimal adjustability and are too small for my hands. However, the V-Cam is a different story. I suggest that you spend the few extra bucks to get the RTF version. Yes, the included transmitter is smaller than I would like, but it makes up for that shortcoming with plenty of cool features.

The RTF version is as turnkey as you can get—with zero radio setup required. I put the included AA cells into the transmitter, slid the SD card into the camera’s slot, and plugged in a charged flight battery. Just like that, I was airborne and able to exercise all of the 1SQ V-Cam’s capabilities.

Another thing I like about the RTF version is that it has features that you can only get by using a 7+ channel radio with the Tx-R version. There is the “Flip” button, which does exactly what you would think. While holding it down, the 1SQ will flip in the direction that you move the right control stick. The flip happens quickly, but so does the self-recovery.

There are more buttons on the back which control the video and still-camera functions. Did I mention dual rates and gyro gain adjustments? Don’t dismiss the RTF version by assuming that it includes a stripped-down transmitter—it doesn’t.




The transmitter included with the RTF version of the 1SQ V-Cam (L) and the Tactic TTX650 that I used with the Tx-R version are both good choices. However, I prefer the ease and functionality of the RTF version.


I have a Tactic TTX650 six-channel radio that I use for most of my Heli-Max and Flyzone micros. Although it is a capable computer radio, it is also affordable enough that I don’t mind handing it to the kids or curious neighbors. I prefer flying the Tx-R version of the 1SQ V-Cam with the more comfortable TTX650. Lacking a seventh channel, however, I had to forfeit the still photo capability.



Flying

This little quadcopter has attitude stabilization that will do most of the hard work for you. Don’t be shy about getting it off the ground. Go ahead and get it up a few feet into some clean air. I’ve handed the transmitter to RC rookies and they were able to get the hang of basic flying within a few minutes. Yes, they bounced it off the walls and the ceiling a few times, but my house and the V-Cam were none the worse for wear.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve also dished out my own abuse to the 1SQ. I’ve flown it into trees and pranged it off the curb multiple times. A particularly rough hit might break a propeller, but I consider them to be sacrificial parts. The V-Cam just keeps on flying.

If you have a reasonably sized field, you can fly the 1SQ V-Cam with relative impunity. The little aircraft is so light that even a freefall to the sod isn’t likely to cause damage. I’ve flown the V-Cam in double-digit winds. It handles the breeze admirably, but make sure that gusts don’t carry it away!

While the V-Cam’s touted specs would classify its camera as “high-definition,” don’t expect cinema-quality footage. The small lens of the camera needs plenty of light, but not too much. I get the best results when shooting indoors with all of the lights turned on. Smooth flying will also equate to better video and clearer photos, so be gentle on the sticks. The camera lens camera can be tilted for different perspectives. Play around with it and discover your inner cinematographer.




This picture of my house gives you some idea of the photo quality that you can expect from the 1SQ V-Cam.





The built-in stability control system makes the 1SQ V-Cam easy to fly indoors or out. Aspiring multirotor pilots also will appreciate its durability.





A Texas sunrise as seen through the eyes of the V-Cam.




Flight video




Shooting video and photos outside is slightly challenging. Mornings with gentle winds and soft light are best. Bright, midday sun can overwhelm the camera and too much wind will produce shaky video as the 1SQ fights to stay level.

The focal length of the camera appears to be approximately 3 feet, so far-off objects can get fuzzy. Don’t let any of this deter you, though. It is still fun to fire up the camera outside and see what develops.

Although the V-Cam model is slightly heavier than the standard 1SQ, I think the pendulum effect of the underslung camera makes for a more stable platform. The tradeoff is that it is not quite as nimble, but you may have a hard time believing that when you push the flip button!

The biggest downside of the weight increase is flight time. I average 5-6 minutes per charge with the V-Cam, which is roughly 2 minutes less than what I get on my standard 1SQ.



Conclusion

The original 1SQ was already a fun little machine. Adding a micro camera to it amplifies the fun factor another notch. Even if you’ve never owned a quadcopter before, the 1SQ V-Cam will ease you into this new genre of flying.


Specifications

Model type: RTF multirotor
Frame width: 4.6 inches
Frame diameter: 6.4 inches
Radio: Six-channel 2.4 GHz system (included)
Minimal flying area: Indoors
Price: $99.98 (Tx-R), $129.99 (RTF)
Components needed to complete: None
Power system: Four brushed motors, with 2.2-inch propellers and built-in ESCs, 1S 250 mAh LiPo battery (all included)
Duration: 5-6 minutes
Flying weight: 1.4 ounces


Pluses

• Built-in video/still camera.
• LEDs help in-flight orientation.
• Easy to fly.


Minuses

• Short flight times.


Sources:

Great Planes
(800) 637-7660
www.greatplanes.com


1 comments

I have minimal coax copter flying experience. Bought the 1SQ V Cam on the recommendation of the guys at a local Sarasota Florida hobby shop. Very happy with this little flyer! Knocked a prop off a couple times before backing it off easily into a more easy flying mode. Perfect! Even performs well in light breezes, but practice a bit indoors first, so you have a basic feel for how it reacts. Send it too high, into a stray wind gust and it can be hard to follow and find. The only weak point is the camera in that it is only 720HD and tends to lock up at times. May be the quality of the included 2GB micro SD card. The video can actually be pretty decent at times, but the real fun is flying this gem. I bought it to get some flying time with a quad and also some experience with taking pictures and video. A great trainer and fun flyer! No need to weigh your choices... Just BUY IT and ENJOY IT!

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