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Hubsan Q4 nano quadcopter
Introducing the Hubsan Q4 nano quadcopter, a tiny but fantastic quadcopter.
Like all electronic technology, the world of remote controlled aircraft develops quickly. With such developments comes a rapid advancement in both the products capabilities and a drop in the price. RC toys have always been popular and flying RC toys have captivated children and adults alike. Learning to fly an RC toy used to take quite a bit of practice (and patience/glue/duct tape) but increasingly the tricky manual flight controls have been replaced (or at least heavily supported) by automatic systems. Whether they be mechanical or electronic, advances in automated stabilisation have allowed absolute novices to quickly get to grips with taking to the air... even when indoors.
A fairly recent trend in RC flying is quadcopters. A quadcopter is essentially a helicopter with four main rotors and this type of aircraft has seen a lot of development recently. For quite a while quadcopters were getting bigger and bigger. Increasingly more complex and powerful models appeared allowing GPS position fixes, fully autonomous flight and aerial photography applications. With these developments the price of such aircraft soared. However, these same developments in technology has since allowed for the units size to go the other way. Tiny quadcopters are now available at a fraction of the price that such items would have cost only a few years back, opening the door to people with any level of experience and budget.
The Hubsan Q4 nano quadcopter
Having wanted to buy a quadcopter for some time I stumbled upon the Q4 (also known as the Estes ProtoX) which instantly caught my attention as it was so small! Having watched a few videos and seeing what it was capable of I was very surprised to find this item was available for such a low price. I decided it was worth a go and bought my Q4 from the eBay link below, and I couldn't be happier! As an experienced RC flier (of planes) but being totally new to quadcopters I can say that this is an excellent product for anyone interested in RC flying on a tiny scale. I've flown little RC helicopters before and although they're fun, in my experience the level of control and the durability of such models leaves quite a bit to be desired. It was for these reasons that the Q4 stood out as it has none of these issues.
Features of the Q4 at a glance:
Ultra small design - world's smallest!
LED Lights for front and back flying guide and low light flying
4-Channel 2.4Ghz Radio with digital trim
100mAh 3.7v Lipo battery
USB Charge cable
My review of the Q4
The starting point has to be size of this model. At just 6x6cm (blade tip to blade tip) and 2.4cm tall this model is tiny. To put it in perspective the footprint of the Q4 is half that of an iPhone 4s. Don't let the size fool you though, this is a powerful little quad thanks to its four motors and an all up weight of just 11.5g. This means the quadcopter is more than powerful enough to be flown both indoors an outside in calm conditions. Colour schemes vary but orientation of the model in flight is principally provided by the Q4's powerful LED's. Additionally the rear two propellers are a different colour to those at the front.
Like the Q4 itself, the transmitter (TX) it comes with is light and compact, but well-built and with some excellent features. Unlike a lot of small RC aircraft the communication between the Q4's TX and the models receiver (RX) is via a radio link rather than infrared light. The advantage of this is that the TX doesn't have to be constantly pointed at the model for it to receive a clear signal. Powered by two AAA batteries, the TX has a built in safety feature giving a visual and audible signal that the TX and RX have bonded once both units have been switched on. Prior to this bonding the models motors are not live and so theres no chance of the motors powering up which could otherwise potentially pose a danger.
The TX also sports variable rate controls! This basically means you can choose how sensitive you want the flight controls to be, very useful for those that are learning! The default setting for the flight controls is 30%. There are 3 stages of sensitivity available, 30%, 60% and 100%. Switching between settings is very easy (as shown in the accompanying manual) and again there are visual signals given via LED's that the commands have been accepted. As for actually using the controller, I found it to be light and comfortable. Sure, it's small, but for kids with little hands and anyone else that's grown up in the iPhone era this controller should cause no problem as its no harder to hold and use than a smartphone.
Charging of the Q4 is via the supplied USB adaptor. Simply plug the lead into the model, and then into the power source and the model will begin charging.
The charge management is automated by the USB plug and an LED indicates that charging is taking place. Once the LED goes out the model is ready to fly.
*The instructions do explicitly state that any USB port can be used for charging the Q4 with the exception of iPhone chargers.*
Flight times are about 6 minutes from a charge taking around 15-20 minutes.
The flight performance is incredibly nimble in the hands of someone with a bit of practice but also very stable and forgiving for a novice. Should the quad drift forwards or back, or to one side or another, you can digitally correct for this by using the trim controls on the TX, or if you’d prefer you can easily recalibrate the Q4’s gyroscopes via the TX. Anytime you change direction with a quad you divert some of the thrust given from keeping the model aloft and because of this you do need to adjust the throttle to compensate. There isn’t a throttle trim but because you’re varying the throttle so often it’s not really necessary anyway. Equally there isn’t a yaw trim. Yaw is the flat rotation of the aircraft, basically it spinning left or right rather than banking/tipping left or right. Again, there’s no need for this trim on the Q4 but this time that’s due to the fact that the Q4 automatically calibrates for changes in yaw within 3 second of flight and trims itself! – Another stunning function of a quad so small at this price!
The Q4 is great fun to fly and even a beginner will be able to competently pilot it in next to no time. With a little experience the Q4 can even perform flips! In order to do this you’ll need to ramp up the Q4’s control sensitivity to 100%. To flip the Q4, from a stable flying position increase the throttle slightly whilst quickly moving the right stick all the way to one side, then straight away over to the other side. As the flip completes simply return the right stick to the neutral position and the Q4 will level itself! As well as flips to the side (rolls) this manoeuvre can be performed to the front and back also to make the Q4 loop.
The Q4 is even powerful enough to be flown outside in calm conditions which is great, and as with flying indoors the bright LED’s really help with orientation at any kind of distance with a model of this size. The LED’s also indicate that the model is running low on power and will flash when it’s time to bring the Q4 in to land. This is another nice feature of the Q4 as lots of cheap flying RC craft simply run low on power whilst giving no signals at all.
As an additional point, the Q4 uses Hubsan’s standard radio data link. This means that should you already have the X4 controller you can use this to control the Q4. For some people this is great addition as the controller is larger and some find this more comfortable. The X4 controller also has throttle and yaw trim and you can also use it to turn the Q4’s LED’s on and off if you wish.
In conclusion, I think the Q4 is great! Having had several small RC helicopters in the past I can definitely say that if you’re looking for something that’s small, stable, easily controlled with precision and is robust enough to withstand a few knocks then you’d be hard pressed to find anything better on the market than this quadcopter, especially at this price. If you’re at all tempted I’d really recommend getting one!
Buy the Q4 from Amazon
Different name, same great quad - the Hubsan Q4 is also known as the Proto X.