The UDI 818 has always been one of our suggested drones for beginners – however, we have based this recommendation on experiences of others, price and other factors. Having never actually flown the model I was happy when a review model was offered to use by Usatoyz, a prime seller on Amazon.
Different Models Available
The UDI 818 can be found for as little as $50 and as much as $100+…this brings up the question of what the differences are. Well, some are just overpriced – I found the same model I received for $150 on Amazon (another seller), whereas the FPV model we flew was on sale at less than $95.
The major difference between other packages is whether the model is “FPV” or not. The lower priced birds do not have a wireless connection to your smartphone and the ability to both see and control certain aspects of the machine through the app. So if you just want to fly and take some pics and vids without seeing what you are getting, the plain UDI818 may do the job.
In the Box
Our model contained extras in addition to the FPV – including a power bank (usb portable charger), two batteries, a VR headset (holds your phone) and more. Having never tried a lower priced (toy-grade) FPV setup, I was excited to get this thing into the air. A heavy duty USB charger was included for battery charging although more experienced R/C hobbyists will likely have their own superior charging setups. Note that the battery connector for the UDI818 is flatter and wider than most – so you’d want to get the proper adapter for your existing charger setup.
My first impressions of the 818 was how lightweight it was! In terms of size I would out it in the mid-range – about a foot square with the props and prop guards. The total weight with the battery, camera and other onboard systems was only 160 grams. My hope is that the light weight will alleviate some of the motor burnout problems which toy-grade (brushed motors) experience. Even so, you can expect to replace motors and gears in ALL these brushed models.
The 818 has a safety built in to arm the motors – you need to pull both stick into the inside bottom to start the props. My first flight was done without the app (FPV) just to get the feel of the machine. It hovered nicely and, after reading the manual, I was able to easily switch to my prefered (non-headless) mode and to a more aggressive flight mode. Note that they name the flight modes “mode 1 and mode 2”, mode 2 being slightly more aggressive. This is a poor naming convention, as R/C hobbyists use mode 1 and mode 2 to describe a different TX stick setup….don’t get confused by this!
Turning on the FPV
Using IOS (iphone 6s), I downloaded the app (flysee by UDI). Connecting to the 818A was as simple as going to wireless settings and choosing the UDI network. Once this was done, the view from the drone camera was shown perfectly on my iphone, which was mounted on the included holder above the Remote (TX). The app has buttons for photo and video as well as a few other settings which I still need to test.
Cruising the Neighborhood
Luckily, it was a windless (but very misty) day – so the UDI performed very well without getting blown away by the breeze. I took the machine up to over 100 feet and about that far away with no problems at all – even took some nice sample pics of the cul-de-sac. It’s impressive to see that even a toy quad can give results that you may be happy to share with your friends (on facebook, twitter, etc.). Here are a couple samples photos:
Video wasn’t too bad either – sure, this is NOT the machine to take videos for real estate, for sale or anything else – this is just to give beginners and hobbyists an idea of what might be done with a more expensive GPS based camera drone.
While I knew that the drone would fly OK, what I didn’t realize was how far the apps and the cameras have come on toy drones. Being able to get usable pictures was a pleasant surprise. This FPV setup is more than a gimmick, it’s a good system for beginners to get their feet wet with – for training and other purposes. That said, toy drone have their limitations – mostly lack of ability to fly in windy conditions as well as the need to replace motors and gears after a number of flights. You’ll also want to try to fly in open areas and within 200 feet or so of your position.
It’s hard to argue with the value – years ago we would have paid 100’s just for the cam and the ability to monitor it on the ground.
Here are some thoughts – and pros/cons.
Easy to Control
Features Galore – many which I haven’t tested yet. This review will be updated as I delve further into the app and settings.
Slow – not for those who want to learn racing or other such skills. It may be that removing the shell might improve performance.
Limited Wind Resistance – use only in calm conditions.
Limited Battery Life – keep a few spares around…all the features tend to use more battery power than “stripped” machines.
Parts Replacement – typically these brushed quadcopter will need replacement of the gears and motors – all are low cost, but repair does require good eyesight and careful fingers.
With the holiday season approaching – this just may be the perfect present for that wanna-be drone pilot in the family – even if that happens to be YOU.
The model shown below is what we flew – except ours also has a headset (which I have not used yet). You can see all the various packages by clicking the usatoyz link once you get to Amazon.
If you want to look at our list of many of the suggested drone, click this link.