Racing drones continue to gain in popularity and diversity, with sizes ranging from about 330 mm all the way down to about 120mm. The prices are all over the board as well. While generally cheaper than their AV Drone cousins, a high end racing drone can still cost $600+ in a ready to fly or a plug and fly (add your own receiver) configuration. Eachine for the most part has been targeting the value side of the market, offering low cost racing drones that offer pretty good performance at bargain basement prices. The Falcon 180 is their latest entry into this market, a scaled down Falcon 250 with some new configuration options, and a few familiar warts as well. So what does the Falcon 180 bring to the table that might make you want to buy it? Read on to find out (and skip to the bottom to see the Falcon 180 in action)!
The Falcon 180 is my 4th Eachine drone, 2 of which I purchased and 2 that were sent to me as review units. The 180 is one of the ones that I purchased, and that should tell you something right off the bat. I wouldn’t keep buying them if I wasn’t happy with them overall. That’s not to say they’re perfect however, and to be honest you really shouldn’t expect perfection at these prices. Of the 4 Eachine drones I own I’ve been satisfied with 3 of them. Only the Assassin (which was so bad I didn’t even bother to post a review on it) was a major disappointment, the other three (see my earlier reviews on the Racer 250 and the Falcon 250) I’ve been very satisfied with. That being said though, there are a few things that Eachine has improved upon, and also a few that they still need to do better on.
What’s in the Box?
The Falcon 180 comes in two configurations, ready to fly and plug and fly. The plug and fly version (which is the one I bought) comes with the assembled quad only. The ready to fly version comes with the assembled quad along with an I6 transmitter, a 1500 mah 3s battery, a charger, and an installed FPV camera and video transmitter. Neither version comes with goggles or a screen/Video receiver. I really like the new barebones with no video gear pre-installed option, but I would like to see a 3rd offering as well that comes with the FPV gear and battery but no radio. A 4th option which includes the VR007 goggles that were included with the Assassin would be welcomed as well. Both versions come with one set of 4″ bullnose props (a spare set would be a nice touch).
Real Drone Pilots Don’t Need Instructions!
Well, at least that seems to be Eachine‘s philosophy. I complained in my earlier reviews about the poor quality of the instructions included with the Falcon and Racer. Apparently Eachine was listening, and they’ve come up with a unique solution to the problem. Rather than include poor quality instructions with the Falcon 180, they just didn’t include any instructions whatsoever. This is something that Eachine REALLY needs to do better on. Entry level racing drone pilots are a large part of their target audience, but considering the total lack of instructions, they’re basically throwing this group to the wolves. They are more or less totally relying on the RC community at RC Groups and other forums to handle their support for them. I do understand that a few corners have to be cut to offer drones at these prices, but not including instructions at all is simply not acceptable. Do better on this Eachine!
Choose Your Flight Controller
One new option that is being offered with the Falcon 180 is the ability to choose from 3 different flight controllers (FC). The options are the standard cc3D FC that has been included with prior Eachine quads, the popular Naze 32, and the newer, high end Seriously Pro racing FC. I went with the Seriously Pro (for an additional $6) as I’ve never used it before and wanted to try it. So far I’ve been pretty happy with it, although I think all three of the FC offerings are solid so pick whichever one you like the best.
Some Tuning Required
Unfortunately, unlike the Falcon 240 the Falcon 180 does not come well tuned out of the box, so you will need to roll up your sleeves and change the PID settings if you want it to fly smoothly. Fortunately there is a great support thread for this quad over on RC Groups, and a few sets of decent PIDs have already been posted. The RTF version at least really should come tuned better out of the box though.
Following a very minor crash on my maiden flight with the 180 I had one motor which would no longer spin up, and instead would just twitch when I engaged the motors. This is a sure sign of a bad solder joint for one of the motor wires on the ESC, and when I checked sure enough one of the wires had come un-soldered. It was easy enough to fix, but might prove to be a headache for a new flyer that doesn’t know where to look to fix the problem. I haven’t heard a rash of similar complaints on RC Groups so hopefully it’s not a common problem. I haven’t had any issues with the wiring on the other three motors so far.
Flying the Falcon 180 – A Tale of Two Quads
Ok so you’ve updated your PIDs, charged up your battery, and you’re ready to fly! So what kind of performance can you expect from the Falcon 180? Honestly, it totally depends on which batteries you use. If you use a 3s battery such as the one that comes with the RTF kit, it will fly just fine, and honestly it’s pretty fast in terms of horizontal speed even on 3s. What you don’t get on 3s though is much punch for vertical maneuvers, so climb-outs will be sluggish, and you’ll need a lot of altitude beneath you to recover from flips and rolls as well.
With a 4s battery though, it’s a totally different animal. The Falcon 180 comes to life on 4s, with power to spare for climb-outs even during fast forward flight. It can stop on a dime on 4s, and it can recover from tricks with ease so no need to climb up into the clouds in order to do a flip. In short, on 3s this is still a good flying quad once tuned, but it’s basically a lateral cruiser. On 4s it’s a baby beast that climbs out like a rocket and can handle any tricks and vertical maneuvering you might want to throw at it.
A Familiar Gotcha
One thing, they retained, unfortunately, from the Falcon 250 is the difficulty in accessing the USB port in order to run Cleanflight. I understand if you get the Naze 32 flight controller the USB port is actually easily accessible from the side, but on the Seriously Pro version it’s pointing toward the back. On the PnF version it’s not completely blocked as it was on the Falcon 250 so it’s easy enough to make a little tool by taping the end of a usb connector to a Popsicle stick and using that to connect. On the RTF version though the port is blocked by the video transmitter (VTx) which is mounted right in front of it, so if you want to access the USB port and you have the Seriously Pro version, you will need to partially disassemble the quadcopter and rotate the flight controller so that the usb port is accessible from the side. You then need to go into cleanflight and change a setting to indicate this. That’s an awful lot of work to have to do for a “Ready to Fly” quad, and shame on Banggood for getting this wrong yet again. My advice would be to just go with the Naze version if you’re not inclined to do this (or get the BnF and mount the VTx on the side out of the way of the FC as I did so I can access the port from the back).
I really like the Falcon 180 a lot, in fact this may end up being my favorite of all the Eachine quads that I’ve flown. It’s absolutely not for beginners though, and it’s a real shame that Eachine can’t pay a little more attention to detail to make this package more appropriate for new flyers. It’s not tuned well out of the box, the radio supposedly is not set up properly on the RTF version, and you need to take it apart to access the USB port on the RTF Seriously Pro version. My recomendation on this one is to stay away from it if you’re a beginner or just graduating from toy grade quads. If you already have some flying experience with this class of quads and already have a radio and some FPV gear though, the PnF version is a great buy. It absolutely screams on 4s, and once tuned it flys great.
Price! ($110 for the PnF Naze 32 version)
It’s a speed demon on 4s
Flys great once tuned
New bare bones option is perfect for more experienced flyers
Option of 3 different flight controllers
Tilted motor mounts (easily removable if you don’t like them)
Tiltable camera mount
Vibration isolation mount for both FPV camera and video camera
USB port inaccessible on RTF Seriously Pro version
Not tuned well out of the box
Radio not set up properly on RTF version
VTx mounted sticking out the back instead of pointing up on RTF version
Radio antennas hanging out the back instead of being V-mounted on RTF version
Flimsey landing gear
The Falcon 180 in Action!
My PIDs (Seriously Pro version, optimized for 4s)
Falcon 180 Video Review