(Article by Jeff Foster)
Cheap and Good? For most things electronic and made in China the words “cheap” and “good” usually don’t mix. Surprisingly the Emax Nighthawk Pro 280 RTF is Different. For under $200 you get a well-built and tuned machine in a box. Let see how it holds up to several months of abuse.
The folks at GearBest sent us a review unit several months ago that my colleague Jeff Foster and I did some initial test flights with using a Black Pearl RC receiver and monitor. After several test flights (and abuse) I did some modifications to see how well it worked with another controller and goggles.
Max Nighthawk Pro 280 RTF Specifications:
Frame Size: 252mm x 260mm x 75mm
Motor: MT2204 (Customization Version)
ESC: BLheli 12A 4in1 (Integrated on board)
Flight controller: Skyline32 (Integrated on board)
FPV transmitter: 20MW/200MW
Antenna: 5.8G Clover 3 Blade Antenna Straight Connector
FPV Camera: 1/3-inch CMOS
Battery: 3S, 1500-2200mAH 30C (not included)
The Frame and Motors “The Vin Diesel approach”
The frame design nighthawk 280 reminds of a Buick Grand National prepared for the Destruction derby . The design is straightforward and built like a tank. The arms are thick and over sized. This g10 frame is able to take some damage despite not real carbon fiber.
The 2204 motors with 6 inch props provides enough pop to get the hawk moving. On a 3s battery the craft is perfect for a beginner to learn on. Nice and docile. On a 4s the nighthawk becomes a rocketship but not officially supported and needs to be retuned. These night hawk motors are the predecessor to the infamous emax 2205 RS motors.
It also features an LED light bar on the rear of the craft, which is a nice touch for a RTF unit out of the box.
The FPV Setup. “Just right for the price”
It’s not the best setup but for the price it does the job very well. It a basic but functional system. The 200mw transmitter can handle the task for most park flyers. The camera is a standard 700tvl board camera that does the job well. Adding a quality antenna helps with range and video signal quality. On the video transmitter module there is a switch from 20mw to 200mw transmission power. Check this before flying to make sure you’re getting the correct power for your location.
The All in one Board. “The double edge sword”
In theory it’s a good thing for those who don’t want to solder. But the problem is if one esc fails or the USB connection breaks of in a crash it renders the quad useless. After a crash, the usb port broke off and i was no longer able to tune or change any settings on the flight controller. The replacement board is on 65 us dollars to replace but it doesn’t allow you to upgrade the Flight controller to the new f3-f4 boards available.
The RTF controller. “Cheap and not good”
The Controller that comes with the RTF kits is barely flyable for those with experience with any other transmitter. After a few flights with the RTF transmitter I changed it to a frsky receiver and binded it to my Taranis transmitter.
With the stock controller, I was never able to get a consistent stick feel with the stock radio. The gimbal resolution is horrible and the stick throw range tight making flying in acro almost impossible to do with repeatable results. I always felt like every time I touched the sticks I wasn’t sure how the aircraft would react. Also the control range is limited. I had a few dead stick crashes less that 100 yards away due to signal loss. I suggest this is the first upgrade you want to do if you plan on doing any acrobatic flying.
Here’s a test flight video showing the Nighthawk Pro 280 and a GoPro HERO4 Session:
The Final verdict
For those who want to get into fpv or flying drones in general this is a great choice for the money. You can just charge up some batteries and hit the flying field and enjoy the hobby. This is also a good cheap trainer basher for advanced pilots to learn and practice without risking their 500 hand built race machines. I use it as a little cruiser drone to just go and fly a few batteries with my morning coffee. The flight controller is based on a f1 chip so experienced pilots won’t like the slow processor loop times and cpu load limitations of the built in board. The FPV setup is enough to get the hang of flying. I Wish there was a built in OSD on the all in one board to monitor voltage and amp draw.
For under 200 Almost ready to Fly you can’t beat this deal. I give it a 3 out of 5 overall satisfaction. If you had to score based on the price and what you get for your money. I would give it a 5 out of 5 in the bang for your buck.