Cheerwing U42W Drone: The Best Cheap Drone?

Cheap Drone

There is a seemingly endless sea of options for cheap drones for photography these days. Among them is the Cheerwing Petrel U42W that offers FPV video, altitude hold, and one-button takeoff, among other features. And at under $50, it definitely qualifies as a budget option. 

Features and Specifications

The U42W packs a lot of features that were once only on more expensive drones, although not all of them work as well as advertised. The features:

  • FPV (first-person view) video via WiFi on a smartphone
  • Altitude Hold (drone hovers by itself and stays put)
  • One-Button Take Off and Landing
  • Phone App to Control the Drone
  • Automatic Flips
  • HD Video Quality (720p)

What Works

The altitude hold feature works remarkably well. It doesn’t have a GPS receiver, so it uses a barometer to detect and maintain altitude. It does drift a bit directionally, especially if there is a stiff breeze. But overall, this feature is a winner.

One-button take off and landing also works very well. This is a fairly simple feature, but it does work as advertised.

The automatic flip maneuver also works nicely. The drone does need to be at an altitude of at least 20 feet, however, as it does dip down pretty far after the flip.

What Doesn’t Work So Well

In my tests, the FPV video experience is not very good. I suspect the WiFi transmitter is relatively weak and susceptible to interference from nearby wireless networks. I found the video feed to my phone to be very choppy. Since the drone itself has no way record video or images, it relies on the smartphone app to capture video to your phone. With a choppy video feed, that means you end up with final video that is also choppy, and if the reception is bad enough it will stop recording all together.

Additionally, the quality of captured video is rather dismal. The camera on the drone seems to be an afterthought rather than a focus of product development.

What’s in the Box?

  • The drone (duh)
  • Transmitter
  • Battery charger (USB)
  • Batteries (2 @ 500 mAh)
  • Smartphone mount + sun shade
  • Prop guards
  • Spare propellers (full set)
  • Propeller Guards
  • Documentation
  • Screwdriver (tiny!)

The Verdict

For the pure joy of flying, the U42W is an excellent option in the world of cheap drones. It’s a great cheap option for getting your feet wet with drones. For $50, you almost can’t go wrong. And it comes with two batteries!! However, if you are after a useable flying camera, you likely won’t be happy with this drone.

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