If you want to get into the drone game cheap, the Hubsan X4 is a fine choice. Despite being a cheap drone, it’s actually fairly well made. It also sports an on-board HD video camera with removable memory. And to top it all off, it will fit in the palm of your hand. Let’s get into the specs.
The manufacturer claims a weight of 28 grams without a battery, and this seems about right. Even with a battery, this is a very light drone. As a consequence, I do not recommend flying it in anything beyond a moderate breeze. The low weight also means there is no need to register with the FAA (a requirement for heavier drones) Without the prop guards on, it is 2.7″ by 2.7″ by 1″ high, making it quite small. This is a great cheap drone for portability; it can go just about anywhere and will fit in a small bag.
The is no official claim for top speed, but this thing is pretty damn fast. It would make a nice starter drone for someone looking to get into drone racing.
Maximum range is about 30 meters (100 feet).
The batteries are 3.7V 380mAh, yielding approximately 8-10 minutes of flight time per charge.
The video camera is rated at 0.3MP which delivers 720p video at 30fps. The angle of view is also fixed and cannot be adjusted in any direction. In my opinion, the quality of the video is okay, but nothing especially impressive. Color reproduction, for one, is not very good. Also, there is a fair bit of ISO noise (although there is no way to control the ISO setting). It does not come with a memory card (micro SD) and there is no direct connection from the drone to a computer. You will need a micro SD adapter/reader to get the files on your computer or smartphone.
The controller is a typical two-stick setup, with throttle (altitude) and rudder (yaw) on the left and forward/backward and left/right lateral movement on the right. It resembles a game console controller and is about three times the size of the drone. The controller also has trim controls for all four parameters, allowing you to dial out directional drift as necessary. Trim adjustment is a critical part of calibration, and the Hubsan controller makes this process easy.
Luckily, the X4 allows for a beginner mode in which the controls are less sensitive. I high recommend this mode if you new to quadcopters in general. In expert mode, you can also execute flips in four different direction.
Confusingly, there is also Mode 1 and Mode 2, which correspond to how the control sticks are set up. This is separate from Expert vs Beginner modes. Mode 2 is the standard controls that most all drones use (as described above). Mode 1 swaps the positions of throttle and forward/backward controls. Some may like this change, but it is very unconventional.
There are a ton of replacement parts available on Amazon and eBay for the X4. The most important parts to have on hand to keep your cheap drone in the air are propellers and batteries. Stock up on both. You will lose or destroy props in a hurry, trust me. And there’s nothing worse than waiting on batteries to charge when there’s a drone to be flown. The X4 comes with a charger, but it can only charge one battery at a time. So consider getting a bundle of batteries with a multi-charger.
My recommendations is to include a “crash pack” in your initial purchase of the Hubsan X4. It provides all the parts you might need to replace for just about any crash: props, indicator LEDs, spare motors, extra prop guard, rubber feet, a couple batteries, and even a spare body frame.
The Hubsan X4 is a great little quadcopter to satisfy your cheap drone craving. It’s cheap, fast, well made, has a decent camera, and replacement parts are readily available and inexpensive. For well under $100, you can have way more than $100 worth of fun.