I’ve been taking a look at one of the latest offerings from drone/quadcopter manufacturer Hubsan. Being the manufacturer of my very first drone a few years ago, I was eager to see where technological advances have brought the typical beginner/starter drone (albeit this one is somewhat more advanced). Read on for my full Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro Review and Flight Test! My review gives you all the information about this 1080P WiFi FPV Camera Drone. If you are interested in drones and aerial photography but don’t want to spend loads of money, the Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro is a fantastic option! It provides you with most of the features of a good camera drone, without the associated cost. It’s really easy to get started with and has loads of great features that both beginners and more experienced pilots will appreciate. I think the H216A is something a little special but is it the best first quadcopter option out there for the price? Read on to find out why I think it could be.
You can buy the Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro now at Gearbest (cheapest at time of writing).
The Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro comes with:
- Controller, which links to your phone via Bluetooth (4x AAA batteries required)
- Drone battery – 750mAh 2S (7.6V)
- USB battery charging cable
- Spare propellers (x4)
- Prop protectors (x4)
- Spare set of screws
I’ll start with an overview of the features, pros and cons, but if you want to understand more about what this all means and my thoughts, skip down to read my in-depth review.
Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro – Features, Pros and Cons
The H216A has a great feature list, which almost speaks for itself.
- Motors: Brushed
- Frame: Plastic
- Camera: 1920 x 1080P HD
- Real-time FPV transmission from drone to phone
- Connectivity: Control via phone WiFi and linked transmitter
- Flight modes/flight features:
- Altitude hold
- GPS positioning
- Waypoint flight
- Headless mode
- Orbit mode
- Follow me mode
- Automatic return to home
- Auto take-off and landing
- Battery: 750mAh 2S (7.6V) LiHV (higher voltage version of LiPo)
- Max flight time: 12 minutes
- Actual flight time 8-10 minutes
- Charging time: 130 minutes specified, but in reality, this is about 45 minutes
- Control range 50m without WiFi extender (300m possible with WiFi extender)
- X-Hubsan App works well and connects to the drone via WiFi. The app has all the functionality you need to fly the drone, so the H216A can be controlled by just your smartphone, there is no need to use the controller. You will ned to scroll through drones on the app until you find Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro.
- Reasonably sized battery for the size of drone, so you get good flight time. The 750mAh has a fair bit more capacity than the 610mAh batteries shipped with the older versions of this quadcopter.
- Other Hubsan 2S (7.6V) batteries, such as those available for the H502S & H502E, can also be used with the H216A. As mentioned above, these have a lower capacity, but since they will fit inside the battery compartment are still a good option.
- Standard JST battery connector, so you can use any 2S battery. Although it may not fit into the battery compartment if it’s too big, you could use a strap or rubber band to attach it to the underside of the drone body. It’s nice to see a standard battery connector being used here, as it opens up the possibilities.
- LEDs under motors for orientation when flying further away.
- Comes with four spare props.
- Micro SD card slot on the drone, meaning images and video are stored directly on the drone in high quality. Not all drones do this, relying on your phone to save the transmitted video, which is normally of a lower quality.
- GPS and altitude hold functionality is fairly accurate even in a reasonable wind with gusts.
- Good image quality, even when pointing directly towards bright sunlight.
- USB charging means that you can charge via a power bank when you are on the go.
- The controller is not standalone and must connect to your phone (only the phone is connected to the drone). The controller is essentially an extension of the app functionality, this means:
- A compatible Smartphone is required in order to fly the drone. The upside is that the phone app has full functionality and the controller is not a requirement to be able to fly.
- The range is limited to WiFi – so a repeater/amplifier is required if you want more range than the standard 50m. For most people, this won’t be a problem but is worth knowing.
- A high pitched electronic whine (common with these drones) comes from the H216A which is annoying before you get into the air, then it isn’t audible.
- Geared motor and propeller connection, which can be fouled with dirt. It is easy to avoid this and I recommend giving all motors a gentle spin by hand before a flight, to make sure the gears are clear.
- Brushed motors instead of brushless. Although this is completely normal with this type of model, brushless motors can provide more power and increased efficiency. Hopefully, Hubsan will release a small brushed version soon.
- Flimsy prop protectors don’t provide much protection and easily fall out of position.
- Charger is basic but does appear to balance charge. For small 1S batteries this type is ok, but for larger capacities like this I recommend using a high quality stand alone-charger. The B6AC is a great option, as it will charge most batteries 2S and above, so means that you can use it for other drones and batteries too.
- Fixed camera (no gimbal) means that the camera points down when flying forward. When fighting a sidewards breeze, captured images can be at quite an angle.
Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro – Initial impression
The drone came well packaged in a protective laminated cardboard box, with pictures and details of the drone on it. The type you would expect to pick up in a shop. Despite the box having a couple of knocks on it, the drone was in perfect condition.
Apart from 4xAA batteries and a smartphone, absolutely everything you need to get flying comes in the box.
The drone itself feels solid and high quality, the plastic frame is rigid and feels as though it will take a hard landing or occasional knock without breaking. Propellers come pre-fitted, so all that you need to do before flying is charge the flight battery and download the X-Hubsan app.
Battery charging is easy, you just plug the battery into the charger and the charger into a standard USB port (phone charger/PC/Power bank). Charging was quick, but the charger has a slowly flashing red light, rather than a light that just switches off when charging is complete, this makes it difficult to know if charging is finished.
Connecting the phone and app was easy and was just a case of connecting to the drone’s WiFi. Equally, connecting the controller to the phone app was easy, by selecting the controller’s Bluetooth from within the X-Hubsan app.
Video connection and real-time FPV from the Hubsan to the phone was good quality and had minimal delay.
Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro – In-depth analysis
The H216A uses a fairly unique control connection, with the phone directly connected to the drone via WiFi. The controller then connects to the phone via Bluetooth, as an optional control method. Normally things would be the other way round, with the phone being optional and the connection to the drone being made directly to the controller. The benefit of having a direct drone-phone connection is that you don’t actually need the separate controller. If you’re going out flying this means you have one less thing to bring and worry about. No more AAA battery searches because your controller is out of juice and no bulky controller to pack. The disadvantage of using a WiFi connection is the limited range (when comparing with a more typical 2.4 GHz RC connection), but when flying a small camera drone like this, you shouldn’t be flying beyond the WiFi range, as by this stage you will have a hard time spotting it. If you do really want to fly further, then a WiFi repeater/amplifier will allow you around 300m of range, which is huge.
The controller has an adjustable mount that firmly holds a phone in position with rubberised grips.
GPS features on the Hubsan are great, having this functionality on a small drone is really useful for beginners and when not flying in the greatest of conditions. The return to home feature is a great addition and not something you would normally expect for a drone this small and cheap. It gives you confidence when flying and particularly if you are flying towards the edge of WiFi signal range. If you lose connection you don’t have to worry about the drone flying away (as most do), as the Hubsan will return to you automatically. The position hold works very well. During testing, we had quite strong winds, but the quad managed to hold its position well even with gusts rather than a constant force.
The general build quality is good and the H216A feels solid. The level of detail and smaller aspects are encouraging. For example, the power cable is cable tied in position with the connector free, reducing any strain on the solder joint. I’m sure that over time this would have been broken because of the flexing produced when inserting/removing the battery. By using a cable tie to hold this in position, the chance of this happening is slim to none. It’s a small detail, but makes a difference longer term. It’s nice to see the level of thought that has gone into the design here.
Another small detail is the prop rotation. Normally this would be with the tips spinning in towards the ends of the drone. The problem with this is that any moisture or dirt on the propellers get splashed onto the camera. Hubsan have opted for an opposite rotation, which means that anything flicked off the propellers will just splash the side of the main body, rather than affecting the image captured. The propellers themselves are fairly rigid, with a little bit of flex towards the ends. This should result in good efficiency (rigidity) and durability (thanks to the flex), since any knocks are less likely to break a prop. The kit comes with four spare props in any case, which for a GPS enabled drone are unlikely to be needed, but are nice for beginners who may crash every now and then. The H216A propellers are attached with screws, so they are nice and secure unlike others which use a push on friction fit.
The drone comes with propeller protectors, which slot over the shaft and align to extrusions on the ends of the arms. As the props go on over the top of the protectors, the protectors won’t fly off in a crash, but the fit is fairly flimsy and means they can be knocked out of position by a fairly gentle bump. All this means is that when you bump into something, you will probably need to re-adjust the position of the prop protectors. The protectors are light, but do add a little bit of weight, so for testing purposes the H216A was flown without these attached.
I was initially alarmed to find that the charger was charging the battery pack above 4.2V. While this is quite common in toy grade drones and probably would have caused no harm and at most shortened the life of the battery, it’s not something I am used to. However, I later found that the Hubsan utilises LiHV batteries. These are designed to work at these higher voltages and provide increased performance as a result. I use racing drone technology for the most part, everything is manual and whether things go smoothly or not depends on doing things right. I’m therefore used to checking things and during charging, got a simple battery checker out to check the battery voltage.
As you can see, this is above the normal recommended maximum of 4.2V per cell, but is ok for these batteries. I got my multimeter out to double check the battery voltage and it was confirmed (below the voltage of two cells in series).
Although this is common, it does have potential to reduce the lifespan of the battery. Since I have a higher quality LiPo balance charger from racing drones, I opted to use this instead. For anyone starting in this hobby, my advice is to invest in a quality charger that meets your needs.
Charge voltage if this was a regular LiPo would be 4.2V per cell as above.
The camera on the H216A provides 1920 x 1080 pixel videos/stills of reasonable quality (see below for sample footage). The only downside is that the camera angle is fixed. While I’m not expecting a gimbal for something in this price point, it would be nice to have the option of manually adjusting the camera angle. If there was an option of capturing shots pointing directly down, the quad would be a lot more useful for amateur aerial photography as it would be capable of producing more unique shots.
By having a fixed camera angle there are a couple things to be aware of. When flying forwards or sideways, your camera will be facing down of sideways. When there is wind and the GPS position hold means your quad has to fly against it to maintain position, you could end up looking up/down/sideways, depending on the wind direction. These aren’t ordinarily going to cause a problem, but if conditions aren’t great, could mean you don’t quite get the shot you were after. As you can see in the video above (which was filmed on a very clear but windy day), when the flight is a bit bumpy, footage will be too. This is easily overcome using the YouTube stabilisation and so isn’t much of an issue. What really surprised me was how well the camera handles direct sunlight and detail even in shadows, skip to about 30s in to see what I mean.
It would be nice to have an additional battery included, but this isn’t standard, so not too much of a let down. You can find extra batteries here.
Angled image caused by having a fixed camera angle and drone flying sideways into the wind.
Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro – Flight Test
Actually getting a chance to fly was difficult as the weather here has been terrible! Although we got a bright dry day, there was quite a bit of wind (as you can see from the video). However, this was a good thing as it meant I was able to test the Hubsan in some pretty bad conditions. The wind was not only strong, but also gusting and meant that I almost didn’t fly. With a large, empty park available I gave it a shot and am happy to report that the H216A preformed very well.
Getting into the air was very straight forward, using the single click lift off button (the same goes for landing). As soon as it took off, the drone was correcting its position automatically and as I took it higher this continued, with the Hubsan maintaining its hover on the spot. Battling against gusts of wind, the quad was constantly varying its angle and thrust to maintain position and altitude. This was very impressive and while I’m familiar with drones that can do this (check out my DJI Mavic Pro review), I was not expecting something this cheap to work so well!
Given the bad weather conditions I did some basic manual flying, but didn’t get the chance to test the full automated flight features, such as waypoint flight. Once I have had the chance to fly the H216A a bit more, I’ll add additional flight footage here, but you can also subscribe to my YouTube for updates on this and other products coming soon.
Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro – Verdict
The Hubsan H216A offers fantastic value for money. It really is great for anyone who wants the occasional photo or video on a calm day, but isn’t expecting professional stabilised footage. Stills quality is better than expected for the money and the ability to GPS hold position on a windy day really goes to show how much performance you can now get for your money.
As a first quadcopter with a camera, the Hubsan is a great choice. It has the safety and automation provided by GPS, but is still basic enough to allow you to learn the fundamentals of RC flight. With the inclusion of a good quality camera, the longevity of the drone and the functionality improves over others without a camera and means you won’t likely be bored of this drone quickly.
You can buy the Hubsan H216A X4 Desire Pro now at Gearbest (cheapest at time of writing).
The Hubsan H216A was kindly provided for review by GearBest.com
Why does one of the blades not spin?
- Check the tightness of the blades;
- Remove the blade that does not spin to see if the motor is working properly;
- If the motor does not work, check whether the motor gear is connected properly;
- Remove the body shell, check if the motor cable is connected to the mainboard appropriately.
How do I bind the quadcopter and the transmitter?
First turn on the quadcopter power switch, place it in a horizontal position, then turn on the transmitter. Push the left throttle lever to the highest position, and then pull it back to the lowest position. You will hear a clear “di, di” sound and the indicator light will stop flashing and just stay lit, meaning the frequency adjustment is completed and your quadcopter is ready to take off.
Why is the indicator light of the quadcopter flashing?
- The quadcopter is not binding to the transmitter correctly, please refer to the user manual to re-modulate the frequency;
- Battery power is insufficient, recharge the battery.
Why does one of the blades spin slower than others?
- Check the tightness of the blades ;
- Adjust the trim key ;
- Re-modulate the frequency, the quadcopter must be put on a flat ground;
- Re-calibrate gyroscope.
How to distinguish the rotation of a blade?
Blades are usually marked with A, B or R. Diagonal direction blades have the same rotation, adjacent blades have opposite rotation.
How to judge the rotation of a motor?
- Usually, motor with red and blue wires is usually a forward motor, while the reversed motor presents black and white wires. Diagonal direction motors have the same rotation, adjacent motors have opposite rotation.
- On the motor surface sometimes you can find CW or CCW. CW stands for forward motor, while CCW refers to reversed motor.
Why does the transmitter not work when operated?
- Check and make sure that the batteries are installed by the right polarity;
- Battery power is insufficient, please full charge the battery, or replace with a full charge battery.
Why is the voltage of a single battery cell lower?
Single battery cell voltage imbalance is a normal phenomenon. Large current discharge will usually lead to voltage difference. This may be caused by poor contact between battery and charger, and the customer should adopt balance charge mode to charge the battery.
Why even though all blades spin, the quadcopter still cannot flip / rotate / take off?
- Battery power is insufficient, recharge the battery;
- Check whether the blades are installed correctly.