It’s not every day that you’re surprised by tech. Usually, the outlandish ideas fail; but sometimes, they work. So, does the Vidius HD budget FPV/VR Streaming Drone — which streams images to a smartphone-powered VR headset — surprise, or disappoint?
The Aerix Vidius HD is available now for $95 with the headset, or $75 without. Read out to find out what we thought of it, and enter to win one for yourself!
Benefits of a Micro-Drone over Full Size Drones
Drones are great fun — and with a camera mounted on them, even better. But if you didn’t start with a compact, lightweight drone, you’re doing it wrong.
What’s the point of splashing out $500 on a full-sized drone if you can’t fly it? The smart money goes on smaller quadcopters, compact devices that you can use to practice with, before stepping up a level.
And it’s not as if the compact drones aren’t packed with features. Many have cameras mounted on them, and offer streaming video to your phone. That’s certainly the case with the Vidius HD budget FPR/VR Streaming Drone.
However, don’t let the compact dimensions fool you. While it might appear to be safe to use this quadcopter indoors, you’ll need to take it outside — or at least fly it in a large indoor space — to practice safely. So, make sure you choose a calm day!
Embarrassingly just lost my brand new drone.to a gust of wind in #Redcar remote control failed to “return” device 🙁
— Christian Cawley (@ChristianCawley) March 18, 2016
What’s in the Box?
The compact Vidius quadcopter drone comes in two boxes. In one, you’ll find the drone, a controller, a USB charging cable, screwdriver and screw for securing the controller’s battery slot, four spare blades and a blade attachment/removal tool.
It’s all very straightforward.
In the second box, you’ll find the VR headset. Using a dedicated smartphone app, you can view images streamed over a wireless connection between your phone and the drone. These images are displayed on the phone, and thanks to the VR headset you get to enjoy the experience of “flying”.
Well, that’s the idea, at least. But how does it work in practice?
Setting Up the Drone for Flight
To fly the Vidius HD budget FPV/VR Streaming Drone, you’ll first need to ensure that it is fully powered. Begin by connecting the drone to the USB charging cable; you’ll need to flip it over to find the power coupling. Connect the USB cable to a suitable charger, and wait. You should get around 7 minutes of flight from a 20-minute charge; charging is complete when the light in the USB plug is a constant red.
While this is happening, grab hold of two AAA batteries and slot them into the controller. How long these last for depends on which brand you choose — long life, high powered batteries are recommended. The battery cavity has cover that can be screwed shut, ensuring the batteries are not lost if it is dropped.
Once powered up, the Vidius HD budget FPV/VR Streaming Drone is ready for flight. As with any quadcopter drone, you’ll need to pair it with the controller and initialize the device before taking flight. This changes from manufacturer, but thankfully the instructions for this device are clear, and you should have it in the air within 30 seconds.
If you prefer to use the app, setup is even simpler (see below).
How Easy is it to Fly this Drone?
I’m yet to find a drone I’m 100% comfortable flying, which is why I have high hopes for the Vidius HD quadcopter, with its six-axis control. Starting up is simple enough, as is taking off. The problems start, really, when it comes to maneuvering. Perhaps it’s the small size of the drone, but even with a pair of blue and green lights to represent the back and the front of the craft, they’re difficult to distinguish.
The result is a small aircraft that can prove tricky to get the hang of, until you can finally figure out what it is you should be looking for while it’s in the air.
However, with the pre-programmed ability to do flips and rolls, the Vidius HD budget FPV/VR Streaming Drone is certainly worth the time and effort required to get to grips with its control mechanism.
Without this patience, you’ll never get the chance of a VR flying experience!
For the best results, we suggest abandoning any outdoor flight test runs. Instead, find a generous indoor space to get started. The small size of this drone means that although damage is unlikely, when it does happen, the parts may not be available, or easily replaceable.
Headless Mode and Radio Issues
Advanced quadcopter pilots have the option of headless mode, which can be enabled via the left-hand shoulder button. This enables you to fly the drone in a more traditional manner; in short, it has no front or back. Although that might seem odd for any device with a mounted camera, it’s a different flight experience.
It is in headless mode where the quick return button (labeled “return to pilot” in the manual) is enabled, on the right-hand shoulder. In truth, however, this is unreliable. Making matters worse, the relatively poor radio signal strength means that once the drone is out of range (which is often not far from your position), the button won’t work anyway.
Radio is a problem for this quadcopter, with spotty and at times unresponsive results in good weather conditions using our test devices. Of course, there is a solution: Wi-Fi!
Fly Like an Eagle… with an App
Drones are increasingly common tech toys. So why should you spend $100 on the Vidius HD budget FPV/VR Streaming Drone?
Well, the clue is in the name: “FPV/VR”. The “first person view/virtual reality” aspect of the device makes it a massive selling point, one that you can enjoy with the help of an app. Used in conjunction with a surprisingly comfortable helmet, you can virtually take to the skies yourself.
Available for iOS and Android (you’ll find a QR code in the packaging), the app can be used without the headgear, but the real magic happens with them used together. Before you do this, however, it’s worth pairing up the drone and your smartphone (it uses wireless connectivity) and taking the time to practice flying the device with the app, rather than the controller.
After all, it’s a lot more convenient this way if you’re just popping out for a quick fly. But if you want to go for the full FPV/VR experience, you will, of course, need the physical controller.
Compared with the physical controller, the app offers a reasonable flight experience. However, the lack of feedback — haptic vibration, for example — means that it perhaps doesn’t quite match the physical controller.
The benefit of using the app over the physical controller is that you can see where the drone is flying. Footage can be recorded in the app too, giving you the chance to relive your flight, and use the material in various interesting ways, from sharing on social media to editing into a movie. Note, however, that although the resolution is 720p, the quadcopter’s motion and weak signal (more on that later) can reduce this quality – there is no camera stabilization.
App Setup: Simple!
Planning to use the app? You’ll be able to forget about loading the physical controller with fresh AAA batteries, and rely on a rechargeable phone. It’s also easier to setup this way.
With the drone switched on, all you need to do with your phone (or small tablet) is enable Wi-Fi, open the list of available devices, and look for the entry labelled Vidius drone. Confirm the connection (it’s lack of internet connectivity is a “problem” that Android needs reassuring about!), then launch the app, and click Go Fly!
The following screen will display the view from the drone’s camera, and from here you’ll also be able to take photos, record (footage is streamed to the phone), adjust the drone’s drift and trim, and pull stunts. In short, everything the physical controller can do, plus a bit more!
Flight: With or Without the Helmet?
Flying this drone is probably easier with the physical controller, but should you take to the skies with the helmet or not? Does the FPV/VR experience offer anything new?
In short, no. It’s good to have the option to use it, but really you can get everything you need — including spatial awareness — by leaving the helmet off. It might be fun to let someone you’re out in the park flying your drone with wear the helmet… but for actual flight, for piloting the drone, the FPV/VR option is unsuitable.
This is a shame, as the fault isn’t with the functional app. The software is fine, intuitive, and arguably easier to use than the physical controller. Rather, the drone’s inherent difficulty flying in enclosed spaces and breezy outdoor areas are the problem. You cannot hope to safely control a drone if you cannot see where it is. The spotty radio signal adds more difficulty in this regard.
If you don’t already have a VR helmet, then this is a useful addition. It’s not perfect, but is comfortable. Should you decide to eschew the helmet, however, rest assured that you’ll still be able to use it for other smartphone-based VR or FPV apps.
Take to the Skies with the VR Helmet and App!
Enter to win an Aerix Vidius HD drone below, complete with smartphone VR headset.
It’s not every day you find such a great little piece of tech, but the Vidius HD budget FPV/VR streaming drone certainly fits that description. Easy to setup, and with good video streaming, this is a great drone for starters and quadcopter veterans alike. You’ll just need to be careful where you fly it; find somewhere safe to get your wings.
While threatening to be little more than a gimmick, the VR element has proved a real surprise. Perhaps unwieldy to be used regularly, it still brings a much-needed new dimension to the compact drone market.
A great piece of compact tech that can be enjoyed as a normal drone or for delivering an optional flight experience with the VR helmet.