TDR Robin Standard Edition Review
Image Credit: TDR
Review by Nicholas Turner, Staff Contributor
All stock equipment
- Modules allow for several options
- 2.4GHz RTF
- WiFi FPV
- WiFi control option
- Prop guards
- Durable plastic
- Color scheme
- LEDs easy to see
- Box doubles as carrying case
- Camera angle can be adjusted
- One USB charging cable for 2.4GHz TX and lipo
- LEDs can be turned off to save battery
- Headless mode option
- Carries an FX797T "cricket/Tiny Whoop camera"
- Camera resolution
- WiFi control
- Button for motor start/stop
- Self centering throttle stick
- Buttons on the TX really close together
- Must use the supplied charger
- Can only charge the lipo or TX one at
- WiFi control OR 2.4GHz control
(no flipping between the two)
- Return to home requires user override to stop auto flight
Box doubles as a carrying case which is nice. The quadcopter was zip tied via two opposing arms to a plastic layer, there was also clear plastic clinging to the top of the quadcopter to protect the power button. The manual and addendum for the WiFi app were sitting on top of this second layer. Under the paperwork the TX, prop guards, WiFi camera module, collision avoidance module all sat snug in their respective cavities. Extra props and a screwdriver were in one bag while the USB charger was in another, both taped in their respective cavities. Be sure to read the manual. There is a lot in this quadcopter to be aware of.
There is one charger for both the 2.4GHz TX and quadcopter lipo. Both use a little round plug, so you're limited to charging one item at a time. The manual indicates around a 20 minute charging time for the TX and 90 minutes for the lipo. I found my lipo charging time to be closer to 45-60 minutes and the TX charge time to be about 20 minutes. The red LED on the USB plug turn on when fully charged. I point this out as this is different from other USB chargers whose light goes off when fully charged.
There are two modules that can be connected to the quadcopter: a WiFi camera module and an obstacle avoidance module. The instructions are clear on how to mount and remove these units. When the camera module is plugged in, there is an option to either control the quadcopter exclusively via the PANTONMA-FPV app (at the time of this review only for Android or iOS) or exclusively via the 2.4GHz TX. If controlling via the TX and using the app, the app becomes an "FPV" monitor. I use the term FPV loosely as there is inherent latency when using WiFi and the 0.3 megapixel resolution is not suitable for FPV flying. The lens on the camera can be tilted in increments to face 90* down via buttons on the TX or in the app, which would be nice if the camera resolution and megapixel count was much higher. The camera module works as advertised as long as you remember flying via WiFi or 2.4GHz is an either/or and to flip from one to the other you'll have to power off the TDR Phoenix and power it back on to bind to the appropriate controller.
The obstacle avoidance module only works in Speed Mode 1 with the quadcopter and must have a minimum of 3.3 feet altitude clearance to operate. The speed modes are explained in the manual. Being an experienced r/c pilot I found speed mode 1 to my disliking. But to test the collision avoidance module I forced myself to fly in this speed mode. I found the module worked best when the quadcopter was in a slow gentle drift. When in a slow drift towards my kids' playhouse or a tree the quadcopter responded by gently drifting back the other direction, almost as if it was cushioned by a wall of air pressure. I did find that in a full forward (nose of quadcopter angled down) flight path I was still able to fly into the same objects. The anti-collision module in my opinion i designed to help the new r/c pilot learn to hover and basic control, but is not fool proof when in full forward flight in speed mode 1.
The prop guards do not require removal of the props for installation. I find this to be beneficial as it creates less chance of damaging props and misalignment of the props. Instead, one screw in the shell at the end of the arm is removed and the prop guard sits its pegs into the appropriate holes, then the screw is used to retain the prop guard in the same hole the screw was removed from. The prop guards work well for basic protection, however if the quadcopter is tilted or hits something angled, the props can still hit stuff. The guards are useful for beginners learning the quadcopter and how to fly, but once the pilot is skilled and experienced, not needed.
I used the 2.4GHz TX for all but one of my flights during my review process. WiFi inherently introduces latency/lag that is is not conducive for real time FPV flying. The first flight was with the collision avoidance module on and indoors. Being a very experienced r/c pilot this is okay, but for someone new to flying I say "DO NOT MAIDEN INDOORS." I quickly felt speed mode 1 (default speed mode) being too sluggish for my taste. I also experienced what would appear to be LVC (low voltage cutoff) after 2 minutes of flight. I thought maybe the battery was not charged enough, so I waited and threw the battery back on charge, it charged quickly (so it was not a battery issue). Next several flights I moved outdoors and used no modules with speed modes 2 and 3. I found I prefer speed mode 3 and I was able to zoom around my yard in full control. I will say being a traditional r/c hobbyist the self-centering throttle stick and relying on a push button to start and stop the motors is new and odd to me. It is a completely different way of thinking/flying than what I'm used to. It's still very hard to remember this process when I need to stop the props quickly to avoid damage to the props and motors. Flips are easy to perform by pushing the flip button and then pushing the pitch/roll stick in the direction of the flip to perform. Again, during flights I found at 2 minutes in the quadcopter would flash LEDs and lose power like an LVC situation. A power cycle of the quadcopter and I was able to fly 5 more minutes without issue until true LVC was encountered. There are buttons on the TX to turn the LEDs off (and back on), which can help save battery, and enable headless mode. Again, being a long time traditional r/c hobbyist I found headless mode not to my liking and confusing, but it worked. There is a return to home button, but use this with caution. I found the quadcopter does try to fly back to the take off point, but without GPS it will keep going unless you are ready to push the landing button or sticks to stop it. In my opinion the return to home feature really needs GPS to know to stop at a specific coordinate. But this is working as designed. There are also buttons on the TX to move the camera lens up and down (up to 90* downward facing), this works well.
Controlling via WiFi from my Motorola Moto X Gen 1 surprisingly worked well enough. You are limited to speed mode 1, which with the latency of WiFi is perfect. One problem with using the app to start and stop video recording or take pictures is that it saves the files to a location only accessible via the app. If using the 2.4GHz TX to take pictures and video, the files are saved to the usual image gallery location, making them easily accessible. On the smaller screen of my phone, I found the screen to be cluttered with buttons that brings feature parity from the 2.4GHz and more. For instance there is an option for 3D view in the app, which duplicates the image on half the screen to use the device/image with Google Cardboard. I don't recommend doing that because of the latency over WiFi. Controlling flight via WiFi or 2.4GHz is mutually exclusive. To switch from one to the other, a power cycle and rebind of the quadcopter is required.
I started an email thread with Tenergy's customer service about my power issue. They were easy to work with via email and was timely in responding to emails (typically within 24 hours and during the late evening hours Eastern time). After sharing the maiden flight video with them they deemed my first TDR Phoenix unit to be defective and RMA'ed the unit. A replacement unit came within the week.
Unit #2 Flights:
Maiden flight was indoors but no anit-collision module. This time I had no no power issues and the quadcopter performed flawlessly for close to 8 minutes. Flight number 2 I strapped my LHI FX797T camera to the back (allowed for proper angle when in forward flight) and cruised around my yard using my Eachine VR-007 goggles without issue. I found this to be a great experience and again flight time was around 7 minutes. Flight number 3 I threw the wifi camera and anit-collision modules on the quadcopter. I tested each available function and found no difference in behavior compared to the unit that was RMA'ed.
The TDR Phoenix has a lot of features packed as positives but have negative points that almost negate the advanced features. For example, the camera capabilities: great it has a camera with adjustable lens angle but it is negated by the fact it is WiFi and 0.3 megapixels. The collision avoidance module is a good feature to introduce, but is negated by the fact it only works with speed mode 1 and prevents aerobatics/flips when installed. To be honest, I put expectations kind of low and was expecting to be disappointed. However, I became surprisingly pleased with the quadcopter. The plastic shell and props have proven to be durable. The yellow and black color scheme is very easy to see. Pay attention to what is written the manual to get an understanding of the quadcopter. I would really like to see a higher megapixel count camera, a minimum one or two megapixels would be very beneficial. It would also be very nice to have the app and TX save image files to save location; device's standard gallery. I really enjoyed flying the TDR Phoenix at night with no modules in speed mode 3. The blue and red LED bars on the bottom of the arms are easty to see, and if angled just right one can see the red light on the flight controller around the power button on the top of the quadcopter. It has taken me a lot of getting use to the throttle stick setup. For a beginner I'm guessing this now the default setup as many quadcopters new to the market for beginners are going with this setup. I personally would like a quick kill switch to immediately cut power to the motors, I hate have it beat against something (like brick steps) while I wait for the pre programmed throttle decrease timer to count down and slowly stop the props.
Is this for beginners? Sure, but it also will help teach them some bad habits in regards to throttle management and usage.
Is it fun? Once you learn all the little intricacies and you get experienced as a pilot on this quadcopter, yes.
Do I recommend this quadcopter? I'm not sure. I really want to recommend a quadcopter with a traditional r/c throttle setup (throttle does not self-center and controls motor speed at all times).
If you are interested in the TDR Phoenix, do your research. Read and watch all the reviews available as it's a complicated quadcopter with all the features available. If you want a quadcopter with novelties/gimmicks, then this one may work for you. If you want a quadcopter with a serious/good camera there are other options out there (like the TDR Robin Standard Edition and Estes Proto X FPV). If you want a quadcopter to fly FPV; pass on the TDR Phoenix and any that is WiFi only for the camera feed, the lag is going to cause issues. I do think if you purchase the TDR Phoenix with the mind set it is a simple/basic entry level quadcopter with novelties/gimmicks you'll be happy, but if you purchase this with the idea of flying FPV and getting into aerial photography, you will be highly disappointed.