Drocon MJX Bugs 3 Quadcopter Review
Review by Nicholas Turner, Staff Contributor
- Stock equipment
- 4x "AA" sized batteries for TX
- RTF package
- Brushless motors
- Action camera mount
- TX beeps for low batteries and edge of range
- Very bright LEDs
- Optional long legs
- Sporty feel
- Light weight
- Color scheme
- Action camera mount angle is adjustable
- Optional attachments available
- Quadcopter battery charges via the balance tab
- 6-8 minutes of flight time (not the advertised 15-18)
- Action camera mount introduces vibration to the video
- Must hold arm button urning on TX to create the link
- Nylon body can get warm/hot to the touch above the flight controller and ESCes
- No altitude hold
- Drifts significantly in hover
- Action camera mount angle is not adjustable in flight (not a gimbal)
- No return to home
The Drocon Bugs 3 came in a well labeled and branded box. Upon opening the box a resalable bag was on top containing the manual, brand stickers, screwdriver, and a few business cards with support and help contact information. All parts of the quadcopter were tucked away securely in a styrofoam insert. The TX is tucked very securely into a cavity on the bottom of the styrofoam. The top part of the styrofoam contained the quadcopter body, props, prop guards, charger, action camera holder, and battery. Each item had its own secure spot. The props and legs were in their own plastic wrap in addition to keep them together. I found no damage or loosely floating parts in the package.
There is some assembly required. At a minimum, the TX thumb gimbal ends must be screwed down onto the gimbals and props installed. Follow the directions in the manual for prop installation to get the correct directions. If the action camera mount is going to be used, the longer legs need to be screwed in place. Each leg requires two screws. All required screws and a screwdriver are included in the kit. The last thing to do is install four "AA" sized batteries in the TX. The TX battery case door has a screw to help hold it in, in addition to the typical pressure fit tab. I personally removed the screw to make it easier to open and close the door as needed.
Charging the Quadcopter Battery:
The stock battery is a 2s 1800mAh lipo. The lipo uses an XT30 connector on the power leads and has a plastic "hard" case around the lipo. The included charger connects to the balance tab on the lipo. The manual states four to five hours charge time. Beware, lipos do not respond well to overcharging. Do not leave the lipo unattended while charging. The charger has an LED that changes from red to green when the battery is fully charged. Even with my red/green colorblindness, I found it easy to see the red and green on the single LED. I checked the battery with my Hitec Lipo checker, the battery came shipped at 4.02V per cell. Thus, my first charge took about an hour. I found on later charges when the battery was around 3.82V to 3.84V the charge time was close to three hours. Since I'm a long time r/c aviation hobbyist I have multiple lipo compatible chargers and would much rather charge using the power leads and a balance board. Since this is my first XT30 plug, I don't have a charging lead compatible with XT30 so I'm limited to using the stock charger. Charging via the power leads will reduce the charge time to around an hour (charged at 1C via a lipo compatible charger).
The quadcopter battery slides in to a carriage under the body. The XT30 connector plugs into a cavity on the back on the quadcopter body. The cavity for the battery plug is shaped to indicate the way to plug in the connector. However, there's enough slop that the XT30 can be plugged in backwards. I high recommend paying attention to the plug.
Once the quadcopter is powered on, hold the red shoulder trigger button on the TX and turn on the TX. This is the equivalence of linking/binding the quadcopter to the TX. I admittedly struggled with this at first. But after rereading the manual, I was able to successfully link the aircraft to the TX.
Once the link is made, short press the red arming button on TX to arm and start spinning the motors. The TX is mode 2, which means throttle and yaw control are on the left stick with pitch and roll on the right stick. By default the quadcopter starts out in what is referred to low speed. I found the quadcopter to be quite responsive even in low speed.
I found on my first flight the Drocon Bugs 3 was locked in. The controls didn't feel sloppy, there was no lagging in response. I put the quadcopter in a hover around head eye to see how it would lock in a hover. Sadly, the quadcopter does not lock into a hover. It drifts around a bit more than I was expecting. Even with full pitch trim forward set, the quadcopter still drifted backwards. The real concern in a hover is having to constantly increase and decrease throttle to maintain altitude. I observed mine constantly ascended or descended, even by very small amounts. Having to constantly provide small inputs to the quadcopter just to hover will decrease the chance of getting really good/clean photography shots.
With the aerial platform tests out of the way, I pressed the motor speed button to kick in high speed. Wow! In high speed the Bugs 3 feels like an FPV/racing quadcopter. However, with the optional longer legs and action camera mount attached, the quadcopter just looks odd "racing" around the sky. There is also a "3D Mode" on the Drocon Bugs 3. The manual states to press the corresponding flip mode button then hold the pitch or roll stick in the direction to flip. However, my experience was I needed to hold the flip button while holding the stick in the direction of the flip. Flips are quick and tight.
Another feature on the TX is the ability to turn the quadcopter's LEDs off by the push of the button. This worked as described in the manual. But I find the LEDs on to be a great visual queue to help with orientation. The blue LEDs on the rear arms greatly contrast the white LEDs on the front arms. The front round white LED on the quadcopter is also bright and easily seen, even in the day.
The TX will continuously beep when the link with the TX drops to a predefined low value. This is your only warning to prevent a fly away. When this happens drop the altitude or bring back to you until the beeping drops. I had this happen to me once. The stated range of the Drocon Bugs 3 is 300-500 meters. The TX will also beep a differently to indicate low flight battery on the TX. Since I don't have an XT30 compatible charging lead, I do not feel comfortable trusting software to tell me when the battery is low. To preserve the life a lipo, it needs to be put on storage charge if it's not going to be used within a day. With a proper charging lead I can use a lipo compatible charger that supports Storage mode to put a battery on storage charge (3.8V-3.84V per cell).
The advertised flight time is 15-18 minutes. However, I never came close to these flight times. Of course flying style will affect the flight times. My first flight was 6 minutes of hovering/moving around at altitude for photography purposes, followed by 2 minutes of aggressive flying with many flips. At the end of these 8 minutes the battery was at 3.82V per cell. Next several flights of flying for photography purposes was 6 minutes each. Both times the battery was at 3.84V per cell, perfect storage setting. So to protect my battery and prolong its lifespan, I stopped flying. Which I recommend for anyone without a proper charging lead. I also observed the longer the flight times and more aggressive the flying, the warmer/hotter the top of the quadcopter's case would get, which is normal since there's not much airflow over the ESCes and flight controller.
Let me preface the conclusion by saying the Drocon Bugs 3 is NOT a direct competitor to the DJI Phantom products. With this in mind, it is highly unfair to compare the Bugs 3 to any DJI Phantom product, no matter how similar they may appear to be.
I set some low expectations for the Drocon Bugs 3 for the following reasons: no GPS, no altitude hold, and no action camera gimbal. Because my expectations were low, I was pleasantly surprised by the flight characteristics. But the Drocon Bugs 3 struggles to identify its purpose. Yes, the quadcopter can be kicked into high speed and fly around in a very sporty manner line of sight, but it won't be the fastest quad at the field. The action camera mount just slides in and uses a rotating tab to lock in place. But the mount wobbles and shakes with the lightest move of the quadcopter. So the action camera needs to have some good anti-shake software on board and/or the video will have to seriously edited with software after the fact (like <a href="http://www.prodrenalin.com?ap_id=rcdude07">ProDRENALIN v2+</a>). To help frame shots the action camera used will need to have Wi-Fi capabilities for streaming back to a mobile device.
Is this for a beginner? No, even though prop guards are included, the Drocon Bugs 3 is very sporty and responsive. A pilot needs to have experience with r/c aircraft in order to know how much control to correct the drift. Maintaing orientation is also needed prior to piloting this quadcopter.
Is this a DJI Phantom competitor/killer? Absolutely not. The Drocon Bugs 3 has no altitude hold (which is key for a good aerial photography platform), no return to home (even a basic one), and no GPS.
Is it FPV'able? Sure, just strap a little all in one camera/vTX combo that runs on its own 1S lipo. But stock it is not an FPV ship.
What action cameras are supported by the mount? Any action camera that is the rectangle form factor made popular by GoPro. I personally used a DBPower action camera without issue.
Is it crash proof? No r/c aircraft is crash proof. The longer legs on the Bugs 3 are plastic and a strong enough hit or landing will bend and eventually break. The body and arms are nylon, so eventually with enough hits it'll break. But may prove to be more durable than other materials.
Do I recommend the Bugs 3? Depends. If you want a serious aerial photography platform, no. If you want a sport quadcopter to fly line of sight, maybe - depends on your r/c experience. The Bugs 3 doesn't stand out as being exception at either. But it gives the pilot an option of flying styles. Which is good. I can easily see there will be times I want to take the Bugs 3 up to legal altitude and capture some video, but there may be times I just want to sport fly. The biggest advantage of the Drocon Bugs 3 is the versatility and low price.