Learn to fly with a fun inexpensive introductory drone

While surfing our television for something to watch, my 11 and 8-year-old sons and I happened upon the Drone Racing League. Already in love with drone crashes on YouTube, my kids quickly took to the races, the first and third-person views, and loved the crashes. Over the past few years, we have tried several RC cars, trucks, boats, helicopters, and a few quadcopters/drones. When my kids saw the Potensic A30 drone, I had to pry the box away from their fingers, as even my four-year-old excitedly begged me to fly it. The drone arrived in a 6 1/2 inches long by 5 5/8 inches wide by 3 7/8 inches tall white cardboard box. The top of the box provided five top-down drone icons (black, white, blue, red, green) upon the white background. Located beneath each of the drone icons, you will find a small like-colored circle denoting the color of the drone. Of the potential color choices, I preferred the blue drone over the red, black, green, and then white color choices. The front panel displayed a 2 9/16 inches wide by 1 11/16 inches tall image of the black drone remote, while the back panel displayed the Potensic name along the top left, A30 name along the bottom, and a 4 1/16 inches wide by 1 7/8 inches tall oblique image of the drone along the middle. The left side panel had a SKU sticker and provided six icons: Altitude Hold Mode, Heading Hold Mode, One Button Take Off/Landing, Out of Range Alarm, High/Low-Speed Mode, Low Battery Alarm. The opposing side panel provided five icons, detailing the “Charging Methods:” Phone charger, power bank, computer, and car charger. The bottom panel provided several of the typical manufacturing labels, a QR code, Made in China icon, the drone dimensions (142mmx120mmx39.7mm) and a series of cautionary bullet points. My kids were saddened when they saw the “Only Suitable for age 14+ logo.”

I lifted the lid of the box and removed the internal contents. In addition to the drone, battery, and charging cable, you will find a thank you card and operational manual “A30 Operational Guidance.” The well laid out, 24-page manual started with an overview of the drone via top-down and bottom-up images, a labeled (pg 4) exploded view (pg 3) of the Potensic drone, and the device specifications: size 140x140x43.5mm, 63g weight, 6-7 minute flight time via 3.7v 500mAh drone battery, 80 minute charge time, 20-30 minute streaming video range, and a 50-meter flight distance. Pages four and five provided a labeled diagram of the transmitter from a top-down viewpoint and from a front-to-back perspective. Beneath the second image, Potensic provided a useful table, which outlined the button functions of the drone transmitter. Similar to other drones that I have utilized, the left stick was responsible for control of the altitude and rotation of the drone. The right stick controlled forward/backward movement as well as side to side movement. The heading hold button, located at the right trigger location, will enter/exit out of heading hold mode (my preferred mode). The high/medium/low speed button, also located at the right trigger location, adjusted the speed of the drone. Just below the left thumbstick, you will find the Takeoff, Landing, Emergency Landing button. If you depress the left thumbstick, you can move the right thumbstick to adjust the trimm. Perhaps the most useful pages were pages 14/15, which diagrammed the movements of the drone.

After perusing the instruction manual, it was time to start flying the drone. I slid the back cover from the remote, added three 1.5V AAA batteries into the slots, and then returned the backing onto the remote. I slid the battery into the front of the drone, read the “precautions before flying” section of the manual, and then reviewed the flying steps. The 4 1/4 inches long by 2 3/4 tall by 1 3/4 inches thick controller felt rather small in my hands but my older boys felt it was just right. I slid the power button into the “ON” position, the controller beeped once and then the LED illuminated. With both the drone and the controller powered on, I pressed the left stick down to pair the devices, and then I pressed the takeoff button. The drone took off and hovered in mid-air, thanks to the altitude feature. For the first few tests, I allowed the drone to take-off and land several times by tapping the landing button. I also long pressed the landing button, which immediately halted propeller rotation and caused the drone to fall to the floor. With each of the indoor tests, I found that the drone was unable to hover in place. No matter what I tried, I could not adjust the trimm enough to keep it in the same zone. Similar to other reviews on Amazon, I found the drone to be quite delicate. The drone came with four extra rotors, labeled A/B, which you can easily orient with the A/B on the drone body. With the drone in low mode, my kids practiced takeoffs and landings, rotated the drone, flew it forward/backward a little, but struggled with fine control of the drone.

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The biggest complaint that we had with the drone was with the duration of the flight. The 2 9/16 inches long by 7/8 inches wide battery had a micro-USB charging port on one end and accommodated the 13-inches long USB-A to USB-micro cable. For every 7 minutes of flight time, we had to charge the single battery for 80-90 minutes. It is for this reason that I wish that they would have included a second battery with this setup. A single battery did not provide enough time to get to learn the battery before you had to return it to the charger and start anew. My enthusiastic kids lost interest and I had to spice up the game a little. After indoor testing, I took the drone outside and found the lightweight drone could not hold heading in even the lightest wind. However, I did learn that the drone was more durable than I had initially expected. My kids watched the drone fly into a tree, into the concrete slab, into the side of my house and I completed more emergency stops than I care to admit. Once we realized that the lightweight drone would work better indoors, we returned to our living room for more drone horseplay. I was pleased to finally improve the trimm of the copter after several trials, with the help of page 16 of the instruction manual.

Once the drone was ready to maintain position, even my novice pilots could briefly fly it. My kids were able to learn the rotation/movements of this drone with a few flights. My children and I stood in the living room, spread our feet apart and piloted the drone in between the leg obstacle course. I preferred the headless flight mode, to the normal mode, but my 11-year-old son preferred normal mode. For an inexpensive drone ($29.99), I was pleased with the overall experience. The controls were responsive, the headlight was a nice added feature, but I missed having a camera/App interaction. Furthermore, the drone had three speeds, one key takeoff/landing, altitude hold, low-battery warnings, and emergency stop. If you navigate to the Potensic website, you will be able to find more advanced drones. Like anything, you will get what you pay for. The A30 drone lacked many of the advanced features and newest technology of their more expensive counterparts. However, my family has had countless hours of fun with the A30 drone, for a similar price as a trip to the movies.

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