I'm a scientist by training so not usually one to use hyperbole (especially where it feels click-baity in titles) but I really do mean it here: This is the best value quad I've reviewed so far this year. It is not the best long range, it is not the best free-style and it is not the best racer. But for those occasions where you are looking to fly in a small to medium park, empty office or commercial area out from your back yard which is 90% of my fling, this is the ideal tool for the job.
The HappyModel Sailfly-x is a "toothpick class" ultralight micro quadcopter. It has an all up weight of 38g without battery and can take 1s, 2s or 3s batteries. It is available with onboard FRSKY, FlySky or DSM reveivers or without a receiver where you can add crossfire or anything else. It is a fairly complete kit (see below) and is available for just $88 at full retail. Availability seems to be somewhat limited to Banggood at time of writing but my guess is that many retailers will pick this one up.
For this review I'll break down what is included, the specs, document differences from the stock betaflight and then cover off in the actual review performance on 2s, 3s, FPV performance and close with a summary and my recommendations. I'll also list spares and upgrade parts as the become available.
Specs and what this means
The Sailfly-X is a new quadcopter made by Happymodel that is due for imminent release. The objective of this preview is to run through the specifications published and comment on their suitability for this build and expected performance. A review will follow as soon as the first round of reviewer samples are available.
Full, comprehensive review of the HappyModel Sailfly-X has been completed here: https://www.quadifyrc.com/reviews/happymodel-sailfly-x-review-best-value-quad-ive-reviewed-in-2019-so-far
As you probably know, Happymodel's most successful launches have been based around the all in one crazybee board: the snapper7 (reviewed here), mobula7 (reviewed here), eachine trashcan (reviewed here) and the mobula7HD. The Sailfly-X is a departure from the ducted design in response to the massive performance gains shown by Kabab as above. Lets have a look at the specs below and I'll give you my thoughts and a conclusion based on the entire package.
In the world of brushless ducted quadcopters (whoops) I have been lucky enough to review most of the big hype products - Happymodel Snapper7 and upgrades, Happymodel Mobula 7, Full Speed TinyLeader and now the Eachine Trashcan. Clearly it is a silly but memorable name and it will surely be easy to search for online.
It is great to see a case included here and like the mobula7, enough battery power to get flying in earnest. The included XT30 is a small gesture but a nice touch nonetheless.
The Mobula7 is made by Happymodel who also released the popular Snapper7 which I reviewed here. Like the Snapper 7 it is a 75mm brushless whoop but it is lighter and more importantly, designed for 2s batteries. The Mobula 7 is not the first ready to fly 2s brushless whoop to the market but it is by far and away the lightest at just 28g without battery. That means the small and light 0802 16000kV motors are able to reach their power potential even on the small 260mah batteries included in the kit and make this quadcopter move very quickly with extremely nimble handling.
After several false starts including the FullspeedRC beebee66 which looked so promising (review here) I've finally found a real brushless tiny whoop - the Happy Model Snapper 7. This 75mm brushless quadcopter is 10mm larger in diagonal motor to motor distance than a typical tiny whoop or clone but can still be very much classified as an micro indoor quadcopter. I'm pleased to say that the awfully named Happy Model Snapper 7 exceeded my expectations in practically every area.
What is included?
The standard version is $10 more than the basic version and simply speaking offers superior value for money. Included is:
As you can probably see above the standard version includes 3 batteries instead of 1 and a 6 channel charger instead of a single USB charger. Because I was so impressed by the charger, I'll call out here the details of what made it so special:
Quad specs and discussion
Key specifications of the quad are:
The real innovation and star of the show is the integrated flight control/ESC/receiver. The flight control and BLHeli_S ESC on the same board is nice and a useful step forward from spearate boards as on the BeeBee 66 that mean it is more compact and weighs less (4.3g for this board). We've seen integrated receivers before but not with an SPI interface as this one has. In theory the SPI interface is much faster than the SBUS interface (gyro is connected via SPI) but for practical results this frees up a spare UART and ensures you get FULL telemetry (confirmed on my Taranis Q-X7s). Addionally it means that rather than choosing a serial receiver in betaflight, you choose a dedicated SPI receiver and can choose between D8 or D16 for FRSKY or AFDHS or AFDHS2a for FRSKY. Lastly binding is easy! you no longer need to use 3 hands to hold the tiny button down while binding - power on and then hold the bind button down for 2 seconds. Bliss!! The Crazybee F3/ESC/RX is available separately in FRSKY and FLYSKY versions
Nothing much to note about the AIO camera from spec perspective, nor the motors - the real test will be in flight. The frame however is intersting. The rings around the props look like ducts but are actually just protectors meaning you should expect flight performance more like a typical guard-less quadcopter rather than a ducted whoop. Guards look to be cast from 7075 aluminium and are integral to the frame, i.e. cannot be removed.
The instructions that come with this model are succinct, well written and complete. It goes into detail with receiver choice in betaflight and binding procedure due to the SPI interface. As mentioned above: Easier to bind and choose the correct recevier. For flysky users it is particularly useful that you can choose between AFDHS and AFDHS2a. You'll be pleased to know that betaflight has been full set up from factory for all the elements that are unique to this quad althought the PIDs are stock (yet run fine). Please see below for stock betaflight setup and my comments in the gallery below:
It's worth noting that since this runs BLHeli_S, all of the latest Dshot commands are available including motor beep and anti-turtle mode aka 'flip over after' crash. Both work very well :)
I've seen a number of brushless whoops that have looked great on paper but none yet have actually bettered the flight experience by a simple brushed whoop like my santa whoop (part 1 and part 2 reviews here). That's because until now the brushless motors haven't scaled down well and offered poor power and efficiency. This meant they had no better thrust than a good brushed whoop and much worse battery life.
I'm really pleased to say that this model is different. Yes I know it has a 10mm larger frame and a 450mah battery but performance is superior to even a heavily modded whoop. What does this mean? It can better recover from manouvers and it is a more viable outdoor flier on still days. Punch outs are surprisingly good! As you can see from the video it will happily navigate a playground and trees. The flight characteristics are really interesting. I'd liken it more to a micro burshless than a whoop because of the extra power and lack of full ducts. This means I can be more aggresive with cornering using more roll rather than the yaw-heavy flying I do with whoops. Further to this it makes me more confident in acro mode whereas I find a whoop in acro mode really foreign. In tight spaces and obstacles and at lower speed (e.g. indoors) I still feel more comfortable in angle mode, just like a brushless whoop.
For flight time I got about 3 minutes when charged to 4.2v or 3.5 minutes when charged to 4.35v. Open field flying dropped battery life to about 2 minutes but this is not typical flight with a micro like this. This tells me these motors are most efficient in the 30-80% throttle range which is where most tighter flying is done - like the playground, indoors or around small trees. Nice to know the power is there if needed though. I'm not a fan of brushless motors smaller than 1102 but think these 0703s are actually pretty good - particularly with this combination of components. Furthermore they are the quietest sub-1102 motor I have heard. Spares are available here: https://www.gearbest.com/motor/pp_1717534.html
I was really pleased with the image out of the little AIO cam - it was as crisp as I've seen with as good a colour handling as you can expect for this type of camera. The camera angle adjustment was really nice and with the power this offered a well thought out capability. Video signal was very good even around trees and I started to drop RSSI on the control link well before video deteriotation before travelling out on an open field. I think the receiver antenna location could be optimised (below) but think you'll struggle to get the 300m claimed range... <Quick update> I've since routed the antenna up through the canopy rather than underneath. I think the reception may be marginally better but certainly no more than 100m in line of sight conditions.
The HappyModel Snapper7 is an excellent supermicro brushless whoop-style quadcopter that is available in a great value 'standard' pack which includes 3 batteries and and versatile charger. For it's size it is very light weight thanks to the heavily integrated FC/receiver/ESC board that includes the very latest receiver interface that makes setup extremely simple. By combining this with well made 19000kV motors and a suprisingly good AIO camera they have created a brushless tiny whoop that lives up to what we've wanted - a familiar whoop style quad that is suitable for indoors with a level of power and response that micro brushed quads just cannot achieve. Furthermore it feels much more at home in rate mode (acro) flight compared to a ducted whoop. Unlike earlier brushless models this does not come at the cost of battery life where 3-3.5 minutes flight time is realistic. Only time will tell how the motors and aluminium prop guards will hold up but with 20 or so packs through I've not caused any permanent damage plus the motors are still running quietly.
The Happymodel Snapper7 is available in a basic bind and fly package with 1 battery and a simple charger for just $85 in flysky or frsky versions but I'd recommend instead going for the $95 standard package which includes 3 batteries and an excellent 6 port charger.
I'd happily recommend this as more powerful alternative for a brushless whoop for indoor flying and even outdoor flying in no or low wind. Unlike a the heavier brushless ET100, ET115 and ET125 models, the light weight will have much less chance of damaging your home with crashes when flying indoors.