The Leader 3 (SE) is a follow up to the hugely successful Leader 120 which I have reviewed and documented modification extensively, most recently with a summary here. Both are available from Fullspeedrc.com This has been a highly anticipated release not least of which because there has been no releases from Full Speed since last years' Beebee 66 light. The good news is that a big chunk of that wait has been spent working on the Leader 3. FYI two of the main guys are pilots from Full Speed RC are pilots and do a lot of work testing before release which is a welcome change in this hobby compared to many models that come out half-baked.
Firstly the Leader is available in 2 variants. The standard model (Leader 3) can be seen below and weighs 87g with regualar standoffs. The Leader 3 SE is exclusive to Fullspeedrc.com and comes with a 3d printed canopy instead of the standoffs. It is 6g heavier but offers several benefits that I'll cover a little later on.
A run through the components
First the frame. Like the Leader 120 the base plate of the frame is 3mm thick although it has been stretched to 130mm motor to motor diagonally rather than 120mm This means it is capable of accepting a true 3" propeller rather than 2.8" maximum on the Leader 120. The frame is most definitely still a 'deadcat' shape meaning the two motors are further apart (107mm) than the 2 rear motors (98mm). Additionally it is a 'squashed-x' compared to a 'stretched-x' meaning the front and rear motors on the same side are closer together. This means it should be more stable in the roll vs. pitch axis but modern flight software somewhat negates this. Compared to the leader 120, sideplates have increased from 2mm to 3mm thick which should aid durability. More imporatantly a 19mm gap rather than 17-18mm means the leader 3/SE now natively fits a 19mm micro cam. It's worth nothing that the baseplate is only 1 piece so you cannot replace single arms. Personally I think replaceable arms are unnecessary on any quad size less than 4" since there is much less leverage for breaking on a smaller quad. The frame can be purchased separately here.
The canopy (Leader 3SE only). When I first saw the canopy I wasn't keen because it adds 8g weight however I think the functionality may just offset that - jury is out until I fly it some more. The 3d TPU print is of very high quality available in black,white, red, purple, blue or yellow and performs the following functions:
The motors are 1106 4500kv which is the same specs as those found on the Emax Babyhawk R 3 inch and the Skystars X120. They are not open bottom and have mounting holes for regular t-mount props and the emax 2.3" avan props. Most importantly they are rated for up to 4s.
Like the original Leader 120, build quailty is excellent. Solder is clean, wires are cut to length. Not much more to say here, it is well beyond my ability! With the quad assembled there is plenty of room behind the camera to adjust tilt (45° and beyond are capable) and the receiver is mounted in this void. with plenty of room left yet. This is speculation but I'd like to address anyway since it seems like a common thread: my best guess is the caddx turtles HD FPV/DVR (not yet released at time of writing) will fit but not without a little modification. My reasoning is that there seems to be 2-3mm 'spare' room between each stack layer. If these standoffs are trimmed by this amount you will be able to save 6-9mm in height which should be enought to fit the turtles board. It will require some fine wire management and a steady hand to trim the standoff but I do think it may be physically possible - a project for another day. That being said, the double stack of the runcam split micro definitely will not fit.
Plenty to talk about here although most can be foundin commentary of the Betaflight screens below. If you don't choose to read these however:
Final thoughts pre-flight
As you can see from above this looks to be a very well thought out quad and not something slapped together from a spare parts bin. The Babyhawk R and Skystars bolt X120 have both shown that 1106 4500kV motors perform well on 4s in 2.5" and 3" so I am excited to see what the Leader 3SE will add here with all the work that has gone into development from a hardware and software perspective. On paper this looks to have the edge on both of those models in terms of weight, VTX capability and ESC current overhead however the real test will come in flight - stay tuned for part 2 of this review where I will cover flight in full - I already have 3s and 4s batteries charged for tomorrow :)
The Fullspeed RC Leader 3/SE can be bought directly from Fullspeedrc.com and is also available at other retailers however buying from the source is your best chance to get your hands on one quickly.
The Flyfox 110mm is a BNF Micro 2 inch quadcopter for newcomers HobbyCool.com. I was most interested in this micro quadcopter because so far as I can see, the BNF model here is completely exclusive to HobbyCool.
The frame is based on a 3mm bottom plate with 1.5mm sideplates attached by tabs and 3d printed standoff - very similar to the Leader 120 but with a different look and more importantly, a factory micro CCD camera. The frame with hardware on its own weighs 15g and is available here for less than $10. Speaking of the camera, it looks to be nicely protected by the frame without impacting the view however only a limited amount of camera angle is available as can be seen in the image below:
Electronics are fairly typical - F4 flight control and 20A DSHOT600 ESC. 2 nice suprises I was not expecting here though - tramp control of VTX (my first in a micro) and a baromoter in the flight controler (my first altogether!). ESC uses a JST connect which should be ok although I would have preferred a XT30. Voltage drop may or may not be an issue but in practicality in all except my lightest brushless quads (less than half this weight), it is a much more robust and convinient connector.
This quad is PNP so does not ship with a receiver so I used my favourite XMPlus for FRSKY. It does however ship with a nice 550mah 2s GNB battery which unfortunately for me is still with Hobbycool since getting batteries to where I live (NZ) is getting harder and harder. Lastly a buzzer and 2 x programmable LEDS are connected and mounted and 16 x Kingkong 2035 4 bladed props with screws are included.
All solder joints that I could see looked to be good, wires were well trimmed, routed and secured and the build quality looked good.
All up weight including props, battery strap but no battery is 78g which is heavy but it's worth noting that this is in a power class of it's own with these monstrous motors.
When I first plugged in betaflight configurator in I was expecting to see a dead stock list of settings but was pleased to find some customisation - see below for a list of stock settings which included a number of modes set, craft name, DSHOT600 etc but unfortunately no custom PIDs (or rates). Prior to the initial flight the only changes I made to setting were for my receiver with RSSI set to channel 16 and my stock modes - arm-disarm; angle-horizon-air; beeper off-beeper on.
Getting ready for FPV Maiden
Even before I started FPV I could tell from the hover test that the PIDs were too aggressive by the excessive fluttering I could hear. This is to be expected because the comparitively large motors have absolute control of the motors and so the feedback loop is exaggurated. I knocked P, I and D down for all three axes to get it in the air without risk of damage but it could certainly do with some more tuning to crispen up the controls. Since it was Betaflight 3.2.0 that was installed, PIDs were easily changed via OSD.
Since I did not have the stock 550mah 2S GNB battery (which is highly regarded) I used my turnigy bolt HV 2s 500mah 65c batteries charged to regular voltage with stock jst discharge connectors. For what it is worth, radio was FRSKY QX7s and goggles were the AOMWAY commander V1s. Takeoff weight was 104g
The quad powered on without issue and I was off flying immediately. I started with the stock propellers but switched the the Gemfan 2035 4-blades after finding that they had a bit more top end through a wider blade at the tip. Power was predictably high for a 2 inch but regardless of the large motors lacked a bit compared to a quad swinging a 2.5 inch prop (e.g. leader 120, HGLRC Hornet, Mini Fight). Update: After more time with the Gemfan 2040 Hulkie 3 bladed props I found I was able to get better performance again out of these 3 bladed props over either set of 4 blades. As I suspected when I first reviewed the hulkies, their stiffness and less blades are better suited to a high power setup.
Due to the large motor size response was excellent but given I tend to have a preference for light weight over power I found that hard flying took quite a toll on the batteries. For moderate to heavy flying I found I got about 2 minutes of flight on the 500mah batteries, which recovered to about 3.73 v per cell on resting. During flight though I did get a lot of warning of battery low and land now but in reality just need to change the battery voltage hysterisis setting to be a little more tolerant - article on how to do that here. Update: 15 packs later I consistently get 2 minutes on these batteries.
It is fair to say that between the large stator height of 6mm and very high kV of 7800, this motor is designed for 2s and no more - even trying 3s did not cross my mind... not only because of the likelihood of the motor cooking itself but because you simply cannot take advantage of it with the 2 inch props - it will just make more noise and heat.
Batteries and motors aside, the quad feels like any other high powered 2 inch - powerful but certainly not floaty where you need more throttle to make it change direction. Camera performance was on par with other CCD micro cameras including the Runcam swift micro, Foxeer arrow micro, HGLRC Elf, Furibee MS 1672. Video signal was good - typical for a dipole but like that it had the option of switching by 25mW-100mW-200mW via tramp protocol in the ESC. To be consistent with other reviews I stuck with 25mW. It's worth mentioning that when the vtx dipole is laying flat against the quads as in my pictures the reception is poor. Even when I temporarily bent it up performance improved a lot, but will cover this more in my list of recommendations.
The Flyfox 110mm BNF from Hobbycool is a high powered 2 inch drone that is well built and fairly priced at $129 the time of writing. It's key feature is the massively powerful 1106 AOKFLY motors that are fast but make the quad heavy and limits battery choice to 2s, even though the electronics can take up to 4s. These features make for a fast quad in a straight line that needs extra throttle in corners to help keep a line. The downside is that battery life is shortish - 2 minutes flat out on a 500mah battery. The kit is well provisioned with 16 propellers in total and a very nice 2s 550mah GNB battery.
The FlyFox 110mm BNF Micro brushless quadcopter is available exclusively at HobbyCool.com I'd like the thank Kevin for the sample he provided for me to review.