If you haven't yet seen the first part of my Leader 3 (SE) review, click here. In it I cover an overview of the New Leader 3 including full discussion of the components, build and software setup. A quick correction too: I mentioned originally that the flight controller (namely the gyro) will only do 8kHz loop times. This is incorrect - it will actually run up to 32kHz! Certainly the first I'm aware of on a board this size and something for me to test in future.
Before I go any further I should note that my Leader 3 is a review model and so there may be minor improvements in the final version shipped to buyers. I'm in regular contact with Full Speed RC to give them feedback on what I find to assist with these improvements. The Leader 3 is available directly from FullSpeedRC.com, Gearbest or Bangood.
Since FPV performance is common between 3s and 4s I thought I'd cover that first. In short it is outstanding. Fullspeed RC shared a lot of the development of the included TX600 vtx with me an a lot of effort went in to ensuring a clean video signal all the way up to 600mW and the results sure doesn't disappoint. The result is that the Leader 3 has the cleanest video signal I have every used. There is absolutely no impact of throttle or other electrical noise on signal and it is hard to put in words just how much more enjoyable this makes the signal. I do miss the audio that AKK VTXs allow for but most people don't rate this as being important, especially on a micro. It's noteworthy that the the transmission power will go as high as 600mW - equalled only by the AKK FX3 ultimate (review here) in this form factor. OSD control of settings via Tramp works as expected. Antenna connection is via UFL is common for micros and fit for purpose.
No propellers in FPV view
Great news for those who don not like seeing their propellers - the frame design means that even with fairly modest camera angles of around 35°and up there are no props in view. Hopefully this is clear from my videos below. This also make the drums for a Caddx Turtles HD camera install beat even louder...
I wanted to clear things up on camera angle since Nick Burns mentioned it couldn't go past about 45° in his otherwise excellent review. I can confirm that the camera connector does not foul on the flight stack and does infact smoothly go all the way up to about 90° amgle. Pictures are best here so please see below:
Performance on 3s
When the Leader 3 was shipped to me, 2 custom PID prodiles were programmed in by fullspeed, Profile 1 was designed for 3s and profile 2 for 4s. 3s was tested with profile 2. Both of these profiles can be seen in full in part 1 of the review here. For 3s testing I used Turnigy Nanotech 3s 450mah 65c batteries. They weigh less than 45g meaning all up weight was around 140g. Flight time using these batteries was typically around 2.5-3 minutes with batteries coming to a resting voltage of arounf 3.75v per cell.
Flying exclusively with the HQ 3x3x3 propellers flight felt very 'balanced' - what I mean by that is the quad didn't feel overly heavy (or light), top speed was fast enough but not ludicrously fast like the Skystars Bolt X120 on 4s (review here). It was however very predictable - I could hit gaps and avoid obstacles in a way where I felt I had complete control. It was fairly similar to the way the Emax Babyhawk R 3 inch felt (review here) but the HQ props felt more predictable and familar compared to the EMAX Avans. This makes sense - both the Leader 3 and Babyhawk R are of similar weight and with 1106 4500kV motors on 3 inch props and both have optimised PID tunes. Full Speed RC seem to have done a good job on the tune here not just for the feel during flying but also in keeping propwash to a minimum, even when I tried to put myself in dirty air in 180° turns or descending directly down.
Below is a video from an early flight (2nd pack ever) in a local carpark. Typical I had DVR issues in a flight later that day where I'd gotten more familiar with the flight characteristics :/
Performance on 4s
The battery I used for all 4s testing was the China Hobbyline Ministar 4s 650mah pack. It is an excellent battery that I even use on my 4 inch racer so is very capable although a little heavy at 87g.
First of all I'm going to talk about straight up speed and my perception. It did not feel as fast as the Skystars Bolt X120 using the same battery. This is not an objective measure, purely feel. It did feel faster than the Babyhawk R 3" using the same battery.
To dig in to this further though I do need to say that that Skystars Bolt X120 is very hard to control with this battery and I did not enjoy flying it because it felt difficult to control. It felt like it needed more open space which then kinda defeats the purpose of a micro. By comparison the Leader 3 felt in complete control using 4s and PID profile 2 as customised for 4s by Full Speed RC. As a result it felt right at home on 4s with all the control and balance I felt on 3s. I think part of this is due to tune but moreso that that larger 3 inch blade is able to better support the additional weight from the heavier pack and hasn't overloaded the propeller (disc loading theory).
All other features of flight were similar to 3s - excellent video, precise handling and minimised propwash. I was really enjoying flying this until...
When I first received this model, Full Speed RC cautioned me to use 4s using the smaller Gemfan 2540 props (review here) since motors could overheat. Since I was the only reviewer to receive mine where it is winter presently rather than summer, this was less of an issue although I did keep an eye on motor temps. For this reason I stuck with the included 3 inch props for 4s.
About 10 packs in of warm motors (40-50°C only) I fell out of the sky when attempting a short speed run (see video below). On closer inspection the left rear corner had failed that I could later confirm as a motor failure (as opposed to ESC). The motor definitely was warm only as above and not hot. The only other time I've had a motor failure was on the babyhawk r when I used PIDs with too much P and D on 4s and even then the motor did not fail mid flight, rather afterwards intsead. This motor was scorching hot.
I discussed this with Full Speed RC and found that they will be using a stronger motor on the production version - the review version like I have are a prototype. As you can see below when comparing to my burnt out motor on the Emax Babyhawk R, the Fullspeed one does not look nearly as abused - it failed at a much lower load. Interestingly shortly after this I saw Andy RC's review and found he had an identical problem - motor failed mid run using 4s with HQ 3x3x3 props. Update: The prototype motors are actually 4800-4900kV and the production version will be 4500kV.
So, what does this mean for you? Until I can confirm that Fullspeed RC have moved away from the proptotype motors I can't recommend using the HQ 3x3x3 props with 4s, even in cold weather. For now stick with Gemfan 2540 props on 4s. Of course if it ships with new motors then all bets are off. Full Speed RC is sending me a full set of new motors so I will test with these and post my results in a follow up review as soon as I am able. Update: The prototype motors are actually 4800-4900kV and the production version will be 4500kV.
The Full Speed RC Leader 3 is as an excellent flyer on 3s - great video signal and predictable handling make for an enjoyable flying experience. On 4s the Jury is out... custom pids make this fly well too but the motors' inability to cope with the included 3" props are a bit disappointing. For now a bandaid solution is to run with Genfan 2540 props on 4s but I expect that Full Speed will release with a stronger motor for launch as they did with the original Leader 120. Again, my sample is a reviewer model and this feedback is used to make changes if needed to the final launch product. Full Speed RC has proven themselves to be a reputable company with well researched (and tested) quadcopters and I expect them to follow through on this model too.
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.
This is part 2 of the review. In part 1 I discuss an overview and setup (including betaflight settings from factory) are covered in detail: Part 1 review
Firstly a very important correction. In the first review I showed a picture of the quadcopter minus battery sitting on a set of scales at 65g. I took this for granted and after measuring on my own scales got 84g. I don't usually trust weight in text but seeing it was sitting on digital scales I did not measure myself. Disappointing as this is misleading so I updated Gearbest immediately. To their credit they promptly took the image down and corrected the weight in the description - see below.
Preparing for flight
Just some minor housekeeping prior to the first flight. XM receiver was fixed in place on top of the VTX as it was dangling free when I received it. Antenna was fixed in place with a cable tie off the rear arm and heatshrink to secure. VTX antenna got the same treatment off the rear upper-deck of the frame. Lastly I replaced the rubbish battery strap with one from RJX hobbies (review here). Although a buckled strap was included as well as the one picture above, it was much too long? Weird.
Flight performance on 2s
Just because the Bolt X120 *can* fly on 2s doesn't mean you *should* fly on 2s. I used my Turnigy Nanotech 2s 950mah (47g) pack and needed about 40% throttle to hover. I could fly but performance was lacklustre and I got bored. I did get about 4 minutes flight time but won't say any more.
Flight performance on 3s
After my initial disappointment on the weight, performance on 3s 450mah turnigy nanotech was better than I had expected. It felt controlled with enough speed to be enjoyable. I had to switch to default betaflight 3.3 PIDs though since the customised PIDs look more like a 4s tune and felt sloppy as a result. I did manage to get good flight times on these little batteries of approximately 2.5 - 3.0 coming down at 3.75 volts and had fun doing so. Given then power of the quad I'd probably pefer a 650mah 3s for another minute or so of flight and would have less concern about sagging on big throttle punches. For the places I usually enjoy micros the most (tight with small trees) I found 3s the most fun.
Quick update: compared back to back on same batteries with my Leader 120 which is lighter (68g vs 84g) with 'smaller' motors (1104 7500kV vs. 1106 4500kV). I found it was similar speed with comparable handling and I actually got as good if not slightly better flight time on the Skystars Bolt - the extra stator size was negated by the lower kV from an efficiency standpoint. The leader however cannot do 4s...
When I went from 3s to 4s on the BabyHawk R 3" (review here) I got a reasonable increase in speed but not 33% as you'd probably expect. Given the same motor size (1106 4500kV) I was expecting something similar here but got a complete shock here - This thing ABSOLUTELY SCREAMS on 4s. I've always liked the Gemfan 2540 props (review here) but have never tried them on 4s and boy, they sure hold up and deliver on the extra power, it was like a different quad altogether. The speed was like nothing I'd felt on a micro and I had real trouble managing in a tight area. This probably wasn't helped by the fact I was using a CNHL Ministar 4s 650mah battery which weighs 87g so I was really blowing out on corners, even with a lot of extra throttle. It reminded my of running a heavy 4s 3 inch with 1408 motors - super fast but handled like a brick. I'd dare say 450mah 4s at around 62g would be a better option for weight control. at the cost of some flight time. As it stood I was getting 4 - 4.5 minutes on the 650mah battery. I've since moved to betaflight 3.4.0 and have got the tune tighter without oscillations but it is still a handful. For my piloting ability running this quad on 4s requires a bigger area akin to my 4 and 5 inch quads but that kind of deafeats the purpose of this micro. For my money and ability I actually prefer this on 3s - It is much quieter and handles better with the lower weight which is better suited to small parks. The noise alone on 4s makes people more wary of this one.
Rather than trying to recommend how many cells you should run I've merely stated my opinions on what I want from a micro. The most important thing here is that this Skystars Bolt X120 is well and truly capable of comfortably running 3s or 4s depending on where you are flying or how you are feeling on a particular day. The new throttle limiting feature on betaflight is a great way of limiting power to fly on 4s if for example you want to stick with just this battery size with power more akin to 3s. I've written a full tutorial on this here including how to assign to an AUX switch.
Although I alluded to the similarities to the original Leader 120 (review here) it is clearly a different quadcopter with a different feel and different capabilities - it has a much better camera and VTX but is much heavier and designed to run on more cells which make it heavier again for a different flight feel. A better comparison is perhaps the BabyHawk R 3 inch which I find handles better but lacks the speed of this model, particularly on 4s. Images below on a scale for all of these for comparison.
The Skystars bolt can be bought exclusively from Gearbest in several different formats - an unbuilt kit with no receiver (PNF), a built quad with no receiver, or as a built quad with FRSKY or Flysky receivers.
Check on my discounts page regularly for specials but at the time of writing the unbuilt kit is available for $117 and the FRSKY BNF as seen here is available for $134
The Emax Baby Hawk R is a micro brushless quadcopter that was launched by Emax in early 2018 as a follow up to the highly successful Emax Babyhawk (not r). It was launched as a 2 inch but 2.5 inch aftermarket arms quickly became available in the aftermarket and hugely improved the power to weight ratio, disc loading and efficiency. Emax themselves have now taken this one step further with the Babyhawk R 136mm (3 inch). Compared to the 2 inch version is has the longer arms with the new Avanflow 3 inch 3-blade propellers and a reduction in motor KV from 6000kv down to 4500kv although motor size is still the same 1106. Weight of the 3 inch is 86g compared to 82g. I will review the Babykawk R 136mm (3 inch) here.
Specs and discussion
On paper none of these components are especially exciting or on the hype-train. A big HOWEVER though - all are very tried and true, solid and well balanced. This means reliability and reduced cost. The each have a job to do and do it without fuss or flair. It's fair to say though that when you bring them together they are greater than the sum of parts.
Quick rambling thoughts how 3 inch quad weights
I think of 3 inch quads in 2 ways - a shrunk down 5" based on large motors and 4s batteries or an embiggened micro based on 11XX series motors and 3s. This clearly fits in the camp of "embiggened micro" since it is based around 1106 motors however it is farily unique in that the ESC, motors as well tough frame and cowling are well and truly engineered for 4s - best of both worlds as it were. By constrast my lightweight FlexRC komori (build blog is here) can take 4s but the frame would not hold up to carrying the extra weight of a 4s. Conversely something like the Furibee X140 (review blog here) is pretty gutless on a 3s where it can't overcome the 120g+ weight of the quad.
I haven't delved into all the betaflight screens this time because for the most part this is down to preference and your gear. What I can say though is that although not installed from the factory, EMAX have provided some VERY good PIDS for both 3s and 4s. Here is the link to their page or for convinience please see below:
Fly the damned thing
At the time of writing I've only run this on 2s and 3s. 2s was using a 46g 950mah turnigy nanotech battery and was very uninspiring but hey, at least it can be done! 3s was much better than I thought it would be. I used the Turnigy Nanotech 3s 460mah battery (about 42g) and got 2.5 - 3 minutes flight depending on how hard i pushed, coming down at about 3.75v per cell at rest.
The first thing I have to say about the flight is that all of these solid if unspectacular components do come together so nicely - they are all well suited which not only make for an enjoyable and reliable fllight experience but means the cost does not blow out. In addition the protection offered by the 3mm carbon-armed and cowled frame means that even after tumbles there is a good chance you can just rearm and get flying again - it is tough! The other benefit of the cowl is that it looks cool, different from the top plate/bottom plate or side cage frames that are out there.
Punch out power is ok on 3s but will hold my judgement till I get some 4s packs. understandably the light 3s packs make for great agility which is why I had a lot of fun with proximity around the small trees in the park that I have close to work.
For FPV camera performance is good - as to be expected from the foxeer arrow micro CCD. VTX is clear in the right conditions and is better than most other micros however I do undersand this can be improved significantly with an AXII ufl antenna (or the cheaper UXII). Channel and power level is easy to change via the small button but as suggested above there is no smart audio or tramp protocol to do this over betaflight OSD.
Obviously I haven't tried on 4s yet (I am just choosing a 500-700mah 4s to order), but based on the performance of 3s I think this quad is a real winner.
Emax have done a fantastic job on not getting carried away on needlessly overspeccing the quad in areas you cannot really taking advantage of. In doing so they have a solid, robust and well priced offering that I can see becoming very popular like the babyhawk before it albeit with less shortcomings. Better still the support that emax appear to be offering beyond regular customer service such as offering tuned PIDs means that community support will mean there are always going to be clever fixes and modifications that will be available, making obsolesence for this model is less likely. Make no mistake obsolesence is a real issue with quads because once the community moves away from a model there is less support in total available.
Although experienced builders and customisers will still likely want to build their own, It is very easy to recommend this as a first 'racing' micro quad becuase of it's inherent features and support. As a micro quad builder myself it's hard for me to say but this is actually more enjoyable to fly than most of my custom builds because it all comes together so nicely. For that reason it is easy to recommend this to the more experienced set that just want to fly and not fiddle with the micro electronics etc - for example if you have come from 5 inch racing or freestyle quads.
The Emax BabyHawk R is currently available from Gearbest with or without receiver. The model without receiver is $166. If I get access to any specials I'll post on my coupons ans discounts page.
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.