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Technology Review

The Hubsan H111 Nano Q4 Quadcopter

By Ron Scopelliti

Drones are everywhere. And I don’t mean that in a paranoid, “Big Brother is watching” sort of way. I mean that small, remotely-piloted aircraft are rapidly becoming a part of daily life. Once primarily high-tech military tools, they’re coming into their own as camera platforms, for recreational flying, and even for search and rescue operations. ESPN recently televised the inaugural 10-event Drone Racing League championship. And though Falcons fans might want to forget Super Bowl 51, they probably won’t forget the 300-drone halftime display.

Like many technophiles, I’ve been wanting to try out a drone, but haven’t wanted to shell out $500 for a serious photography unit – at least not until I’ve had a chance to test my flying skills. That’s where the Hubsan H111 Nano Q4 comes in. Billed by its makers as the world’s smallest quadcopter, the palm-sized drone is also among the least expensive. Online prices range from $19.99 to $27.99. Reviews show it to be a popular “trainer” for fledgling drone pilots taking their first step into the hobby. It features controls similar to more expensive drones, without any of the extra features, like GPS guidance, auto-takeoff and landing, auto hover or a camera.

What you do get is a four-rotor drone operated through a two-stick controller, similar to what you’d find on a gaming console. LEDs at each corner of the drone not only make it easier to see at a distance or in the dark, they’re color-coded so you can easily tell which way the Q4 is pointed. Since it weighs less than 0.55 pounds, FAA registration isn’t needed.

So far the Q4 has proved a sturdy indoor training tool. Having bounced it off nearly every conceivable household obstacle, I haven’t yet broken anything. The propellers are designed to come off on impact, rather than break and when they do so, they can be a challenge to find. Though it comes with a spare propeller for each corner, I’d suggest buying extras, readily available from a number of online sources.

I discovered the main requirement for a novice pilot to be patience. At first, just getting the drone off the ground without losing control was a challenge, but after getting the hang of it I found the Q4 to be stable, responsive, and fun to fly. The built-in battery can also try your patience, since flying time is about 5 ½ minutes and recharge time is around 25 minutes. On the whole, however, I’d recommend it to anyone looking to fly on a budget.