When it comes to buying a drone for beginners or kids, the choices aren’t always straightforward for some. Especially for those interested in capturing stills and video or simply unsure what to buy for the first time. In some cases, they simply want to test the waters, see if they get on with flying a drone, then go from there. One choice in this category is the Holy Stone HS170 Predator.
In this regard, it may be better to buy a very simple and cheap drone like the HS170. A simple, very affordable unit that allows you to dip your toe into flying a drone without costly consequences. It’s also a great choice for children. Let’s dig in and see what this little unit has to offer.
The Holy Stone HS170 Predator is clearly an entry-level drone, in a completely different league than its more advanced counterparts. This means that you won’t get any of the more advanced flight features or a quality camera for such a cheap price.
A budget drone can also be more difficult to fly than a more expensive unit, but it will at least give you more hands-on experience which will stand you in good stead in the long run.
The drone itself is a funky little unit, with some cool looking hexagonal, blue decals on its top. The drone is built from lightweight plastic, which does initially feels quite flimsy, but it has to be super lightweight for the very small motors.
The drone only measures 5.3 by 1.6 by 5.3 inches and weighs a meager 13.6 ounces. The Holy Stone claims that their drone is ‘wind resistant’ but you wouldn’t really want to fly this thing in anything but ideal conditions. Just in case, each rotor is surrounded by its own guard, which should do a reasonable job of protecting each propeller blade.
One obvious thing missing from this drone is a camera. It’s not really a surprise in this instance, as any inclusion of camera at this price would mean something so cheap it wouldn’t be worth using anyway. It’s also not so much a problem when you have the mindset that this is your training wheels drone. Practice makes perfect, as they say.
Moving on to the package itself, there’s no real setup involved with constructing the drone as it comes fully formed, with a controller, USB charger, screwdriver, and propellers. You’ll also need a bunch of AA batteries for the controller. The battery is charged from the USB charger which takes roughly 45-60 mins and is then inserted underneath the drone body.
Linking up the drone to the controller only needs a little bit of calibration, but then the drone is ready to fly. Although this is a basic unit, it still has a bunch of flight features that will give you the flavor of a more advanced unit.
There’s a headless mode that orientates the drone to your own position, three different speed modes, a six-axis gyro stabilization system, a control range of 30 to 50m, and a flight time of six to eight minutes.
There are a bunch of LED lights under the drone which help you locate it in the air or when the thing does take a dive bomb. There’s even a flip mode which will let the drone performer a flip in any direction.
Holy Stone HS170 Predator in Use
It’s clear from the off that it will take a little time to get the feel of this drone and so it needs to be used in very open areas. Mainly in ideal conditions. Because it is so lightweight, it’s very susceptible to the mildest of winds.
The calibration routine may need to be performed once or twice before the drone can fly in a steady manner, but once done, the drone starts to fly on a steady axis.
Because the controls are so basic, after mastering flying this drone, you should be confident enough to move straight to a more advanced unit with automatic flight features and more advanced stabilization. Win-win in this regard if you want to put the time in. This is the ideal drone to take all the knocks and bumps you would normally submit your first purchase too, then move to a more stable unit.
The throttle or speed control needs a steady hand. You need to adjust to how quickly the drone accelerates both ascending and descending, which takes some time to get used to. In other words, you need to be very tentative at first otherwise the drone will dart off in an unexpected manner.
The different speed modes are very useful, with the lowest being the most applicable to the beginner. The headless mode is a feature found on more advanced drones. It’s okay for giving you initial confidence, but you really want to be flying the drone as it was originally intended to teach you better long-term skills.
A one-key Return Home button can be intermittently useful, but with no obstacle avoidance system, you’ll have to take this one tentatively. The flight time is also about the norm for this cost of drone. Roughly six minutes and although it has a 50-meter range, it’s initially best to keep the drone quite close as it’s far too easy to get excited and fly the thing out of range.
However, once you get the hang of this unit, it’s a fun little flyer and can dart around at quite a speed when you allow it.
How Does It Compare?
At this end of the market, you only need to spend a few dollars more to take a jump up in quality. The SYMA X5C RC Quadcopter costs just a little bit more and comes with its own camera, though the camera is only good enough for practice.
The drone itself feels more robust than the Holy Stone HS170 Predator and comes with a few more flight features. Flight time is roughly the same as the HS170, but due to its more extensive feature set, it’s probably a better choice for the beginner, unless you simply want to own a drone to have a touch of fun with every so often.
|Holy Stone HS170 Predator||Syma X5C RC|
|Flight Time||6 mins||7 mins|
Clearly, the Holy Stone HS170 Predator is a drone for children or the complete beginner. One advantage to the bargain price being, if you completely write off the unit, it’s cheap enough to replace. Not that you want to be doing this on a regular basis, but you know the drone is a stepping stone to something more advanced.
Owning this drone can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand it’s very cheap and if it does take a fatal knock, you won’t be too disappointed. On the other hand, without included advanced flight features, it’s harder to control than more expensive units, but in the long run, it will sharpen your piloting skills. However, these features can frustrate the beginner, especially if you’re more interested in just capturing footage with more automated flight.
In total though, if you fly this drone in ideal conditions and take real care, it’s a great value for the money. There are even cheaper units on the market, but these are so cheap they are not recommended.
The Holy Stone HS170 Predator is fun to fly and will it allow you to learn the basics of flying one of these units. Just be prepared for putting the time in.