In October 2016 I received a small toy that opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s the Aerix VIDIUS HD drone, which is an upgrade of the world’s smallest video drone that provides 720p video with low latency to your mobile device.
I tested the Vidius HD drone through a variety of situations before finally realizing how absolutely amazing drone flying really was.
Working around tech, I’m seen drones. At CES, I walked through Parrot and DJI’s new lines of quadcopters, boats, and other RC gadgets for professional and hobbyist use. What I mostly covered professionally, however, was the commercial use of drones (with occasional references to military UAV technology).
The Aerix was not only my first hands-on experience with drone flying (I always shied away from using friends’ expensive models out of fear of crashing), it was my first experience with FPV (first-person view) flying.
The experience was so thrilling, I started exploring the drone racing and stunt-flying worlds more extensively and even started working on a drone-related project with a VR developer friend who’s also a drone enthusiast.
All the Basics of Toy Drones
Aerix is far from the only drone maker out there, but this nanodrone is truly impressive. Measuring less than two inches across, it’s surprisingly smooth and easy to control. Initial calibration is necessary, which is to be expected, and the included controller is also quite small, making it easily to hold for drone enthusiasts of any age.
Being a drone noob, I was easily able to scrounge up two AAA batteries for the controller while the drone charged off my desktop’s USB port. Syncing and calibrating the controller to the drone was simple enough as well, and within minutes I was starting the motors and appreciating the breeze generated as it blew receipts and gum wrappers I hadn’t noticed off my desk.
Soon, the drones was in the air, and I wasn’t ready for how sensitive the controls are. I was able to maintain a decent height quite easily (and marvel at how well this tiny thing held altitude with steady adjustment) but it took a little bit of work to master the rest of the steering.
After several vicious crashes into my walls, I finally started to master basic navigation and managed my way out the door and halfway down the stairs before crashing it again. With the initial crashes, I worried about breaking this new toy, but after the fourth, fifth, and each subsequent crash, I became more confident in the build quality.
Downstairs, there was much more room, and navigating the wide open space of the living room, kitchen, and dining room were fun until the battery died, and I had to bring it back upstairs to charge again while learning about the video and app.
The Droid Drone Experience
When pairing your drone to the VIDIUS HD app from the Play store on my Galaxy S7, I found even more controls and features available. I was able to steer using the touchscreen (which worked very similar to Android flying simulation games I’ve previously played), draw routes, control various functions and even enable computer assistance for the drone.
After flying another round with the phone controller, it was time to prepare for the next step – using the included VR headset to fly FPV. This was my first foray into the experience. Although I’ve heard of it, I never before felt the experience. On a nanodrone, it’s a whole other way to see the world.
Turning the phone into VR mode, I inserted it into the included goggles to prepare for takeoff. I was soon looking at myself through the eyes of the VIDIUS HD camera. I waved my hand and was impressed by the latency, which was almost indistinguishable, and surely under a second. The drone camera emits a Wifi network that your phone connects to, and it was a pretty strong connection, despite my dual-band router running simultaneously.
Once I was in the air, I started pulling the preprogrammed flips and barrel rolls I hadn’t noticed during my first few flights. It was like being the fly on the wall in my own house, and I was instantly hooked. The use-case scenarios instantly started coming to mind. I even paired it with the Vufine+ to steer it with FPV PIP (picture-in-picture).
After a week, we had put the brushed motors through about 30 full charges and discharges with over two dozen crashes (some of which required a bit of maintenance) before they finally needed to be replaced.
A Great Intro to FPV Drones
While this FPV drone experience managed to impress even in an environment with PSVR and other virtual, augmented, and mixed reality applications. The inclusion of some replacement rotors and tools was welcome, and replacement motors are cheap enough at $11 a piece.
The Aerix Vidius HD is a fun camera drone to use around the house or indoors, but its usability gets more varied outdoors. Its limited range and small size makes high-wind usage next to impossible. On an even slightly windy day, it was a struggle to control VIDIUS, although not entirely impossible. Calm days did make it easy. Sudden gusts are hard to predict, but you’re only in the air for a few minutes.
One problem I came across was the tendency to fly away when the battery was too low or the radio connection was severed. In my house, this meant it grinded into the ceiling for several minutes as I watched in amazement that it managed not to break. Outdoors, that would have meant the end of my drone flying experience as it flew off into the sunset, never to be found again.
If you’re unfamiliar with drones, it’s important to know you’ll need to perform some minimal maintenance to keep this running. The engines build up hair and debris from crashes, and the motors are likely only good for 40-50 charges if you’re lucky. Factor that into the usage.
Still, the Aerix VIDIUS HD is a really capable drone with a lot of extras packed into the tiniest frame on the market. There are other drones out there, but this is the smallest, lightest one that still provides a ton of fun for everyone from the noob like myself to the experienced drone operator who walked me through a crash course in drone piloting and the world of R/C.
If you’re looking for a great experience, the VIDIUS HD drone is only $75 from their website.