On Saturday December 10th, the Propwashed team attended the International Drone Expo (IDE 2016) in Los Angeles, California for the second year. We found the expo very similar in attendance and booths to last year, but were delighted to see more racing quadcopter gear. Easily half of the booths had something to see if you were in the racing hobby, and there was a full on indoor race event throughout the course of the show.
Featured Products at IDE 2016
What was particularly interesting to us was the number of Chinese manufacturers who had booths at the event. These were not retailers like Banggood, Gearbest or HobbyKing – they were the parts manufacturers who supply those retailers. So, for instance, there were representatives from the company who produces the Cicada / RacerStar line of ESCs. This gave us a chance to see some of the products that are in the pipeline that’ll be hitting our favorite discount stores in the coming months. Here are a few of our favorites:
Flight Controller with 4x built-in ESCs
We love these types of super-integrated parts because they really open up the possibilities of how miniquads can be built. With something like this where you will only need 4 motors and a single chip, you can make some amazingly compact and lightweight frame designs. To our knowledge, this is one of the first times the brushless ESCs have been moved onto the standard 35x35mm FC board – almost certainly for a F4 flight controller. They’re definitely not a great idea for pilots who crash a lot though, as one blown ESC means you’ll be replacing the entire board.
We were told to expect this early next year at a price point for around $60-$80.
Hubsan FPV Goggles
While there will always be a place in the market for large headsets like the Kylin KDS goggles we reviewed last week, it’s hard to beat the portability of the goggle form-factor that is right now dominated by Fat Sharks. We have long awaited a goggle manufacturer to put out a true competitor to the fat sharks at a price point between $100-$200. Hubsan, known for it’s micro drones, was showing two variants of just such a set of goggles. They wouldn’t speak to the price or timeframe to when these would come to market, but we are excited nonetheless that they might finally offer a good entry-level replacement to Fat Shark’s dominance.
Speaking of Hubsan, their brochure had an impressive number of upcoming products. Look for the Hubsan sports camera gimbal and Hubsan 4K action camera (!) to make wider appearances in the next year. Their lineup of more advanced micro quads and refreshed X4 series looks very impressive. Hopefully we can fly some of these soon!
Cheap 120-class Quadcopter
The RotorX Atom was a really cool crowd-funded design that hit the market last year. To our knowledge, it was the first brushless quadcopter flying in the 120mm class – bringing unparalleled agility to a quadcopter that you could actually fly inside your house.
Unfortunately, it was also pretty pricey. The RTF kits come in well about $300. One of the interesting things we saw at IDE was a Chinese manufacturer showing a similar drone frame. Again, this is unreleased and they wouldn’t give us a price figure or expected release date. If it came in at a lower price point it could be a really compelling entry-level or indoor miniquad.
Drone Racing at IDE
This year marked the first drone race held at IDE. The track, while small, offered quite a bit of verticality and an interesting layout. Best of all, many of the racers were running Connex systems that allowed for a great view of the action if you brought goggles and had the appropriate receiver. Unfortunately, the spectator view for non-pilots curious about the race left much to be desired. There was a nice monitor setup streaming the action…but it was facing the pilot pit rather than a dedicated spectator area. Still, it was great to see IDE embracing drone racing and featuring it prominently at the convention.
Last year’s convention focused on industrial and cinema drones, so it was a nice change to see drone racing in the spotlight. Bapu and Flyingbear walked away with the wins, so big congrats to those talented pilots!
Here is some footage we found of the course for those interested in seeing a few laps:
Here’s some of Bapu’s footage as well:
We’ll be back next year!
I am sure we will make another trip to IDE next year! It was fun to see drone racing take center stage, and we hope the trend continues into 2017. Similarly, we were happy to see some interesting products coming down the pipeline in the very near future. Keep an eye on Hubsan over the next year, as it looks like they may have some big surprises up their sleeve!