One of the masters of the micro quad formula, NewBeeDrone, was a holdout on the shift to brushless. The California-based company stuck to quality brushed releases while higher-powered brushless offerings took more and more of the market. It’s been a long time coming, but the NewBeeDrone BeeBrain BL is finally here.
Features and Specs
- F4-based flight processor
- 12A BLHeli_S ESC
- 0802 18000kv motors
- 40-channel VTx 0/25/100mW
- Onboard VTx control
- NewBeeDrone OSD (BetaFlight-compatible)
- Voltage and current sensor
- ~24g dry weight
- JST-PH (PH2 / Powerwhoop) connector
The plastic box it comes in is also a case that can hold up to 12 batteries. Included is the micro drone and a foam insert to keep the quad and batteries snug. There’s also a small sheet with instructions for binding.
The BL is offered with a FrSky receiver, a Spektrum receiver, or without one. We’re looking at the FrSky version. The FrSky receiver that came included operates in D8 mode by default. You can change it to D16 through commands with one onboard button. (Its product manual video can show you how to do this.)
The frame is a new design, now prominently branded with NewBeeDrone’s logo on the battery compartment. Compared to the Cockroach frame, cross-braces and struts at the top of the battery holder have been removed to make room for the external receiver. The battery now rests on extensions to the front and rear FC screw posts, which may offer slightly better protection for the USB port on the board. This might have reduced rigidity, but extra braces have been added externally that make up for it and then some. On the outside of the battery holder are hooks that look like they could hold motor wires—but the wires on these motors are too short to make use of them.
Sitting above the FC and acting as a camera mount is the Goober canopy, an existing design with a good track record. Inside the canopy is a bracket behind the camera. It pushes the back of the VTx antenna down, which serves to keep the antenna more rigidly placed and upright. This should help video reception, but does mean more pressure is placed on the active antenna element when the craft is upside-down.
A standard F4 flight controller running Betaflight keeps the craft stable. 12A ESCs might be over-spec’d; it seems unlikely that the ESCs will ever be stressed to this point. BLHeli_S firmware makes turtle mode available, and there’s plenty of power available to make it actually work.
Instead of the typical onboard receiver, radio control is passed to the flight controller via an external receiver. This adds a little weight but allows different receivers to be used and most external receivers will produce a stronger and more reliable link than the on-board variety. The receiver in our review unit has antenna diversity and uses the ACCST 1.0 protocol; radios with the ACCST2.0 update won’t be able to connect.
The camera on the BL is functional but not excellent, as is common for small drones like this. Exposure bias is on the lower side so shadow details are more visible but highlights blow out easily. White balance changes frequently and causes a lot of color shifts. However, the dynamic range is decent and the picture isn’t oversharpened, so the camera beats out many others shipped on similar craft in this class. It’s not a bad choice for micro racing.
The video transmitter works really well, providing good results that I’m used to seeing with NBD products. A quick radiated test on an Immersion Power Meter showed output tracking very near the expected values. This VTx also powers up to 100mW if desired, which should give you exceptional range if you don’t mind the extra power drain.
Powering the craft are 18,000Kv motors. This is a slower choice than even the “standard” versions of the Meteor65 and Mobula6 at 19,000Kv—and much slower than the “race” editions of those two at 22,500Kv and 25,000Kv respectively. From my experience, the 18K motors are a better match at this size. There’s still so much power and speed available in the BL that I often dial down the throttle limit. If you want even more power though, NBD does offer 20,000Kv motors.
Topping the motors are tri-blade Azi props. These props perform just as well on top of these powerful Brushless motors as they do on NewBeeDrone’s brushed motors with a similar Kv. They’re also reasonably quiet, efficient, and fly smooth. The motors have the larger 1.0mm shaft diameter and replacements are available in red, yellow, pink, teal, blue, and clear.
The Betaflight-connected LEDs that NBD has added to all of their newer craft are a really nice addition for racing events. Combined with the clear frame and canopy, it’s easy to select a color in the OSD that changes the whole drone’s look. That’s a nice feature for spectators and pilots to help identify each other during a race.
The FC board is rated at either 1S or 2S. To use the BL RTF on 2S, some modifications will be necessary—The frame is sized for only one small 1S battery and the pigtail isn’t appropriate either.
NewBeeDrone supplies the BeeBrain BL with its “Anti-reverse” power lead. This is a JST-PH (2.0mm) connector that’s impossible to plug in backwards. It also crimps the wires securely so they don’t pull out, but doesn’t have solid pins for maximum surface thickness and current draw.
Overall, the BL seems to be really well designed and assembled. Many of the quality standards I’m used to seeing with NewBeeDrone products are continued through on this model. The frame has a good balance of flex and rigidity, the layout has been well thought through, and everything appears well protected inside. Even the camera lens is recessed a bit behind a visor. I’ve tested quite a few brushless whoops now, and this is the first one I’d consider to run smoothly. It’s a really well built machine in so many ways.
To be appropriately thorough, we did notice a few issues:
- The antennas on the receiver are pointed in the same direction. This negates much of the benefit of having antenna diversity.
- One of the onboard LEDs would flicker when trying to display certain colors.
- The VTx antenna is not adequately protected by its heat shrink, creating a stress riser where the antenna will eventually break off. Adding some extra heat shrink here will improve durability.
- While the review unit was fine, the FC screw posts of a fellow pilot’s BL frame broke off with repeated crashing.
NewBeeDrone’s excellent customer service would surely replace the FC board and the frame if they arrived with these issues.
Most NewBeeDrone quads connect up right away, but for the BL I had to make a pass through the ImpulseRC Driver Fixer. (Just download and run it, there’s nothing to configure to make it work.) Binding is done through the external receiver. For the FrSky receiver, a long press on the button and putting the radio into bind mode was all that was needed. Make sure to take a trip to the receiver tab in Betaflight to check your channel assignments, and the modes tab to set up switches. Any other BetaFlight setup is optional.
One really minor thing I noticed is that the external receiver only outputs channel values between about 1070 and 1926. This isn’t something to be concerned about since NewBeeDrone has already changed the RXRANGE parameters to correct for it in BetaFlight. It’s really just something to be aware of if you plan to do anything fancy with your AUX channels.
NewBeeDrone has always offered a top-tier experience, and the BL provides no exception. I’m very happy with the flight performance. For me this is just about the perfect balance for an indoor machine. It’s got plenty of power, but not so much that it becomes uncontrollable. Stock pids and rates feel really good, so no tuning is necessary—you can race it right out of the box.
What’s the tradeoff? It’s a battery-burner. One of the pilots in our local group had trouble making it through races on standard 250mAh batteries. For the BL, you will really want a good 300mAh battery instead.
Possibly the best 300mAh 1S batteries on the market right now are NewBeeDrone’s Nitro Nectar GOLD. These are exceptional batteries. They are able to deliver more power with less voltage sag and for a longer time. While the batteries are a bit larger and heavier than other 300s, the BL doesn’t struggle with the added weight. It’s a great match with less sag for racing or added flight time for cruising.
Upgrades and Replacement Parts for BeeBrain BL
It’s easy to replace most of the parts in order to keep this quad flying.
- BeeBrain BL FC and Camera Set
- BeeEye FPV Camera and Goober Canopy
- Brushless 0802 18,000Kv motors
- BeeCeiver FrSky (ACCST1) | FlySky | DSM
- BeeTx 5.8GHz antenna
- Brushless Cockroach Frame
- Goober Canopy
- NewBeeDrone Azi Props 1.0mm shaft Clear | Color
- Nectar Connector PH2 Battery Lead
- Replacement hardware kit
- Nitro Nectar GOLD 300mAh Battery
- Carrying case
If you want to take your quad to a new level, NewBeeDrone offers a number of upgrades for performance, features, and cosmetics.
NewBeeDrone’s entry into the brushless whoop market was inevitable, but they have obviously taken the time to do it right. What we have here is an excellent craft that’s a joy to fly as well as a strong competitor on the race circuit. The BeeBrain BL is easy to recommend for anyone looking to go beyond the basic whoop formula and into something a bit faster. Nearly everything about the craft is refined, making the entire experience as smooth as the flight itself. Backing it up is a U.S.-based company with a proven track record of great customer service. It’s not a first-time quad, though; new pilots should consider something a bit more tame like the BeeBrain Lite RTF kit or BetaFPV’s Whoop Racer Advanced kit.
There are two main rivals to the BeeBrain BL: BetaFPV’s Meteor65 and the HappyModel Mobula6. The Meteor65 wins in the pure power category and it has a higher camera angle which helps fly faster. For some, the raw power (delivered through the 10% more efficient BT2.0 connector) may be enough to tip the scales in the Meteor’s favor. Personally, my racing style favors smoother lines over raw power and for that I really appreciate the control and overall flight feel of the BL. Compared to the Mobula6, NewBeeDrone’s BL wins hands-down. The BL is faster, better tuned, and comes without the ugly video problems we saw in the HappyModel. The Mobula6’s only real advantage is that it’s considerably cheaper.
Certainly when I’m ready to fly brushless indoors, I’ll be reaching for the NewBeeDrone BeeBrain BL.