Review by By Michael Heer @ cgroups.com
|Frame Size:||252mm x 260mm x 75mm|
|Package Size:||315mm x 295mm x 100mm|
|Weight:||440 g without battery|
|Flight Controller:||Skyline 32 Integrated in board|
|FPV Camera:||1/3" CMOS|
|Antenna: 5.8G Clover 3 Blade Antenna Straight Connector|
|Transmitter:||(ARF not including)|
|Receiver:||(ARF not including)|
|Battery:||3S,1500-2200mAH 30C (Not included)|
|Motor:||MT2204 Custom version|
|ESC:||BL Heli 12A 4in1 integrated in board|
|ARF Available From:||GearBest ARF|
|RTF Available From:||GearBest RTF|
The E Max Model's has a pretty nice promotional and descriptive opening in their thread on the Nighthawk Pro 280. It reads as follows:
"The Nighthawk Pro 280 comes fully tuned with the new Skylight 32 integrated flight control board with four 12Amp BLHeli One shot speed controllers. The power system consists of EMAX 2204, 2300 kV motors and 6045 propellers mounted on a 10 degree tilt allowing greater forward speeds without sacrificing elevation. For the FPV racer, the Nighthawk Pro 280 includes a 700TVL camera with optional tilt mounts that allow you a perfect horizontal view in flight, and a 20W-200W video transmitter with a selectable switch, allowing you the option to choose the power output of your transmitter. The Nighthawk Pro 280 is without a doubt an exciting new quadcopter that captures the joy of quadcopter racing!"
I received a recent e-mail asking me why I post promotional material from companies at the start of my reviews including promotional videos and their promoted features (posted below). The reason is not that I am lazy or a shill for their products. Rather, I have found it a good solid way to share their claims about their product. I don't want to restate their claims in my own words when I can share it with you in their words. It gives a good setup of what they say the product is or what it can do. I consider it the background that lets me get into the review. It is usually the same material you see that first raises your interest in the product and the same is true for me as well. If it didn't look good? Why would we want it? Below are six of their still pictures which tells what they feel they are offering in their product very clearly. Their material starts the review and then I can share my findings and my reaction to their claims, the product and its performance. I have the ARF version of the Nighthawk Pro so I will need to do some work to get this bird (pun intended) in the air. So lets get on with it.
Six Nighthawk Promotional Still Pictures
Authors Review Pictures
- The Nighthawk Pro came in this box.
- What I found inside the box.
- This is the one set of props that comes with the Nighthawk Pro.
- The Nighthawk Pro comes with a very nice FPV camera and transmitter. This is the camera.
- The electronics are in a carbon fiber sandwich on the Bottom area of the Nighthawk Pro.
- This is the cloverleaf antenna included for the FPV transmitter on the Nighhawk Pro.
- The assortment of wires to connect the receiver to the Nighthawk Pro.
- The 10 degree motor mounts for slanting the motors forward for more speed.
- My Nighthawk Pro came with a USB cable to setup the Nighthawk using my computer.
The Highthawk Pro as it looked out of the box
The supplied battery strap, Velcro like material and a sleeve to protect wires.
They supply an antenna holder to help capture a better receiver signal.
They supply a camera mount for an optional Mobius camera.
- A bag of assorted hardware.
- The instruction manual for the Nighthawk Pro
|EMAX Nighthawk Pro 280 ARF/RTF RC Helicopter (1 min 46 sec)|
- Instruction Manual
- 2 CW propellers 6"
- 2 CCW propellers 6"
- Battery Strap
- Receiver wire mesh
- 8 Pin PVC Connector
- 6 Pin PVC Connector
- 5 Pin PVC Connector
- 2 Pin PVC Connector (Red & Black)
- 2 Pin PVC Connector (Orange & Red)
- FPV clover leaf antenna and lock washer
- USB Cable
- Receiver antenna base
- Mobius mounting plate
- Shock absorber mounting base for Mobius
- 4 inclined motor mounting bases and screws
- Optional Angled camera mounting plate
- Assorted hardware
- All the parts minus the manual that came with my Nighthawk Pro.
Parts & Tools supplied by the Author
- Spektrum DX9 transmitter and 6-Ch Spektrum compatible receiver on 2.4GHz
- 3S 1500mAh battery with XT60 connector
- Optional: (4S 1300-1800mAh battery with XT60 connector w/5" props) Not tested
- Allen Wrenches/Hex drivers 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm
- Needle nose pliers
- Computer with internet access
- Monitor and or/goggles
Independent designed solid, durable and stable frame, centroid and center of gravity are same even battery installed
- Prebuilt frame and extra accessories, Built with powerful EMAX power system and open source flight controller to ensure power and customizable (RTF model can fly after battery and propellers installed)
- The sturdy copter frame has extensive flight test and endurance test.
- Bright COB rear LED, different LED color can use distinguish copters when group flying (LED power consumption is 4W, which might decrease flying times.)
- All in one design to combine ESC, BEC, and flight controller for easy installation and easy replacement. Plug and play motor, easy for swapping motor and no soldering needed.
- Independent. Independent ESC and flight controller and power supply. ESC switch to perform single ESC calibration and boot pad to perform software and firmware upgrade.
- Flight controller use 32bit ARM micro processor, fast process speed to ensure fast respond
- Gyroscope, magnetometer, and accelerometer and barometer expansion port. With CPPM receiver GPS feature can be enable. (GPS module sold separately)
- Support ANGLE, HORIZON, HEADFREE, MAG, HEADADJ ...etc modes.
- Support RC Input: standard signal, CPPM (PPM SUM) signal, PWM singal.
- Low voltage monitoring and low voltage warning. (Buzzer sold separately)
- Use EMAX 12A ESC, support open source BLHeli and ONESHOT feature; flight controller is based on NAZE32 *Skyline32, support open source configurator Baseflight and Cleanflight
- Extra power output and power output switch for LED expansion, tracker and other expansion.
The RTF version adds a transmitter and a receiver. I have read that it is ready to fly out of the box so you don't need to program the Nighthawk or the arming or flight mode switches on the transmitter. (I have not tested that.) You will still need to get a 3-cell LiPo battery with an XT60 connector and a charger for the battery. You will still need to install the propellers. For the newer pilot who has flown a small quadcopter but isn't familiar with programming, or who needs a transmitter and receiver I recommend you consider this option for ease and convenience. Now on with my review of the ARF version.
I expected I would need to install a receiver and connect it to the Nighthawk as well as installing the propellers, FPV antenna and battery. I was a little surprised to see that the 10 degree forward motor mounts were not installed but rather although included they were considered optional. Installing them would require removing the motors, mounting the the motors to the angled bases and then securing the bases with the motors to the frame. I decided that if I was new to fast quad copters I would initially leave the inclined motor mounts as an unused option to see how the Nighthawk Pro flew and handled with the motors straight up. However, I am not a new fast quadcopter pilot so I installed the 10 degree angled motors before the first flight. There were some steps to do before that so I will go in sequence per the manual, after I first attach the FPV antenna.
Installing the FPV Antenna
To avoid any chance of burning out the FPV transmitter when I connect the battery to the Nighthawk, I attached the FPV antenna first thing. I placed the locking washer on the screw mount and then hand twisted the FPV antenna in place. There are two switches in front of the FPV transmitter. Looking at them from above and behind the switch on the right is for the FPV transmitter and the switch on the left is for the LED light on the back of the Nighthawk. I am keeping these switches off until the Nighthawk has been properly set up and is ready to fly.
Driver and Software Installation
Per the manual this is where it starts! Per page six of the instruction manual I went to the computer link they directed me to and got the driver needed for programming and setting up the Nighthawk. The site I was directed to was: http://www.silabs.com/products/mcu/p...cpdrivers.aspx
I installed the driver for my computer and software from the selections available. I am using windows 7 and selected accordingly. I used the USB cable that came with my Nighthawk and connected it to my computer after first making certain the ESC switch was in the ON position. I found it was ESSENTIAL to have the Nighthawk connected to my computer while searching for BaseFlight so be sure to connect it to the computer per the directions.
Next I used Google Chrome web browser and went to the Chrome Web Store and searched for "BASEFLIGHT." I got the Baseflight Configurator App. I installed it into my computer and it created an icon for it automatically on my computer's front screen.
- The icon for the Google App Store installed itself on my computer's front screen.
- The Baseflight Configurator App.
Receiver and Flight Controller Connection
The next step was installing the receiver and it needs to have at least 6 channels. I used the supplied cable with six wires from the various wires supplied with the Nighthawk. Per the drawing on page seven I installed the six connectors into my six channel receiver as shown in the drawing and the picture below. The manual doesn't mention it but I next installed the receiver and connected it to the Mother Board through a hole from above.
- The variety of wires supplied with the Nighthawk.
- A receiver with longer antennas designed for use with carbon fiber will be used soon but I used this little Spektrum compatible receiver for initial test flights.
- The six channel wire plugs into the large white connector in the center from above through a slot in the board.
- The receiver has been connected with the six wire plug which has been plugged into the Nighthawk.
- Here you can see the orange receiver installed in place. Note the wires going down to the left of the receiver.
Setting Up the Nighthawk with my computer.
I had now downloaded the software needed to setup the Nighthawk and I had installed a receiver into my ARF Nighthawk. I had an Icon on the front of my computer. I had the Nighthawk connected to my computer with the USB cable that came with the Nighthawk. I made sure the ESC switch was in the ON position and I clicked on the Icon for the Baseflight Configurator App. to open it up.
- My Nighthawk was connected to my computer and I could see the screen and program it as instructed.
The first step in programming my Nighthawk was the easiest. I calibrated the accelerometers. To do this I had the Nighthawk flay on the table and connected to the computer. I pressed the selection on the computer to program the accelerometers and in seconds that was done. I p-ressed the save button in the bottom right of the screen.
SX 018.jpg:The picture on the screen was of the Nighthawk in a stable, level position.
The second step in programming the Nighthawk was to program the magnometers and I had 30 seconds to do this from activating the calibration process in the computer. I rotated the Nighthawk 360 degree in all three flight planes. This step was also easily performed. I pressed the save button in the bottom right of the screen.
- Rotating the Nighthawk during the calibration of the magnometers; 360 degree rotation on all three planes.
The next screen I visited was the configure screen. Two item on the right had already been selected. i only added all in one selection down next to the bottom of the list and again hit the save button.
It is possible to adjust the pitch and make the Nighthawk a bit more aerobatic but I made no changes during this review to this page.
Motor test is another page and here my configurations were dictated by the instruction manual for the minimum, middle and maximum settings and I just followed instructions and save. I turned on my transmitter and powered up the Nighthawk and slid the motor test master switch up (Props were not yet installed.) and I heard all four motors run and then go off when I slide the switch down. There were also a series of beeps at maximum and again at minimum during this part of the programming.
- The screen for the motor testing.
Next I went to the receiver screen and I had some programming to do in my transmitter. I moved the elevator stick up and down and the aileron stick side to side and I was not getting the minimum and maximum numbers recommended and programmed for the motors on the previous page. I adjusted to get the recommended minimums of 1050 and the maximum of 2000 for these stick movements. This again was done with programming in my computer.
- This was the screen that allowed me to see the readings and program the motor levels with programming in my computer.
The next programming involved programming an arming switch for the motors on aux channel one which is channel 5 and with planes is my landing gear channel. On the Modes page under the aux 1 heading I selected Arm and hit save. The channel five switch now was a kill/activation switch for the Nighthawk. Channel 6 became my flight mode switch and there were a number of options. I selected two for this review and the went onto switch B of my Spektrum DX9 on the top front left of my transmitter. The modes I selected were Angle and Horizontal.
- The arm and Mode screen in BaseFlight.
My Nighthawk now had the necessary basic programming for me to fly her.
Installing the Optional 10 Degree Angle Motor Mounts.
To do this I needed two Allen wrenches. A 2.5mm Allen wrench and a 2mm Allen wrench. The 2.5mm wrench was used to loosen and remove the motor mount bolts, four per motor. Then to re-install those bolts through the angled plastic motor mounts. To mount the plastic angled motor mounts with the motors attached I needed the 2mm Allen wrench to secure the plastic mounts to the Nighthawk frame with the supplied bolts. The plastic motor mounts were marked M1-M4 and when properly position they had an arrow on the underside that pointed towards the Nighthawk's body. The instruction manual showed the correct position for each mount.
- The inclined motor mounts came not yet installed.
- The Allen wrenches were used to install the inclined motor mounts.
I removed the four bolts securing the first motor. I left the motor attache electronically to the Nighthawk, I only tilted it in towards the Nighthawk's frame to get the necessary access to the bottom of the motor. I properly positioned the first angled motor mount in place and secured the motor to the base with the four bolts I had just removed. When all four bolts were in place I tightened them and then positioned the motor over the arm of the Nighthawk and aligned the plastic mount with the bolt holes that are used to secure it in place. I installed the four supplied bolts and with all of them in place I tightened the and secured the now angled motor in position.
- The bolts in the inner holes securing the motors as received.
- The bolts removed and the motor ready to be installed on the inclined motor mounts.
- A view of the bolts attaching the motors to the inclined motor mount.
- The bolts securing the inclined motor mount to the Nighthawk.
- The inclined motor mount assemble completed.
I repeated the process with the other three motors. Now all four motors were tilted forward at ten degrees. Total time including taking pictures was about 45 minutes working slowly.
Four propellers were supplied with my Nighthawk and all were 6" (6045). They can ONLY be used with a 2 or 3-cell battery! If I want to use a 4-cell battery I need to use smaller 5" propellers or I will likely burn out the ESCs. Use only the proper size propellers for the battery you select and all four propellers need to be the same size. Four sizer rings were supplied per propeller and one fit perfectly. I cut out the sizer rings that fit and snapped them into the four propellers. I removed the prop nuts and installed the propellers one at a time. I installed a black 6 x 4 5R prop to the left of the camera and a black 6 x 4 5 to to right of it. I installed the red propellers in back with a 6 x 4 5 on the left and a 6 x 4 5R to the right of the transmitter. The prop nuts are self-tightening so I just hand tighten and let the directional spin of the motors do the rest.
- The included set of 6" propellers for use with a 3-cell battery pack.
- The two red propellers close-up.
- The transmitter on/off switch is to the right lower side of the XT60 battery connector.
- The 1/3" CMOS color camera comes mounted on the front of the Nighthawk.
I am very happy to report that the built in FPV system worked great with my Fat Shark goggles! I got a very nice clear image as the Nighthawk flew around the park. There was the occasional line through the picture but generally a pretty nice color picture. I am sad to say that my ground station died recently and I am looking for a replacement monitor/receiver with built in recorder and I hope to add an FPV video with my next system with the Nighthawk in a month or two. By that time the new receiver with longer antennas will be installed in the Nighthawk and we will be able to safely flyer her further away from us than we were willing to do with the current receiver.
As stated above I attached the antenna to the transmitter very early in this process and made sure the transmitter switch was always off when not using FPV. The transmitter will very quickly fry if turned on without an antenna (True of all of the FPV transmitters I am familiar with.) The limited range testing she was put through the system worked very well. I was happy she was compatible with my Fat Sharks as advertised and the supplied three leaf antenna was working perfectly for our limited range.
Rear Light Bar
The last main item to discuss is the very bright rear light bar. Mine came with a yellow light bar and it is bright enough to assist with orientation for up to 100 feet even in bright sunshine. In twilight the light can be seen across the park a distance of 400 feet. Just be sure not to touch as it gets quite warm during operation.
I have not yet used the 10 degree camera mount or the included mount for an optional camera. As stated above the antenna mounts will be used with the new receiver in the near future.
The Nighthawk is set up for racing and while capable of aerobatics she is not set up for extreme aerobatics as sold and initially sold. It is not my intention to be performing aerobatics with her but rather to do racing and some making some FPV videos when I get my new monitor/receiver/recorder. She flies in all directions and the angles mounts seem to give her a greater forward speed while still allowing her to hover. Backwards flying was slightly slower with the inclined mounts installed.
Taking Off and Landing
1) I start by arming the motors with the aux 1 switch on my transmitter which is often used for landing gear with my planes. 2) Using the Flight Mode switch I choose angle or horizontal mode. 3) I power up the motor with the throttle and she lifts off. I need to hold in a little reverse direction with the right switch due to the 10 degree incline on the motor mounts. Without that she will start to fly forward. Once up and off the ground by two feet she is clear of any ground effect and I can direct her in any direction.
Landing is performed by lowering the throttle. I recommend letting her creepy forward to the spot you want to land and from about a foot up land quickly as she does get into ground effect if you try and land her too slowly.
Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance
Her two special features are: 1) Forward SPEED and 2) FPV! In both of these I found she performed excellently. I was carefully to properly set up her programming as discussed above. She was very well controlled in all directions and you can judge how she flies in the video below which features mixed flying with some speed runs. Again aerobatics were not really tried but in the course of FPV flying there was one pretty good crash from about sixty feet up and hitting fairly hard in soft wet grass. I am happy to report no damage. Had it been on roadway I would probably be buying a few replacement parts. All flying has been done with the standard 6045 propellers and a 3-cell 1500mAh pack.
I noted that the bottom has a protective coating to protect against moisture such as from dew in the morning. It worked for me.
Flight Video/Photo Gallery
- The built in light bar in back is very bright and helpful with orientation even in daylight.
- The included FPV camera in front attached to the level mount as it came.
- The first seconds of flight with the Nighthawk.
|Emax Nighthawk Pro 280 FPV (3 min 42 sec)|
The four MT 2204 2300kV motors supplied plenty of speed and seemed perfectly matched. The color and quality of the FPV image in my Fat Shark goggles was excellent. I only regret that I can't directly share the quality of the image I viewed due to the failure of my ground station. However, I can say that the images in the opening video by Gear Best are accurate and inline with what I was able to view directly. Additionally, there are a number of videos shot by others using the Nighthawk that can be viewed on You Tube. The only assembly I did was installing the 10 degree angled motor mounts and eventually installing the propellers after completing all of the programming safely without the propellers being on the copter. The programming of the Nighthawk was not difficult but it did require I have access to a computer to do it.
In the air the Nighthawk handles excellently and the only crash was due to pilot error while flying using FPV. She turns very well and has excellent forward speed. I am sure she will be flying even faster as we get more familiar with her. Gear Best sells her at an excellent price and I got very prompt delivery. Please note that your delivery time will be related to the delivery method you choose as posted on their Website. Quality, performance and price were all very good and I consider her a bargain. In this review only a 3-cell 1500mAh battery was used with the supplied stock 6045 propellers.
Pluses & Minuses
- My ARF version only required me to supply a six channel radio and a battery and charger
- Assembly was quick and easy
- Programming was pretty quick
- FPV image in my Fat Shark goggles was clear, bright and colorful
- The light bar was very bright and helps with orientation in flight
- Supplied FPV antenna has worked very well thus far
- Props available for purchase in a variety of colors
- Only 6" propellers supplied, 5" props needed if using a four-cell LiPo battery pack
- No spare propellers included