S3fpv was graciously provided with a Emax nighthawk 200 racing drone for review. Will (nicklyw) of S3 and myself did the following build and I then proceeded to mod the 200 to bring it up to acceptable S3 racing standards.
Overall I would give this kit a 3/5 (three out of five). LOS and non FPV mode it flys well and has adequite power and handling. FPV mode is crippled by a cheap camera and no filtering. Here’s a line by line of the resulting final score:
* 4/5 packaging – Each component was properly labeled and safely packaged.
* 2/5 directions – Instructions were provided but missed or skipped several important steps as well as assuming a fairly high level of building experience to start.
* 5/5 frame – A very solid frame, easy to break down and takes crashes well.
* 3/5 powertrain – Motors are nice, PDB is acceptable, ESCs will fly it but have no oneshot125 or a way to reprogram them, severly limiting the quality motors.
* 3/5 electronics – Flight controller accepted and ran cleanflight. Had no gyro related or signal issues. Two points removed because my skyline + osd combo had the osd portion stop working in the first few hours.
* 1/5 FPV – Camera quality is poor to unflyable in all but the most ideal of lighting conditions. VTX is 600mw, which is rarely if ever permitted in a formal race environment. No power filter for video. Only positive is vtx has a nice mounting system.
Video build log:
(not interested in seeing pictures and text, check out the video review!)
Full build log:
Please note this build was performed partially by Will 0of S3 and completed/modded by myself.
Shiney new nighthawk box arrived at Will’s door, let the unboxing begin!
Inside, three smaller boxes! Also some arciac instructions strewn about.
Here’s a closeup of the infamous build instructions, some sections are ok while others are completely missing.
Inside the three smaller boxes we have the frame, powertrain, and hardware.
Unboxing everything leaves us with quite the quad spread. Nows when those nice instructions would be helpful.
The frame and frame hardware were of noticably good quality for a kit drone.
Here we have the skyline32 + OSD which quickly converted itsslf to a skyline32 – OSD.
One final shot of parts before we begin assembly.
Step one: desolder the motor wire leads from the ESCs.
Next up mount the pdb and add the double sided tape to the quad arms. Note the LED switch should be easily accessable from the side.
Wire the motors to the ESCs. Note: Will used shrink wrap on the escs (in red) however I later removed it during a rewire. This is mostly an installer preference.
Add camera plate to camera via supplied screws. Take a few moments to sob at the poor quality as you install it.
Fit test the front camera pod.
Solder up the esc power wires to the PDB, be sure to use correct positive and negatives!
Here you can see my rewire of the escs. keeping the wires tight means theres less risk of a broken prop cutting one. Also note the installed vtx at the back with its pretty housing.
Install the FC and solder the motor signal wires. Wire up thr FC power from the non-switched 5v on the side of the pdb.
OPTIONAL: Use a ftdi programmer to flash the latest OSD software onto the flight controller.
Install top, strap, and props, done!
Weight pre battery: 358g
With a 1300mah battery installed: 443g
Unfortunately on its maiden voyage the Nighthawk’s rear antenna lost its cap in a very light crash, the antenna itself appeared to remain in tact.
Flying FPV was a wash, but I did get some nice flips and rolls in via LOS. I also took some crashes into pavement, which didn’t seem to damage the Nighthawk, definitely a plus!
Post cement crash:
Here’s an example of my direct from FPV goggle view on a beautiful sunny day (same day as above pictures):
Now here’s a few examples of the build in LOS mode, much cleaner:
Config & mods:
First lets go flash the latest cleanflight. Betaflight had some oddities with the skyline32 FC, would not recommend.
I always disable the magnetometer first via CLI as it seems to cause horizon mode issues.
Next check motor direction and enable motor stop. DO NOT set oneshot. Set PPM for receiver and set the max/min throttle.
Set SUMD for ppm mode, and enable the LED_STRIP.
These PIDs worked well for me in multiwii rewrite. I would recommend lowering P another .5 after further testing.
Set channel map to TAER and RC Rate to 1.0
LED mapping below for the 4 led strip.
Ok on to the mods! I wanted to get to the bottom of the crappy FPV situation, and so I slowly started eliminating components and replacing them with known good ones until the video improved.
Here’s how the video looked in perfect lighting conditions (my house) before any modifications, notice the white jagged lines, these got dramatically worse as throttle was stepped up. Also note the overall graininess and black artifacts. These would increase in size and frequency when lighting conditions were not ideal:
Seen below is a complete replacement (except vtx) where the power is stepped to 12v via a known good ubec, LC filter, and a higher quality CMOS cam.
And the result was a huge improvement. There was still a bit of artifacting and lines, I assume from the poor quality VTX. Please keep in mind that this is a 600mw vtx too, video should be crystal clear when this close.:
Ok, so we know the camera is crap, and there’s no LC filter to remove noise on throttle… Lets open the camera case up and see whats inside. Eww its a straight CMOS chip with zero post processing, no wonder any kind of light adjustment would blow it out. Any $15 camera would be a vast improvement.
Good news is you can just pop a ET200 vtx and HS1177 camera along with a cheap LC filter and be flying a great starter quad. In fact I would say you could easily transition this quad into a more advanced race build. While not top top of the line the motors and frame have definite nice features that with some improvements like new ESCs and video could bring this build into a semi-competitive drone.