There is no denying the impact that drone racing has had on the RC FPV industry. DRL is on ESPN, and MultiGP has over 16,000 registered pilots and more than 1,000 chapters worldwide. This boom in popularity has given rise to a lot of "ready to fly" bundles and kits that aim to get anyone and everyone into the hobby. Problem is most of these bundles are not racers - heck, most of them aren't even decent quadcopters. Most are from less than reputable manufacturers looking to make a quick buck, which only hurts the new pilot in the long run since their first experience ends up being a negative one. Walkera, having been around a while, has been dipping their toes in the RTF races for a few years now with the Runner 250 and Rodeo 110. These aircraft look great, but are mostly made up of proprietary components that look great but don't l eave a lot of room for options or upgrades. Enter the Furious 215, the latest RTF bundle from Walkera.
Coming in at around $350 for the complete RTF bundle, the Furious 215 aims to be the first ready to fly racing bundle designed for... well... racers. Built on the feedback received from previous models, the Furious 215 sports some interesting features that set it apart from the crowd. The RTF bundle includes everything you need to get flying, minus an FPV display. You get the fully constructed Furious 215 itself, a Devo 7 transmitter, 1330mah four cell battery and charger, a few tools for swapping props and whatnot, propellers, LED lights for the arms, USB cable, a trainer cable for the transmitter, and an adjustable HD camera mount. Charge up and fly line-of-sight right out of the box, or add your favorite pair of FPV goggles and head to the track.
Shying away from the futuristic styling of past models, the Furious 215 looks like a standard race quad. That's not a bad thing, as it means more carbon, less plastic, and the ability to use more off-the-shelf parts. The 20A ESCs are easily replaceable should the need arise, as are the motors. Unfortunately Walkera has decided not to label the motors, but according to the manual they are the Walkera WK-WS-28-017 2500kv brushless motors. That's all the info I could find though, so your guess is as good as mine as to what would be comparible.
The FPV camera has an adjustable mount with the angles clearly marked on the side. This is a simple but really cool feature that I really like, not to mention the fact that the camera lens sits behind the sides of the carbon fiber frame so it will be protected in a crash. The camera itself is a 600tvl Sony SUPER HAD II CCD with integrated mic and low light support. Walkera really listened to the community here and went with a good camera solution that should please the crowd.
Inside the frame Walkera did choose to go with a proprietary PDB and flight controller. This isn't really an issue since it is at least running Cleanflight, but it appears to be a custom build. I am unsure as to whether or not it would support Betaflight and I'm a little nervous to try until I hear word from Walkera - or someone braver than me who wants to give it a shot.
The RTF bundle also includes a receiver and video transmitter of Walkera's own design. The receiver is fairly standard, while the video transmitter is a switchable 25mw to 200mw 40 channel unit. The VTX defaults to 25mw on band A, so if you are using FatShark goggles you'll want to change that. To do so, press and hold the button on the side of the transmitter for 30, yes 30 seconds. Eventually the lights on the transmitter will change, at which point you are in high-power mode, and can switch bands with a quick double press of the button. Channels are changed via dip-switches located on the bottom of the frame (Note: I misspoke in the video!). The VTX will retain your chosen power, band, and channel after powering off so you don't need to go through this every time you fly.
Do note however that the included VTX antenna is left-hand circular polarized so if you are running RHCP on your FPV display you'll want to swap out the antenna for something else. The antenna mounts directly out the rear of the aircraft which is ideal for racing, and the frame is designed with a little bumper in the pack to further protect the antenna connection in a crash. Again, Walkera has been paying attention.
The rear also features some LEDs that indicate the status of the aircraft, and function as blinkers in flight. Additional LEDs are included with the bundle that can be mounted under the arms. They come pre-wired with connectors and adhesive backing so you just plug them in and stick them in place. Zip ties are also included to help secure them to the arms.
But enough about the hardware for now - how does it fly? Is this truly a racer, or just another cash grab? Only one way to find out, so I headed out to the proving grounds to see what it could do...
...and I'm just going to come right out and say it, I was not expecting to have this much fun with this aircraft! Sure, if you're competing against top of the line pilots this aircraft probably isn't going to win - let's be honest, it doesn't have that much speed - but it's got plenty for someone who is just getting into the hobby. The punch-outs are incredible so a freestyle pilot is really going to love this, and when you crank up the camera angle you've really got some power behind you. Honestly my only complaint is that the tuning could be a little better. There are some vibrations on a hard turn or when dropping altitude, plus an annoying lift of the nose when punching the throttle, but nothing that can't be tuned out with a little time. The rates are also a little low for a racer, so don't expect to be taking any hard corners until you make some adjustments. These are minor complaints though, and can be easily fixed. The Furious 215 is a ton of fun to fly, and it only gets better when you spend some time tweaking the rates to your style.
With the camera angle at 45 degrees I was averaging 2-2.5 minutes of flight time, which is fairly average for a racer going all out. If you take it easy you should have no problem getting the advertised five minutes. That being said there is plenty of room for a larger battery on top if you choose to fly with a 1400 or 1500mAh 4 cell. I tested with a few 1500mah and it handled the extra size and weight just fine.
The Walkera Furious 215 is an RTF Drone Racing bundle that actually rocks, and is worth every penny for those interested in getting into the hobby or those looking for an all-in-one kit. It's common ESC and Motors make it easy to maintain/upgrade. The stock tuning and rates could be improved and there are some proprietary parts that I don't love which makes updating the firmware tricky The price is perfect for what you get, however, especially when you consider that the Devo 7 is a great starter transmitter. Plus it really is a racer, I'm not just saying that! All in all this is a great choice for the new racer, or anyone looking for a simple yet quality RTF solution.
You can pick up the RTF bundle for $349, or the BNF bundle for $299 at UCDrone.com
For more product reviews and RC/FPV goodness, check out NoobRC.com!