Can Dromida's $80 quadcopter stand up to the competition?
About a year ago, Dromida was just releasing their very first R/C cars. We didn't take them seriously. But they sold well enough that we had to take a second look, and we've been carrying them ever since. The line has proven to be popular with consumers and retailers alike. Now, Dromida has expanded their selection to include quadcopters as well as their surface vehicles. Enter the Dromida Ominus.
Will Dromida do as well in the air as they have on the ground? How does the Ominus stand up against the already-crowded quadcopter market and the competition therein? Let's find out.
Unboxing and Accessories
Unboxing the Ominus is actually a pleasant experience. The presentation of the product in the box is really nice - everything is in its place, and the clear plastic lid keeps it that way. Other than the tape they use to attach the clear lid to the black plastic under-tray, the unboxing sets the mood right to make you feel like you spent your money well. Ever since Apple started the trend, companies are much more aware of how their products are packaged, endeavoring to make the first impression of the product as positive as possible. Dromida does a good job of that (in contrast to their 1:18 trucks, which are not packaged nearly as nicely).
The Ominus is available in four colors (red, blue, green, and yellow). Each comes with a full set of extra props in the correct color. Also included are the four AAA batteries you need for the transmitter. Not included is the small Phillips screwdriver you need to open the battery door of the transmitter, so make sure to have one handy.
The battery that comes with the Ominus is possibly the largest capacity battery I have yet to see come with any ready-to-fly quadcopter at a whopping 700mAh. It's a single-cell LiPo, like most of the batteries that come with the Ominus' competitors, and has a JST connector, which is great for those of us that like to use our multi-chargers. For this review, we used the included USB-powered charger once, to make sure it worked, and charged the battery with our Hitec X4 AC/DC multi-charger from then on.
The transmitter feels comfortable in the hands. In particular, I like the points on the ends of the sticks; they help to keep your thumbs in place. And as I tend to fly thumb-and-forefinger more often than not, I like that the Ominus didn't have the wide thumbpads that other quadcopters come with. I like video-gaming as much as the next guy, but video-game stylings on a quadcopter controller aren't ideal.
The Ominus looks cool... almost predatory. It's solidly built - their claim that the Ominus is "nearly impossible to break" might just hold water. Everything looks pretty rugged. The motor mounts double as the landing gear, and feature soft rubber feet that should absorb some of the jolt from a botched landing. The arms, or booms as they are technically called, are beefy. The under carriage looks pretty tough too, and the battery is fairly well protected, though a stick or something sharp at in the right place could still puncture it. That scenario is pretty unlikely though.
The lights on the Ominus aren't as bright as, say, the LaTrax Alias. They are noticeable, but if you're flying in a well-lit room or outside on a sunny day, you will have a tough time knowing the light are on at all, with the exception of the "red eye of Sauron" on the back of the quad. This bright red LED is great for novice pilots, as it helps keep your orientation awareness; basically, if you can see the red light, you're flying nose-out, meaning the Ominus will travel in the direction of the stick movement, instead of backwards. This is especially useful at distance, when it can be hard to tell which color blades are closest to you. I like this design decision quite a bit.
It's a bit unfortunate that the Ominus is a gear-driven helicopter, as the noise generated is quite a bit louder than you would get from a direct-drive motor system. However, I haven't seen a quadcopter in the same category with a direct-drive system at all, so it might be simply necessary to reduce the RPM of the props through a gear reduction system. Still, a gear-driven quadcopter does have more parts to break, and striking a prop on something during flight makes it that much more likely the pilot will need new gears sooner or later. Thankfully, parts support for the Ominus looks to be pretty good right from the get go.
Taking the Ominus into the air is pretty straightforward. Push the charged battery into its holder. Turn on the transmitter. Plug the battery into the quad and set it down on a level surface. In a few seconds, the gyro initializes and you're ready to fly.
The flight characteristics of the Ominus are very familiar. If you've flown a quadcopter before, there aren't going to be any surprises here. The gyroscopes and accelerometers on board do a good job of keeping the quadcopter stable in normal flight. However, try some more advanced maneuvers, and the Ominus' gyro seems to lag behind, never quite able to catch up. It seems like the gyro is a tad sluggish when attempting high-octane aerobatics, but otherwise is just fine. The multirotor is stable enough to hands-off the transmitter for a few seconds, which is the sign of a working gyro.
The Ominus also features a one-button flip mechanic. Simply press the the "Flip" button, push the right stick in the direction you want the Ominus to flip in, and watch it go. It's an impressive sight to behold, and will certainly make you look like a better pilot than you are. As before, though, I found that the gyro seems to have a problem recovering from a flip - the quad sways back and forth until it gently bounces off the ground, allowing it to stabilize. This has been much more prevalent towards the end of the flight than the beginning, so it might have something to do with the lower voltage of the battery or the heating up of the motors. Either way, though, it's a problem that another popular quadcopter, with a similar feature, didn't have. It doesn't really diminish the fun of the flip mode, however.
Also worth noting is that the flip feature is pretty dicey when flying in the wind; you might not get exactly what you were counting on.
I flew mainly in the self-stabilizing mode, but I did try out the more advanced modes as well. In these, you have to really know how to fly, as the Ominus isn't interested in saving your butt if you can't. It's not difficult to control per se, but not a mode that novice pilots should attempt. This is for seasoned fliers only. It will really rock and rock in the advanced mode, though!
One note about the flight modes: it's pretty difficult to determine which of the four flight modes you're in without glancing down at the controller to look for a blinking or solid LED. Since it's always a bad idea to take your eyes off of your aircraft while it's in flight, I recommend changing flight modes while the Ominus is on the ground and not in the air.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Ominus is the very generous flight times, which are easily the longest flights I have experienced with any quadcopter in this mid-size class. The 700mAh battery that comes included is a great asset to the Ominus. Over five tests, all with varied flight styles, we averaged a very nice twelve minutes and eleven seconds. Even on the most aggressive flying I could get away with, the Ominus lasted almost eleven minutes. If you want to maximize your time in the skies, the Ominus is definitely a good place to start.
Durability proved not to be an issue at all. Especially impressive was the final test flight for our battery rundown test. I flew the Ominus outside in a cold, 16MPH wind, with gusts up to 20MPH. It was a handful, no doubt, and I crashed the quad more than a few times (once into myself, which thankfully didn't hurt). Between bouncing off of the signpost, smashing into the parking lot, and flipping without the aid of the flip button, the Ominus took a beating on that flight. Not only was the runtime right up there with the others, but it survived without so much as a bent prop. Then only (albeit minor) issue we had was during our very first flight, when my thumb slipped off the throttle and it came down from about twenty feet. It landed upright, but one of the motors slid away from the gear. I simply slid it back and have been flying with it ever since. While everyone's mileage will most certainly vary, our experience with the Ominus proves that it can live up to the "nearly impossible to break" claim Dromida makes on their website. But even if you do manage to break it, parts support is pretty good - I can't speak for all hobby shops, but we're currently outfitted with the vast majority of parts for the Ominus, and the rest should be coming in very soon.
Versus the Competition
If Dromida wanted to take on one of the most difficult classes to enter the quadcopter arena to face, they succeeded. The mid-size, brushed quadcopter class is chock-full of worthy competition. Probably the most notable competition is the LaTrax Alias and the Blade 180QX HD.
The Alias is definitely the most similar quadcopter to the Ominus. In this match up, the Ominus shines. I mean, they're essentially the same vehicle. There are subtle differences, and the Alias arguably has a better gyro and is a bit more refined in its implementation of the flip mechanic, but you can almost buy two Ominuses for the price of one Alias. And the differences between the two aren't enough to make the Alias worth the extra money, not to mention the Ominus out-performed the Alias in the battery duration test by over a minute - in fact, the shortest flight out of the Ominus was nearly identical to the average of the Alias. I wouldn't be surprised to see a price drop on the Alias in the future, but right now, the Ominus eats the Alias for lunch. Check out our Alias review to compare the two!
Much like when we reviewed the Alias and compared it to the Blade 180QX HD, the conversation will be much the same. The Blade quadcopter is definitely the most refined of the three, and offers precise control for the discerning pilot; a pilot who is more concerned with compatibility with his Spektrum transmitter. For that pilot, the Blade 180QX HD is probably the best choice - for everyone else, the Ominus is just too good a quadcopter for too good a price to pass up. This match-up will depend on which type of pilot you are, but sheer fun factor and ease of use puts the Ominus in pretty good shape.
It's worth pointing out that there is no camera for the Ominus, whereas the Blade 180QX HD comes with a camera (in the Ready-to-Fly package), and there is an accessory camera that you can purchase for the Alias. Whether or not Dromida will add something like this in the future is unknown, but we can't assume they will. So if you want to record your flights, you might be best to look at the other two quads in this match-up.
The Ominus is one of the best first-entries into the aircraft market from any company I've ever seen. Right out of the gate, Dromida pretty much nails it. It's not the best quadcopter in it's class, but it's probably as good a value, dollar for dollar, as anything else you could buy. More and more people are learning to fly with a quadcopter, and the race to the bottom as begun in earnest - who can build the best quadcopter for the lowest possible price.
Right now, the Ominus is leading that race in a dramatic fashion. Just like the little Proto X from Estes really made a splash when it came out last year (and continues to do today), the Dromida Ominus is a very good product for an even better price, and it's going to make the other manufacturers sit up and take notice: the Ominus is here to stay.