Review: DarwinFPV 18650 3-inch Micro FPV Drone

by Oscar
Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone With Battery Cell

Here’s another 1S 3inch micro FPV drone powered by 18650 Li-ion battery cell by DarwinFPV. The frame itself is almost a direct copy of the HGLRC Rekon3 I reviewed but with different components. Is it better? Let’s find out.

In case you are not familiar with this type of quads, they are not for freestyle or acrobatics. They are for long flight time cruising only. The other advantage is that they are much safer and quieter to fly around than those that are powered by LiPo battery as the power is heavily reduced. You can still do a flip and roll here and there with them, but it will struggle to recover from acro moves due to the lack of thrust.

Where to Buy?

Product Page: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_9QoCkU

In the box there’s the quad, a set of propellers and screws for the props, that’s all.

Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone Unbox Accessories

Closer Look

The whole frame of the DarwinFPV 18650 is 3D printed in Nylon (multi jet fusion) including the battery tray. Printing quality is excellent. It’s also pretty strong, though it still flexes a bit when you try to bend the arms, not as stiff as the Rekon3. But considering the low power of this kind of quad, it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone Battery Tray Top

The motors are slightly smaller than the Rekon3, they are 1103 12000KV.

Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone 1103 Motor Prop

The Darwin 18650 3-inch doesn’t come with a receiver. I think it’s designed for the Frsky R-XSR as shown in the manual, and should be plug and play, however the cable they soldered to the FC is a weird one with 4 pins, and it’s too small for the R-XSR. In the end I had to cut the connector off and soldered it directly to the receiver. Note that the FC has a SBUS pad which can take Frsky’s inverted SBUS signal.

Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone Bottom

Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone Hardware Component Fc Esc Vtx Rx

The VTX antenna is a bit short to be honest, it barely sticks out of the frame.

Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone Vtx Antenna Tail

The USB connector on the FC is really deep inside the frame, you will need a small USB cable to reach it.

Weight is about 60g without battery, with a 18650 it’s 106g.

One huge advantage of the DarwinFPV 18650 3-inch over the Rekon3 is the more powerful FC.

There are also just 2 UARTs in this FC, UART1 is used for receiver while UART2 is used for SmartAudio (VTX). But you can definitely hook up a GPS module to this quad if you want, which is not possible in the Rekon3. You can remap either S5 (motor 5), or LED_Strip to Softserial and use that for Smart Audio to free up UART2, and use UART2 for GPS. There’s also Buzzer pads if you want to use a buzzer.

Darwinfpv F4 Whoop Toothpick Fc Pinout Wiring Matekf411You will also need a 18650 Li-Ion cell to fly the Rekon 3, ideally something with high discharge rate. The recommended battery is Sony VTC6, VTC5A also works but with slightly less capacity.

How to Setup

FC board: MTKS/MATEKF411, Betaflight firmware version 4.2.5. You can find the original CLI dump here.

Here’s how I set it up for first flight:

  • Solder and bind RX to your transmitter, receiver works right away without any configuration changes, I am using Frsky XM+
  • Setup arm switch in modes tab
  • Setup OSD (NTSC) to display voltage and timer

In power tab, voltage warning and minimum voltage should be set much lower (e.g. 2.9V, 2.7V), but they were all left at default.

Flight Performance

Out of the box it definitely flies a bit smoother than the Rekon3 that gave me some vibrations. But flight performance and handling are more or less the same, the smaller motors don’t actually make a noticeable difference when I am flying.

Flight time is similar to the Rekon3, about 12-14 minutes depending on how aggressive you fly. Nothing out of the ordinary really, it flies just as you would expect from a 3″ quad powered by 1S 18650.

Darwinfpv 18650 3inch Micro Fpv Drone With Battery Cell

What Can Be Done Better?

It’s $30 cheaper than the Rekon3, which is a good deal given that the specs are similar between the two. The DarwinFPV 18650 is nowhere near perfect, but between this and the Rekon3, I’d probably pick the Darwin because you have to spend just as much time and effort to set it up and it does fly a bit nicer.

I only wish they offer receiver options such as Crossfire and ExpressLRS, which would make it easier to setup and have great range. Also it would be nice to use a CP antenna for the VTX. With the current setup and a Frsky receiver, the range is only about 400-500m. After all the idea behind this setup is long range.

Finally, Betaflight settings are mostly left at default, things like voltage warning and OSD should be set specifically for this quad.

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3 comments

Frank 28th August 2021 - 8:19 am

Nice review Oscar, interesting to hear you see less vibes from the nylon frame.

Like the REKON, we are looking at a quad based on a Dave_C design, this one slightly altered (what 3D folks call a remix) with no reference to the original design – and indeed it is open source for everyone to play with – I still think that we private individuals as well as manufacturers owes credit to the origins if/when we publish or sell these items.

If you own a 3D printer and a pointy soldering iron you might want to check Dave_C’s original out: thingiverse.com/thing:4769576

Reply
Ben 12th August 2021 - 10:59 pm

ELRS did you say?

I’m making one with the HappyModel ELRS AIO board, whilst hunting for the specs on the board found HM have this available for pre-order – Happymodel Crux3NLR Nano LR
https://www.banggood.com/Happymodel-Crux3NLR-Nano-LR-135mm-Wheelbase-Long-Range-FPV-Racing-Drone-w-or-New-AIO-5in1-ELRSF4-2G4-FC-CADDX-ANT-Camera-p-1875663.html?p=OY2106728901201408U4

Reply
John Daniels 12th August 2021 - 6:29 pm

Thanks for the well written info

Reply