Review: Flywoo HEXplorer LR 4inch Long Range Hexacopter

Flywoo was the first to release an RTF micro long range FPV drone, and now they are the first to release a micro long range hexacopter! It’s basically the the Explorer LR quadcopter with two extra motors and upgraded hardware.

Wondering what’s the Flywoo Explorer LR? Check out my review here https://oscarliang.com/flywoo-explorer-lr/

Where to Buy?

DJI Vista / Nebula Pro Version

Analog Version

It comes with these accessories in the box:

Key Features

These micro long range FPV drones are small compared to traditional long range rigs that are normally 7″ quadcopters and weighs over 700 grams. The Hexplorer’s uses 4″ propellers and the weight is in the 250g to 350g range with a 4S LiPo battery. Here’s a weight break down of the different combinations:

  • hexacopter alone = 216g
  • hex + 4S 850mah LiPo = 314g
  • hex + 4S 850mah LiPo + Naked GoPro = 347g
  • hex + 4s Li-ion pack  (18650 3000mah) = 421g
  • hex + 4s Li-ion pack  (18650 3000mah) + Naked GoPro= 449g

Using a 4S Li-ion pack is able to give you over 25 mins of flight time (on a calm day).

It’s equipped with Caddx Vista and Nebula Pro. I tested the new Nebula Pro camera and it’s every bit as good as the original DJI camera. They also offer analog version with Caddx Ant camera if you are not into DJI’s FPV system.

By using a light weight HD camera like the naked GoPro or Insta360 SMO 4K, you can get some stunning FPV footage. With the 50% increase in lift, the hex can actually carry a full size GoPro without issues, which the Explorer LR Quad would definitely struggle to do.

Here’s the specs of the HEXplorer (DJI version):

  • Goku F745 HEX Nano Stack 16×16
  • Flywoo Nin 1404 V2 2750kv motors
  • Gemfan 4024 props
  • Goku M8N mini GPS v2.0
  • Flywoo Finder v1.0
  • Flywoo Bt-nano Bluetooth module
  • Atomic 5.8 G Antenna LHCP
  • Caddx Vista (VTX)
  • Caddx Nebula Pro (FPV Camera)

Closer Look at the HEXplorer

Unboxing

First thing that I noticed was the long cable that wasn’t connected to anything.

It’s the power cable for the SMO 4K camera by Insta360. I plan to use this drone with my Naked GoPro, so I will be replacing this cable.

Frame

There are six arms sandwiched by two bottom plates, each arm can be swapped out independently if you break them.

The arms are reinforced by braces. Arm thickness is 3mm.

Flight Controller & ESC Stack

The flight controller had a huge upgrade, they actually re-designed the stack specially for the hexacopter (which needs 6 motor outputs).

It’s now using an F7 MCU which is impressive not because of the increased processing power, but the number of UART’s it offers. There are 7 spare UART’s! That’s probably more than enough for what we want to do here :) One complaint I had with the previous LR4 quad was the lack of UART, and the Vista has to connect to the FC via softserial and the OSD becomes unreliable. This is no longer an issue with the Hex.

The FC has built-in Barometer for more accurate altitude reading.

Below the FC is the 13A 6in1 ESC which Flywoo created just for this hexacopter! Probably the first in the world I think?

Both USB connectors for the FC and Vista can be easily accessible from the side.

It’s good to know that they also added a Bluetooth module inside the frame (located behind the FPV cam), so you can use the Speedybee App on your phone to change Betaflight settings wirelessly, which is handy when you are outside in the field.

GPS & Buzzer

The GPS module is mounted in a TPU mount, slightly tilted to compensate for the pitch angle when the drone is flying forward.

They tried shielding the GPS signal wires with copper foil from the DJI Vista VTX as you can see in the following picture.

The Hexacopter is using a self-powered buzzer underneath the GPS module, which has a tiny built-in lipo and it can continue to beep for hours even when the drone’s battery is disconnected in a crash.

FPV System

It’s using DJI FPV system, the VTX is Caddx Vista and the camera is the latest Nebula Pro, which has almost the same image quality as the original DJI camera, but a couple of grams lighter.

This time Flywoo finally shipped me the correct antenna – an LHCP one.

Receiver

The Crossfire Nano receiver is resting freely on top of the FC, I think it would be better to use double sided tape here, to minimize vibrations to the FC during flight.

One thing can be done better is the Crossfire antenna mounting, the tips are literally touching the carbon fibre which might impact range.

Power

Exact same motor and propeller combo from the previous Explorer LR Quad: Flywoo Nin 1404 V2 2750kv motors and Gemfan 4024 props.

The LiPo connector is an XT30 and the battery is designed to be placed on top of the frame.  The good quality battery pad helps stop the battery from sliding.

The top plate has a very clever design that allows you to put the strap through the middle, so the battery can be mounted sideway. This allows more room for the HD camera in the front when using a large battery such as a Li-Ion pack, and it also keeps the centre of gravity in the centre of the craft.

Setup

I will explain the steps I took to setup my HEXplorer for the first flight. Here’s the official manual if you want to take a look: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0010/7410/2324/files/FLYWOO_HEX_LR4_HD_Manual.pdf

Firmware

The Flywoo Hexplorer comes with Betaflight firmware 4.2.0, the board is FLWO/FLYWOOF745HEX (STM32F745).

The 6in1 ESC is running BLHeli_S 16.7 firmware (G-H-30).

Here’s the stock CLI dump in case you made a mistake and want to go back: https://intofpv.com/t-cli-dump-for-flywoo-hexplorer-lr4-hexacopter

DJI

Activate Vista in DJI Assisstant 2 program, and update firmware to 1.00.06 (stock is 1.00.05). Latest firmware allows you to use 50mbps mode which offers better range and image quality.

Then bind Vista to your DJI FPV goggles.

And here’s how to switch to FCC mode (required for 50mbps mode), and if it’s legal where you are, you could even do the 1200mW hack.

BetaFlight

The Hexplorer has clearly been tuned in factory, such as PID and filters. Ports, GPS settings and Crossfire are also pre-configured out of the box.

All that I had to do was binding receiver, assigning a switch for arming, beeper, and turtle mode. Oh, and don’t forget to set your rates as well.

One thing I wish they did was enabling Bi-Directional DShot and RPM Filter (tutorial). It can reduce vibrations to certain extend without much effort, and less vibration is always better for efficiency.

You might also want to “clean up” the OSD because they’ve included almost all elements on the screen, it’s quite a mess :) Remove the ones you don’t use.

There are four bright RGB LED’s at the corners of the FC, I am using them to display GPS status: red = no sat, orange = no lock (found sat but not enough), green = lock.

By default, Flywoo enables “Allow arming without fix” (setting under Failsafe tab), it allows you to take off without getting a satellite fix.

It can sometimes take a minute or two to get a sat fix, but it gets much faster after that even when you are changing batteries. Remember if you take off without a GPS fix, GPS rescue won’t work. To have reliable GPS rescue, it’s best to have at least 5 sat lock before taking off, the sat number can be displayed in OSD.

I also changed failsafe settings for my switches:

Installing Propellers

If you’ve never flown a hex before, then this might be a bit confusing for you. Here are the rules that help me remember the rotation of the props:

  • front props – props in like a quad
  • middle props – opposite of the front props
  • rear props –  opposite of the middle props, same as front props

This image might help also:

Positives

Flywoo listened to the community after the release of the Explorer LR4, and implemented many improvements on the Hexplorer, including hardware, PID tuning and GPS settings. It flies great out of the box.

With the two extra motors, the hex has 50% increase in thrust to carry extra payload and perform better in windy condition.

GPS works well for me, when you lose radio signal, the drone goes into GPS rescue mode and flies towards its take off point. GPS Rescue can also be triggered by the pilot at any point, say if you lose orientation. It takes 1-2 minutes to get a satellite lock, and I normally get around 14 sats which is really good.

The F7 FC with more UART’s is definitely a welcome upgrade, it solves the OSD issue with Vista from the previous Explorer LR4 quad.

The newly added Barometer might not seem like a big deal, but by providing more accurate altitude measurements, it can potentially help save battery in GPS rescue mode.

And you can flash the new F7 FC with iNav firmware if you want more advanced GPS features.

Negatives

This hexacopter is considerably heavier than the Explorer Quad. Yes the hex has more power so it doesn’t really care about the extra weight, but if weight is important to you, you are going to struggle to stay under 250g. It’s almost impossible if you want decent flight time.

The hex is not as efficient as the quad it seems, I am getting slightly shorter flight time with the same 4S 850mAh, 8 mins of cruising with the hex, and 10 mins with the quad.

You have props in the frame when flying with DJI FPV Goggles, but it’s not in the HD cam’s view.

Lastly, the hex is configured to run “props in” (front propellers spinning inward), any water or dirt on the front props gets thrown at the FPV camera lens. Maybe use props out, Flywoo?

Conclusion – Is the Hexplorer for you?

It depends. First of all I think the Hexplorer is made for long range *cruising* flights, just like the Explorer LR Quad. But if you want to carry something heavy like a full size GoPro 9, the 50% increase in lift from the Hex will definitely help.

Left: HEXplorer; Right: Explorer

The flight characteristics of the hex is quite different from the quad, it has more punch, more grip and feels more locked in. However due to the larger disk area, it also feels more floaty and isn’t nimble as a quad. It can get a bit bumpy when it’s windy, but if you use Reelsteady or FlowState, it can almost completely eliminate all the vibrations and it looks silky smooth.

The hex is pretty quiet for a 4″ FPV drone, but still slightly noisier than the LR4 quad.

There are hardware improvements mentioned, like the F7 FC and GPS V2 module, but I think Flywoo has also updated the LR4 Quad with the same hardware now (It’s called Explorer LR4 V2), so we can say the LR4 is at least just as good as the hex in terms of features.

4S 850mAh seems to be the best balance between flight time and weight, giving me around 8 mins of flight time, larger LiPo batteries have diminishing return and impacts performance. For ultimate flight time you can consider 4S Li-Ion 18650 pack (3000mAh), this should give you at least 25 to 30 mins flight time.

Whether or not the hexacopter is better than the LR4 quad is certainly debatable, but kudos to Flywoo for introducing so many new and interesting ideas in their new product!

2 thoughts on “Review: Flywoo HEXplorer LR 4inch Long Range Hexacopter

  1. Harrison

    Can you try flying it with 5 motors? Does this offer any survivability over a 4 motor that could help flying where recovery isn’t possible?

    Reply

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