WLtoys V303 review

WLtoys V303 review drone quadcopter

Although some would still call the V303 a toy (and that would be fair play considering the company name), this quadcopter is a real alternative to the DJI Phantom if you have limited funds. Here's our WLtoys V303 review. See also: Best drones you can buy in 2015

Two of the key components missing from cheap quadcopters are a GPS and barometer. These are essential if you want your drone to hover when you let go of the controls. They're also crucial if you want to shoot higher-quality aerial footage, as you get a much more stable flight.

The V303 has both and - as is plain from looking at it - is a copy of the popular DJI Phantom. Compared to other WLtoys quads, such as the V666 which we also reviewed, the V303 has a white body, white propellers and a white transmitter. It isn't an exact copy of the Phantom, though: the landing skids make it look much more like a lunar lander.

There are various models of the V303: we tested version 'A' which comes with a GoPro mount, but there are others with included cameras, gimbals and more. The mount is very basic and will accept a GoPro Hero 4 (or Hero 3), but not GoPro clones such as the Keecoo Wi-Fi sports camera which is fractionally too deep.

WLtoys V303 review drone quadcopter

There's very little assembly needed out of the box: you need only install the props and tighten the nuts with the included tools, remembering that two of them have counter-clockwise threads. You won't find any spares in the box at all, so it's worth ordering at least one full set of blades along with the V303, just in case. GearBest.com which supplied our V303 for review, sells each pair of 9in blades for £2.87.

The plastic body and legs aren't strong and will almost certainly break in a crash (we broke a leg on the first flight), so you might want to order a couple of legs at £2.87 each as well. A replacement body costs about £30, but you can buy the upper and lower halves separately.

WLtoys V303 review drone quadcopter

At this price, it's hard to complain, though, since you also get decent quality brushless motors and the well-respected ZeroUAV YS-S4 flight controller (which includes the GPS). The controller means there's a return-to-home function which activates if communication between transmitter and drone is lost.

Our V303 is a later model which shipped with the newest firmware and a wire sticking out of the underside. This is for easy connection of a camera gimbal. For around £60 you can buy a Walkera G-2D two-axis gimbal which bolts directly to the V303. You can then add an action camera such as the Keecoo for a total spend of a little over £300 including import fees for the V303. That's a massive saving on the equivalent Phantom 2 with a Zenmuse gimbal and GoPro, yet with comparable quality video.

WLtoys V303 review drone quadcopter

You'll need to do a little wiring and potentially soldering to connect the belly wire to your chosen gimbal, and it's well worth choosing one which is known to work with the V303 so you can control the camera's pitch from the stock transmitter.

What you won't be able to do compared to the Phantom 2 Vision+ is see a live feed from the on-board camera, nor start and stop recording remotely. Again, though, considering the cost saving, these are limitations worth living with. (If you buy an iLook camera, you can view a live feed as this action camera also acts as an FPV camera.)

Flying the V303 is pretty much exactly the same as a Phantom. To start the motors, you pull the sticks downwards and outwards (not inwards like the Phantom) and then apply some throttle for take-off.

WLtoys V303 review drone quadcopter

Bright blue and red LEDs under the arms mean you can easily see the quad's orientation, and a flashing status light on the rear tells you when there's a GPS lock. The first time you fly, you'll have to wait a few minutes for it to locate the satellites but after that it get a fix much more quickly.

The V303 is pretty stable, and can cope with light winds without too much trouble. It's pretty agile and fast, too, but it doesn't take much to push it outside of its comfort zone. When you're too ferocious with the controls, the status light turns yellow. 

You can expect around 10-15 minutes of flying with the standard 2700mAh battery, and spares cost about £22. However, you can buy 2200mAh batteries with similar dimensions for one-third of the price, making them much better value (albeit a shorter 8-9 minutes of flight time). Recharging the standard battery with the flimsy-looking bundled charger takes a long time - almost two hours in our tests. This means spare batteries are essential.

WLtoys V303 review drone quadcopter

WLtoys V303: Specs

  • Flight time: 13-15 mins
  • Charging time: 60-100 mins
  • Spare battery cost: £22
  • Claimed range: 500m
  • Camera resolution: not included
  • Weight: 770g
  • Dimensions:274x274x190mm
  • Flight time: 13-15 mins
  • Charging time: 60-100 mins
  • Spare battery cost: £22
  • Claimed range: 500m
  • Camera resolution: not included
  • Weight: 770g
  • Dimensions:274x274x190mm

OUR VERDICT

The WLtoys V303 is a great alternative to a Phantom if your budget won't stretch. In fact, with a gimbal and camera, the V303 works out at roughly one third of the price. Spares are available from GearBest and aren't too expensive.