ViFLY R220 full review

FPV racing is becoming more and more popular in the UK and other countries. But unlike R/C cars, you can’t buy a ready-to-fly package, you have to build your own. Well, that was true until ViFLY came along with its R220. See also: Best drones

What is the ViFLY R220?

It’s an FPV (first-person-vision) racing drone which comes ready to fly out of the box. It includes everything you need, except for FPV goggles. But you can add ViFLY’s own for an extra $119 when you order – that’s cheap.

The standard bundle, which is what’s on review here, includes the drone, a remote controller, a battery, a charger, a spare set of propellers and a GoPro mount. That’s enough to get flying and recording aerial video, but FPV racing isn’t about aerial photography: it’s about racing.

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ViFLY R220 review: Price

The kit costs $399, but is currently discounted to just $299 direct from ViFLY. You have to pay by PayPal in dollars but unlike most companies, ViFLY pays the import duty in advance, so $299 is the total price you pay. At the time of writing, that works out to about £242.

To appreciate just how good value this is, you need only look at the ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro, which costs £369 from First Person View.

This is a popular ready-to-fly FPV drone, but that price doesn’t include the transmitter, the battery or charger. The total price with those is £477, making the R220 look positively great value.

Plus, ViFLY recently announced that it would make one free repair (including labour and parts) because it knows racing drones are very easy to crash. However, as this involves returning it to China, we suspect most buyers will choose the alternative, which is to tell ViFLY which parts you need, and these will be shipped for free to you so you can repair the drone yourself.

ViFLY R220 review: Features and design

Unlike a lot of FPV racing drones, the R220 keeps all its components safely enclosed in a carbon fibre sandwich. It’s not quite a unibody, but there’s a tough plastic surround which also protects the components and you can choose from red, yellow white or black plastic when you order.

ViFLY R220review - FPV drone

It’s a little smaller than the usual 250mm rivals: the distance between motors is 220mm.

The FPV camera is mounted at the front and is set back so it’s better protected when you crash (which you will). It’s covered in rubber and can be angled slightly up or down. There are two strips of really bright white LEDs set into the front arms, which look cool and means you can more easily see the quad.

ViFLY R220review - FPV drone

Plus it beeps loudly when you crash it or the battery voltage is low, which helps to locate it if it gets lost in long grass (or a tree).

The battery is held in place with a sturdy hook-and-loop strap, and uses a standard connector so you can easily source spares yourself. ViFLY sells both the standard 1500mAh 35C 3S battery for $24 and a 14.8V 4S version for $29. Flight time will depend on a few factors, but expect around six minutes with the 3S and eight with the 4S. This is why it’s important to have several.

An LED display shows the battery’s voltage when you first connect it, so you can see immediately if it’s fully charged or not.

A button on the side allows you to cycle between video channels – there’s a built-in 5.8GHz transmitter which has 40 channels and should work with pretty much all FPV goggles and also means it’s quick to change if someone else is using the same frequency. If you hold the button for three seconds you can cycle between three different power levels, depending on what’s allowed in your country or at certain race meets.

ViFLY R220review - FPV drone

ViFLY bundles the well-known FlySKY i6-VF remote controller, and this talks to a FlySKY FS-iA6B receiver on the drone. You also get the CleanFlight OSD – more on that below.

Even the box is handy, as it can be used as a carry case if you don't want to shell out more money:

ViFLY R220review - FPV drone

ViFLY R220 review: Performance

Although I’ve tested entry-level FPV drones such as the Hubsan X4 FPV, this is the first ‘proper’ racing quad I’ve flown. However, judging by the many videos on YouTube of pilots crashing and breaking their drones, I’m certain the R220 is one of the most durable and robust racing quads you can buy.

ViFLY R220review - FPV drone

The quad shrugged off a few high-speed crashes (including one into that tree) with no ill effects. Nothing broke, not even a prop.

It’s also ridiculously fast. I’m obviously comparing it to the many camera drones I’ve reviewed, including DJI models with their Sport modes.

The motors are certainly powerful, and are easily able to manoeuver the R220 deftly around objects. In fact, the main limitation in this equation was me, the pilot. Flying racing drones is hard – especially if you’re used to having GPS and other things which enable a drone to automatically hover.

The R220 does have an auto-levelling mode, but frankly it’s not like having a GPS on board – it’s fine if there’s no wind. And that’s the hardest thing – learning to counteract any wind, but again, the motors have the power to do it: you simply need to learn the flying skills.

When you’ve got the hang of flying it, you can use the remote controller’s right-hand switches to change from the horizon or acro mode (for aerial acrobatics).

In horizon, you still get the benefit of self-levelling, but can still pull the sticks to their extremes to do flips in mid-air. In acro mode (also known as rate mode) you have full manual control, which is the hardest to fly, but also the smoothest.

I hooked up a set of Fat Shark V3 goggles (kindly supplied by GearBest) to check out FPV and the R220’s on-board OSD.

ViFLY R220review - FPV drone

What I didn’t realise was the goggles don’t come with a video receiver, so that had to be bought and installed - behind that removable white panel on the front. I bought the NexWave RF 5.8GHz beta module for around £20.

When you’ve cycled through the channels and found the matching one, you’ll see a fairly clear (but not HD of course) image which has pretty low latency. The OSD overlays a horizon, a timer and shows whether the motors are armed or disarmed. Usefully, the current flight mode is shown in the top left so you can see at a glance without having to feel for the position of the switch on the transmitter.

Specs

ViFLY R220: Specs

  • Size (L x W x H): 200x185x80mm
  • Size (between rotors): 220mm
  • Weight: 450g (excluding battery)
  • Remote Controller: FlySKY i6-VF
  • Receiver: FlySKY FS-iA6B
  • OSD: Clean Flight OSD
  • Brushless Motors: Custom VF-RC-2205 Kv2300
  • ESCs: F20A
  • Propellers: 5045
  • Battery: 11.1V 1500mAh 35C 3S Li-PO (optional 14.8V 1500mAh 35C 4S Li-PO)
  • Flight Time (approx): 6mins(3S) / 8mins(4S)
  • Working Environment -10? ~ +40? Camera Resolution: 700TVL
  • Field of View: 120°
  • Wireless Video Transmitter: 5.8GHz, 40 channels
  • Output Power: 25mW/200mW/500mW
  • Antenna: Right-handed circular polarization
  • Warranty: 1 year