There’s a clear trend present in the drone market, something even those who aren’t drone die-hards can notice. Smaller size, 4K video, and the “ultimate portable drone” are features touted by nearly every manufacturer.
A pocket drone that records in hi-res with intelligent flight features sounds great at first, but after hearing these claims from every brand on the market one starts to become jaded. The Wingsland S6 is one of those models that are stepping up to the plate, but can it really stand out from the pack?
More than pocket change
At first glance the S6 reminds me of a sort of robot beetle, with folded arms and transparent wings ready to take flight. The size alone is beetle-esque, as the device is only 5.4” x 3.1” x 1.3” when the collapsible arms are folded in flush with the body. This is made possible by the indentations in the fuselage for the motors to fit into, which is a pretty clever design. By doing this, the drone is literally pocket-sized.
The overall weight of the drone with the battery is 250 grams, of what feels like a pretty solid construction. Unlike the Wingsland Minivet (which is much larger and more hollow in areas) the S6 feels quite densely packed with components and well put together.
The Wingsland S6 comes in a variety of colors, like camo (my favorite), yellow, orange, black, or pink and purple leopard print.
There is something about the lens of a drone that gives it the illusion of life, and the S6 sees the world through a fixed-lens 117° FOV. That frames the 13MP still photos with an f/2.2 aperture from a Sony lens, and 4K video at 30fps (or 1080p at 60 fps). I have my reservations about the video quality though, as my still shots had some areas where the resolution was not as great and details were lost. The frame rate on the video might be contested as well, since the footage I pulled was pretty choppy. Some of this could be due to the codec used, as I got different results on different machines on which I viewed the footage, but none were seamless throughout.
Wingsland states that there is included 3-axis electronic image stabilization, to account for the absence of a gimbal. One thing to note about this method is that the overall video quality is inherently degraded since the image is being cropped to present a smoother image. Often drone manufacturers will use this on a 2-axis gimbal to compensate for the third axis, however in the case of the S6 this might be a bit too much weight on the digital processing, as the bounce of the feed is quite noticeable.
I got anywhere from five to seven minutes of flight time with a slight breeze while recording video at 4K. This is quite short, but isn’t too far out of the ordinary for small drones. When the battery dips below 50%, it goes the rest of the way pretty quickly. Swapping the batteries as soon as I touched down proved to be a semi-workaround for getting a solid 16 minutes of (non-continuous) flight.
There are two downward-facing ultrasonic sensors and a downward-facing optic sensor on the S6. In addition to those, the drone has a six-axis gyroscope and dual GPS system loaded up, and at times I was able to get 16 satellites during flight, which is a first for me. While I found that the obstacle avoidance did not seem to work during my test, the Return-to-Home function was quite impressive. When either engaged manually or during an emergency low battery landing, the drone found its way back to within four feet of the original takeoff/home point on all occasions.
Powering the mini quadcopter are 4300 KV brushless motors, which are each about the size of a blueberry. Despite their small physical size, they are actually quite adept at moving the unit through the air and fighting a slight breeze. I noticed the drone would drift about both in altitude and laterally around two feet when at dead stick, which could be a bit tighter considering the GPS strength I had.
The max flight speed is 2.5m/s with beginner mode disabled, which is a nice little clip for the small drone. In all honesty, with the phone/tablet control method getting too much speed is a bad idea. The max height is 100m, which is also the max distance from the phone/tablet control, as Wi-Fi connectivity is needed.
There are a few flight modes that the S6 has in place, such as Follow Me, (pretty self-explanatory), and Point of interest. The Point of Interest feature has the drone circle around a specific point, with the camera locked on the subject in the center. I did find that the Follow Me function worked well when walking, but it was not responsive enough to keep up with a light jog. Otherwise, it did manage to track my movements with relative ease.
There’s an app for that
The Wingsland Fly app is pretty simplistic, with areas for the flight interface, a flight simulator, and a cache for stored media. The app houses all the flight telemetry that one would need piloting or operating the camera, with a 720p live view of the video feed. While at first skeptical about the quality, I eventually found the live stream to be solid for navigating. Compared to others I have seen, it is quite clear. The one glitch I noticed was that the feed would freeze up every couple of seconds with micro-second glitches, however this didn’t impair piloting.
Of course controlling the drone must be done via smart phone or tablet, and I am personally not a fan of this method. Nothing against Wingsland specifically for this, but in several app-only drones I have flown I just do not like this control method at all, and I feel there isn’t the solid control necessary to perform at the optimal level. That said, the output is responsive, within reason, and it is simple to switch from video to photos in-flight.
One inconvenient note about the media being stored on the app is that with the drone powered off it cannot be accessed, so it is necessary to download the content before powering the drone down.
Pocket (drone) of fun
With a price point of $349, Wingsland’s S6 is cheaper than several other small-form drones in their spec bracket, but it’s not the least expensive. The shortcomings of the smooth video feed wouldn’t be as noticeable with a slightly reduced price tag, as the overall utility of the pocket drone is more of a fun time than a serious content creation tool. The lack of a gimbal does add to the video instability by nature, but would prevent the S6 from being the true pocket drone it is.
All in all, the S6 definitely does have some things to make it an attractive drone for those who aren’t very deep into the hobby, and looking for an on-the-go quick flight tool. The compact nature, grab-and-go accessibility, and relative ease of control are all great features to have on a user-friendly drone like this one. The pocket drone market is a tough one for brands, as they need to walk the line between compact form and big-time function, with a reasonable price tag. Does Wingsland do it? I think they do for now, but what comes out next might change everything.