A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to win a Walkera Runner 250 from Banggood in one of their famed snap-up deals. It was the Basic 3 package which, aside from the obvious Walkera Runner 250 Quadcopter and it’s included 800TVL camera, comes complete with:
- Walkera DEVO 7 Transmitter (mode 2)
- OSD (On Screen Display) – this is the bit that distinguishes the Basic 3 from the Basic 2 package
- Simple Walkera balance charger & mains adapter
- 11.1V 2200mAh 25C Li-Po battery
- Tool set
- Cable set
- CD manual
- Printed english manual
The quad was delivered from China with EMS (Express Mail Service) shipping which meant the parcel arrived in the UK just nine days later. Unfortunately, and this is something perspective shoppers on Chinese retail sites should be aware of, the EMS service uses Parcelforce when it lands in England and their international hub in Coventry is known for being slow to process items through Customs. In my experience you are also more likely to be hit with Customs charges when parcels pass through this hub and this was indeed the case with the Walkera Runner 250. It has taken six whole days to get through Customs clearance and charging and is only now waiting in my local depot to be handed to a courier. I was concerned the import VAT would be based on the value of the product being imported not the price paid for the item. This was a real possibility as Customs & Excise are very aware of foreign sellers mis-pricing their goods in order to ease the potential import tax burden of their customers and are cracking down on the practice when it is spotted. I could have easily proved what I had paid, but it would have been a pain and meant additional delay to my parcel. I have little patience when it comes to new toys so I’m grateful the little racing quad is almost here.
I feel I must start by saying that I went against my usual philosophy of researching items with almost fanatical attention to detail before ordering the Walkera Runner 250. There are people who have owned a Runner 250 or have considered purchasing one who will be screaming at their computer screens that I’m a fool and that this quad is badly designed and doomed to an early grave. After reading a lot of posts on the hugely popular RCGroups.com website regarding the infamous Flip-Of-Death (known by its acronym FOD) and the notoriously thin, and therefore weak, PDB (Power Delivery Board – edit: mine is the new improved PDB) I was starting to agree but the price this was still the bargain of my year.
Walkera made a great decision to give the Runner 250 a modular design so that broken components could be quickly replaced by beginners to racing quad or the RC hobby in general. No more soldering a new ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) in place if one burns out or is damaged in a crash, simply plug and play and get back to racing. Even the props are self tightening – Walkera say a propeller can be changed in 7 seconds – so no tools are required when the inevitable happens and fortunately they are available pretty cheaply here.
I’m going to break here and recommend readers check out the video below to get an understanding of the type of flying these racing quads are capable of and why quick replacement of parts is a good thing.
The problem with the modular design is that the previously mentioned PDB needed to be a similar shape as the main body in order to put the required connectors in the correct location. This wouldn’t have been a major issue but in order to save weight with all those additional connectors, Walkera made it thin (argh!) and, here is the worst bit, they gave it load bearing (to some degree) responsibilities. Collisions from most angles will indirectly transfer a force through the PDB. This has meant that the Walkera Runner 250 is not as durable as it should be for the type of flying it will likely experience. Replacements are available here and pretty inexpensive although the repair will take around an hour.
It is not the be all and end all though as, although most beginners will crash, they probably won’t be doing the types of manoeuvres you saw in the video and hopefully will be flying over grass to lessen impacts. The carbon fibre plates used are laminates not solid pieces so the strength is reduced over full carbon fibre. Some owners have improved the durability by doubling up the upper and lower main plates and battery runner plates as these can be bought fairly cheaply. If you have access to a 3D printer, you can print out a new battery tray, protective bumper and other items which will help prevent breakages. Link to Walkera Runner 250 related items on thingiverse here.
EDIT: It seems later PDBs like mine are more resistant to damage due to the removal of some holes which weakened the board in the middle and allowed it to flex to easily.
What about the FOD issue? There are a couple of methods to mitigate this problem, caused by the motors at the front or rear spinning up with differential acceleration if the throttle is cut and reapplied, which results in the quad flipping over and losing control. The simplest is not to completely cut the throttle when flying but this is not an ideal fix as, when flying in a spirited manner, no one would could guarantee that minimum throttle will not be momentarily engaged.
The more involved but considerably better fix is to set the throttle trim to >6%, using the DEVO 7’s menu, when the left stick (if mode 1) is at the lowest position and set the left shoulder toggle switch (throttle hold) to -20%. Both of these steps must be done as setting the first without the second will prevent you stopping the motors in the event of a crash. See the video below for a step-by-step walk-through of the method. The transmitter menu structure is a little complicated for those new to the hobby.
The Basic 2 or Basic 3 kits both come with all the kit – other than AA batteries for the transmitter – to get you charged and flying Line of Sight (aka LOS). The included camera, 5.8G transmitter and OSD are begging to be used for First Person View (FPV) and that is really the point of these racing quadcopters; to put you in the pilot’s seat. You can buy the FPV bundle that Walkera have put together if you want the whole kit but the Goggle2 they use are expensive and, well, I didn’t win them… I wanted to do it on a budget and so bought a receiver the Boscam RC832 for £13.45 from Banggood and the Quanum V2 kit from Hobbyking along with a 1300mAh 3S 20C Li-Po pack to power both the monitor and the receiver.
Goggles for FPV
The Quanum V2 headset is fantastic value for money and in the box you get everything you need (other than receiver and battery of course) to assemble a cheap but comfortable goggle set for FPV flying. They are not as sleek as the top end Fatshark and Skyzone sets but they are considerably cheaper and arguably better for those of us who wear glasses and the image quality is plenty good enough to enjoy piloting your drone. Hobbyking delivered quickly and putting the goggles together was a painless procedure and took all of half an hour. Most of this was spent wiring everything up as neatly as I could, using the loops on the neoprene sleeve. It looks a bit rough and ready but I was able to set the frequency of the Boscam RC832 receiver to that of my WLToys V686G (review here) and have my first experience of flying in FPV. It truly is a fantastic feeling!
Back to the Walkera Runner 250. As I mentioned earlier the quad hasn’t arrived yet, so I will post a follow-up review when time and the winter weather permits. In the meantime, if you are interested in getting your own racing quadcopter, I would recommend the new version Walkera have released which fixes a few of the main issues the original had. The Walkera Runner 250 Advanced is available in a variety of configurations including a GPS edition which, despite making the OSD a little more useful, is arguably a redundant feature on a racing quadcopter. All versions now have updated flight controllers and all packages come with a backpack for transporting your quadcopter safely.
Another popular choice at the moment is the Eachine Racer 250 which is a bargain at under £190 with its sleek design. The RTF version even includes monitor with built-in 32 channel receiver. Having now flown the WLToys V686G with the monitor and with the Quanum V2 headset I would invest in a pair of goggles to compliment the screen if you buy the Eachine quad. I say this because flying with goggles is unbelievably fun and incredibly immersive. The screen will give you a good starting point when making the transition from LOS to FPV flying however and will also allow your friends to see what you’re seeing. If I hadn’t won the Banggood snap-up deal this is the one I would be spending my cash on this payday.