The new Steadidrone FLARE multirotor – field tested review

So after just over 50 successful flights on my 2014 Steadidrone QU4D, I had the opportunity to fly and review Steadidrone’s newest multirotor, The Flare. It’s been a mad rush over the last week for me between visiting Steadidrone, converting a QU4D to a Flare, helping out with photography at mountain bike/trail running event, packing, then driving for a full day up to Pretoria to attend annual courses and flight checks for my day job before I head out again to the dodgier parts of the world.

This article came about after Duran from Steadidrone invited me over to their offices last week to have a look at the replacement for their QU4D line, the Flare. He showed me around their facility and I got to sit down with him and chat a bit about the Flare.

Remember to watch the below video in HD ;)

They used the experience gained from their Mavrik quadcopter, their mid-sized system which came out earlier this year (designed for larger cameras), as a base to produce the replacement for the smaller QU4D quadcopter range. Side by side the Flare is basically a smaller version of the Mavrik. The Flare now shares the Mavrik’s features, such as, amongst others, an identical impact resistant ABS quick access top dome with an external status LED and Micro USB port, both for the Pixhawk flight controller. It also features a new rail mounted camera gimbal and battery plate (i.e. the tail is mounted on back end of the rail system) for added camera stability.

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The Flare also comes with two mounts for the camera gimbal, one for GoPro’s and one for point and shoot cameras. It is quite useful depending on what mission the system is used for.

The Flare’s motor arms are slightly longer than the QU4D and features APC 12 inch slow flyer props instead of the APC 10 inch Multirotor props. The arms also, fold away for easy transportation, a feature Steadidrone calls Rapid-Deploy, highly useful and practical feature.

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Duran kindly provided me with a Flare airframe kit in order to convert my RTF 2014 QU4D into a Flare for review. I removed all the electronics and motors from the QU4D and moved it over to the Flare airframe. The only cutting and re-soldering necessary to do the conversion was to the camera gimbal’s power switch. This was required firstly to remove the switch from the QU4D airframe as well as to rewire the switch into the Flare for the wiring to work with the new quick access plate in the top carbon fuselage plate under the top dome. The only additional equipment required to convert an RTF 2014 QU4D fitted with a 3DR Pixhawk flight controller to a Flare from the Flare airframe kit is the I2C to micro usb port cable and the I2C to Status LED cable.

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After getting the Flare set up and ready to fly I did a couple of test flights to get feel for the Flare and make sure everything was working as it should. I then had the opportunity to field test the Flare on an real world mission. I was invited to test out the aerial video capture capabilities of the Flare for a Trail Running/Mountain biking event at Eight Bells Mountain Inn in the the Western Cape of South Africa, about 30km from where I live. What a beautiful place!

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The Flare performed beautifully overall and I managed to get a few good shots with a GoPro4 Silver mounted to it (in a GoPro3 skeleton casing as I was using the lighter GoPro4 waterproof housing for other purposes at the time). See the video above. The system is slightly heavier than the QU4D, but is noticeably more stable with the longer 12 slow flyer props and slightly more responsive. The added stabilization provided by the new dampened rail mount system was also evident in the footage I took with the Flare.

During the past week I also had the chance to interact with Duran’s drone technicians at their facility. I was very impressed by his young team. Their high level of knowledge/training and enthusiasm is evident in their work and it was great to see them in action.

I am looking forward to many more flight hours with this system and find it to be a very professional (with a lot of fun thrown in) platform with great after sales support from the manufacturer, Steadidrone.

 

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See below the full breakdown of features and specs for the Flare from steadidrone.com :

“The SteadiDrone FLARE is here, a compact rapid deploy quad-copter platform that will fly your GoPro as well as a wide range of small compact cameras, everyday, all day. It will do more than simply inspire.

The FLARE offers a reliable, practical, field repairable drone for hobby and full commercial use, mount the latest GoPro 4 or just about any small compact digital camera, giving you the power to capture the images and quality you need, not limited to a single proprietary camera. A smaller version of it’s bigger brother, the MAVRIK, the FLARE shares many of the same high quality parts and features in a smaller more compact system.

From our well known ‘Rapid Deploy’ folding air frame design, a new airframe hatch that allows access the electronics quick and easy without the need for any tools. A high strength impact resistant top dome that not only looks great, it includes flight controller LED and USB access without needing to remove the dome! These features and many more make the FLARE a revolution in drone design and offers an aerial platform you can take out everyday and use with confidence, whether it be a commercial job or shooting ultra smooth video, aerial mapping or search and rescue, the FLARE will do it all and more.

FLARE Key Features include
• Highest quality carbon fiber and aluminium constructed ‘Rapid Deploy’ folding airframe
• Fully adjustable rail supported brushless gimbal system powered by 32-bit AlexMos
• Gimbal supports wide range of cameras and is fully adjustable
• 180 Degrees + gimbal tilt angle, from facing over 90′ straight down to 90′ straight up, ideal for inspection work
• Adjustable rail supported battery bay for mounting difference size batteries, on top or bottom
• High strength impact resistant top dome cover with integrated LED, Safety Switch and USB interface
• Removable airframe hatch for easy access to all electronics with no tools required!
• Quick release landing gear legs with clip on holder that setup in seconds, again no tools needed
• Vibration damping rail system that can be setup for different camera/payload weights
• Vibration damping motor mount system for high frequency motor vibration reduction
• Airframe side panel enclosures ensure electronics are protected and hidden
• X8 Setup supported with motor mounts and cut outs for ESC’s
Advanced GPS Features
• 3DR Pixhawk GPS Flight controller with advanced GPS Features
• ‘Follow Me’ Have the FLARE follow you or your subject around
• ‘Loiter’ Accurate GPS position and altitude hold modes keep your drone where you want it
• ‘Return to Home’ With a flip of the switch have the drone return home and land autonomously
• Advanced Way-point navigation, mission planning and more!
What you get with the SteadiDrone FLARE Ready To Fly
• Ready to fly SteadiDrone FLARE quad-copter
• Integrated rail supported brushless gimbal system powered by 32-bit AlexMos
• 4 x 650Kv 3506 powerful and efficient SteadiDrone brushless motors
• 25A Quattro ESC Motor controller
• 4 x 12” APC SF Props
• Advanced GPS 3DR Pixhawk Flight controller with data telemetry system
• 16Ch FRSKy Taranis 2.4Ghz Advanced digital radio system with telemetry
• 5200mAh 4S SteadiDrone power pack
• AC/DC Battery charger kit
• Landing gear clip on holder
• LiPo alarm checker
• SteadiDrone lanyard, SteadiDrone Flight logbook & SteadiDrone sticker
• SteadiDrone FLARE travel box with custom foam insert and handle to take your FLARE with you anywhere
• Everything you need to take to the skies with the best folding quad-copter on the market!
• SteadiDrone propeller tool and spares
Specifications
• Camera Options – GoPro 2,3,4, wide range of compact digital cameras
• Flight Endurance – up to 20min
• Max Additional Payload – Gimbal 250g / Drone 800g
• Weight (Excluding battery & payload) – 1.7kg RTF
• Weight (Including battery & payload) – 2.2kg RTF
• Max AUW – 3020g
• Dimensions open (L x W x H) : 475 x 644 x 207mm
• Dimensions folded (L x W x H) : 482 x 219 x 115mm
• Diagonal length : 677mm
• Weight Airframe : 970g

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Build Quality
10
Ease of Use
8
Ruggedness
8
Autopilot functionality
8
Customer support
10
General
8
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Tiaan Roux
CIO, sUAS News | "My interest in UAS began in 2006 in the Masai Mara, Kenya where I was working as a bush pilot and met Gary Mortimer. I have always loved computers, maps, aerial photos and any kind of flying thing so the UAS addiction quickly took hold. Since then my interest in these technologies has grown from just an interest to building and flying small UAS as well as getting involved with sUAS News."