Emax Nighthawk Pro 280

Another Friday another review. Adam from GearBest did us proud again. A conversation about the FPV racing trend and what they would be doing about it running up to Christmas made him kindly send on a Nighthawk Pro 280 ARTF.

If you have no idea what the FPV racing scene is about watch this first.

Right now you are up to speed lets proceed.

I think the popularity of this size of craft and developments in battery and motor technology that its spurring are going to filter through to the serious RPA world soon. On a single battery I can very easily fly around a fairly large building and inspect its roof and gutters in real time.. The craft are small, easy to carry and lower weight than others out there. They are just practical. Be ready for folks to start, ” inventing ” a new convenient type of small multirotor the like of which has never been seem before.

To date not many have fitted full autopilots to this size, 250 to 280mm frame and used them for work. This will change.

If readings not your thing, my video review of the Nighthawk


I am very impressed with it. The build quality is very high, little details like covered cables, cable ties and waterproof layers. All in all a tidy package. The ARTF comes in just shy of $200 at $196 and a ready to fly version with its own transmitter $258

Lets start at the front, a fairly standard 1/3-inch 700 line CMOS camera is just protected by the frame, behind that all the room in the world to place your receiver

nighthawkpromain boardThe control board, a Naze based Skyline32 is bolted to bottom of the main frame and covered in that mentioned waterproof layer which is a good thing as its going to be sat in wet grass quite often. Built into the same board 4 12Amp BLHeli One shot speed controllers.

Should anything on this board fail you are going to have to replace and setup a new board. Currently GearBest have the boards for $62

There is an excellent setup video from HPI Guy and that’s what I followed to setup my ARTF. I will put it at the bottom of the page. Mine is standard, a baseflight setup, the unit can also be configured with cleanflight.

On the end of carbon/fiberglass sandwich arms sit EMAX 2204 2300 kV motors and 6045 propellers a pair of

emaxmotorthese motors goes for $16. I really can’t tell what the props are made of its plastic for sure but they seem tough.

I actually made a schoolboy error whilst test flying, I didn’t tidy away the balance plug and on one particular take off leaped into the air with a shudder and thought I had clipped grass only on landing did I notice the plug had been chopped off by a prop.

Once you are comfortable flying your Nighthawk you can add the supplies 10 degree motor tilt mounts. These allow you to fly faster forward without tilting the camera. I have not fitted them yet because where I live at altitude I am worried about the weight penalty.

Your receiver on the ARTF is plugged into a connector on the flight controller using a provided cable. Its then a matter of following the setup video and connecting your Nighthawk to a computer via USB using a setup page in the chrome browser.

First time I have used such a thing in anger, quite amazing where things have gone.

Your flight battery sits on top and is held down by velcro and a strap. Now my main point of concern….

An XT-60 female connector is soldered onto the main board and makes its way through a gap to the top. I can’t tell if there is something sticking out under the main body plate that stops the connector moving vertically  when connecting and disconnecting. Lets hope there is, because otherwise there is going to be lots of movement in those solder joints and that’s not good. The connector is snug in its hole, it can’t move left to right forward and back.

On the subject of batteries,I was hoping to use some HobbyKing 2200 3S jobs but they have not arrived, instead I nicked my sons Nanotech 1500 35/70C. I have flown 52 times and at a battery cost of $14 thats .26 cents a flight.

Why do I mention this well all too often I see folks complain that their over charged over used batteries just give way I think its important to keep the cost per flight in mind. It does not seem so bad when you divide it up.

I set my TX transmitter countdown timer to 5 minutes and don’t fly past that. For 5 minutes of flight time I averaged 1000 maH used. Remember I do live at 5000′ though.

I owe my son a new 1.5.

Right behind the XT power connector sits the 5.8Ghz video TX its switchable between 20 and 200mW and is fitted with a supplied right hand polarized clover leaf antenna. In ground tests the video signal has been good for 500m. I do mount my receiver antennas on a mast though which makes a big difference. One addition that would have been a nice to have would have been a build in OSD.

At the back for those star wars speeder forest races an LED bar that’s jolly bright. But I have never used in anger. In fact to save weight I might remove this passenger.

Both the LED bar and FPV tx can be switched off using switches mounted to the main board.

Its time now to race tune the machine and see if I can keep up with the young folks. When next I am at a commercial expo and am being sold the latest multi thousand dollar small system I shall know the heritage of some of the parts.

Here’s the setup video from ThatHPIguy

Specs from Emax

Main Features:

Independent designed solid, durable and stable frame, centroid and center of gravity are same even battery installed.

Prebuilt frame and extra accessories, built with powerful EMAX power system and open source flight controller to ensure power and customizable (RTF model can fly after battery and propellers installed).

Bright COB rear LED, different LED color can be used to distinguish copters when group flying (LED power consumption is 4W, which might decrease flying times).

All in one design to combine ESC, BEC, and flight controller for easy installation and easy replacement. Plug and play motor, easy for swapping motor and no soldering needed.
Independent. Independent ESC and flight controller and power supply. ESC switch to perform single ESC calibration and boot pad to perform software and firmware upgrade.

Flight controller use 32bit ARM micro processor, fast process speed to ensure fast respond.

Gyroscope, magnetometer, and accelerometer and barometer expansion port. With CPPM receiver GPS feature can be enable(GPS module sold separately).

Support ANGLE, HORIZON, HEADFREE, MAG, HEADADJ etc modes.
Support RC Input: Standard signal, CPPM (PPM SUM) signal, PWM singal.
Low voltage monitoring and low voltage warning(Buzzer sold separately).
Use EMAX 12A ESC, support open source BLHeli and ONESHOT feature. Flight controller is based on NAZE32 Skyline32, support open source configurator Baseflight and Cleanflight.
Extra power output and power output switch for LED expansion.

Specifications:
Wheelbase: 280mm
Frame Size: 252mm x 260mm x 75mm
Motor: MT2204(Customization Version)
ESC: BLheli 12A 4in1(Integrate on board)
Propeller: 6045
Flight controller: Skyline32(Integrate on board)
FPV transmitter: 20MW/200MW
Antenna: 5.8G Clover 3 Blade Antenna Straight Connector
FPV Camera: 1/3-inch CMOS
Battery: 3S, 1500-2200mAH 30C (not included)