The Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 3.0 started life in 2015 as an Indiegogo campaign that raised over 3000% of their funding goal. In the campaign, they promised a small, modular smart drone for everybody that streams HD footage to phones. They said it would be packed with features like sensor-assisted flying, wind-correction algorithms, a gimbal-mounted HD camera, and more. Does it live up to the hype?
We recently got our hands on the Micro Drone 3.0 and took it for a few laps around the park and were impressed with some of the features, and a little less impressed with others. But first, let’s start at the beginning:
Extreme Fliers nailed the packaging of the Micro Drone 3.0. Every part comes in its own well-made box, and it feels like a very well put together product. A bit of assembly is required to put on the blade guards, but the instructions are quite clear in explaining most everything. Not bad for a small UK-based company.
The drone itself is pretty simple. It measures 6.5″ from rotor to rotor and weighs in at about two and a half ounces when you attach the camera. The shell is a simple black dome, not very fancy looking… which is probably on purpose. This drone was designed to have interchangeable and 3D-printed shells that turn it into cool things like a flying dragon.
The 550 mAh battery is removable and is large enough for an eight-minute flight without a camera and a five-minute flight with a camera. Having a removable battery on a small drone is nice because it lets you swap out battery packs and extend your flying time without having to charge the whole drone for a couple hours.
On the bottom of the battery pack are three magnetic mounting points. This is where the 720p camera can be mounted. Mounting the camera is super simple — it magnetically snaps into place on the battery firmly. The camera comes with a microSD card slot for recording, but it can also connect to a mobile device using a Wi-Fi connection to stream video.
On the upside, you can mount the camera forward or backward, depending on what you are shooting. It also takes remarkably clear video for such a small camera. Although the video is not stabilized, the auto-leveling feature on the drone means it does a decent job anyway. There is some shimmering and shaking from the rotors — nothing professional quality by far, but very “good-enough” for a hobbyist. The gimbal mount should help, but Extreme Fliers doesn’t have it ready quite yet. The camera has a ratchet system to angle the camera from straight ahead to straight down, depending on your desired angle of filming. This cannot be adjusted while in flight, though.
The downside to this design means that if you crash, the camera can pop off, and you might spend much of your time trying to find the wayward camera module in the tall grass. Also it often requires restarting the whole drone and Wi-Fi connection process to get it to reconnect.
The controller is a big box with an LED display and plenty of buttons and toggle switches to make you feel like you are a real flight jockey. It is lightweight but feels a bit low quality. The best part of the controller is that it gives the drone a reported range of 500 feet, which is quite a lot more than most drones of this size. This means you can take it up high in the air, if you dare, and get some sweet aerial photos.
A smartphone mount slides into place on top of the controller so you can see what the drone is filming as you fly with the controller. Alternatively, you can fly the drone from your smartphone directly if you want. However, we prefer the tactile feel of switches, buttons, and toggles when flying.
There are some Wi-Fi connection issues that do make it a bit frustrating to use. If you crash the drone, the battery can come loose and you, obviously, lose connection to it. Additionally, getting it connected in the first place can be a bit finicky as it likes to connect, disconnect, and then reconnect a while later. This is mentioned specifically in the manual, and they say they are working on it.
Flying the Micro Drone 3.0
The little Micro Drone is quite zippy, agile, and responsive. It is fun to fly and pretty stable as well. It has a neat auto-leveling feature that tells the drone which way is up. This means you can hurl it in the air and take off, or take off from uneven surfaces and not have to worry.
The drone has 3 speeds and maxes out at a reported 45 mph in Insane mode. While we didn’t have a speed gun on hand, it felt like it was flying quite fast! It should be noted that at high speeds, the drone does get difficult to control, and while they reported that it would have “wind correction algorithms that let you fly in winds of up to 45 mph” built in, we found that even the slightest breeze would make the darn thing nearly unflyable.
The one feature the drone is missing the most is an altitude assist feature to help keep it on a steady altitude. We spent much of our time playing with the throttle just to keep the drone at a steady height while moving around. We are by no means professional drone flyers, but it felt quite difficult. At more than $200, you’d hope a feature like this would be built in.
The Micro Drone 3.0 has a few more tricks up its sleeve like inverted flying if you switch out the rotors, although we don’t know why exactly that is useful. It also has the ability to stream to a pair of VR goggles for first person flight mode, making it fun as a low-end racing drone.