WL Toys are well known for their line of Quadcopters, namely the v929, v939, v949 and v202. Each of these quads have different styles and flight characteristics, allowing the prospective buyer to choose based on their intended use and flying style. The V959 model follows along with this theme and is designed and tuned to carry a on-board camera or other more toy-like accessories (bubble maker, hoist, foam missiles).
Appeal to users:
Advanced Beginners who wish to experiment in simple aerial video
Type of Quad: Consumer / Hobbyist
Cost: < $100 with camera, shipping and basic spares
This review is of a WL Toys V959 with Camera in Mode 2 (left throttle), purchased and set up by MassiveRC. It should be noted that we at Droneflyers purchase our products at retail and have been given no money nor favor for reviewing or buying any of our quadcopters. However, the vendors we choose are usually US based (because we are!) and also pretest/check the products after arrival from overseas. This takes one level of possible disappointment (DOA) out of the picture!
The V959 weighs in at approx. 97 grams with the stock 500 mah battery and slightly over 98 grams with a more powerful turnigy 600 mah power source (NE106118 600 mAh 1S 35-70c). This includes the camera, landing gear and microSD card – in other words, ready to fly!
Let's start with the basics. The V959 is a “mini” quad, meaning it is of the same approx size of many similar machines in the marketplace. It is gear driven in a similar fashion to the Syma X1 and other 9×9 models and measures approx. 9 inches (23 cm) from prop center to prop center parellel to the cross arms. As a size comparison, see the photo showing it next to the Syma X1 and the Hubsan X4.
In terms of value, we see yet another amazing amount of Bang for the Buck. The stock package retails in the $80 range, which includes the camera, battery, microSD card and everything you need to get started in the hobby of aerial video!
The stock (w/cam) package contains:
Quadcopter x 1 w 640×480 resolution 60 fps cam mounted
Li-Polymer Battery 500 mah x 1
2.4GHz Transmitter x 1 (requires 6 AA batteries – NOT included)
AC Charger (takes 1+ hours to fully charge battery)
Spare Propellers x 1 Set
2G Micro SD Card x 1
USB Card Reader x 1
At the minimum, you should purchase an additional battery with your new V959. Those who want to be fully prepared will also have one of each motor in the kit, as well as perhaps a set of gears, shafts and bearings. The V959 is quite a hardy machine and no single crash is likely to have you grounded – still, there will come a time when spart parts and repairs are needed. A diagram of the parts as well as their numbers and descriptions is below.
The ability to take videos with a stock camera is probably the single biggest reason that consumers would buy this quad, so it's worth taking a short look at the included camera. The camera along with it's mount and microSD card weight about 10 grams, which is quite a bit lighter than the famous Keychain cams. It slides into place from the rear of the aircraft and is removed in a similar fashion. The lens is hinged so that it can point anywhere from about straight (level) with the quadcopter to 45 degrees down, a feature which also provides an advantage over the Keychain Cams. The V959 Camera is powered by the quadcopter battery and the included 2G microSD card should hold about 18 minutes total. A USB stick included in the package will transfer the (.avi) video files to your computer.
Due to price and design constraints, the camera is low resolution – just 640×480, but provides 60 frames per second (60 fps), which seems to help stabilize the videos somewhat.
The camera can take still pics or videos, depending on which function button (on the Transmitter) you press. On my (US) copy, the operation is as follows:
1. Camera is powered up (steady green LED on bottom).
2. Record Video – Press the button on the top left of TX – to the left of the antenna on the top surface. The LED will blink red as it continues to record. Hit button again to stop recording.
3. Record Picture – note – these are of low quality! The second function button on my TX is at the lowest silver button on the right hand side of the LCD screen. Pressing it once will take a series of three (3) quick snapshots. The LED will blink red and then turn back to green.
Note that when any of these buttons are pressed, a small “function” message will appear on the lower right of the TX LCD. See TX layout pic for the exact location of the video and snapshot buttons.
Operation of the V959 Quadcopter
WL Toys designed this quad to be a relatively stable, which makes it easy to learn and fly. Our usual advice is to start with a quadcopter that you don't mind wrecking, however a newbie could make this model work as their first quad. In that case, we would suggest removal of the camera accessory until the user becomes confident and familiar with the quadcopter flight characteristics. It would also be to the beginners advantage to start their lessons outdoors in an open space with very low winds and a soft surface. This will give your drone a fighting chance on making it to the 2nd stage when you are ready to take your videos!
This review will not go into the basics of quadcopter flight – see our other articles as well as other sources on the web for more detail on typical transmitter operation. The V959 uses a typical mode 2 (left throttle) arrangement in which the left stick provides the speed of the props (lift) and also spins the quad on it's axis (yaw), while the right stick provides pitch – that is, leaning the quad forward, backwards or sideways – which usually makes it fly that way!
The buttons on the transmitter perform various functions, some for the camera (outlined above) and others relating to the quadcopter flight characteristics. Most important for this review are the buttons next to the 40,60,80 and 100% depictions on the LCD. These settings determine the aggressiveness of the controls, so beginners should start with the settings in their lowest and only step up if and when they need to (heavier wind, acrobatics, faster forward speed, etc.). Since this is a video platform, the lowest settings are likely to mean that your final products will not give the audience motion sickness! Only the more daring operator will venture to use the “flip” button and 100% – such use cries out for using a different model of quad.
As with most similar quads, the 959 is initialized by inserting and hooking up the battery, placing it on a level surface (this allows the gyro to set) and then turning on the TX until the unit binds with it. Below is a video showing the first flight of this quad – with some footage in the middle of the video from the on-board camera. It's still winter here in New England so we will be adding additional videos with better daylight and/or indoors so you can get a better idea of the on-board camera capabilities.
The weather cleared up a bit, so here is a video which better shows the camera capabilities.
Repairability, Parts and Modification
The WL Toys engineers did a fine job on the development of the circuit board and wiring, using plugs instead of direct soldering. This makes replacement of motors or other items easier. Parts are easy to find for WL Toys models, as many of these have been sold – and many of the parts are interchangeable with their other models. US Sources are available, which is a big plus for N. American flyers. Given the price as well as other restraints, we admire the way this quad has been designed and built. With proper care, the end user is likely to be able to keep this quad flying for a long time.
The WL Toys V959 is a “purpose built” quad based on a well tested platform. It provides a low cost entry into the world of aerial video. While we have rated it Advanced Beginners, it might suit a total beginner (noob, newbie) if they removed the camera and learned the basic operation outside in calm winds or inside in a very large area. This quad is not fun for sport flying due to heavier weight imposed by camera and poor stability in wind. Even the Syma X1 will provide more thrills and flips.
The V959 is quite stable and tame, which is best for video – and the percentage settings on the transmitter allow for more aggressive moves – but beware, the resulting videos are likely to give you and your audience motion sickness. The secret to good quad video is for the craft to stay as still as possible and for all movements to be slow.
The V959, in our opinion, is better than fitting the keychain cams on most small beginner quadcopters. The range seems longer than some others (Syma X1) – although I have not measured this exactly, I flew at least 150 feet away and returned with no problems.
More advanced quadcopter users will have no need for this quadcopter, as they likely have better platforms for flying cameras.
Discuss and add to this review and the V959 Knowledge base
Our new forums include a discussion thread for each of our reviews – a place where we and YOU can add hints and tips and corrections, plus our experiences with this model. The V959 discussion thread is here.
Here is an Amazon link for the v959 (USA Ship):
Note – the v222 is the newer version of this quadcopter with 6-Axis stability, meaning that it will be easier to fly! Here is a link for purchase – this is shipped from China by a well known vendor who ships worldwide.