Hexo+ Review, Your Self-Flying Camera
Easily create the most amazing aerial footage of yourself, hands-free.
The Hexo+ created a stir when it was successfully launched on Kickstarter in 2015. According to the Kickstarter website there were 2,336 backers for the initial campaign. By the end of 2015, more than a thousand drones have been delivered.
It promises to be easy to fly, assemble, disassemble, and to swap batteries. The designers solved the problem of flight, enabling a camera to capture videos of a moving object or to do slides and pans or orbit around the object. The developers however thought it better not to include a camera.
This is a follow anywhere, programmable flight plan drone with no piloting necessary. The only thing you need to make this fly is the mobile app. For videos, however, you still need to attach a GoPro.
The Hexo+ was built around the idea of an auto-follow. With that in mind, the developers also simplified the flight by removing manual controls. Flying the drone is done with the app, either via pre-programmed auto-follow or by preset maneuvers. When it was first announced on Kickstarter, the Hexo+ was the only drone with an auto-follow capability. Since its release however, a host of new drones have followed suit and incorporated auto-follow, as well as manual flight.
Actually, the Hexo+ can be flown with a remote control. However, you would have to buy a third-party RC to fly it manually. Doing so would also void the warranty.
With six rotors (hence the name Hexa+), it can still continue flying even if an engine dies. Considering that it does not have any obstacle avoidance capability, the user would do well to keep it away from trees. It can fly for up to 15 minutes, although it would give a low battery warning after 9 or 10 minutes of flight.
The battery charges fast. It can be fully charged in less than an hour. The battery pack is also designed to be quickly swapped. Which is all and good, considering that you can only get up to 15 minutes of flight, and up to 18 minutes of hovering in place.
The Hexo+ can stay as far away as 300 meters without losing contact with the smartphone. However, this figure is dependent on the smartphone’s signal strength. The plane can fly at up to 45 mph. If it loses signal, for whatever reason, it lands on its own.
The body is made of sturdy plastic. The legs can be easily assembled. This makes it even more portable when you need to carry it. It also solves any problems when it crashes onto a tree or a rock and the landing gear is damaged. Replacing the broken part is quick and easy.
The GoPro camera is attached to a gimbal located at the bottom of the body. You would need to strap the camera to the gimbal with the use of a builtin velcro strip. Users might be concerned at losing the camera because of this. Setting aside the velcro, the gimbal works fine and helps to keep the video steady.
The Hexo+ does not have any hardware upgrades. There is however a planned software upgrade which will allow linking the flight patterns together. Currently, you would have to write the patterns on the app on your own.
The preflight check and self-diagnosis is where most of the problems on the Hexo+ occurs. All the sensors have to first pass before it gets to fly. However, since the preflight checking is done on its own, it has to reset everytime a test fails. It also conducts compass self-calibration while in flight. The drone may appear like it was lost and trying to find itself. This is not a regular occurrence, but it can be an issue if it does not fly because it got caught in the calibrations.
Initializing the app may not be that easy. However, once the drone is paired, it is very easy to fly it. There are patterns that the user chooses. This can include orbiting around a specific spot, or follow the user, as well as other preset patterns. Swiping the smartphone launches the preset flight pattern.
The drone follows the user in a variety of ways. It can slide in or out, follow at a specific distance and angle from the user, hover close or far, or orbit the user. These patterns use Hexo’s proprietary predictive tracking algorithms to ensure that the drone follows correctly.
Those who want to experiment with the different patterns would soon find out that there are a lot more ways to creatively do a shot. The user can learn all the basic tricks in no time. If the patterns are not to their liking, custom patterns can also be created. This is almost as easy as tracing the pattern across the face of the smartphone.
Due to its lack of manual controls, a lot of fail-safe are builtin to the drone. These are predicated on possible worst-case scenarios.
Overall, this is an innovative way to view yourself while you bike or ski, or otherwise do any action shots. The pans, slides and follows are innovative and easy to learn. This drone was designed to shadow the person or to set video paths beforehand. However, the price of the drone without a camera makes this one of the more expensive drones. At the combined price of a Hexo+ and a GoPro, you would be better off buying other drone brands with the same capabilities.
Then again, the real selling point of the Hexo+ is the easy learning curve in taking videos. It is so easy and anyone can make great video shots on the first try.