The Walkera Scout X4 quad broke new ground for the Chinese company. It is a product that fits nicely into the gap between the hobbyist and the true professional user. What’s called the “Prosumer” segment in photography?
|Flying Time:||25 minutes|
|Weight:||3.9 lbs / 1770g|
|Flight Range:||almost 1 mile / 1500m|
|Flight Speed:||32mph / 51kmh|
|Battery Type:||6cell 22.2V 5400mAh Li-Po|
|Controller:||DEVO F12E FPV Transmitter 2.4Ghz / Video at 5.8Ghz|
|Front Camera:||HD1080P @30FPS video (with iLook+)|
|Additional Features:||Waypoint, Follow-me, Return to Home, Orbit|
By Bob Hammell
Slightly bigger and more powerful than the most popular machines on the market, the Walkera Scout X4 isn’t quite as large or expensive as those intended for professional photographers and security personnel, for instance.
The Scout X4’s available power, 13-inch overall width, 2.2-pound flight weight, and features like orbit (circle an object), waypoints (with orbit), retractable landing gear, and the possibility to converted into an octocopter, place it in the center of an under-served market. And at a great price (edit: under $800 in September 2016 – Patrick)
Serious pilots, those making the transition from standard consumer quads to the semi-pro ranks, and pro photographers finally have a choice that can satisfy their unique requirements, at a reasonable price.
Welcome to the Next Generation
Walkera technologists enjoyed a great deal of success with their H500 design. That success translates to a good feel for market demands and a wealth of experience in the process of designing to meet those demands. With the Walkera Scout X4, they’ve pushed their limits to a new level. First-Person View (FPV) allows “riding along” on the Devo F12E controller’s built-in monitor, receiving from either the main camera or an additional pilot’s camera.
The 6S LiPo battery is light and powerful enough at 5400 mA-h to keep the Scout X4 aloft for 25 minutes, even while powering its four powerful 500KV motors. That flight time is rated with the optional 3D camera gimbal and iLook+ camera on board, which is the baseline specification for this quad.
(Edit: in reality flight time will be lower than advertised. Then again, we see that with most manufacturers. Expect between 18 and 22 minutes. That’s what I get when flying the Walkera Scout X4 – Patrick)
The Walkera Scout X4 incorporates Dronecode Arducopter programming. An adaptation of the widely-proven, and enormously popular, open-source Arduino remote-control standard. Based on a subset of the Linux operating system, Arduino devices perform tasks as varied as watering plants, controlling security cameras and remotely operating machinery on factory floors. Dronecode provides an upgrade path to improve the quad’s performance and features, well into the foreseeable future.
A Long List of Walkera Scout X4 Goodies
The Walkera Scout X4 delivers a laundry list of included features and available options:
- The well-respected and field-proven Devo F12E controller has a range of 1500 meters
- it comes with an FPV screen, along with 5.8Ghz video and 2.4Ghz Bluetooth for ground station operation with a smart phone.
- Also included is a screen overlay, serving as a pilot’s aid to keep the aircraft stable and level while filming panoramas.
- This quad has three GPS programmable flight modes: Waypoint missions, Designated Line of Flight and a unique “Follow Me” mode, that enables the drone to track a moving object. This feature offers a private chase camera for boarders, cyclists, and other athletes.
- The Scout X4 includes a smart phone carrier to provide real-time telemetry of flight data. It supports both Android and Apple IOS phones.
- The Automatic Return-to-Home feature prevents uncontrolled “flyaways”.
- The camera gimbal can be remotely raised and lowered, although panning the camera will depend on rotating the drone.
- Walkera included retractable landing gear for the Scout X4, one feature that puts it a step above the competition (read DJI Phantom 2 and Phantom 3), who charge extra for this feature if it’s offered at all. It removes the landing gear from the camera shot, an important factor for higher-quality filming.
- A compelling design feature is the ability to upgrade from a quadrotor drone to eight rotors, with a kit that runs about 350 US Dollars. This increases the load capability, allowing the Walkera Scout X4 to carry a larger camera such as the Sony RX100 with HDMI interface. Of course, there will be a corresponding reduction in flight time on the standard battery pack but it’s a great feature for those that want even better quality photos and video.
- The Scout X4 provides an interface for a second controller, allowing another operator to control the camera while the main operator
concentrates on the chopper.
- An aluminum case is included to transport the drone.
Pilot Briefing for the Walkera Scout X4
With more weight, larger rotor span and more power on tap than the average consumer quad, the Walkera Scout X4 provides increased stability in crosswinds and better response than other products in this price range. This drone is probably not suitable for Hollywood-quality cinematography, professional sports photography or scientific measurement through a camera, but it’s great for most other filmmakers. Although you’ll have to upgrade it to an octocopter and add another camera for the best results. Professional needs will still require a much more significant investment than low price point offered by the Walkera Scout X4.
For applications like semi-professional action videos, advertising, real-estate property tours and race-course reconnaissance, the Walkera Scout X4 is unmatched. The added power allows quick recovery from bobbles and mistakes, but the quad’s high speeds and heavy weight require some attention to stopping distance when approaching targets at full speed. The X4 takes as much as 30 feet to come to a stop when the sticks are released.
Not Everything is Peaches and Cream
Drone pilots on several forums have voiced complaints concerning the responsiveness of Walkera customer service. The price of the X4, while reasonable for its technology and features, is a considerable jump from the 800-dollar ceiling of some its most popular competitors like the Phantom 2. The Walkera GPS system is starting to show its age, having been developed for the previous generation of quadcopters.
(edit: the price point actually turned out quite nicely now that the quad has been around for a while. It’s comparable to the Phantom 3 Adv/Pro while the Walkera Scout X4 offers more right out the box – Patrick)
More than one pilot has reported an issue with the USB port coming loose from the main board. A serious quality-control issue that should be addressed by Walkera. Some pilots reported that there is a significant lag time between what the drone is doing and what the pilot sees on his screen when using a GoPro for the FPV view . To solve this issue, many Scout X4 users are mounting a separate camera such as the iLook+ to serve as the FPV camera, which takes some of the load off the GoPro and provides better mission video. (edit: I’ve not experienced either of these 2 problems. Maybe I am lucky or, more likely, Walkera addressed this in later production cycles – Patrick)
Given its relatively short time of deployment in the field, the Walkera Scout X4 seems to be performing just about as advertised.
It offers a previously unavailable option for quad pilots who are starting to outgrow the more consumer-oriented drones offered up to now.
The price of a ticket into the big leagues of professional drone pilots can still be quite prohibitive. It easily tops several thousand dollars for top-level equipment. What’s worse, that kind of money is just for a multi-rotor and its support equipment. Professional cameras and sensors yet come separately.
It would seem likely that as market penetration and competition increases, the price of the X4 should begin to drop. It would not be surprising to see a price reduction after the DJI Phantom 3 release.
For this in-between group of semi-pro operators, the Walkera X4 provides an unrivaled alternative. Joining a quadcopter group for tips, tricks and troubleshooting is strongly advised. With everything accounted for, the Scout X4 deserves a 4.5 out of 5 rating, until Walkera brings up the quality and improves customer service.
Walkera Scout X4 experience – Patrick
By now the Walkera Scout X4 has been on the market for quite some time. I got my first Walkera Scout X4 about 1.5 ago. Not only was it my first Walkera Scout X4, it was actually my first quad.
So let’s start with that. When I got the Walkera Scout X4 I really didn’t know anything about flying a drone (which is why I lost it after a while but more about that later). I chose this quad solely because I could upgrade it to an octocopter and add another camera. My main goal at the time was using it for photography and this was the best option on the market, within the range of my budget.
Flying the Walkera Scout X4 was surprisingly easy. I practiced a bit in an open field but in no time at all, I was off flying around. I’d say it’s at least as easy to fly as the Phantom 3 (which I also own). I’m not sure I would recommend this drone for beginners but beginners can certainly fly it.
So why am I not sure I’d recommend it for beginners? As already mentioned, I lost my first Walkera Scout X4. Like most new pilots, flying took a lot of my focus. So much in fact that I forgot to pay proper attention to the battery indication. And as I was flying out over water by the time the battery was almost gone, I never got it home in time. It went for a swim and is still an ornamental object somewhere deep under water.
Obviously, it’s a lot better for your budget to make mistakes like this with a cheaper quad. And that is the reason I probably won’t recommend it to beginners. Flight characteristics have nothing to do with that as those are awesome.
So, I still recommend taking a look at one of the drones for beginners we’ve looked at here.
Walkera Scout X4 vs DJI Phantom 3
Now as some of you are bound to ask, do I recommend it over the Phantom 3? Maybe. I like both.
I prefer the look and feel of the Walkera Scout X4 but I like how the Phantom 3 responds to control inputs. The Walkera Scout X4 is just a bit more sluggish. Then again, I really like the fact that the camera can be upgraded. And I prefer the way the X4 handles when it gets a bit windier. On the other hand, the Phantom has a better GPS system and stays in place a bit better.
Now that I think about it, I do lean slightly more towards the Walkera Scout X4. So yes, I’d recommend it over the Phantom 3. I know most people fly the Walkera Scout X4 with a GoPro. This means some of you are going to bring up “fish-eye”. But this is something that GoPro Studio does a great job of correcting so it’s really not a problem. Especially when you edit your videos in GoPro studio anyway.
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