Hubsan H501s Review – Budget Selfie Drone

Hubsan H105s selfie droneThe Hubsan H501s is a feature-rich camera drone with the increasingly popular “selfie mode”.

Its a very portable quadcopter that can easily fit in a bag. It’s surprising how a quadcopter so portable can have so many features.

GPS, altitude mode, and powerful brushless motors are just some of the things that make this quadcopter a step up from others in its price range. Today we’ll be taking a look at all of these things in further detail, as well as my thoughts on whether or not you should buy the H501s.

Flight Preparation: How to Calibrate the Compass

Since this is a GPS quadcopter, it needs to be calibrated in order to find and connect to the GPS satellite signals.

You’ll need to calibrate the compass every time you power on the drone, but luckily this is a quick and easy process:

  1. Turn on the transmitter.
  2. Plug the battery into the quadcopter and close the battery bay. The LEDs will begin to flash red.
  3. Pick the quadcopter up, hold it parallel to the ground in front of you with your arms extended.
  4. Do two full clockwise 360° turns until the lights begin flashing green.
  5. Hold the quadcopter in front of you vertically (the front of the quadcopter facing straight up) and do two full 360° turns until the LED lights turn off completely.

This may seem like a bit of a chore and may even be embarrassing to do in public at first, I know I sure was! But when you get the hang of it, calibration should take no more than 1 minute when done properly.

My First Flight in GPS Mode & Initial Impressions

Once calibration is complete, this is when the real fun begins. Getting to fly this bad boy for the first time!

I pushed the transmitter’s sticks down and outward to arm the quadcopter’s motors. With a slight upward push on the throttle, boom! We were in the air!

I was immediately surprised at the stability of this quadcopter when flying in GPS mode. For its price it almost stands up to the DJI Phantom series in terms of stability, although the H501s gets pushed around in wind much easier.

I began to give it a gentle flight, as I always do for a drone’s first run and it handled it like a boss. It feels very precise and smooth in the air. Perfect for taking smooth panoramic shots with the included camera. I’ll talk more about it later.

The one downside I have to mention about this drone is that while flying forward, specifically in GPS mode, it tends to slightly drop altitude. This isn’t the case in altitude hold mode so it seems to be more of a software issue than an issue with the motors or something hardware-related. Either way, it’s really not that big of a deal. For this price, it’s honestly shocking how stable it actually is.

Altitude Hold Mode and Increased Speed

Aside from GPS mode, there is also an altitude hold mode which doesn’t require any satellite signals to function. In this mode, the quadcopter flies much faster and sportier. I believe they restrict the speed in GPS mode so that it maintains it’s position better. But in altitude hold mode, this speed restriction is removed and the H501s becomes quite fun to fly, even though it’s main intention isn’t that of a sporty quadcopter.

Either way, I think they did a great job with the flight modes and performance of this quadcopter. Both are extremely stable and perfect for using the built-in camera and are well-suited for this quadcopter.

Camera

The included camera is a 1080p HD camera – built right into the quadcopter! It is right in the front, built into the frame.

It is angled downward slightly and is not adjustable, which is a shame. I love when camera quadcopters have the ability to adjust the camera’s angle.

Nonetheless, the camera shoots pretty decent 1080p HD video. Since the camera is built right into the frame, there is a bit of wobble that shows up in the recorded video, mainly from the propeller’s vibrations. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this quadcopter to anyone who is looking to take high-quality videos for a serious project, but for those looking to mess around or take selfies, it’s perfectly fine.

Hubsan H501s - what's in the box?

“Follow me mode” AKA Selfie Mode

Ahh, one of the most anticipated features of this quadcopter. Follow me mode (sometimes referred to as selfie mode).

First and foremost, you must be in GPS mode to use follow me mode. You also need a solid and stable satellite connection or it won’t function properly, if at all. When activating this mode, the transmitter sends signals back and forth with the quadcopter. The quadcopter then uses the transmitter’s location, angles itself towards it, and follows it from a distance.

Unfortunately, there are a few flaws with this mode. For one, I’ve found the downward angle of the quadcopter’s camera to sometimes aim below the desired target. This can be alleviated slightly by flying higher above, or closer to the target.

Secondly, I’ve found that sometimes the target drifts around the frame, meaning it doesn’t always stay in the center. Sometimes the target will drift to the border or edge of the screen. This mainly occurs when flying at a distance, so fly closer if you’re just looking to take a regular, plain-old selfie. If you’re looking for more panoramic and cinematic shots, I’d suggest flying the quadcopter manually instead. You’ll be able to get much more stable shots and have much more control over the overall outcome.

Hubsan H501s transmitterTransmitter & Customization

One thing that Hubsan often does well is transmitters and the H501s transmitter is no exception.

It has a nice, textured feel across the entire controller, with rubbery grips on the side which help fit it comfortably in your hand.

It has multiple switches and functions, some of which may be a bit confusing at first, so I suggest labeling them with a small piece of masking tape.

  • The switch on the top left switches between GPS and Altitude Hold modes.
  • The switch on the top right activates return to home.
  • Below those are buttons for capturing photos and videos on the left and right, respectively.
  • Pushing down on the throttle/yaw stick enters headless mode.
  • Pushing down on the right control stick enters follow me mode (must be in GPS mode for this to work).

Another nice feature of the H501s transmitter is its customization. By holding the throttle stick all the way down and to the right, while simultaneously pushing in the control stick allows you to enter the transmitter’s menus and access additional settings, such as stick sensitivity.

I’ve found the sticks to feel cheap and plasticky, but bumping up their rates just a tad bit does help a bit with it’s feeling of responsiveness. They are also centered for the altitude hold function.

On the right side of the transmitter, you’ll find an SD card and USB slot. These are used to update the firmware of the transmitter, but I haven’t seen any available yet, and I’m not sure if Hubsan is ever planning on releasing any to the public. Either way, it’s a cool feature, and hopefully, they’ll be able to release a patch in case something with the transmitter ever goes horribly wrong.

Lastly, on the left side of the transmitter, there are two ports which you can plug Hubsan FPV goggles into if you own them.

Built in FPV Display & Telemetry Information

In addition to all of these functions, the transmitter also has a whopping 4.3″ display! Okay, maybe whopping isn’t the best word to describe a screen smaller than most smart phones…

But still! The fact that the transmitter has a built-in display is a huge plus.

It does have it’s downsides, lack of brightness being one of them. There are no brightness options either, so you’re stuck with it the way it is. I have had problems seeing this display on extremely sunny days where the sun’s glare is reflecting off the screen. Even a sun visor would have helped remedy this problem, but there isn’t one included. It may be possible to make a custom one, in-fact, I’ll look into that.

Anyways, the FPV display uses telemetry to communicate with the quadcopter and display information about it, such as:

  • GPS Signal (# of satellites connected)
  • Battery levels (of both transmitter and quadcopter)
  • Altitude
  • Velocity
  • Distance

Ultra-Bright LEDs

The LEDs of a quadcopter are something that are less important on camera and FPV quadcopters, but the Hubsan H501s has amazing LEDs so I thought they were worth mentioning.

The LEDs come in the form of large pods, shining through each of the four landing legs, right underneath the motors. They are very visible, even during the day. They also make line-of-sight flights at night time possible.

The front lights are white and the back two lights change color, depending on which mode you’re currently in. These colors are as follows:

  • Green flashing = GPS Mode
  • Yellow = Altitude Hold Mode
  • Red = Low Battery

When the red lights are shown, it means the battery is low and the quadcopter will automatically return to home. This is also the case when flying out of range.

Who Should Buy The Hubsan H501s?

Overall, the Hubsan H501s is a great camera drone for the price. It’s relatively cheap considering all of the features you get and can be considered a very low-end version of the more expensive camera quadcopters on the market.

The one major downside of this quadcopter is it’s camera. It films decent 1080p HD videos, but it records footage with a slight wobble and unusable for any serious videography project. If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to look into something like a DJI Phantom instead. But if you’re just looking to get your feet wet with camera quadcopters, or just want something to play around with, I’d say this is an excellent choice.


We hope this Hubsan 501s review was helpful. We’d love to hear your input on this model. Does it’s selfie mode justify the cost? Would you rather spend a little bit more for a Phantom 3 Standard? Let us know in the comments below!

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