At first glance, the Shenzhen Shengtian Bumblebee-C Quadcopter could easily pass for a SciFi channel-worthy mosquito, but don’t let the futuristic black metal insect fool you: this craft means business and investing in a kit—whether for your own selfish reasons or to share with kids or buddies—can bring you hours of pleasure because you won’t have to revert to cursing and ranting to put this nimble hobby craft together.
- Weight:2 lbs
- Dimensions (L x W x H): 21in x 21in x 12in
- Flight Speed: —
- Flight Time: 9 minutes (depending on battery)
- Experience Level: Advanced
- Flight Controller: Transmitter (not included)
Will it fulfill all of your ambitions and goals? Depends on what you have in mind, but one thing’s for sure: it’s complex enough to keep your mind engaged, but enterprising enough to trigger nudges of envy from other hobbyists once they glimpse you putting your new quad on terra firma for its maiden voyage. They might not say so, but the looks you can expect are wishes that they had their own Bumblebee. Here’s why:
While it doesn’t come assembled like the other quadcopters on the market, I found building it was half the fun. The Bumblebee is affordable, compact, comes with a nice pedigree and it doesn’t require a degree in engineering to construct the unit so you get it off the ground fast. Attach screws where indicated and the frame fits together fairly quickly so you likely won’t be complaining about doing a lot of tinkering just to get it ready to fly. An instruction manual comes with the kit, just in case your instincts aren’t as refined as your desire to get the bird operational.
It Looks Cool
Admit it: part of the reason you want this kit has to do with the looks you are sure to get when you show up at staging areas with your 550 in tow and set it on the ground. Space-age sleek and compact, it’s made of strong, genuine carbon fibre and durable plastic, so even if your first foray into the biosphere is a few thousand miles short of your ultimate ambition, you can land it fairly precisely if you’ve had experience at controls in the past and know what you’re doing. Arms and landing skids fold down for travel so there are no appendages hanging out when you transport your Bumblebee from place to place. The quad weighs 950 grams (without the battery), so it’s aerodynamically ready to soar once you take the controls.
Who doesn’t like a drone that winks, blinks and acts like a smarty pants? The units multi-rotor control board is sleek and the lighting is snappy. Wires, circuits and other hardware are neatly tucked away within the Bumblebee’s fuselage, so if you’re a stickler for industrial design and like things tidy and obscured, all you see when you look at the quad is the stylish dome.
An ideal drone for beginners? Probably not; but only because the center of gravity on this particular model is sensitive and until you get the hang of undertaking landings, you might wish to start your adventure into drone operation with a beefier quad model that can survive being flipped and crashed until you earn your piloting wings and credentials. The Bumblebee has been called a favorite by accomplished hobbyists for a reason: it’s purposefully light and compact so it performs optimally while in the air, therefore, it’s not necessarily a good first-time kit for someone who can get their heart broken rather easily. Further, skid grips can buckle if you don’t have the skills pros acquire once they’ve mastered the art of landings.
The one downside about this quadcopter is that it doesn’t come with a camera. However, the tall skids provide plenty of clearance room if mounting a camera is another of your goals and you long to capture aerial footage from your seat on the ground. Add a custom gimbal mount to your basket of extras to earn some photography cred. Speed control is a particularly valuable feature once you’ve got the hang of handling and maneuvering the unit for photography purposes.
Check out this video made by a fellow Bumblebee 550 flyer.
One great features of the Bumblebee 550 is that it’s easily upgradable unlike the DJI Phantom 2 Vision or the Parrot AR Drone 2.0. Accidents happen, but that doesn’t mean your Bumblebee 550 is inevitably headed for the graveyard of unmanned hobby aircraft just because it puts down in a place or on terrain that’s less than hospitable. Spares and repairs are the name of the game, and if you think about it, a little misfortune can be a great learning experience, so the price of the inexpensive supplies necessary to turn your drone back to its former pristine shape won’t break your hobby budget. That stated, you should know upfront that Bumblebee owners have complained about the long wait to get spare parts and enhancements because they come from overseas. If that’s okay with you, you may want to upgrade from the get-go, replacing propellers with more advanced capacity and you might also want to consider replacement skids if you hanker for more stability when you land your craft.
The beauty of the Bumblebee is that it’s the savvy operator’s affordable drone and comes with customization options that most neophytes aren’t ready for anyway: GPS, camera swivel capability and brushless out-runner motors controlling the power system. It helps to have some previous knowledge of the workings of model aircraft like the 550 because if you modify or repair it, you will have to completely disassemble this craft to get to the heart of the drone’s inner workings. Many hobbyists don’t mind tinkering around to this extent because they like the fact that the design hides everything. This quadcopter is for the DIY type of person and definitely not the novice. Because of the work you need to do and the frugalness of the sids, we don’t recommend this quadcopter unless you know what you’re doing already.