The EMAX Tinyhawk 3 is a new ready to fly (RTF) FPV drone kit for beginners that has everything you need to fly: a drone, goggles, controller, charger and battery. It’s one of the best RTF kits to date and yet, for most beginners, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are absolutely sure you only want to fly indoors. Here’s why, and what I would recommend instead (updated: August 31, 2022).
If you want to learn how to fly FPV, you’ve probably discovered how complicated it can be. Even just buying a drone has an overwhelming number of choices and it can be bewildering. I know because I’ve been there.
Because buying FPV gear can be very confusing for beginners, it is very tempting to just buy a ready-to-fly (RTF) kit instead. RTF generally means a kit that has everything you need – the drone, the goggles, controller, often the charger and one or two batteries as well. What’s more, they’re usually already paired with each other. It’s as convenient as it gets in this hobby.
The disadvantage of RTF kits is that they often have crappy goggles and controllers, and you quickly outgrow them.
Introducing Tinyhawk 3
The EMAX Tinyhawk 3 is an RTF kit that is designed specifically to address that issue — it includes better goggles and controllers that you won’t outgrow as quickly. The Tinyhawk 3 drone appears to be a decent 1S quad (I don’t have it but I have Tinyhawk 1 and Tinyhawk 2). The specs are similar to the Tinyhawk 2, which was my first FPV quad, but with a sturdier frame, and a canopy that is easier to remove to access its flight controller.
More importantly, the goggles and controller are far better than the ones that are included in typical RTF kits, including EMAX’s own Tinyhawk 2 RTF kit.
The Transporter 2 goggles have a built-in DVR, which lets you record your flights and review them or post them to social media. (Most RTF goggles don’t have a DVR). The LCD display is also removable and can be used as a monitor. In the future, when you buy better goggles (yes, you will), you can let your friends use the LCD monitor to watch your flight in realtime. How cool is that? It even has a standard 1/4-20 tripod hole to let you mount it on a tripod.
The E8 controller is larger and easier to hold, has better gimbals and better build quality. It even comes with a mount for the LCD monitor, which lets you fly your quad the same way as a DJI drone, which may feel more familiar and possibly less claustrophobic for new pilots.
Why I still wouldn’t buy it
There are many reviews of the Tinyhawk 3 and all of the ones I’ve seen are positive. But even though the Tinyhawk 3 RTF is better than most other RTF kits, personally, I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners. Here’s why.
My first FPV quad was the EMAX Tinyhawk 2, and in retrospect, it held back my progress for a very long time. Tinyhawk 2 is a tinywhoop, a palm-sized drone, just like the Tinyhawk 3. With its small size, light weight and prop guards, it seemed like a good and safe drone for beginners, which is why I got one. And it’s cool that I could also fly indoors. But there’s a catch.
The problem with Tinyhawk 2 is that with its 1S power (1S means its batteries have only 1 cell) and tiny props, it is very weak. If there is any breeze, it will struggle. This means that most people wouldn’t fly it in a large space where it could be blown away by the wind and not have enough power to come back. Nor would they want to crash into thick foliage where it could get lost. So I just flew in my backyard and front yard. There, I was never a danger to anyone and I could always recover the drone after it crashed.
But the truth is that a large space will let you learn FPV a lot faster. But I didn’t know that when I started or when people were recommending a tinywhoop to me. So I learned to fly FPV in my backyard, struggling for several months. It was only after I got a larger Beta95X 2.5 inch quad months later and flew in an open field that I started to truly learn to fly. At first, I was intimidated by it because it was much more powerful than my Tinyhawk but it was actually easier to fly. So, although the Tinyhawk 3 may be much better than other RTF kits, IMHO, it is not an easy way to learn FPV.
Another reason not to buy this kit is that the controller can only be used with FrSky D8, which is a common receiver protocol, but in my opinion, is a dead end because of its short range. Frsky D8 (or D16) is so weak that I would sometimes failsafe if I flew from our backyard to our front yard (and we have a small house). It is hard to learn confidently when you are always worried about losing control of your quad. Moreover, Frsky has angered the FPV community by using its popularity to try to prevent its users from using other receivers and radios. If you buy other quads that work with Frsky, you will likely regret it (as I did) and have to change the receivers in the future unless you only want to fly nearby.
If not Frsky then what? Obviously, it would have been unrealistic to expect EMAX to use a high-end receiver protocol like Crossfire in an RTF kit but it would have been much better if EMAX had used the inexpensive but highly regarded ExpressLRS 2.4 or 900 instead of Frsky. Even though the controller can’t be used with other receivers, at least ExpressLRS is an excellent receiver protocol that has a bright future.
What about the goggles? At least those are useful right? Yes and no. The monitor function is kind of useful but the video quality will be terrible. It will have a lot of static and will flicker a lot. That’s just the nature of analog FPV (unless you buy a high end video transmitter or VTX). The only people who would care to watch that kind of video is either the pilot himself or other FPV pilots. If you really want to record video for social media, you need a drone that can carry an external camera like the Insta360 Go 2 or a drone with DJI digital system. The Tinyhawk 3 drone can do neither.
What I would buy instead
If you want to learn FPV here are other choices I would recommend instead:
- EMAX Nanohawk X ($139 with Frsky receiver). This is a 1S quad like the Tinyhawk 3 but it has much larger 3-inch props. It flies amazingly well for 1S and you can even zip tie an Insta360 Go 2 to it (and it would still fly reasonably well). And it is even cheaper than the Tinyhawk 3. The downside is that you’ll need to buy goggles, controller, and charger separately. But it uses XT30 connectors, the same ones used in many other drones, so you’ll be able to use your charger for your other batteries in the future. Note that it doesn’t have prop guards so you shouldn’t fly this near people unless you know what you’re doing. Another issue is that the camera angle is not adjustable and is angled for moderate speed, which may be too fast for beginners, so you’ll either have to get used to the camera pointing up, or you should fly it in a larger space. Tip: the only receiver option for Nanohawk X is FrSky. Instead of buying an FrSky radio like a Taranis QX7 or X-Lite, choose a radio with a multiprotocol module, such as the Jumper T-Pro.
BetaFPV Pavo25 (starting at $349). This is a digital 2.5-inch cinewhoop — an FPV drone designed for shooting cinematic FPV video. This is the new version of the Beta95X v3, which is the quad that really let me learn to fly FPV. It does have prop guards and if you fly it at moderate speeds, it will be durable. As with the Nanohawk X, you’ll need to buy goggles, controller, and charger separately. Alternatively, you can get other 2.5-inch cinewhoops. The GepRC Cinelog25 costs significantly more but has much better tuning. Holybro Kopis 2.5 also flies well but the flight controller is very inconvenient to access if you want to change the receiver or fix anything. iFlight Protek25 is durable and flies well but it’s very loud and not very reliable – mine has developed a problem in one of the motors or possibly the ESC, even though it’s never been in a hard crash.
- DJI FPV Combo ($999). If you want a drone that is incredibly easy and convenient to use, can fly decently, has optional prop guards, and most importantly, has best-in-class goggles that you’ll never need to upgrade from, this is it. Yes it’s pricey but if you consider the cost of the goggles by themselves ($429), the price of the drone, controller, battery, and charger are reasonable. And unlike any of the other FPV drones on the market, this has a panic button feature that will stabilize the drone in the air even if it is upside down (note: it takes a couple of seconds for it to work). It can also be flown in GPS-stabilized mode, like a typical DJI drone (but please don’t stay in that mode or you’ll never learn FPV). The downside is that if you want to fly other FPV drones with the goggles, you can do that but you do need to buy another controller, charger, and batteries (the ones that come with the DJI FPV combo only work with this drone). More info here.
- DJI Avata ($1168 & up). If you want to shoot flythrough videos, the Avata will enable you to do that much more easily than a traditional FPV drone. It can also be flown manually if you want to learn traditional FPV skills. The downside is that it is pretty much incompatible with almost all other FPV drones. The controller works only with the DJI FPV (see above). The new goggles don’t work with other drones yet. The batteries and charger are also unique to the Avata.
- Eachine Novice IV ($419). This is an RTF kit with a 4S 4-inch freestyle quad, decent goggles, controller, charger and batteries. If you want a “real” FPV starter kit, with components that an FPV pilot would actually care to use, this is it. The quad is powerful enough to fly almost anywhere – you’ll never need to buy a bigger quad. The controller is a Radiomaster TX12. It has multiprotocol capability (it has built-in support for other protocols, not just FrSky). More importantly, it can be upgraded with JR module that can be used for best-in-class receiver protocols such as Crossfire or ExpressLRS. I have a similar controller – the Jumper T12 Pro – and it’s one of my two primary controllers.
The EV800DM goggles are ok goggles for analog (I have a pair of the EV800D, which is similar). Sure they are not sexy like a Fatshark, but they do the job and have a large display. If you want to just fly analog, you can fly with them and never need to upgrade them. I just want to caution that if you’re older like me, box goggles like the EV800DM can cause eyestrain because it’s harder for old folks like us to focus on close objects. There are spacers for the EV800D but they don’t work for the EV800DM. If there is a downside to this kit, it’s that you need ample space to fly this powerful quad. A beginner won’t be able to fly it in a small backyard or a small playground. You should have at least a football field size or larger space. And please start with a very low camera angle like 5 or 10 degrees.
- GepRC TinyGO RTF ($259). This is an RTF kit that is similar to Tinyhawk 3 RTF but is much more powerful. Like Tinyhawk 3, it has better goggles and controller than typical RTF kits. As with Tinyhawk 3, the goggles have DVR and can record videos. The quad is about the same size as Tinyhawk 3. The difference is that this one has two battery plugs, so it uses 1S batteries but has 2S power. Moreover, it can use 2-inch props instead of the included 1.6 inch props. With 2S power, larger props, and larger 1102 motors, it will be much more powerful than Tinyhawk 3 and should be able to fly outdoors in a light breeze. The TinyGo RTF also happens to be slightly cheaper than the Tinyhawk 3 RTF. There is a version of this kit with 4k video but I wouldn’t suggest that. Just save up for a digital quad in the future.
- HGLRC Petrel 75 RTF ($219). This is similar to Tinyhawk 3 RTF but is much cheaper. Radiomaster T8 Lite is a “real” FPV controller that uses the FrSky D8 protocol, but like the Emax E8 controller for Tinyhawk, it is not upgradeable. This kit costs almost 1/3 less than Tinyhawk 3. The downside is that the goggles don’t have DVR and can’t be converted to a monitor.
- Newbeedrone Acrobee RTF ($269). This is a clever RTF bundle that actually stores your drone, batteries, and charger in the goggles. The Acrobee 65 itself flies pretty well (in my opinion, it flies better than the Tinyhawk) and has powerful brushless motors. Like the Tinyhawk 3, the goggles display can serve as a monitor. My only criticism is the same as for Tinyhawk – this is intended for indoors, which is not an easy environment for learning. But if you insist on learning on a tiny whoop, this is a pretty good kit.
- If you really, really want a simple RTF kit, the BetaFPV Cetus Pro has similar pros/cons, but is about 25% cheaper than Tinyhawk 3. It even has a basic type of altitude hold, which you can use as training wheels as it were. The controllers are ok, but not upgradeable either. There is also an even cheaper BetaFPV Cetus kit (which I have) but it has much less powerful brushed motors and would be hard to fly outdoors in the slightest breeze, so I would suggest Cetus Pro instead. The disadvantage of the Cetus Pro is that the goggles are smaller and can’t be converted to a monitor. The goggles also don’t have a DVR. But again, as with Tinyhawk 3, you’ll outgrow this, but at least, you’re spending less money than Tinyhawk 3.
DarwinFPV Baby Ape ($79 without receiver). This is a small 2S-3S freestyle quad with 3-inch props that is very affordable but flies really well. The biggest downside for beginners is that it has no receiver included. You’ll have to add a receiver, which requires soldering four wires. If you do know how to solder though, this is the best value for beginners. I recommend adding an ExpressLRS receiver such as the Happymodel EP2, which is long range, low cost, low latency, very compact. The goggles and controller are not included. For beginner goggles, I recommend Eachine EV800. For the controller, I recommend Jumper T-Pro with built-in ExpressLRS.