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Palm-sized micro hex drone carries Insta360 SMO or Insta360 Go with or without GPS (updated with tutorial)

Firefly Hex Nano is a new palm-sized hexacopter micro drone with built-in support for Insta360 SMO, available with or without GPS stabilization and well under 250 grams.   Here’s a review by Captain Drone:

THE NAKED GOPRO REVOLUTION

Two years ago, Robert McIntosh introduced the world to cinematic FPV videos shot with a stripped-down GoPro Hero light enough to be mounted on a small drone to capture shots that had never been seen before.  The downside was that you had to build your own “naked GoPro,” and sometimes the camera would get bricked after disassembly.  In fact there were companies that were offering to sell hand-assembled naked GoPros for as much as $500.

Easy naked GoPro - Insta360 4K SMO
Easy naked GoPro – Insta360 4K SMO

Last year, Insta360 and BetaFPV worked together to create the Insta360 SMO – a 30 gram version of Insta360 One R 4K mod (similar to a naked GoPro but ready to buy).  The SMO became quite popular in the FPV drone community.  Several FPV drones were produced with built-in power cables for the SMO, including the Beta85X v2 (with adapter), Beta95X V3, Flywoo Explorer, Flywoo Hexplorer, Pavo30.

FIREFLY HEX NANO

Firefly Hex Nano with optional Insta360 Go mount
Firefly Hex Nano with optional Insta360 Go mount

The latest drone to come with built-in support for Insta360 SMO is the Flywoo Firefly Hex Nano – a tiny hexacopter with 1.6-inch props, which is quite possibly the world’s smallest BNF hexacopter.  The Hex Nano has a presoldered power cable for the SMO and an optional TPU mount that can work with the SMO or a naked GoPro.  It also has an optional TPU mount for the Insta360 Go or Insta360 Go 2.

The Hex Nano can be powered by 3S or 4S batteries and has six 1202.5 5500KV motors with 40mm 4-blade props. With its small size, the Hex Nano weighs only about 151 grams, even with a Insta360 SMO and 450mah 4S battery.

Although it is very small, the Hex Nano is able to carry an Insta360 SMO, Insta360 Go, or naked GoPro.  Nick Burns said he was impressed with its freestyle performance even with a naked GoPro mounted:

The Hex Nano is available only with an analog receiver (Frsky or Crossfire).  I would have wanted a DJI digital receiver, which it seems to be capable of carrying, but I speculate that it would have driven the cost even higher.

Flywoo is producing prop guards for the Hex Nano, which will make it safer to fly it indoors or near people or pets.  The prop guards will be free for orders between May 1 to May 5.

Optional prop guards for Firefly Hex Nano
Optional prop guards for Firefly Hex Nano

FPV vs. GPS OPTION

There are two versions of the Hex Nano – a standard FPV version that runs on Betaflight and has full manual controls for freestyle FPV flying.  For those who prefer easier controls similar to a DJI photography drone, there is another version with GPS stabilization (with position hold, altitude hold, and return to home) that runs on INAV.  Please note that the INAV version mounts the GPS module where the camera would be, so there is no space for carrying an Insta360 SMO or Insta360 Go.

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY; WHO IS THIS FOR?

The Hex Nano is available now starting at $159 (Betaflight version) or $179 for the INAV GPS-enabled version, direct from Flywoo.  For a limited time, you can get 5% off using the discount code Holiday.  Don’t forget to add the free prop guards.

One of the questions about the Hex Nano is who it was made for.  Its hexacopter design makes it more efficient than a similar sized quadcopter, but because of its small size, the Hex Nano can’t be used for long range, and with its smaller props, it will be harder to fly it in windier conditions.  For me, the appeal of the Hex Nano is in its novelty.  This is the first hexacopter I will have since the Yuneec Typhoon H that I sold many years ago.  As I was thinking of ordering one, I compared it to the cost of the Hexplorer, Flywoo’s 4-inch hexacopter.   Although the Hexplorer would be able to fly in more conditions, with the small size, I would be able to shoot more unique perspectives.  Smaller drones can be flown more easily in small spaces like our modest backyard and although small drones are often underpowered for outdoors, this one seems to have enough power for my needs.  Hex Nano is also unique in offering a GPS-stabilized option, which seems to be Flywoo’s foray into reaching a wider market of drone pilots who do not fly FPV.  If it is well received, perhaps Flywoo may offer a GPS option in their other quadcopters.

HANDS-ON IMPRESSIONS OF FLYWOO HEX NANO INAV

Flywoo Hex Nano INAV version - setup instructions
Flywoo Hex Nano INAV version – setup instructions

I ordered the Hex Nano INAV version and here are my first impressions:

  • Very compact
  • The stand for the GPS and barometer is sturdier than I thought and can probably withstand mild crashes.
  • I like how the XT30 cable is ziptied to relieve stress from an ejected battery.
  • Only 3 screws to remove the top plate and access the stack.
  • USB port is easily accessible

o Has an online instruction manual but the manual leaves many questions unanswered.

  • The camera has poor image quality and looks far too bright.
  • The battery strap seems very flimsy.  Battery ejection is a real concern.

I was hoping that it would be truly bind and fly but no such luck.  The setup is complicated — even more so than a typical FPV quad. See below.

HEX NANO INAV SETUP INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Connect the cable to the GPS module.  (The cable has a label that says to attach it to the Flywoo V2.  They should have just said GPS module.)
  2. Connect the cable to the barometer.  The cable also has a label.
  3. Typical FPV setup process:
    1. Bind the receiver to your controller.  I got the Frsky version, so as with other Frsky receivers, you need to click on bind on your transmitter.  Then press the bind button while connecting the battery.  After a few seconds, exit the binding mode on your transmitter and restart the quad.  The receiver LED should show a green light.
    2. Connect the Hex Nano to your PC via Micro USB.
    3. Install INAV Configurator version 3.0.
    4. Check the receiver tab if the throttle, yaw, pitch and roll are responding normally.  For my Taranis QX7, I had to change the default TAER1234 to AETR1234.
    5. Create the modes that you want to use.  In addition to typical modes, there are additional modes for Position Hold and Altitude Hold, and several other modes that are not available for most other quads.
    6. Customize the OSD
    7. Attach the props in the directions indicated on INAV Configurator.
  4. Go to CLI and check status.  If you see an error in gyro_hardware_lpf, then set gyro_hardware_lpf = 256HZ.  This is not mentioned anywhere in the instructions.
  5. In the Ports tab, set UART2 to sensor: GPS at 9600baud.  Make sure MSP and Serial are toggled off.
  6. In the Configuration tab of INAV,
    1. set the correct GPS protocol.  The instructions don’t say what the correct protocol is.  I tried UBLOX.
    2. set the ground assist to your region.  I set mine to North America.
    3. set the Galileo search.  The instructions don’t say whether this is supported or not.  I tried turning it on.
    4. set your time in UTC in minutes.  I’m in California so I put -480.
    5. set whether your region follows daylight savings time.
  7. Calibrate the accelerometer.  This involves holding the quad in 6 different positions.
  8. Calibrate the compass / magnetometer.  This is similar to the DJI Dance.  The tricky part is that they don’t tell you how to initiate the calibration without INAV Configurator.  You’ll actually need to disconnect from the PC and initiate an INAV stick command: Throttle up, Yaw right, and Pitch down.  Then you hold the Hex Nano facing upward, turn around 360 degrees, then hold the Hex Nano sideways and turn around 360 degrees, then hold the Hex Nano upright and turn around 360 degrees.

Even after following all those procedures, I couldn’t get the GPS to work.  There were no changes in the GPS tab of INAV (which should normally show a message count with increasing numbers).  In the INAV Facebook group, some members suggested swapping the RX and TX, which I did, but the GPS still didn’t work.  After trying other settings, I returned it to the seller.

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