I was recently looking for an indoor FPV quad and stumbled across the AcroBee by NewBeeDrone. The AcroBee is a compact, lightweight brushed quadcopter in the spirt of the classic Tiny Whoop, but with a feature set that rivals flight controllers typically found on larger FPV quads.
I picked up a kit almost two months ago and I’ve been having an absolute blast flying it ever since.
The AcroBee is a variant on the classic Tiny Whoop design. It has the characteristic top-mounted camera, small (6mm) brushed motors and ducted fans (as opposed to exposed props). There are lots of Tiny Whoop inspired quads on the market, but the AcroBee sets itself apart with its electronics. The flight controller is the BeeBrain V2 (also by NewBeeDrone) which is designed for Betaflight. It’s got an STM32 F3 processor, InvenSense MPU6500 IMU and an onboard receiver (choice of FrSky or DSMX). It has headers for an extension board called BeeTX – a video transmitter and OSD. A SPI bus is routed from the STM32 through the headers to the OSD chip, allowing full Betaflight OSD support. This includes OSD control of the video transmitter band, channel and power settings. All up, the AcroBee is a nimble quad that’s safe to fly inside (and holds its own outside) but has just about all the features of your favorite 4/5/6 inch build.
Here’s a short flight that shows off the AcroBee’s capabilities:
There are a few different purchasing options. You can buy all the parts individually, but I highly recommend one of the AcroBee Kits to get started. It also comes in slightly cheaper than buying all the parts individually. I decided on the Full Kit, which includes (in addition to the AcroBee itself) four LiHV batteries, a charger and one set each of the silver, black and gold motors.
NewBeeDrone sells four versions of the AcroBee motor: silver (14800 KV), black (17400 KV), gold (19700 KV) and the “unicorn edition” (25500 KV!!). Choosing between these motors is a function of what you want your AcroBee to do. After testing silver/black/gold I feel NewBeeDrone’s recommendations are spot on. I personally have settled on the black motors for now: They hit the sweet spot for both indoor and outdoor flying. They’re tame enough to zip around inside, but pack enough punch for simple acrobatics. Gold motors are a must for any serious freestyle (huge dives, power loops, etc) but come at the expense of flight time and reduced indoor control. Silver motors are the tamest and suited for absolute beginners, but I’d tend to think a beginner could get used to the black motors quickly enough with patience and restraint. I haven’t tried the unicorn motors, but with that uptick in KV over the gold motors, I can only imagine how fast they must feel…and how short the battery must last…
Initially I had it in mind that I’d use black motors for indoor flying, and swap them out for gold for outdoor flying. Turns out it’s pretty challenging to swap the motors out once they’re installed in the frame. I find there’s not a great spot to apply force to remove the motor without bending the supports on the ducts. I also managed to strip the leads right out of one of my gold motors while removing it (I recommend twisting the motor leads to increase overall strength and prevent this from happening). So for now, the black motors are a permanent installation in my AcroBee.
That said, I’m going to order a new set of gold motors and give them a shot again. I definitely find myself missing punch and response towards the end of the battery on the black motors, and that was never a problem on gold – they generate enough RPM even at low voltages to recover from a dive or change directions sharply. Besides, now that I’ve had quite a bit of practice, the extra speed should be easier to control indoors.
The frame is called the Cockroach Super-Durable Frame and for good reason. I’m shocked at how durable this quad is. I’ve been flying it for almost two months, and just about every flight ends with me slamming into something hard. It’s still going strong with only some minor damage. There are a couple weak spots which have broken down faster than others.
The first thing that broke for me was the video antenna. The transmitting portion (the bare wire) of the antenna isn’t very well protected and bends around in crashes. With enough back-and-forth movement, it’ll eventually snap off. Fortunately, replacement antennas are cheap from NewBeeDrone or Amazon.
My next source of trouble was the battery lead on the BeeBrain board. I started seeing some strange brownout-like behavior. A representative from NewBeeDrone suggested I should replace the battery connector. Fortunately the starter kit came with a spare, so I swapped it out and solved my power problems.
Most recently (and most catastrophically) the struts that hold the battery in place snapped off at the thin point in a hard crash. I’m using a rubber band to secure the battery in place for now. It’s probably about time for a new Cockroach frame.
It’s not indestructible, but ~$10 of damage over the course of two months and countless crashes is extremely respectable.
BeeTX Video Quality
The video quality is my only significant complaint with the AcroBee. I run a similar 25mW all-in-one camera with a whip antenna on my Crazyflie 2.0. The AcroBee’s video signal is noisier and suffers from reduced range compared to the Crazyflie. Additionally, when I run the BeeTX in 25mW mode, it completely kills 2.4Ghz WiFi connectivity in my house. This is not a problem with the camera I use on my Crazyflie, suggesting the transmitter on the AcroBee emits a much less clean signal. I’m far from an RF expert but this could explain the range problems – more energy ‘wasted’ on harmonics means less energy on the true signal band.
It definitely gets the job done for flying, but the increased noise and decreased range makes it harder to get decent DVR footage compared to similar configurations.
You won’t go wrong with the AcroBee. It’s a solid, nimble quad that excels indoors and outdoors. It’s full Betaflight and FrSky/Spektrum support makes it accessible to those familiar with FPV racing on a larger scale. It also serves as a great indoor practice/training quad for cold rainy days.