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Thread: EMAX Babyhawk 85mm Brushless Racer - a good entry level model with a small BUT!

  1. #1
    Navigator Arxangel's Avatar
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    EMAX Babyhawk 85mm Brushless Racer - a good entry level model with a small BUT!

    The EMAX Babyhawk is certainly a breath of fresh air in the predominantly carbon framed racing copter scene! It has a stylish plastic frame that manages to hide almost all of the wiring, and in addition the camera mount actually has an up angle, which can't be said for most other models around the same size. The Babyhawk flies pretty well and can be quick on 2S LiPos, and the Betaflight controller supports most bells and whistles, so even the more pretentious of flyers should be satisfied!



    The review, as well as a full parts list, can be found in my blog: ArxangelRC.blogspot.com


    SPECIFICATIONS


    Motor centre to motor centre (diagonally): 86.8mm
    Dimensions: 78.50mm x 78.50mm x 44mm (without props and antennas)
    Flying weight: 64g (w/o battery)




    ARRIVAL STATE


    As usual from GearBest, my package arrived in a perfect condition, and with DHL it takes only 3-4 days! Very nice work yet again!




    WHAT I LIKE


    Nowadays a lot of these micro racing copters come in some nice boxes, but the Babyhawk really takes the gold medal in that department! That box is just pure BLING! I am certain it will survive well even if somebody jumps on it!





    There is enough foam in there to make sure everything stays untouched from abuse! I mean... this box probably costs 10% of the price of the whole copter! I AM going to be keeping this even after the copter is long gone!





    All the stuff in there are neatly organized in their own foam pockets.





    The copter comes with the prop guard pre-installed, which I personally find a tad annoying as I am not a fan of prop guards... BUT it is useful for beginner pilots, and this racers is absolutely aimed at them, so prop guards do help!





    The flight controller can be seen just under the camera. Unlike on the Aurora 90, you don't have to disassemble half the frame to get to the USB port, which is always a good thing.





    The camera and Vtx are one unit mounted in a case above the frame! This is always convenient on these smaller models, and this one is even angled up a bit, which definitely helps when you are getting used to flying and want to go faster. This is not the case with the KingKong 90GT and the FrSky Vantac, where the cameras are looking straight forward and you have to go through some hassle to give them an up angle!








    The props are mounted with 4 bolts, which may be a tad excessive, but at least those are not going anywhere, unlike some models I know that have them friction fitted!





    The plastic frame does a pretty outstanding job of hiding all of the wiring and electronics inside, so the copter looks very neat and clean on the outside.








    The battery strap on the bottom comes pre-installed as well, which will save some disassembly and assembly of the frame, and it comes with a standard JST connector and so do a lot of batteries in the necessary size, which makes using this so much easier!







    WHAT I DON'T LIKE


    First and foremost I will have to mention the prop guards! I usually don't mind them if there is a reason for them and as I already mentioned there is on this model, but they are bolted to the bottom of the frame with the same bolts that hold the motors! If you want to remove them you have to unscrew ALL motors! In addition to that, the bolts used to hold the motors AND prop guards are a tad longer, so if you try to screw them back in to hold the motors only, you will damage the windings on those motors... guess how I know! Thankfully the set comes with shorter bolts for mounting only the motors without the guards... but it doesn't come with spare motors, so if you manage to damage one, you will need to buy it and wait for delivery!





    Another issue I have here is the receiver connector. It is conveniently placed at the front of the FC and has pins soldered to it so you can easily connect the receiver... BUT... it is some weird size - neither small enough for the receiver I had, nor big enough for a regular servo connector! In addition, since this comes without a receiver option and I got a DSMX satellite receiver, I had to dig at the back of the controller between some cables to find a 3.3v pad where I can solder the positive wire. It was a hassle and will definitely put off some of the newbies.








    And last, when looking at the FC board, I can see that some of the soldering is not really done all too well and I may have to redo some of these solder joints, otherwise I run the risk of some of them possibly disconnecting during flight or in a crash and ruining my flight day as I don't usually carry a soldering iron with me to the field.







    THE VERDICT


    Right, so the Emax Babyhawk is not without its flaws, but there is some good in that as well! You could turn it into a pretty nice beginner racing machine with a $7-$8 frame, and you would solve the vibration problems that the plastic frame has. In addition, especially if you are a beginner, you would quickly familiarize yourself with the electronics, and possibly with soldering, which is an absolutely necessary skill if you are serious about this hobby!


    Having a few other models in this size where I've had to figure out ways to give the camera some up angle makes me really appreciated the factory up angle on this model as it will allow you to go faster as your skills improve without having to do any modifications. Once you get a feel for the model it can actually be quite quick for its size and 2S configuration, and I guess one could experiment with different prop options to see which one would give best performance! You know, with these things there is always a chance for optimization and improvement, and that is something I, and a lot of other people, can really appreciate - tinkering with something and making it... well... yours!


    The 2S 520mAh GensAce batteries are a really nice fit to this copter and would last you a while, and I think they are cheap enough to have them by the dozens if you need to. What I also like is the fact that the ESCs are not a 4-in-1 unit, so if something goes wrong with one of them, you need to replace only one ESC, not all of them! Yes, this creates a bit more wiring and soldering hassle... but like I said above, its all a good exercise, especially if you are a beginner!


    Overall I have to say that I like the Babyhawk and have ordered a regular style carbon frame to move the electronics over to it and hopefully solve the vibration issues! That being said, if you like the looks of the stock frame, I guess you could invest some time and effort into trying to stiffen it up, which should fix the issue, but I would prefer not to go there and just move everything over to a new frame.


    So stay tuned, I am not done with this one quite yet!

  2. #2
    Navigator Arxangel's Avatar
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    UPDATE 1 - 3S battery, new frame and stack to get it race ready

    It has been a while since I did this review, but a lot has happened in the meantime! I actually kept to my original suggestion, that the frame on the BabyHawk needs replacing, and did so, and the results have been impressively good so much so that I have decided to make this my main copter for races... and see how it goes!


    So, first order of business was to replace the frame with something stiffer than the stock one, and see what the result will be! After looking around for a bit I decided on the Elf X2 88mm frame, as it was cheap enough not to care if it didn't work, and it actually looked pretty decent too.





    Actually, moving the electronics over to the new frame was rather easy. I did not have to solder or de-solder stuff, but rather very carefully disassembled the stock frame, even cut it in some places so I can remove the electronics with the wiring intact, and then mounted the motors on the new frame, and used the double-sided tape, which was already on the ESCs and FC, to stick them down to the frame.





    The only mod... if you can call it that, was to drill two holes for the stock camera mount, as the ones that were already on the frame did not match, but that was an easy task.





    In literally less than 5 mins this was done, and even though it did not look as good as the stock frame, which was at least good for hiding the electronics and the wiring, but my hopes were that it will fly much better when the frame isn't warping and rattling to pieces!








    Because the X2 frame is asymmetrical, the stock props no longer fit, as they were 2.3", so I installed some Gemfan 2035 props, and they actually turned out to be a great fit for these motors.





    The wiring really wasn't ideal... but I really wanted to test out the frame first, before I committed to more permanent wiring mods. I was only hoping that double-sided tape would hold, otherwise and ESC could find its way into the props during flight... and that will not be pretty!





    Even managed to find myself some smaller 2S batteries, as the 520mAh ones I've been using were indeed a bit on the heavy side, even though they did give me a ton of flight time. So, with the lighter 2S 300mAh packs, the BabyHawk became an impressive little copter, and felt a bit more lively! This frame was an absolute miracle as it solved all of the vibration, warping and rattling issues of the stock one, and this was suddenly the most silent copter that I have! In addition... turns out it just might have been the most well tuned, because it flew absolutely perfectly without behaving weirdly or feeling like it needs more tuning!





    Then, I decided to try it out at a few racers... and to my surprise it performed much better than I though, and I was able to give better times with this one, than with my larger and quicker models. I think this may be due to the fact that this is not too quick, and is well tuned, so I am better able to aim at the gates and make almost no mistakes! Also, since it is so small... it is really easy to get it through the gate without hitting it!


    So... then I thought... if I am actually going to race with it... I am going to have to sort out that wiring mess... and perhaps also find a way to give it 3S capabilities, since the stock FC was not really rated for that, and because it acts as a PDB for the ESCs, doesn't really matter if they are able to handle 3S.


    This plan of mine involved replacing the stock FC and ESCs with a new stack, but that meant having to remove all of this from the frame, except for the motors of course, and start almost from scratch!





    So, first order of business was to remove the camera and to de-solder the motors from the ESCs. I also removed the power cable from the FC, so I can reuse it.





    I gave some serious thought to replacing the camera and Vtx unit, since I had an AKK BS2 one lying around, and it was 1.4 grams lighter than the original BabyHawk one, but then it turns out it is only capable of 25mW, and all the races I've been to in my country have required us to run these at least on 200mW, otherwise the automated lap counting system will not detect the copters when they pass through the finish. It is a pity though, because 1.4 grams on such a small and light copter do make a difference, but I guess I will be sticking to the stock unit for the time being.








    Here is the stack that will be the new heart of the BabyHawk - the XJB F425 (although it seems to be out of production now, and the F428 is the successor). In addition to 4 times more powerful ESCs and up to 4S capability, this stack will also give me an OSD, and the ability to monitor battery voltage and receiver RSSI. Not bad for such a small item!





    Comes with all necessary hardware to assemble the stack! I really do like stacks that connect to each other via these connectors, rather than to have to rely on cables running around, although as my Emax Magnum stack has shown... these can be a weak point during a crash!





    Either way... this looked very clean and very compact... although not quite as light as the stock setup was.





    Before I moved on with the build I took note of the original weight of the copter with the X2 frame only, but I would have to put that at 51 grams at least, because I had forgotten to include the battery strap here.





    Moving on, mounting the stack to the X2 frame was quick and easy.





    At first I soldered the only motor wires that were long enough to reach the stack, but will have to extend the rest.





    This was by far the most tedious and time consuming task... but it got done at last!








    Continues in next post...
    Last edited by Arxangel; 29th May 2018 at 02:10 PM.

  3. #3
    Navigator Arxangel's Avatar
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    ... continued in next post


    Soldered the battery power cable to the side, but have not yet secured it with hot glue... because I've sort of misplaced my hot glue gun!!





    Next, since keeping the camera in its stock mount was no longer an option, because it was not wide enough to step around the stack, I printed out a new, lighter one, as well as a plate for it to be glued to.





    At this point I had to turn the spacers on the stack to point downwards, so I could screw in the camera plate from the top! Since I didn't have any tiny spacers, and I didn't want to bother printing something so small, I used some M2.5 locknuts as spacers, and they actually worked pretty well!





    Next, I had to figure out which cable was camera output, and which camera input, and after searching a while online, I was able to figure it out - from this perspective the bottom yellow cable is camera OUT, the top yellow cable is Vtx IN.





    And a short while later camera was all soldered up and was connected to the FC to get the OSD working.





    With the last plate secured, it was time to mount the camera.





    I used a piece of the strongest double-sided tape I have, in the hopes it will stay there in the event of a crash!





    Looking good so far, with only one last thing to add.








    I decided to replace the HolyBro DSMX receiver I originally used, with an FrSky XM one, as it can also output RSSI on a channel over the SBUS wire, which is quite convenient.





    So, once all was done, I put the props back on, and the BabyHawk was ready for some serious action!





    Its new weight was now 55 grams (without a battery) and at the field, running on 2S, those new 4 grams proved critical - after the first minute the battery will sag a lot and it just felt slow and unimpressive! However... I had a fix for that - a 3S battery! And oh boy did that make a ton of difference! The BabyHawk became a little rocket of a copter with tons of power and speed... for its size at least and, for the most part, it kept its original performance. I did transfer all of the PID settings over from the original FC, and they worked well with this new stack as well! This was shaping up to be an impressive and capable little racer! The 520mAh 3S packs even gave me flight times of up to 6 mins!








    But then disaster struck! My friends had setup some gates for us to train for the upcoming Maj Flaj race in Skopje, but one of them was not completely certain of the direction of the track, so at one point we hit each other near one of the gates, and while his 5" racer only got a bent prop, the BabyHawk got the "disintegration routine"! Those plastic spacers had become its undoing... as it was literally undone! Almost all motor wires were severed, and all plastic spacers were broken, so basically I had to rebuild it from scratch!





    This little disaster showed that plastic spacers are not the best option when the stack itself is self-supporting and there is no protection for it, so I had to figure out a way to reduce the chances of this happening during the race, as repairing all these wires at the field is going to be a MAJOR pain!





    So I bought some metal spacers!





    With these on the BabyHawk will surely gain a few more grams, but my hope is it will be much more rigid and something like this will not happen again!





    Only one motor had kept all of its wires attached to the ESC board, all others had to be done from the start... but unlike the first time, I had to remove the old extensions, and put new ones... so even more work!





    At least I am a patient and persistent, so I got that done, and to be honest... that was not the most tedious repair I had to do that day!








    Continues in next post...

  4. #4
    Navigator Arxangel's Avatar
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    ... continued in next post


    All that was left now was to put the top part on and screw everything together!





    I am only glad the connector between the ESC and FC boards did not get damaged, because that would have been the end of this stack, as there is no other easy way to get power and signals though for this one!








    So, the BabyHawk was now sitting at 60 grams without a battery, and that was 5 more than before, but at least the 3S battery gives it plenty of power, so it should be fine! Now though, the metal spacers and bolts have made the stack exceptionally rigid, and I hope it will stay mounted for a long while, and even through some crashes!





    Here is the video for all the mods I've done, including some flight footage of before and after the frame change, just to get an idea of the magnitude of the improvement that caused! All seems good at this point, fingers crossed it does well in the race too! Enjoy, and I will see you again soon!



  5. #5
    Navigator Arxangel's Avatar
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    UPDATE 2 - BabyHawk X2 in a MultiGP race event

    Well, I wasn't able to make it to Skopje for the race there, but on Saturday there was a MultiGP race near the city, and the BabyHawk X2 took part in it. It was my main race copter, and performed quite well, even though I ended up last... again! Around noon the wind picked up quite a lot and made flying the course quite difficult, so my performance quickly deteriorated. We even paused the race a few times to wait for the wind to die down! Good think is, all the crashing that the wind caused in various gates actually proved that going with metal spacers and bolts for the stack on the BabyHawk was a good idea, as it didn't even budge... apart from the flimsy camera case on top. I will have to design a new one, thicker this time, and hope it will last longer!



  6. #6

    hmm

    Quote Originally Posted by Arxangel View Post
    ... continued in next post


    All that was left now was to put the top part on and screw everything together!





    I am only glad the connector between the ESC and FC boards did not get damaged, because that would have been the end of this stack, as there is no other easy way to get power and signals though for this one!








    So, the BabyHawk was now sitting at 60 grams without a battery, and that was 5 more than before, but at least the 3S battery gives it plenty of power, so it should be fine! Now though, the metal spacers and bolts have made the stack exceptionally rigid, and I hope it will stay mounted for a long while, and even through some crashes!





    Here is the video for all the mods I've done, including some flight footage of before and after the frame change, just to get an idea of the magnitude of the improvement that caused! All seems good at this point, fingers crossed it does well in the race too! Enjoy, and I will see you again soon!


    and to think all you really needed to do was just change the frame,BH fc can handle 3s no issue, even 4s, what no way,, oh yes way, custom made 4s packs, and a cap.. but wouldnt suggest running 4s indefinitly. but 3s all day no issues, osd? why just set call outs on taranis or spektrum. all a did was make it heavyier and then compensate for the weight, instead of just using it on a differnet frame that is. but to each there own. oh and waste time on the work of everything you did.. forgot that part.. again each there own.

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