Force1 Thunderbolt: WiFi, FPV, Altitude Hold and More…
Force1 ThunderBolt WiFi FPV DroneUnder $130
Ease of Flying/Stability8.0/10
- ▪ Good Altitude Hold
- ▪ HD Camera
- ▪ One charger for 3 batteries
- ▪ No image stabilzation
- Flight Time: 7 minutes
- Range: 200 feet (100 feet FPV)
- Camera: 720p
The Force1 Thunderbolt is a beginner drone that is packed with features. It sports an HD camera with a live FPV feed that you can access through the free smartphone app. The Thunderbolt has altitude hold, auto-takeoff and landing as well as a headless mode to help the beginner pilot. It also comes with three batteries and an option to register for a fourth so you can fly all day long. We recommend this drone for beginners, but it is also fun for a more advanced pilot too.
Watch the Thunderbolt in Action
We will take the Thunderbolt for a spin so you can see it in action. We’ll fly it around, do some flips and record some video. Check it out.
In the Box
The Thunderbolt comes with the usual items we have come to expect. Prop guards, an extra set of props, a phone holder for FPV, and, of course, a small screw driver all come included. The Thunderbolt also comes with a whopping three custom batteries that easily snap into the back of the drone just like the much larger DJI Phantom models. We like that Force1 includes an SD card reader, but you will need to supply your own card.
A great bonus of the Thunderbolt is that the box that doubles as an easy-to-use carrying case. No need to remove the props to pack this guy up and take it wherever you are going.
The remote on the Thunderbolt has been styled to look like something from the world’s number 1 drone manufacturer, DJI. Oh well, it looks great and the buttons are easy to access. There are no labels on the buttons so you may want to break out a paint pen to help you remember.
At first, we thought the batteries seemed like a knock-off of designs seen on more expensive drones, which they are. But they do make the drone easier and more enjoyable to use. Plugging in and stuffing little wires into your drone is one of the most annoying things about inexpensive drones. Problem solved, these batteries slide easily in and out but they are still nice and securely latched in place.
There is nothing too dramatic about the drone design. It has a clean look and a shiny golden sheen. The camera sits snugly on the bottom of the drone. You plug in the camera as shown below and rotate it to lock the camera in place.
Force 1 Thunderbolt Features
The two key features of the Thunderbolt are the FPV (first person view) and altitude hold. The altitude hold works and works well. You never know what features will be exaggerated by the manufacturers of inexpensive drones, but altitude hold by Force1 isn’t one. Like all drones with this feature, you will experience some vertical drift over time or when flying at top speed, but this feature will certainly help beginner pilots and will help with better video capture for all pilots.
Like all drones with an altitude hole feature, you will experience some vertical drift over time or when flying at top speed. But there is not doubt that this feature will certainly help beginner pilots and will help with better video capture for all pilots.
Check out the benefits of altitude hold in our flight video where you can see the Syma X5UW (a very similar drone to the Thunderbolt) flying side-by-side with the X5C.
Next up is the FPV. We tested the camera and in our opinion, it is one of the best drone cameras in this price class of drones. For an image quality comparison, check out our camera quality comparison article. The Thunderbolt produces a clean image and its 56° HFOV (horizontal field of view) is wider than most inexpensive drones, making it a bit easier to fly using FPV. Maybe most importantly, the lag time between drone and smart phone is small, which is great. In some WiFi FPV drones, we have found the latency to be a major issue that limits the usefulness of FPV.
Another cool thing on the Thunderbolt is the ability to control the drone from your phone. The controls are similar to other smart-phone controlled drones and it works fine. Using a phone is better with this drone than many others because the altitude hold makes it easier to control. We always prefer using the remote, but some people will find this handy.
The Thunderbolt has a “Flight Path” mode, which is a feature we have been seeing on more drones these days. While in this mode you still control height and rudder using the left screen joystick, but the path of the drone is dictated by tracing on the screen. You can change the scale of the path to “1”, “2”, or “3” using the selector on the bottom left of the screen. You can think of these as correlating roughly with 10, 20, and 30 feet of motion respectively. This doesn’t work perfectly, but it can be fun to play with.
Other Good Features
- The leveling operation really makes the drone sit almost perfectly still in flights – you just need to find a level surface for the easy one-step calibration.
- The drone uses one of the better apps that we have seen. “Syma Go” includes the ability to pull pictures and videos off the drone wirelessly using the direct WiFi connection to your smart phone.
- We tested the battery charging time and flight time. Charging is stated to be under 130 minutes, and we tested it to be 112 minutes. Flight time is quoted to be 7 minutes and we found it to be exactly 7 minutes give or take a second or two. With three batteries you’ll get over 20 minutes of flying.
Areas for Improvement
- We could not get the trim to work. This is a minor point since it automatically trimmed well for us when calibrated on a level surface.
- The auto take-off and landing functions mean that the props are not 100% under your control. Gone is the fun of tossing the drone from your hand, catching a drone with the motors off, or watching your drone free fall from the sky so you can crank the motors right before it crashes into the ground. We would love to see a sport mode that puts the throttle fully under the control of the pilot.
- The props sometimes take too long to shut off. There should be better protection for motors when the props are blocked from spinning. Earlier models from Syma had a bigger problem with this and we found that most of the time we were able to shut the motors of the Tunderbolt off quickly if they didn’t shut off automatically in a crash.
- We would love to see a more reliable FPV range on the Thunderbolt. In our testing it had a flight range of about 200 feet but the FPV range was more like 100 feet. Luckly, using FPV did not seem to decrease the flight range, which is a common problem on many WiFi FPV drones.
The Force1 Thunderbolt is an excellent drone. The effective altitude hold is a great feature for beginners who want a less frustrating learning experience and it is also useful for smoother video or flying by smartphone. If this drone is in your price range then we suggest you pick one up, we don’t think you will be disappointed. You will also enjoy the 4 batteries you can get with this drone for more time in the air.
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