The Xcraft XPlusOne Hybrid Drone is in a Class of its Own
Is it a drone? Is it a plane? It’s an XPlusOne! The XPlusOne from XCraft is a plane that can take off, land, and hover like a drone. This type of craft is also known as a VTOL (Vertical TakeOff and Landing) aircraft. In a landscape crowded with quad-copter copycats of the DJI Phantom and “flying brick” racing drones, the XPlusOne offers a breath of fresh air. It is maybe the best known of the VTOL drones, thanks largely to an appearance on television’s Shark Tank, where they secured a $1.5 million in a deal with all five of the sharks. At 60 mph the XPlusOne can fly almost twice as fast as a Phantom 3 and stay airborne for 3 to 4 times longer than a racing drone that can fly at the same speed. The flight time, speed, and wing make the XPlusOne a truly unique craft. We had a ton of fun flying it, check out our video at the bottom of the page.
So who is this drone for? We here at HalfChrome think the XPlusOne fills in three key niches.
- The VTOL pilot. If you are the person who wants to fly like a plane but not be limited to taking off and landing on pavement, then this is a drone worth looking into. It also saves the pilot from the highly demanding and risky act of taking off and landing an RC plane. These tasks are much easier with the XPlusOne’s GPS-guided hovering, takeoff, and landing capabilities.
- High Speed Follow Me. Looking for footage of you screaming down the highway on your Harley? Short of a DJI Inspire, this is one of the few drones that can keep up with you.
- Autonomous Mission Planning. A pre-planned mission is often only as good as the distance that can be flown. With a top speed of 60 mph and 20 minutes of flight time, you can cover a lot more ground with the XPlusOne than you can with most other drones.
There are three different versions of this drone. We tested the platinum version which includes advanced features made possible with GPS. These modes include Follow Me mode and the ability to control the drone using waypoints from a computer. The RC version is the next step down, it does not come with the same advanced features but you can still fly with all the features available from the remote. If you are pinching pennies you can save another $200 and put the RC version together yourself using the build-your-own kit. There are currently three different XPlusOne Platinum packages that are discounted on Amazon, check out the latest prices below.
|Platinum with Gimbal and 2 Extra Batteries|
|Platinum with Gimbal|
In the Box
Our Platinum Edition XPlusOne came with all the parts pictured below. The two shorter wings, which they call pylons, are screwed onto the main wing with a total of 4 screws and 4 electrical connections. A GoPro mount is included and is easily attached with two screws when the nose cone is removed. The telemetry kit (shown just above the white pylon) can be connected to a computer or smartphone.
Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to test the optional gimbal, which will be a big help to anyone concerned with capturing extremely smooth footage. We were able to easily pair the drone to our Fat Shark goggles with the 5.8 GHz FPV feed. Note that when using the fixed mount the camera will lose view of the horizon between vertical and horizontal flight depending on the way you position the camera in the fixed mount. It’s best to position the camera looking up, which will be forward during horizontal flight. You may prefer to fly with a screen rather than goggles when you are first learning because you won’t see anything but sky in the goggles when the drone is hovering. You will need a GoPro mount with connector access in order to support the FPV feed. We bought ours on Amazon, check the latest price here.
Construction and Design
I knew this drone got its start from a Kickstarter campaign and I also knew the primary material is foam. The Kickstarter / foam combination did not leave me with high hopes for build quality. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the engineering of this VTOL plane. The stealth-inspired design is well thought out and beautiful to look at. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the XPlusOne from all angles and I ended up with so many images that I put them in an album shown below. There was only a single 3D-printed part on the craft, a small support for the GPS antenna. All the other visible parts were made from custom molded foam and plastic, milled carbon fiber composite, or metal.
Features and Software
The XPlusOne interfaces with a few different 3rd party platforms rather than having their own proprietary software. The recommended interface for a PC is Mission Planner, an open source mission planning and calibration suite from ardupilot.org. Starting to get nervous about open source and 3rd party? We were too, but again we were pleasantly surprised. You will need to use the software to calibrate your drone to accommodate the differences in compass readings around the world. While this process is not as streamlined as a DJI Phantom 4 calibration, it is not too bad. Setting up this drone is like a fun adventure, you have no idea what kind of trouble you are getting into but you are always pleasantly surprised when things go well, which they always did for us. If you get this drone we highly recommend you check out XCraft’s YouTube videos for the latest and greatest instructional videos.
Using Follow Me is also surprisingly easy. For Follow Me you connect the telemetry transmitter to any Android phone and operate the drone without using the remote. The 3rd party Tower app can take off, hover, turn on Follow Me, and land the craft all on its own. It’s amazing when a small drone company like this can pull off advanced features that only became available a couple years ago. You can check out a Follow Me demo video here. Maybe the best way to see Follow Me capabilities is with the XCraft promo video where the XPlusOne follows a motorcycle.
The telemetry module can also be used to run autonomous and guided missions. What’s the difference? Autonomous missions are completely pre-planned, where the XPlusOne follows a predefined set of waypoints. Guided missions can be changed in real time from a ground station by updating waypoints while the drone is in flight. Again, it’s very impressive that these kinds of features work so well from 3rd party software.
We only got in a few flights and we were again surprised with the clean operation of the hover and acro modes. The drone can take off, hover, and land with ease. The return-to-home works well and can save you if the drone gets away from you or you lose your sense of orientation. The big surfaces do make the XPlusOne more susceptible to the influences of wind, but we had good success flying, taking off, and landing in 10-15 mph wind. The acro mode is tuned to be safe for the beginner and we had no issues with it. It basically behaves like sport mode on a DJI drone, where the drone is stable but more completely under the control of the pilot. I only had time for three flights and in that short time I had difficulty figuring out banked turns with no formal instruction. We do know that a skilled pilot (that’s not me) can pull off these maneuvers with ease, check out the video below to see the pros at work.
If you want to experience the capabilities of this craft before you develop expert skills, the easiest way may be to let the autopilot take the controls. This can be done by using Follow Me or Waypoints to drive the drone’s path.
There is no doubt that the XPlusOne is very fast, but is it the right drone for you? If you are looking for an easy-to-fly camera drone to take pictures of your family, then the answer is definitely no. If you are looking for a super streamlined user experience, then the answer is no. But, if you are looking for a fast, tunable, and unique aircraft that is flyable by pilots of all skill levels, then the answer may be yes. At the beginning of the article, we outlined three things this drone can do really well: Plane mode flying with VTOL capability, super-fast Follow-Me, and long-distance planned flights with waypoints. If you have a need for any of these functions, then this is definitely a drone worth looking at. The user experience may not be quite as streamlined as the latest highly refined DJI products, but that comes with an upside too – more customization. You can program this craft to fly as aggressively as you care too. On the other hand, if you are already accustomed to the hands-on effort required for setting up an RC plane or racing drone, then this drone will seem like a walk in the park. Maybe the best feature of this drone is that XCraft is a US-based company with excellent customer support.
Check out the Half Chrome flight test of the XPlusOne
What’s Next for XCraft?
XCraft is a company that started with the idea of the XPlusOne. The success of this drone and the involvement of the Shark Tank’s investors mean that this is not a one-drone company. They are targeting the launch of a much smaller selfie drone that couldn’t be more different than the XPlusOne, it’s called the PhoneDrone Ethos. There is only one similarity between the two drones actually, they are both different than pretty much anything else on the market. XCraft is a company that continues to take risks and innovate, and that’s what we like to see. They also have a racing drone in the works called the Rogue. We hope that they can turn racers into something other than flying bricks by applying a little bit of aerodynamics into the mix like they did with the XPlusOne. Finally, is the XPlusOne the last stop for flying wing VTOL? We doubt it, and we are looking forward to the next generation.
Not sure what is the best drone for you???
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