MJX isn’t a brand many Aussies will know, that’s largely because they’re a RC manufacturer and technology company out of China. One of the companies latest creations is the Bugs8 drone which is pitched as ‘The best price-quality ratio entry-level racing drone for beginners’.
The Bugs8 is your typical 4 rotor design, but its ultra-light and clearly built for speed. The drone is claimed to have a top speed of 40km per hour, and while that’s hard to measure without a police radar gun, I can tell you its fast. There’s a dedicated button on the control for low-speed and high-speed which you can toggle between. The idea here is that you’d start out on low, then switch to high-speed when you feel more confident. There’s also a flip-roll button so yep, this drone can pull some tricks to keep things interesting.
The quad is driven by 4x 1806 1800KV brushless motors. These small, yet powerful motors power the drone through the air, dynamically adjusting the spin rates as you feed it inputs. Given this drone is built for racing, performance matters far more than in drones built for shooting beautiful landscapes.
The Bugs8 transmits the vision from its on-board camera to a dual-purpose display that can be used both on top of the controller, or snapped into RPV goggles. This dual-purpose use for the display is smart, allowing owners to avoid purchasing another device, something required by other drone makers.
It is worth noting that while the angle of the camera is adjustable, you can’t do this during flight, so only trial and error experience will tell you where its best positioned.
The video feed is beamed back over the 5.8GHz radio frequency. While they’ll tell you the pixel count is HD, the images do regularly suffer from breakups and colours are off. For those who’ve dealt with racing drones before, this won’t be a surprise, but if you’re coming to after a DJI Phantom 4, you’re in for a very different experience. The decision to broadcast the visuals this way is undoubtedly a prioritisation on latency minimisation over outright image quality and colour accuracy, which is understandable, but it would be nice to have both.
The benefit of the 5.8GHz 500mw transmission is also range, with the vision beamed back from the drone from as far away as 300-500 meters from your location. Even at the top speed visuals keep coming (albeit effected by environmental conditions).
In Australia, CASA requires drone operators to keep line of sight to the drone they’re flying at all times. This means the FPV can be worn by a friend, but not by the operator which kind of sucks, but is understandable. If you found yourself to a large controlled environment like a warehouse, I guess you could get around this rule.
MJX FPV Goggles
Using the FPV goggles is pretty straight forward, just open the plastic panel on the top of the goggles, turn on the 4.3″ display and slide it into place. Close the top and strap it to your head. Wearing it is actually pretty comfortable, using the well established over-the-head strap to support the weight hanging from your face. Essentially you’re wearing your own little cinema and it certainly will make you look weird, but when you’re serious about flying drones, you leave fashion at the door.
The vision feels like you’re watching a movie, even with the pilot making rapid twists and turns, there was never a sense of motion sickness sometimes experienced with VR goggles. The display charges by an included micro-USB cable and will last you multiple flights.
Controlling the drone
After taking off for the first time, it was immediately obvious that flying this drone is much harder than flying a DJI, in many ways, we’ve been spoilt by the technology in the Phantom. You’ll notice quickly there’s no simple hover state. This is evident by the left control stick that doesn’t return to zero when you release it. Vertically you have to refine how much input you want to control the height, but its something you have to manage.
The right stick will control the forward back, left right movement, while also turning the left stick from left to right will rotate the drone. Its a familiar control scheme and easy to get your head around, perhaps its the years of gaming on an Xbox controller, but I found it easy to use. The biggest struggle for me was landing. Bringing the drone down towards the ground, you need to be very precise on the input to land without crashing.
You will crash this drone.
Another indication of how manual this drone is, is evident if you do crash and the props keep spinning, you have to press the red button on the left shoulder of the controller and pull the left stick down to kill the motors. Its times like this where I question the tag pitching this anywhere near a ‘drone for beginners’. I found the props were pretty robust, although I didn’t hit anything hard, just dirt and grass, it is somewhat comforting to know a second set of props are included should you need them.
The drone uses a 1300mAh 7.4V Lithium-polymer battery which allows a flying time of up to 12 minutes on the spec sheet. In reality, that was pretty accurate. This flight time is long enough for most drone races you’ll be a part of, but if you’re anyway serious, you’re best to get a second or third battery. Just remember, they’ll take around 4 hours to recharge. Switching the battery is a rapid process, just disconnect the power cable, slide the battery out of the protective cradle built into the base of the drone, slide in the new battery and reconnect the cable.
The controller uses 2.4GHZ radio to issue commands and receive notifications from the drone. As the battery gets low, you’ll receive a low voltage alert and if you approach the range limits, you’ll get a weak signal alert. As the pilot, you can judge the drone’s power and signal status by the indicator light and the alarm sound sent from the remote control.
Bright LED search light
Here’s another difference between Chinese manufacturing and Australian regulation. The Bugs8 features Bright LEDs to make flight more interesting and attractive at night. The problem is, CASA prevents us from flying at night. You’ll certainly see these at dusk, they’re seriously bright but unfortunately we need to be on the ground before sun down.
We know seeing is believing, so here’s a video of the drone in action.
Price & Availability
Acquiring the Bugs8 drone through the official MJX website isn’t as easy as it should be, with users forced to complete an inquiry form. Instead, I found a site, Aus Electronics Direct who have them in stock for A$179.00 (down from an RRP of A$349.00) which for what you’re getting (hours of fun) is pretty great value.
I mentioned earlier this is one of the company’s most recent drones, that’s evidenced by the empty pages on their website for the Spec, Learn to Fly and Accessory pages. I’m going to assume they’re coming soon.
After spending some time flying the Bugs8 drone from MJX, its a neat bit of kit. It’s fast, light and looks pretty good doing it. The dual-purpose screen (on top of the controller and in the FPV goggles) is a really smart idea and well executed. The downsides are some instability in the flight, given its weight, its fairly susceptible to wind. That issue isn’t unique to this racing drone, just needs to be understood by the pilot when evaluating when and where to fly.
The potential for this drone actually surpasses what’s legally permissible under Australian regulation, but like I mentioned above, if you can find your way to a large indoor, controlled environment, you may be able to get around these.
Future releases of the product would definitely be aided by some user assists like hover in place, return to home and definitely some assisted landing.