It’s supposed to be easier to fly a smaller drone because of the limitations imposed by its size and stature, which is exactly where the Wingsland S6 fits in.
Wingsland doesn’t have the notoriety of other drone manufacturers, which puts pressure on the S6 to perform and stand out. It’s not meant to outdo the larger models, which have more power and capabilities, but the S6 is very much a ‘close confines’ type of drone. It can shoot selfies or capture video from a higher vantage point, but does require a little time to feel comfortable.
It’s not often that a drone not only folds, but also comes in a case that could fit in a large jacket pocket. The arms with propellers fold into the hull to reduce the overall footprint and make the drone easier to transport. A trade-off in going with a contoured clamshell case is that there’s only room for one battery (which would be in the S6 itself while in the case), leaving any backup to be carried separately.
Being only 230 grams, the S6 is very lightweight by drone standards. So much so, in fact, that I wasn’t sure how stable it was going to be in the air. Smaller drones are growing in popularity and sophistication because of the combination of size, price point and camera performance. It’s kind of like having a flying selfie camera.
There’s nothing to really construct here, but there are pieces to note. Wingsland includes an extra set of propellors in the box, but only one battery. The battery easily slides into place in the back, and slides out with a little more effort. The microSD card slot on one of the sides is the only way the drone can record any footage.
That it can record in 4K is one of the major selling points, but hitting a higher resolution doesn’t guarantee supreme quality. The camera on the front is fixed, meaning it can’t be tilted or panned in any direction without moving the drone itself.
The free Wingsland app for iOS and Android acts as the controller, including a mode that uses motion-sensitivity from the phone itself to tilt or angle the drone. I focused on using the virtual joysticks to pilot it though.
Flying the S6
The S6 quick start guide is decent as a starting point, but it doesn’t dive into all the features the drone offers. To ease pilots in, the app is on Beginner mode and thereby reduced in a number of facets. For example, speed is cut down to the slowest speed at a mere 9km/h. That’s not a reduction in speed simply going forward, but also going backwards, moving laterally or panning in any direction.
Switching to Standard mode (by sliding Beginner off) removed the restrictions for me, except the loosened shackles needed more information from the start. The Intelligent flight modes were never truly accessible, so I couldn’t really test them. I accessed Follow Me and Point of Interest (POI) from a totally different menu in the main heads-up display (HUD). I couldn’t understand why they were always greyed out until I actually launched it. Both modes were only actionable while the drone was in the air.
POI was interesting because it simply flies in a circular holding pattern around a set point. That pattern could grow larger or smaller depending on how I moved the S6. Follow Me never really worked as well, seemingly losing its ability to keep up for reasons I couldn’t fully discern.
Oh, and there’s a Selfie mode that essentially reverses the controls, so that pushing up on the right joystick moved the drone back, away from the pilot.
Like any drone, the S6 has a learning curve to get accustomed to how it flies and where its weaknesses lie. A lightweight frame like this was at the mercy of wind gusts, but it held up better than I thought it would. Plus, it was more responsive in Standard mode, letting me move it around with more speed.
An important point to note here is the S6’s weight relative to the government’s latest regulations on drone flight. It falls under the “Micro” category, and thus, isn’t really held to the specific rules attached to the other four categories set out by the Transport Ministry.
About the camera
It’s here that the finer print of a more exploratory manual would benefit pilots. Take, for example, that electronic image stabilization (EIS) only works when the S6 captures footage in 1080p at 30fps. Shooting in 4K or at a higher framerate disables the EIS, leaving the drone susceptible to veering and swaying from the wind.
This created a challenging situation for me. Shooting footage at various waterfronts where wind conditions can be unpredictable proved a challenge to the drone. The higher it went, the more vulnerable it became.
Footage and still photos aren’t bad when they come out. I just noted what wind conditions were like for the best shots. Windy days will spoil stability, making it really difficult to capture good video in those conditions. White balance tends to skew a little too much to yellow in sunlight, while shooting before or after sunset can yield decent results. Once the lights dim, though, the S6 doesn’t deliver much.
Video output can also do weird things, like stutter or skip, suggesting more of a software or connectivity issue Wingsland could probably solve with a firmware update.
Wingsland also made a mistake not including a microSD card in the box. When there’s no internal storage to rely on, it’s imperative that a card be thrown in, especially in a case like this where the S6 can’t record images to the phone to cut out the card’s purpose. When no card is in the drone, recording features are disabled.
Wingsland rated the battery at about 10 minutes per charge, but I never once hit that number. At most, I managed eight minutes, but it was even less than that once I started diving into some of the other flight features and moved it around a lot. Without a second battery to prolong a flight session, capturing photos and video had to be done quickly, forcing me to plan ahead a lot more than I would otherwise.
With little to no regulation governing a drone like the S6, the sky could be the limit—at least to a lower altitude. It’s also the kind of drone that would appeal more to beginners looking to try hitting the skies without committing to a larger model.
More seasoned drone pilots won’t come away impressed with it because of its mixed performance. The lack of a memory card and extra battery will surely vex them even more, like it did with me.
The Wingsland S6 drone is available now.