Walkera Scout X4 Quadcopter Devo Review
In reading up on the Scout X4 from Walkera, I’ve run into a lot of superlative descriptions. Walkera has a lot of lyrical supporters of its larger TALI H500 and to a lesser extent the smaller X350 series (although the new premium model is pretty great). A 350mm class quad is too weak to lift a decent camera and a 500mm class drone is too big for easy travel, so there is definitely a distinct prosumer gap in the market, and the Scout X4 is aimed directly for it.
The design of the Scout reminds me strongly of the design for the QR X350 Premium, just without its fisheye lens “face”. It has the same modular, neat and polished look that is now becoming the norm as drone products mature and become true consumer-oriented devices.
The rotors and motors on the Scout look much more brawny though; this is clearly not a toy. There’s also a kickass black version, which is the one to go for if you can find it.
The bundle we are looking at here is pretty robust. You get the actual Scout X4 drone, a Devo F12E transmitter, a flight controller, a GPS module, a G-3D gimbal, the iLook+ HD camera, and a 5400 mAh battery.
Now the flight controller and GPS modules obviously should be in the drone, but Walkera’s recent modular approach is actually great. It makes it easy to replace broken modules or upgrade them when the time comes.
The iLook+ is a pretty decent camera to bundle with any drone. You can swap it out directly with a GoPro though, which is what you should do if you have any semi-serious uses in mind for the footage. The G-3D gimbal can accommodate GoPros natively, so it’s a painless swap.
For its price the G-3D is a decent gimbal, but you don’t get 360-degree panning with it. For that you want the G-3Dh, which should swap right out as well. It’s only then you’ll appreciate the retractable landing struts furnished on the Scout.
What’s the Frequency?
The F12E transmitter is one I see in almost every high-end Walkera bundle. It’s a pretty neat device and most users will feel no need to change it for something else. Thanks to the built-in FPV screen you don’t need to whip out a phone or tablet, which is a common hidden cost for these drones. The screen has a sun-shade which makes it easy to see what’s going on and, of course, it doesn’t create the uncomfortable balance and weight issues a big tablet does when mounted on a radio transmitter. Frankly, I prefer built-in FPV screens to using a phone or tablet.
It also comes with a Bluetooth ground station, so you can control the drone using a smart device. Handy for a second person to control the gimbal and get the shots you want.
The maximum flight weight of the Scout X4 is five pounds and the basic unit with battery weighs 3.9 pounds. So the gimbal and camera together can weigh at most 1.1 pounds. Not a lot of leeway; I don’t think you’ll get it to safely lift an SLR. High-end GoPros are no problem though, as long as you make sure the gimbal you use is compatible.
As standard, the maximum flight time is a respectable if unsurprising 25 minutes.
Brains and Brawn
The Scout has all the smart features that I’ve come to expect from Walkera’s higher-end products. There’s all the GPS failsafe systems, such as return home or low battery landing. There’s the extremely useful intelligent orientation function where the stick moves the drone relative to you and not where its “nose” is pointing.
One very interesting feature is the fact that you can get an upgrade kit from Walkera that will add four motors to the Scout, turning it into an X8 configuration. While this won’t get you the same lift and efficiency as a true eight-armed octocopter, it will give you unparalleled performance in the size-class of the Scout X4. This is a brilliant upgrade path that Walkera has provided and may actually make the Scout X4 the ideal starter drone that can go from prosumer to just pro without needing to buy an entirely new aircraft.
Start Her Up
I actually think this sub-$1500 bundle is one of the best overall kits I’ve seen. The base drone is plenty good; none of the other components like the gimbal and camera are great, but they aren’t junk either. You can buy the Scout X4 now and get straight to business with it. Then as you have the money you can upgrade it to meet increasing demands. Walkera is really taking this modular thing seriously, and other players like DJI better take notice before they steal the market away.
The mere existence of this Scout X4 bundle means that I can’t in good conscience recommend that people buy something like the DJI Phantom 3. It’s a bit more pricey, but it’s far better to save up for this long-term investment than to go for a dead-end device like the Phantom.