Tested: Yuneec Typhoon H Hexacopter

By Terry Dunn

With six rotors rather than the usual four, even the casual observer can see that the Yuneec Typhoon H is a not quite aligned with the multi-rotor mainstream.

With six rotors rather than the usual four, even the casual observer can see that the Yuneec Typhoon H is a not quite aligned with the multi-rotor mainstream. Aside from the obvious, this ship has several other features that are not often found on a turnkey aerial photography (AP) platform. How about retractable landing gear and a 360-degree rotating camera gimbal? And just wait until you see the transmitter!

An Overview of the Typhoon H

The Typhoon H is a factory-built multi-rotor with plastic and carbon fiber components. It has a motor-to-motor diameter of 486mm (19.1"). So, it's just a little larger than the common 350mm AP quads. Each of the Typhoon's six arms can be folded downward to create a smaller footprint when it is not in use.

Its brushless motors spin 231mm (9.1") propellers. The props snap into place and have a quick-release button for removal. Power comes from a proprietary 4-cell 5400mAh LiPo battery. My flight times with this battery have been averaging around 20 minutes.

The Typhoon H's hex layout is unique, but it is the ship's enhanced camera functions and great transmitter that make it worth considering.

The included 3-axis gimbal has a built-in 4K-capable camera. Real-time video feed from the camera is piped to a monitor integrated into the ST16 transmitter. Later on, I'll cover both the camera and the transmitter in more detail.

Yuneec offers two variants of the Typhoon H. The base model (Yuneec calls it the "Advanced" version) has forward-facing sonar for collision avoidance. The Typhoon H with Intel RealSense ("Professional" version) adds a laser projector and cameras to its collision avoidance system. The standard bundle includes one flight battery and comes packaged in a foam case. Both models of the Typhoon H are also available in a "Pro" bundle that includes a spare flight battery, a secondary "Wizard" controller, and a backpack for storage and transport. In fact, the Professional version is only available in the Pro bundle. Current street prices are $1000 for the Advanced model, $1200 for the Advanced Pro bundle, and $1500 for the Professional model Pro bundle.

The propellers can be installed and removed quickly without tools.

Getting Started

Before doing anything with the Typhoon H (or any GPS-equipped multi-rotor) you should read the complete manual. The more features a model has, the more important this step is--and the Typhoon H has a lot of features! I downloaded the 29-page manual from Yuneec's website.

My review sample is the Advanced model. I was, however, able to spend a little time with a Professional model Typhoon H as well. For the type of flying I do, the differences in the collision avoidance systems are academic. Yet, the spare battery and backpack included in the Pro bundle are certainly alluring.

The proprietary 4S-5400mAh LiPo battery provides flight times averaging around 20 minutes.

The foam case included with the Advanced model works fine for storage. All of the parts fit well and there is room for a spare battery. But this case is not ideal for transporting the Typhoon H. There is no mechanism to latch the lid into place. Nor is there a carrying handle. I've been using the case in conjunction with the outer cardboard display packaging (which does have an integrated handle) as a temporary solution.

The Transmitter of My Dreams

Regular readers will know that I can be particular when it comes to transmitters. I've often modified the undersized and/or awkward transmitters that are included with some mini-quads. I was also disappointed with the tablet-based control system of the last Yuneec multi-rotor that I reviewed, the Breeze. So I think it's significant when I say that the ST16 transmitter included with the Typhoon H is the best multi-rotor transmitter I've ever used. Seriously…I think it's perfect. There is nothing that I would change about it.

One of the standout features of the Typhoon H is its ST16 transmitter with integrated video. It provides all of the necessary control functions without being overly complex.

Before you accuse me of falling in love with the array of switches and dials on the ST16, you should know that I'm a minimalist. The mere presence of gadgets and doodads does not impress me. Quite the opposite actually. What does impress me about the ST16 is that it is only as complex as it must be to efficiently exercise the features of the Typhoon H…no more, no less. Every switch, dial, and slider, has a specific, well-indicated, and necessary function for flying and filming with this ship.

The ST16 is big…about double the width of most RC transmitters. Most of that width is due to the integrated 7" Android tablet. A prime function of the tablet is displaying the real-time video feed. Most other AP quads have you attach your own phone or tablet to a mount on the transmitter. In my experience, that merging of secondary hardware (including plugs/cables) introduces a lot of variables and makes the video feed ripe for connection problems and gremlins. The all-in-one approach of the Typhoon H/ST-16 combo is my much preferred architecture. It has been reliable and completely hassle-free.

Switches on the ST16 determine how the gimbal functions. There are several useful options.

The tablet is also your gateway for making adjustments to the Tyhpoon H's control settings and camera parameters. There are tons of options under both headings. The touchscreen menus are generally intuitive and easy to understand. Although you may need to reference the manual from time to time in order to fully understand how a particular setting functions.

A Head-Spinning Camera

The CGO3+ gimbal/camera on the Typhoon H has 3-axis stabilization and is capable of 4K resolution at 30 frames per second. Neither of those attributes is particularly rare among modern AP multi-rotors. What is rare, at least at the Typhoon's price point, is the flexibility and multitude of options for controlling the CGO3+.

The pitch angle of the camera is controlled by a slider on the left side of the transmitter. A switch on the top left of the ST16 determines whether the slider operates in Angle Mode or Velocity Mode. In Angle Mode, the position of the slider roughly relates to the desired angle of the camera. If you want to tilt the camera downward, you move the slider further downward.

The 4K-capable camera is integrated into a 3-axis gimbal with 360-degree pan control. This feature opens up many filming possibilities.

In Velocity Mode, the slider position determines how quickly the camera tilts up or down. When the slider is positioned in the midpoint of its range, the camera is static. The further you move the slider away from the midpoint, the faster the camera tilts in that direction. It will continue tilting until it reaches the end of its travel or you place the slider back to the midpoint. My only gripe about this arrangement is that the slider does not have a detent which allows you to find the midpoint by feel.

Pan control of the gimbal offers three switch-selectable options. In Follow Mode, the camera remains forward facing and the gimbal damps abrupt yaw movements of the mother ship. Switching to Follow Pan Controllable Mode allows you to pan the camera in a complete 360 degree path using a knob on the face of the ST16. This knob, which does have a center detent, works like Velocity Mode for tilt. The further that the knob is rotated away from the midpoint, the faster the camera will pan. The camera will stop panning when you return the knob to the midpoint. It will stay in this position relative to the Typhoon's frame while also damping yaw movement of the aircraft.

Selecting Global Mode for panning works a lot like Follow Pan Controllable Mode. The difference is that when the control knob is at midpoint, the camera is stabilized in that compass direction, no matter which way the aircraft is subsequently turned. So if the camera is pointing north when you center the knob, it will stabilize in a northward direction no matter which way the Typhoon H is pointed.

Pan control isn't a feasible option for most other AP multi-rotors because they have fixed landing gear that would obscure the camera's view as it rotates. The Typhoon H has retractable landing gear that swings upward and out of the shot. The gear position is controlled by a 2-position switch on the transmitter. It will also deploy automatically if one of the emergency landing modes is engaged.

Flying the Typhoon H

Despite its complex appearance, the Typhoon H is very quick to prepare for flight. The six arms swing up and snap into place and the propellers are similarly easy to orient. You simply have to power up the ST16 and then the airframe to get going. Within a minute or two, both components are linked to each other and GPS. Again, the integrated video system is a tremendous headache saver here.

I expected the Typhoons H's six rotors to whip up more noise than its quad-rotor brethren. But that is not the case. This ship is actually among the quieter AP ships that I've tested.

The Typhoon is a stable camera platform with numerous autonomous and multi-control options.

The Typhoon H responds well to control inputs. The yaw response feels a bit soft to me, but I prefer that to it being overly sensitive. A slider on the right side of the ST16 allows you to adjust the responsiveness of the flight controls. Moving the slider adjusts pitch, roll, and yaw simultaneously. The most docile setting results in very mild control response that is ideal for low-time pilots. Even in the most aggressive setting, the Typhoon H falls short of what I would call sporty. But that isn't a ding against a machine intended for AP rather than sport flying.

There are two primary flight modes: Smart Mode and Angle Mode. In Smart Mode, all of your control inputs are based on your frame of reference, rather than the airframe's. Pushing forward on the right control stick will always make the ship move away from you…regardless of which way the nose is pointing. Likewise pulling back on the stick will bring the Typhoon closer to you.

I've reviewed numerous other multi-rotors with Smart Mode-like controls and I'm not a big fan. While I can see how Smart Mode might be more intuitive for beginning pilots, it relies on GPS to function. GPS is just too unreliable to put all of your eggs in that basket. All of the GPS-dependent controls can be fun and useful features, but you want to be able to bring the ship back home on your own if you lose GPS connection in flight. So just make sure that you do not become dependent on Smart Mode.

Angle Mode behaves more like a traditional RC aircraft. Your control inputs are always relative to the Typhoon's direction. Pushing forward on the right control stick will make it move in whatever direction the nose is pointing. Angle Mode also uses GPS, but only to autonomously maintain position. If you lose GPS, it will simply drift downwind. The controls will continue to behave the same way.

Within Smart Mode there are some autonomous flight options that are intended for different styles of shooting video. Follow Me mode causes the Typhoon H to autonomously track the path of the ST16 as the pilot moves around. Watch Me Mode keeps the camera pointed at the controller no matter where the pilot flies the model.

Journey simply sends the Typhoon H away and back to the pilot for a selfie shot. Orbit Me commands the ship to fly circles around the pilot. Point Of Interest (POI) allows you to choose a separate object or feature for the Typhoon H to orbit.

Of all the autonomous flight modes available with the Typhoon H, I think the most useful is Curve Cable Cam. In this mode, you can program a specific path for the vehicle with waypoints. As it flies, you can choose whether to command the camera real-time or allow the camera to follow the orientations you've defined at each waypoint.

In additional to all of these modes, there are also provisions to add a second pilot and transmitter so that the aircraft and camera can be commanded individually. The secondary controller can be another ST16 or the Wizard included in Pro bundles. The Wizard looks suspiciously like a remote control for your TV. I have not been able to test either the Wizard or a dual controller set-up, so I can't comment on their functionality.

Duck and Weave

The primary difference between the Advanced and Professional models of the Typhoon H is the addition of Intel RealSense on the Pro. According to Yuneec's literature, RealSense uses its sensors and GPS to build a virtual 3D model of the Typhoon H's surroundings. This allows it to detect (and remember) obstacles in its flight path up to 32 feet away.

How the Typhoon H responds to an obstacle depends on the flight mode. In Follow Me or Watch Me, the aircraft looks for an alternate route around the obstacle. In Angle Mode, the Typhoon H will stop and wait for control input from the pilot.

The Advanced and Professional versions of the Typhoon H feature differing levels of collision avoidance.

I've tested collision avoidance on both my Advanced review model and a friend's Professional model. It works as advertised. While I appreciate the technology and ingenuity that goes into it, collision avoidance just isn't a significant selling point for me. As a longtime RC pilot, I'm hardwired to avoid flying near enough to buildings and trees that an avoidance system would be beneficial. I'm sure there are valid exceptions. But I think that any hobbyist who is counting on automated obstacle avoidance systems should step back and reevaluate where and how they fly.

It's Actually Different

The six-armed frame of the Typhoon H certainly stands apart from the current crowd of AP offerings. However, its hex platform is itself not a significant reason to choose this ship over any other. The actual reasons for selecting the Typhoon H are a bit more subtle, but immensely more compelling. Having a 4K camera with full pan control provides a lot of filming flexibility that can't be matched by fixed-pan rigs. When you factor in the streamlined, intuitive controls afforded by the ST16 and its integrated video system, you have a truly capable all-in-one AP system. I'm not aware of any other AP multi-rotor in this price range that provides the same degree of features for AP enthusiasts.

Terry is a freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas. Visit his website at TerryDunn.org and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. You can also hear Terry talk about RC hobbies as one of the hosts of the RC Roundtable podcast.