Eachine E511S Foldable Drone: DJI Mavic Air on a Budget
Once you figure out how to use the app, this is a reasonable little drone. The limited instructions mean this isn't the most beginner-friendly model.
Eachine’s E511S foldable drone is a low-budget alternative to DJI’s plethora of small but expensive drones. The E511S is clearly styled after the Mavic Air, but is it any good? Is the old adage “you get what you pay for” true for this little drone? Let’s find out.
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- Battery size: 7.4V 1200 mAh
- Camera: 1080p 120° wide angle
- Charging time: 2 hours
- Dimensions (folded): 7.3 x 4.2 x 2.5 inches
- Dimensions (unfolded): 14 x 14.4 x 2.9 inches
- FPV distance: 200ft
- Flying time: 16 minutes
- Frequency: 2.4GHz
- Motor type: coreless
- R/C distance: 82ft
- Weight: 9.8oz
Design and Features
Priced at less than $200, the E511S strays away from impulse territory and instead enters the Christmas present price range. While it is relatively affordable for a drone with this skill set, it’s not cheap enough to take a gamble on. Our expectations are high at this price.
Inside the box, you’ll find the drone and remote transmitter. You get one battery, a USB charger, two spare blades, four protection covers, a screwdriver, and a user manual. The inclusion of spare blades is nice given how easily blades can break in a collision. This USB charger is, in reality, a USB cable with a small circuit in the plug. It’s not possible to charge this drone with your mobile phone charger.
This drone uses GPS to enhance your flight experience. This is very common for big drones but does introduce the risk for “flyaways” if not calibrated before every flight. It uses this GPS to provide a range of features, including:
- Follow mode
- Return to home
- Headless mode
- Orbit mode
Besides this, various other sensors and buttons aim to handle the hard parts of flying for you. It has a two-speed control, one key takeoff, one key landing, emergency stop, 3D flip mode, and VR mode.
One key takeoff and landing works very well, but for features such as VR mode, you’ll need a mobile phone VR holder as one is not included in the box.
The E511S looks nice from a distance but on closer inspection, it reveals its low-budget construction. Weighing 9.8oz it is very light. Weighing less is a good thing for a drone, but this makes the E511S feel cheap and plasticky. The arms fold into the body, with the raised support feet folding into the arms. The propellers split into two parts, further reducing its travel size.
On the top, you’ll find the power switch and status LEDs. The rear houses the removable battery, which does not contain any status lights. It’s not possible to tell the battery life without the battery installed in the drone. On the bottom are the micro SD card slot and antenna. Finally, the front sports two forward-facing LEDs, and the 1080p camera. This camera has a 120° field of view and can tilt down up to 45°. There is no stabilizer for this camera, either mechanical or software-based.
While cheap feeling and very lightweight, the drone is nice and compact. It folds down to a diminutive size for transport and unfolds in a matter of seconds.
The controller works in conjunction with the mobile app. There’s a slot underneath it to hold your mobile, but no way to share power from the controller to your phone like many DJI drones. You’ll need to supply four “AAA” batteries for this controller, which is irritating. I’d expect the controller to have its own rechargeable battery at this price.
The analog control sticks are ergonomically positioned and smooth. There’s no screen on this controller, but there are many buttons scattered around for starting/stopping recording, taking photos, one-touch takeoff/landing, emergency stop, and more. Four LED status lights show the remaining controller battery level.
Before making any flight you’ll need to pair the controller with the drone, download and pair the mobile app, and calibrate the GPS.
The pairing of the controller and drone works by powering up the drone, and then the controller. After a few seconds, the status lights switch from flashing to a steady solid color. There’s no way to reset this process or otherwise pair again without power cycling both. It works well, but we’re unsure how this works if several drones are pairing at the same time. Will the controller pair with the first drone it finds or is it encoded to this specific drone? We think it’s the former which again is unusual for a drone in this price range.
The basic mobile app installation is straight forward enough. This connects to the 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi network the drone broadcasts when powered on. Strangely enough, there’s no password on this network, so anyone with a mobile phone and the inclination can connect to your drone, and issue rogue commands. Not great for a drone that can cause serious injury should it crash.
Finally, you must calibrate the GPS, and failure to do so is often a quick way to lose drones. This consists of rotating the drone through the horizontal and vertical axis and is a common procedure for drones equipped with GPS. unfortunately, you have to rely on a series of status lights to know when each step has finished, and so this becomes something of a guessing game.
Will the lights change after the third or fourth rotation? Who knows. Despite the inconsistency, it did calibrate. A feature in the app to show the current calibration status would solve this, as the current implementation in both the app and controller is a button to start the process.
When you’re ready, and the drone has acquired enough satellites, you can start to fly! By pushing both the analog sticks to their lower outer corners the motors will start. The one-touch takeoff button launches the drone, and you can start having fun.
Flying this drone is a mixed experience. Sometimes it flew very well, but a lot of a time it could not hold its position. This may be the GPS positioning, but as it did occasionally work perfectly, it’s more likely to be the wind. Despite flying at a low altitude in a sheltered area, even the mildest of breezes was enough to impact the E511S.
The best way to describe the analog control sticks is “sensitive”. The slightest movement sends the drone at speed in that direction. Even limiting the speed did little to reduce the violent maneuvers experienced.
I attempted to try the “somersault” button, but this either didn’t work or worked in a strange and unanticipated way. After pressing the button, the drone immediately started ascending at speed. With no somersault happening, and the drone still ascending almost out of control, I had no choice but to use the kill switch. Holding this button for three seconds cuts the power to the drone. This had the desired effect of bringing the drone back to ground level, and because it’s so light no real damage happened.
While this drone is capable of flying well, you’ll spend most of the time worrying about it either losing control or getting carried away on a minor breeze. That said, many cheap or “toy” drones suffer this same problem. By using the included prop guards you can safely fly indoors. You fly can outdoors providing you have perfect weather conditions.
Using the App
It’s possible to fly this drone without the app at all, but there are some advantages to using it. Primarily, you get to see the real-time camera feed.
All the advertised GPS features are only possible through the app, but here’s where things get confusing. By using the “Eachine FPV” app, the features are very limited. It’s hard to tell how long you’ve been recording for, and the only way to find out what each button does is through an information menu. This leaves you to memorize each button. If the buttons had a small label or text description underneath them, you would fare much better.
The instruction manual shows pictures of a different app. After doing some research, this is an app called “LW FPV”. We’re not sure if this is a third-party app or not, as it looks like the first app but it actually works.
This LW FPV app works far better than the Eachine FVP app. Intelligent flight modes, video recording elapsed time, the real-time map, waypoints, and more all function as they should.
Neither app provides any instructions. A simple tutorial on the calibration stage or an option to format the memory card would be excellent places to start. We encountered a problem with our micro SD card. It may need formatting, but as Eachine do not share the format this needs to be in, and the apps do not provide an option to format, it’s still a best-guess scenario at what this should be.
We got the video to record by removing the memory card and recording the video to an Android phone. We lost a lot of video footage due to this problem, as both apps implied video recording had started, yet refused to save files to either the phone or the memory card.
Despite boasting a 1080p camera, there’s nothing special about the image quality from this drone. While the colors look acceptable at times, the sensor does a very poor job at handling bright scenes. Any kind of sun in the image and you’ll immediately notice how washed out and overexposed everything becomes.
There are no options at all in the app to change photo settings. There are no manual settings or even a basic exposure slider. Images end up looking like those out of a 10-year-old mobile phone. If you position the drone out of direct sunlight, pointing towards the shade, the results are barely useable. Even then, photos taken at the full 1920 x 1088 resolution are hardly clear or sharp. It’s not possible to take RAW photos.
The video quality is about on par with the photo quality. It’s good enough to let you see where you’re going but forget about producing cinematic movies with this camera. The videos also suffer the same overexposed problem as the photos.
Should You Buy the E511s Foldable Drone?
Before buying this drone, you need to set your expectations. If you’re going to fly it indoors, at low altitude, or generally want to have fun with a step-up from an entry-level drone, then sure, it’s acceptable. Anything more than basic flights though, and you will soon become frustrated by its limitations. Be it the terrible camera quality, difficult to use mobile app, or its inability to handle the smallest of winds.
This drone has a lot of potential, but unfortunately, it’s difficult to fly especially for a beginner. An updated app or instruction manual with troubleshooting steps and basic information such as the app name would help. Eachine can learn a lot from entry-level drones such as the DJI Tello or DJI Spark , but this little drone does perform well after a little troubleshooting.
The good news is, the usability of this drone has the potential to significantly improve in the future. As most of its flaws are due to the user experience in the app, future software updates may resolve this. Use the offer code 9VJDOBPA on Amazon.com to get 20% off the list price!
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