DJI RoboMaster S1: A Hands-on Review
Heliguy is the first UK drone dealer to get their hands on DJI’s RoboMaster S1. Our blogger, James Willoughby, has had the chance to test out the mini tank drone. Here is his verdict on this educational robot. If you like what you see, then pre-order your DJI RoboMaster S1 with Heliguy now.
The package is here! The DJI RoboMaster S1 has arrived at Heliguy HQ. I’m like a kid at Christmas.
Since DJI unveiled the state-of-the-art educational robot, I’ve been dying to get my hands on this cool-looking machine.
Yes, I’m 34. But it doesn’t quell my excitement and enthusiasm for test-driving this impressive piece of kit, designed to make robotics fun and relevant.
After all, the RoboMaster S1 comes with LED lights, lasers, and an immersive first-person view (FPV) driving experience. Heck, it even features a cannon which fires gel beads. And I might even learn a thing or two about coding!
And you know something? Having played with it for just a short space of time, I can safely say that it is every bit as fun as it looks, and thanks to its unique range of captivating gameplay modes and intelligent features, it would make an excellent present, or take pride of place in a school classroom.
DJI RoboMaster S1: Building The Mini Tank Drone
But before I can tear the mini tank drone around the Heliguy office and put this robot well and truly through its paces, it needs to be built first!
It may come with around 100 pieces, but thankfully the RoboMaster isn’t too much of a daunting construction.
As a barometer, it is more complex than putting together a LEGO set, but no way near as stressful as assembling flat-pack furniture.
The instruction manual is fairly simple to follow and thankfully DJI has provided everything you need to handle the build – including magnetic screws which attach to the screwdriver handle and grease to lubricate the wheels.
As a side note, the battery is flat on arrival, so charging it while you’re constructing the robot is recommended.
Fast forward two-and-a-half hours and RoboMaster is built. It’s looking mean and ready for action.
To get going, there are numerous ways to operate the RoboMaster S1, either by using a computer or a smart device via the touchscreen and gamepad. When using the gamepad with a touchscreen device, the robot can also be operated using an external mouse, which can be connected through a dedicated USB port.
Users can connect to the RoboMaster S1 via Wi-Fi or a router. When connecting via Wi-Fi, your mobile device or computer connects to the Wi-Fi of the S1. Connection via router provides broader signal coverage, which allows multiple control methods for robots to operate simultaneously on the same network.
DJI RoboMaster S1: Experience The Thrill Of The Battle
After connecting the robot, it’s play time. And this is where the fun really begins!
I get the feeling that this is a pretty awesome machine as soon as I bring the S1 to life. A press of the on button is greeted by a loud futuristic whooshing sound, the LED lights flash and the gun turret swivels around and locks into position.
It’s exciting stuff!
Next, there are three on-screen modes to choose from. These are Solo, Battle and Lab.
Solo does what it says on the tin. It’s just you and your RoboMaster and this free-roaming ‘open-world style’ option is probably the best choice for beginners, providing the chance to get to grips with the controls. More of that in a minute.
The next mode is Battle. And this is a stellar mode to pick, with a choice between Race and Free-for-all.
Race is exactly that. You arrange vision markers (provided in the box) as checkpoints, steer the S1 towards each and then scan them as fast as possible with the robot’s gun. You can select the number of laps you complete, as well as how many markers you hit. This game can be played on your own as a time trial, but it is definitely more fun bringing extra players into the mix.
Seven vision markers come with the RoboMaster S1 package. However, to take the fun further, you can purchase separate packs of 14 for £6/$6. They are built from durable paper material and protected by a waterproof matte film.
Battle mode also features the thrilling Free-for-all option. This choice is designed for multiple players to fight it out within the time limit and scrap for victory.
This is where the S1’s six intelligent armour panels come in to play. They detect gel bead or infrared beam strikes during the course of a battle, while the referee system can analyse and communicate hit data, incorporating it into gameplay in real-time.
Only having one RoboMaster, I didn’t have the chance to experience the Free-for-all option, but this would no doubt be one of the highlights of owning this product.
Battling it out with a bunch of your mates, in a Robot Wars-esque contest, would be thrilling and very similar to DJI’s annual RoboMaster competition, which the S1 takes inspiration from.
The final option is Lab. And this particular mode is perhaps the main reason why the RoboMaster S1 was born.
This educational robot is designed to unlock the potential in every learner, helping them to learn and understand computer code and programming skills. So, once you are in the Lab, you can choose either:
- Road to Mystery: Learn to programme and immerse yourself in the exciting world of robotics.
- DIY Programming: Learn drag-and-drop Scratch programming to improve your skills and create fun new robotics programmes.
- RoboAcademy: Begin your journey in robotics with a series of fun and challenging courses.
Through Lab, users can begin to grapple with the rewarding task of creating code, utilising Scratch and Python programming, and being able to control the RoboMaster is unique and creative ways. The S1 can even be programmed to automatically follow a line on the ground
These custom codes and functions can then be used to spring a surprise on your RoboMaster opponents. It opens a whole world of possibilities and is an engaging way of teaching programming skills!
In a nutshell, the RoboMaster S1 is a quirky and intuitive tool to teach and fuel a passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and it will certainly be a popular choice in schools – with teachers and pupils alike.
DJI RoboMaster S1: Going Solo
With only one test robot at my disposal, I go for the Solo option.
I operate the S1 through my laptop. The W, S, A, and D keys control the robot’s omnidirectional movement, the arrow keys rotate the gun turret and the mouse pad fires the Blaster.
I have to say, I am really impressed with the S1’s movement. It is really simple to drive and operate, incredibly responsive and has excellent manoeuvrability.
The S1 comes with four Mecanum wheels, each with 12 rollers that allow such precision movement and control, while front axes suspension allows for added versatility during operation.
The RoboMaster is also fairly nippy, with a top speed just shy of 8mph. The robot’s pace can be tweaked in the settings, with a choice of slow, medium, fast and custom. A cheeky press of the shift key on my laptop gives it an acceleration boost.
Adding to this is the immersive FPV driving experience. It’s top class and gives you a real-time view of where your RoboMaster is heading.
The FPV view is provided courtesy of the teeny-tiny camera on the front of the robot. With a microSD card inserted, the S1 can capture photos and record 1080p videos; without a microSD card, it supports only 720p.
This FPV angle helps you target, but it does also limit your ability to see anywhere except for where the gun is pointed.
DJI RoboMaster S1: A Closer Look At The Gun
On the subject of the gun, this is a seriously fun feature – whether you’re shooting at the vision markers, other RoboMasters or a general blast.
The so-called Blaster can shoot gel beads or infrared beams and you can toggle between the two.
If you go for the pellets, you have to soak them in water until they grow to the size of tiny peas. They are, in fact, very similar to the popular child’s toy, Orbeez. A bottle of gel beads comes with the RoboMaster S1, and you can purchase additional ones (£8/$11).
The S1’s gel bead container can fit around 430 pellets at one time, and each bottle of beads contains enough for a hefty 10,000 shots, so you’ve got plenty of ammunition in your arsenal.
The gel beads don’t hurt when they hit you, but a pair of safety goggles do come with the RoboMaster. But as a word of caution – refrain from firing at people’s faces, or casually shooting at household pets, or spouses!
In fact, it is probably wise to mention here that the S1’s blasting function does meet the safety requirements of major countries and regions around the world. The S1 also has an additional angle limit protection to make sure that it cannot launch gel beads when the pitch angle is higher than 10 degrees (although this can be switched off). The infrared beams, meanwhile, are safe and cannot cause any physical damage.
Just as a side note: If you are firing the beads, be aware that they really do get everywhere once you’ve shot them around the place, so I found myself promptly reaching for the vacuum cleaner after each game of RoboMaster.
Another cool feature of the gun is the ability to lock-on to a target. The Blaster will then follow this object wherever it moves.
The battery of the S1 can last for 35 minutes of continuous use. The battery life on standby is about 100 minutes.
DJI RoboMaster S1: How Can I Get My Hands On This Mini Tank Drone?
When it was released, the DJI RoboMaster S1 was available to purchase in just a few countries, including the USA and China.
Heliguy is aiming to get stock by the end of November to cater for our UK and American customers. The RoboMaster is priced £499 or $549 and you can pre-order yours now from Heliguy.
DJI RoboMaster S1: Conclusion
Make no mistake, the DJI RoboMaster S1 is a seriously cool product and is an ingenious way of making coding and robotics fun and relevant.
After all, STEM education is becoming more and more important, so DJI should be applauded for crafting a mini tank drone which can teach vital AI skills in such an engaging way.
It’s the modern-day equivalent of the Valiant Roamer educational robot – but DJI’s Terminator-esque toy can fire bullets, zip across the surface and do battle with other S1s. If this can’t inspire a generation, then I don’t know what will!
The long list of gameplay modes, features and customisable options give the RoboMaster S1 a decent lifespan and winning a battle on the back of producing your own custom code would be a truly satisfying experience.
The RoboMaster S1 also has an impressive age appeal. The lads in the office were suitably impressed – whizzing it around the desks and through the corridors while shooting at targets – while a weekend at home with it gained the thumbs up from the kids (aged 11 and 9), who thought it was the best thing they’d ever seen.
Interestingly, it also struck a chord with my eldest, who is learning coding skills at high school – hence the relevance of this product.
It all means that you could pass the RoboMaster off as an incredibly fun present, or you could use this engaging toy in a classroom environment.
Either way, the DJI RoboMaster S1 is a sure-fire winner which will offer hours of entertainment and practical learning.
To pre-order your DJI RoboMaster S1 with Heliguy, click here.