Flexbot: From Kickstart to Failed Promises

flexbot a copter anyone can fly

Late last summer/fall, I can’t remember when exactly, a Kickstart campaign popped up promising a copter that anyone could fly called the Hex Bot. It came in quad and hex models and was built around a 3D printed shell. There were videos showing the copters in flight, people easily controlling them via their smartphones, and even great looking video supposedly shot from the copter itself. Little did I know, that upon contributing to the kickstarter campaign, I would be forced to wait through months of delays only to be served with a severely disappointing product, that barely delivers on it’s promises.

After months of waiting my “Flexbot”, as it was now referred to as, finally arrived in the mail. Funny enough, I have a direct connection to the reason the name was changed from Hexbot to Flexbot as well, but that’s not what this is all about, the name doesn’t matter. The first part of my Flexbot kickstarter reward arrived in a very well designed package that appeared to be better designed than the actual product itself. The camera module for the copter hasn’t been completed yet, so that hasn’t come in the mail, but I have already put in a request for a refund on the camera module part of it, so hopefully that request is honored as this thing is nearly impossible to fly.

The assembly wasn’t difficult, but there’s a certain way to put the motors in apparently and the instructions aren’t very much help. They say to put them in according to the numbers on the frame, but there definitely aren’t any numbers on the frame. The instructions have numbers on them in the following step, but it’s hard to really tell which order they go in.

After getting everything together and attempting to fly it for the first time, I wasn’t having any luck. I could get the app to connect to the copter, but nothing would happen; it was then that I read you need to charge the battery fully first… that and there were no real instructions regarding how to use the poorly designed smartphone app.

After charging the battery and getting everything ready to go, I tried again. Still nothing… Some of the propellers would spin at a very low rate of speed, but nothing happened when you pressed up on the accelerator in the app. I soon realized that there was an “on button”, so to speak, in the app that you needed to hit. Again, not instructions for the app, so it was all trial and error. As soon as I gave the copter some juice it immediately flew hard to the right and smashed into the wall. No problem, I knew there would be some sort of learning curve to flying the thing, so I gave it a few more tries. The only thing I was able to accomplish with the copter itself was pissing off my dog. There is a super-annoying hum that happens constantly as soon as you plug in the battery which drove the dog nuts. Not to mention it’s impossible to fly, so I kept crashing it into him, and the walls, and the tv, and the ceiling and my wife, and just about everything else in my apartment. I decided to give up for the night, charge the batteries (since it only gets 6 minutes of flight time on a charge), and bring it to the office the next day where we have more room.

At the office the following day none of us had any luck. I got it to hover a few times, but not for very long before crashing. This was definitely not the “copter that anyone could fly” I was promised. After a few more attempts at the office, I lost control of the copter and flew it hard into the brick wall, cracking one of the arms that holds a propeller; that was the end of that. I’m sure that after buying super glue offered from Sugru by tesa, I can bring it back together like a new one for sure because it is difficult to find someone to 3D print me a new frame. I’ve already emailed them asking if I can get a refund on the camera module as there is absolutely no way that I’m going to be able to use any of the video that this thing would be capable of since I can’t fly it for more than 10 seconds without crashing it.

So needless to say, I’m extremely disappointed in the Flexbot and this will probably deter me from contributing to any sort of product based kickstarter campaigns in the future (for a while). Did anyone else receive their Flexbot and have troubles with it? Is there a trick to it that I haven’t figured out? I’ve read through the comments on the Kickstarter page and none of the tricks I’ve seen on there are helping.