I’m spending more time talking and writing about my drones now than I am flying them. The main reason for that is because my mainstay up to this point, the little Eachine EG16 that I bought to learn to fly with back at the beginning of April has let me down.

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It happened about a week ago. Having flown it a couple of times during the day in question, I decided to do one more flight over the field across the road in front of my house. Luckily I’d crossed over the trees between the front of my garden and the road and the drone was heading down the field at a height of not much more than 10 metres or so when suddenly it just flopped uncontrollably down to the ground.

Fortunately the field had only just been mowed so there was a good, soft cushion of grass stubble for it to land on and there was no harm done and as it had never done such a thing before, I was eager to find out why as I walked across to retrieve it. When I restarted its motors it was obvious what had happened – one of them had failed. I thought that maybe an internal plug had come loose or a soldered joint had failed but when I took the drone apart there seemed to be nothing amiss.

So it looks as though I’ve had another bit of bad luck and one of the motors may always have been faulty from day one. Anyway, there’s no point in making a fuss about it with the supplier because if I made a warranty claim, they’d just say to return it to China, which would be totally uneconomic. I’ve just gone ahead and ordered a replacement which has only cost just over 6€ including delivery, but once again I’m back into the wait-30-days-for-delivery mode.

I’d only had the EG16 for less than a week when I decided that I’d like to get more involved in drones and ordered another Eachine model, an EX4, with a better 3-axis stabilised camera, longer battery life and greater range.

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I eagerly awaited delivery but when it arrived I was to be disappointed. I managed to get it into the air on only two or three occasions during which it was terribly unstable and almost uncontrollable and finally it ended up losing its wi-fi connection completely. So I ended up making a claim for a refund against the Chinese supplier and as they said that it would take at least 60 days for it to be processed, I called on the assistance of Paypal to get the matter resolved sooner.

Paypal was about as much use as a chocolate teapot and things got even worse when, after I’d returned the drone to China, having despatched it on 17th April, it became stuck in Chinese customs on 30th April and still is as far as I can see from on-line tracking. The supplier has made no effort to get it freed despite my telling them how to, on the advice of the postal service here in France, and I was therefore becoming more and more angry.

But yesterday there was good news at last. The supplier informed me that they are processing my refund anyway (after I’d pointed out to them that according to statements on their web site, they were obliged to) and my Paypal account confirms this. No thanks to Paypal, though, who after constantly kicking the can down the road and extending the dispute judgement date time after time, later sent me a message saying that they had ‘decided in my favour’.

Let this be a warning to everybody. Paypal customer protection isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be and only does ‘what it says on the tin’ if they decide that it will.

After I’d sent the defective EX4 drone off to China, I decided that as you only get what you pay for, I’d go for something a bit more expensive and hopefully more reliable that would give me the sort of performance and video quality that I’m looking for. After scouring the internet and Youtube, I decided to go for the brand new Fimi X8 SE 2020.

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I ordered it and paid the money to the same supplier who had sold me the defective EX4 and as my dispute with them worsened, naturally I became more and more worried that I might not have done the right thing. The situation became even more acute because the Fimi was on ‘preorder’ as it’s an upgraded model and it seems that not only has manufacture been delayed by the Covid-19 crisis in China, but orders for it have exploded causing a considerable delay.

As at the time of writing, I still haven’t received mine but after the news of my EX4 refund came through, I’m now feeling much more comfortable about that. I did have the option of cancelling the order but I don’t want to do that as the model’s price has already increased due to demand since I ordered it.

When it became clear that I would have to wait several weeks for my new Fimi, I decided that I’d bite the bullet and order yet another drone with an ultra-HD 4K camera. A close contender when I’d decided on the Fimi was the Hubsan Zino H117S which is now a 2-year old design, so quite elderly in drone terms, but is still highly regarded.

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It has proven to be reliable and robust and having been in the market for that amount of time, its firmware has undergone continuous development and improvement to the point that it stands out as having exceptional performance for a drone at its price point. So I went ahead and ordered one on line at what was a very competitive price from a supplier promising delivery in 6-8 working days.

But it didn’t happen. I made allowances for delays resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown but once it got to 2 weeks or so, I was beginning to panic and could see another Paypal refund dispute looming on the horizon. But it turns out that I needn’t have worried. Clearly the supplier had misjudged their pricing and there was no way that they could sell the Hubsan at the price on their web site and make anything out of it. So as well as getting my EX4 refund through yesterday, I also got one for the Hubsan, leaving me right back at square one.

But not quite – there’s a final twist at the end of the story. I was idly scanning the small ads on Le Bon Coin again yesterday evening, which was a bank holiday here in France, and lo and behold I came across two attractively priced Hubsan Zinos, one of which was advertised as ‘in new condition’ with less than 30 minutes flying time. Certainly the photographs backed that up so I acted quickly and got in touch with the seller, up in the 91 département just south of Paris.

I was very cautious as the bogus seller who scammed me on a GoPro a few weeks ago also claimed to be from that area, but I’m sure the Hubsan seller is completely genuine as the details he provided checked out – he is in the on-line telephone directory at the address and with the number he gave. He also had a Paypal account and after we’d spoken on the phone, I went ahead and bought his Zino off him.

Amusingly, he dashed out yesterday with the parcel to catch the post having forgotten that it was a bank holiday, and has sent it off this morning. So I now have a copy of the tracking number and am again waiting for my ‘new’ drone to arrive. But the way the saga has played out so far and given the number of parcels I’ve got backlogged in the French postal system and am waiting delivery of, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if after all this, the new Fimi arrives before the Zino…

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