DJI Robomaster S1 Review: This Drone Taught Us More Than School Did

Last updated February 13th, 2020
DJI Robomaster S1

Alright, breaky-breaky from the high-octane, high-altitude aerial drone stuff.

As a kid, did you ever dream of being able to control your own hi-tech miniature tank or monster truck at your very fingertips?

While RC cars and trucks have been out for decades now, most lack sorely in additional functionalities.

But DJI has upped the ante in the terrestrial robot scene with the DJI Robomaster S1, a DIY robot kit that has functionalities for education, fun, and combat.

Yes, you read that right — combat — as the intuitive four-wheeled robot is equipped with a turret that launches gel beads for good measure. DJI obviously don’t want to be held liable for any injuries had they opted for harder ammunition.

But what should you expect from this modern robot drone with wheels? Who is it best for? Read on in this thorough DJI Robomaster S1 review to find out.

Quick Specs

Weight3.3 kg
SizeLength: 320 mm
Width: 240 mm
Height: 270 mm
SpeedForward: 0-3.5 m/s
Backward: 0-2.5 m/s
Lateral: 0-2.8 m/s
SignalRange: ~100 m
BatteryRuntime: ~35 mins
Capacity: 2400 mAh
RecordingCamera: 120° 1080p FULL HD
DJI Robomaster S1
21 Reviews
DJI Robomaster S1
  • Telescopes to 30" Length
  • Smartphone Holder for Monitoring
  • Joystick and Control Buttons

DJI Robomaster S1 Features

Intelligent Controller

Most of the intuitive features and innate functionalities of the DJI Robomaster S1 is taken care of via the Intelligent Controller module, situated at the helm of the rotating turret. Low latency HD video transmission, AI computing and process, and programming support are some of the features handled by the Intelligent Controller and its powerful and efficient processor unit. Yes, this is a fully programmable drone.

Blaster

Just as we mentioned earlier, the DJI Robomaster S1 is ready for robot-to-robot warfare, or against inanimate objects with its orange-marked blaster unit. Heck, even humans aren’t exempted from its hit list. There are 2 firing options: the infrared beams and gel bead ammunition.

Infrared beams are handy for DJI Robomaster S1 battles as they recognize beam hits with its reactive armor, while the gel beads are for when you want a tactile shooting experience.

These beads need to be soaked for about 4-6 hours as they come in a desiccated form, much like tapioca pearls. After soaking, the beads take on a bouncy, semi-gelatinous consistency perfect for ammunition use, though they sometimes break before being shot due to their fragile state. These gel beads are somewhat messy as well, as they burst upon contact, leaving a sticky pile to clean up afterward. Still, they’re great fun.

The turret has a 540° x 65° rotational gimbal functionality and can move up and down, giving you an optimal mounted platform to accurately point and shoot at targets, even when moving.

Mecanum Wheels

The DJI Robomaster S1’s trademarked Mecanum wheels look like monster truck wheels that have 12 individual rollers each upon closer inspection.

No, this isn’t just some aesthetic trickery, though it does add that rugged feel to the quad robot. The DJI Robomaster S1 steering relies on the omnidirectional properties of these innovatively designed wheels, giving you control without the difficult turns. A front axel suspension system handles extra stability control for uneven terrain.

Do note that it also behaves rather awkwardly when changing lanes, unlike a normal RC’s handling that emulates a real-life vehicle’s steering control. Think of it as controlling a video game character in first-person-perspective, which can be a bit more cumbersome than usual.

High-Performance Motor

The DJI Robomaster S1 relies on its custom M35081 brushless motors, outfitted behind each Mecanum Wheel, to power it through its battles, featuring integrated FOC ESC and is capable of outputting torque of up to 250 mN·m. It also comes packed with Linear Hall-Effect sensors and movement algorithms for better control and stability.

Intelligent Armor

The DJI Robomaster S1 has intelligent sensing armor panels surrounding its hull, allowing the smartphone application’s referee system to track hit data, whether it be infrared beams or gel beads.

Operational Modes

When initializing the DJI Robomaster S1 and the accompanying Robomaster app, you are greeted with a mode selection screen. You can choose from either of the three operational modes of the robot: Solo, Battle, and Lab.

Solo is the default mode of the DJI Robomaster S1, letting you explore the basic functionalities of the craft with open-world freedom. This is perfect for beginners trying to acquaint or master the controls.

Battle lets you choose between Race and Free-for-all options. Race is a straightforward affair, which you set trackable checkpoints (included in the package) on your desired course. During your lap, you need to capture these markers with the camera while you zip through. You can set your number of laps and markers, as well as do a solo time-trial challenge or a multiplayer mode where other S1’s will try to outrun you. Free-for-all is sort of a deathmatch mode with a time limit, trying to score the highest with the most hits. This is where the intelligent armor comes to play, logging hit points in the Robomaster app to determine the champion at the round’s end.

Lab is the DJI Robomaster S1’s final mode, providing an educational aspect to the whole robo-drone experience. Here, you can either choose Road To Mystery, DIY Programming, and RoboAcademy to get you started on programming the DJI Robomaster S1’s functions.

Touted as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) tool, the DJI Robomaster S1’s programming functionality opens limitless possibilities to customizing its operational features.

Beginners can start with the newbie-friendly Scratch programming platform, which has a drag-and-drop interface that you can stack just like Lego blocks to form your desired code structure.

More experienced users can go with the Python programming language, giving them the utmost control in the code level, tweaking the finest settings to their liking.

Recognition Features

The DJI Robomaster S1 has a smart tracking algorithm that allows it to recognize various objects and markings.

The robot can be programmed to follow; lined paths on the ground, its 44 unique vision markers, people, clap sounds, gestures, and even fellow DJI Robomaster S1’s in the vicinity. All of these can be reprogrammed to your needs, further sporting the flexibility of the DJI Robomaster S1 in terms of niche applications.

Battery Life

The DJI Robomaster S1 has a 2400 mAh battery pack that provides around 30 to 35 minutes of non-stop runtime but may vary depending on your use case. This isn’t too bad, seeing that half an hour’s plenty of time to be practicing its controls, getting it to perform your programmed functions, or playing with its modes. It also exceeds the average drone’s flight time.

Recharging the battery pack takes about 90 minutes or so, which again, isn’t all that bad considering the runtime it provides. It has an LED indicator when charging to let you know its status, and comes with several charging protection features such as overcurrent, overcharge, overdischarge, temperature threshold, short circuit protection, and sleep mode.

If you really want to enjoy the DJI Robomaster S1’s battle modes, secure extra battery packs for extended hours of usage.

Camera

The DJI Robomaster S1 is equipped with a 1/4 inch CMOS sensor camera that can take up to 1080p FULL HD videos capped at 30 fps and 5-MP (2560×1440) stills. DJI is known for its stellar work in the optics department, especially ones outfitted in their drones, and the DJI Robomaster S1 has been bestowed with the same crystal clarity and vividness.

The live FPV feed is limited at 720p when the DJI Robomaster S1 isn’t equipped with a micro SD card, so ensure you have one slotted in to fully capitalize on the max supported resolution, as well as give you storage capabilities.

Take note that the DJI Robomaster S1’s camera and turret are fixed on the same rotating gimbal, making independent movement from each other impossible.

Ease Of Use

Upon release, the DJI Robomaster S1 was controllable through its smartphone app Robomaster, accessing the menus, settings, and actual movement controls there. A few months later, DJI offered the Playmore Kit, which bundled the robot with the Robomaster Gamepad, along with a spare battery pack, extra gel beads, and a gel bead reservoir.

The Robomaster Gamepad converts your smartphone into a Nintendo Switch-like thingamabob of sorts, albeit sporting only a single joystick for the DJI Robomaster S1’s movement control, still requiring you to use the on-screen controls for the turret/camera control. DJI should’ve gone all-out with the controller design and made it a full-fledged navigations/function platform.

Design and Build Quality

The DJI Robomaster S1 is designed to be a DIY project out of the box, although it comes pre-assembled for those who are total newbies, and totals with 23 pieces to put together. Once assembled, the DJI Robomaster S1 looks like an over-glorified, near-future UTV made for serious firepower, with its chunky body (weighing in at 3.3 kilos though mostly comprised of plastic), and large Mecanum wheels.

Its body is riddled with sensors — 31 of them — covered by translucent panels to comprise its intelligent armor sensing system.

Furthermore, the Intelligent Controller system has CAN and M-Bus ports for sensor, power, and motion connectors, while providing six free PWM slots for extra add-ons like additional cameras, drivers, LEDs, and multiple sensors.

Performance

Despite its hefty weight, the DJI Robomaster S1 is a nimble craft.

Even in its medium speed setting, the robot is a handful to manage when running at full stride. Responsiveness is ensured with the Wifi connectivity as well, giving you a healthy 100-meter range.

You’ll have to get accustomed to the control the Mecanum Wheels offer though, as it handles slightly differently from conventional RC car controls. This only takes an hour or so to master in our experience.

More than being a fast bugger, the DJI Robomaster S1 is one loudmouth as well. From initialization, functions, and even tactile performance, the robot wants to be heard.

Beeps, custom sound effects, and the sound of the Mecanum Wheels making its way through the terrain are clearly audible, making it no sneaky assassin. The DJI Robomaster S1 wasn’t designed for assassination, however, proudly rolling into the arena with battle-hardened grit.

DJI Robomaster S1
21 Reviews
DJI Robomaster S1
  • Telescopes to 30" Length
  • Smartphone Holder for Monitoring
  • Joystick and Control Buttons

Final Thoughts

We’ve really had our hands full when reviewing this Robomaster S1.

Not really meant to be an RC car replacement, this robot is a blend of four-wheel fun, ingenuity, and 21st-century education in one neat package.

The fact it can teach you (or your child) to learn to code in Scratch or Python really is a clever addition, especially as this isn’t essential for its use by any means — if you don’t want to geek out, you don’t have to.

The DJI Robomaster S1 gives beginners a chance to enjoy a conventional remote-controlled utility vehicle with added features like Battle mode that opens up a new multiplayer, real-world experience for your buddies to enjoy.

One can infer that the DJI Robomaster S1’s mix of functionalities is targeted for mentors or parents who want to introduce their students/children to the world of programming by injecting a recreational dimension to it, though we certainly do not object that kids-at-heart try their hand at taming this technological beast of marvel. We loved it.

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