Cheerson CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder Review
The Cheerson CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder is a great multi-rotor for someone who is new to the hobby. The drone ticks all the right boxes including the pricing and ease of flying. It is in the mid price range, generally costing below $300 and offers all levels of users an awesome learning experience. The quad comes ready-to-fly (RTF) so once you have unpacked it and plugged in the battery you are good to go.
Other features that you will appreciate include the GPS connectivity although it does not offer an autonomous flight or an onboard camera. However, it has a camera mount that you will find useful if you are planning to capture some aerial footage with your drone. As the name suggests, this is also drone that with great failsafe features and which will find its way home in a lot of difficult flying circumstances.
It is unlikely to give you the best functional uses so you can only use it to enjoy drone flying; it is a hobbyist’s drone. We will look at many of these features in greater detail. Given the price tag and the performance, we wouldn’t recommend this drone for someone just learning to fly a drone for the very first time and who is likely to crash this multiple times. For that, you can choose lower cost and high performing alternatives such as the SYMA X5C.
If you are a brand-conscious buyer, it would be good to know that the manufacturer of this drone, Cheerson Hobby Technology Company Limited, is one of the top drone manufacturers in the world that is now known for its quality and reliability. Some of its drones are some of the most reputable in the market currently such as the CX-10 so you can expect the CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder to follow the same tradition of quality manufacturing and good performance standards.
Summary of the Cheerson CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder Specifications
- Control Distance: According to the manufacturer specifications, up to 300m.
- The Flying Altitude: The quad can hit a flying altitude of up to 300m.
- Flight Time: Up to 15 minutes on zero load. Practically, many flyers are getting a flight time in the region of 12 to 15 minutes on zero load. With load, depending on the load size, the flight time reduces significantly.
- Charging Time: The 2700mAh 3S LiPo batteries it uses has a charging time of up to 2 hours. It would be nice to have an extra battery for an enhanced flight experience.
- The Charge Mode: The drone has a Switching Power Supply.
- Quad Functions: The quad offers users various functions including an Auto Return, Side Flying function, Fixed Position Hover, GPS Hold System, and Up and Down. There is also the forward and backward flying function.
- Battery Weight: 180gm
A Brief Overview
The CX-20 is not an absolute beginner drone. We would recommend this for someone who has mastered the controls and is looking for next level of drone flying experience. It is a brushless drone that is GPS-enabled and actually looks like the DJI Phantom with a very attractive and flawless design. The quadcopter is beautifully built and has fairly impressive performance features that you would expect in a drone in its class and the same price range.
The Package Contents
A package of the Cheerson CX-20 contains the following items:-
- The CX-20 drone
- Four propellers
- The landing skids or aircraft support
- A single 2700mAh 3S LiPo battery
- A single battery charges
- Camera mount
- A single remote controller
- The User manual
Although it is ready-to-fly, certain parts comes disassembled with the numerous parts packed separately in the individual boxes. The package also comes with a very comprehensive user manual, a CD as well as the tools that you will need to assemble it ready for flying. The drone utilises a brushless motor that offers better performance efficiency and durability even in extreme flying conditions. The propellers have the caps attached on top.
While the multi-rotor comes with an external camera mount, it doesn’t have the camera itself so if you are planning on using your drone to take some aerial footage, you will have to purchase a light camera separately, particularly the GoPros which have good compatibility with the Auto-Pathfinder. The drone can smoothly handle a GoPro and other similar action cameras. If taking aerial footage is part of your objectives, budget for a camera accordingly. However, because this drone is built for hobbyist flying, the manufacturer has not gone out of the way to add extra features such as gyro stabilizations for clear footage so you may not use it to take those clear and powerful shots.
This is also reflected in the camera support that is included in the package. Instead of a gimbal stabilizer, it uses a simple camera mount which may not provide the level of stabilization and movement that you require. After you have mounted the camera, its movement will not be independent of that of the drone. So every motion of the quadcopter will be reflected in the images that you capture, the so called jello effect.
The remote controller uses four batteries which do not come with the package and is designed with the usual left and right RC control sticks and dual switches that you can use to adjust the flight mode of the multi-rotor. These can also show the LED indicators displaying the battery life.
While the drone comes with a User Manual, it is not easy to understand and is largely unhelpful. You can watch a few Youtube videos for practical instructions on assembling and flying this bird. Take time to charge the battery and the spare battery, if you have one, before you head out. The battery takes on average, two hours, to fully charge with one charge cycle giving you anywhere from 12 minutes to 15 minutes of flight.
As a first timer with this quad, it might take some time to put all the pieces together and get the drone ready for flight. Start off with the drone assembly. Remove the caps on the propellers by hand. Then remove the black caps on the motors and equip the propellers on the motor.
The caps on the propellers are fairly easy to remove. You can easily do so by hand. The caps on the motors will take a little struggle. Use a little wrench to remove them. The caps should be rotated in the direction that is indicated on the multi-rotor.
Start by installing the quad landing pads or aircraft support and then equip the propellers on the motor. The direction of the propellers must be matched according to the markings shown on the multi-rotor. Just observe and follow the instructions and the props will be equipped correctly. The caps should not be tightened too hard; just do it reasonably. Finally, add the A4 batteries to the transmitter and you are now ready to fly this little bird.
Features of the Cheerson CX-20 Quadcopter
The Cheerson CX-20 comes with a host of admirable features which include the following:-
Attractive Design: The design of the Cheerson CX-20 is not just attractive but also highly integrated. So if you love flying your drone during your outings, you will have an easy time packing up the drone into any backpack. The drone is also beautiful to look at with a streamlined design that captures the beauty of its industrial design as well as great visual effects. If you are flying this in a park somewhere with other flyers, you are guaranteed to turn a few heads. The design allows you to pack in handy cameras and GoPros that you can use to shoot video images during your drone flight. If you love travelling with your drone and are looking for a cheaper option, we would definitely recommend the CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder for you.
Ready to Fly: The design of this quad is a ready to fly, requiring on a little “assembly” of the props and landing pads. The moment you unpack the drone, it will be ready for flight. You only need to attach the propellers and charge the LiPo batteries. Remember to purchase the transmitter batteries are these do not come with the package.
Remote Control Unit: The drone comes with a remote control unit and a receiver that uses four AAA batteries. You will need to buy the AAA batteries separately. You therefore don’t have to worry about buying a separate RC unit for your drone which adds to the convenience. The drone is built with a 2.4Ghz ISM frequency which gives it a range of up to 300m although this can fluctuate a bit based on the flight environment. The design is also includes frequency hopping with anti-interference and thus, you can have numerous remote controllers working simultaneously. This provides you with a very good remote communications connection when flying the drone.
Stability: The Cheerson CX-20 offers a very agile and stable performance making it an easy to fly quad. This is thanks to the various design elements that the drone is equipped with such as the integrated flight dynamics system, its dedicated remote controller and receiver as well as the MX and the GPS multi-rotor and auto-pilot functionality. Before the manufacturer delivers the quad to you, they set up its flight parameters along with the flight functions so as soon as you receive the drone, you only need to connect the battery and it is ready to fly. The Cheerson CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder also has a very stable MX auto-pilot system so you can expect to achieve very good flight performance relatively quickly.
Flight Control Modes: The Auto-Pathfinder is designed with two flight control modes. It also has the position hold mode of flight. The drone is also equipped with an MX auto-pilot system that simplifies flying. The GPS module will require some mastering and offers an Altitude Control Mode and the GPS Altitude Mode. When flying the drone, you will be able to easily switch between the two modes of flight for you to get the desired flight performance.
The Flight Time: The drone has a 15 minute flight time which is above average for many drones. Most of the beginner drones generally give you a 6 to 7 minute flight time so 15 minutes is quite impressive especially for the price tag. This flight time also corresponds to that of most of drones in its class such as the DJI Phantom 2 which comes with a heftier price tag. In terms of the flight time, the drone therefore offers an excellent value for money.
However, the flight time might vary depending on the load added on the multi-rotor. For example, if you install a camera, the flight time will be lower depending on the camera weight. Practically, most flyers have experienced flight times ranging from 12 minutes to 15 minutes without a camera and 8 to 11 minutes with a tiny drone camera attached on the Cheerson CX-20. If you want to enjoy longer flight times, consider purchasing spare batteries. A single one costs $28 so they do not come cheap but they will definitely guarantee you an extensive flight experience.
The Battery Performance: The drone utilises 2700mAh 11.1 3S LiPo battery with a charging time of 2 hours in a single charging cycle. Now most users might have an issue with the lengthy charging time but remember it also offers you good flight time on average. The battery is relatively light, weighing only 180gm. The 3S LiPo battery is solidly built. With this capacity, the batteries would serve you better if you have multiple of them and a multi-port charger to work with.
Flight Speed: The Cheerson CX-20 drone has a maximum flight speed of 22mph which is quite impressive, especially for a drone of its specs. Many of the drones in its class have just about the same speed. The excellent speed along with the stability of the CX-20 makes it an absolute joy to fly.
The Return to Home Function: Many beginners like to have the Return to Home function in their drones just in case they lose sight of their drones and the Cheerson CX-20 does not disappoint in that department. The multirotor has been designed to return to its original starting point if you press the Return to Home button on its controller. This not only gets you the drone back but it will help in minimizing drone crashes when you lose sight of the quadcopter and are no longer able to navigate it effectively. If you are not good at landing the quadcopter, you will also appreciate the value of the Return to Home function as it will land the quad automatically for you. Even the more experienced drone flyers appreciate the convenience embedded in the Return to Home functionality.
Camera Compatibility: The Cheerson CX-20 does not have a gyro stabilizer or gimbal so it is not the best for taking crystal clear aerial footages. However, it has a camera mount and you can still mount various kinds of cameras on the quad. You can attach a GoPRo camera on the drone and use it to capture videos and photos that are relatively clear depending on the flight condition. However, if you make sudden turns or flicks on your drone, this will be reflected in the footage because it does not have a gimbal that moves independently of the quad movement. Various GoPro cameras are compatible with the drone so you have a broad choice to go with. However, you still have to purchase the cameras separately.
Intelligent Orientation Control: The Auto-Pathfinder is built with an Intelligent Orientation Control (IOC) system so if the Cheerson CX-20 suddenly goes into a random spin and you are unable to control it deliberately, you can use the Intelligent Orientation Control option which will push the quad in the direction in which you push its controls. This functionality allows you to recover the drone relatively quickly and fly it on the straight in case it goes into a sudden spin. The drone’s intelligent control system is part of the functions of the MX autopilot system. The node direction is generally similar to the forward direction of the flying quad. With the help of the Intelligent Orientation Control, you can achieve the forward direction irrespective of the direction pointed to by the nose of the quadcopter. If you are flying it in a course lock, the recorded nose direction of the drone will be similar to the forward direction. On the other hand, in a home lock flying mode, the forward direction of the quad will be similar to home point direction of the quad.
The LED Lighting System: Beneath every arm of the Cheerson CX-20, there are bright LED lights that serve as an indicator of the direction the drone is headed to. The drone has four powerful LEDs beneath it so you will never lose sight of it no matter the time of the day. Most importantly, the LED lights show you the direction the drone is pointing to allowing you to get a bearing on the front of the drone. This also allows for ease of manoeuvring the quadcopter.
Fixed Position Hover: This is another intelligent design feature in the Auto-Pathfinder. You can simply flick the switch and the drone will hover in a particular position and altitude. This feature can allow you to take clear aerial photographs and makes recording a lot easier. If the battery is about to run out when the drone is in the fixed position hover, it will land automatically so you can recharge or replace the battery.
The Drone Transmitter:-The Cheerson CX-20 has a comfortable and relatively big transmitter that is designed simply allowing you to hold and control the drone with relative ease. The transmitter does not have an LCD screen or any mount options.
The front part of the CX-20 transmitter consists of two switches along with an antenna, a single pair of trims and two aux adjusters. The back of the CX-20 transmitter has the battery compartment, the antenna and light indicators. The buzzer mesh is also situated here. The transmitter has a nice look and feel to it that will make flying the drone fun. The aileron sticks and the throttle are professionally designed to make the manoeuvring of the drone as smooth and comfortable as possible.
You can control all the transmitter features using the SWA and SWB switch combination and throttle balancing. These include features such as Altitude Hold, Return to Home, Orientation Control and GPS Hold. All these control functionalities are sticky at the front of the transmitter for easier user control.
Low Voltage Protection: There are two main elements of the low voltage protection in the Auto-Pathfinder that will help protect the drone from crashing in case it runs out of charge. The first part is provided by the MX autopilot function. This will help prevent the quadcopter from crashing or other potentially dangerous flying actions that might occur when the drone depletes its battery voltage. This level of protection can be referred to as passive because the drone does not take a “proactive” flight characteristic to prevent a collision or crash. Instead, it simply sends a warning signal through a blinking LED indicator and a beep sound.
The second level of voltage protection is slightly more proactive whereby the CX-20 MX autopilot system will trigger the drone to land to the ground automatically using the available charge in order to prevent a crash.
Failsafe: Another protective technology in the CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder is the failsafe functionality of the GPS system that is provided by the MX autopilot system. In case there is disconnect in communications between the CX-20 MX autopilot and the transmitter, the command stick outputs will automatically shift to the middle position. The system will then activate the Return to Home function, if it still has good GPS signal, which will return the drone to its starting point. Basically, if you lose communications with the drone and you are no longer able to exert control, it should automatically return home and land safely, avoiding possible crashes or collisions.
Stable Mode: The Stable Mode works in conjunction with the GPS in order to help the Auto-Pathfinder maintain its height, direction and the position.
Aerial Photography and Videography with the Cheerson CX-20
This is not a specialized drone for aerial photography and videography but you can still use it for the same purposes by equipping it with a good camera and using the controls to manipulate the quadcopter into a fixed position where you can capture clear videos and photos.
The drone can be equipped with various options of GoPro sized cameras that can fit the camera mount on board. To get rid of the jello effect, you can also equip it with a vibration dampener. However, when you attach the camera and other support accessories on board, you will have to grapple with shorter flight times as the battery will run out much faster than when you are flying drone without these add-ons. With more load on board, you might also not fly the drone as aggressively although you can still execute some good flying routines. Most users have reported a reduction in the flight time from the highs of 15 minutes to somewhere in the region of 9 to 11 minutes when on load so carry some spare batteries for a longer flight experience.
The Flight Characteristics of the Cheerson CX-20
The CX-20 does well outside when flown in mild wind conditions but it does well mostly in calm weather. It feels a little heavy when you first take it off the ground but you will get used to the controls pretty quickly. However, to familiarize yourself with its responses and behaviour, we recommend taking a few low level flights first before you head far off into the skies.
The flight is also quite stable. You can move forward, backwards or sideways quite smoothly and execute various kinds of manoeuvres or fly it in various orientations. However, if you are a speedster, this is not the drone for you although we find the 22mph speed quite adequate for most flyers at this level. Even if you a mid-level or expert flyer, you will find the speed a little fast and adequate for most hobbyist flying.
It even does well with aerial videography. With a little dampening, stable or fixed position flying, you can still capture excellent footage with the Cheerson CX-20. Be patient and take good care of the Cheerson CX-20 drone and you will have the best flight experience ever.
All the CX-20 features will pass the practical flying test and perform to your expectations. However, many flyers will struggle a bit with getting the CX-20 into the GPS positioning. However, the drone’s altitude position works really well. If you fly it in less windy conditions, you will get a better experience overall.
Once you get the CX-20 off the ground, it should handle well. The drone’s controls are also fairly precise, allowing you to execute the flying manoeuvres that you wish to undertake. While it has the fixed position hover functionality, this does not provide the same level of stability as that of premium drones such as DJI Phantom but for your purposes, it should be ok.
In windy conditions, you will struggle a bit to land and even the control the drone. We actually don’t recommend flying this drone in any kind of windy weather condition. However, you will definitely be impressed with the durability of the CX-20. It is not one of those drones that you will need to replace on a regular basis.
The CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder has a host of spare parts that you can purchase at affordable pricing to equip your quadcopter. The parts are available in various online retail websites or in the local hobby stores. So when your drone breaks down or you need extra accessories to equip your quad, you can easily procure them at the best prices. Prices for spares can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on the part. Some FPV transmitter systems, for example, tend to be a bit on the costly side. Do your due diligence and you will find some awesome deals online for the Auto-Pathfinder parts and accessories.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Cheerson CX-20 Quadcopter
Does it Come with a Camera Mount? The drone is equipped with a camera platform onto which you can attach various types of cameras including GoPros. The mount is not GoPro specific so you should research carefully before purchasing in order to ensure compatibility. However, there is no way to control the camera when flying the drone; it has to be mounted onto a fixed position and switched on before you launch the drone into flight. The camera mount is external and removable so you can choose whether to attach it to your quad.
Overall, this drone gives you all the right features if you are looking for a full sized drone with a good range and average flight time. You can use it for high performance flying and you can even attach a camera to capture some good quality footage. It offers relatively good value for money compared to the other drones in its class. The best part is that this comes at very affordable pricing. Many drones with comparable features cost considerably more than the Cheerson CX-20.
For the quads in this class, the Cheerson CX-20 is the most competitively priced without sacrificing on the performance standards. Performance-wise, the drone is a joy to fly. However, it requires a beginner that has some experience flying brushed quadcopters. You should buy this if you had some flying experience with some of the cheaper drone models. Although it is cost-effective, you won’t want to crash a $200 to $300 drone on your first flying session. There are also other control functions that will at least require a little flying experience. While the drone is powerful and highly versatile, it is not indestructible and without a steady hand, you will crash it pretty fast.
We also like the various protections that manufacturer has built into the Auto-Pathfinder in order to minimises crashes as much as possible and make flying easy. These include the Return to Home functions, the drone’s inbuilt failsafe technology and the Low Voltage Protection feature. By ensuring sufficient protections for your drones, these features also guarantee the durability of the Cheerson CX-20 Auto-Pathfinder.
The drone would also be a good choice for a beginner, intermediate flyer or expert flyer. You can easily tweak and configure it to suit your needs by adding a few add-ons to extend the functionality and ensure a smoother flying experience.
Cheerson has another great drone that you may want to check out. The Cheerson CX 10 is currently the smallest drone on the market which costs under $20!