The DJI Robomaster S1
Why I recommend that you shouldn't buy one
It's a beautiful thing. Big and heavy, it arrives in a big cubic-shaped box containing perhaps a hundred or so pieces. So the first job:
make it! Everything is provided, including hex-screws, a hex screwdriver, even lithium grease for the wheel parts, and safety goggles. The
latter because it can shoot gel beads. They arrive as dried out little white specks in a plastic bottle and take 4 hours soaking in
water to turn them into squishy largely harmless projectiles. Bear the 4 hours in mind if you plan to start shooting as soon as you've built it.
And apropos that, bear in mind the 1.5 hour charge time for the battery.
I built mine over several sessions in a total of exactly 170 minutes. The build plans and instructions are excellent and you should have no problems constructing the beast. Although, having said that, I did have an early problem, caused by my own stupidity. The first job is to build the four Mecanum wheels. These are very clever wheels and ensure that the S1 can move in any direction without the need for any form of steering. As you can see in the pictures above, they have little rollers around the circumference, offset at 45 degrees. So don't think of a Mecanum wheel as a fore/aft roller; think of it as being able to move in any direction. My mistake was when building the first wheel I missed out an essential rubber insert, necessitating a deconstruct and reconstruct. But for this error my build would have been about 150 minutes.
So having built it and charged the battery, you'll be anxious to give it a go. For your Android or Apple phone and tablet there are
downloadable apps, and for your Apple or Windows desktop there are downloadable applications. All free. Linux? Don't be silly.
There are two essential modes: control it in real time with your device and drive around shooting things or your opponents; or programmable, where you say, in a programming language called Scratch, or possibly Python (but more on Python later), do this, then do that, then this, then that ..... and so on.
I bought an S1 not because I wanted to do battle, and not because I wanted to amuse people by driving up to them and shooting them in the foot. No, my desire was for the programmability. I'm a worthwhile programmer, familiar with numerous languages, and I relished the idea of constructing complex sets of do this then do that code. And herein lies the reasoning behind my deconstructing it, getting all the bits back into that big box, and handing the bloody thing to UPS for a refund.
The general consensus of opinion around the interwebs, but in particular on DJI's own Robomaster forum amounts to this: The hardware
guys have done a wonderful job (true) but the thing was rushed out for sale before the apparently 7 year old programmers were ready
to let the software side out with it. Never mind that the bosses said, put it on sale anyway and we'll see about the software at a later date.
Right now, today, January 2020 we are within that period between great hardware and a later (unspecified) date.
And now, early February 2020, it seems reasonable to believe that any updates to the
software may be far into the future, due to most of China, including DJI's kindergarten S1 programming department, now being closed due to Novel Coronavirus.
Here is a partial list of my own problems with it:
I'm a huge fan of DJI, don't get me wrong. I hate to pan one of their products because I very happily own or have owned Phantom 2 and Phantom 3 drones,
a Flamewheel F550 hexacopter - built from scratch, a Spark drone, and both OSMO original and Pocket cameras and will probably get the DJI Action Cam. All have behaved perfectly and I have
had zero cause for complaint. But this Robomaster crap ... oh dear me, DJI, what have you done?? DJI's own Robomaster forum contains various comments regarding poor software, but additionally, that same forum is very sparsely inhabited, indicating to me that there are very few owners, and even fewer commenting or asking. Interesting to note that if in one of the mainline forums, the Spark drone for example, somebody posts a question or comment, quite often a DJI forum moderator will reply, thanking the contributor for his offering and hoping he gets a good reply, or whatever. Not so in the S1 forum, where comments, suggestions or questions go apparently ignored by the forum moderators. This to me is quite telling.
Similarly, the star rating comments system on a major online retailer contains, at the time of writing in mid-January 2020, only two comments, both bad single-star comments. Commenters have to give at least one star, so that alone doesn't say much for the thing.
I very much regret that I cannot in the least recommend this product, and would even go so far as to urge you not to bother wasting what amounts to a LOT of money (500 pounds sterling) on it. The hardware, beautiful though it is, is rendered virtually worthless due to the poor quality of the supporting software. (Put the 500 towards a new camera instead, or an Action Cam, as I will be doing soon.)