Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer (with HD Camera) Quadcopter Drone Review @ ModSynergy.com
By: Michael Phrakaysone


Drones have become a global sensation, with a skyrocketing demand during the 2015 Christmas season. According to FAA official Rich Swayze, it was estimated that one million drones would be sold in the USA alone during that period. However, there were quite a few entertaining incidents that followed, as people who received drones as gifts found themselves in amusing predicaments, getting their drones stuck in their hair, trees, or buildings. It was evident that many of them had not read the instructions properly and attempted daring maneuvers without prior flight experience.

Nevertheless, we live in a thrilling era of technology where innovative devices like drones are available to the masses, and they keep improving. The year 2016 held great promise, as demonstrated by the drones showcased at CES in Las Vegas. These unmanned aerial vehicles were equipped with advanced features such as autonomous flight capabilities and onboard cameras that could track and film activities like mountain biking. As the industry progresses, we can expect exciting developments in the next few years.

Let's dive deeper into the world of drones. At their core, drones are multi-rotor aircraft, offering a unique combination of airplane and helicopter characteristics. The most popular type is the Quadcopter, with four rotors, which has gained immense popularity in the RC toy market. It provides endless fun for both the young and the young at heart.

While you may be familiar with the high-end drones that cost over $1000 and feature HD cameras, this review focuses on a more affordable alternative. Today, we'll explore the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter Drone. Holy Stone, founded in 2014, introduces us to their latest offering, which promises an exciting experience. Stay tuned for a firsthand look at the Holy Stone F181 through onboard video footage, photos, and my personal experience with this drone.

About Holy Stone

Holy Stone

"Holy Stone was founded in 2014 and is a professional retailer of high quality products and toys for all age groups. We're dedicated to offering our customers only the highest quality and most unique and distinctive items. At the same time, we strive to do so at very competitive prices.  We then back all of that up with excellent customer service.

We’re constantly striving to find and introduce the best-selling, best-made and most highly sought-after products, all based on paying close attention to customer insights and opinions, as well as current trends.  We're quite proud of the relationships we’ve built with many manufacturers and distributors, and that enables us to continue offering only the newest, most exclusive, and most innovative products to our customers.

Our Service Commitment: Holy Stone is 100% committed to providing its customers with exemplary service and the best overall shopping experience. 

We want your visit to our website to be fun, hassle-free and enjoyable.

Thoughtful Service: Personal and customized answers to your questions. You’ll never receive a blanket, “one size fits all” form letter from us."

Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter Features

  • Equipped With A Key Return & HEADLESS SECURITY SYSTEM For Any Level Of Player To Prevent From Losing The Copter
  • 6-axis Gyro stabilization system makes the helicopter more stable and flexible when flying. It has the characteristics of wind-resistant and can be flown indoor or outdoor
  • 4 Channel Transmitter
  • 360° 4-Way Flips (Left, Right, Forward, Backward), Continuous Roll For Perfect Action And Wonderful Performance
  • Remote Control Battery: 3.7 V 750mAh, Control Mode: 2.4GHz
  • Range: About 50-100 Meters
  • Battery Run Time: About 7-9 Minutes
  • Charging Time: About 80 Minutes

First Impressions

Quadcopter Drone

The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter comes packaged in a beautifully designed corrugated box that immediately catches the eye. The box features a convenient carrying handle on top, making transportation hassle-free for customers. The vibrant red and yellow Holy Stone logo grabs attention, drawing us towards the F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter itself. Even before taking it out of the box, I must admit that the Holy Stone F181 is the most visually appealing Quadcopter I've come across during my reviews.

The F181 Universe Explorer is a ready-to-fly (RTF) package, which means it includes both the Quadcopter and the transmitter (flight controller). With 99% of the assembly completed at the factory, there's very little customer assembly required, unless you choose to attach the propeller guards or landing legs. Simply remove it from the box, insert the battery, screw down the landing legs (and optionally the propeller guards for beginners), and you're ready to take flight.

If you've followed my previous Quadcopter reviews, you may recall the use of color-coded propellers and lights for orientation assistance. The Holy Stone F181 takes a slightly different approach, yet remains highly distinguishable for in-air orientation. While all the propellers are black, the bottom of the F181 features bright LED pods that illuminate red at the rear and blue at the front. This arrangement, combined with a large blue headlight on the front, makes it remarkably easy to differentiate the front and back. I must mention once again how visually appealing the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer's design is—I absolutely love its aesthetic. Now, let's hope its performance matches its looks.

The suggested age for operating the F181 is 14 and over, likely due to its larger footprint. Holy Stone has packed the F181 with all the high-tech features commonly associated with Quadcopters, including 4 channels and 6-axis digital stabilization. This stabilization system utilizes three accelerometers to control and maintain the Quadcopter's orientation, ensuring stability despite motor vibrations and external elements like wind. This makes it user-friendly, allowing anyone to pick up the controller and fly with relative ease. The F181 is capable of executing 360-degree flips with the push of a button (and a nudge of the directional stick), operates on the 2.4GHz digital RF spectrum, and the box claims a range of up to 300 meters. This should allow for high-altitude flights and onboard video footage capture using the technically high-definition camera (1280 x 720 resolution) embedded within the F181 Universe Explorer. Speaking of the camera, I expect it to be the best I've ever tested on a Quadcopter, and we'll examine its performance further with actual flight footage and captured images.

There are two unique features on the Holy Stone F181 that I have not encountered in previous Quadcopters I've reviewed: "one key return" and "headless mode." According to the manual, pressing a button on the flight controller triggers the F181 to return in the opposite direction of its initial flight. It will be interesting to see how well this performs without the aid of a GPS unit. The second feature, "headless mode," allows users to navigate left, right, forward, or backward using the pitch and roll stick, regardless of the Quadcopter's current orientation in the air. While this feature may sound enticing, it is essential to learn how to orientate and navigate in the air without relying on headless mode. This fundamental skill is crucial for every Quadcopter pilot to master from the beginning.

As mentioned earlier, the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer is equipped with a camera. The camera produces high-definition output at a resolution of 720p, making it the best Quad copter camera I've ever tested, aside from the LiteHawk QUATTRO SNAP, which captured footage in Standard Definition (640 x 480 resolution). However, we will reserve judgment until we evaluate its real-world performance. The F181 records video using the Motion JPEG Video codec (MJPG) at 30 frames per second, saving files in the .AVI video container format. Audio is recorded in 16-bit Mono, utilizing an 8000Hz sample rate. The camera module features a Generplus chipset. To help users get started, Holy Stone generously includes a 2GB micro SD card and a USB card reader in the package.

One aspect I particularly appreciate about the camera module accompanying the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer is the ability to tilt the lens to any desired angle. In my review of the LiteHawk QUATTRO SNAP, I expressed frustration with its fixed downward-angled lens, which resulted in many shots capturing predominantly downward views. With the F181's larger physical body, it can handle windy conditions better than the SNAP ever could. Therefore, I position the lens straight to the horizon with the F181's HD camera module, enabling me to capture shots that truly satisfy my vision.

Upon opening the box, I found a comprehensive bundle of items—the most complete package I've encountered. The internal plastic clamshell within the corrugated box provides excellent protection for the Quadcopter and all its components during shipping. From the factory in China to my location in Canada, everything arrived intact without any damage.

  • Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter
  • 4 Propellers (Pre-Installed)
  • 4 Propellers (Spare Extra Set)
  • Transmitter/Controller with LCD Screen
  • Camera Module
  • 2x Rechargeable Lithium-Polymer Battery (3.7v 750mAh)
  • 2x USB Charge Cable
  • Screwdriver (For Propeller Removal/Installation)
  • 2 Landing Legs
  • 4 Propeller Guards
  • 2GB micro SD card
  • micro SD card reader

Holy Stone

The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer goes above and beyond in terms of its bundled accessories. It includes two 3.7v 750mAh rechargeable batteries and two USB charge cables, allowing you to charge both batteries simultaneously and fly consecutively. This means you get more flight time, which is always a welcome bonus. However, it's advisable to wait at least 10 minutes between battery changes to allow the motors to cool down properly.

One standout feature is that Holy Stone includes a full set of replacement propellers with the Quadcopter. This is a crucial inclusion that should be standard with every Quadcopter purchase, especially for beginners who are more prone to crashes. While I haven't needed to use any spare propellers yet, having them on hand for those "just in case" moments is incredibly reassuring. Additionally, Holy Stone provides a small screwdriver to assist in replacing the propellers, which is a thoughtful addition to the package.

The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer stands out as the first Quadcopter ModSynergy is reviewing that features a brushed geared motor setup. In contrast, our previous two Quadcopter reviews focused on smaller models with direct-drive variants. This brushed geared motor setup in the F181 is expected to offer increased power and reduced friction when spinning the propellers, resulting in improved performance.

Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Visual Overview

Measurements Per Configuration: To date this is the largest Quadcopter reviewed on ModSynergy.

  • Diagonally from motor to motor: Approx. 8.27 inches or 21 cm (Propeller Guards OFF)
  • Side to side from motor to motor:  Approx. 5.9 inches or 15 cm (Propeller Guards OFF)
  • Diagonally from motor to motor: Approx. 14.3 inches or 36.4 cm (Propeller Guards ON)
  • Side to side from motor to motor:  Approx. 11.85 inches or 30.1 cm (Propeller Guards ON)

Weight Per Configuration: To date this is the heaviest Quadcopter reviewed on ModSynergy.

  • Everything ON (Propeller Guards + Landing Legs + Camera Mounted): 138 grams
  • Everything OFF (No Propeller Guards, No Landing Legs, No Camera): 113 grams
  • Typical Configuration (No Propellers, Landing Legs + Camera Mounted): 126 grams
  • Camera Module Weight: 7-8 grams


The propeller guards included with the Holy Stone F181 are thoughtfully designed to provide adequate protection for the propellers. They offer proper clearance, safeguarding the propellers in the event of a collision with a wall, and they cover the top portion of the propellers to shield them from impact. Installing and removing the propeller guards is a breeze, thanks to their secure attachment mechanism consisting of two tabs and one screw.

As someone with more flight experience, I typically fly without propeller guards. However, for the purpose of this review, I installed them to replicate the configuration that most beginners would use. It's important for beginners to exercise caution when flying with propeller guards, especially when flying near trees or branches. In such scenarios, there is a risk of the Quadcopter getting entangled and becoming suspended as an unintended ornament in the trees. If you sense an impending crash, it is advisable to completely cut off the throttle to your Quadcopter to prevent damage to the motors.

F181 Quadcopter

Flying the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer outdoors for the first time in the Everything ON configuration (138 grams) proved to be an interesting experience. It became evident to me right away that the F181 is primarily designed as a camera Quadcopter drone. Its flight characteristics resemble those of a larger vessel, like a cruiser, rather than a nimble and sporty flyer. While the pitch speed in the highest mode is relatively quick, the overall maneuverability is limited, especially in terms of the turning radius. The Yaw rate (spin rate) and pitch speed in the lower three modes are slower compared to what a sportier drone would offer.

I must admit, I wasn't prepared for the wider turning radius, and as a result, I found myself getting caught in branches in front of my home three to four times, which is not something that typically happens to me. This experience highlighted the importance of not flying the F181 indoors if you intend to execute banked turns or sharp maneuvers.

Personally, I appreciate the slower flight characteristics of the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer. In contrast, in my review of the LiteHawk QUATTRO SNAP Quadcopter drone, I mentioned how it suffered from an identity crisis. Despite having an onboard video camera like the F181, the QUATTRO SNAP was too small and sporty, making it prone to vibrations and unsuitable for capturing smooth footage. It was too fast for panning shots and lacked the stability necessary for quality video recording. With the F181, Holy Stone has struck a better balance, ensuring that it excels as a camera Quadcopter without compromising on flight stability.


One thing that became evident during my testing of the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer is that it doesn't suffer from the identity crisis that some other drones do. It knows exactly what it is—a camera Quadcopter—and it excels in fulfilling that role. The F181 possesses all the characteristics you would expect from a capable camera drone. Its slower and more deliberate flight style, akin to a cruiser, allows for stability during video recording and facilitates smooth panning shots. I appreciate that Holy Stone hasn't tried to make the F181 into something it's not, focusing instead on delivering a reliable camera Quadcopter experience.

Despite not being a sporty flyer, the Holy Stone F181 still offers the fun feature of 360-degree flips. However, due to its size and weight in the Everything ON configuration, the flips can be a bit sloppy at times. The added weight makes it challenging for the drone to recover smoothly after a flip, resulting in some instability and shakiness. Interestingly, I noticed that the F181 automatically gives a slight boost in throttle before performing a flip, but the added weight doesn't significantly impact the flip performance. Some flips turn out decent, while others appear shaky and unstable, as you'll see in my video demonstration.

For the sake of experimentation and enjoyment, I decided to remove all the additional components from the F181, bringing its weight down to 113 grams. By removing the propeller guards, landing legs, and camera, I noticed a significant improvement in flight performance. The drone became more lively and responsive, and the flips were executed more smoothly. Additionally, I observed that in this configuration, the F181 was better equipped to handle wind resistance compared to the Everything ON setup. It seems that the propeller guards, landing legs, and camera created some drag when facing strong winds, affecting the drone's ability to cut through the air efficiently.


Weight has a significant impact on the performance of a quadcopter, as demonstrated by the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer. In the Everything ON configuration, weighing 138 grams, the flight controller indicated that it required 70% throttle just to maintain a steady hover. However, when I removed all the additional components, bringing the weight down to 113 grams, the flight controller only needed 55% throttle for a stable hover. This reduction in weight allowed the quadcopter's motors to work more efficiently, resulting in longer flight times. I noticed an increase of up to two extra minutes of flight time when switching between these configurations.

For a camera quadcopter like the Holy Stone F181, finding the right balance is crucial. While reducing weight may make the quadcopter more agile and responsive, a slightly heavier configuration, such as removing the propeller guards while keeping the landing legs and camera attached (126 grams), provides greater stability. This stability translates into better video quality, which is evident in the Holy Stone F181's camera performance compared to the smaller LiteHawk QUATTRO SNAP.

In terms of construction, the Holy Stone F181 features a fully plastic body with a well-executed, smooth paint job. One notable visual element is the 6-Axis Gyro emblem on top of the quadcopter, which adds to its distinctive appearance. The vent holes on the arms serve multiple purposes, including internal cooling and allowing the LED lights to partially shine through. These features contribute to both functionality and visual appeal.


The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer has colored plastic lenses on the bottom side of its arms, allowing the LED lights to shine through. These lights are quite bright and provide visibility for night flying. One notable feature of the F181 is its ability to turn off and on the LED lights according to your preference. This feature is not commonly found in other quadcopter drones and is an excellent addition. By being able to control the LED lights, you have the option to save battery power and extend your flight time a bit further. It's a useful feature that allows you to customize the quadcopter's lighting based on your needs.

LED light

While the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer has generally good fit and finish, there are some minor cosmetic faults that could have been avoided with better processes during manufacturing. These faults do not affect the quadcopter's flight operation or performance, but they are worth mentioning.

One issue is a missing Philips screw on the bottom side of the quadcopter, specifically in front where it reads "CHASER." This results in a small gap at the front. Another fault is related to the propellers included in the package. Some of the propellers have plastic shavings on the edges that should have been sanded or peeled off properly during manufacturing. These shavings can affect the balance of the quadcopter in the air, so it's recommended to ensure the propellers are smooth by removing the shavings.

The third fit and finish issue is the presence of rust stains on the metal casing that houses the power ON/OFF switch on the underside of the quadcopter. The cause of these stains is unclear, but it could be due to contact with liquid or a parts bin that had been in contact with water.

Lastly, there are aesthetic issues with the 2.4GHz flight controller. The plastic construction of the controller shows uneven texture, blotches of defects, and scratches. Additionally, there may be residue on the back of the LCD screen that needs to be removed. These issues are superficial and do not affect the performance or operation of the flight controller.

It's important for the factory to improve their processes to rectify these fit and finish issues and enhance the overall experience of the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer.

On the topic of batteries, the F181 comes with two 3.7v 750mAh Lithium-Polymer batteries, which is generous. Holy Stone also includes two USB charge cables, allowing you to charge both batteries simultaneously and use them one after the other. It's recommended to let the quadcopter cool down for 10 minutes before continuing flight. The batteries do not specify a C charge/discharge rate. The included battery was manufactured on August 04, 2015, indicating that it is relatively new. The quadcopter battery uses a JST connector, which is different from the micro-T connectors seen in previous quadcopter reviews. The JST connector on the F181 has an optional black piece attached for added grip, which is a nice feature.

Lipo BatteryLipo Battery

At the bottom of the F181, we have the 720p HD camera module, which attaches using two simple clips on the battery cover door underneath the quadcopter. On either side of the camera, there's the camera module's 3-pin connector plug, power ON/OFF switch, and an internal JST connector that allows me to charge the battery within the quadcopter without having to remove it. It's a neat feature, and I appreciate having a power switch on the quadcopter.

However, I encountered some issues with the camera module's 3-pin connector cable that I feel compelled to address. The wires are extremely thin, and the connector is quite difficult to remove from the quadcopter since there is no real grip except for the wires themselves. To remove the connector, the only way I found was to use a pin needle to gently pry off each corner of the connector, which is rather unusual and inconvenient. Unfortunately, while attempting to open the battery door, I accidentally ripped off one of the camera wires from its connector, which was still plugged into the quadcopter. It was definitely a painful moment.

Thankfully, I have experience with electronics repair, so I was able to re-crimp the wires onto the connector, and everything was back in working order. To improve this design flaw, I took matters into my own hands and performed a DIY modification. I applied hot glue to the camera module's 3-pin wires near and around the connector, securing them in place and providing me with a grip to safely remove and insert the connector to the board. This modification has worked beautifully, making the process so much easier. I believe Holy Stone should consider implementing an easier-to-use connector for the camera module or using thicker wires that are less likely to be stripped off from the connector, in order to address this issue.

2.4GHz Flight Controller Overview



The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter comes with a gamepad-style flight controller that operates on the 2.4GHz wireless band. What sets this flight controller apart from others I've reviewed is the inclusion of an LCD screen module at the top. This feature enhances the user experience by providing both audible and visual indications of the settings and features being enabled or disabled.

Having an LCD screen on the flight controller is a significant advantage. It allows me to easily monitor and adjust various parameters while flying, such as capturing photos, recording videos, trim settings, throttle percentage, LED lights, wireless signal strength, and battery level. This advanced functionality makes the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer more user-friendly compared to other quadcopters I've examined in the past.

I have grown to appreciate this flight controller because it enables smooth and hassle-free flying. The best flight controllers are the ones that let you focus on flying rather than struggling with the controller itself. Fortunately, the design and ergonomics of this flight controller, especially the spring-loaded tension on the analog sticks, provide a comfortable and precise control experience. It allows for easy execution of maneuvers without any unnecessary strain.

Despite the inclusion of four AA batteries, the flight controller remains relatively lightweight, weighing 232 grams or 0.511 pounds. This weight is manageable for extended periods of use, especially considering the two Lithium-Polymer batteries that are included with the F181. The controller is constructed using thick plastic, giving it a high-quality feel and durability. In the event of accidental drops, it appears to be more robust than the quadcopter itself. I particularly appreciate the recessed area underneath the flight controller, which provides a comfortable resting place for the middle, ring, and pinky fingers, similar to the flight controller of the LiteHawk QUATTRO NEON, another model I enjoyed using.

Flight Controller

The flight controller of the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer is designed to accommodate both thumb flyers and pinch flyers. The analog sticks are elevated, providing a convenient grip for thumb flyers with cuts on the tips to prevent slippage. For pinch flyers, there are inner grips on the sticks, ensuring a secure hold. The movement of the sticks is excellent, offering equal spring-loaded tension on both sticks. The flight controller also provides a wider range of motion, resulting in a more linear and progressive response to stick movements. This feature allows for precise flights and reduces the sensitivity or touchiness often associated with flight controllers that have limited range of motion.

A good flight controller like the one on the Holy Stone F181 allows you to find the sweet spot for a stable hover. Once you find this sweet spot, you can essentially take your hands off the flight stick, and the quadcopter will maintain a steady hover with minimal correction needed. This level of stability is particularly important for capturing steady footage during aerial photography or videography. In your case, with different configurations, you noticed that the flight controller indicated different percentages (70% and 55%) for holding a steady hover. These percentages represent the optimal settings where the quadcopter achieves a stable hover based on the weight and configuration.

The power button, located at the top center and marked with "Holy Stone," serves as the on/off switch for the flight controller. However, it's worth noting that the LCD screen does not have a backlight, which means night flights rely on memorizing the buttons and their functions. This can be seen as both positive and negative. On the positive side, the absence of a backlight helps conserve battery power, allowing for longer flight times. However, it also means that flying at night requires familiarity with the button layout and functions.


The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer's flight controller features a logically placed directional pad below the corresponding analog sticks. While the buttons on the directional pad are not labeled, the inclusion of an LCD screen at the top of the controller helps provide visual cues and symbols to understand their functions, reducing the need to refer to the manual.

The left analog stick serves as the throttle control (up/down) and yaw control (spin left/right), while the right analog stick controls the pitch (forward/backward) and roll (left/right) movements of the quadcopter.

Located at the bottom of the throttle stick, the directional pad offers additional control options. Pressing the left button enables or disables the LED lights, the right button activates headless mode, the up button captures camera photos, and the down button controls the video recording mode, toggling it on or off.

The directional pad below the pitch and roll stick is dedicated to adjusting the pitch and roll trims. If you notice that the quadcopter is moving sideways or rolling to a particular side on its own, you can press the corresponding directional pad buttons to make adjustments and center the quadcopter's movement.

Holy Stone

The top left button, labeled L1, serves as the speed switch on the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer. It allows you to toggle between four different speed modes, indicated by audible beeps (ranging from 1 to 4 beeps) and percentage values displayed on the LCD screen. The higher the speed mode selected, the faster the quadcopter will respond to control inputs, particularly in terms of pitch and roll maneuvers. However, the yaw rate, or the speed at which the quadcopter spins on its own axis, remains relatively leisurely. This wider turning radius is ideal for capturing smooth and stable footage with a camera-equipped quadcopter.

The top right button, labeled R1, activates the 360-degree flip mode. Pressing this button and choosing a direction on the pitch and roll stick (right analog stick) will cause the quadcopter to perform a flip in that chosen direction. The Holy Stone F181's firmware automatically adds a burst of throttle before initiating the flip to prevent the quadcopter from descending too low during the maneuver. It's worth noting that depending on the weight and configuration of the quadcopter, including any additional accessories like propeller guards, the flips may appear less precise or sloppy. However, it's important to remember that the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer is not designed for sporty flying but is primarily intended for aerial and camera recording purposes.

How Does The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Fly? What Are My Thoughts? See My Flights!

The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer excels as an aerial quadcopter, providing a stable and comfortable flying experience that is well-suited for capturing aerial video footage. Its larger size and weight contribute to its overall stability, resulting in more usable and smoother video compared to smaller quadcopters like the LiteHawk QUATTRO SNAP.

However, it's important to note that the F181 is not designed for sport flying. Its speed and agility are limited, and the yaw rate (spin rate) is relatively slow, making it unsuitable for fast-paced maneuvers or tight banked turns. If you intend to perform such maneuvers, it's advisable to allow for more space to execute them properly. The F181's primary focus is aerial videography, and its characteristics are optimized for stable and smooth footage rather than acrobatic flying.

The LED lights on the F181, along with the colored LED pod lenses, are a notable feature that enhances visibility and orientation in the sky. The larger physical size of the quadcopter also aids in spotting its position from a distance, making it easier to pilot at higher altitudes.

Regarding the range, while the box claims a range of up to 300 meters, the actual distance achieved may vary. In personal testing, the maximum distance achieved was around 100-130 yards or approximately 118 meters. In some cases, at extreme distances, there were instances of lost contact with the quadcopter or transmission lag of 1-2 seconds before commands were executed. It's worth mentioning that these distances are still considerable, allowing for flights at significant heights or distances, although they fall short of the advertised range.

During flight, there was one incident where the motors shut off momentarily, causing the quadcopter to fall briefly before regaining control. The 6-axis stabilization system performed well in recovering from this situation and maintaining stability.

When additional accessories such as propeller guards and landing feet are added, the weight of the F181 increases, making it more susceptible to wind interference. Flying in windy conditions, especially with gusts of 20-40 km/h, can pose challenges, with the quadcopter being pushed or experiencing wobbling. Removing the propeller guards helps reduce weight and drag, leading to more stable flights in windy conditions. It's important to consider the weather conditions and adjust flying accordingly, as wind can affect the F181's performance.

The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer offers a commendable aerial quadcopter experience, particularly for capturing smooth video footage. It's important to understand its limitations as a non-sporty quadcopter and consider factors such as wind conditions when flying.

Camera Performance, Quality and Samples

The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer quadcopter is equipped with a 720p HD camera that can be attached to the bottom using two hook arms. While filming at lower altitudes, the camera shows minimal shake and shimmering, but these effects become more noticeable at higher altitudes due to limitations in the camera sensor. Although some reduction in shake can be achieved by placing foam under the camera, vibrations from the motors still contribute to the shimmering effect. Despite these limitations, the camera provides a satisfactory experience for recreational use.

The F181 is not designed for high-speed racing but rather as an exploration quadcopter. It prioritizes stability, ease of control, and user-friendly flight characteristics. The quadcopter allows users to comfortably navigate the skies and capture aerial footage. The F181 offers a decent camera experience for a toy quadcopter, providing the opportunity to capture unique aerial perspectives. Holy Stone has aimed to deliver a quadcopter suitable for recreational use and aerial exploration.

The camera module of the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer, equipped with the Generplus chipset, sets it apart as the top performer among the quadcopter drones I have tested. Its resolution of 1280 x 720 delivers decent output, considering its lightweight design of just 8 grams. While it may not match the professional-grade footage of a DJI Phantom, the F181 offers a significantly more budget-friendly option.

Video recording on the F181 is done using the Motion JPEG Video codec (MJPG) at a smooth 30 frames per second. The files are saved in the widely supported .AVI video container format. The audio recording, despite utilizing a 16-bit Mono configuration and an 8000Hz sample rate, surprises with its usability and effectiveness.

Although the F181's camera does not boast an exceptionally high video bitrate, its overall quality is commendable. The lens provides a narrower field of view, which may limit the sense of immersion, but it ensures a more focused perspective. While the colors may not be as vibrant as those produced by higher-end cameras, they still deliver a fair representation of the scene. Although the level of detail falls short of true high definition, the footage remains satisfactory for general use and enjoyment.

Unfortunately, the camera module on toy-grade quadcopters like the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer lacks customization options. It is a basic plug-and-play unit without the ability to adjust settings such as saturation, sharpness, colors, or AE (auto exposure) metering modes. One particular setting that I found lacking was the AE metering mode. The camera module is set to Matrix metering mode, which often resulted in underexposed footage when facing bright spots in the sky, such as the sun or horizon. In my opinion, this is not the ideal AE metering mode for an action camera in this type of application. I believe that a center metering mode would be better suited to bring up the shadows and expose the darker areas of the frame, especially when flying at higher altitudes where encountering bright portions of the sky or a bright horizon is more likely. Customization options for AE metering modes would have been beneficial to improve the overall exposure and image quality of the footage.

Despite the winter conditions in Canada, I made an effort to capture footage on days with brighter and sunnier weather. However, it was challenging to obtain extremely sunny footage during this time. Nevertheless, the sample footage provided gives a good idea of the camera's capabilities. Considering the Holy Stone F181 is a toy-grade quadcopter at an affordable price point, the camera footage is surprisingly usable and of decent quality, particularly for simple YouTube uploads. Unlike the camera on the LiteHawk QUATTRO SNAP I previously reviewed, the camera on the F181 is not just a gimmick but delivers satisfactory results.



While the Holy Stone F181 excels in video capturing, its photo capabilities are not as impressive. The quality of the photos is decent but falls short of the high standards set by its video footage. The images tend to be more compressed than necessary, resulting in occasional artifacts. However, despite these limitations, the photos are still usable and serve their purpose. Personally, I find that the F181 is better suited for video recording rather than photography. If given the choice, I would prioritize capturing video footage with the F181 over taking photos.

RAW Photo Sample #1 - RAW Photo Sample #2 - RAW Photo Sample #3 -
RAW Photo Sample #4 - RAW Photo Sample #5 - RAW Photo Sample #6 - RAW Photo Sample #7

Battery Test and Flight Times

Note: Holy Stone provides really good batteries with the F181 that meet and exceed the specified capacity on the label!

Measured Flight Times

  • Everything OFF (113 grams - No propeller guards/no camera/no landing legs/LEDs off): 8 minutes, 22 seconds until low voltage warning kicks in with flashing lights and 8 minutes, 34 seconds until final battery safety cutoff.
  • Everything ON (138 grams - Everything mounted on): 6 minutes, 25 seconds until low voltage warning kicks in with flashing lights and 6 minutes, 40 seconds until final battery safety cutoff.
  • Without propeller guards, with landing legs mounted, with camera mounted, with LEDs on: 6 minutes 57 seconds until low voltage warning kicks in with flashing lights and 7 minutes, 17 seconds until final battery safety cutoff.

Where Can I Buy One?  And For How Much?

The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter drone can be purchased right now on Amazon (USA) for $79.99 USD with free shipping! It ships out from Holy Stone and is fulfilled by Amazon. 


Why do I like Amazon?  They are fast, reliable, honest, and return policy is great.  I actually got money refunded back to my account after Amazon overcharged me on duty costs, talk about being an honest company, most others would keep the money and not say anything!

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The Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Quadcopter drone has left a positive impression on me and served as a great introduction to the Holy Stone brand. Despite its imperfections, the F181 proves to be a remarkable camera quadcopter drone overall. The inclusion of a 720p camera is not just a gimmick but a feature that can truly be enjoyed. I am eagerly looking forward to exploring what else Holy Stone has to offer in the future.

While there have been some downsides that I encountered with the F181, they were mainly related to manufacturing issues and not the performance or flight capabilities of the quadcopter itself. However, these issues did not overshadow the positive aspects of the drone.

One commendable aspect of the Holy Stone F181 is the comprehensive bundle it provides, which includes extra propellers, batteries, and charging cables. This allows for extended flight times, ranging from approximately 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 minutes depending on the chosen configuration.

In conclusion, I wholeheartedly recommend the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Camera Quadcopter drone. It is easy to fly, boasts an attractive design, and offers a comfortable flying experience with its ergonomic LCD flight controller. If you are currently in the market for a quadcopter drone, I highly recommend considering the Holy Stone F181 Universe Explorer Camera Quadcopter drone.