After a series of 2S nano racers, here is a 3S model! The Pavo 20 is therefore a slightly more powerful model than the Pavo Pico (tested here).
The principle is the same as for most 2S models: it is delivered ready to fly, but without video equipment. It's up to you to install your own DJI O3 box with its camera, to obtain real-time digital HD video feedback and stabilized 4K video recording functions.
The promise of BetaFPV? Getting started requires no soldering, just a screwdriver (not included) and software settings.
Video in-game advertising
The Pavo 20 looks a lot like the Pavo Pico, so much so that it is difficult to recognize them. You have to focus on the details to make the difference: the size, the number of propeller blades, the camera support. It measures 9 cm diagonally from motor to motor. Even if it is more imposing than the Pavo Pico, it remains a nano racer that fits in the hand.
It is made of a carbon structure with reinforced uprights on which the motors are installed, in Push mode (oriented downwards). These are 1103 to 8500KV brushless plugged in with connectors, so they will be easy to change. The propellers are 2 inch two-blade Gemfan 2015. The propellers are surrounded by fairly rigid protection which reduces the danger of the device and reduces the risk of crash in the event of hitting obstacles.
The flight controller is an F405 2-3S including a 4A 1-in-20 ESC and an ExpressLRS radio receiver on a UART. It offers 5 UARTs, one for ELRS and another to control the O3 box (not supplied). It is accompanied by a capacitor.
The ExpressLRS antenna is a metal strand that extends towards the front of the device. There is no USB connector on the flight controller, but a socket on the back. BetaFPV provides a USB adapter for this connector, which is not very easy to access. A small socket allows you to plug in the LED strip provided in the box.
BetaFPV delivers a blue LED strip in the box. To install it, you plug it in - this allows you to have exactly the right length of cable, remove the 3M tape cover and stick it to the outside of the propeller guards. There is an excess of 9 cm, which you cut with scissors. The manufacturer sells LED strips in other colors, I used red…
Mounting the O3 box?
The procedure is quite simple. You must unscrew the tab of the antenna to pass the cables through the support structure of the O3 box provided by BetaFPV, then screw it back in. BetaFPV provides 2 linear dipole antennas in the box, in case you want to save a few grams compared to the original polarized antenna. For my part, I preferred to keep the original antenna to optimize the range.
The next step is to install the shock absorbers of the support on the carbon plate of the Pavo 20. Then you must slide the O3 box into the support and check that it is completely inserted.
Then you must place the carbon support provided in the box on the shock absorbers and cover with the O3 support. You then have to screw the whole thing together. The camera must be installed at the front of the support, with 4 screws. Note that the cable between the camera and the DJI O3 box is quite long, you have to manage to twist it so that it remains well inside the device.
The last step is to plug the cable already installed on the flight controller into the O3 box. It is short enough not to drag. And that's all ! The promise is respected: no welding, and simple installation…
Easy access ?
The USB-C connector and the microSD card hatch on the O3 case are very easy to access. No hassle to connect a classic USB-C cable, without the need for force or passing between several layers of carbon or plastic. This is a good point, especially since this is not the case on some of the 2S nano racers.
The battery connector is an XT30. The device is designed for 3S batteries, preferably 450 mAh, indicates BetaFPV. But you have a choice! because there is no fixed basket for the battery, but a strap with velcro that adapts to the size of the battery.
It is possible to install 300 mAh, 450 mAh, 550 mAh and even 650 mAh, in LiPo and LiHV. Practical !
The weight ?
Ready to fly with the LED strip installed, the original DJI O3 antenna and an ND 4 filter, the Pavo 20 weighs 101,5 grams. Allow 46 grams more for a 3S 550 mAh LiPo, i.e. a weight in flight order of 156,5 grams. This is well below the European mass threshold of 250 grams, which allows for less restrictive flight conditions.
The settings ?
BetaFPV took care of the main thing at the factory: basic settings, including PIDs, filters, UARTs (for ExpressLRS and DJI O3). All that remains is to manage the arming switches, mode change, Flip Over After Crash, and the one that allows you to turn the LED strip on and off. You must also adjust the OSD to your liking, for example including the height indicated by the altimeter barometer.
The firmware installed on the ExpressLRS receiver was 2.5.2, a little too old. So I had to flash it with a more recent version corresponding to my other ELRS equipment. Operation is simple: just launch ExpressLRS Configurator, choose the “BetaFPV 2.4 GHz” category, the “BETAFPV 2.4GHz AIO RX” device. I took the opportunity to add my Binding Phrase to automate the pairing. The final step with ExpressLRS Configurator is to compile the firmware.
To flash it, you must turn on the Pavo 20, wait 1 minute for the radio receiver to create a wifi access point, connect to it, point the web browser to 10.0.0.1 and start flashing. The method is operational and effective.
The sensations in flight?
Is it because the Pavo 20 is a bit bigger and more powerful than the Pavo Pico? Or because it is better adjusted? I don't know, but the result is convincing: the Pavo 20 flies well, very well even, with healthier reactions than the Pavo Pico. It is capable of climbing quickly, accelerating hard and, above all, allowing a quick go-around to recover from a dive.
Not suffering from propwash on the throttle is very reassuring when you embark on somewhat challenging flights, particularly on rock faces or over water, in short where a crash ends badly.
I flew with beautiful gusts of wind, those of the tails of storms which crossed France during October and November 2023. The Pavo 20 sometimes struggles to move forward, shakes quite a bit, but we maintain control at all times and the vibrations are healthy. Understand by this that they do not unbalance the device, and that they can be partially erased by the electronic stabilization of the O3 box.
The Pavo 20 is designed for outdoor flights, but it can also be used indoors. It is recommended to “calm down” the throttle by adding expo in Betaflight or on the radio control so as not to obtain a yoyo effect while trying to maintain a constant height.
The Flip Over after Crash function works correctly to flip the device if it lands on its back. There is no beeper on the Pavo 20. To find it easily, there is the LED strip that can be controlled remotely, and the possibility of arming normally for a short time, or in Flip Over After Crash to make noise.
Images with the DJI O3?
There are sometimes slight vibrations, especially at full throttle. But in this case, an ND filter adapted to the brightness can eliminate them.
Note that the filters must be placed vertically, they will not hold if they are clipped horizontally. The reason ? The two support amounts are very advanced. This is not a problem, on the contrary, it helps protect the O3 camera a little, and that is a good point.
In low light conditions, it is essential to adjust the camera manually otherwise you will end up with very pixelated images and streaks on the screen.
O3 stabilization can be applied in real time with DJI's Rocksteady technology – it gives excellent results.
For more “cast” images in the style of GoPro's ReelSteady, it is possible to film in Large FOV without Rocksteady, then stabilize the images with the open source tool Gyroflow.
The LED strip is very practical for visual flights, but also and above all for finding the Pavo 20 after a crash. In the forest or in the grass, its lighting allows you to immediately get your hands on it again. If you don't like flying Christmas trees, you can turn it off and on on demand, with a remote control switch. Practical.
The small flaws?
My first impression of the Pavo 20 was great, but it didn't last. There are the small flaws, and then those that prevent you from taking full advantage of the device!
Drunk (with a Coke Zero), I plugged the connector of a Walksnail transmitter... into that of the Pavo 20 flight controller: they have the same sizes, but unfortunately not the same wiring, and especially not the same position for the +!
The punishment was immediate: the flight controller no longer responded under Betaflight Configurator. Fortunately, I had completed all the settings.
In view of the camera
With the camera tilted approximately 30°, with or without stabilization, we see the propeller protections appear in the image in Large and Extrawide mode. You have to tilt the camera a little more so that they disappear in Large FOV, and much more in Extrawide FOV! Which also means you have to fly fast…
One solution is to raise the camera by installing it on the upper holes of the support, and with only 2 screws. But we see some additional vibrations appear... The other solution consists of filming in Normal FOV. It's a bit frustrating, especially for indoor flights.
The radio range...
With all the ELRS and O3 nano racers that I tested, the video link failed before the radio. But with the Pavo 20, I was entitled to failsafe before losing the image. The fault, undoubtedly, is the stranded antenna and its positioning under the device. It's a little frustrating to have a decent video link and see the OSD indicate failsafe, followed by a crash.
The capacitor and the end of the FC…
Is it by connecting and disconnecting batteries one after the other? Or following a crash? One of the capacitor legs ended up unsoldered, so the capacitor was non-operational.
Furthermore, the end of the flight controller where the power wires are soldered has slightly bent, probably because I forced myself to connect the batteries with a somewhat short power wire. This end is likely to have too short a lifespan to be honest.
The LED strip…
It is very practical and particularly bright to the point of being clearly visible even in direct sunlight, but it is attached with a simple sticker. Through crashes and humidity, it ends up coming unstuck. Too bad, the attachment inside the propeller guards on the Flywoo FlyLens85 was much more efficient and stronger.
The supply of O3…
This was the final blow during my tests. Without warning, without crash, without surge or particular problem, the Pavo 20 suddenly decided to no longer power the O3 box. The cable did not show any degradation. On another nano racer, the box worked perfectly. But on the Pavo 20, no more juice to the O3's power wire. This is very annoying, and which ultimately ruined the trust I placed in the flight controller.
The strong points ?
I regret these negative points noted on the Pavo 20. Because in addition to the fact that it flies very well, that it suffers from very little vibration, that it ensures good throttle recovery, it has very good autonomy. correct.
With a 550 mAh LiPo, it reaches 3m30 in very aggressive flights, and exceeds 4min30 in gentle flights. You can count on 5 minutes of flight time with a LiHV, and even a little more when flying comfortably. However, I did not have time to measure the autonomy with a 650 mAh LiPo.
Another interesting point is the fairly gentle sound of its engines. Everything is relative, obviously, it is not silent, but produces a less annoying sound than most of its competitors.
Finally, and I checked this because I bought a replacement flight controller, the Pavo 20 is easy to repair. The O3 support holds with 4 screws, the propeller guards with 4 other screws.
All components are connected with connectors, including motors: there is no need for soldering. If like me you don't like taking out the soldering iron, it's very pleasant...
Should you buy the Pavo 20?
I really appreciated the Pavo 20's flight performance, its autonomy, its LED strip and its power reserve. Its price is correct since it is displayed at €98 directly from BetaFPV (excluding shipping, excluding taxes) and at €130 at Drone-FPV-Racer (taxes included) in ELRS version without DJI O3.
But this is not enough to make us forget the fragility of its electronics and the small defects such as the propeller protections in the field of the image. So no, I do not recommend this device, which nevertheless seemed very promising to me. I ultimately preferred the GePRC Darkstar20 O3, although only 2S, for its power reserve and especially its robustness.