There will always be time for the Star Wars franchise in my family. My wife has been a lifelong fan. I’m a bit of a fringe fan (I don’t like sci-fi so this is the farthest I’ll go into that genre) and my daughter was hooked to the original trilogy characters so much that she asked for her 2nd birthday to be a Star Wars theme and used to say goodnight to all the characters for a time. While she tells me that she doesn’t like Star Wars anymore (and unfortunately, her Sphero BB8 from grandpa just collects dust on the shelf now,) she still thought it was really cool that the Propel Star Wars TIE Fighter Advanced Battling Quadcopter Drone showed up at my doorstep and was suitably offended when I told her it wasn’t a toy and that she couldn’t play with it.
I’ve always been a bit gunshy with drones. I’ve gotten much better with them over the years and really like flying Quadcopters, so this one really interested me.
Unboxing the Propel Star Wars Advanced Battling Quadcopter Drone
One of the neatest things about products like this is the initial unboxing ceremony. This drone has a lot of cool stuff inside. When you unbox, you’ll see the following:
-Two lithium ION batteries -A fast charge station
-Hobby Grade Empire themed remote control (batteries aren’t included)
-An individually numbered collector’s box complete with display option
-USB Charge Cable
While the drone itself is fully independent and only needs its remote to work, you’ll find a little bit of extra fun (or a helping hand) using your phone. An app is available in the iOS and Android app stores. This doesn’t allow you to do a lot of new things with the drone itself, but it will teach you about the intricacies of it, how to pilot it (especially for beginners) and how to battle with it (more on that later.) The app will sync with your remote via bluetooth to ensure that you’re following out your battle training properly.
Better yet for iOS users, the app is supported by any device that has iOS 8 installed, meaning that you can have an older phone to support the app if need be. It takes a while to load (even on iOS 11) and your screen goes dark, so don’t think your phone just shut off like I did the first time I loaded it.
Make no mistake. This is not a toy!
I’ll be honest in saying that a lot of people I’ve spoken to have dismissed drones as nothing but toys. Granted, when I was a kid back in the 80s, most remote control things were considered toys. The Propel Star Wars TIE Fighter is presented like a collectible drone and really should be treated as such, especially considering each one is serial numbered as part of a limited edition. The drone is capable of getting some serious speed (35 mph) and can even be sync’d up with 12 other enthusiasts with their own drones to have a large scale battle (the drone comes with battle cannons). That has to be among the coolest features I’ve ever seen on a drone series.
As with any drone, be smart with your playability and battery usage. While the fast charge lives up to its name (taking only 25 minutes to charge your battery compared to the hours others can take), the batteries allow up to 8 minutes of flying time. This isn’t abnormal by any means, but it does make me want to recommend that you keep both batteries around, especially considering the battle capabilities. 8 minutes is hardly one of Mon Mothma’s speeches, so be ready to land and switch batteries to continue battling.
Why the attention to detail is so important
There are so many drones out there that you really have to stick out nowadays in order to be the one that gets purchased. Both fringe and Star Wars fans will love this drone. As someone who fits into the previous of those two categories, I still do appreciate attention to detail more than anything, and this drone fits the bill. When you bring home this Propel Star Wars Tie Fighter, you’re bringing home something that had a franchise fanatic in mind. The mechanics have been designed to let you do things like maneuver into barrel rolls easily (literally with the push of a button,) the remote control vibrates, lights up and even plays licensed music, and of course, you can take extra great care of your drone by placing it back into the collectors’ case it comes in.
Flying the Quadcopter for the first time
Unlike my French counterpart Myriam, I wasn’t able to fly this in the house. The drone fits in the palm of your hand (so it isn’t big) and my wife probably wouldn’t have cared, but I’d rather not teach that lesson to my daughter, and we also have a lot of stuff to bump into. Thankfully, the park 2 doors down was ready to accept me.
This drone comes with a lot of advanced features to help hobby flyers and serious pilots alike. I noticed right away that my flights looked pretty pro and thought I was getting really good only to find out that there’s an onboard stabilizer that keeps you from getting your virtual pilot airsick or treebound. As with any drone, I was piloting in a fairly large space to allow for the easiest landings possible. If you have not flown many drones before, it’s my recommendation that you find an open field away from a lot of obstructions in order to avoid accidents and scratching upon landing. The detail and shape of this drone means that there are a lot of breakable pieces and I’d rather not see you lose out on your investment before you’ve been able to fully enjoy it.
I admit that I had trouble keeping the drone straight outside (it’s really finicky in any sort of breeze), and a lot of my difficulty came with the fact that it was flying offcourse without ways to come back. I couldn’t keep it on course for more than about 10-15 seconds, and I don’t blame the drone at all. November just isn’t a great time of year to be flying a really lightweight drone. In my video, I’ll show you the basic features to take off and get it up in the air. I’m then going to show you part of Myriam’s video where she was a fair bit more successful in better weather.
This thing basically goes as high as you want it to, but because it is small in stature, it might be a bit hard to see if you go too far and it takes off fast. One other quick note is that because this is a flight-only drone, there aren’t any cameras onboard for you to do record flyovers. It’s strictly a hobby piece.
You will need to be really careful with flying this drone and making sure your landings are done fairly gingerly. The blades are transparent and can break if they hit the wrong surface. I was lucky not to break any blades, but I did end up cracking the training cage. You do get an extra set of blades, but if you run through them, you’ll have to order additional sets. I could only find them manufacturer direct, so be ready to wait if you do fly a bit recklessly.
What I didn’t like about the Propel Star Wars Advanced Battling Quadcopter Drone
Now, I’ve been very positive with this drone so far, but I do have to admit there were a couple things that I didn’t like about it either. The display element of it was frustrating at best. As much as I like a good Star Wars quote here and there, being treated to a lengthy Star Wars interlude every time I unbox it is a bit annoying at best, especially considering the lack of a volume switch. The display seems to stay lit up as well as long as you have the box open, and the only way I could turn the lights off was to put the box cover back on it.
This also isn’t the best drone for a beginner in my opinion. I feel as though there are too many fragile and breakable parts to feel really safe giving this to a novice. You’ll definitely want to start off with a cheaper quadcopter and work your way up to this one. Cheaper quadcopters aren’t very much nowadays, which is the nice thing.
Hardware-wise, I feel that the training cage probably needed a bit more rigidity to it. When leaving something this delicate out to deal with the elements, it would have been nice if the training cage itself slid into place on more than clip-in C shaped holders and weathered a bit more of a storm. My crack in the cage came when the drone was less than 2 feet off the ground and tried landing on tough terrain, even with the options of auto takeoff and landing.
Is this the drone you’re looking for?
I know that isn’t the real line from the movie, but I’m claiming creative license and sticking to it. Whether you’re a Star Wars nut, enthusiast or general well wisher, this drone is cool. Quadcopters can be a tricky beast to fly in general, but as long as you’re one part ambition, one part drive and one part fear (like I do, worrying that I’m going to break things) it’s worth a shot. Just be sure that you do it in the right weather, or face the consequences!
The Star Wars TIE Fighter Advanced Battling Quadcopter Drone is now available at Best Buy and online at BestBuy.ca