FlyTech Bladestar by WowWee - Hands-On ReviewPosted by milw on Wednesday, 7 May 2008
9 word summary: It flies, it's fun, and the kids love it.
This is my hands-on review of the Flytech Bladestar, covering how to assemble it, charge it, and get it in the air.
WowWee FlyTech Bladestar: What It Is
Bladestar is a new type of rotary-wing flying toy, with onboard infrared sensors to allow avoidance of ceilings and walls. The Bladestar is designed so the entire unit spins, driven by two opposing high speed props. The lifting blades are hinged, and constructed of a tough plastic that can withstand (the inevitable) bumps and scrapes.
Bladestar receives infrared signals from the hand-held remote control, allowing the pilot to control vertical movement by a sliding throttle adjustment, and to make the Bladestar move forward, backward, left or right relative to the remote by directional push buttons. As with the Flytech Dragonfly, the remote also serves as a recharger, with the cable hidden beneath the right cover. (Click on images for larger version!)
Bladestar is packaged in a re-usable plastic carrying case, and includes 2 spare props and a spare set of plain wings. The cardboard wrapper is printed to indicate whether the Dragon pattern (red) wings or Flame pattern (orange) are inside. A 'dogfighting' accessory is also included, which is basically a plastic shield that limits the spread of your controllers IR signals. More on that later!
On first opening the package, you'll find the body of the Bladestar nestled in a special slot in the case. You need to attach a pair of wings and charge up before flying. Wing attachment is very simple, just make sure that the graphic on the wing is up (or convex side up) and the clip at the base of the wing is fully inserted. I found that a fully charged Bladestar can fly even with only one wing attached, though it is a bit wobbly!
To charge, make sure the Bladestar and remote are both switched off. Twist the right hand black cap on the remote a quarter turn to release the charging cable, and carefully plug into the socket on the side of the Bladestar. Now push the remote switch left, to the charging position. The center LEDs on the remote light up one at a time, in a ladder sequence during charging. Depending on the level of depletion, charging may take 10-15 minutes. When full charge is attained, the top LED stays on steady. Make sure you don't accidentally leave the switch in this position too long- I killed a new set of AA batteries by leaving the remote switched to 'charge' overnight.
Time to fly! Make sure you have a clear area of at least a couple of feet, either on the floor or on a tabletop. We have found a short hardwood stool with a round seat to be very convenient for take offs. Detach the Bladestar from the charging cable and turn it on. The internal LED should flash (red for Dragon pattern, orange for Flame). Turn on the remote and aim it at the Bladestar, and the LED should stay lit (not flashing). You may need to rotate the Bladestar so that the IR detector (rectangular black object on the side of the body) is pointing at the remote.
To begin flying, first ramp the throttle fully up and down again, then slowly increase the throttle to about 1/3rd. Bladestar will spin up and begin to lift off. Slowly increase throttle to gain altitude, and slowly back off to bring Bladestar to a hover. If Bladestar starts flashing, this is to alert you that your aim needs adjusting! If Bladestar doesn't see the remote for 10 seconds, it will timeout and power down, and need to be turned off and on again to resume flying.
It's really easy to make the Bladestar shoot up and hit the ceiling, and once it gets sucked up onto the ceiling, the only way to make it drop is to kill throttle entirely. So take it easy on the throttle is my advice!
According to the instructions, this direct take off is in the 'autonomous mode' where Bladestar will detect and avoid ceilings and walls. It's important to not fly up too quickly, in order to allow the top IR detector to see the ceiling in time. A climb rate of about one foot per second or slower is recommended. The direction keys are still usable in this mode, I've found that my Bladestar will respond appropriately albeit slowly (perhaps gracefully is the best word!). Be prepared for a loss of altitude when using the directional controls, as the control system seems to chop power to one motor for a fraction of each rotation, in order to cause the horizontal motion.
To fly in 'RC' (for Remote Control) mode, turn the remote and the Bladestar on, and press the round center button. Bladestar should respond by revving the motors and spinning slowly. Now ramp the throttle up and down, and then increase throttle again to take off. In RC mode, the obstacle detectors are inactive, so you get to be in full control. I suspect that you might get longer flights in RC mode, since you aren't consuming battery power to run the IR LEDs on the Bladestar, but this remains to be proven.
In case of a crash, you can either let the 10 seconds run out, or cut the throttle and aim the remote at the madly spinning Bladestar. Don't try to pick it up until the motors are off! Check the blade tips for bends, and flatten them out if necessary; and watch for lint getting wrapped around the prop shafts.
The idea behind dogfighting with a friend is fairly simple - pressing the center 'fire' button issues an IR 'kill' command that interrupts motor power. After 3 'kill' commands are received, the Bladestar will power down. The trick is that you need to stabilize your own Bladestar, then swing the remote to aim at your opponent and press fire. If you stay aimed away from your own Bladestar for too long, it'll die due to the 10 second timeout. Placing the 'dogfight accessory' on your remote limits the spread of the IR control signals, so hopefully your shots will only hit your opponents Bladestar. We haven't had a chance to try the dogfight ourselves, so I hope someone with a friend can try this out.
The Bladestar is a fun indoor flyer that is challenging to keep in the air. It's simple enough for a 6 year old to fly, though the recommended age is 8+. Just watch out for the props- don't pick it up while the motors are running, or you might get nipped. Have fun and be sure to show us any tips or tricks you may have invented!