Review of the WowWee FlyTech Skyhopper (Europe Only)Posted by Peter Redmer on Thursday, 18 February 2010
Back in the day, the WowWee Dragonfly was all the rage; and most likely still is in many circles. It was a high quality ornithopter (airborne craft with flapping wings) and featured simple controls paired with a rugged, crash resistant design. Folks loved their Dragonflies, creating everything from various hacks, to videos of in-flight mastery, even stories involving territorial hawks.
What if you were to take the Dragonfly a step further, though; making it closer to a "real" insect? The Skyhopper, a brand new entry into the FlyTech series, promises to do just that. Read on to see what I think of this new species.
Unboxing the Skyhopper
The Skyhopper comes in a pretty standard WowWee box, with the nice mirrored backing putting the flyer on display.
Unfortunately, if you were hoping that the infamous WowWee twist tie thingys were gone on this one, you're out of luck. I would recommend bringing a pair of scissors to free this insect from the package. I understand why they need to use the restraints, as the Skyhopper is a light little thing, but it's still a small bit of a pain to get open.
Also, make sure that you free the radio antenna from the packaging. It's somewhat hidden in the corner. I actually tossed the box thinking I had everything, only to gaze at the remote and notice it was suffering from a severe lack of signal-boosting extendable goodness. Had I read the manual, I might have realized where it was attached, but you know me... geeks don't always read manuals! (In addition, a replacement prop is packaged with the antenna. Don't miss that!)
Note also that replacement wings are included with the manual; don't lose these. You want them, trust me!
Getting Started with the Skyhopper
You'll need 4x "AA" size batteries to power this bad boy. which are not included. Unscrew the panel from the back of the remote to insert the power cells.
On the side of the remote, you will notice a removable power plug that is used to charge the Skyhopper. Plug the cord into the Skyhopper next to the power switch and turn on the remote to charge. You should charge for about 10 minutes, which will yield approximately 6 minutes of flight time.
Personally, I love the way the Skyhopper looks. WowWee has taken a different direction than with the Dragonfly. Rather than give it a whimsical, cartoonish appearance, they have bestowed the Skyhopper with an edgier, more aggressive look. I particularly love the red eyes, black hull, and technological pattern on the wings. Looks sort of like something that could have jumped out of The Matrix, just with flapping wings. Very cool.
Flying the Skyhopper
The Skyhopper is very simple to fly. On the remote (which is fully proportional) you will notice there is a vertical throttle slider on the left, with left/right controls on the right slider. The right slider activates the tail prop to cause the Skyhopper to turn in mid-air, much like the rudder prop on a model helicopter. There are two modes, "Beginner" and "Expert." I immediately defaulted to Expert, as I wanted the highest degree and smoothness of control over Skyhopper.
The most novel feature of the Skyhopper; that which makes it different from the Dragonfly, is its set of little hopping legs. The legs spin forward in sync with the flapping wings to allow it to skip along the ground, take off directly from it, or turn itself around in small spaces. Don't catch your finger in them, by the way - it won't hurt you but could potentially bend the legs or damage the mechanism.
In addition, after you successfully land the Skyhopper (or have an unfortunate crash) he can be controlled to run and take off again without the need to pick him up and reposition him, assuming you didn't land him on his back. Finally, he can also walk backwards, and when doing so he will slowly turn allowing you to back out of corners.
Check out my video for a brief look at the Skyhopper in action. Like I mentioned earlier, he's quite easy to fly and there's lots of neat things you can do; for example, flying in spirals, touch-and-go's, and smooth landings and takeoffs. I got the hang of it in just about 3 minutes. The only thing I did notice is that he tends to "dolphin" in the air, creating small stalls, then a burst of forward motion, and so on. I have yet to experiment with weighing the nose to alleviate this, but careful control of the throttle can keep this to a minimum.
The Skyhopper is a solid entry in the FlyTech series that I feel, personally, isn't getting enough attention. I'd love to see a Skyhopper/Dragonfly revival; I'm thinking there are lots of flight challenges and tricks that could be done with these toys. They're also quite reasonably priced, available in two colors, and flight for two is enabled if you get Skyhoppers on separate bands (they are available in 27 and 40 mHz models.) There just aren't many bad things you can say about him; Skyhopper is easy and fun to fly as well as durable and reasonably priced for the quality.
Overall, this is a great "starter" flying toy to teach younger ones the joy of model flight and to learn the basics, while also being fun for adults... and a potential playground for hackers, too.
The Skyhopper will not be sold on the US version of the WowWee site, and thus will not be easy to find for customers in the US. However, our friends across the ocean (and possibly elsewhere) can check out the WowWee EU store for availability.