If you grew up watching Star Wars, at one point or another you’ve probably fantasized about how cool it would be to pilot an X-Wing or a TIE fighter ship. These legendary ships are so ingrained in our collective Western culture that it’s no wonder they were brought back to life as scale models, mini-figures, video games, or LEGOs. But none of these incarnations managed to combine an authentic appearance with the ability to actually fly. Propel’s Star Wars combat drones set the bar very high. The question is, did they come out with a product that was shy enough to appeal to Star Wars fans and drone enthusiasts, or did they just lay out another mediocre Star Wars product? Read our full review of Propel’s Star Wars Battle drones to find out if these drones are worthy of the Jedi in you.
The Propel range consists of three Star Wars combat drones. Buyers can choose from the Star Wars 74-Z Speeder Bike, Star Wars TIE Advanced X1, and Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Starfighter.
Originally there was also supposed to be a Millennium Falcon, but currently, it’s on hold (apparently it’s a finicky ship in real life as well as in the movies).
Star Wars drones are small, featherweight models that are controlled via an included 2.4 GHz remote control. This remote is also paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth, giving you control through the free Propel Star Wars Battle Drones app (iOS / Android), which runs both training simulations and live battle tracking. .
You can fly them indoors or outdoors, at speeds of up to 57 km / h according to Propel and over a range of several hundred meters.
In addition, they contain both infrared transmitters and receivers and visible lights for combat.
But what’s really unusual about these drones is that they’re inverted. Their propellers are attached at the bottom, not on the top, which means they are pushed into the air rather than pulled.
We don’t know if there are any control or flight benefits with this architecture, but we can say one thing: it’s the perfect set up to preserve the look of these iconic Star Wars ships.
With no propellers visible above and only a small set of transparent props below, it’s much easier to maintain the fantasy that you control a real Star Wars ship, instead of a Star Wars model than someone else. one wrapped around a quadcopter.
In addition, banging one of these drones against the ceiling is not a problem for propellers which are not at risk of getting damaged.
CONCEPTION AND DESIGN
The other distinctive aspect of these drones is the incredible attention to detail that Propel has achieved.
Our two test drones, a TIE Advanced X1, and a T-65 X-Wing Starfighter look like perfect miniature versions of movie ships.
All the details are there on a small scale: their characteristics, the matte finish of the paint, the small patterns and the finishes worked in the plastic … it is hard to believe at the outset that these little wonders can also fly, and even interact with each other. with the others.
Most RC vehicles, regardless of size or budget, use a standard rechargeable battery, but Propel has customized the batteries for these drones by wrapping them in batteries that are part of the body of the ship.
This approach eliminates separate battery compartments and covers and helps maintain the correct proportions of each vessel.
The downside is that the batteries and chargers are unique to each model. You will therefore not be able to use the X-Wing battery on the TIE Fighter and vice versa.
Propel’s interest in details extends far beyond drones.
For Star Wars fans, the whole experience of unboxing and using these drones is a feast for the senses.
Each drone is packaged in what can only be described as super neat collector’s boxes.
The outer packaging box is a smooth black surface with color imprints for each vehicle and the mandatory Star Wars branding.
The inner box comes in a silver design with a plastic embossed rendering of the ship contained within and sealed on both sides with Imperial or Rebellion plastic insignia.
This kind of box is normally reserved for luxury watches, not toys.
Unfortunately, if you want to use the drones indoors, you will have to damage this beautiful packaging!
SOUND AND LIGHT
Once you’ve made the heart-wrenching decision to open the box, you should start by darkening the room a bit and making sure there is no music or TV in the background.
Indeed, when you take the drone out of its box, you discover a superb drone carefully arranged on a display platform that automatically lights up and starts playing Star Wars music and sound effects from its sound. small built-in speaker.
It’s a total spoil, but we were just blown away by the experience which took us completely off guard.
Of course, you can always close the box and wait a minute – this will reset the sensor and trigger a new light and sound show when you open it again.
Propel not only used the Star Wars audio tracks for unboxing the drone, it also integrated them into the drone’s remote control.
Flip the controller over and you’ll see a small speaker grille and a standard headphone jack.
Whether you are flying these drones solo or in aerial combat, you can surround yourself with music, sound effects and voices from Star Wars! This is another surprisingly delicious detail that takes the experience to the level of an immersive video game, and not just flying a drone.
Speaking of Controllers, they’re each themed to match their ship, with either Imperial or Rebel badges that double as power buttons.
They also emit sound effects, which are activated when starting and stopping, as well as when your ship is “hit” during battle.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that the control sticks are solid, with just the right spring tension providing good feel and smoothness when changing direction.
Propel has yet to publish a YouTube tutorial video on how to fly or combat with these drones. But maybe the company figured new pilots wouldn’t need them because the app has a training section.
This is a great app that allows you to use the remote control to control a virtual drone on the screen and move up through the ranks as you gain experience and mastery of the control system.
The virtual drone responds instantly to your commands, thanks to the Bluetooth connection.
The app even maintains a forced perspective, with the virtual drone drifting away from you, getting smaller as the distance increases, just as it would in real space.
But the main goal of this app is to get your hands on in virtual practice mode before you really launch into the air.
The only thing the simulation does not understand is the drone’s tendency to drift and change its altitude on its own.
When you start flying these drones, you suddenly remember that they are toys. Without any GPS, or visual positioning, or even ultrasonic sensors like those of Parrot on its AR. Drone, these Star Wars drones behave unpredictably once in the air, which requires almost constant adjustments on the controllers to stabilize them. The remote has both calibrations and trim functions, but we found these were only corrected for massive flight stability issues, instead of offering a good, clean hover. It will likely take novices a few hours of flight time to feel a real sense of control, so expect to crash often at first. The propeller protector will be your best friend in the early days! Is this a crippling weak point? Nay. Without onboard cameras, perfectly stable flight isn’t necessary, and when it comes to drone battles, that’s downright irrelevant – you don’t fly a Star Wars drone to take in the scenery! Propel’s the solution to the issue of flight stability is to offer three flight modes, plus a training mode, each of which places different restrictions on vehicle speed, altitude and joystick sensitivity. control.
In training mode, novice pilots can familiarize themselves with the controls and are less likely to accidentally crash their drone into a wall, while the more advanced mode allows for a startling degree of speed and manoeuvrability. We found that pushed to its limits in this mode, the drone couldn’t cope with sudden changes in direction as its gyroscopes failed to compensate for extreme movements.
Rather than being boring, we think it adds to the realism of air combat, because the pilot needs to understand what his ship can and cannot do and forces him to adjust his flight accordingly, just like a true Jedi should do it.
You can fly the Star Wars combat drones indoors in small rooms if you like (the included roll cage is a must for these flights) but you will have the best full experience piloting these ships outdoors ( on a very quiet day) or in a large indoor space, such as a gymnasium.
Propel recommends a minimum radius of 30 meters for flight, but a larger space is certainly even better.
Propel’s technology allows up to 12 Battle Drones in the same flight space,
automatically finding the available frequencies when each drone + controller is activated.
We only had the opportunity to test with two drones at a time, but it was enough to imagine how the biggest battles can play out.
You can choose between two types of weapons, infrared or laser light. Which one you use depends on where you are fighting.
In a larger outdoor area, the laser is preferable because it is less likely to be affected by ambient light, but it requires greater precision. Indoors, infrared works well, but in tight spaces, it can bounce off walls and reflective surfaces like windows, mirrors, or even TV screens.
To get the full Star Wars effect, smack a smoke bomb into your space, and you will actually see the laser lights.
Whatever your weapon, the war between drones is a fun time.
The application keeps track of how many times each pilot hits their opponent (or takes hits from the opponent) and declares a winner at the end of each round. You can choose how long each turn will last, but you can only take three shots before being immobilized for the remainder of the turn. Getting hit causes your controller to growl, lose control, and sway your ship, sometimes causing a forced landing if your altitude is too low.
Experienced pilots will have a huge advantage, as it can be quite difficult to get these drones to fly in the desired direction, while still trying to shoot at enemy ships. Only downside, the batteries only run for about eight minutes of flight time, and that’s not much when you’re having so much fun.
You get two batteries with each drone, and it takes about 45 minutes to charge.
We had a few frustrating moments when, even after completing the pre-battle preparation sequence, our ships failed to take off, forcing us to shut everything down and try again.
In the end, it worked, but as with everything else when it comes to flying these drones, patience is key.
Propel offers full refunds on unopened products within 30 days, and also offers a 90-day warranty against defects. For the first year after purchase, the company will provide propeller guards, propellers, landing gear, main rotor shafts and canopies free of charge.
Propel’s Star Wars war drones aren’t just toys; they are miniature works of art, presented in packaging that will appeal to even the most discerning collector.
The combination of attention to detail, design, use of sound effects and music provides an extraordinary riding environment that you won’t find anywhere else!
You might find more detailed Star Wars figures, and you might find drones more versatile and fun to fly, but you won’t find these two attributes in a single product anywhere other than at Propel.
When you add the ability to fight against other drones, Propel’s Star Wars combat drones are in a class of their own. If you are a Star Wars enthusiast, they are a must-have.
The whole question is which drone to choose between the Star Wars 74-Z Speeder Bike, the Star Wars TIE Advanced X1 and the Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Starfighter.