Don’t be fooled by the Parrot A.R. Drone. Sure it does barrel rolls is sleek super-sexy and highly desirable. But when you consider its high price tag short flight time and video game-esque destructibility it falls short of anything close to a value proposition for anyone who needs to count coins when heading out for lunch. It’s a status symbol.
Enter the mortal equivalent: the Black Swann RC stealth helicopter. Swann perhaps better known for its security products than its avionics offers armchair aviators surprisingly fantastic out-of-the-box flight with this chopper and for a fraction of the cost of the A.R. Drone.
Weighing in at a measly 130g the chopper is juiced by a rechargeable 3.7V lithium battery and six AA batteries for the remote control. A full battery charge takes 70 minutes and transfers to around 8 minutes of actual flight time; that’s by no means lengthy but considering the Black Swann’s spry size also means you needn’t leave the house to get some air time it’s not too bad.
Getting the hang of flight takes no time at all and while the analogue stick controls are simple to master we wouldn’t recommend it for the really little ones — purely because it does hurt if you get hit by the spinning rotors (and yes we tested that too).
The Black Swann’s also video capable. There’s a front-facing camera mounted directly under the cockpit which records up to 10 minutes of footage to the included 1GB microSD at a resolution of 640 x 480. For those wanting a little more the video unit happily expands to cards up to 32GB. Given Swann’s security camera heritage the quality of the footage is unsurprisingly quite good too.
We gave the Black Swann an absolute beating in our tests and aside from a few cosmetic dings and scratches it still flies as well as it did on the first day. But if by chance the mission doesn’t go according to plan and your chopper ends up in a fiery wreck or the snarling jaws of man’s best friend there’re a spare set of rotors and the appropriate tools to replace them included in the box.
Pros : Built tough integrated video camera doesn’t cost the Earth.
Cons : Can’t do barrel rolls short flight time rotors hurt bald heads.
Verdict : 8 out of 10. Highly recommended.
Available from Swann price $99.95.