Drones are the hot tech gadget at the moment. They come in all shapes and sizes, whether it be the high-powered, high-tech DJI Mavic Pro quadcopter with foldable arms, or the mammoth fixed-wing Parrot Disco drone which looks more like a mini aeroplane.
For Star Wars fans however, there’s only one manufacturer worth looking at. Propel has created three new interactive Star Wars drones, and we got our hands on the X-Wing model. If for whatever reason you’re not an X-Wing fan, there’s also a TIE Advanced X1 fighter and a 74-Z Speeder Bike.
X-Wing Drone preview: What comes in the box?
The packaging, contents and presentation are probably the most interesting part of the drone. That’s not to downplay the fun of flying the X-Wing drone, but rather highlight how well presented it is.
As soon as the lid is lifted from the box, the plinth holding the drone lights up and immediately starts playing Star Wars themes and a scene from the original trilogy movies. You’ll be whisked back to the first attack on the Death Star with all the Red fighters confirming their standby status. It’s pretty impressive.
Once you remove this display case you get to the rest of the contents, all of which are packaged neatly in their own grey card boxes.
There’s the large remote control pad, which looks similar in design and size to the big white control used by DJI, except the power button is a large Rebel Alliance logo.
The power adapter comes with interchangeable UK and EU electrical plugs, and plugs in to both the battery charging dock and the display case.
There are two batteries which come shipped in X-Wing cockpits. These were perhaps one of the biggest highlights of the experience. Having a battery port that was naturally part of the ship’s design, and that slots in and out so easily is great.
Other parts that ship with the drone include the propellers, including eight spares, a propeller removal tool, spare screws and the protection cage which stops the propellers from being damaged and/or taking someone’s eye out.
X-Wing Drone preview: Do the wings fold open?
In the Star Wars movies, the X-Wing fighter gets its name from the fact that it can open its wings in to a wide “X” shape. Its name pretty much tells you that. Sadly, the wings on the drone are fixed in position, so they can’t open. That was more than likely a necessity to make such a small drone possible.
The entire drone feels mostly hollow, and made from plastic, then painted to make it look like one of the original T65 X-Wing fighters. In fact, it’s even got a finish that makes it appear slightly battle-worn.
Perhaps the only part that doesn’t look authentic is the pair of arms sticking out from near the front of the cockpit. Of course, these are needed for the front propellers, but do look very strange on an X-Wing.
In an effort to keep the rest of it as X-wing like as possible, Propel – the manufacturer – used completely transparent propellers, and placed the rear pair directly below the wings. This ensures that from above you can’t really see the blades at all.
As with most drones, there are lights placed at the front and back. The red lights at the back are appropriately built in to the rear burners. The white front lights are built in to the front of the wings, and flash when the drone isn’t connected to the remote, then switch to a solid white when connected.
X-Wing Drone preview: How do you fly it?
You fly the drone using the included, massive controller pad. The drone itself powers on as soon as the battery unit is slotted in to the unit, so you never have to worry about finding an on/off switch.
Before powering on the controller, you need to find four AA batteries, and place them inside the base of the control pad. To get to the battery silos, you first need to pull out the tiny screwdriver which is stealthily placed inside its own slot in the side of the controller.
It must be said, having a micro USB port and lithium ion batteries for easy recharge-ability would be much more convenient. This is a fiddly and cumbersome method of keeping the controller working.
Once the batteries are in, you press the large round button emblazoned with a big red Rebel Alliance logo and hold it for a couple of seconds. The control pad powers up, then you move the left joystick up, then down and it’ll pair with the drone.
Like so many other drone controllers, the left joystick adjusts the altitude and spins the drone around, while the right joystick moves it forwards, backwards, left and right. Four curved buttons on the inside of the joysticks have specific functions, like auto take off and landing, calibrating the gyroscopic sensor or skipping through music tracks.
On the front of the controller there’s a selection of secondary trigger buttons which are used to change flight speed, fire infra-red weapons and perform special moves.
The controller also happens to play sound effects, theme songs and character quotes from the movies, just to make the experience that bit more Star Wars-y.
X-Wing Drone preview: What else can it do?
The fun really begins when you have two of these Battle drones in the same area. They have IR transmitters and receivers, so that you can take part in aerial duels. If your drone is hit three times by an enemy ship – like the TIE fighter version – your ship crashes (read auto-lands) and you lose.
X-Wing Drone preview: How much is it and where can I get one?
The X-Wing drone is available now for £199, and an be purchased from a number of high street and online retailers, including Maplin, eBay, Amazon, the Disney Store and Argos.
“Red Leader, standing by” is exactly what you’ll be shouting to yourself while flying this toy around your living room this holiday season. Incidentally, it’s also what you’ll hear the moment you lift the lid off the X-Wing battle drone for the first time. It’s £200, and is about as much fun as you’ll get from a drone if you’re a Star Wars fan.