Air Hogs Hawk Eye Blue Sky
Street Price: $64.99 US (est.)
Mfr's recommended min. age: 12+
Our recommended age range: 12+
Primary use: Outdoors
Top speed: n/a
- RC plane
- USB cable
- 6x AA batteries
I've previously tested the Air Hogs Hawk Eye RC helicopter, but now there's a plane, the Hawk Eye Blue Sky. The Blue Sky is a pretty awesome-looking plane that looks like a futuristic jet or perhaps even a space fighter with its partly forward-swept wings. However, there has already been an Air Hogs Jet Set plane that looks just like this one. The difference is in the belly of this beast, which houses a working spy camera, capable of recording both photos and full-motion video from the air.
This plane uses an advanced high-frequency 2.4GHz radio set that has no external antennas to worry about breaking, and it's supposed to give significantly better reception than older 27MHz & 49MHz radios. Like with most Air Hogs RC aircraft, the Hawk Eye Blue Sky plane's battery can be recharged directly from the controller. The charging cord is actually a USB cable, though, so you can also charge it from a computer or gaming console. That same cable is used to download pictures & video clips after a flight.
On the Hawk Eye Blue Sky's first day of testing, there was too much wind for it. The general rule of thumb with these really small foam planes is that if you can feel a breeze on your face, it won't fly. On the second day of testing, this rule was proven to be a bit... exaggerated. The Hawk Eye Blue Sky actually was able to handle a mild, uneven breeze, enough to make lighter tree branches sway a bit. Here's the thing, though. It will fly differently into the wind than away from or across it, so it's important to be very mindful of the wind's direction and adjust to it as necessary. I was very pleased to find that the 2.4GHz radio set does its job properly, eliminating the steering lag that plagued some of the older aircraft. One thing I did quickly learn was that how sharply it turns will depend upon how much throttle you're giving it. At full throttle, it climbs well, but doesn't steer well. The less throttle you give it, down to about 1/4th forward movement on the stick, the more sharply it will turn, but it may also lose altitude. Try to climb up in the air a good distance before starting a turn, and avoid doing successive circles as the craft will spiral downward. It all just takes some getting used to, but the important thing is that with piloting experience, you can fly this craft well because it has a good design and good performance.
In my third flying session with the Air Hogs Hawk Eye Blue Sky, I recorded the on-board movie clip you'll see in the video below. The video resolution is just 320x240 pixels, nothing spectacular, but it's captured at a surprising 24 frames per second, which makes it actually pretty smooth. It's in full color and you can pause it at individual frames in most video players, and you can easily make out houses, cars, people, and other objects around you. The memory chip built into the plane holds about 15 megabytes of data, which is enough for between 45 seconds and a minute of video. [Update: The production version that will actually be available in stores has significantly more memory and will record between 4 and 5 minutes of video -- enough to cover almost a full battery charge of flight.] When you're recording video, the red light on the controller will be on as a reminder. When the camera stops recording on its own because the memory card is full, the plane will actually communicate this information back to the controller, and both lights will flash to let you know. The Hawk Eye Blue Sky can also record still photos at 640x480 pixel resolution, though that's not quite as useful of a feature because there's a 1 1/2 second delay between when you push the button to take a pic and when it actually captures it. This makes it hard to line up the shot you want since the plane is moving. Photos are also subject to motion blur if you're not flying perfectly straight.
(Click a video a second time to view it larger in a new window.)
The Air Hogs Hawk Eye Blue Sky is a slam-dunk, home run touchdown goal. Yeah, all of those. I love it. I like just flying it. It's a bit of a challenge at first, but you can learn how to handle it, and then it's just a pleasure. The fact that it can record videos from the air is just over-the-top awesome for such a low-cost, toy-grade plane. There's nothing bad I can say about this one!
Note: This was a pre-release test. Expect to see the Air Hogs Hawk Eye Blue Sky in stores in early October 2011!