I should start out with a confession.
Well, two, really. First, I am abysmal with drones. I watch those videos of guys on YouTube racing them and doing stunts in awe, while my drone flying tends to involve the poor thing suddenly shooting off into the air and bashing against the wall, ceiling, and, inevitably, floor. Part of the problem is the cheap tiny drones I tend to play with.
They suck. The smaller the drone, the harder it is to control. It’s just a thing. I should know, I have a stack of the uncontrollable little buggers. With drones, if you want to not look like an idiot, it helps to go big and go expensive. Historically, I have not done that.
The second bit of my daily confessional is that at the end of my time evaluating the aggressively named ‘Black Talon 2’ from Aerix, maker of so many “indoor” drones, it mysteriously suffered some damage and stopped working. I’m rather certain it was through no fault of the drone or Aerix. As it turns out, children are detrimental little creatures and the natural enemy of drones simply because they love them too much.
So, there’s that.
Here’s the thing with the Black Talon 2 though. I can actually fly this drone. It’s roughly the size of my hand, stable enough in the air to not simply take off like a spastic hummingbird having a seizure, and controllable enough for me to make it go where I wanted. Hell, prior to its unfortunate and mysterious demise, even my nine year old was pretty good with it. For a small drone listed at around $100 and equipped with an impressive number of bells and whistles, this is noteworthy.
Packed with a controller that looks nearly identical to an Xbox control pad, the drone uses two analog sticks to fly. One controls moving forward/backward and strafing side to side. The other stick controls altitude and turning. There are a lot of buttons on the pad as well and not much explanation for exactly what they do. Most of them seem to be for fine-tuning the drone’s controls, but it takes some internet research to really figure how to do this. You shouldn’t need to adjust it, but a few bad landings can definitely get the Talon out of whack in no time flat.
As a result, the drone tends to need recalibration after every few flights. This is an easy enough process mapped to pointing the analog sticks in a specific way. Just expect to do this regularly. Speed controls also help, so novices can keep things manageable and you can increase the speed (and challenge) as you get better.
The front of the drone holds a 720p camera good for either still shots or videos, but does requires an SD card installed in the drone to save footage. The Talon can also sync with your phone and be flown (or just viewed) through the app, but using the controller just feels more natural. You can even control it with the pad while wearing your phone in VR goggles for the ultimate you-are-there feeling.
Aerix recently moved from 5.8GHz signals to pure WiFi to control drones via your phone and the difference is immediately noticeable. It’s an odd change at first, because it requires the phone actually connect to the drone as if it was a WiFi network (which, basically, it is), but the advantage is a higher quality lag-free video feed.
Granted, no matter how you control the Black Talon 2, it won’t be a long flight. A fully charged battery lasts less than 10 minutes—probably closer to six or seven. Aerix was kind enough to send three batteries, plus an external charger that charges two batteries at once (a $25 extra with two batteries). The unit itself only comes with one battery which takes about a half an hour to charge, so having extra batteries is almost a necessity.
For around $100, the Black Talon 2 is the middle ground between ultra cheap toy and higher end flying spy. It won’t require FAA registration, but is definitely aimed at the casual crowd. The short flight time means you won’t be taking epic travel movies, but the easy handling and array of features makes this a solid choice for beginners curious to see what all the fuss over drones is about. Just keep it away from three-year-olds.