A lot of fun; extra parts; micro-SD card
Battery life; remote control
Security and gadget company Swann has a large range of radio-controlled helicopters to try, from single rotor to double rotor, with on-board camera or the ability to fire plastic missiles. We got the stealth Black Swann with video camera to see how it performs.
Learning to fly the Black Swann takes time. It sports the traditional remote control with two joysticks; the left controls the rise and fall of the helicopter by controlling the rotation speed of the blades, while the right controls the direction.
Luckily the helicopter, which has a range of 30m – is extremely durable. Countless occasions saw the helicopter dropping from the sky at a fast rate or bouncing off our backyard’s low-hanging tree branches. Much to our surprise, the Black Swann rose off the canvas again and again. This alone makes it a great first RC helicopter.
The Black Swann has four rotor blades – two pairs situated on top of each other – and a horizontal tail rotor. If you do manage to break one, each helicopter comes with spare main rotor blades and an extra tail one.
Additions such as Trim Rotation Control help to make the Black Swann as easy to fly as possible. The speed
of the rotor blades can be adjusted manually using a slide bar at the bottom of the remote control; this synchronises them and helps to stop sideward drifting. Syncing the two rotors has to be done before each flight.
The helicopter is compact and portable, weighing 130g and spanning 30 x 6 x 150cm. It’s great to use inside or take to the park.
Swann claims a six- to eight-minute flight time, which may be a little understated. I certainly didn’t feel that I was short-changed when flying, but with a 70-minute recharge time and the inability to change the on-board battery, its use is limited drastically.
Swann is renowned for fitting quality video cameras into small devices, and the Black Swann’s on-board camera is exactly that. It is extremely small, situated on the bottom of the helicopter and records at 640 x 480 resolution in AVI format.
An issue with fast-moving video capture is the lack of stability, and when using a helicopter this movement is exaggerated. Swann has acknowledged this, stating in the manual that “helicopters can move fast, sometimes too fast for good quality images free from blur”. Its solution is to slow the speed of the helicopter through the air using the Tail Rotor Speed Control button. The resulting footage is actually quite nice, if you maintain a little stability.
Sadly there is no sound.
On a positive note, the Black Swann ships with a 1GB micro-SD card, which will hold approximately 20 minutes of video, and a micro-SD card reader to transfer recorded videos to your computer. The Black Swann sports a series of blinking lights, which look quite cool at night and can be turned on or off. However, they appear over- done and akin to disco lighting.
Macworld Australia’s buying advice.
If you want a remote-controlled helicopter that will take quality video, the Black Swann isn’t your point of call. Short flight times and a rudimentary remote control also had us feeling a little disappointed. However, for the price, it has all the hallmarks of a great addition to the gadget collection.