Aside from the occasional R/C helicopter, I have zero experience with drones. So when Aerix offered to send its new Black Talon Micro FPV Beginner Racing Drone to try out, I was on board. More importantly, my 13-year-old twins were all over it.
Before getting into too much detail, there’s a little expectation setting to be done. This is not a $1,000 drone. It’s going for $139 during the pre-order sale. That means the controller feels a little light and cheap, while the camera is fixed and at 720p instead of mounted on a gimbal and 4k. The controller screen is washed out and tough to see outdoors. But that’s all okay because you’re not paying $1,000.
Out of the Box
The Black Talon is about 7-inches across and weighs 2.5 ounces. So it’s small but not tiny. The form factor is quadcopter, it’s made of black plastic and features blue and red LEDs. The fixed 720p camera is mounted in the nose.
Included in the Basic Package are the controller, a removable display, microSD card, charging dongle, and four spare blades. The drone is equipped with a removable Li-Pro battery and the display is also equipped with a built-in rechargeable battery. You’ll need four AAAs for the controller.
Checking the Regulations
Before doing anything, we checked Canadian regulations for drone flight. We were clear to use the Black Talon so long as we stayed away from groups of people, airports, traffic, and restricted airspace. No problem there; we live near a large park. New drone rules take effect in the U.S. next week, so make sure to check those.
Black Talon Hands-On
I don’t have any experience in flying a drone, so I don’t know how the Black Talon compares to others. The transmitter—which looks like it’s based on an Xbox controller—is comfortable to hold, but the buttons, directional pads, and joysticks are unlabelled. So I always had the directions with me trying to figure out the controls. I found the engage/disengage a little awkward as these actions required moving two joysticks in opposing directions simultaneously—out to engage, in to disengage.
But once the drone was started up, it didn’t take much to get it airborne. And, man, does it motor. The listed top speed is 15 mph, but it sure felt faster.
When the boys took over, they were naturals with it. Where I was cautious and constantly checking the control scheme on the instruction page, they seemed to take to the flying instinctively.
There were occasions where we just plain lost control. It was usually a situation where we were making compound errors—typically starting by going too fast—and you could see control being lost as we overcompensated.
When that happened, it would ultimately crash. Usually into the grass, a few times into some bushes. We suffered many instances of blades popping off as a result (they’re replaceable) and a few where the blades physically snapped. There is a “Return to Pilot” mode that I attempted a few times and it seemed to start out well—the drone would stop what it was doing, level out and fly to me—but then it would keep going past. I’m not sure what was going on there…
Battery life was the most frustrating aspect of flying the Black Talon. We’d only get maybe five minutes of flight time if we were lucky. Walking to and from the park for a five-minute flight quickly got old, so I brought an external battery pack. However, charging took nearly an hour so that wasn’t a big help. Recharging the battery requires clipping the entire drone to the USB dongle (which looks precarious), or removing the battery to charge it directly.
When we attached the display to the controller and used the camera for the drone’s-eye view, that worked well, within the limitations of the low-resolution camera and inexpensive display.
A 4GB microSD card is included, but, at some point, it was inserted incorrectly into the slot and wound up slipping inside the drone’s body. Prying the shell open to retrieve the card resulted in the slot taking some damage, so we never did manage to shoot photos or record video while in flight.
Good Fun, But Spring for the Extended Flight Package
Overall, we’ve been enjoying the Aerix Black Talon. It’s generally forgiving and stable in flight, with plenty of zip. A nice combo for beginners who benefit from flight assist but also want to be able to push it a bit. And at the $139 pre-sale price, I would say a good value as well.
That being said, I would definitely recommend upgrading to the Extended Flight Package ($189 on pre-sale). It includes 40 spare blades—and if you’re anything like us, you’ll be happy to have those. Equally important, instead of a single battery pack for the drone, you get three. Fifteen minutes of flight time instead of having to pack up every five minutes would make the experience a whole lot more entertaining, especially when kids are involved.
Disclosure: Aerix supplied a Black Talon Micro Drone for review purposes.