Ever since I learned how to fold a paper airplane as a Cub Scout in my youth, I have enjoyed trying different designs for a variety of functions such as distance, speed, and aerobatics. I even chose to teach how to fold paper airplanes for my demonstration speech in a public speaking class in college. However, I never envisioned putting powered propellers on a paper airplane let alone turning one into a remote control aircraft.
What is PowerUp 4.0?
PowerUp 4.0 is the latest version of PowerUp Toys remote controlled paper aircraft. Unlike earlier versions, PowerUp 4.0 is powered by two propellers rather than only one. The First Flight kit sells for $79.99 and the Flight Manual Bundle which includes a book with directions for 10 unique designs as well as additional templates is available for $99.99. Other bundles which include additional parts or lights for night flights are also available. Currently shipping is free for orders of $99 or more. All of these products can be ordered directly from PowerUp Toys. Currently the site is offering a Black Friday sale with 20% off.
What’s in the Box?
The PowerUp 4.0 Flight Manual Bundle includes the following:
- PowerUp 4.0 dual motor
- Cross bar
- Spare Propeller set
- Micro USB cable for charging
- Trim card
- 4 paper templates of the Invader model
- The PowerUp Paper Airplane Book–56 page design book with 10 different models
- 10 Japanese paper airplane templates with 5 different designs
- 2 waterproof paper airplane templates designed for night flight
- 1 desk stand for mounting and displaying your aircraft
The first six items in the above list are included in the First Flight kit.
How to Use PowerUp 4.0
The PowerUp 4.0 includes some basic instructions. However, most of the directions can be found by using the QR codes included in the box. These take you to online videos as well as tutorials. You can access the tutorials here. The first thing you need to do is install the PowerUp 4.0 app. This is available for both iPhones and Android phones. The app not only controls the PowerUp 4.0 in flight, it also gives you access to all of the planes in the ‘hangar’. After you have installed the app, it is time to charge up your PowerUp 4.0. Carefully insert the micro USB connector into the module. A red charging light will illuminate. When it turns off, the module is fully charged.
Now it is time to start folding your plane. From the hangar in the app, you can choose from many different models. The Invader is the best for beginners. The app will even take you to a video showing you how to fold the plane. You can use one of the included templates or just a piece of paper. You can even download templates from the website to print out your own copies with lines showing you where to fold, cut, and tape. You will need a pair of scissors and some clear tape. After the plane is folded, follow the instructions to attach the module to the paper plane. There is a clip under the module that slides right on the front of the plane. Attach the cross bar and then tape the motor assembly to the paper airplane to secure it. Use the scissors to cut slits into the rear of the wings to create elevators. Then use the included trim card to set the angle of the elevators. The plane is now ready to fly.
From the hangar screen in the app, select the model airplane you have built. This will set the flight characteristics into the app with all the correct settings. Turn on the module by moving the power switch into the on position. Then on the app, press the ‘Fly’ button to connect the app to the plane. If this is the first time connecting, you will need to download and update the firmware on the module. While holding the plane in your hand and ensuring the propellers can spin without hitting anything, test out the connection and the motors by moving the throttle on the app forward to apply power. It is a good idea to get a feel for adjusting the throttle before actually flying the plane.
It is important to choose the correct place to fly your PowerUp 4.0. A large open field is suggested without any trees or other objects into which the plane can crash or get caught. Grass or soft ground will prevent damage in case of a hard crash as compared to concrete or asphalt. A glide test is a good idea to ensure the trim is set correctly. Throw the plane into the wind without power to ensure it will fly straight. Adjust the elevators as necessary. When you are ready for powered flight, hold the plane in one hand and then use the app to apply some throttle. Then throw the plane into the wind. As you increase throttle, the plane will climb. Tilting the phone to the right or left will cause the plane to turn in that direction. Releasing the throttle will cause the propellers to stop and the plane will glide down to the ground.
Why You Should Get PowerUp 4.0
Remote control planes can be expensive and are easily prone to damage. One hard landing could require lots of repairs or total the aircraft completely. PowerUp 4.0 provides the fun and experience of controlling an aircraft without all the time and risk. The module with the propellers is quite durable. The nose is a soft rubber-like material and since most crashes are nose-first, this absorbs most of the impact. Along those same lines, since the propellers are at the rear of the aircraft, they usually don’t take any damage. If the aircraft itself takes any damage, it is paper and you can quickly fold another. Since there are several different designs you can fold, you can easily create an entire hangar of paper aircraft ready to fly by attaching the power module.
I recommend getting The PowerUp Paper Airplane Book. It is included in the Flight Manual Bundle or can be purchased separately. Not only does it have folding instructions for 10 different airplane designs, it also contains a history of the product, a detailed explanation of how PowerUp planes fly, tips for success and even a guide for troubleshooting. Basically it provides a mini course in aerodynamics. As you gain a greater understanding of the forces that act on a plane in flight, you learn how to better control your plane and make adjustments to improve your flights.
While the controls for the PowerUp 4.0 are fairly simple, it does take some practice to feel comfortable with them. Since the throttle controls speed, and speed determines lift, mastering throttle control is important. At first, I tended to give the plane too much thrust which caused the plane to climb and quickly gain altitude. The throttle is controlled by moving a circle with your thumb on the phone. It is a movement of about one inch from 0 to 100% thrust, so it took some practice to make small adjustments. After a while, you learn how much thrust you need for take off and to keep the plane in level flight. Tilting the phone causes it to turn to the left or right. As the plane rolls into the turn, it loses some lift, so you either need to give it a bit more thrust as you turn to maintain the same altitude, or give some thrust after the turn to get the plane back up the previous altitude.
The PowerUp 4.0 app has everything you need. It can access the folding instructions and even help you get ready to fly. By choosing the model of plane you are using, the app takes care of all the settings. These include pitch, pitch rate, roll, roll rate, yaw, yaw rate, steering angle, and angle of attack. Within the Tuning part of the app, you can actually adjust all of these values. However, use caution since making too drastic of changes can make your aircraft unstable as well as difficult to control and keep in the air. The fact that you can tune your aircraft really adds to the experience as you can experiment and see what effects the various settings make on your flight model.
If you are looking for an entry into remote controlled aircraft that will not empty your wallet yet allow for flying different designs and experimenting with your own ideas, I highly recommend the PowerUp 4.0. I am extremely impressed not only with the design of flight module and the variety of models which can be folded from a simple piece of paper, but also with the app and the overall execution of the entire product. All of the physics of aerodynamics have been taken care of for the user so they can focus on folding their planes and flying them through the air.
When you are ready to take flight with paper airplanes, check out the PowerUp 4.0.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample of this item for review purposes.