Using the Black Swann Stealth remote control helicopter with built-in video camera recorder conjures up some interesting scenarios. Think miniature ‘death from above’ as you swoop down on unsuspecting pets, sending them scrambling in terror for cover. Or how about a few ‘stealth’ missions across the neighbour’s fence, just to make sure they’re not up to anything suspect? Or maybe take a few aerial photos of your roof tiles to make sure they’re in good condition.
Whatever you plan on using it for, the Black Swann helicopter is a tricky little device to master. At GadgetGuy HQ, it took a couple of hours to build up enough skill to control it properly. Fortunately, once you get the hang of it there’s a good bit of fun to had.
The remote features several controllers. The left stick controls elevation, which is the trickiest to master because you have ease it slowly to keep the ‘copter from jolting out of control. The right stick controls the craft’s direction, plus there’s the throttle and a button for turning the helicopter’s LEDs on or off.
The video camera on the helicopter shoots at 640 x 480 resolution, and can be initiated via the remote control. Unfortunately the remote control doesn’t indicate that the unit is recording – you need to rely on a teeny red LED on the bottom of the helicopter itself for that.
Video records to the supplied 1GB microSD card, which can store around 20 minutes of footage. The kit also comes with a converter so you can plug your microSD card into a computer via USB and watch what you’ve recorded on your PC’s monitor.
The toy uses 27MHz RF transmission, so (unlike infrared models) can theoretically work outdoors as well as inside. Flying time is stated as 6-8 minutes per charge (which takes 70 minutes!), and Swann cites a working radius range up to 30 metres, which is impressive.
We didn’t really get to push this limit – or explore any of the interesting scenarios we first imagined for the Stealth – with tests quickly revealing Swann’s plaything to be very much a fair-weather flyer.
The slightest hint of breeze caused our many missions in Sydney’s Hyde Park to crash to the ground. Twice, though, we climbed high enough to ditch into a tree. Swann’s stabilisation measures – namely its ‘Easy-fly Gyro Technology’ and trim adjustment – were apparently no match for our test conditions. Or maybe they were just no match for our piloting skills?
We reckon, then, that the secret to successful spy flying with this chopper toy is to get high in extremely still outdoor conditions, or fly indoors. We had special fun here, stalking GG staffers at knee height as they moved from the kitchen to the photocopier, and seeing just how long the Black Swann could maintain a hover over their heads before they cracked.
And with the high-pitched whirring of its motor sounding just like an angry wasp, they always cracked.
UPDATE: We’ve just received a few of these choppers to give away. Competition closes on June 20!