If the holiday season left you loaded up with socks and lacking old fashioned unadulterated fun, it's time to take to the skies. The Blade 350 QX is the perfect way inject some childlike fun into the new year with a toy that appeals to savvy gadget-heads, those looking for an easy thrill and even videographers. There's no shortage of remote controlled aircrafts on the market, but the Blade 350 QX strikes the right balance between carefree toy and high-tech machine. If you're a remote control novice, have no fear: While the Blade may take a bit of time to set up, it's within reach for even the most ham-fisted of amateur pilots.
Once you're airborne, a range of difficulty settings allow for flying modes that range from the overwhelmingly challenging manual mode that sees the pilot adjusting stability for every breeze and making constant adjustments to more forgiving modes. (Admittedly, we took a few crashes on full manual and found hovering and general maneuverability only manageable in the assisted settings.) An altimeter and GPS mechanism make stable hovering and smooth, steady movements possible for beginner pilots. With this technology, capturing vibration-free bird's-eye footage with the included GoPro mount is possible for anyone. Every time the Blade takes off, its GPS sensor marks the point of origin and recognizes the location of the pilot. A safety feature prevents the 'copter from flying too close to the pilot (though it won't protect your friends, trees or hapless joggers, we learned) while a return-to-base sort of emergency button puts the craft on autopilot and returns it to the takeoff point—a nice feature for greenhorns or gusty days.
Our test flight found the Blade to be both responsive and easy to fly in assisted modes—with footage from the flight both stable and clear making it a good investment for amateur and professional videographers alike. Practical usages aside, the Blade is downright fun. The 350 QX model is available from Amazon and Horizon Hobby for $470, but you'll need your own GoPro to score that special footage.
Photos by Hans Aschim