Propel really knocked it out of the park last holiday season with not one, but three Star Wars battle drones. And make no mistake, these aren’t simply scaled down starfighters from the movies — they nailed the entire fantasy. The flying and maneuvering, the music, the lighting, the voices, the gameplay, the wear and tear on the ships, and even the unboxing feels like it’s straight out of a galaxy far, far away. Not only that, but the ‘battle’ in the name means something — Propel designed the drones to not just fly around, but battle others in dogfights as big as 24 drones.
The attention to detail on the drones is amazing. Each model is hand painted to beautifully represent the ships in the condition they were in during the movie: with some miles on the odometer. The current models are numbered, certified, and sold in a collectible display case. When the outer box is opened, the drone is beautifully propped inside a lit up display case with music and audio clips from the movies playing out loud. The display case itself looks like it was ripped from the movie set. Thankfully, you can recharge the case to re-experience the unboxing over and over again.
The unboxing was a really fun experience, but my impatience got the best of me — I wanted to fly. The setup took much longer than expected with some disappointment along the way. Set aside 45 minutes if you’ve never used a drone before. First, your controller requires four AA batteries that are not included. There are two rechargeable batteries included for the drone, but they are not fully charged. After putting on the battery and some other parts, you think you’re good to go. When you pick up the controller and start pushing buttons, you’ll realize it’s unintuitive and impossible to fly without a full read of the instructions. Read the whole thing, beginning to end — it will take a good 15 minutes.
Flying definitely takes some practice. It’s much easier outside or in a very large room. It’s easy to get mentally disoriented, and within seconds you’ll panic and crash. Thankfully, it does quite well with crashes, although propellers can fly off in bad crashes. They’re clear so it’s good that there’s extras.
I had a bunch of wall crashes in the apartment and even the really bad looking ones did not mark the walls. I might have just gotten lucky. With that said, you can definitely break some stuff inside the house, and eventually the drone will show the effects. It comes with a training cage that’s useful for indoor flying and learning the ropes, but I broke my cage after a few crashes.
With practice, indoor flying can be extremely precise and fun. It becomes easy to maneuver through small openings and navigate random items. There’s a lot of air coming out of the bottom of the drone, so papers underneath it will also fly.
Outside, you can really test out the speed and height capabilities. The drone can fly over 35 MPH; it’s really fast. It can get to 30 MPH in a mere 3 seconds. The controller can be set to one of three speeds. I was able to get it relatively high, but was too nervous about losing it on top of a house. It felt like it got to 30 feet high without an issue. You can move the drone almost every which way, and there’s even a button to do a right or left barrel roll. Just keep in mind that outside, you’re working against the wind, and that can make piloting a lot more difficult. You’re not supposed to fly in inclement weather at all.
If you touch the propeller while the drone is being operated, it will seriously hurt. I did it a few times on accident and it didn’t break skin, but it leaves a mark and can hurt all day. It’s pretty serious for a toy, so be careful if you have little ones running around.
You get about eight minutes of fly time on each battery, so it’s nice that two are included. They take about 30 minutes each to fully charge. The included charger can be plugged into a wall or a USB port.
Propel didn’t only design the Star Wars drones only to casually fly around for fun; they designed them to battle. Each drone is equipped with laser shooters that fire off invisible beams — hit another drone, and they’ll lose a life point on their controller. Three hits, and you’re out. Up to 24 drones can battle at once, so if you manage to create a meetup for people with these Propel drones, it could make for a really fun afternoon.