POWERUP 4.0 smartphone controlled paper airplane kit review


The PowerUp 4.0 is a smartphone-controlled paper airplane that allows you to get creative, either folding your own unique wing shapes or following along with suggested designs. The plane is controlled by a Bluetooth connection with smartphone; a very simple app lets you pair with the plane and start flying right away.

PowerUp offers this neat little toy in many different packages on its website ranging from the starter package for $69.99 all the way to their “Ultimate Bundle” for $219.00. PowerUp was kind enough to send me their Flight Manual Bundle, which comes with a couple of paper templates as well as the PowerUp Paper Airplane Book.

Personally I would suggest a package that contains the book, as it contains tons of information on the history of the company and the product, 10 different folding tutorials, and even some interesting physics about how the paper airplane works!

First Impressions

Right off of the bat, I was very happy with the PowerUp 4.0. The package I received contained the plane skeleton, a charging cable, two extra propellers, and a clear plastic stand to store or display the plane.

In addition to this, the plane came with tons of paper with cool templates and printed designs on it to help guide you through the folding process. Also, the actual engineering of the plane is absolutely great. I’m no aerospace engineer, but the build quality was very sturdy and the frame was lightweight.

The plane comes with a crossbar that you can and definitely should attach so as to keep the fragile paper wings from folding upwards under the force of lift. The “cockpit” portion of the frame is made of clear plastic so that you can see the computer ship inside as well as the battery, which I think is pretty cool.

The front nose is made of soft rubber material to protect the plane from my poor landing skills. The book that came with it has tons of information about the relative speed, maneuverability and endurance of each different plane, as well as a step-by-step guide to folding the wings. I decided to start with PowerUp’s “Invader” design, which seemed pretty basic and easy to fold.

Let’s Go

Upon assembling your airplane, you will next have to install the PowerUp 4.0 application and then connect the plane to your mobile device by Bluetooth.

One of my biggest concerns with this was the usually limited range of Bluetooth connection, however the PowerUp 4.0 mitigates this with a fairly small antenna at the top of the computer chip and battery housing.

The application gives you even more information about the plane, as well as a couple of videos to get your plane prepared for your first takeoff. I was also very impressed with the app’s stat-tracking abilities. The plane can recognize when it is level with the ground as well as the moment it touches down.

The PowerUp 4.0 can track your flying abilities and record how long you were in the air. They have created a convenient log of the telemetry so that you can analyze your own skills as well as identify your best performance with each airplane so as to make it a personalized experience.

Ready for Takeoff

To preface this, I am by no means any more than a novice pilot, so my first flight I expected very little. My first opportunity (mid-winter in Ohio) to fly the plane was not in the best of conditions, and I didn’t have much space to work with at school.

Given the amount of wind, and my extremely limited time with the PowerUp, it was not too hard to handle. The plane has a couple different control modes in the app. One controls the plane using the gyroscope in your phone with the throttle controlled by a simple button that you slide up and down.

While this was the first mode I used — I thought it would be easiest — later I preferred the joystick mode in which the plane throttle and direction were controlled by their own respective “joysticks” on your phone screen.

The PowerUp 4.0 was just plain easy and equally entertaining to fly. Without any sort of controllable ailerons I was worried about the maneuverability of a lightweight paper airplane, but I was absolutely shocked by it as I racked up flight time.

I sat on the plane for a few weeks and took it out in March when weather was more cooperative. I was able to find a bigger field on a much less windy day and gave it another shot. I then switched to a new freshly folded “Onslaught” design with a much smaller wingspan and surface area.

The Onslaught design proved to handle much better and it was evident that by improving my origami skills I was also improving the maneuverability and stability of the plane.

With some practice and maybe a couple of different designs, I’m sure just about anyone could find a way to become a pretty decent pilot of the PowerUp 4.0.

Features

The book that came with this plane has got to be the most important feature of the entire piloting experience. It has way more knowledge in it than I could ever hope to summarize. All I will say is that Kyle Boyer and Shai Goitein, the creators of the PowerUp paper airplane lineup, give tons of useful information about how to ensure you have the most stable and fun flight possible. If you are struggling with flying your plane, the first place you will want to go will be this book. 

The Bluetooth capabilities of the plane were also a pleasant surprise. The plane usually connected quickly to my phone and was ready to go within seconds after turning it on. I did find, however, that occasionally the plane would disconnect from my phone upon landing.

Normal Bluetooth connections between devices are hardly ever good for more than 30 feet, yet the airplane had no problems maintaining a connection to my phone from more than 150 feet away. I never was able to find an open space big enough to discover the limits of its range, but PowerUp claims that the range will reach up to 240 feet, assuming no interference. The application shows what I believe is a real-time measurement of the strength of the signal from the plane, measured in dB.

The battery level is also shown on the app while you are flying and leaves yet another good impression. PowerUp claims that the battery will last you only about 10 minutes of flight time, but considering my longest flight was only 1 minute and 6 seconds long, I find that to be plenty. I felt that in reality the battery did last much longer than 10 minutes, so I assume that to be based on the plane in air continuously.

While 10 minutes doesn’t seem like much, that 1 minute flight felt like forever and I was very satisfied after only a couple of flights. Regardless, in my time with it and for what it’s worth, the battery life was plenty.

The application comes with an acrobatic mode, but I couldn’t quite figure out how it modified the overall flying abilities of the plane. If you happen to somehow lose the plane in some tall grass, the app has a convenient method of locating it. Your mobile device will ping the plane to beep faster and faster as you approach it. Fortunately, I did not have to take advantage of this feature.

Final Thoughts

I think the PowerUp 4.0 is an absolutely amazing starter RC plane that is bound to make anyone who flies it a fan.

PowerUp has plenty of options for anyone, whether you’re a novice pilot like myself looking for some entertainment or an avid pilot hobbyist. The battery life is enough to be satisfying and it can be recharged easily by any micro-USB cable and power bank combo.

For being a simple Bluetooth connection, the range is also very impressive, and I can’t imagine it would be too hard to stay well within the range.

For an inexperienced pilot, the ability to control the plane came very quickly and easily. The application isn’t complicated yet it provided me with everything I could have asked for from it. The book that was sent with it is undeniably valuable to the overall experience of this product and I highly recommend it.

PowerUp definitely didn’t cut any corners with this plane, and there are tons of nice little features here and there that really make this plane worth it.

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