Fastest Hunk of Junk in the Galaxy? Review of the R/C Millennium Falcon

Normally I don’t bother with picking up odd things like this, but a number of things snapped into place to make this worthwhile.

When I accepted the new job, my boss asked if I had any experience with flying a drone, as she wanted to do some aerial photography for a big event coming up in a few months. Being the way I am, I decided to take the challenge and teach myself how to pilot one of these things.

A few weeks into the new job, the local calendar and toy store was doing a blowout: everything in the store 50% off. Since I was keeping an eye out for some fun stuff for the new office (snagged a few models and a calendar), I was on the prowl for cool things. Behind the counter, there was ONE remote controlled Millennium Falcon. It wasn’t the awesome quad-copter version, but let’s face it: It’s the Falcon. Why wouldn’t I go for it when it’s 50% off (and therefore under $30)?

I bought it, brought it home, charged it, and got to trying to make my own version of the Kessel Run, albeit in more than twelve parsecs. . .

An offer I couldn't refuse!
An offer I couldn’t refuse!

==The Pitch==

There isn’t much advertising for the item on the box beyond being able the pilot the Millennium Falcon. Honestly, what more do you need?

==What’s In The Box==

Beyond the instructions and a bunch of cardboard, you get a controller (with charging cable) and the Millennium Falcon. The controller is reminiscent of an Xbox 360 Controller and is made of relatively light plastic with two joysticks and a knob (more on this later). The Falcon itself is a two rotor setup surrounded by lightweight foam with the general shape of the ship.

The Falcon itself is charged from the controller (which has a hidden cable for that purpose), and the charge comes from a set of 4 AA batteries (not included and NOT suggested) or by plugging it into a USB port (if you have an Android phone, you have a charger).

Unboxed Falcon and remote.
Unboxed Falcon and remote.

==Thoughts On The Remote==

Anyone who’s done any driving, piloting, playing video games, or anything similar knows that controls are important. The setup for this version of the Falcon is rather limited, and it feels like there should have been more to it. I’m guessing that it was the same shell as the more advanced version with lights and sound, but blocked out to keep the controls simple.

The control sticks only move in one direction each: the left moves up and down, while the right moves side to side. Obviously, you have lift and steering.

Lift is linked to a spring that forces the stick to fall back down if you let go, so you are always trying to maintain the correct pressure (otherwise it will go crazy). The other simply steers it; nothing special.

The knob, supposedly, offers stability with regards to turning. It controls the stabilizer, and if it is out of sorts, it will just randomly turn in a direction.

 

==Taking Flight==

The first night I was using this, it was the biggest pain in the ass and a major letdown. I thought the machine was faulty, as I would place it on a flat surface and slowly throttle up. At first, it would just wing off in a random direction and would crash top propeller first into something. After a bit of playing with the stabilizer knob to get it to stop spinning (or at least not spin TOO much), it would sort of takeoff, but would still crash into something top-first. I tried low throttle and moving up slowly, and at one point just went full-blast, but always ended with the same results. The first night was a total bust, and I called it a night when the battery died.

Not to be cheated, I went to the internet and began to search, and learned that this thing is not only lightweight, but is supposedly equipped with too strong of a motor. Couple that with the odd shape and little ground clearance (it has three little landing struts to separate the rotor from the ground), it started to make sense why I had issues.

Side view. Those landing struts are tiny.
Side view. Those landing struts are tiny.

After work, I followed the tips I read: hold it in hand very loosely by the front mandible, throttle up, and let it go.

It finally started to take flight at this point! Since then, I’ve been toying around with it trying to learn the most I can of flying it so as to eventually upgrade to something a little more “proper.”

 

==The Good==

Beyond the cheap pricetag (most places are dropping the prices on it), it looks decent. They did a decent job painting it to look like our favorite hunk of junk, and the rotors are in the rounded section of the ship so as to not detract from the design.

Overhead view of the artwork.
Overhead view of the artwork.

The controls are rather simple. Once you get it in the air, get used to the throttle, and get the stabilizer figured out for the first time, it flies easily enough.

The foam it is made of is surprisingly durable. The whole thing seems pretty tough, actually, as I’ve crashed this thing more times than a drunk pilot at a simulator, and it is still flying. I’ve only had to secure a part onto it one time, but otherwise it’s been great.

Another perk is the charge time. I’ve killed the battery and had it fully charged within a few minutes. Not as fast as killing the battery, but not bad.

 

==The Bad==

There’s far more bad than good with this machine, sadly.

The first issue is the obvious: it won’t take off from the ground. You have to pick it up and hold it for it to take off, meaning if you aren’t careful, this thing will rise up and smack you in the face with spinning plastic blades of doom. It’s also inconvenient, as any time it crashes, you’ll be going to pick it up to take off again.

Bottom view. You'd think that with a blade this big, it can actually take off on it's own.
Bottom view. You’d think that with a blade this big, it can actually take off on it’s own.

On that note, this thing crashes. Often. It crashes more than a virus-ridden Windows ME PC. This is partly due to the controls, and partly due to weight.

Control-wise, it blows. The throttle always tries to go down, which means you are fighting to maintain a steady throttle. While this may not be a major issue, it is frustrating considering that your throttle to maintain altitude is also your means of moving forward. This ship will NOT just hover for you.

It also steers like a boat. If you are moving slowly forward, it will turn relatively slowly. If you are moving at full throttle, it’ll steer slightly faster but not too well. This has led to more crashes with inanimate objects than I’d like to admit.

Speaking of crashing, once you bump into anything, you are going to probably spin out of control and crash. I’ve done everything from ram into a wall to a landing strut tapping the top of a shelf, and it leads to the machine crashing.

Which leads to another point: you must maintain altitude, and therefore forward momentum. While trying this out, I’ve let it get close to the ground (or similar object), and it would just fall. I’m guessing you need to maintain a certain distance from anything beneath it in order to stay aloft, which is rather frustrating. An interesting fact considering this thing blows more air around than most of our fans.

Frontal view. Not as maneuverable as you'd expect.
Frontal view. Not as maneuverable as you’d expect.

And on the topic of fans: don’t try flying this outside or near anything that moves air. Even the simplest breeze will send this thing tumbling around. The house I’m renting uses forced air for heat, so we have a number of vents on the floor. In most rooms, I could not get the Falcon to fly within two to three feet of the vents when they were active, and even at four feet away, it would wobble. In one room the vent is near the doorway; I tried flying at the opposite end of the door from where the vent was, and the Falcon just went tumbling into a wall.

Considering that my wife commented that this thing is louder and moves more air than our oscillating fan when I flew it over her head, I’m a bit shocked that these are issues.

I expected more from a ship with a 0.5x Hyperdrive. . .
I expected more from a ship with a 0.5x Hyperdrive. . .

Sometimes, when you crash hard enough, the Falcon will shut down, forcing you to restart it. This wouldn’t be a big issue, but the remote and the Falcon have to sync every time. Sometimes, this can take two to three minutes to do so (if it does so at all without being plugged in again), making the short bits of fun packed with the feeling of dread of crashing.

The final nail in the coffin: the lifespan. I can’t be too critical of it, as most drones are supposedly notorious for short lifespans, but this one craps out by the time you get five minutes of flying.

 

==The Verdict==

Rating 1 Stars

This is getting a pathetic 1 bun.

I don’t have much experience with drones, but this just seems to be loaded with problems. You can’t take off from the ground, you can’t hover, and you can barely steer. It runs for mere minutes at a time, and can take almost as long to reconnect to the remote. You can’t fly it outside, it’s loud, and it steers like an intoxicated gundark.

Even at 50% off the MSRP, it’s a total waste that I regret buying. After writing this review, I sold it at a loss just to get it out of the house and put that money towards something else, like a mini-drone or a Figma (that may or may not be fake; huzzah for online purchases!).

 

==What’s Next?==

Last night on my way home from work (and navigating the unplowed roads to get home), I picked up my copy of Lego Marvel Avengers for the Wii U. I’ll be writing a review for that (and the Iron Man Silver Centurion minifigure) next week, so stay tuned!

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