San-ei Compact Drone

Back in November, I was in Kinokuniya Books in Amu Plaza, next to the main train station, and I figured I’d visit the science kits section to see what they still had for the Gakken Adult Science line. A pair of non-Gakken boxes caught my eye. They were from a company I’d never heard of before – San-ei, and were for their compact drone series. The first was the normal drone, at about $50 USD. The second had a built-in video camera. After a couple weeks, I decided to get the more expensive one for 7,400 yen (about $72 USD), while I was waiting for the Gakken drone kit to come out.

It’s a tiny drone, fully pre-built, at about 2″ square and maybe 1.5″ tall, without the lander legs. Everything fits into the RC case, with the drone going into the well in the front, and the blade protector piece and recharger cable in a second well in the back. The kit first came out in 2014, and the rechargeable battery still had a near-full charge out of the box. The camera records to a micro-SD card that fits into a slot in the drone. You pop the card out and put it into the supplied USB reader that you plug into your PC to download the image or video files.

So far, I haven’t been able to play with it much. The RC unit has about a 30-40 foot range, and the drone is really hard to get to hover at a fixed distance, so it’s not suited for playing with in an apartment when you’re just starting out. I’ve tried using it outside, and I really have to be in a park over grass to keep from damaging the blades when it hits the ground. As it is, one propeller did pop off and I lost it in the grass. Fortunately, the kit comes with 4 spare blades, so that’s good. But, I’m having difficulty figuring out all of the operating modes, and I can only play with the drone on days when there’s no rain and no wind, and when I don’t have to work. So far, I’ve only been able to play with it for 10 minutes, total.

The controller has two joysticks and 8 operating mode buttons. If you hold the controller the way the designers intended, you put it in your left hand and move the prop speed stick with your left thumb. First, turn on the power to the drone, then turn on the power switch on the bottom of the controller. You move the speed stick to full speed, then zero, twice. This causes the controller to sync up with the drone, and when it beeps, you’re ready to fly. The right stick supposedly controls forward/back/left/right movement, but I can never get the drone to just hover, so by the time it starts turning in a different direction, it’s reaching a height of 20-30 feet and when I try to bring it back down to earth, it tumbles and hits the ground. The right side buttons are forward-only, backward-only, right-only and left-only. The left side buttons are “go out”, “come back”, take a photo, and record video. Photos and video are a waste of time now, because I’d only get sky, or a crazy tumble into the grass. Pushing the left controller down and then tilting it left or right is supposed to make the drone do a loop, but I’m not at the stage for trying that yet.

What I really need to do is just sit down in the park for a while and practice take-offs, hovering and landings. When the battery runs out, then it can be recharged by pulling out the battery cable to the drone and connecting it to the cable in the bottom of the controller. The controller runs on 4 AA batteries.

It’s a fun kit, and $70 isn’t that bad a price for an entry-level drone that small that you can play with in the parks without attracting undue attention. And now’s a good time to do this, because the Japanese government is in the process of developing legislation to require all drone operators to be licensed to reduce the number of people that can fly drones in the future.

Kaeda Drone now out

Gakken finally updated their website to include the regular advertising for the new kit. So, if you want to see what the kit consists of, and get an idea of how hard it is to build it, you can check out the construction sheets. I expect to see this kit arriving in Kyushu either tomorrow, or Friday.


Now Listening 2: Larry Fast (Synergy) – Sequencer

Larry Fast (Synergy) – Sequencer (1976)

For David Cargo.

And now we’re back to having nothing in the backlog. This is the last of the “Listening to” entries, and there’s nothing new from the science and technology side until the new Gakken kit hits the shelves in Kyushu on the 23rd. I did buy a tiny little drone about 2″x2″, but I haven’t had the chance to practice with it yet or take video of it flying. I hope to get to that soon.

Now Listening 2: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence on the Udar

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence on the Udar

The science kit publisher Gakken promised a cheap version of the Udar several years ago. I’m still waiting.

Otona no Kagaku e-mail magazine 165

Finally got the e-mail newsletter from Gakken. It starts by stating that it’s been over one year since the release of the last kit, and that the editors want to say thank you for everyone that has been waiting during that time. The main announcement is for the Kaeda Drone, which has a wing shape similar to that of a maple tree seed pod, with a total length of 25 cm (10 inches) and a weight of 12 grams (0.5 ounces). It will hit the shelves in central Japan on Dec. 20th, just in time for Christmas (it won’t get to Kyushu until 3 days later).

1) Otona no Kagaku Magazine “Kaeda Drone”, on sale after a 1 year wait!
The main section text apologizes for the wait, then talks about what a “drone” is. The following specs then cover the drone itself, while pretty much ignoring the RC controller.

The drone is 250x180x25mm.
Flight time will be 7 minutes, when the drone starts out fully charged.
Charge time is 30 minutes, two times.
The drone is designed for indoor use.
Indoor, the drone can operate up to 5 meters (15-16 feet) from the controller.
Battery: On the main unit, a Lithium polymer cap. On the controller, 4 AAA batteries.

Looks like this is going to be a hardback book, A4 sized, 34 pages.
Price: 3,980 yen (without tax, 4,298 yen with 8% tax) (approx. $39 USD w/o tax)
Release date: Dec. 20, 2016

Amazon page


2) Announcing the Otona no Kagaku wool knitting machine!
Following the release of the Rainbow Loom, we have the “Long Knitting Loom”.
For ages 6 and up.
Kit size: 25.3 x 21 x 5.3 cm
Price: 2,100 yen without tax
Kit includes: Knitting machine, extension block, wool needle, bar, hook, wool and A1-sized instruction book.
In stores now.


3) Adult Coloring picture, scratch art pad series
A black drawing pad that you can scratch away to make your own artwork.
This kit has the pattern for the “Glittering Princess Decoration”.

Size: 25.4 x 18.2 x 1 cm
22 page book plus scratch pencil and stencil
In stores now.


4) The Shiratori game that can be played by adults – Pitango
Shiratori is a word chain game. One person starts with a Japanese word, and the next person has to say the next word that starts with the last character of the first word. You lose if you can’t come up with anything, if you repeat a word, or if the word ends in “n” (since there aren’t any words in Japanese that start with the character “n”.
i-… I can’t think of anything.

Pitango is based on the game Algo. I’ve never played Algo, but apparently the idea is that you have a sequence of 4 characters, and you’re supposed to expand the series following certain rules.

For elementary students up to adults.
Size: 16.5 x 16.5cm
Price: 1,600 yen (without tax)
Contains: 100 title cards, 10 starter subject cards, 10 yellow cards, and instructions
In stores now (published Dec. 2, 2016)

Glass Armonica

Now Listening 2: Glass Armonica