Okay, the latest Gakken kit is finally out – the Kaeda drone, so named because the main prop blade resembles a maple seed. 3,980 yen ($39 USD) without the 8% tax. It’s been over a year since the last kit came out, in Sept., 2015, and the anticipation for the Kaeda Drone was probably blown out of proportion because of it. This one wasn’t much of a challenge to build, since the drone itself was already pre-assembled. The controller required assembly, but it only consisted of the two halves of the case shell, the battery cover, three knobs, the circuit board, and 6 screws, (and there are 2 replacement propeller blades).
(The controller parts, plus the two replacement blades.)
The suggested assembly time was 15 minutes, and I think I did it in 10. (It takes 4 AAA batteries.) The only issue was with the power LED leads, which had been bent 180 degrees, and the requirement is for the leads to be bent 90 degrees so the LED is sticking out the side of the case. But, that’s an easy fix. The drone is powered by a lithium polymer battery that takes about 30 minutes to recharge to 60% when plugged into the controller. That will give you roughly 7 minutes of flight time. If you want the battery at full power, you have to give it a second charge. The instructions are: 1) Turn off the controller and the drone. 2) Pull the charge cable out of the well at the back of the controller, under the battery cover. Plug the cable into the drone. 3) Turn on the controller power switch. The green LED will light on the controller. When it goes out, the first charge cycle is finished. 4) Repeat steps 1-3 for the second charge.
(The assembled controller.)
The controller talks to the drone via an infrared LED, so it has to be aimed directly at the drone at all times, or the drone will lose signal and touch down on the ground. And, it works up to 15 feet away. The controller itself is simple – a power switch, the power LED and charge LED, the propeller speed slider and the directional knob. You hold the knob in the direction you want to go, and the horizontal tail prop turns on and off to get the sideways movement desired. The one tail prop prevents the body unit from rotating, and the other contributes to directional movement. The main styrofoam blade gives you lift, and it maintains its height pretty well. The drone is light, at 12 grams, and if it bumps into something, it’ll just bounce away without anything getting damaged, including the styrofoam blade. The kit dimensions are 9.8″ x 7″ x 1″.
Overall, it’s a nice little toy, and is fine for use indoors, but the $39 price tag IS on the high side. Especially when you look at the magazine. This is one of the thinner volumes in a long time. It’s only 36 pages. The first section is a 4-page photo essay with the model/idol talent, Riina flying the drone in a house. This is followed by 6 pages of explanation for how the drone works and how to fly it. There’s 4 pages for building the controller, and 1 page of troubleshooting Q&A. 2 pages of photo essay for the shapes of tree seeds, and 2 pages for an interview with a Japanese drone racer. The editor-suggested mods are to replace the blade with balsa wood, and to put LEDs on the main blade and connect the controller to a PC via an Arduino box for computer-controlled light art. The last 5 pages are an explanation of what drones are, and what uses they’re being put to. There’s no manga this time, no science, and very little theory. There’s also no mention of any future kits.
(Bottom side of the drone.)
I get the feeling that Gakken is having trouble figuring out how to make money on their publications, and they’re cutting corners on projects that appear over-staffed or over-promoted. This is a shame because I like building these kits, and I’d love to see more of them in the electronic music series. Oh well. Anyway, I recommend the Kaeda drone if you can get it in Japan at cover price, without the import mark-up.
(The drone, plugged into the controller to recharge the lithium polymer battery.)
Direct youtube link