If you’re in the realm of remote control planes, you have likely heard of the PowerUp 4.0 RC plane kit. The PowerUp 4.0 is a low-cost, easy to use, self-propelled miniature RC plane that provides an opportunity for just about anyone to own and fly one directly from their smartphone, via the PowerUp app and a Bluetooth connection.
It encourages creativity by supporting various build kits, such as the well-known origami paper planes–or in this case–balsa wood, with the new Tornado Updraft 12 kit born from a partnership with Nighthawk Gliders.
You can buy the whole kit with wings included on the PowerUp website for $120, on sale now for $99. It will come with instructions and all of the materials you will need to construct your new balsa wood toy.
The idea is simple. The PowerUp 4.0 itself cannot fly, as it has no wings. It is a simple but elegant and well-engineered design. Up front, a cockpit holds the electronics, and is attached by a thin metal rod to two motorized propellers which will thrust the plane through the air from behind the wings. But here is where the fun comes in – deciding how you are going to produce lift.
By itself, the PowerUp 4.0 kit is just the skeleton of a fuselage. It is up to you to decide what kind of design interests you enough to build it. You may opt for paper or balsa wood, among the many available kits, designs, and templates available on their website and in origami books.
The Tornado Updraft 12
If origami doesn’t quite interest you, this balsa wood template should definitely be considered. It contains a cutout template, instructions, and a few necessary materials for constructing the wings and attaching them to the propulsion system.
The required build time for this particular set is only a few hours if you ignore the super glue drying time. For the most part, it is an easy build, but it does require some small details that add some complexities and fun to the process with the intent of improving the quality of flight.
Fortunately, the instructions are great, easy to understand, and the kit provides you with lots of useful items like a small cutout designed to help set the correct angle of the wings as well as the horizontal stabilizers at the tail.
The experience is overall pretty enjoyable and is great for passing time no matter your age, but I think it’s a particularly great gift for young kids that may be interested in finding a new hobby.
I was a bit worried about the durability of the plane, especially since I am fairly new to the hobby in general. A couple of rough crashes proved that the design is actually fairly sturdy and can take quite a few hits. Regardless, the balsa wood frame is so lightweight that some of my roughest landings weren’t catastrophic.
Of course, I’d recommend flying over grass in opposition to harder surfaces if possible, but as a beginner pilot, there is no need for too much concern as long as you fly in a safe, open area free of obstacles like trees or powerlines.
Flight Experience & Features
Even if you’ve never flown an RC plane before, the PowerUp 4.0 app on your smartphone makes it an extremely easy process. It took me just a few crashes before I was able to fly for two or more minutes at a time.
I have found that this kit demands a bit more space than you may need for its origami relatives, but it is just as quick to learn. Bluetooth range extends to 240 feet thanks to the antenna in the cockpit, and the easily-replaceable quick charge battery allows for around 10 minutes of non-stop flight time, which is pretty impressive for a rather small device like itself.
Unlike the lighter and smaller paper plane kits, this kit won’t take off so easily from a throw. Thankfully, the kit comes with ultra lightweight but surprisingly functional landing gear, so that you can take off and land with about 50 feet of runway space. Empty parking lots and long driveways are therefore essential to the experience, especially if you aren’t quite a pro at the takeoff and landing phase yet.
The PowerUp 4.0 smartphone app is truly great at what it does, and makes the flying experience really accessible for anyone who can operate a joystick. There are a couple unique features in there that aren’t necessary for this template in particular, but are definitely nice to have.
The plane tracks statistics of your flights like max flight time and simplifies the control of the plane in comparison to many other more advanced RC planes out there. It also adds some additional customizability to your experience.
There aren’t many other toys on the market that can make constructing and flying RC planes so affordable and easy. On the PowerUp 4.0, its size and specs make the learning curve extremely forgiving for even some of the most uncoordinated beginners.
The entire construction process from start to finish is easy and enjoyable. It makes a great gift for children, but the PowerUp 4.0 Tornado Updraft 12 kit can be fun at any age.
In my opinion the price is very reasonable, especially when compared to some of the other hobby kits like it. The app is amazing and makes the whole experience even simpler. Connecting the plane to your mobile device is very quick and smooth, and the connection stays very stable even at long distances that wouldn’t normally be supported by Bluetooth.