WowWee's newest flying gadget in the FlyTech line for 2009 is the Lightstar. The Lightstar is a simple easy to use flying blade that is meant to be a self contained minitiaure flying light show. it comes with a small hand held infrared remote control, and some extra propellers in case yours breaks. Note, make sure you watch the accompanying video that shows me piloting a Lightstar in a dark room.
Unpacking the Lightstar is a breeze. You just slide the plastic molded container out of the box and remote it. There are no complicated shipping ties or mounting screws to deal with. However, you will need a Phillips screwdriver to remove the battery cover from the remote control, to install the 2 AA batteries it requires.
There are 3 different models of Lightstar. The only difference between them is the infrared channel the Lightstar operates on and its color. Each colored model is a different infrared channel:
- Green Lightstars respond to Infrared Channel A
- Orange Lightstars respond to Infrared Channel B
- Blue Lightstars respond to Infrared Channel C
This means that you and two of your friends can control your Lightstars in the same room without interfering with each other (except for the inevitable collisions between your Lightstars).
Batteries and Charging Times
The Lightstar remote control takes two AA batteries. The Lightstar itself does has its own battery which is recharged via a cord that pulls out from the remote control. It takes only 10 minutes to charge a Lightstar for which you get 4 minutes of flying time.
The Lightstar remote control has only three controls on it. A thumbwheel for reducing or increasing thrust, an on/off switch, and a Band selector (A, B, or C) for matching the remote control's channel to the Lightstar's channel. One nice touch is that, at least with the 3 units I bought at Target, the remote controls are already set to the the infrared Band (channel) the Lightstar requires.
There is only one control on the remote for navigation which is a single thumbwheel. This is the throttle. Pushing the thumbwheel forward increases the Lightstars thrust and therefore its altitude, pushing it backward decreases the thrust and altitude. You can not steer the Lightstar, so a large room with a minimum of obstacles is the best environment.
- Both the Lightstar and its remote control enter Sleep mode after a period of inactivity. If either the Lightstar or the remote control seems unresponsive, turn it off and back on again.
- The Lightstar will start to emit a high pitched beep if it is not getting any signal from the remote control. A nice touch for finding it if it slips behind a couch or other obstacle.
- Do not use your Lightstar outdoors. It is meant only for indoor use.
- If your Lightstar does not respond, make sure it is fully charged and that the remote control is set to the infrared channel it requires. See the chart above or in the manual if you forget what channel your Lightstar requires.
- If you are having trouble with your Lightstar zooming off in one direction or another, then remove off all sources of wind including air conditioners, fans including ceiling fans, or open windows. Lightstar is so light that even if you don't feel the air current, it's enough to push it in one direction or another.
- When your Lightstar looks like it is about to get into trouble, shut the remote OFF. You will not be fast enough with the throttle wheel to stop it quickly. Remember, the Lightstar you save will be your own!
- See the Troubleshooting section for more tips
Funny true story: I was experimenting with small fans placed in different parts of the room while flying Lightstar. One fan was a bit too strong and in a darkened room, I had the raw thrill of watching the Lightstar catch the direct blast of the fan and zoom by my face at about an inch away from it. I haven't ducked anything so fast in years!
Pros (Fun Factor)
WowWee's Lightstar is one of those gadgets I put squarely in the deceptively fun category. When I first realized that I could not steer it I wondered how long it would hold my attention. However, once I turned off the lights and started flying it, I was hooked. In the air the Lightstar puts out a soft green glow at the center. A small bright blue LED in one of the wing tips enhances the effect and makes the Lightstar look like a small spinning galaxy, like when you look through a powerful telescope. It emits a UFO like whine as it floats through the room and as the blue wing tip LED whips around it creates a small luminous halo that finishes off its ethereal ghostly UFO effect.
Once you get in to the Zen of slowly tweaking the throttle to get the maximum air time, which includes figuring out how to bounce off walls at the right moment and at the right speed, it's easy to enter a strange hypnotic state as you watch the Lightstar gently climb in to the ari and ricochet off walls. And a drastically higher price the lack of steering capability would be a real show stopper, but at a meager $20 USD, it's a gadget candy bar that you'll chomp into time and time again whenever you feel a little bored or want to entertain friends. (Yes it's one of those great 80's style gadgets to fly around a darkened room while listening to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon"!).
The switch for the infrared channel is very small and a bit recessed so fingernails are useful here. However, the remote's do come from the factory set to the right channel. The Lightstar can not be steered but as I said, at the units low retail price it is not too great a flaw. Be aware that if you don't have a really large room you will hit many a wall.
Also, you will beat the hell out of it especially if you're a guy. I found that disturbing male juvenile deliquent gene expressing itself whenever the Lightstar got too close to the ceiling fan. When I felt a warning to reduce the throttle so as not to crash in to it, the JD gene kicked and said "But what would that look like?". Then I would start laughing hysterically which only further worsened my throttle control.
WowWee's Lightsar in some ways is the purest expression of the FlyTech division. It's inexpensive, it's a pure simple visceral thrill that engages your fascination with flying intimately, and in my opinion it's definitely worth the money.
WowWee's Lightstar is available now. Search around at your local Target and perhaps other retail stores. I could not find any online, but I did find them at my local Target. Check back with this page in the future as I will update it with specific buying tips and links when they become available.