The PowerUp 4.0 is a smartphone-controlled paper airplane that lets you get creative, either bending your own unique wing shapes or following suggested designs. The plane is controlled by Bluetooth connection with smartphone; a very simple application allows you to associate with the plane and start flying immediately.
PowerUp offers this neat little toy in many different packages on their website, ranging from the starter package for $69.99 all the way up to their “Ultimate Bundle” for $219.00. PowerUp was kind enough to send me their set of flight manuals, which includes some paper models as well as the PowerUp Paper Airplane Book.
Personally, I would suggest a package containing the book, as it has tons of information on the company and product history, 10 different folding tutorials, and even some interesting physics on how the airplane works in paper !
Right off the bat, I was very happy with the PowerUp 4.0. The package I received contained the plane skeleton, a charging cable, two extra propellers, and a clear plastic stand to store or display the plane.
On top of that, the plane came with tons of paper with cool templates and designs printed on it to guide you through the folding process. Plus, the actual engineering of the plane is absolutely brilliant. I’m not an aerospace engineer, but the build quality was very sturdy and the frame felt light.
The plane comes with a crossbar that you can and definitely should attach in order to prevent the fragile paper wings from folding upwards under the force of lift. The “cockpit” part of the frame is clear plastic so you can see the computer inside as well as the battery, which I think is pretty cool.
The front nose is made of a soft rubber material to protect the plane from my poor landing skills. The accompanying book has tons of information on each plane’s relative speed, maneuverability, and endurance, as well as a step-by-step guide to folding the wings. I decided to start with PowerUp’s “Invader” design, which looked pretty basic and easy to fold.
After assembling your plane, you will then need to install the PowerUp 4.0 app and then connect the plane to your mobile device via Bluetooth.
One of my biggest concerns with this was the generally limited Bluetooth connection range, but the PowerUp 4.0 mitigates that with a fairly small antenna at the top of the computer chip and battery case.
The app gives you even more information about the plane, as well as some videos to prepare your plane for your first takeoff. I was also very impressed with the stats tracking capabilities of the app. The aircraft can recognize when it is level with the ground as well as when it is landing.
The PowerUp 4.0 can track your flight abilities and record how long you were in the air. They’ve created a handy telemetry diary so you can analyze your own skills and identify your best performance with each plane to make it a personalized experience.
Ready to take off
For starters, I’m by no means more than a rookie pilot, so my first flight I expected very little. My first opportunity (in the middle of winter in Ohio) to fly the plane wasn’t in the best of conditions and I didn’t have a lot of room to work at school.
Considering the amount of wind and my extremely limited time with the PowerUp, it wasn’t too much to handle. The plane has several different control modes in the app. One controls the plane using your phone’s gyroscope with the throttle controlled by a simple button that you slide up and down.
Although this was the first mode I used – I thought it would be the easiest – later on I preferred the joystick mode in which the throttle and direction of the aircraft were controlled by their own” respective joysticks” on your phone screen.
The PowerUp 4.0 was simply easy and just as fun to drive. Without any sort of controllable ailerons, I was worried about the handling of a light paper plane, but I was absolutely shocked by this as I was accumulating flight time.
I sat on the plane for a few weeks and took it out in March when the weather was more cooperative. I was able to find a bigger lot on a much less windy day and started again. I then switched to a freshly folded new “Onslaught” design with a much smaller wingspan and surface area.
The Onslaught design turned out to be much better and it was obvious that by improving my origami skills I was also improving the handling and stability of the plane.
With a little practice and maybe a few different designs, I’m sure anyone could find a way to become a pretty decent PowerUp 4.0 rider.
The book that comes with this plane has to be the most important feature of the entire piloting experience. It contains far more knowledge than I could ever hope to summarize. All I will say is that Kyle Boyer and Shai Goitein, the creators of the PowerUp line of paper airplanes, give tons of helpful information on how to ensure you have the most stable flight and as fun as possible. If you’re having trouble flying your plane, the first place you’ll want to go is this book.
The plane’s Bluetooth capabilities were also a pleasant surprise. The plane usually connected quickly to my phone and was ready to go within seconds of turning it on. I did however find that the plane sometimes disconnected from my phone upon landing.
Normal Bluetooth connections between devices are almost never good beyond 30 feet, but the plane had no problem maintaining a connection to my phone beyond 150 feet. I’ve never been able to find an open space big enough to find out the limits of its range, but PowerUp claims the range will reach up to 240 feet, assuming there’s no interference. The app shows what I believe to be a real-time measurement of the aircraft’s signal strength, measured in dB.
The battery level is also displayed on the app while you are flying and leaves another good impression. PowerUp claims the battery will only last you about 10 minutes of flight time, but considering my longest flight was only 1 minute and 6 seconds, I find that to be enough. I felt like the battery actually lasted well over 10 minutes, so I guess to be based on the plane in the air continuously.
Although 10 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, this one minute flight felt like an eternity and I was very satisfied after just a few flights. Anyway, during my time with it and for what it’s worth, the battery life was adequate.
The app comes with a stunt mode, but I couldn’t figure out how that changed the overall flight capabilities of the plane. If you happen to lose the plane in the tall grass, the app has a handy method to locate it. Your mobile device pings the plane so that it beeps faster and faster as you approach it. Luckily, I didn’t have to take advantage of this feature.
I think the PowerUp 4.0 is an absolutely amazing starter RC plane that will make anyone who flies it a fan.
PowerUp has plenty of options for everyone, whether you’re a novice pilot like me looking for entertainment or an avid piloting enthusiast. The battery life is enough to be satisfactory and it can be recharged easily by any micro-USB cable and power bank combo.
For being a simple Bluetooth connection, the range is also very impressive, and I can’t imagine it would be too difficult to stay well within range.
For an inexperienced pilot, the ability to control the aircraft came very quickly and easily. The app is not complicated but it provided everything I could have expected from it. The book that was sent with it is undeniably invaluable to the overall experience of this product and I highly recommend it.
PowerUp certainly hasn’t cut corners with this plane, and there are tons of neat little features here and there that really make this plane worth it.