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Altair Aerial Blackhawk Review



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The Altair Blackhawk is Altair Aerial’s newest drone and their most advanced. Unlike the AA108 or the Hornet 818 Plus, the Blackhawk is built for speed and distance and offers impressive speed, stability, and overall quality at an astoundingly low price. If you’re looking for a quadcopter that’s fast and fun to fly, look no further than the Altair Blackhawk.

See the best price for the Blackhawk on Amazon USA, or Canada, UK, Australia & Other International Shoppers click here, see their International Shipping rates here.

2017 has been quite a year for Lincoln-based drone startup Altair Aerial. Earlier this year I reviewed the AA108,  and it quickly became one of our favorite beginner drones here at Dronethusiast.

That was followed up with an upgraded variant called the 818 Plus and now known as The Hornet, which was a more photography-focused version with impressive hover capabilities. And now, as we all prepare ourselves for whatever horrors 2018 has in store, they’ve released the simply-titled Blackhawk, which promises to be their most advanced quadcopter yet. Unlike their previous two drone offerings, the Blackhawk is “built for speed and distance,” and since I’ve reviewed everything else Altair this year, I figured I’d take a look at this latest quadcopter and see how well it lives up to the promise of its predecessors.

Getting started:

The AA108 and the Hornet came nearly pre-assembled, but the Blackhawk immediately stands out when you open the box and see a bunch of tiny pieces. Many of these are replacement parts (which you’re gonna want to keep close as we’ll discuss in a moment), but the Blackhawk also requires quite a bit of assembly at the start – it took me about 15-20 minutes or so, and you’ll need a screwdriver. That said, it’s all very straightforward – you just need to attach the landing gear, guards, and the propellers to the body, and the instructions are very clear and easy to understand.

Here’s what comes with the drone:

In the box: Altair Blackhawk

  • 1× Altair Blackhawk Drone
  • 1× Controller
  • 1× wall outlet charger
  • 4× propeller blades
  • 4× landing gear
  • 4× propeller guards
  • 1× camera mount
  • 1× user manual
  • 1× LiPo Battery

The Blackhawk is still reasonably beginner-friendly (I took it out with my little high-school-aged brother and he was able to fly it without much difficulty) but that’s clearly less of a focus here than it was with previous Altair offerings. So there’s no Quick-Start Guides or fancy controller inlets here – just you and the manual, though that’s more than enough if you know what you’re doing.

There’s also no app features, so you won’t need a smartphone to get started. In fact, there’s no camera at all – just an attachable mount for an action camera. Important to note – unlike some of its competition, the Blackhawk doesn’t exclusively work with GoPros, but is designed to work with any similar action camera.

The upshot, however, is that the drone is much quicker to actually start flying. Once the battery’s charged it’s extremely easy to connect the drone to the controller and take off.

There’s plenty of extra buttons on the controller for adjusting the trim or other calibration effects, but I didn’t actually need any of them – everything seemed to work perfectly right out of the box, which was not at all the case with the AA108. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Altair Blackhawk Taking Flight

There’s no fancy features here – no headless mode, no altitude hold, and no one-touch takeoff. You’ve got a stick that goes up and a stick that turns, and Altair is selling the Blackhawk purely on how fun it is to fly.

Which, as it turns out, is actually a good thing, because the Blackhawk is an absolute joy. Just take a look at this video Dronethusiast took of the drone in motion:

Altair Blackhawk Video

Keep in mind that this was taken on a cold and windy December day. The previous Altair products have both struggled with wind to the point of being almost unusable for those who live in areas that get a lot of inclement weather. But the Blackhawk has a number of features that are designed to improve stability:

  • Shape and Weight – Everything about the Blackhawk’s design is intended to give it the edge to fight the wind. To use one example: the Hornet’s propeller guards are designed for heavy-duty impact, giving the wind a large, aerodynamic shape to pull. The Blackhawk’s guards, conversely, are a lot thinner and have plenty of room for air to move through. Plus, it’s just a lot heavier.
  • Brushless Motors – These make the drone a lot more quiet, if that’s really important to you. But more importantly, brushless motors provide much more power than their brushful counterparts – and that power translates directly into stability, letting the Blackhawk fight the wind and win.
  • 6-axis gyro – standard on professional drones but a first for Altair. The 6-axis gyro keeps the drone steady even in harsher conditions. Plus, you can adjust the trim in all directions, allowing you to compensate if the drone starts to drift without input.

But it’s not just stable. The Blackhawk is fast. Altair says it’s designed to feel like a racing drone, and while I don’t have any experience in that regard, it certainly feels like what you’d think a racer should feel like.  Swoops and turns, dips and dives – and there’s actually a dedicated button that lets you pull of 360 degree flips. The Hornet was a thinking man’s drone, designed to let you carefully line up the perfect photography shot. The Blackhawk is exciting. It makes you want to try trick shots and quote Star Wars.

Fortunately, that speed doesn’t come at the cost of control. I mean this in two ways. The first, quite simply, is that the drone controls extremely well – while it may be a bit intimidating to beginners, the new controller lets you have full control over even the tiniest movements. And when you push the sticks to a full tilt, the drone takes off like a bat out of hell.

But the Blackhawk also has a 300 meter flight range, which means that it’s almost impossible to fly the drone out of the controller’s range unless you’re trying to do so. This is something that’s extremely important and often overlooked with fast, racing-style drones – it’s easy for them to zoom out of control, and that can be a real problem if the controller’s not powerful enough to keep the quadcopter in check. Altair, as always, has made a drone for drone users, not just something that seems like a good idea on paper.

Finally, the Blackhawk also has a 15-minute battery life, though the battery takes significantly larger to charge than the Hornet’s (which has the same amount of flight time in a smaller package) and the drone only comes with one out of the box.

Certainly not bad for a drone of this size – hell, 15 minutes is almost unheard of at its price range – but it’s hard not to compare it unfavorably to its predecessor. Still, considering the power necessary to get the Blackhawk in the air, perhaps it’s fair to give the battery a break.

The Verdict

There’s a lot to love about the Blackhawk. It’s stylish, powerful, and a hell of a lot of fun to fly. It delivers on Altair’s promise to provide a more advanced alternative to the AA108 and the Hornet and shows that the company is ready to move beyond beginner quadcopters and into products that can impress even experienced drone enthusiasts.

But one thing that really needs to get talked about is the price. Sure, it’s on sale right now, but even at its most expensive this is a drone that costs less than $160.

For less than the price of the Hornet, a beginner drone that’s really only good for amateur photography, you get a drone that can keep up (quite literally) with the best of them, a drone with high-tech motor technology and a stable design that won’t quit. For that price, this is an amazing deal, and I highly recommend the Blackhawk to anyone who’s tried Altair’s other products and is ready for the big(ger) leagues.

The Hornet is currently available from Amazon and retails for $129.80. The product ships out of Lincoln to the United States, as well as internationally to Australia, UK & Canada for $9.99 Shipping.



Altair Aerial Blackhawk Review was originally posted at by

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Amazing Drone Video Shows Mega Colonies of Penguins!



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Drones have helped scientists find mega colonies of penguins – over 750,000 pairs – in protected areas in the Antarctic Peninsula.

The journal Nature reports that a “multi-modal survey” including ground counts and computer automated counts of drone imagery, showed huge populations of Adélie penguins in the Danger Islands off of the norther tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The survey served to demonstrate the results of using satellite and drone imagery for environmental surveys.

“Despite concerted international effort to track and interpret shifts in the abundance and distribution of Adélie penguins, large populations continue to be identified,” says the article.  “Here we report on a major hotspot of Adélie penguin abundance identified in the Danger Islands off the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (AP). We present the first complete census of Pygoscelis spp. penguins in the Danger Islands, estimated from a multi-modal survey consisting of direct ground counts and computer-automated counts of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery.”

“Our survey reveals that the Danger Islands host 751,527 pairs of Adélie penguins, more than the rest of AP region combined, and include the third and fourth largest Adélie penguin colonies in the world. Our results validate the use of Landsat medium-resolution satellite imagery for the detection of new or unknown penguin colonies and highlight the utility of combining satellite imagery with ground and UAV surveys.”

Scientists say that the Danger Islands “appear to have avoided recent declines” which have been documented on the Western Antarctic Pensinsula and “deserve special consideration in the negotiation and design of Marine Protected Areas in the region.”

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
Email Miriam



Amazing Drone Video Shows Mega Colonies of Penguins! was originally posted at by Miriam McNabb


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Drone Racing is Racing for Good: IDRA Claims Miracle Flights as Official Charitable Partner




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Drones are well suited for saving lives and performing miracles – and the drone industry has been generous in charitable endeavors.  Drone racing is not to be left behind.  The International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) has announced that Miracle Flights, the nation’s leading health and welfare flight organization, is the official charitable partner for the 2018 Drone Racing Series and 2018 Challengers Cup.

The following is from the joint press release by the two organizations:

Established in 1985, Miracle Flights provides free commercial air transportation to critically ill children in need of medical care far from home.

The newly announced partnership fits perfectly into IDRA’s mission to grow the motorsport and international drone community. Our community’s youth are not only the future of the hobby, but also the platform for which the drone market and technologies will continue to develop. With Miracle Flights as the official charitable partner of IDRA, we can use professional and semi-professional drone races as a new medium to promote this organization’s endeavors and raise donations from sponsors and the drone community to help more children receive life-changing medical treatment.

“Miracle Flights is an amazing nonprofit organization that provides thousands of flights to children from all over the world,” said Justin Haggerty, President and CEO of IDRA. “It is our pleasure at IDRA to work with Miracle Flights as our official charitable partner. I hope the partnership bares many fruits and gives our drone community the chance to help a child in need.”

Now in its 33rd year, Miracle Flights has provided more than 114,000 free flights to help children with rare and life-threatening conditions gain access to specialized medical care out of state.

“IDRA has engaged an incredible community of individuals across the country and around the world,” said Miracle Flights CEO Mark E. Brown. “To have them partner with us in our mission to improve access to healthcare for seriously ill children is a true honor. We look forward to everything we can accomplish—and the lives we can change—together.”



Drone Racing is Racing for Good: IDRA Claims Miracle Flights as Official Charitable Partner was originally posted at by


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Lighting Up the Skies with Lume Cube



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Lume Cube Lighting Kits give drone pilots the chance to pilot a spotlight in the sky. We took the Mavic Pro Lighting Kit for a spin to see what all the fuss is about. 

Lume Cube market their product as the world’s most versatile light. And they may have a point. These lights can be used with smartphones, GoPros and DSLRs. They can be mounted, sat down or simply handheld. They can be set to varying degrees of brightness or just strobe at whatever speed you feel like. And you can control all of those features through an app.

They can also be attached to your drone, which is where we come in. We’ve been testing out the Lume Cube lights and the company’s mounts for the Mavic Pro. Both are needed if you want to try your hand at flying a spotlight in the sky.

What is a Lume Cube?

So let’s start with the obvious question: What is a Lume Cube? Simply, it’s a portable light.

But it’s no ordinary light. This light is encased inside a rugged, mountable cube and can be connected to your smartphone. It’s also waterproof. So what’s the benefit of all that? Well, if you’re a GoPro user, a keen outdoor photographer or even a drone pilot, using a Lume Cube gives you more control over the light conditions in your shots.

You can illuminate a scene for night photography or light up a dimly lit area with the touch of a button. You can sync the flash to go just before you hit record or take a photograph. You can also get really creative with light when it’s in the palm of your hand, particularly when you mount a Lume Cube or two onto a drone.

Which is where Lume Cube’s Mavic Mounts come in. Not only does the Lume Cube Lighting Kit for the Mavic Pro help illuminate your drone in dark conditions. It also gives you a new tool to help you explore your aerial creativity.

The Lighting Kit comes with two mounts and two Lume Cubes, one for each side of the drone.

Each Cube has 10 manual brightness settings that change in increments of 150 lumens. The brightest setting maxes out at 1500 lumens. We don’t know much about lumens, but we do know that the highest setting on these cubes is ridiculously bright. If you’re shooting at night for whatever reason, they are more than powerful enough to illuminate natural features like trees or rocks.

The Lume Cubes clip onto the wings of the Mavic Pro with a lightweight mount. And it has to be. Because each Cube weighs 3.5 ounces. Despite our reservations, the Mavic Pro didn’t have any problem lifting them off the ground and flying comfortably.

The biggest issue we faced was attaching the mount in the dark in cold weather. It’s fair to say that the plastic mounts aren’t as rugged as the Cubes themselves. Impatient hands and low visibility actually led to us breaking the mounts before take-off while trying to clip them on, but we were still able to attach them and take the Lume Cubes for a spin.

Read more: Hands On Review With DJI’s CrystalSky Monitor

The extra weight took a few minutes off the battery life as you might expect, and the Mavic certainly wasn’t as nimble as it would be without them, but those are minor compared to the benefits of flying your very own spotlight.

The Lume Cube Lighting Kit

Each Lume Cube can be charged up with a standard USB cable. The battery life sits can last for more than 2 hours, depending on how bright your settings are.

Read more: Hands On With PolarPro’s Elektra Cinematic Color Presets

The Cubes and the free Lume Cube application are compatible with both Apple and Android. Through the app, you can control flash, duration and brightness of multiple cubes all at the same time.

Lume Cube Price and Compatibility

Now, you’re probably wondering two things at this point. First, how much is one of these Lighting Kits going to set you back? And second, what drones are Lume Cube Lighting Kits compatible with?

The Lighting Kits cost $179. These include two Cubes, the mounts for your drone and all the cables you need to keep them charged.

In terms of compatibility, the Lume Cube team has done its best to make sure there are kits available for all of the most popular drones on the market. That means you can buy dedicated Lighting Kits for the Mavic Pro, the Phantom range, the Inspire range and even for the now-defunct GoPro Karma, Autel’s X-Star and the Yuneec Typhoon H.

Looking for a lighting rig for your Mavic Air or Spark? We wouldn’t count on this happening anytime soon. Those tiny drones probably aren’t going to be strong or stable enough to carry two of these Cubes.

Final Thoughts

Lume Cubes offer a great way to add some creativity and versatility to your photography. At $179 a Lighting Kit isn’t cheap, but in reality, these lights are going to last you years and can be used in so many different scenarios. If you do decide to upgrade your drone, new mounts alone are only a small fraction of that price.

Rather than using Lume Cubes to light your drone’s way, we recommend getting behind a DSLR and using your drone to guide a spotlight into place over an interesting scene.

The posts below from the Lume Cube community are good examples of that. We did try to recreate a couple, but we’re going to need some more practice before they are worthy of publication…

Malek Murison is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for tech trends and innovation. He handles product reviews, major releases and keeps an eye on the enthusiast market for DroneLife.
Email Malek



Lighting Up the Skies with Lume Cube was originally posted at by Malek Murison


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