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Common Sense RC ItCanFly Snap&Fly Modular RC Airplanes Review

Three for the price of one?! Author Matt Gunn tests the Snap&Fly 3-in-1 Modular RC Airplanes from Common Sense RC.

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Introduction

The Snap&Fly Trio
The Snap&Fly Trio
Retail Price:$99.95
Wingspan:Canard:13.5"
V-tail:14"
Biplane:13"
Weight:Canard:18g
V-Tail:17.5g
Biplane:18.5g
Length:Canard:10"
V-Tail:11"
Biplane:12"
Servos:Dual Actuators
Transmitter:6 ch. 900MHz
Receiver:4 ch. 900MHz
(all aircraft use 3 ch. for control)
Battery:1S 90mAh Lipo
Motor:7mm Brushed Direct Drive
ESC:Integrated
Manufacturer:ItCanFly
Available From:Common Sense RC

As internet shopping becomes more efficient and online retailers lower their prices to compete, discerning hobbyists are faced with the daunting task of finding the best deals out there. This may mean purchasing from a relatively unknown website to save a few bucks, or worse, adding items to the shopping cart and painfully filling in your shipping info on multiple sites to compare pricing. We've all done it because we're all looking for the best deals. But rarely do we find a three for the price of one deal, especially in the RC industry. Luckily, Common Sense RC has just such a deal in the form of three micro-sized radio controlled airplanes for the price of one.

The Snap&Fly Modularized RC Airplane kit, manufactured by ItCanFly.com and sold exclusively in the USA by Common Sense RC, is a trio of ready-to-fly micro foam aircraft that shares a single interchangeable power module. This novel approach to model airplane design allows you to quickly switch between the three different airframes included in the kit, thanks to the small but powerful magnets used throughout.

My friends and I tested the Snap&Fly airplanes in a variety of situations ranging from parking lots to baseball diamonds, in little or no wind up to 15 mph gusts. Although they share the same electronics, each one has its own unique flight characteristics. Let's take a closer look at the Snap&Fly Modularized RC Airplane kit and see how it differs from other micro fliers currently on the market.

Kit Contents

The Snap&Fly airplanes come neatly packed in a detailed box that doubles as a carrying case. Each airplane has its own foam cradle as does the transmitter, power module, lipos and spare accessories. Foam cubes glued to the inside of the lid keep everything from moving around during transportation. Overall, the box is designed very well and I see no reason to ditch it in favor of any other case.

Included in the Snap&Fly kit is: a biplane module, canard module, v-tail module, power module, transmitter, three 90mAh lipos and an accessory pack consisting of a spare motor, propeller and motor mount. Also packaged in the kit is a very well written instruction manual that covers all aspects of operating the three aircraft. What's not included are four AA batteries to power the transmitter.

The canard airplane module uses elevons for control. It features a vertical stabilizer, canards, and main wings. This module is designed with anhedral, or downward sloping wings, the opposite of dihedral. The design also incorporates the use of winglets. The winglets are cut from a slightly thicker foam than the main wings and canards, allowing them to take the hits associated with the occasional botched belly landing.

The biplane module features conventional rudder and elevator control surfaces. The lower wing is an inverted gull-wing while the top is a tapered straight wing. Both have a slight amount of dihedral and are tied together with foam braces. The braces are glued to the wings and are not designed to separate.

The v-tail airplane module, like the biplane, flies with an inverted gull-wing. The fuselage is sleek, low profile and somewhat resembles the infamous v-tail Beechcraft Bonanza. Just like the rest of the fleet, the v-tail airplane requires the transmitter mixing knob to be set to that specific airplane, which we will cover in the assembly and flying sections.

The power module contains all the electronics required to pilot the Snap&Fly aircraft. Magnets bring everything together... literally; four magnets inserted in the foam at each corner of the module keep it firmly attached to the airplane. The bond is strong, and there's no chance of the power module disconnecting in flight. All the electronic parts are installed in the base module and ready to fly so there's no need for any tedious setup rituals. The 7mm brushed motor is held tightly to the module by a plastic motor mount that's glued to the foam. The thrust line of the motor is very slightly tilted down and right to counteract the spiraling slipstream created by the propeller, which has a tendency to turn the plane to the left. A tight tolerance between the motor shaft and the prop hole is the only thing keeping the prop in place. But don't worry, the amount of force it takes to pry it off greatly exceeds the thrust, so there's no chance of losing it in flight.

The green circuit board behind the motor is the receiver/esc combo and features four channels even though the airplanes only use three channels. The transmitter and receiver operate on 900 MHz with an estimated power output of 10mW. The entire system gets power by placing one of the included lipo packs onto the receiver; magnets on the battery and receiver snap together and keep it held tight. Due to their small size and simplicity, actuators are used in place of micro servos. The actuators are proportional and will deflect the control surfaces to varying degrees depending on stick movement. Very small .6mm control rods connect to the actuators with copper wire and magnets connect the power module's control rods to the airplane's rods. As I stated before, the magnets are very strong for their size and connect positively without any issues.

The included transmitter operates on 900MHz and features 6 channels (four proportional and two switches). Two dials located on the front of the transmitter allow you to select mixing for each airplane and frequency channels if you’re flying with friends. Trim sliders next to each control stick operate just like any other transmitter and make fine trim adjustments easy. The transmitter uniquely doubles as a lipo charger and can charge up to two of the included single-cell packs simultaneously. Detailed charging instructions will be covered in the assembly section of the review. A three-position switch in the center of the unit allows you to select between charge mode, on for flying, or off. Four AA batteries are required to power the unit, and it’s advisable to invest in some rechargeable batteries because an afternoon of flying and charging the lipos can drain down the transmitter batteries.

Assembly

Since the Snap&Fly kit comes ready to fly, there isn’t a whole lot to do to get them airworthy. Add four AA batteries of your choice to the transmitter and charge the included lipo packs and you’re done! There are a few key features pertaining to the transmitter that should be addressed. First, set the mixing knob to the appropriate aircraft. There’s a table in the manual that looks a bit confusing at first but it can be summarized quite easily. Just match up the correct aircraft with your preferred left or right rudder stick, and set the knob to the corresponding number. Since I prefer to control the rudder from the right stick on 3-channel aircraft, I went down the “right control” column until I got to the “biplane” line, and turned the control knob to #2. After you have the airplane mix set, your final step will be to charge the lipos.

In keeping with the Snap&Fly tradition, magnets are incorporated into the transmitter charge ports under the clear red hatch. I opened the hatch and placed the lipos onto the magnets, and they snapped firmly into place. I switched the transmitter to “charge,” verified both lights were illuminated indicating the batteries were charging, and sat back and surfed the pages of RCGroups.com for 40-60 minutes until the red light went out, which means the batteries are fully charged and ready to use. Keep in mind you can charge one or two lipos at once, and you cannot use the transmitter to fly and charge at the same time.

Flying

Basics

All three aircraft utilize the same base module and are roughly the same size, but their individual flight characteristics are different. As a group, they are all relatively fast when compared to other small-scale foamies. The transmitter lacks any sort of exponential adjustments and, even though the controls are progressive, it’s easy to over control these little birds. Keep your control movements smooth, and the planes will behave very well. I found out quickly that a little throttle management goes a long way; for my first flights, I launched the airplane anywhere from one-half to full throttle, then eased back as it rocketed away. This gives a good understanding of how each plane flies without fear of over controlling. With the throttle pulled way back, slow flight is predictable and relaxing. Stalls are nothing more than a drop of the nose, which are easily remedied by adding a little power. High speed flight is exhilarating, especially from such small planes, and the power to weight ratio is impressive too; they have no problem climbing steeply under full power. Flight time was between five and eight minutes depending on how aggressive I flew. A post-flight electronics check showed the motor was hot to the touch and the lipo was warm, but nothing out of the ordinary.

On one of the test flights we flew the Snap&Fly planes in some pretty stiff winds blowing near ten mph and gusting to fifteen. As was expected, the planes were nearly uncontrollable when the wind picked up. I would highly advise against flying these very light aircraft in wind greater than five mph. You'll have a much more enjoyable experience inside a gymnasium or outside in the early morning or late evening when the air is still.

The airplane and base modules are designed to separate on impact, lessening the chance of breaking a motor mount or snapping a wing. Usually the little lipo will also eject, so it's in your best interests to watch for it. As a rule of thumb, don't fly in very tall grass where the lipo can quickly disappear during a crash.

The Canard Airplane Module

The canard module is the only one to use elevons, and can perform basic aerobatic maneuvers such as rolls, the split-s, and inverted flight. It’s the fastest of the three modules and can really clip along at full throttle. It's also a little twitchy on the sticks at higher throttle settings and has zero self-righting tendencies. I would compare it to flying a small 3D plane because it goes where you point it and usually wont deviate unless stick input is given. The front canards have proven to be the only weak structural point on all three airplanes; a few hard crashes caused the left and right canards to break off on separate occasions. However, a little dab of foam-safe CA reattached them easily, and I was back flying. To select elevon mixing for the canard, set the mix knob on the transmitter to #0 to control the rudder from the right stick, or #3 for left stick rudder.

The V-Tail Airplane Module

The V-tail module is a blast to fly. It's nearly as fast as the canard, but offers a little more stability due to its inverted gull-wing with dihedral. This was the only airplane module that required a decent amount of both down elevator and right rudder trim to fly straight. Once it was trimmed out, it exhibited pretty good flight characteristics. There was noticeable climb as I increased throttle, more so than the other two. The v-tail mixing was set to position #1 for right stick rudder control. For left stick rudder, I set the mixing knob to #4.

The Biplane Module

The biplane module was, by far, the best flying airplane of the three. It offered up all around good performance from slow flight to wide open, even the power off glide rate was impressive. From hand launch, I set the throttle at 3/4 and always let it fly out of my hand. The biplane tracked straight and responded smoothly and precisely to control inputs. Even though this module wasn't as fast as the others, it still outperformed most of the other major-brand micro flyers on the market. The biplane will do loops and rudder rolls, along with inverted flight, and can power out of most stall situations easily. The stall usually results in a drop of the nose with no tendency to drop a wing. The mixing knob was set to #2 for the conventional tail with right stick rudder. For left stick rudder, set the knob to #5.

Is This For a Beginner?

I would advise against the Snap&Fly combo as an absolute beginner purchase. They are just too quick and, by design, don't like to self-right themselves like a trainer with generous dihedral. The fact that the canard module has anhedral says that it's geared more toward pilots with low wing experience, or at least someone who's graduated past their first plane.

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

The Snap&Fly 3 in 1 Modular Airplane kit is a truly good deal. For close to $100, you get three micro aircraft, three lipo batteries, a transmitter and charger, and spare parts. All the planes perform well with wide flight envelopes and mild micro-aerobatic performance, but the best performer would have to be the biplane. It steals the show with great handling, super smooth slow flying, and an impressive top speed that you don't see from other planes its size. The entire Snap&Fly set is engineered very well and snaps together effortlessly. Similarly, they are designed to come apart during a crash; it looks pretty cool to see the airplane shed parts as it slams into the ground, but it's even cooler to snap them back together and keep flying.

Pluses:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Wide flight envelope, performs well at slow and fast speeds
  • Modular system breaks apart on crash landings and reduces the risk of airframe and motor damage
  • Includes a crash kit with spare parts

Minuses

  • The canards are a little bit fragile when compared to the other airplane modules.

A big thanks goes out to my wife Jess for shooting video, and to member bsbauman for helping me test the Snap&Fly airplanes and for flying during the photo shoot.

Last edited by Angela H; Jun 27, 2010 at 01:54 PM..

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Old Jul 01, 2010, 05:52 PM
KK6MQJ
Bajora's Avatar
Joined Sep 2004
13,742 Posts
I first spotted these little guys at one of the indoor shows held in the Cardinals Stadium in Phoenix. I was surprised to NOT see anybody demo them on site there? SO, I am really stoked to see this review ... and your in-flight photos look really fantastic Matt!!
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Old Jul 01, 2010, 06:43 PM
Weni, wedi, Java...
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Casper, Wyoming
Joined Nov 2009
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Very excellent review!!.. It's great the way you don't trivialize their shortcomings, for instance noting they are very fast and not a good choice for beginners, which is what I found out! That said, the system they took and improved from Plantraco works better. Their 7mm motors have the hottest windings and I bought enough gear to make a fleet of indoor goodies for next Winter!
This is where to point people for a great Snap n Fly review...
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Last edited by Brent Slensker; Jul 01, 2010 at 11:21 PM.
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Old Jul 01, 2010, 07:41 PM
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Thanks guys. Im actually looking forward to the winter for some indoor flying with these little planes.
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Last edited by Matt Gunn; Jul 02, 2010 at 10:00 AM.
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Old Jul 03, 2010, 06:15 PM
BadPilot
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United States, IL, Custer Park
Joined Nov 2007
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webdr,

Why wait until winter, fly at dusk when the winds are calm.

Nice review.

John
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Old Jul 03, 2010, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by badpilotto View Post
webdr,

Why wait until winter, fly at dusk when the winds are calm.

Nice review.

John
Oh I love flying at dusk, but Im also looking forward to indoor season. Seems like around here, the indoor meets dont start till it gets cold.
Matt
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Old Jul 03, 2010, 10:36 PM
Registered User
New Castle, PA
Joined Oct 2006
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Nice review. Your review matches my experience with my set almost to a T. Although you can hear it in your video, it is odd that you didn't mention the music that plays when giving control inputs. That is the most unique feature/quirk of the set and can be a bit surprising to someone who is just used to a quiet flight without any music emenating from the aircraft. The music is not at all distracting to me but it has taken some getting used to. When fine tuning the plane with the trim sliders the music is constant with any setting other than dead center. With all of that said, these are an increadible value and a truly amazing set of planes. My favorite is the canard.
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Last edited by markarch; Jul 03, 2010 at 10:40 PM. Reason: typos
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 02:42 AM
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Eugene, Oregon
Joined Apr 2009
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Very Nice! I commend you for doing a thorough and detailed review on this excellent system.

...I'm kinda the authority when it comes to mods with this gear (I've done +30 builds with 5rx with geared/prop/lipo/act combos) it is the best for the price and performance - seriously... nothing flies full acrobatic 9" 11grams indestructible micros like Snap & Fly! Convert almost any E-charger, free flight plane(under 12&quot, or flatfoamy effortlessly!

This is the fastest motor in our hobby (for its size), runs up to 160mah lipo (then bat is too large for csurfaces) and is extremely durable! Magnets suck replace with micro plug! save weight... I've started dozens of threads and posted many videos on my SF planes.

I'm excited to see how the new nanotech 130s work - currently the best lipo to use is HK 100mah (due to weight saving and price per) 160 are just a bit heavy for full aerobatics - and hypr120 cost too much.

only negative I see (other then selling rxs standalone)... is Ailerons! I only build planes that use elerons and rudder for 4ch - I've never purchased an aileron actuator and actually prefer to fly delta style! Makes for speed, style and performance!

Major postive I enjoy is durability. Remember no plane is indestructible but since there is so little mass these can take hard crashes better than anything else I've flown. My 9" firefly will bounce 5feet off the ground after a crash and immediately be good to go!

my 2cents... if you have any questions about the gear ask here and I will try to respond - long story short this gear rocks!
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Last edited by elvill; Jul 04, 2010 at 12:28 PM.
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 04:43 AM
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Little Norway
Joined Feb 2010
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Very good video and review. I didn`t really know what to make out of these small oddities, but now i do...even though i still am a little apprehensive to their longevity.
And who said that they are only sold in the US? I live in Norway..we have them here!
Happy july day..fourth of!
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 02:05 PM
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Don't forget to put a nylon/plastic spacer between the prop and motor to keep from destroying the motor back plate!!
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 03:56 PM
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what are these planes like vs the UMP51 or Sukhoi XP in relation to speed/handling?
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 05:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Razors edge 29 View Post
what are these planes like vs the UMP51 or Sukhoi XP in relation to speed/handling?
Ive flown all three; The UMP51 is probally the most stable and has the widest flight envelope i.e. best all around handling at high and low speeds. The Sukhoi is obviously the most aerobatic, and I would rate its controllability about even with the Snap&fly's. The Snap&fly's are definately the fastest ones but dont have the aerobatic performance that the sukhoi does.
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 06:53 PM
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These planes are faster than the Mustang? Really? Wow, doesnt look like it in video. Does anyone else here have vids of their Snap&fly's with some low high speed passes?

Are these planes worth the money?



Quote:
Originally Posted by webdr View Post
Ive flown all three; The UMP51 is probally the most stable and has the widest flight envelope i.e. best all around handling at high and low speeds. The Sukhoi is obviously the most aerobatic, and I would rate its controllability about even with the Snap&fly's. The Snap&fly's are definately the fastest ones but dont have the aerobatic performance that the sukhoi does.
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 06:57 PM
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also wonder why its direct drive? Would adding a gear box make any difference for torque and or speed?
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Old Jul 04, 2010, 06:58 PM
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Casper, Wyoming
Joined Nov 2009
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Get them when they are on sale...what was it?..90 bucks for all 3?...They are a good system too, even with the Plantraco style battery magnets.
No, they are not as fast as a UMP51.
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