|ParkZone Night Vapor|
|Weight:||0.6 oz (16g) w/battery|
|Battery:||ParkZone 1S 3.7V 70mAh Li-Po|
|Propeller:||140 x 45 mm|
|Transmitter:||4-channel 2.4 GHz with Spektrum DSM2|
Have you ever watched a feather floating around on the breeze and thought that it sure would be fun if you could somehow "fly" that feather around? My guess is that it would fly just about like a Vapor. No, I'm not kidding. The Vapor is a remarkable little airplane that literally floats around like a feather.
But what is a Vapor, anyway?
A couple of years ago, ParkZone released the original Vapor (read Jon Barnes' Ezone review of the Vapor). Pilots everywhere touted it as the ultimate indoor flyer. This tiny airplane literally revolutionized micro-flying. Weighing in at only half of an ounce, the Vapor took the RC hobby by storm.
Building on the huge success of the original Vapor, ParkZone decided to raise the stakes and add the excitement of night-flying. In addition to the really bright LEDs, the Night Vapor has a redesigned airframe that is now more modular. Yes, the Night Vapor is essentially the same airplane as the original, but no one will argue with the cool factor of the LED system or the added convenience of easily-replaceable parts. The Night Vapor retains all of the excellent flight characteristics of the original Vapor while adding a new challenge to your flying.
Sound interesting to you? Well, let's shed a little light on the subject! (Come on, you knew that one was coming!)
The Night Vapor RTF (Ready-To-Fly) comes complete with everything you need in the box.
The Night Vapor BNF (Bind-N-Fly) is basically the same package minus the transmitter and four AA batteries.
The included Li-Po battery charger is powered by the four AA batteries that are included in the box. After installing the AA batteries, you are now ready to charge the Li-Po battery pack. The battery is inserted in the slot with the label facing out. The battery is keyed so that it can be inserted easily only one way. Once the connection is made, the LED on the charger will turn solid red to indicate the battery is charging. To fully charge a battery will take 30-40 minutes. You'll know the charge is complete when the LED blinks once every 20 seconds. Expect about 10 to 15 charges on a set of AA batteries. Although not mentioned in the manual, this charger is equipped with a DC power jack. The label beside the DC power jack recommends EFLC1005 power supply (6V DC 1.5 AMP max, center positive).
As the name suggests, this new Vapor is equipped for night-flying. A very lightweight LED (light-emitting diode) light system has been added to the airframe to give the pilot visual orientation in low- or no-light situations. Consisting of three bright white LEDs on the leading edge of the wing, blinking red and green LEDs on the trailing edge, one bright blue LED on the receiver, and one bright blue LED just in front of the vertical stabilizer, the Night Vapor can now be used to prompt UFO calls to the local police department.
The Night Vapor also incorporates some very nifty airframe improvements over the original Vapor. With a new modular design, broken parts are now more easily replaced. The wing is held in place by four screws in the wing mounting columns. Removing those screws and unplugging the LED system will allow you to quickly replace the wing with a new one. The vertical fin is even easier to replace since it just involves removing the little rubber keeper and disconnecting the pushrod. Both repairs could be done in a matter of minutes by even a beginner.
How would you like to make your Night Vapor fly even slower? Well, thanks to the new easily-removable landing gear, you can now fly your Night Vapor without the gear attached. This will lower the overall weight of the airplane, allowing it to fly even slower. The manual suggests sliding the battery forward to adjust the CG with the landing gear removed. While making the landing gear easier to remove, ParkZone has also made it easier to replace them in the event you manage to break the landing gear. Major bonus!
The covering, as you may notice, has a new color scheme as well as being slightly more opaque than the original Vapor. This opacity helps to reflect the light from the LEDs, making the plane a little more visible in the dark. Very small tabs of clear tape have been added around the edges of the covering as well. This little addition will help to keep the covering better adhered to the airframe.
Be sure to visit the Parts Listing page or your local hobby shop for all your Night Vapor replacement parts.
Both the RTF and BNF versions of the Night Vapor are completely assembled and ready for some serious night-flying fun. Inserting the AA batteries into the Li-Po charger and the RTF transmitter only takes a few seconds. Once the Li-Po battery is charged, it simply attaches to the airplane with the hook-and-loop fastener on the battery tray.
The instruction manual for the Night Vapor is very informative. It is filled with plenty of pictures and diagrams, so if you're wondering about something, chances are the answer is in there. Give it a good read before attempting to fly your Night Vapor just to make sure you didn't miss something. The manual also has step-by-step instructions on how to replace the major airframe components that may get damaged. This will be especially helpful to beginners who are new to this fact of RC life...repairs!
If you'd like to take a look for yourself, go download a copy of the instruction manual.
The Night Vapor RTF comes with a 2.4 GHz DSM2 transmitter that is equipped with dual rates. This basic transmitter does a fine job of controlling the Night Vapor. The transmitter is already bound to the receiver, so no setup is necessary. Just pop the 4 AA batteries in, and you are ready to fly!
I really like the little RTF transmitter. First of all, it fits back in the box with the airplane, so everything is contained in one box. The other thing I like about the RTF transmitter is the simplicity of it. When you hand it to a beginner, they aren't faced with all the knobs and switches found on high-end transmitters. Lastly, the size of the "video-game style" controller fits into smaller hands well. This is a big plus when the younger kids want to give the Night Vapor a try.
Since the Night Vapor is equipped with a 2.4 GHz DSM2 receiver, it can be bound to any Spektrum or JR DSM2 transmitter. This process is amazingly simple and varies depending on the transmitter. I have flown my Night Vapor BNF using a Spektrum DX6i and a Spektrum DX7. Both transmitters provided excellent control of the Night Vapor. By programming in some exponential on the rudder and elevator, I was able to smooth out the controls for some really smooth and steady flying.
Which version of the Night Vapor should you buy? RTF or BNF? Which transmitter is better?
Well, I really can't answer that for everyone since there are different needs out there, but I'll give it a shot. If you're a beginner and don't already own a DSM2 transmitter, then you should buy the RTF package. If you already have a DSM2 transmitter, then save yourself $30 and pick up the BNF package. Maybe you've got a DX7 but want the simplicity of the RTF transmitter, then the Night Vapor RTF is the ticket. It's up to you, but I personally prefer the RTF transmitter since it fits conveniently in the box with the airplane.
Now that you've got your Li-Po batteries (you did buy some extra packs, right?) charged, it's time to go flying. Turn on your transmitter and then plug up the Li-Po battery. For starters, you'll want to begin flying on low rates to keep yourself from over-controlling. With the RTF transmitter, toggling between low and high rates is done by pushing the right stick down (into the controller). As you do this, you'll hear a beep and the red LED will begin flashing to indicate you are now on low rates. Pushing the stick again will return you to high rates.
With the stock 70mAh Li-Po battery, you can expect 10-15 minutes of flight time with the Night Vapor. When compared to the original Vapor, there was no noticeable reduction in flight time because of the LED light system. Of course you can stretch your flight times out by using minimal throttle and flying the Night Vapor as slow as possible. Most of my flying has been indoors, but I have flown a few times outside with the slightest breeze. When flying outdoors, you'll probably use more throttle and therefore won't get as much flight time out of the stock Li-Po battery.
While the Night Vapor's stock battery is only 70mAh, you are actually limiting your flight time based strictly on the battery's capacity. There are higher capacity batteries available that will work fine on the Night Vapor, but you will pay a weight penalty as you increase the battery's capacity. Even though it may only be a few grams more, the larger packs will affect the way the Night Vapor flies. I prefer the lighter packs over the increased capacity.
Flying the Night Vapor is really a blast. Iíd wager that it is probably the slowest airplane youíve ever flown. Slow is what the Night Vapor is good at, and rarely will you need (or want) more than half-throttle. This is a very positive thing when flying indoors. Whether you are flying in your living room or a gymnasium, the walls have a tendency to creep in on you. The Night Vaporís ability to poke along at a snailís pace makes flying in cramped spaces possible. Just learn to manage your throttle and airspeed and youíll find yourself flying the Night Vapor in places you never imagined you could.
Now donít think that the Night Vapor canít speed up when asked. If you push the throttle to the max, get ready to hang on. That little motor and big prop provide plenty of thrust to get the Night Vapor moving along at a pretty good clip. Yes, faster is sometimes better, but with the Night Vapor, I donít think thatís the case. At higher speeds, Iíve found the Night Vapor to be a little on the twitchy side and the flying tends to look kind of jerky. I like for my flying to be smooth and steady, so fast and twitchy doesnít appeal to meÖespecially with a plane like this.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that the Night Vapor is designed to be an indoor flyer. Since the Night Vapor is a scant half an ounce, anything more than a very slight breeze is sure to cause you some trouble. I've flown the Night Vapor in a breeze of 2-3 mph, and it was very challenging and not very enjoyable. After a minute or two of that, I decided to land and wait for a calm day. So, if you do decide to fly outdoors, pick a nice calm day or evening and you're sure to have more fun.
As with most small RC models, takeoffs can be done with either a hand launch or a rolling takeoff. Both are very easy and almost trivial with the Night Vapor.
For a hand launch, grasp the Night Vapor by the fuselage and hold it straight and level. Advance the throttle to about half-throttle. Gently push the airplane forward and release it. And just like that, youíll be flying.
Rolling takeoffs with the Night Vapor can happen as quickly or as slowly as you wish. On a smooth gym floor, the Night Vapor can be coaxed into the air with minimal throttle for nice slow takeoffs. Blasting off with full throttle will result in a takeoff roll of just a few feet. Iíve also flown from my driveway, and the Night Vaporís landing gear handled the pavement just fine. Forget about takeoffs from the grass, it just wonít work. If you donít have a smooth runway and just donít want to hand launch, then just set the Night Vapor on the roof of you car and go fly!
Landings with the Night Vapor are pretty straightforward as well. All you have to do is reduce the throttle and descend toward you landing spot. If you have a smooth runway, then a little flare can be used to slow your arrival. Again, landings on grass arenít going to work out very well. You can land on grass, but it will be more of a flop than a landing. The last option is just to simply fly it at yourself and pluck it out of the air. Hand catches are sometimes your only choice when flying in cramped spaces.
While the Night Vapor certainly isn't advertised as an aerobatic machine, it can be talked into some very entertaining maneuvers. With enough speed, loops are possible. Granted they are the neatest, roundest loops you have ever seen, but they are loops. If the entry speed isn't high enough, expect the Night Vapor to flop out of the loop before it gets to the top. Not to worry, however, as it doesn't take much altitude to recover and resume normal flight.
How about hovering a Night Vapor? Well, OK, maybe it won't do a picture perfect hover in the truest sense of the word, but the Night Vapor does have the power to hang on the prop for a brief moment. It's enough to solicit ooh's and ah's from the bystanders that have gathered to watch. What? Your flying doesn't draw a crowd?
Now for my favorite trick in the Night Vapor's repertoire...the harrier. While the Night Vapor is readily capable of extremely slow flight in normal flight mode, some high-alpha flight simply adds to the excitement. Entering into a harrier is easy and fun. From level flight at a throttle setting that is just enough to maintain altitude, start feeding in more up elevator to bring the nose up. As the airplane slows, add throttle as needed to keep from descending. What you will find is that by modulating the elevator and throttle, you can find the sweet spot where the Night Vapor will literally hang there with only the slightest of forward airspeed. Once you find that point, just hold it there and drive it around and admire the beauty of what is happening. It is almost a surreal experience knowing that this half-ounce airplane is actually being suspended there in mid-air. It is definitely a sight I never get tired of seeing.
You don't really want to fly an airplane in the dark, do you? OF COURSE YOU DO!
Let me set the record straight from the get-go. Night flying is not something I'd recommend for a rank beginner. While the LED lights make for a lot of fun, there is no need to complicate the act of flying by turning out lights. If you aren't proficient at flying in broad daylight, don't think it gets any easier in the dark.
That being said, let's talk more about flying in the dark. I've flown the Night Vapor in all lighting conditions from pitch-black to partially lit to broad daylight. Although flying in the dark isn't impossibly difficult, the level of difficulty is inversely proportional to the amount of light available. What I mean by that is you are more likely to become disoriented when flying in darker skies.
The Night Vapor's light system is surprisingly bright. The forward-facing white LEDs do a good job giving you a reference to the airplane's wing. They also illuminate the ground (and upcoming obstacles) very well. In fact, the reflections off of the glossy gym floor are a sight to see. So if the Night Vapor is coming towards you, then you should be able to keep your orientation about you. However, as the plane travels away from you, other than the alternating blinking red/green LEDs, there isn't much visual reference to pitch or roll. It is very easy to get disoriented in this situation. My best advice would be to avoid flying in pitch black conditions. If there is enough ambient light to see the airframe, you'll have a much better time controlling the Night Vapor. Besides, one of the main reasons I fly RC airplanes is to look at them while they are in the air and admire the "magic of flight". When flying the Night Vapor in total darkness, you are now driving a few LEDs around and at times wondering what the airplane is doing. Yes, it is still fun, but you've got to be more alert. You'll find it much more difficult to judge distances in the dark. Your sense of depth perception just isn't as sharp when all you can see are some itty-bitty little lights zooming around in a black sky.
Since this review is about the Night Vapor, I wanted to showcase what the airplane looked like, well, at night. As most of you know, low- or no-light conditions are very difficult when it comes to pictures and video. For the still photographs, I started out with some nice outdoor shots just so you could see what the Night Vapor looks like in the air. For the night shots, I decided to go the long-exposure route for some cool-looking light trails. After experimenting with different camera settings and lenses, I managed to capture some very entertaining images. Taking these long exposures and trying to "compose" the shot proved to be a lot of fun. For the video, I opted to leave the side lights on in the gym to add enough ambient light to see the airplanes. As you can see, the LEDs are plenty visible and actually help in tracking your airplane.
My other goal with the video was to compare the Night Vapor with the original Vapor. For this effort, I drafted some of my flying buddies to help out. We had two Night Vapors and two original Vapors flying at one time. You will clearly be able to see that the Night Vapors stand out in the crowd. Even in full light, the Night Vapors are easier to see thanks to both the LEDs and the different color scheme. As the videos will clearly show, both versions of the Vapor are a blast to fly, and even more fun when there's a swarm of them flying around. Oh, and the shenanigans that take place with the table, that's the kind of fun that the Vapor brings out in any pilot.
A WORD OF THANKS
Thanks to my good friend and fellow author, Napo, for his help with the daytime flying shots of the Night Vapor. Thanks also go out to my flying buddies who helped out with the video session. Dad, Rob, and Christopher, thanks for the super-fun evening of flying in the gym! And to my brother, Gary, thanks for going the extra mile and joining me for that pre-dawn dawn patrol session in the gym for pictures and video.
I'd also like to thank Horizon Hobby for providing the RTF and BNF airplanes for this review.
Thank you all so much!
From a flying standpoint, I'd say that a Night Vapor would a make a great beginner's plane. The only caution I would have with the Night Vapor being a first plane would be its fragileness. Even though it is pretty crash-resistant, there are things that can break that might be frustrating to a beginner pilot.
Can somebody who has never flown before teach themselves to fly with the Night Vapor? I would say that it is possible. I have handed the transmitter to several non-pilots and with a little coaching they are able to keep it in the air for a short time on their own.
I would not recommend that a beginner attempt to fly a Night Vapor in total darkness. Pick a nice calm evening with plenty of moonlight and go have some fun. Remember what I said about your depth perception in the dark. Those trees and shrubs will reach out and grab the little Night Vapor if you aren't careful.
The ParkZone Night Vapor is an exciting little airplane that will really surprise you. At first glance, you might think it couldn't be all that exciting, but all doubts will disappear as soon as you take off. I would even go as far as to say that the Night Vapor has the highest "fun-to-weight" ratio of any RC airplane out there. The convenience of having everything stored nice and safe in the box and ready to go at any time is a major plus. Even if you think the Night Vapor isn't your style, you should definitely try one. But watch out, you'll find yourself wanting one! Don't say I didn't warn you!
Last edited by dee-grose; Sep 23, 2010 at 01:08 PM..
I find the night vapor to be really easy to fly in total darkness, even headed away from me and I was surprised how well they implemented the tiny lighting system. Bright front lights, or their diminished visibility when flying away from you, are the clues needed to "see" what's happening
But heck, I've flown the original vapor in total darkness, very high against a starlit sky - the orange light on the receiver lights up a portion of the wing. The challenge is to relax with the knowledge that the plane pretty well flies itself. Not sure if it's going away or toward you? Crank a turn. The resulting change in direction of the orange dot will let you know Bringing it safely home after pushing your vision and hearing to the limit is quite a thrill.
I'm using my 9303 for the night vapor and I suspect I could be getting better range with it. I'm quite surprised how far up and out I took it last month in Chilliwack. The lights had more or less merged into one - nothing beats flying these planes high against a brilliant starry sky on a perfectly clear, still night
Hey guys, thanks for all the comments. I'm glad you're liking the review. I hope the article accurately relayed how much fun you can have with this little airplane.
I do have LOTS more cool pictures and video that I could post up. I ought to edit up a blooper reel from our gym flying session. It would be quite entertaining!
And if anybody manages to get some good light trail pictures of your Night Vapor, please post them up here. And if they're better than mine, please share your camera settings so we can all give them a try!
Hope that helps!
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