ParkZone Etomic Vapor RTF and BNF Review

Though not the first micro flyer released by ParkZone, the Etomic Vapor is certainly the lightest. Its all-up-weight of 15 grams cannot even be detected by many scales, but its lack of mass in no way results in any lack of performance and fun!

Splash

Introduction


Wingspan:14.75"
Weight:0.5 oz. (15 Grams)
Length:15.25"
Servos:Fully proportional, super lightweight with feedback potentiometers
Transmitter:RTF: 2.4GHz w/Spektrum DSM2; Bind-n-Fly: Any DSM2 transmitter
Receiver:3-channel 2.4GHz w/Spektrum DSM2 technology
Battery:3.7V 70mAh LiPo battery (included)
Flight Duration:15 minutes
Manufacturer:ParkZone
Available From:Your Local Hobby Shop or Horizon Hobby
Suggested Retail Price:RTF:$129.95 BNF:$99.99

ParkZone brings park flying to the masses with its numerous hit RTF airplanes but now it is turning its attention to the micro flyer and in a very large way! Lighter than the average piece of paper, the ParkZone Vapor has become almost an overnight sensation. Before seeing it on RCGroups, I had not really ever felt pulled towards this segment of the hobby. But oh how quickly that can change! There seems to be an almost cult-like following of the Vapor. Lets see why!

Kit Contents

The contents of the RTF (Ready to Fly) or BNF (Bind n Fly) boxes are almost identical. The only difference is that the RTF version includes a 2.4 GHz Spektrum DSM2 transmitter, which reminds me of some of the old Gravis PC game controllers I used to have. It is completely amazing to me that you can purchase these RTF versions which now include a 2.4 Ghz Spektrum transmitter; It would seem we are really reaping the benefits of the new 2.4 Ghz spread spectrum technology and its commensurate price drops.

In The Box:

  • Vapor, with complete pre-installed Spektrum DSM2 radio and power system
  • Battery Charger
  • One cell 70 mAh lipoly battery pack
  • Four pack of AA alkaline batteries for the charger (another four for the transmitter in the RTF version)
  • 2.4GHz Transmitter w/Spektrum DSM2 technology (RTF version only)
  • Operating instructions and miscellaneous paperwork

Required for Completion:

  • A few minutes of patience to allow the wee battery to charge

Features

Pick your poison: Ready to Fly or Bind N Fly. The RTF version comes with a svelte little transmitter but if you already own a Spektrum DSM2 transmitter, you can save a few bucks and get the BNF version.

Ready-to-Fly Transmitter

Although the included 2.4 Ghz Spektrum DSM2 transmitter in the RTF is a basic unit, I found myself attracted to its very compact size. It is a nice change to not have to drag out my "large" Spektrum DX7 when I want to go flying. Even though it is on the small side, the Vapor RTF transmitter is a fully proportional four channel transmitter, complete with digital trims.

Should you need to reverse any of the channels, these digital trim buttons do double duty as channel reversal switches. Simply hold the appropriate digital trim button down while turning on the transmitter, wait for the tones to confirm your selection, and the channel will be reversed. A bright red power LED signals that the transmitter is on and transmitting.

ParkZone published this Product Bulletin to help clarify the binding procedure of the RTF transmitter:

Binding Instructions for Vapor RTF Transmitter

The transmitter included with your Vapor has been pre-bound for you at the factory. Should you need to rebind the transmitter and receiver/ESC unit or when using the Vapor's RTF transmitter with another aircraft, please follow the instructions below. Please also note that the instructions you will reference will depend on whether your aircraft and transmitter feature AutoBind or not.

Vapor RTF sets using AutoBind (LED on aircraft receiver/ESC unit and transmitter will blink immediately upon powering on):

1. Ensure flight battery is fully charged and transmitter AA batteries have adequate power.

2. Plug the flight battery into the receiver/ESC unit and the LED will begin blinking.

3. Within 5 seconds of powering on the Vapor receiver/ESC, power on the Vapor RTF transmitter (LED on the transmitter will begin blinking) and the bind process will complete within 15 seconds.

Vapor RTF sets without AutoBind (LED on receiver/ESC unit will begin blinking after 5 seconds of being powered on. LED on transmitter remains solid when powered on):

1. Ensure flight battery is fully charged and transmitter AA batteries have adequate power.

2. Plug the flight battery into the receiver/ESC unit. The LED on the receiver/ESC unit will begin blinking after 5 seconds.

3. Once the LED on the receiver/ESC unit is blinking, push IN on the left control stick while powering on the transmitter. Release the left stick once the transmitter is powered on. The transmitter will beep, signifying the transmitter is in bind mode. The bind process will complete within 15 seconds.

Charger

The charger is powered by the included four pack of AA alkaline batteries. The manual reports that you can expect 15-20 charges from a set of AA batteries, and I replaced mine after 15 charges. A completely discharged battery is reported to take around twenty minutes to charge. The charging status LED does not go out when the charge is complete but it starts blinking as it nears completion. When the time between its strobes gets to around twenty seconds, it is fully charged.

I would caution against inserting the battery into the charger without first carefully checking to ensure that it is properly oriented. While the battery is keyed to insert only one way into the charger, the connector is small enough that it could be forced in the other way too. It is difficult to feel the resistance while inserting the battery into the charger, so be gentle with it.

Power System and Spektrum DSM2 Radio Gear

The receiver, linear servos and motor/gearbox come pre-installed. The components are incredibly tiny but they definitely get the job done. Though the RTF version comes with a four channel transmitter, the on board Spektrum DSM2 receiver utilizes just three of these channels. The Vapor has fully proportional control of the rudder, elevator and throttle.

I have bound the Vapor to both my Spektrum DX7 and the LP5DSM 2.4 Ghz transmitter that came with my E-flite CX2 helicopter. I did have to reverse several of the channels on the LP5DSM. I just hope I can remember to set them back before I fly the CX2 again.

The motor shaft is designed to be easily replaced, should it get bent. I broke a prop trying to fly it outside one evening but a quick visit to Horizonhobby.com had a replacement and a few spares in my mailbox within three days.

Airframe

Carbon, carbon and a little more carbon. The entire Vapor airframe is composed of very small diameter carbon rod.

The material stretched loosely across the wing and tail surfaces is called PET. It reminds me of the mylar used to make balloons. I have yet to tear or rip mine but the manual and other folks advise that a little packing tape makes the best patch of all.

Carrying Case

If someone tasked me with designing a case that would properly protect this wee and delicate plane, I am afraid I would be hard pressed to figure out a solution. And yet the manufacturer faced this very dilemma when figuring out a way to ensure that the Vapor would not be destroyed while en route from the factory to the flyer. The box that the Vapor comes packaged in is probably the best case you could ever hope to have. The airframe nestles down into the main foam cradle and is then held securely in place by two foam wedge blocks. These blocks trap the prop and the carbon tail, effectively sandwiching the Vapor in a protective cocoon.

So make sure that you do not throw this box away. I am thinking I could probably even take it with me on an airplane and stow it in the overhead bin to get my radio control fix when on the road!

Flying

The first day I received the two Vapors for review, I decided I would have to try to fly one in my house. Though I was successful to at least a limited extent, I kept bouncing the Vapor off the walls and lighting fixtures. I waited until the sun was poised to drop down below the horizon and took the Vapor outside to give it a try. I set it on the street, and almost immediately, a light wind sent it skidding across the pavement. Remember, we are only talking a half ounce here. Would any of us lay a cotton ball on the street and be surprised when the lightest of breezes sends it tumbling?

I did a little research to find a local indoor flying venue and was surprised to learn that a local club holds a monthly indoor flying session at a school just a few miles south of me, and I made plans to attend the next meeting.

Basics

The assembly manual makes some basic set up recommendations. It is normal to verify the CG of an airplane before sending it up. The Center of Gravity is set on the Vapor by measuring the distance from the front of the fuselage to the leading edge of the wing assembly. The starting point should be around 28-30mm. The battery tray position is also adjustable. I positioned mine as suggested, about 10mm behind the leading edge of the wing. The Vapor is very forgiving when it comes to the CG however. It is possible to experiment with these settings and the results of a tail heavy Vapor are not as catastrophic as they can be on most planes. More on the high alpha capabilities of the Vapor shortly!

Taking Off and Landing

My wife and daughter accompanied me to the indoor venue early on a Sunday morning. I do not think taking off and landing could be any easier than it is with the Vapor. Smoothly advance the throttle, use the rudder to keep it going straight across the polished gymnasium and rotate. You are now airborne! Landings? Ease the throttle back or completely shut down the motor. Either way, the Vapor will gently descend back down to the wood. With a slight touch of up elevator to initiate the flare, the Vapor will kiss the ground as lightly as a butterfly. Touch and gos? Sure!

Aerobatics/Special Flight Performance

Though some folks have reported being able to pull off a roll, it is pretty much outside the abilities of this plane but a slight diving entry will get you over the top in a loop. The maneuver that the Vapor really excels at is high alpha flight. And can it ever do it SLOWLY! Holding a fair amount of up elevator and keeping the throttle advanced a bit will cause the Vapor to point its little nose high in the air and slowly putt around the gymnasium.

The right throttle setting will lock it into high alpha, and it will hold it without losing or gaining any altitude. Shoving the throttle all the way forward, especially on a freshly charged battery, will just about result in vertical climb out! It is not sustainable of course but it is impressive nonetheless.

Is This For a Beginner?

It seems as if every review that I have completed for RCGroups and Ezone has required me to check the "NO" box when it comes to deciding if the review plane is capable of being flown by a beginner. Though the manufacturer or distributor says this one is not for a beginning pilot, I would like to politely disagree with them.

I will cite as evidence my wonderful wife. With all of the RC activities going on around the Barnes household in any given week, she has had ample opportunity to learn to fly, and yet her interest has not yet been piqued... until the Vapor. She and our daughter accompanied me to the indoor flying venue, and I was thrilled to hear her ask me if she could try flying the Vapor. And fly it she did! The total mass of the vapor is so inconsequential that even though she impacted the wall (and the basketball backboard and the bleachers and so on) the Vapor was not damaged at all! And she did quite well and appeared to actually enjoy it! Is the Vapor for a beginner! I emphatically state YES!

Flight Video/Photo Gallery

Downloads

Conclusion

Now that I have flown it in a larger venue, I CAN fly it in my house... or in my garage, or even at work after hours. Simply kick in some up elevator, hold the nose up with the power and you are in high alpha slow motion mode. The ParkZone Vapor is technologically amazing! What we would have only dreamed of a few years ago can now be yours for a relatively small sum of money.

I especially have enjoyed the Vapor because it managed to catch the interest of my wife. I even let my four and a half year old steer it around, and she did amazingly well, with only a little help from Dad. 15 grams of weight is not very much mass, and the Vapor is not unbreakable but it is quite sturdy. I think there is a better chance of damaging it when picking it up and moving it around by hand than by flying it.

If you want to discover many new flying fields, pick up a Vapor, It has the unique ability to transform a medium to large size room into an instant flying venue!

If you would like to read more about the ParkZone Vapor, visit THIS THREAD here on RCGroups. There is a wealth of information contained in that thread, including many posts from Horizon Hobby's Dave Eichstedt.

Pluses:

  • Super light weight Micro RTF and BNF
  • Amazing price for micro flying technology
  • High alpha flight is its forte
  • Box is perfect for protecting it while not flying it
  • Provides a quick indoor flying fix when the weather outside is sour

Minuses:

  • What’s NOT to like about the Vapor?!

Last edited by Angela H; Nov 01, 2008 at 09:12 PM..
Thread Tools
Nov 11, 2008, 09:29 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Great review Jon. I've been wanting a BNF Vapor for quite a while and your review has just pushed me over the edge.

I flew a lot of indoor when I lived in the big city and we had a lot of very large mega-High School gyms to fly in. Now that I've moved to the country, there are no large indoor sites available. We have a few church activity centers and a community meeting room, but they are too small for most foamies. The Vapor looks like it would be able to fly in every one of them. In fact, my living room should be big enough for some high alpha flying.

Thanks ParkZone for opening up new RC possibilites with the Vapor.

Mike McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Nov 11, 2008, 09:34 AM
Registered User
Jurgen Heilig's Avatar

What’s NOT to like about the Vapor?!


The answer is: Availability.

I ordered mine right after I had flown one at the modell-hobby-spiel Model Fair on 10. Oct. 2008 and today I have heard, that it will be early December before the model will be available.

Jürgen
Nov 11, 2008, 12:57 PM
Registered User
WOW THAT WAS POWERFUL
it hovered! amazing power off of a brushed motor
great review i wish the bind and fly worked with my rds 8000
Nov 11, 2008, 01:16 PM
Registered User
I love mine! =) My brother bought one and my 4 year old nephew flies it:
Parkzone Vapor, pilot, age 4, アイモ Aimo (1 min 37 sec)


Apologize for not having the translation of the song up yet. I'm working on subtitles.
Nov 11, 2008, 02:12 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
Fantastic review Jon! The vapor is such a great plane. I fly mine around my yard all the time. The Vapor is also a fantastic plane for tormenting your neighbors cat. HEHEHE... It also works well with the new MCX batteries for longer flight times.
Nov 11, 2008, 02:16 PM
↓↘→ + (punch)
theKM's Avatar
nice review Jon!

It's an amazing little plane, I scored one for $60 RTF on ebay and it's too much fun. Slow flight through high alfa is amazingly addictive, as is dodging and flying paths through all the clutter in the garage

Another little detail I've heard too... with the Vapor RTF transmitter, you can get the BNF mCX heli to save the few dollars down the road. Parkzone are sure playing for serious!


...I'd love to watch your video too, any chance of getting it uploaded into Vimeo for those that like flash players and/or smaller downloads?
Nov 11, 2008, 02:25 PM
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theKM's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dora Nine
Fantastic review Jon! The vapor is such a great plane. I fly mine around my yard all the time. The Vapor is also a fantastic plane for tormenting your neighbors cat. HEHEHE... It also works well with the new MCX batteries for longer flight times.
that's some cool info about the mCX battery!

I'm curious about making a few packs from these little cells...

http://www.hobbycity.com/hobbycity/s...idProduct=7567

...can have 5 of them for the price of one vapor pack. Charge a hand full of them and fly all day!
Nov 11, 2008, 03:20 PM
The sky is my playground.
Dora Nine's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by theKM
that's some cool info about the mCX battery!

I'm curious about making a few packs from these little cells...

http://www.hobbycity.com/hobbycity/s...idProduct=7567

...can have 5 of them for the price of one vapor pack. Charge a hand full of them and fly all day!

Yeah, I'm too lazy to build my own batteries. I bought two of the 110's (along with the (3) 70's I already have) and called it a day.
Nov 11, 2008, 03:35 PM
↓↘→ + (punch)
theKM's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dora Nine
Yeah, I'm too lazy to build my own batteries. I bought two of the 110's (along with the (3) 70's I already have) and called it a day.
with plenty of reason, that's a lot of flight time
Nov 11, 2008, 03:36 PM
AA6JB
Bajora's Avatar
I'll do that Arron!(Vimeo)
Probably later today!
Nov 11, 2008, 04:11 PM
↓↘→ + (punch)
theKM's Avatar
gravy gravy gravy.

hoping to get my little Vapor to its first indoor basketball court this friday... should be fun.
Nov 11, 2008, 05:53 PM
Not your average DiggsyBear
Diggs's Avatar
Great review for a wonderful plane! I totally agree, this is a great plane for a beginner and it does tend to draw in people not normally attracted to RC. My neighbors wife just rolls her eyes when we fly, but when I got a vapor, she was enthralled by it. She wanted her husband to pick one up, which he did and she will watch us fly those.

The only other time she was somewhat excited about RC was with the nite flyer in my avatar.

Again, well done! This little plane deserves as much credit as it can get.

Diggs
Nov 11, 2008, 06:36 PM
Registered User

Opinion(s) on Durability?


Would you consider the Vapor to be durable...with everyday flying and an occasional bump into the wall? I work with students (ages 6-11) and want to purchase either this or the other Parkzone micro slow-flyer. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Hank
Nov 11, 2008, 06:51 PM
Not your average DiggsyBear
Diggs's Avatar
I have the Cessna, Ember and the Vapor. The Vapor can be broken, but it would be hard to do it in flight. I broke mine picking it up by the horizontal stab while it was in a shrub, and the landing gear caught on a branch and I broke the carbon support going around the stab. It was a simple and cheap fix, just ordered a replacement and removed the old one and installed the new one.

I would think the Vapor would be the most likely to survive of the 3 I own, and the ember would be second. The vapor has practically no weight and flys SO slow, it is hard to crash and break. The foam on the others can be broken fairly easy, but again it would be more likely to be broken moving it around or during handling than flying. They all will take a pounding, but again, My opinion is the vapor will endure better than the others.

Diggs


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