Toledo Trip 2015 Wrap Up

Who Turned Out The Lights?

Sometimes our Toledo bus trip is largely uninteresting for me. Sometimes it’s fascinating. One thing this Weak Signals Toledo Trip was not, however, is uneventful.

Our group of R/C enthusiasts dwindled before we left the parking lot. A full four people were forced to bow out, either due to illness or tardiness. That attrition set the tone for the trip, as a number of strange occurrences would become the defining moments of this Toledo Bus Trip.

At about 11:30am, while Roger, Joe and I were about one-quarter through our initial trip through the convention center, the lights flickered, came back, flickered once more, and then the entire place went pitch black. About ten seconds later, emergency lights kicked on, giving the crowd enough light to continue browsing. We assumed the problem would be fixed within a few minutes – probably a breaker or something.

We talked to a member of the Weak Signals club that puts on the show, and he said that a transformer blew, causing the blackout. He informed us it could be 10 minutes or the next morning before the power was restored. He didn’t seem very confident in the 10 minute guess, though, and when we left at 4:26pm, the main power was still out.

Either way, in the nearly twenty years that I have been attending the Toledo Show, this is the first time I’ve seen anything like this. It’s strange, but was in no way a deal-breaker.

There wasn’t much interesting to see anyway.

The Hubsan X4 Pro

The highlight of the show, for me, was the Hubsan X4 in the Hobbico booth. It was originally unveiled as the Hobbico Ora Drone, but a dispute between Hobbico and Hubsan changed the name and company of origin. This is unfortunate, because as cool as the X4 is, it’s a hard sell if it needs to be serviced by a Chinese company. No one wants to have to speak Mandarin to get their quadcopter fixed. Even so, the sweet transmitter with an Android tablet interface built-in is really cool, and the fact that the X4 can do waypoints is great too. If Hobbico can sort out who services the X4, this might just be a great product. It’s going to run $1,400 for a Ready-to-Fly package and is due out sometime between June and July.

Horizon’s booth, usually the high point of the show for me, was oddly dull. The highly anticipated Blade Mach 25 racing quadcopter was nowhere to be seen (though a Horizon employee told me it would be arriving tomorrow), so we couldn’t lay our eyes on that. The rest of their booth we’d either seen before or wasn’t anything exciting to me. The Blade Glimpse was on display, but due to the power outage, there was no charged battery to demo it with, not even simply for the purposes of checking out the FPV camera rig. The newly-announced HobbyZone Stratocam was on display, but doesn’t impress me at all. I think Horizon believes that adding a camera to an existing (or previously existing) airplane makes it 100% new again, but it doesn’t really add anything interesting at all. The only addition the camera creates is that of the price.

The HobbyZone Stratocam

I was also surprised at the absence of some Horizon staffers. Steve Petrotto, in particular, was not in attendance — all the more obvious when he has been highly visible for the last few months, appearing on Good Morning America and the Today Show on their drones episodes, as well as attending the first ever Drone Film Festival in New York. With a high-profile Blade announcement the day before, his absence is strange.

I found myself disappointed, yet again, with the prevalence cheap Chinese junk being sold on the show floor. It’s incredibly depressing to see hobbyists that should know better, purchase products that will end up broken and unrepairable, when good quality hobby products with a solid brand behind them aren’t much more expensive. I understand that for most, the economy hasn’t recovered and saving a buck is hugely important, but spending a bit more on your hobby seems like a worthwhile trade off to me. I hope – probably in vain – that the organizers of the show realize the damage they are doing to the true hobby industry by allowing these foreign con artists peddle their wares at the Toledo Show.

Overall, the show was eventful, but uninteresting. The important thing is that the passengers we brought down with us on our chartered bus enjoyed the show, and consensus seems to indicate they did. As I’ve said before regarding this show, it’s not really for dealers – new products aren’t announced, there isn’t time to talk to the people in the booths to get all your questions really answered, and it’s more show-and-tell than informative trade show fare. It’s really a consumer show, and now largely a buying show, where great deals mean bring plenty of money. All of which is fine, but it’s not really a show for me.