Last week, Horizon Hobby announced the Blade Chroma, the follow-up to their popular Blade 350QX line of quadcopters. While it’s only been a week since the announcement, there is already a handful of things we know about the new release.
The Chroma will be replacing the 350QX line of quadcopters.
While it certainly appeared this way, I had trouble believing Horizon would toss out the good will they’ve been able to capture by having the 350QX line appear on shows like Today and Good Morning America. That said, I contacted Steve Petrotto of Blade Helicopters and he confirmed the 350QX3 is the last of that line. Whether or not future releases will occur under the Chroma line is still up in the air, and probably depends on how well the Chroma does once released, but this is the end of the line for the 350QX.
GPS waypoints are not a thing – but could be.
Steve also confirmed for me that GPS waypoints are not going to be a feature on the Chroma. While he couldn’t tell me exactly why, I suspect it has to do with protecting Horizon from lawsuits, but this is just supposition. I can't think of any other reason they would allow their competitors to continually one-up them on this feature.
However, Steve did tell me the hardware of the Chroma does support the possibility of GPS waypoints should Horizon choose to update the firmware to allow it. So at least once their legal butt gets covered, there’s a chance a Chroma owner could gain that ability someday without having to purchase a new quadcopter.
SMART Mode works just like the 350QX – except when it doesn’t.
So SMART mode works as we’ve come to expect it when operating the Chroma normally. It’s tied to the GPS location where it took off, and creates a SAFE circle behind it and all of the controls are relative to the pilot, so long as she stands in the circle. Fine.
However, the Chroma adds two new modes to the mix: Follow Me and Tracking. Both of these modes involve the quadcopter autonomously following the pilot holding the transmitter. So I asked how SMART mode was handled when using Follow Me or Tracking to move from one location to another. My concern was taking off from one location, then moving half a mile down the road, and attempting to use SMART Mode at the new location – would it be uncontrollable because of the drastic change in location?
Apparently, it’s a moot point, as SMART mode is disabled when in these modes. So it’s a non-issue. While Follow Me and Tracking modes are enabled, the Chroma is basically in a version of SMART mode – it won’t fly into the pilot – and the camera controls (when in Follow Me) are set up using a relative SMART mode that uses the location of the transmitter as its reference point.
Similarly, the Return to Home function resets based on the transmitter’s location while in Follow Me and Tracking modes as well, so it won’t try to fly half a mile back to its original take off location.
Maximum range of video transmission is around 6.3 football fields.
If you’re used to the video going out on the 350QX3 AP Combo, well, the Chroma has a solution for you. In the versions that come with a camera, the video transmission range shouldn’t be a problem. Steve stated that the range limit for video is 400 – 600 meters. That's more than six American football fields in distance. That's longer than the Empire State Building is tall.
This only applies when using the ST10+ transmitter that comes with the Chroma. So adding the camera to the BNF version later won’t have the same range.
It’s also worth noting that pilots in WiFi heavy areas will have reduced video transmission range.
The battery is proprietary. The charger doesn’t have to be.
As you can see in this video, Steve is demonstrating that the unique battery for the Chroma can be charged on an existing charger, and isn’t tied to the in-box unit. So for those that want multiple batteries and a charger to charge them all at once, you can still use your multiport charger for this quadcopter. Even better, these batteries can be charged at very high currents, allowing advanced users to get in the air faster!
No plans to introduce “No-Fly Zones”
Sorry, lazy pilots. Horizon expects you to know where you can and can’t fly your Chroma. They have no plans to implement GPS lockouts in locations where drones aren’t allowed. This includes stadiums, airports, and restricted federal airspace. So do your homework and make sure you can legally fly where you are before you put your Chroma in the air, and make sure to familiarize yourself with the law before you fly.
Surely we’ll have more information on these before they ship late July – and if we’re really lucky, we might get our hands on one before then. Stay tuned for more on the Blade Chroma in the coming months – and don’t forget to pre-order your Chroma today to make sure you get once first!