[Review] Aura Drone – a futuristic drone that’s controlled with hand gestures
Have you ever watched a futuristic movie where the main characters are using hand gestures to operate holographic displays? Did you think to yourself how awesome it would be to have something like that in real life? Well, you’re in luck. The drone world has been buzzing with excitement for the last couple of weeks because of the release of Aura, a drone that uses a gesture operated glove as the transmitter. Yes, you’ve read that right, you control the drone using a glove.
Aura was developed by KD Interactive, a Philadelphia based toy company that is just now starting to make inroads into the world of toy drones. Aura is a toy drone. Even though from all the hype surrounding it you’d think we’re dealing with some kind of revolution in the way drones are controlled. Aura is basically using a reworked and refined sensor aided control systems like the one used by Eachine E56 and its gravity controlled transmitter. An important thing to note is that Aura is intended for indoor use, with a limited range of around 20ft. With an MSRP of around $100 it’s a bit of a pricier side, but still, it’s a nice buy if you happen to find it on sale.
Aura Drone Review- design, specs, pros, cons
The drone itself doesn’t look that different from other similar toy drones from for example Air Hogs that I covered earlier. KD Interactive even opted to use a circular protective cage around the whole drone which helps protect it during bumps and crashes. The drone itself has dimensions of about 15cm in width/length and around 5cm in height. With the protective cage, the drones’ diameter increases to about 20cm. Replaceable battery is located underneath the drone. The design looks great and the drone feels very sturdy in hands.
What makes this drone super interesting is its use of gesture control of the drone, using the “gesturebotics” glove, as KD Interactive calls it. The glove can be seen in the image above. The glove itself isn’t really that interesting, it’s just an ordinary glove. What however is interesting is the actual transmitter module, let’s call it that, which straps onto the back-side of your hand, over the glove. But before we go into details, let’s talk specs first.
Dimensions with protective cage: 20cm diameter
Dimensions of drone itself: 15cm x 15cm x 5cm
Battery type/size: Li-Po 3.7V 500mAh
Battery replaceable: yes, spares available soon
Charge time: 20-30 minutes
Flight time: 5-7 minutes
GPS positioning: N/A
microSD support: N/A
Camera adjustable: N/A
Transmitter: yes, gesture operated glove
Transmitter battery: built-in Li-po
Distance: 8 meters
Wifi technology: 2.4Ghz
VR support: N/A
Special features: auto takeoff/land, altitude hold, flips, safety cage, gyro stabilization
What makes Aura Drone interesting?
Small size – Aura is very small, which makes sense because the drone is for indoor use only
Transmitter – a fresh approach to controlling the drone using gesture control module
Replaceable battery – the battery is replaceable, spares will be available on Amazon and Toys’R’Us
Protective cage – round protective cage around the drone helps against bumps and crashes
Altitude hold – altitude hold is available and it works very well, altitude lock is very stable
Additional – gyro stabilization, flips, auto takeoff/landing
What could have been done better?
Limited range – Aura is for indoor use only, but still top range of 8m could be better
No headless mode – there is no headless mode, only headlock mode is available
Aura Drone review – a closer look
Let’s talk about the glove
I’m really sorry to do this to your inner child, but the glove is actually not that important when it comes to controlling Aura. The glove is just a prop, nothing else. What’s important is the transmitter module that’s strapped with velcro straps at the back of the hand, see image down below.
The glove doesn’t do anything
Aura Drone Review
Essentially, yes. The transmitter module could be just as easily strapped onto a bare hand without a glove. You might make the argument that glove prevents chaffing from the module straps, in which case you do need it. The glove is extremely stretchy, so it’s one size fits all.
The small rounded transmitter module is where all the magic happens as far as gesture controls and “gesturebotics” goes, with which KD Interactive is so proudly boasting. I presume that that’s where the gravity sensor for detecting hand movements is located. The module itself is placed on the back of the hand, straps are connected across the palm. The strap is adjustable, just like the glove, so anyone can place the control module on their hand, both kids and adults alike. LEDs in the middle there actually have a function. They report back the current direction in which the drone is being flown.
Ergonomic design, limited range
Finding out that a bulky transmitter module is used to translate hand gestures to Aura takes a bit of the magic away. It’d be much cooler if it was only a glove that’s used. Still, even though you might think that having the module strapped to your hand feels clumsy, it really isn’t. Design is very ergonomic, the module is very light and to be honest you don’t even feel it there. The range, however, is a problem. I mean, with a max range of about 8 meters, this drone has the smallest range out of all the drones that we’ve tested so far. Again, this drone is advertised for indoor use only, but still, the range could be better.
How do you fly the KD Interactive Aura Drone?
That is an excellent question. Those of you reading this with a bit more experience flying drones probably know the standard drone controls, throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll. Well Aura Drone, or should I say it’s a transmitter, doesn’t have yaw. It’s a head locked drone that only flies in the direction that you have its head oriented. Forward hand tilt flies the drone forward, backward tilt flies it backward. Tilting the hand left makes the drone go sideways to the left, right makes it go sideways to the right. Another word for this is changing the roll. Video down below shows a demo of what I’ve just now explained.
To get Aura in the air simply press the one-key takeoff button. Altitude, going up/down, is controlled by keeping the thumb pressed on the altitude control button along the ridge of the hand and tilting the hand up/down. To do a flip, press the altitude control button again only now do a left/right-hand tilt, depending on in which direction you want the drone to flip. It’s a very interesting way of controlling the drone. Very intuitive. Even if you never have flown a drone before Aura, you’ll be up and running in no time. Everything is very fast and snappy.
Aura comes with a single 500 mAh 3.7V battery which is replaceable. The battery is located under the drone, in an open slot with the connector plug exposed. Having a replaceable battery is something that I really like about Aura. True that replacements aren’t available for purchase just yet, but KD Interactive has said that it’ll be offering spares on Amazon and in Toys’R’Us stores. With the one battery that does come with the drone, you’ll get around 5-6 minutes of flight time before having to charge it up again for about 20-30 minutes.
Aura doesn’t really impress that much when it comes to some of the features that even cheaper drones have by now. There is no camera, so no video recording, photos, FPV, FPV control, etc. I don’t think there’s any need for it really, seeing how this is a toy drone aimed at kids. Since the drone is aimed at kids, it can, of course, do tricks and it does them really well, as I have already explained. As far as the rest of the features goes, the drone has gyro stabilization and altitude hold. That’s about it really.
Aura is a lot of fun to fly. It doesn’t take a lot of time to figure out the controls. Due to its small size and an extremely small range, the drone is limited to indoor use only. Flying it outside is possible, but not in any kind of stronger wind. Due to its small size Aura doesn’t do that well against the wind. The range is also a limiting factor for flying the drone outside. 8 meters of the max range isn’t enough for even the smallest of backyards. Everything else works great, tricks, the drone is very stable, and the glove is a lot of fun, as I have already stated.
Aura drone review
Would I recommend this drone to you? well I have to say yes, but maybe try to make the purchase when it’s on sale. It currently is on sale actually and instead of paying the MSRP of $100, the drone will set you back only $72. That’s a far more acceptable price for this novelty drone, although getting it for the full price isn’t that bad either. Aura is a lot of fun and I think it’ll be a lot of fun for kids and those looking to experience a new way of controlling drones.