HomeReview: Axis Drones Aerius puts quadcopter fun right in your pocket

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Despite the increasing number of companies making and marketing consumer drones, there’s apparently still room for growth and innovation. For example, Axis Drones’ Aerius quadcopter is touted as the smallest one ever manufactured. We got some hands-on time with the wee wonder.

When it comes to being tiny, the Aerius does a fine job, as it’s shorter than a US quarter stood on end. And if you were to land the Aerius on top of that quarter, the “feet” would sit just outside the outer edge. This drone is definitely finger-size, smaller even than theEstes Proto X quadcopter we reviewed a couple of years ago. Aside from the internal components and wires, the Aerius is primarily made of a lightweight plastic, which is durable enough to withstand normal operation and plenty of unexpected crashes. At the worst (generally), you’d only have to readjust and/or re-attach the propellers, which poke right back on.

The only moving parts on the Aerius itself are the props and power switch. A bit of circuit board sticks out of the rear, which plugs into the included USB cable in order to recharge the quadcopter. And in case you forget its orientation, the Aerius sports two pairs of LEDs that light up while it’s on; red indicates the rear and blue indicates the front. The LEDs are bright enough to be visible indoors during the day, and they make nighttime flying pretty darn fun. Direct/outdoor sunlight instantly drowns out the lights, however, so you’ll have to either color a pair of blades with a Sharpie or have a keen sense of orientation to know which way you’re flying.

The Axis Drones Aerius quadcopter features colored LEDs to indicate front and rear orientation

The package also includes a transmitter, two AAA batteries (for the transmitter), an extra set of four rotor blades, and an instruction booklet, which is definitely worth the read for fledgling flyers. When not in use, the Aerius stows away safely within its transmitter under a clear plastic lid that locks shut. It’s too bad there’s no extra room for the USB cable. But either way, the Aerius’s transmitter is of a portable size, roughly that of two decks of cards stacked upon each other. It’s pretty easy to tuck it away in coat or bag pockets for impromptu fun wherever, whenever. Those comparing the Aerius to the strikingly-similarSkeye Nano drone may find that the Aerius’s transmitter with storage space makes all the difference for convenience. If not, well, the Aerius also charges in half the time.

Flight Control & Performance

The Aerius’s transmitter is comfortable to handle, like many dual-analog gaming controllers. While compact for average-sized adult hands, it may feel a bit on the small side for those with larger fingers. The corners feel smooth and well-rounded, nestling in palms without digging in. Thumbs can rest on the sticks without having to over-reach or cramp up. The analog sticks themselves feel firm and springy, pushing with smooth movement and resistance. Below the sticks lie a pair of buttons, with the right-side one being used to adjust for drift (left-side does nothing). These buttons are stiff and deliver a noisy click when pressed. They also have a bit of wiggle/rattle, but it doesn’t affect operation at all.

From its resting place within the transmitter, it takes less than 10 seconds to get the Aerius up and zipping about in the air. After switching both the drone and controller on, and then pairing the two by pushing the left stick all the way up then down, the Aerius’s LEDs will stop blinking and remain lit, indicating that it’s ready to fly. The left analog stick controls yaw (rotation) and vertical thrust while the right stick controls directional movement (left/right and forward/reverse). It’s all labeled in the included manual for easy reference. The Aerius can fly an impressive 70 ft (21 m) away from the transmitter while still maintaining a connection. It possibly could go farther, but at that distance it’s already a small thing to keep track of.

The Axis Drones Aerius quadcopter tucks away safely inside its transmitter when not in use

The Aerius responds quickly to the guidance of the analog controls, needing only a light touch to get it going. Directional and yaw operation are excellent, with acceleration feeling linear to how far the sticks are pushed. So long as the sticks are nudged gently and smoothly, the Aerius won’t go shooting off somewhere unexpectedly. The transmitter is pretty sensitive, requiring a bit of practice to get the feel of it and fly without having to constantly over-correct. However, things get a touch trickier when it comes to maintaining a steady vertical hover. At best, one can have the Aerius very gradually ascending or very gradually descending, which deserves merit considering the Aerius’s simplicity and size. Movement and remaining battery life can also affect how well the drone sustains a steady altitude.

The biggest challenge in flying the Aerius is the directional drift. Once the rotors start spinning to provide the drone with sufficient lift, the Aerius will start to head off on its own (even right out of the box). The trim tab on the transmitter is meant to help correct this issue. If the Aerius drifts left, then you’ll want to keep pressing right on the button until you’re satisfied. If it drifts forward, then you press down. If it drifts off at an angle, then you have to press two directions on the button separately. The problem is that the trim settings never bring the Aerius to the point where it stays put, at least not for very long. All the trim does is reduce the severity of drift.

The Axis Drones Aerius quadcopter takes about 15 minutes to fully charge for 5-7 minutes of flight time

But once you put away the intricate obstacle course and target landing pads, ditching precision for casual flying, it’s easy to enjoy the Aerius for simple fun. For roughly 15 minutes of charge time, you do indeed get 5 to 7 minutes of flight time. The included USB cable has an internal LED that lights up while the drone is charging, and it automatically shuts off after the battery is full. Aside from the drift, the Aerius is pretty stable and flies smoothly. It’s even programmed to perform aerial tricks. Through the right analog stick, four maneuvers can be executed: a front/back flip and left/right roll. These are fun to pull off, so long as you remember to keep enough space from obstacles. And be prepared to account for the drift to resume as soon as each maneuver has completed.