“Your Easy-To-Use Aerial Photo and Video Assistant. Meet Aton Plus, Your Personal Video Assistant.” That is the first thing you’ll read when you visit Traxxas Aton website. What is the Aton all about and who is the target market is the first that comes to my mind.
It seems obvious Traxxas is intent on promoting this from the video angle first and have given pilot’s two choices with the Aton and the Aton Plus. The difference is between the two is that the Plus has a larger battery and a 2-axis camera gimbal.
Second, no experience necessary is somewhat of a Traxxas mantra and the Aton Plus is no exception, according to Traxxas. And that also means the Aton Plus has to be durable.
Third, it’s the only 2-axis gimbal quadcopter on the market that has 3 modes: Film, Sport, Expert. So while other machines are purpose built, Traxxas decided to give the Aton Plus owners a real option for different styles of flying.
Traxxas introduces you to the Aton with the Quick Start Guide and the Know Before You Fly pilot responsibilities.
I suspect many looking to buy and fly the ATON+ will be coming to it because of the Traxxas name and reputation. And while Traxxas begins each quick start guide with warnings, the surface side of r/c is significantly different that flying a drone. The FAA has specific restrictions, including drone registration, all exhaustively covered at knowbeforeyoufly.org.
In true Traxxas fashion, everything you need to fly is included. The ATON+ (Model #7909) comes with an upgraded 5000mAh 3S LiPo battery and 2-axis gimbal versus a 3000mAh 3S LiPo battery and fixed camera mount for the ATON. The charger is also included.
Understanding the ATON+ transmitter is next after understanding your obligations as a drone pilot. The throttle and flight sticks will be familiar to anyone with drone or r/c helicopter experience. And it will also be the biggest challenge to any newcomer to drone flying.
The transmitter LCD screen has the necessary information you need to fly including TX & RX battery, flight mode, throttle rate, helicopter lights on/off, and status of AUX1 and AUX2.
The ATON+ can take up to a minute to initialize for flight. On the back of the ATON+ are 4 lights: Power, GPS, Home, Info. To begin flying, the pilot must set the ATON+ on the ground with the status bar facing you. The ATON+ will begin searching for the GPS satellites and will emit a tone and glow solid when complete. The Home indicator then lights up indicating the Home position has been set. After all 4 indicators are green, the ATON+ is ready to arm for flight.
The Throttle has to be all the way down, followed by pressing the arm/disarm button on the transmitter. A sound will emanate and the ATON+ is ready to fly.
The throttle stick needs to be pushed to 50% and the ATON+ will send itself and hold a hover at 8-10’ off the ground. Push further on the throttle stick and you’ll hear a high-pitched tone indicating you’re gaining altitude. Descend and you’ll you hear a low-pitched tone. Hover and you won’t hear anything.
In FILM mode, the ATON+ will do everything it can to hold its position using a 6-axis flight control system, allowing the pilot to focus on pictures or video. The control inputs are extremely docile from the factory. The pilot can change the settings via the app or while flying, which will allow for faster flight and quicker response from transmitter inputs.
In most cases, the settings for FILM mode are fine and brilliant for a new pilot. However, changing to more aggressive settings was helpful to me when chasing faster moving objects like r/c cars.
SPORT MODE, AIR BRAKES & HOME:
Remove the camera and legs (4 screws), jump over to SPORT mode and watch the ATON+ come alive. This is also where the AUX1 button is available to initiate various aerobatics: front, back, side and diagonal flips. The AUX2 continues its role as your Air Brakes or panic button… increasingly useful with a dialed up drone.
If you find yourself disoriented, confused or at risk of crashing and need to pause to catch your breath or regain perspective, this is your button. Simply hold the button down for as long as it takes you to collect your thoughts and the ATON+ will bring itself to a hover until you release the button and start flying again. I don’t care how many years you’ve been flying, this is a sweet little button to have at your disposal!
If you shake up your nerves enough, you can also tap the home button on the TX to bring the ATON+ back to where it launched. There is no obstacle avoidance, so caution is advised. However, the ATON+ will make the move back home at 45’ or higher. So if you’re in the trees and tap the home button, the ATON+ elevates to 45’ and heads to the home position, then descends to its takeoff point. Cancel return to home by tapping AUX2 Air Brakes.
When Traxxas says Expert Mode, they aren’t joking. The ATON+ shuts down all it’s aides and puts the drone entirely in the hands of the pilot’s inputs. No assists in this mode, so expert mode should only be activated by experienced pilots.
The ATON+ has a few other features to help keep itself safe and you out of trouble. First is geofencing– a GPS enable boundary for the ATON+, set at approximately 500’. Should you fly outside that boundary, the ATON+ returns to home. Once it’s back within the 500’, pressing and releasing the air brakes gives you back flying control.
There is also a low voltage flysafe (telemetry) 2-way communication with the ATON+. Before the battery is completely discharged, the ATON+ has 3 levels of warning. First is to emit a tone every 5 seconds. Second, the tone will be continuous. Lastly, the ATON+ will emit the return to home tone, land and disarm itself.
And finally, should you end up in the weeds because you went for the air brakes a little too late, there is a retrieval “find me” beeper.
FIRMWARE & SOFTWARE:
For those with some technical experience or geek tendencies, the ATON+ some evolving open source software you might like.
SOFTWARE & FIRMWARE
Seeing the Invisible
What if you had the ability to record and see the invisible? Well, we’ve got something cool to tell you. You can.
Aton opens the door to new and exciting features in the world of flight. Part of that excitement is the ability to use Google Earth™ and Mission Planner.
Mission Planner is a program created by Michael Oborne that takes the fun of flight beyond just simply flying. It’s a software application that gives you access to Aton’s flight information. Aton records mission log files onto a microSD card. These mission log files can be downloaded from Aton for analysis after flights, or simply just to see what your flight(s) looked like.
With Mission Planner, you can convert your flight information for use in Google Earth™. This gives you the ability to view your flight path over the terrain map in Google ™. Here’s how to do it. Note: You will need to fly Aton with a microSD card installed, and then remove the card for use in the following steps. We recommend saving the information from your card to a file on your computer. CHECK IT OUT HERE
Drones are a hot segment right now and growing exponentially. Traxxas is innovating again by creating a drone with multiple personalities that everyone can and will enjoy flying. They are bridging the gap between very expensive camera drones and the fun of micro quads and racing drones with the ATON+.
A 2-axis gimbal feels like a miss to me, but I noticed in 2016 they will be offering a 3-axis gimbal. That’s an obvious evolution and I’m glad to see they’ve already announced it. The transmitter will not appeal to everyone, but it’s familiar and works well.
The ATON+ is every bit Traxxas tough and is the complete package. It’s quiet yet energetic. It’s easy to work on and you can make it your own with different color options. It’s got utility and playfulness. It’s Traxxas so parts are everywhere.
I have no doubt Traxxas learned from building the ATON+, and I can’t wait to see what they do with v2.0. I also suspect we’ll see many improvements to the app. In the meantime, this version is pretty special.