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Propel’s Star Wars drones get a new flight simulator app

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Red Five, standing by

Photo by Bryan Bishop / The Verge

Propel’s Star Wars drones wowed fans when they were first announced last year, and now the company is taking the next step in building out its drones with a new mobile app.

The new Star Wars Battle Drone app looks to solve one of the toughest parts of owning a drone — learning how to fly it without crashing. To that end, Propel has done something really clever: it created a virtual flight simulator in the app that teaches users how to fly and maneuver the ships using the same control pad (which pairs over Bluetooth) that you’d use to fly the actual drone.

Of course, much like the drones themselves, the flight simulator is Star Wars-themed down to the bones. The virtual environment has players flying their digital drone in a Star Wars hanger, and both John Williams’ score and the iconic sound effects from the films are in frequent use. Also, as players compete lessons, they’ll rank up in either Imperial Navy or Rebel Alliance fleets (depending on which drones they’re using). The lessons are pretty comprehensive, too, ranging from simpler ideas like turning or adjusting height, to more complex maneuvers like dodging enemy fire during a heated dogfight.

Along with training, the Battle Drone app can be paired to a device to use as a scoreboard for the dogfights that are the most important part of any Star Wars spaceship experience, which is a neat extra.

I got to try out both the flight simulator app and the actual drones, and as someone with minimal drone-flying experience, the app is fairly successful at teaching the controls. Propel says that it tried to mimic the actual physics of the real craft, and the digital copy does bob up and down convincingly (although it doesn’t drift around quite as much as the real McCoy).

Photo by Bryan Bishop / The Verge

In addition to the new app, Propel’s drones will also be much easier to buy in the US. The Battle Drones slated to be sold at Target, Best Buy, Staples, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Brookstone, Academy Sports, JC Penney, and Barnes & Noble starting September 1st, which is the same day that the new Battle Drones app goes live for Android and iOS.