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Unbelievable RC

Sea Shadow

October 2008
sea shadow

Street Price: $39.99 US
Manufacturer: Fast Lane
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 6+
Our recommended age range: ~11
Primary use: Pools & ponds
Radio: 49mhz
Includes:

  • Assembled craft
  • Transmitter
  • Lead balance weights
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 6 x AA batteries
  • 1 x 9V battery

Initial Impressions

The Sea Shadow is a pretty unique watercraft. It's designed to work as both a boat and as a submarine, but it looks a lot like a plane! It has two wing-like structures along the sides for stability, plus two more up front that will actually angle up or down to control diving and rising. Underneath, there are two streamlined motor pods, each with its own propeller.

sea shadow

Preparation

The controller takes one 9V battery, and the Sea Shadow itself takes six AA cells in a sealed compartment that you access from the top (you remove the part that looks like two jet engines). The battery door is held down by four screws that are a bit of a pain to get to, because you need a narrow screwdriver to fit in the holes.

The box includes a handful of small lead weights that you may need to balance the Sea Shadow in the water. There's a hollow compartment on the bottom that you can remove to insert the weights. As it turns out, not all water that you might want to use the Sea Shadow in is the same. Some water is "hard," meaning it has a lot of minerals dissolved in it, while some is "soft" or pretty pure. Hard water is more dense, and when you put a boat into it, it'll float higher. To counter this, you would need to add all of the included weights.

That's not the end of it. Not all batteries weigh the same. Since the batteries are more towards the rear of the Sea Shadow, heavier cells will make it lean back in the water a little, so to counter that you would want to install the weights as far forward in the compartment as possible. The instructions say to adjust the placement of weights to keep the side wings partially submerged, and for the whole craft to be level in the water if you look at it from the side.

It's too complicated!

  

Testing

Interestingly, the Sea Shadow's motors run whenever both it and the radio are on. Normally with RCs with twin-stick controllers, the left stick controls forward/reverse motion, and the right one controls left/right turning. On the Sea Shadow, the right stick does control turning, but the left one controls the front flaps to make it submerge or descend. To go, you turn on the boat/sub, put it in the water facing away from you, then turn on the radio and it will immediately move forward. It's not too fast, and it's very controllable, turning in a very small space when you want it to. Push down on the left stick on the controller and it will dive down, but only if you have the weights set up right -- I had to adjust a few times to move more weight to the back because the front was diving but the back was staying above the water. It moves at a pretty decent speed underwater, so you need to be careful! Once it's submerged it behaves like a plane and it's possible to make it go almost vertical either going down or coming up, and you really don't want that because then it could flip upside down and you'll lose control. It's best to push down on the left stick just long enough to get the craft it to dive, then pull back briefly to make it level off underwater. I also found it to last less than 10 minutes on a battery charge.

Conclusion

The Sea Shadow is pretty interesting once you get the hang of it, but it takes way too much work to get it set up right, and it takes an older kid's coordination to operate, but then it's a bit slow for their tastes. I'm not sure just who this craft is really good for. Other reviews I've read have expressed frustration over short running times, and many have had the battery compartment leak underwater and short out. I want to like this thing, but I can't.

D+

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