Every so often a fairly unique add-on for Microsoft enters the market. Amidst all the airliners, prop planes, fighter jets and turboprops, we’ve seen creative add-ons like steerable boats, cars, flying boats, gliders and more. When Got Friends announced their Astro ONE, it immediately caught my attention. Not because I normally fly aircraft – if you can consider this an aircraft – like this, but because I thought it was a novel and creative idea.
The Astro ONE is based on the real life Jetson ONE. This is an experimental EVTOL (electronic vertical take-off and landing) vehicle. It’s not an aircraft, it’s not a helicopter and it’s not a drone, despite showing similarities to all of these platforms. Jetson ONE’s aim is to change the way we travel. We may still be quite some way off that mark, but as for Got Friends Astro ONE, it certainly has changed the way I enjoy my simulator.
Model and Textures
The Astro ONE is a small vehicle meant for personal use. It does not feature landing gears and the cockpit is fairly simple. Despite this, the Astro ONE features some very detailed modelling. The frame is built up very nicely with high quality modelling. The engines, despite being fairly simple, still feature nicely modelled details, such as little air ducts where you can look inside and see copper wiring. There are realistic mounting frames with detailed screws and holes. The several cables running from the batteries look of high quality as well. The aircraft frame itself, together with the “bucket” in which you sit, is very nicely modelled. The cockpit features a very simple power lever, a basic joystick. On the front and rear of the plane you can find head and rear lighting. The modelling on this entire thing is very well done, the curves are smooth and I can’t see any jagged edges.
The textures also look detailed. You can clearly distinguish the texture of the carbon fibre from other materials. The carbon fibre has been used for the bucket (if you’re not using the plexiglass version), the beams that attach the rotors to the frame as well as the rotors themselves. The textures look of a high detail and you can clearly make out the recognisable carbon fibre pattern. The rest of the Astro ONE features mostly uniformly coloured metal bars that make up the frame. The reflections look good, and there are slight hints of wear and tear in places. There are a large number of liveries included with the Astro ONE, so you are bound to find one that you like to fly around with. My personal favourites so far are the clean white as well as the Neon coloured one.
The Astro ONE is highly customisable. You can install an optional propeller guard to keep yourself safe from bumping into things. The bucket in which you’re seated can be toggled between a carbon fibre option and one made of plexiglass so you can look down as you take to the skies. And the mirrors can be removed – something I always do because they don’t actually work in MSFS.
One of the Astro ONE’s coolest features, although this is subjective, is the RGB lighting. By enabling these you will see RGB lights on your engines as well as on your frame (not all frames support this). The rotor wingtips will also feature blade tip lighting when this feature is enabled. Combine this with the Neon livery for the vehicle and you have an RGB spectacle on hands, perfect for that 1980’s OutRun or Synthwave aesthetic if you ask me.
Flying the Astro ONE is fairly straightforward, although I did need to get the hang of it a little bit at first. I’ve never flown a helicopter in MSFS, so this might be easier for those that have. You use the power lever to increase the propeller RPM and provide lift. The joystick is in turn used to give the Astro ONE a direction. The default flight mode does exactly that, and it feels rather smooth to be flying around. The controls are quite responsive, you can make some decent speed and it’s pretty good for doing precision maneuvering.
There are three additional flight modes which alter the way certain controls work. Starting with the sport mode, which is the most straightforward one. The sports mode will double your yaw, pitch and roll rate. It will make doing aerobatics and racing easier. I personally prefer this mode over any other, simply because it requires less stick deflection to get where I want to go. The hover mode is also fairly straight forward. It will make you come to a full stop and let you hover in place. After this you only need to take care of the throttle to come down or go up.
The Terrain Tracking Mode is perhaps the most intricate mode as it features an automated throttle that will follow the terrain. You can customise how far above the terrain the throttle should keep you, ranging from 5 to 100 feet. It’s a neat little feature, although it has a few quirks. Especially when flying over terrain that changes a lot in altitude, I have found the terrain tracking mode to fail me a few times causing me to bump into the terrain if I didn’t make adjustments manually. Additionally, all flight modes feature a boost overdrive. This will temporarily increase your propeller RPM to 12000 (otherwise 8000 RPM is the max), which will help you do acrobatics, dodge objects or get an edge over your competition during a race.
A New Way of Flying
Got Friends Astro ONE includes a very unique feature: in the middle of the Utah desert you can find a neon-coloured race track. It comes complete with landing pads on the water, fireworks and laser lights. This is where the Neon Astro ONE fully comes to justice, as you take your RGB coloured flying machine through the similarly coloured track. It’s incredibly fun to do and it provides a decent challenge, especially if you’re just starting out with the Astro ONE. It’s also a really fun visual spectacle.
There is one more thing that makes the Astro ONE stand out to me above anything else though, and that is how I experience the world. For the last 2,5 years Microsoft has created an intricate world full of detail. Scenery developers have provided so many ways to make this world look even better, and yet I never experienced this world from up close. Most of the time this was because I fly from gate to gate, or from parking to parking. No matter where I go, my start and end points are always airports. Sure, I was able to take in the scenery along the way and enjoy some of the visual spectacles, but the Astro ONE allowed me to get much slower and closer. This allowed me to take in the beauty of a new scenery, explore a photogrammetry city or visit home and actually land in the backyard. Astro ONE, to me, has changed how I can explore new sceneries and take in the beautiful sights that have been created by developers. Astro ONE’s RGB lights, as much fun and good looking as they are, are a gimmick. However, the creativity from Got Friends to make such a unique add-on and experience a new way of flying, is not. And to me, that is the real power behind the Astro ONE.
Plus, it’s only a fraction of the price of a real Jetson ONE.