August 18, 2011
If you haven't heard, Griffin Technology's previously announced Helo TC iOS-controlled mini RC helicopter is now available in their online store. Designed and marketed to be an affordable alternative to more sophisticated and ultimately very costly remote controlled products, the Helo TC won't fully satisfy immense cravings for Parrot’s AR.Drone quadricopter. But to be honest, many of us will likely never have the opportunity to gloat or even pilot one of those magnificent flying machines anyway. Helo TC is equipped with a headlight containing five bright LEDs for night or otherwise dimly lit flying environments, driven by a very stable dual main rotors and a small tail rotor system, powered by a lithium-polymer battery pack, charged via a USB connection, and controlled using the Helo TC iOS app. Flight times average 10 minutes and a full charge takes about 30 minutes to complete. The app provides forward, backward, and side to side control by tilting your iDevice or moving a virtual joystick. Overall throttling is done via a touch sensitive slider. Controls can be adjusted for left or right preference, plus the app offers the choice of one of three different channels, allowing up to three Helo TCs to be operated in the same general area. Because it is a controlled by an app with "soft" controls, Griffin's product has features other mini RC helicopters have not implemented. The Helo TC iOS app includes an emergency land function, just like Parrot does for the AR.Drone, and a flight recording system. Using the flight recorder, users can choose to repeat one of up to three flight paths later on. Griffin's Helo TC package includes what they call the Flight Deck. This device slides over the edge of an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch and connects to the headphone jack. The Flight Deck is required because the helicopter takes commands via an infrared connection. It takes four AAA batteries to power the accessory - I recommend getting rechargeable versions for the cheapest operation. Though it should be obvious, the Helo TC has some limitations. Due to its lightweight design, smaller size (~7.5 inches long), and infrared communication system, the Helo TC is not capable of flying outdoors. However, some claim it flies fine at night with very calm or no wind conditions. The IR system also forces pilots to be in line of sight. Speaking of sight, there is no video system like on the AR.Drone. Our initial post contained comments about being able to purchase a very similar model from outlets such as Amazon for a cheaper price. In response to these comments, $50 isn't a terrible price and, as mentioned earlier, Griffin's offering has a few features the stock product doesn't. Plus, you can gloat about owning an iOS-controlled toy. The Helo TC is available from Griffin's web store for $49.99 plus shipping and handling. The Helo TC app is universally compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later, and available in the App Store as a free download. The Helo TC package includes the Helo TC mini RC helicopter, Li-Polymer battery pack, Flight Deck IR transmitter, and one replacement main rotor and tail section assembly. Griffin recommends the Helo TC for those age 14 and older.