Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cool $20 Model Helicopter that Really Flies!

When I was in college, I heard second-hand that there existed model helicopters that were just like a real helicopter in just about every way--cyclic, collective, tail rotor. Only two problems: They were a bitch to learn how to fly, and they were hundreds of dollars--heck, maybe more; definitely more than I could afford.

Recently I was browsing online for presents for my kids and found this. It's a small remote-controlled helicopter that works surprisingly well and is the best $20 toy I've ever bought for myself. (Recommended for ages 12 and up--so my boys get to watch me fly it since they're not old enough!) To keep the cost down, they've made a couple compromises that don't affect the fun factor:



  • Controlled by infrared (like a TV remote), so you need line of sight (but how can you really fly it if you can't see it, anyway?) In practice, you can still fly it around obstacles; but I wouldn't try to turn a corner.
  • Notice the tail rotor points up; that gives you pitch control for going forward and back. Rotational stability is provided by adjusting the relative speed of the counter-rotating rotors, in lieu of the cyclic.
  • Rather than adjusting pitch of the blades to change lift, the amount of lift is controlled by the speed of rotation of the rotors.


Pluses:

  • Surprisingly durable. When you're learning to fly it, it's inevitable that you'll hit the wall or the floor a few times. It's struck some stuff pretty hard several times and it still works fine.
  • The kids absolutely love to see it fly.
  • House guests also really like it. Be prepared for them to want to fly it too.


Minuses:

  • Charge only lasts 5-10 minutes.
  • Drives one of my dogs absolutely nuts and so I can't fly it without a loud, continuous barking noise. Plus if I get too close to the ground he tries to go for the jugular. One time I let it drop to the ground and he went at it like a rabid squirrel. And it still flies after that!
So it's not exactly like a real helicopter, but it's pretty easy to fly, a heck of a lot of fun, and cheap enough to replace if you should happen to wreck it.

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