Big boys toys: Griffin Helo TC smartphone-controlled RC helicopter

Last weekend, I tweeted about my “new toy” – Griffin’s Helo TC remote control helicopter, which is controlled from an iOS or Android mobile device:

I got quite a few replies asking me to write about how I got on with it so, here goes.

I already had a BlackGhost RC chopper that I was given by Microsoft at the UK Windows Server 2008 launch.  I flew that when I got back to the office (once, before one of my colleagues got annoyed) and then at home a bit, but after a few crashes it mostly stayed in the loft until my son spotted it and pestered to have a go. To be honest the BlackGhost was a bit big for indoor use, a bit rubbish outdoors and is only made of polystyrene and plastic.  My son was really keen to get something a bit better – only he fancies a decent quadcopter (no chance – it’s me who’s paying for this, not him!) so, when I saw the Griffin Helo TC in the supermarket for £30, I thought we should give it a go.

Firstly, I should point out that it’s an indoor toy.  That’s not clear from the packaging but we took it outdoors and struggled a bit. Even the lightest of breezes would carry the Helo TC out of range and send it crashing to the floor.  Thankfully it’s more resilient than it looks!

“Back at base” (after the boys were tucked up in bed), I had another go and was much more successful inside the house – but you really need a lot of space to get used to flying (more than I have).

Based on my complete lack of prior research I had expected the Helo TC to be Bluetooth controlled but it actually comes with an IR remote that clips on to the iPhone/iPad/Android phone and plugs into the headphone jack.  Engage Airplane Mode (seems appropriate!) and turn up the volume, then control the Helo TC with a free app that sends control signals via audio to the IR unit.  Power comes from a USB charge (approx 35 mins), engineering quality is pretty good for such an inexpensive device and it comes with spare rotor blades (main and tail). If you want a full review though, there’s more detailed online (including Engadget and LegitReviews).

My verdict: definitely an impulse buy; a bit of fun for some father-and-son time – but really needs a lot of space to learn to fly!

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