iPhone iPod Reviews - 27 November 2011
Author: Kristofer Brozio

I love toys, especially remote control ones. On a mobile site it’s hard to review toys, but what I have today combines mobility and toys, which makes me happy!

Today for review I’ve got the Griffin Helo TC which is a remote control helicopter with which you use your iPhone or iPod Touch to control it. Yes it’s novelty, but it is fun. You can control the Helo TC with touchscreen controls or just by moving your iPhone/iPod. The actual helicopter is very sturdy , I’ve crashed it plenty of times and it’s still going strong. Sturdy is a good thing as it can be difficult to control at times because of the lag between the iPod and the helicopter.

Author:  Kristofer Brozio

Vendor: Griffin

Price:  $49.95

Overall Rating: 4/5

 

Specs/Features:

Helo TC

Rule the office airspace with HELO TC, the touch-controlled RC helicopter you control with your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

HELO TC comes complete with a precision twin-rotor remote-controlled helicopter and Flight Deck. The Flight Deck plugs into your iOS device’s headphone jack and translates your commands into infrared signals that beam to the helicopter.

HELO TC’s intuitive, easy-to-learn controls and twin-rotor design make for stable, controlled flight. And the HELO TC app provides features not available with other RC helicopters, such as Auto Land so you can bring HELO TC down for a safe landing with just a tap of the Multi-Touch display.

HELO TC requires full volume output from your iOS device, and will not work properly with devices purchased in the EU, the UK, or any other region with volume limitations that cannot be turned off.

HELO TC delivers an aerial assault on the mundane.
Easy-to-fly indoor RC helicopter you control with your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

HELO TC comes complete with twin-rotor remote-controlled helicopter and Flight Deck.
The Flight Deck plugs into your iOS device’s headphone jack and beams infrared commands to the chopper.

Use the app to record and store up to three Flight Plans so you, or another pilot, can easily repeat a favorite flight pattern. Make up routes among the furniture, missions to fly, obstacles to avoid, goals to achieve, and replay them later with your friends.

App
Download the free HELO TC app and take RC flying to a whole new level with unique features like Auto Land and right-handed vs. left-handed flying.

Flight Modes
Use a virtual joystick on your Multi-Touch display to maneuver the chopper, or tilt your iOS device to move the chopper forward, backward, and side to side.

Flight Plans
Record and store up to three Flight Plans. Make up routes among the furniture, missions to fly, obstacles to avoid, goals to achieve, and replay them later with your friends.

3 Channels
Fly up to three HELO TC copters at one time, in one place, by simply changing channels from within the HELO TC app.

What’s in the Box?

So here’s the box, inside you’ll find a plastic tray with the helicopter, a small white box and the user manual.

Inside the plastic tray is the helicopter and a smaller plastic bag.

In the plastic bag you’ll find extra main blades, tail rotors and a USB plug with a power connection on it to charge the helicopter.

Remember that small white box, in that is what Griffin calls the Flight Deck. It’s actually a dock for your iPhone or iPod with an audio cable coming from it. On the front of it you’ll see the infrared LEDs that are used to control the helicopter. Yes it’s infrared controlled. The dock is rubberized and there are to flexible ‘clips’ that hold the iPod or iPhone in place. The Flight Deck uses four AAA batteries that fit in the back via two little doors.

The actual helicopter is very nicely made, I really like the looks of it.

The cockpit is black and it gives it an ominous look.

The rest of the helicopter is metal, so I think it’s rather sturdy. On the right side of the helicopter is the on/off switch and the charging port. The helicopter has several LEDs all around it, and on the front, you’ll see them all lit up shortly.

Something I’ve never seen before in an RC helicopter is that the tail rotor is facing up and not on the side like most others. The tail is on the bottom and there’s a small wing on the tail support as well.

 

Impressions / Review:

When you’re charging the helicopter, the USB connection lights up red.

Once you get it the helicopter charged, the next thing you’ll need to do is download the app. I used my iPod Touch 4th gen, then you can put it in the Flight deck. The deck holds it very well in place, but I found the small clips get in the way at times.

So you can control the helicopter via the touchscreen or you can use the gyro inside the iPod Touch to control is via movement. I found that controlling it movement is very hard and it’s more novelty than anything. It’s much easier to control with the actual controls.

The main control part of the interface consists or a slider on the left side for controlling the throttle and then the joystick on the right. In the middle are three buttons for Flight Plans, Settings and Auto Land. Above the joystick you’ll see the trim control and below that is the on/off for the helicopter’s LEDs. The Flight Plan actually let’s you record up to 20 seconds of you using the Helo TC and then play it back.

On the settings page you’ll see channels for A,B, and C along with choices for Motion or Joystick, below that are selections for Invert Pitch Control, switching the throttle control right or left and then turning Expert mode on or off. The top right is a question mark for accessing the help files and then a checkmark to confirm your settings changes.

When you first set it up you’ll need to turn the volume all the way up. The remote works by sending audio signals in the form of high pitched pulses to the Fight Deck that in turn changes those to signals to the infrared LEDs to control the helicopter.

Here’s a sample of the help section, with a few things I mentioned expanded more for you to read.

Once the batteries are in, the helicopter is charged and the app is installed you can fly. When you first start out flying the app has expert mode off by default, which just means you get put the throttle to 100%. After a bit of flying the app will tell you you’re doing pretty good and you should be ready for expert mode.

Flying can be tricky, I’m very much accustomed to flying R/C helicopters , one of the my favorite things to do, and I found it rather tricky to fly the Helo TC.

It’s infrared so I expected lag, but this seems to have more lag than the average infrared helicopter does, and it’s takes a lot of flying to get used to the lag. You’ll crash a lot that’s for sure, you basically have to think ahead and use the controls before you want the helicopter to do it. It’s hard to do any kind of  precision flying really because of the lag.

It took me a good hour of flying to get any good at it and I’m still not that great, but I don’t crash as much but I still crash.

Speaking of crashes, the Helo TC does seem to be sturdy and durable as I’ve crashed it into walls, chairs, floors and the ceiling many times and have3not had to change the blades yet and the helicopter isn’t any worse for wear.

Here’s a few views of the Helo TC with the LED lights on, they’re very bright especially the front headlight which is white.

Battery life is about 8-10 minutes of flight time. I found that if you turn the LEDs off you can easily hit that higher end and maybe a minute or so more. Still I think that’s short flight time.

 

Conclusion:

The Griffin Helo TC is fun to fly and it’s certainly a unique experience using the iPod as the controller.

The helicopter is sturdy, which is good as you’ll crash it quite often I’m sure.

The lag is annoying, but it’s manageable once you get accustomed to the time delay.

Honestly the Helo TC isn’t something for kids, they’ll get frustrated very quickly and most likely have it broken shortly after starting to play with it.

Personally I’d rather just get a regular R/C helicopter to fly than this. Yes the controls are interesting but it’s more novelty than anything and the lag makes it not exactly fun to fly sadly.

 

 

Pros:
+Nicely made helicopter
+Dock is handy
+Quick charge time

 

Cons:
-Lag between time to push button and something to happen
-Can be difficult to control for beginners because of lag
-Rather short battery time









About Author

I own DragonSteelMods.com, ReviewTheTech.com and KristoferBrozio.com. I run TestFreaks Blog (blog.testfreaks.com), and I also write for Diy-Guides.com on occasion and of course here.

(2) Readers Comments

  1. Nice post! Thanks for sharing info regarding innovative use of iphone/ipod for controlling the Helo Tc. I never heard about this. Really it’s fun to control the Helo TC with touch screen. 

  2. Glad to read that you also had trouble controling this beast. I thought maybe mine was not working properly. After one day of learning to fly I took it back and exchanged it for a new one. The tail rotor had quit working. Now that I have a new one and got to practice with the original one I am doing much better.