Saturday, December 27, 2008

Helicopter maiden flight

For Christmas, Quincy got me exactly what I wanted: a helicopter!
I work with a guy that builds and flies a variety of mini RC toys, and watching him zip his helicopter around the cubes got me thinking about flying my own. A quick conversation later, I realized that even toy helicopters are 1) hard to fly, 2) often expensive, 3) require a lot of maintenance if you crash (see characteristic 1).
Except, this super small super light mini RC: The Air Hogs Havoc Heli. After two 5-minute flights, I got the hang of controlling all three axes. It's not too difficult, since this helicopter only give you control of two variables: spin and acceleration.
It works by having the 'copter spin slightly in the clockwise direction. When not spinning, it moves (increasing fast) in the forward direction. By controlling the amount of spin (and when you control the spin), the helicopter can be roughly pointed in a direction and kept stable. Acceleration take you up and down.
To get more forward movement, you can stick one of their tiny weights (basically a piece of tape, which is what I used) on the front of the aircraft. This will bias the craft towards a constant (unstoppable) forward motion; since it will still spin in the air slowly, it will just go in small (or big) circles.

Battery-wise, about two 5 minute flights can be taken an hour. It takes the 'copter about 20-30 minutes to charge fully; a 15 minute cool-down sessions is suggested after flying before charging.

Mistakes were made. Crashes happened. There were no near-misses in the first two flights -- every miss was dead on. I crashed into the floor, ceiling, walls, doors, range, fern, cat, Christmas tree, blinds, couch, heating vent, door frame, carpet fringe, and fridge. And that was just the first flight. In the second flight, a crash against the controller (which caused me to drop the controller nearly on the falling RC) caused some bending in the main rotor pole. This de-stabilized the craft so badly it could not take off. I re-bent the pole (carefully) and got it flying pretty well again. I can see that I will be lucky to get 5 flights out of this before I break something that I can't fix. The good news is that it is so light that it doesn't hurt anything (or one) but itself when it crashes.

So, overall I rate this toy a 9. Since I don't ever rate toys, that means absolutely nothing. Regardless, the Havoc Heli's gentle learning curve and robust crash-worthiness wins me over. I wouldn't necessarily get this for a little kid (who might be disappointed when it breaks), but for adults snowed in for weeks, it's keen.

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