When the Parrot AR.Drone quadricopter came out back in September 2010 it got a ton of attention and was a really cool device that could piloted by remote control from an iPhone or iPod touch device using an accompanying iOS application. While it was without a doubt a groundbreaking device it cost $299.99 and that was far more than what many wanted to pay for a toy that was going to be well used. That is why when we saw that Griffin launched the iPhone and iPad controlled HELO TC Helicopter for $49.99 back in August we got rather excited! The HELO TC Helicopter looks very menacing and more importantly to us, it can be bought for a sixth the cost of Parrot’s widely-praised AR.Drone. To our knowledge the HELO TC is the second remote-controlled helicopter designed to work with iOS devices and there is nothing wrong with being second to the market place.
To keep costs down Griffin selected to use a light-weight helicopter design that uses infrared technology. The AR.Drone uses Wi-Fi and the advantage to that is you don’t have to worry about light interference. This means trying to fly the Griffin Helo TC outside in bright sunny conditions will be interesting. This is also why Griffin says that the HELO TC is for indoor use only and for those ages 14 and up. We knew that to get this remote controller helicopter under $50 that Griffin would have to pinch pennies and sure enough on the lower right hand corner of the box it says in fine print that it batteries are not included. This means you have to come up with the four AAA batteries that are needed to get it running.
The retail packaging for the HELO TC was very well designed and has all the basic features on the outside and even a window to show off the black plastic and silver metal helicopter. Inside the box the helicopter was safely packaged and secured to the plastic insert with two twist ties, so be sure to remove those before yanking it out of the box and damaging the delicate airframe.
Once the box was opened up we laid out all the pieces that were included to see what we were working with. You obviously have the HELO TC helicopter, the IR transmitter that clips to your iPhone/iPad, a USB charger, the instructions and finally two replacement blades for the main rotor assembly & two for the tail section rotor hub. The instructions are very basic and don’t go into too much detail, which was a bit of a let down. They did mention that a Philips 00 screwdriver is needed to replace the rotor blades as one is not included.
The appearance of the HELO TC is that of a stealth attack helicopter with a predominantly black finish on most of the plastic pieces. The Griffin HELO TC helicopter is a small toy that measures in at eight inches in length with a weight of just 1.5 ounces!
Griffin HELO TC Helicopter Specifications:
The HELO TC is powered by a rechargeable 180mAh battery inside the nose section, which is pretty impressive for a craft this small and light. On the left side of the helicopter you’ll find the on-off switch, charging port and an LED lights that flash when Helo TC is turned on and working.
There is one LED light on each side and three on the front. You can turn the lights on or off with the app that you download to control the helicopter.
To recharge the HELO TC you must used the supplied cable that plugs into the helicopter and then into a USB port. The rated flying time is eight minutes and the recharge time is 35 minutes. It would be nice to get a longer flying time, but it is plenty long for you to have some fun.
The tail section of the helicopter is more than likely the designs weakest point as the metal tube ends at an electric motor with the fan blade that clips on. If you managed to go out of IR range and land it tail first for some reason you could do some damage.