One of the main reasons I really wanted to try out the Helo TC from Griffin was because I really like RC Helicopters (as I’ve noted in another review). I used to have a large “glow” powered helicopter when I was a bit younger, and the micro helicopters that everyone and their mother put out now a days just don’t fly the same. Granted, the Griffin Helo TC is still a small helicopter, but it’s three times the size of the micros. I wanted to see just how well it flew – especially since the last iOS controlled flying device I tried (the AR.Drone from Parrot) flew a bit better than I expected. Would the Helo TC fly like an eagle, or just not get off the ground?
One of the first things you’ll notice upon taking the Helo TC out of the box, is just how wicked it looks; the larger size means you can actually see the details. The jet black pieces match extremely well with the solid aluminum frame, and the silver highlights on the rotor tips don’t look out of place at all. Also nice, is the fact that Griffin only put their logo on the tail fin, so it’s not covered in big decals that say “Griffin” all over it (plus the logo actually looks like it belongs on the chopper).
The Helo TC also has a lot of lights on it, which make it really easy to see (and makes it quite an eye catcher at that). The front headlight can be turned on and off through the control app, but the blinking red, blue, and green lights will always be on as long as it’s connected to the app (if not, you’ll have one red light flashing to let you know you’re not ready to fly). The lights are just small LEDs, so they won’t really put much of a drain on the battery either.
Speaking of battery life, I was able to get roughly nine minutes of actual flight on a 40 minute charge – pretty standard when compared to other battery operated helicopters. one thing I didn’t like though, is that the “flight deck” (or the part that connects to your iPhone to control the Helo TC) takes four “AAA” batteries, and gives you no way at all to check the remaining power level. Even when plugged into the iPhone and the Helo TC app running, there’s absolutely no way to see how much battery life the flight deck has – leaving you to wonder at times if it’s the Helo that’s losing power, or the flight deck itself.
Along with having no way to check battery life, the other functions on the app aren’t the greatest either. Yes, it’s easy enough to figure out throttle and steering controls, but there were absolutely no instructions about some of the other functions of the app. There’s one button titles “Flight Plans” that you can use to program a course, but I could never get it to work. Even when I thought I had a program saved, it just made the Helo TC crash. The only way to even find out anything about this though is to dig deep into the app by pushing buttons that aren’t labeled. While it may be common practice for a gear icon to be settings, why would the instructions be buried under another unlabeled “?” icon?
At any rate, the Helo TC does fly fairly well inside the house, provided you don’t have any sorts of interference. You see, rather than being a true “R/C” helo, the Helo TC relies on infrared signals sent from the flight deck to control it. That means you have to basically point the deck at the Helo TC at all times, or it will inevitably lose signal and crash. Since the sun interferes with most infrared signals, you can pretty much forget flying it outside unless it’s at night.
I understand that the Helo TC is a budget helicopter, and really it performs better than a lot of others (unlike some similarly priced helicopters, I could actually fly this one the entire battery life and not crash), but if you want something more substantial you’ll be left grounded. I give the Helo TC by Griffin a final score of three stars out of five.
The Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a fun indoor helicopter that’s reasonably priced, this will do nicely, but don’t expect any advanced features, or the ability to fly outside.
- Actually flies pretty easily once you get the controls down
- Looks and feels more sturdy than other similarly priced helicopters
- The battery lasts for a decent time and recharges fast
- Infrared controls can encounter a lot of interference
- The app needs an update badly, with a better UI and labeled buttons
- No way to tell how much juice is left on your four “AAA” batteries
You can get a Griffin Helo TC of your own from Amazon for $49.98