RC stands for radio controlled, but flying solo means no one is there to watch your aerobatics. But flying WITH someone means sharing the skies, so why not take them on Mano-a-mano? To do that means having someone who also has a flying RC similar to yours. And of course there needs to be a way to “shoot” at him so you can see the results without actually breaking anything. Swann feels your pain, or at least they’ll help you try and avoid it with their Sky Duel Helicopters. What’s in the box? Two RC controlled Apache-style helicopters, each equipped with front mounted IR (infrared) “guns” under your command.
While I removed the two small helicopters (8.2 x 2 x 4.3-inches counting the rotors) from inside the box, my friend Steve took the two controllers and filled their battery compartments with 6 “AA”s each. He also selected “A” on one controller and “B” on the other. Then he connected a special USB cable to a socket at the bottom of each ‘copter and connected the other end to one each of the two controllers. The controllers were then turned on and left that way to charge the two helicopters. This took almost an hour (the LED on the controller changing color). When we had to recharge the ‘copters later, we found that connecting them to a USB power supply, instead of the controller, not only charged them up a bit faster (7 minutes of flight takes its battery toll) but also saved power for the controllers. The controllers use a wide front-mounted IR dome that has to “hit” the helicopters, but inside the beams bounce off walls and so it’s not really an issue. You can’t be all that far away (line-of-sight) but who would want to anyway? And since the “gun” sounds that are made when you’re firing come from the controller, having the batteries maintain their power is pretty important. That’s why we never used the controllers to charge the ‘copters after the first time.
The helicopters are designed to be used indoors, which might explain why they feel so light and why the blades have a bit of a “spring” to them — a set of spare blades included just in case though. The rotor design has an added tech; gyro stabilization that helps to keep it righted and makes for easier control. And as if silver and black aren’t enough to differentiate between the two helicopters, the black one has a “searchlight” in its nose pointing down which lights up whatever is beneath it (in low light situations and from about 6 inches away).
Steve and I agreed that we would each spend one session flying our helicopters to gain a better handle on the controls before beginning combat. We went to my apt bldg.’s rec room and he went to one end and I to the other. I’ve flown RC planes before but haven’t much experience with helicopters- — you’d think it would be easier but getting them to hover takes patience. I placed the silver helicopter on the floor and stood back about 5 feet. I took care of mating the controller to the helicopter by turning both of them on and then moving the throttle (the left sided joystick) from its “zero” position at center all the way forward and then back. When I moved the throttle again, the rotors began to spin. I wasn’t worried about direction (which is where the right joystick — rudder — comes in), but did click the “trim” control tab’s left side and then right a few times until the helicopter stopped wobbling. But I overdid it and the helicopter veered right, hit a wall and bounced off and down. I brought the throttle back to zero and righted the helicopter on the floor. I then continued to practice with it for another few minutes before connecting it to a portable USB power pack to recharge. I saw that Steve was doing the same. We hung out for about a 1/2 hour and felt it was now time.
We placed our ‘copters on the floor about 10 feet apart so that they faced one another. 3-2-1-GO, we each had our ‘copter’s rise and hover — the question now is who would take the offensive. That would be me, I thought, as I rammed my ‘copter forward and shot towards his. His ‘copter started to bank to the right but I was able to maneuver so as to give him a broadside from about 3 or 4 feet away. I thumbed the trigger on the controller to fire my “guns” (accompanied by a digital chip firing sound). Direct hit! His ‘copter lit up with LEDs and spun around. But before I could fire again it flew off. I pursued it but discovered I was being suckered,as it described an arc that placed it to my ‘copter’s back. Suddenly it was my ‘copter that was being shot at. I had to get out of there so I did a half turn to the right, shot straight up and then aimed the nose down, firing away. Okay I was firing blind but one of my “rounds” managed to hit him. I kept shooting and got him again (three hits=you’re out!) before he could escape, which caused his ‘copter to be disabled and land. Chalk one “kill” for me. All of this took less than 3 minutes but it felt like forever. But mostly it felt like we should do it again!!
Bottom line: Flying an RC helicopter is a lot more fun when you have firepower. Swann’s Sky Duel Helicopters gives you all that that but, even better, provides the means for having an opponent available whenever you want. Sissies fly RCs just for fun, “real” guys fly RC helicopters with IR guns so that they can shoot others out of the sky.
Sturdy lightweight construction withstands impacts and crashes, Can charge off of USB port
Indoor use requires plenty of empty open space
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.