Take one part app, one part iPhone and one part miniature remote controlled helicopter. Throw them together and what have you got? Griffin's Helo TC, a smashed up sitting room and plentiful damage to the paint on the walls.
Given the amount of games we play over at Pocket-lint we expected our hand-eye coordination to be pretty good. So when Griffin sent its app controlled miniature remote control helicopter, the Helo TC, over for us to play with we were desperate to show off.
The actual 'copter itself is pretty simple stuff, being a about the size of a set of 3D glasses but put together relatively tough. This is a good thing as you will most likely crash it ... a lot. In the box you get a spare set of rotor blades, USB charger and the control unit you need to stick on top of your iPhone. They are all decent enough in quality and reflect the £40 price tag put on the gadget.
The iPhone control unit does irritatingly require a set of four AAA batteries, none of which where included in the box, so remember to pick some up if you do grab the Helo TC. Before you can get started flying you are also going to need to give the little blighter a charge, around 35 minutes worth of juice from a powered USB is enough. Following that you want to download the Helo TC app, install it and attach the control unit included, then you are ready to go.
We immediately set about re-enacting that famous scene from Apocalypse Now, blaring out Flight of the Valkyries and crash diving the chopper into Lego men. It was awesome but quickly led to a few helicopter related accidents occurring in the Pocket-lint labs.
The app you use to control the Helo TC is very well put together and offers a surprising amount of control over the helicopter. You get a choice of either doing things via the accelerometer (impossible) or using the on screen joystick. The latter made it possible to actually control the thing but we will admit, it took a massive amount of practice to stop it just bouncing in every single direction imaginable.
The app also allows you to program in flight plans which are like little 20 second snippets of your best manoeuvres. As it happened we didn't really have anything flight-wise to be particularly proud of, but the helicopter most definitely remembered what we told it.
Sitting atop the joystick for controlling the helicopter is a left and right trim adjustment. You are going to want to use this as much as possible to stop the thing spinning out of control, you will know when you get it right as the chopper will sit straight in the air and hover. Pretty cool the first time you nail it actually.
The big sliding bar on the left that says lift off is how you control the helicopter's going up and down in flight. It has two options, either a limited 'safe mode' that only lets you slide it half way, or an expert setting where you can fly the thing as high as you want. We suggest keeping it limited indoors.
The Helo TC to us is not quite the iPhone controlled helicopter we had hoped it was. Instead it feels more like a top of the range USB office gadget. At £40 it also makes a decent present for any young flight fans with an iPod Touch.
It is definitely good fun and hats off to Griffin for negating the need for Wi-Fi connectivity found on the AR Drone with the included iPhone control unit. A much more affordable version of what Parrot has to offer that most will find just as enjoyable. The price means it doesn't quite feel so bad when you crash it as well (we didn't honest).
It's out now, and available from HMV. It costs £39.99.
What do you think? Like the look of the Helo TC? Let us know in the comments below ...