Every now and then I get a chance to play with a cool new toy. Usually, by “new cool toy” I’m referring to some computer-related tool, self-defense weapon, firearm, or bicycle. This time, it’s a genuine toy. I’m referring to the Griffin HELO TC Assault remote control helicopter.
In the last few years, remote controlled flying toys have become quite popular. Formerly the domain of hobbyists who had to shell out a lot of money for these devices, you can now buy these mass-produced flying machines for well under $100. The Griffin HELO TC Assault is one of these. What makes it different from other remote control helicopters? For one, the “TC” stands for “Touch Controlled.” By this, they mean that you control it from your iOS or Android device. The HELO TC Assault works with Android phones running OS 2.2 and higher, and iOS 4.0 or later.
When you open the box, it includes not only the helicopter itself, a USB charger, and several spare parts (as these things are prone to crashing into stuff with the rotors moving at high speeds), but also an “IR Flight Control deck.” This is really clever – it’s essentially a dock for your iPhone to slide into. Then, when you install the free HELO TC app, it completes the setup, using its touchscreen to control the pitch, yaw, throttle, and fire controls. The flight deck itself requires 4 AA batteries (not included), and includes the transmitter to send the controlling signals to the helicopter.
As you can see from the above image, the flight deck attaches to a variety of devices, so just about any recent iOS or Android should be supported.
Setup is very straightforward, and once I had the unit charged (and made a trip to a local shop for batteries) I was ready to take off! Following the directions, I was able to very quickly launch… and crash, the HELO TC Assault.
As with any RC toy, there’s a learning curve. By default, the HELO TC app starts you in a learning mode, where you don’t have access to full power. Theoretically, this will keep you from, I don’t know, knocking down the chandeliers with this lethal weapon. However, in my testing, I found that the low power training mode offered my cat zero comfort or protection, which she sought out by hiding in the closet the instant she heard the rotors whir to life*. (Smart cat.) Once you have logged enough time, you have the option to graduate to expert mode where you can access the full, unbridled power of this beast and really do some damage.
Another thing that sets the HELO TC Assault apart from other RC helicopters I’ve played with is the assault part. When I was a kid, toys did not shoot. Why? “Because you could poke an eye out with that thing, kid!” Apparently we are doomed to repeat those mistakes from which we do not learn, because the Griffin HELO TC Assault has the ability to fire little plastic missiles while on the ground or in the air. Let me repeat this: you can actually fly this thing straight at the dog and shoot it*. I am not making this up. How cool is that?
In my tests, I was able to hit my targets (various soda cans, cats*, neighbors, etc.) exactly zero times, until I adjusted my sights on the broad side of my living room wall, which I found far easier a target to nail. I did find the controls a little tough to master, but I’m sure with more time, I could get the hang of it well enough to pilot a drone over some foreign country or US city for legitimate law enforcement activities.
The HELO TC app also allows you to record your flight plans! So, if you get really good, you can store a route and have the helicopter, for instance, navigate up and down the hallway, stop at the cat’s favorite perch by the window, and shoot it. Then, you can repeat the same drill every time the mood strikes you*.
I did find the controls to be a bit spongy, which is to say slow to respond, compared to other RC helicopters I’ve played with in the past. It took a little getting used to, and several “OH NO” moments until I realized I had to anticipate that turns, stops, and course corrections would not happen instantly when I wanted them. Thank goodness for the option to cut power at the touch of a button — an emergency “kill switch” that causes the HELO TC Assault to drop from the sky before causing permanent damage to grandma’s fine china… provided you press it in time.
Overall, the Griffin HELO TC Assault provides for plenty of fun for anyone remotely (no pun intended) interested in remote controlled flying machines.
MyMac.com review rating: 9/10
Peter’s Cat’s Rating: 0/10
* No animals were harmed or seriously threatened in the making of this review. I love animals — some more than other people, which is kind of sad.