We got to the choppa! It's been nearly a month's time since Griffin introduced its AppPowered Helo TC, a mini RC helicopter for iDevices, and we've been lucky enough to play test pilot for a bit. Fifty bucks gets you the TC itself, an infared Flight Deck for your device, 4 extra rotor blades, a USB charging cable and a paper landing pad for when you're done wreaking havoc in your home or office. Of course, there are similar OEM models that use a standard remote available for nearly half the price, but we were curious to see how Griffin's free iPhone app could mix things up -- plus, it's alot easier on the wallet than an AR.Drone. So, was it clear skies and smooth sailing or something more like Blackhawk Down? Breeze on past the break to find out.
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Griffin Helo TC hands-on



Setup was simple as the Helo comes pretty much ready to fly. After a quick 20 minute charge with our laptop, loading four AAAs for the Flight Deck and downloading the app, we were cleared to go. The Deck attached to our iPhone 3GS and iPad 2 without a problem, but it's fairly clunky and clearly intended for use with a phone in landscape mode. It works by plugging into your device's audio jack and translating any in-app movements into control signals for the copter. The app is fairly straightforward: for basic control you get a throttle slider, joystick with trim, an auto-land button and a toggle switch for the mini chopper's LEDs. There's also Flight Plans for advanced pilots, which lets you record maneuvers for 20 seconds -- although, we weren't able to fly it long enough to try. Digging through its settings menu you'll find flying tips, a joystick / motion control toggle, three transmission channels, pitch inversion, and on-screen throttle placement.


With that said, lets talk about manning the AppPowered's controls and flying the thing. We usually got around 10 minutes of flight time per charge, which resulted in short bursts of fun and lengthy bouts with frustration from mid-air mishaps. It took us two flight-cycles to stay airborne for more than a few seconds without needing to use the auto-land feature, hitting the office ceiling, or grazing someone's hair -- furthermore, the iPad version of the app just plain didn't work.


With a bit of practice using our iPhone we managed longer flights, but getting the Helo to go forward and backward or rotate precisely remained extremely difficult due to control communication lag. Because the copter can zip to the ceiling in no time, unless yours are of the vaulted variety, it seems ill suited for indoor operation. Taking it outside gave us an easier time -- even at night, thanks to its lights -- but once it was hovering smoothly at powerline height the signal usually began cutting out.


After numerous crashes caused plenty of battle scars, we were surprised to see how well the blades and the TC itself held up, but in the end it proved to be no match for concrete. Eventually we lost total control of its trim, which caused it to permanently veer left and soon after our unit was in two pieces. Did your friendly Engadget staff have an occasional blast during our day with the Helo TC? You betcha. When it comes down to it though, the iOS angle feels rather gimmicky and you're probably better off just going with a cheap ol' RC version. Sometimes you just can't beat the classics, but if you're into this sorta thing it's now available from Griffin.

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Griffin Launches HELO TC™ Helicopter, Remote-Controlled by iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Griffin predicts HELO TC will be the high-flying hit of this holiday season

Nashville, TN – August 17, 2011 – Griffin Technology, one of the world's foremost creators of innovations for everyday life, launched its newest AppPowered accessory: HELO TC, a remote-controlled helicopter. The HELO TC app transforms the Multi-Touch display of any iOS device into a remote control for HELO TC.

HELO TC is a twin-rotored, indoor helicopter built on a lightweight metal frame with a black polycarbonate body. It comes with a Flight Deck infrared module, which plugs into an iOS device to transmit control signals to the helicopter. Two modes of flight are available: Touch Control, using the Multi-Touch display to control HELO TC's throttle and joystick; and Tilt to Steer mode, which uses the iOS device's accelerometers: tilting the iOS device moves the helicopter forward, back and side to side. The app can record and store up to three Flight Plans so you, or another pilot, can repeat a favorite flight pattern easily.

"HELO TC reflects Griffin's passion for creating captivating products that keep consumers engaged and entertained," said Mark Rowan, President of Griffin Technology. "We're confident it will be one of our most popular items this holiday season."

HELO TC's built-in battery recharges from any USB power source, including your computer's USB port. The Flight Deck module, powered by 4 AAA batteries, plugs into the iOS device's headphone jack.

HELO TC, $49.99, is currently available at www.griffintechnology.com and will be at retailers nationwide for the holiday season.

To learn more visit www.griffintechnology.com/helotc and watch the teaser video of the HELO TC in action.

The HELO TC app can be downloaded for free from the App Store at itunes.apple.com/us/app/helo-tc/id435802394?mt=8.

For additional information about Griffin products, visit www.griffintechnology.com.

About Griffin Technology

Founded on Paul Griffin's kitchen table in 1992, Griffin Technology Inc., is today one of the world's foremost creators of accessories for home, mobile, and personal technology. Unique products such as iTrip®, PowerMate®, iFM®, iMic® and Evolve® Wireless Speaker System have broken new ground in consumer electronics and created loyal fans the world over. Today, Griffin products are conceived, designed and developed in-house and continue to push the envelope of the industry they helped create. Learn more about Griffin's entire range of ingenious designs at www.griffintechnology.com, facebook.com/griffintech and twitter.com/griffintech.

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Griffin's Helo TC cleared for takeoff, we attempt to get airborne in a hands-on (video)