Micro Heli Fever

We got this review/tip letter from a customer and we just had to share it on the blog. It’s tailored to the Shark helicopter, but the information is suitable for just about every micro helicopter out there.

“I’ve flown RC planes for 40 years but had not tried helicopters until Santa
brought this one for my 9 year old. Note that the packaging indicates that this
model is for ages 14+, and that is probably right unless your kid is going to
have lots of help and supervision to get this little model flying well. We live
at high altitude (8000 feet), and were already aware that model helicopters are
marginal performers at this altitude.

We initially tried to fly this in the living room and quickly smashed it into
the furniture. Fortunately it survived, but until you learn to fly it well, you
need a much larger space. We were able to gain access to a school cafeteria this
morning and found that the large, open area of the cafeteria gave us plenty of
room to trim it out and learn to keep it under control. After 3 flights in the
cafeteria, my kid is ready to try it in the smaller space of the school hall
way, and then we will take it home and take on the challenge of the living

Be aware that if you live at high altitude, you may not be satisfied with the
performance. We can maintain an altitude of about 5 feet for the first 3 or 4
minutes of flight time, but after that, as the battery discharges, we can only
fly in ground effect, less then 5 inches AGL. It requires about 3/4 throttle to
hover and nearly full throttle to climb out to shoulder height.

Flying tips:
Find a large, indoor, open space for your first few flights. A school gymnasium
or cafeteria is ideal, but a two car garage or other open space will work. A
place with a smooth floor is really helpful because the landing skids tend to
snag on carpet, causing the bird to flip onto its side.

You can charge from the transmitter, but this rapidly drains the transmitter
batteries. I strongly recommend that you use the USB charging cord instead. We
plugged this into the USB power adapter that came with our Kindle. The charger’s
housing glows red when the chopper is fully charged.

Set up the helicopter so that you are standing directly behind it. Keep
yourself lined up with the tail boom so that the transmitter and the helicopter
are both facing the same direction.

Set the transmitter to the desired channel (A, B, or C) and pull the throttle
(left control stick) stick all the way back, turn on the transmitter and
receiver. Advance the throttle to full and then pull it all the way back again.
This allows the helicopter to recognize the transmitter.

Notice that all of the LEDS are flashing brightly. Use the two blue buttons on
the top of the transmitter to shut these off. You have a really limited power
supply, and the LEDS suck up a lot of juice. At high altitude, we cannot get the
helicopter off the ground if the LEDs are flashing. I’m thinking of removing
them to save the weight and permanently eliminate the power drain.

Gentle Gentle Gentle on the controls. For your first few flights, advance the
throttle carefully and deliberately. Feel the detent notches in the throttle
stick, and practice advancing the throttle one notch at a time until the
helicopter begins to skitter. If you are flying over carpet, you need to quickly
lift off so that the skids dont drag, but this is really tricky, it is easy to
advance the throttle too far, slam the copter against the ceiling and then send
it crashing to the floor.

Its much better on a smooth floor. When it starts to skitter, about 2 more
notches of throttle will take it to an altitude of about 3 inches. Once the
helicopter is airborne, it will hover, more or less in the same place, probably
yawing slowly in one direction or another. Make very small adjustments to the
trim knob between the two control sticks to straighten out any yaw tendency.

Be ready to chop the throttle when the helicopter gets out of control.

You have NO roll control, only pitch and yaw, so you have to fly purely by
attitude adjustment. Right stick controls your pitch and yaw. Pushing the stick
forward causes the helicopter to pitch forward and then begin to fly forward.
Neutralizing the stick returns to hover. Moving the stick from side to side
causes the helicopter to yaw left or right respectively.

Practice yawing the helicopter to the heading you want and stopping the yaw
when it is pointing in exactly the direction you want. Try to yaw it around the
compass, stopping at each of the compass points.

Once we mastered this, we taped four sheets of typing paper to the floor and
practiced flying from point to point, landing on each sheet of paper.

Downside is that the helicopter takes 30 minutes to charge for every ten
minutes of flight time, but this is simply a limitation of the current
technology. A spare battery pack that can be removed for charging would be a
nice upgrade, but overall, I feel that this is a nice little helicopter, and
probably about as good as anyone has the right to expect at this price.

Experiments we are planning to try: We are going to try removing the body shell
and the decorative tail skid. I don’t think either one has any aerodynamic
purpose, they are just for pretty, and if we can remove a few grams of mass, we
think we can get better flight performance.”

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