In Toys: Swann RC Helicopters
Released by: Swann
Swann is a company that, based on what’s on their website, focuses on security gear and some spy gear. So it was a little confusing to see them at Toy Fair this year back in February promoting RC helicopters. They provided us with a couple of demo units and based on the time we spent with the little devices this company is on to something cool, with some small issues.
We tried out two different helicopters, on very small sort of base model one and a larger one with a built in HD video camera. These indoor choppers are based on Swann’s proprietary six axis gyro system for flight and the package tells you it’s a really simple concept to learn. Honestly that’s not all together true. It actually takes tons of practice to get a grip on just how to fly these little devices. Now with that said once you do get a feel for the system the level of control is extremely surprising and a ton of fun.
Lifting off requires a slow steady rise in power until the chopper lifts off and then a consistent level of power keeps the chopper afloat. Once you’re hovering it’s time to start moving. The biggest thing to remember is that the controls are to be manipulated subtly. A little direction means a big change for the chopper. There’s a real art to flying these things and once you finally do master it you can pull of some truly amazing maneuvers. The representative that was flying them at Toy Fair had an incredible level of control over the chopper and he was literally landing it in his hand. After seeing his abilities I knew that you could really have some fun with the choppers with practice.
This leads me to the biggest problem with both choppers; battery life. You generally get around 8 minutes of flight time per full charge of the battery, that’s right 8 minutes. During the learning phases this limited flight time can be literally infuriating. It takes between 45 minutes and an hour to recharge the battery too. I can only imagine that hobbyist would have to own several batteries per chopper. At times you have to adjust the trim settings on the chopper which has to do with how the chopper interprets commands from the remote. Often this can take a full minute of your 8 minutes of flight time.
Also these are indoor choppers only. You can fly them outside but there has to be absolutely no wind, not even a breeze because these little motors aren’t meant to stand up to the outside elements. The chopper with the HD camera is a tougher chopper to deal with simply due to its size. You have to fly it inside but the space has to be a fairly large one because the sheer size of the device requires plenty of room to get off the ground. By the way, don’t expect blu-ray quality HD video from the little camera. By HD they mean that the footage meets the minimum standards for HD video but much of great quality HD comes from the quality of the camera lens and the sensor. This is a budget minded device so these elements of the camera are closer to the minimum side but the video is a ton of fun and it is easy to enjoy when played back on an HD TV or computer.
Once you’ve jumped the hurdles or battery life and the learning curve these little guys are just pure fun.
The build quality on these little choppers is misleading. Holding them in your hand you might think that they are delicate little devices but after you’ve crashed them a bunch of times it becomes apparent that these things can really take a beating. The package for both choppers contains extra chopper blades just in case you snap one of them but I crashed both choppers more times than I can count and I never broke one. So the design is quite clever as they are minimalist to keep them super light but what is there is well built.
The tenderest part of the choppers is the battery. If you leave one on the charger for too long you’ll kill the battery. I plugged one in to charge and fell asleep. The next morning the battery was dead and would never work again. I thought we were beyond these sorts of issues with rechargeable batteries….
It may sound like I’m complaining a lot about these choppers and I am. It’s only because when the stars align and you’re doing everything right they are just a ton of fun. Swann has successfully brought a hobby that was previously out of bounds for the mainstream because of price and technical know how to the masses. Overall they’ve simplified the learning process and brought us a well-built but affordable device. The flight time truly kills me though. Just when it’s getting fun the battery always dies. I’m hoping to keep an eye on additional releases from then to see how their products evolve. Find yourself a roomy indoor space and give one of these little guys a try!
The Device 8/10
The Build Quality 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10