by Paul Mah

HELO TC Assault: Your Own Personal iOS, Android-Controlled Helicopter

Opinion
Apr 17, 20124 mins
Computers and PeripheralsMobileSmall and Medium Business

The Griffin HELO TC Assault is a redesigned version of the popular HELO TC mini helicopter, and it's remotely controlled by your iOS or Android device. The tiny chopper also packs a new "weapon system" to help win your next cubicle war at the office and triumph in all airborne battles.

The HELO TC Assault by Griffin Technology is an updated version of the original HELO TC, a popular remote-controlled helicopter known for its easy-to-learn controls and smooth flight. The new mini chopper’s chassis is completely redesigned, and the gadget can now fire a couple of spring-loaded missiles. The HELO TC Assault uses a “Flight Deck” infrared (IR) transmitter that pairs with iOS and Android devices for both touch- and motion-controlled flying.

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The HELO TC Assault has a much sleeker, predatory appearance than its predecessor. The new, streamlined design also makes the chopper more sturdy, which is important when you consider the inevitable crash landings.

The remote-control system works via IR commands sent from the bundled Flight Deck transmitter. The Flight Deck comes with flexible legs that clip firmly onto your smartphone or tablet and plug into the headphone port. Like its predecessor, the HELO TC Assault requires full volume output, and according to Griffin, it will not work properly with some devices purchased from regions with volume limitations that cannot be turned off or if you mute your smartphone. The actual flight-control interface app can be downloaded for free from either the iTunes App Store or Google Play.

When starting up the HELO TC Assault for the first time, the powerful whine of the blades as it powers up to full speed immediately grabs your attention. A fixed 150mAh poly-lithium battery drives the twin blades to deliver the requisite lift. And though Griffin says the HELO TC controls are “easy to learn,” they are designed in the context of helicopter navigation systems, which are far trickier than the controls of a remote-controlled car, for example.

I made the mistake of launching the gadget for the first time in my cramped study, which is cluttered with various “hazards,” and then in another room with the ceiling fan switched on.  The multiple crashes quickly amassed a large number of nicks on the chopper’s blades, which affected overall performance and made it more difficult to control the gadget.

On this note, I recommend using the HELO TC Assault in an uncluttered, open space that’s sheltered from drafts. It’s also smart to familiarize yourself with the “Trim” controls before trying to liftoff and also remember to keep the Flight Deck pointed in the general direction of the HELO TC Assault.

With the included USB-based charger, it takes about 35 minutes to recharge the chopper and you get about 10 minutes of flight time. You can expect to go through at least two or three battery cycles before getting the hang of things; office dominion probably won’t come within the first hour of ripping open your HELO TC Assault kit.

The gadget’s two spring-loaded missiles can be fired individually by tapping on the appropriate icon in the smartphone control app. And the projectiles pack a punch; they easily shot 10 feet or more in my tests. Obviously, firing them from greater heights bolsters their reach, but height also generally decreases accuracy.

Overall, I found the HELO TC Assault to be a ton of fun. My one complaint is that the device is rather pricey, and the $59.99 package comes with only one top rotor blade, one bottom rotor blade, and a few other user replacement parts. Of course, Griffin sells a HELO TC Assault Parts Kit for an additional $9.99, and it comes with two top rotor blades, two bottom rotor blades, a replacement balance bar, tail rotor and two replacement landing struts. But I wish you didn’t have to pay extra for these components. And the Flight Deck requires four AAA batteries to power the IR transmitter, which are not included in the package.

I definitely recommend purchasing the replacement kit together with your HELO TC Assault, since you will very likely need the spare parts.

Check out the video below featuring the HELO TC Assault from Griffin.

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HELO TC Assault: Ready for take-off.

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The IR receiver is located on the bottom of the HELO TC Assault, next to the proprietary charging port and on/off switch.

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A close up of the battle scars from crashing it into furniture and gadgets around the house.

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Replaceable parts are all secured by Philliips-head screws

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The Flight Deck (attached to my iPhone 4S) requires 4x AAA batteries, which are not included in the package.