Yesterday we were blown away by Griffin's upcoming $49.99 HELO TC iOS-controlled helicopter, for a number of good reasons. First off, it's a sixth of the price of the Parrot AR.Drone and the announcement was accompanied by an awesome video which I'll embed again just for fun:

Initially, I was under the incorrect assumption that this was going to be a two horse race between Parrot and Griffin for iOS real-world aerial superiority, but boy was I wrong. As it turns out, there's quite a few options already in existence that you can order today in a variety of different sizes and price points.

Almost immediately after posting the HELO TC article, I was emailed by Gerard Nieuwenhuis who runs iHelicopters.net who told me about his variety of ready to ship helicopters that use a similar free app to control them. The main difference being, instead of requiring AA batteries to power the IR transmitter, the iHelicopter transmitter is powered by rechargeable batteries.

There's even a Kickstarter-funded option, iRemoco which similarly uses its own app. Crazier yet, infamous Chinese-knockoff seller DealExtreme even has a whole array of their own iOS-choppers.

There's not much variance in the pricing between iHelicopters, iRemoco, Griffin, and DealExtreme, so I think we're going to need to do an (entirely unexpected) iOS-controlled helicopter shootout to really determine who is the king of the App Store air space. Who knew such a seemingly specific product would have such a crowded marketplace?

  • http://twitter.com/bravadowaffle StephenD

    Unless I'm mistaken, it looks like the HELO TC and the iHelicopter are exactly the same. Even the controller apps look just about the same. The transmitters seem to be different though. Maybe they both have the same supplier *cough*DealExtreme*cough*

    It looks like the space is crowded by rebranding a bunch of the same thing. The iRemoco looks cool though, and it's controller app looks interesting as well.

    • http://twitter.com/ChaoticBox Frank Condello

      It's actually astounding how many North American companies simply sell branded stock Chinese OEM products. Rebranded iPhone/iPad/iPod accessories are rampant and can usually be had for less (often much less) direct from Hong Kong on eBay.

  • HelperMonkey

    Man, Eli, how did you get stuck with this miserable job? Trying out toy helicopters?! I hope you are well compensated for suffering through all of this.

  • Macaroon

    I curious when we`ll see the boats and cars. Surely only a matter of time.

    • Macaroon

      I`m

    • Anonymous

      Tankbot?
      They also provide support for controlling their other IR desk pets via an iOS app and the headphone jack dongle.
      Lacking any water based options though..!

  • Wut

    #correction The griffin helicopter is the sixth of the price of the Parrot AR Drone, not a sixth cheaper. A sixth cheaper of $300 is $250.

  • David Luchetti

    Oooooo please do a round-up/shoot-out! I love RC helis and i want an iOS controlled one, but. Want the best kne, of course!

  • http://www.peitsch.de Sebastian

    To answer the question in the article:

    Google. Google would've known.

  • Moi

    !!! Can I suffer and test them all for you? Send them to my address, I'll TEST it allllll day! :D

  • Tony

    Friggin' epic

  • Al

    Are you serious about testing them?
    I too am very interested in picking up an iOS controlled helicopter
    I can get IR copters easily here, but an accelerometer controlled copter would be great.

    If you are going to review a few, then I can wait. If not.... I'll probably end up with the worst one :P

  • Anonymous

    I have to say, the video is very well done and very entertaining. But I don't really see the point in paying $50 for this chopper when you can get one with a normal IR remote for $15-20 on Amazon. Same chopper, just with a standalone remote.

    This iOS chopper still requires the remote with IR transmitter, still requires batteries and line of sight. The iPhone app makes it a little more novel, but it also means you have to hand your iPhone to your kid if they want to play with it. A $10 remote control being dropped is much more likely to survive than a $500 glass iPhone.

    The Parrot AR Drone is quite a step up as it uses wifi, has cameras and can be used outside because the sun's infrared light won't interfere with your signal. Not worth $300 IMO, but things to keep in mind.

    • Cleaned

       The Parrot AR Drone is also more stable. Piloting a helicopter (with only two channels?) is not easy. Does not have total control. Parrott "quadricopter" still in the air (really) and can run on autopilot.

  • Andragos

    You can also find the cheap iHelicopters for pretty cheap at miniinthebox.com. They are a lot of fun and the controls work fine just don´t expect anything amazing from the accelerometer control.
    Would be really cool if the iHelicopter also had a camera like the parrot but for $40 you cant really ask that much.  

  • Anonymous

    I hate the idea of having to out the iPhone into a case though...seems like extra effort!

  • Pug_mi16

    iRemoco.com have just offered worldwide shipping for free on their helicopter..