Around this time last year, we were just about to get our hands on the Parrot AR.Drone quadricopter. It was (and still is) an incredibly cool remote control toy with some seriously advanced technology onboard that allows for control of the craft via an iOS device complete with a video feed captured from cameras onboard the AR.Drone all connected through a WiFi network served up by the quadricopter itself. Parrot later even expanded the AR.Drone’s functionality to include a few different games that utilized the cameras in interesting ways.
Unfortunately, all of this tech came with a hefty price tag. $299.99 to be exact which put the AR.Drone far outside of impulse purchase range for most. Thankfully, acclaimed accessory manufacturer Griffin took note that people thought things like the AR.Drone are cool as hell, while building a similar product with a price point that falls comfortably inside “eh, what the hell" territory which I really think is vital for any gadgety toy.
Check out the HELO TC in action:
Griffin has taken a unique angle with the HELO TC and has made several obvious cost-cutting measures to hit that key $50 price point. First off, the HELO TC obviously lacks all the flight stabilization logic that powered the AR.Drone. The AR.Drone basically flies itself, while the HELO TC seems to be very similar to the barebones remote control helicopters that you can pick up for around $20 online, which leads me to believe that flying the HELO TC with the finesse seen in the above video is going to be very difficult.
Similarly, all of the WiFi connectivity options found in the AR.Drone have been replaced by a transmitter that clips on to your iOS device and plugs into your headphone jack. This takes AA batteries, and utilizing the free companion app sends tones out your headphone port to an IR transmitter, a technique that has been well documented and used by hobbyists to essentially create a playlist of sounds to do things like control a digital SLR camera, or in this case, fly a helicopter.
Of course Griffin hasn’t mentioned the specifics of how the HELO TC works, so this is largely just a series of educated guesses on my part, but the logic seems sound. Either way, we’re totally stoked for the device. I had a ton of fun with the AR.Drone, and it seems like the HELO TC should be equally fun, only for a sixth of the price.
For more information, check out the HELO TC web site, or if you’re totally sold on the device swing over to the Griffin store to pre-order. No specific release dates have been mentioned yet, although the PR Griffin blasted out this morning repeatedly mentions the holiday season. It seems every year the window for what the “holiday season" actually is broadens even wider, so we could be seeing the HELO TC sooner than we expect. I’ve got my fingers crossed, at least.