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Unbelievable RC

Air Hogs Jackal

August 2010
air hogs jackal

Street Price: $39.99 US
Manufacturer: Spinmaster
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 10
Our recommended age range: 10-13
Primary use: Indoor
Top speed: n/a
Radio: Infrared
Includes:

  • Assembled helicopter
  • Controller/charger
  • Spare tail rotor
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 4x AA batteries for the controller

Initial Impressions

The Air Hogs Jackal is a sleek-looking micro heli sold exclusively at Target. It's available in three or four colors, all with the same basic shape & style, featuring a lightweight plastic fuselage that a lot of detail. The price seems high for a Havoc-sized heli, but the catch is that unlike the Havoc and others like it, the Jackal has a 3-channel radio system, instead of 2. The first two channels are normal, one to control up & down thrust, and the other to turn left & right. The third controls a tiny motor-driven propeller mounted on the top of the tail, to pitch the heli up or down to move forward or backward on command. In theory, a heli with this setup should be able to hover in one place, then fly forward only when you want it to. We'll see how it actually works out!

Testing

The Jackal charges right from the controller, like most Air Hogs products. Once it's ready to go, getting it into the air is physically easier than with most toy-class RC helicopters. The main throttle stick on the controller, which controls up & down movement, has no spring in it, which both makes it easier to move, and helps you to hold your height at one level. When you first take to the air, invariably the Jackal will want to spin in one direction, but instead of right/left trim buttons like I'm used to, the Jackal has a trim dial on the right side of the controller, which is much easier to use and lets you make much faster & more natural adjustments.

With its coaxial (dual, counter-rotating main rotor) design, the Jackal has good stability in the air, especially for its diminutive size. It's not rock-solid in the air, though, and really won't hover in one place unless you're in a really large, still room where the air that the heli itself moves around won't create little random wind gusts that bounce back & move it around. Left & right turning is pretty crisp & more accurate than with 2-chanel helis like the Havoc. Using the third channel to move forward or backward is a little more tricky than I expected. The inherent self-stabilizing design of the twin counter-weighted rotors makes the Jackal want to always level out, so when you try to move forward, the heli has to sort of fight itself. If you go forward briefly, when the rotors self-correct, the heli can actually move right back to where you started. Also, when you're in forward or reverse flight, the tail sometimes wants to swing around to the left or right, so you have to be quick on the controls and constantly correct it, to prevent it from spinning around. The Jackal doesn't crash a lot, it just takes a lot of constant control inputs to get it to do what you want it to.

Video

(Click a video a second time to view it larger in a new window.)

Conclusion

The Air Hogs Jackal looks great in the air or just displayed on a desk or shelf. Having a 3-channel flight control system in such a tiny heli is a relatively new & uncommon concept, but you do pay for the extra perk. I like the idea of being able to move forward only on command, but unfortunately in reality, the Jackal isn't easy to control with precision, and it takes a lot of concentration and fast finger work. Still not a bad heli, though, by any means, and it's particularly good for its size. If you like the look and look forward to the challenge of stepping up from a 2-channel heli to something with more control, the Air Hogs Jackal is a good micro to try.

B

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