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Unbelievable RC

FA-005 RC helicopter (OLD VERSION)

October 2011
rc

Street Price: $59.99 US
Manufacturer: Fast Lane RC
Mfr's recommended min. age: 8+
Our recommended age range: none
Primary use: Crashing
Top speed: n/a
Runtime per charge: ~6 mins.
Controller: 27mhz
Includes:

  • Assembled heli
  • Controller
  • Wall charger
  • Spare rotors
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 8x AA batteries

IMPORTANT: This is an old, outdated review for a product that is no longer on the market. It is preserved for archival purposes and is no longer linked on our site. Please see the new FA-005 review, which has a very different outcome.

Initial Impressions

At over 17 inches main rotor tip to tail rotor tip, the Fast Lane RC FA-005 is a much larger helicopter than we're used to seeing in the toy-grade RC world. With large size & weight can come both danger, and stability, but indeed this one touts "improved stability" right on the box. The frame of the helicopter itself features many metal parts, making it fairly sturdy. It has a sleek, "hobby-grade" style of canopy (outer shell) that is lightweight and leaves plenty of open room for air from the main rotors to keep the large motors cool. A rechargeable lithium polymer battery is pre-installed and not removable, and you fill it up with juicy electricity from an included wall charger.

The controller is very large and really tailored towards adult-sized hands. It's also heavier than most toy-grade RC transmitters once you install the necessary 8 AA batteries in the rear compartment (not included).

Testing

There's one major problem with flying the FA-005 controllably. It's nearly impossible. In a 3-channel "coaxial" style of helicopter like this, left/right tuning is accomplished by slowing one rotor relative to the other. When the two rotors begin to spin at different speeds, inertia and drag start to spin the heli in one direction. Because the FA-005 has no stabilizing "gyro" system, once it starts to turn, there's really nothing to stop it. If you want to turn just a little, you have to give it a slight command to turn in that direction, and then immediately correct with full opposite turning input to slow its spinning down before it goes out of control. Making this more difficult, it starts its turns very sluggishly, so every action is delayed a lot from when you move the stick on the controller. Two adults with plenty of experience with RC helicopters ranging from 2 to 4 channels, both toy- and hobby-grade, gave the FA-005 our best flying efforts repeatedly, but we spent more time spinning out of control and crashing into walls & other objects than actually flying as intended. The test of the FA-005 as you can buy it from the store was over. It had failed.

I wasn't ready to give up completely, though. I noticed one potentially solvable problem with the design of the heli, and I decided to go about trying to fix it. Amidst all of the frantic out-of-control tail-wagging & spinning, I saw evidence that the heli was too heavy in the rear. In rare moments when it would actually reach a hovering state, it would start to inch rearward on its own. To address this, I used a small jeweler's screwdriver to remove both the horizontal and vertical fin assemblies that are attached to the boom. After this modification, the FA-005 became much "easier" to fly. I put that in quotes because it's a very relative term. It was still extremely difficult and required repeated full movements of the right stick on the controller back & forth very quickly to stop it from still spinning all over the place, but at least it was possible now through extraordinary efforts to keep the heli within a reasonably small cube of airspace.

With the fix working, I took the FA-005 outside to an area partially protected from wind by the intersection of two single-story buildings. Fast Lane says the FA-005 will fly outdoors as long as there isn't heavy wind, so I figured I'd give it a shot, keeping in mind that in box-stock form, it wouldn't fly controllably indoors with no wind whatsoever. Predictably, what little breeze did make itself around into the little cove where I was flying blew this poor heli wherever it felt like. It took all of my skill to keep it from either crashing violently or quickly drifting away. While at this location, I also took the heli inside and let two more RC'ers with hobby-grade helicopter experience give it their best shot in a controlled environment. They gave up quickly.

Video

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

As a bonus, here is a bunch of the footage that didn't make it into the main video:

Conclusion

The Fast Lane RC FA-005 should never have been put on shelves. To market this towards kids, this unwieldy metal monolith with large fast-spinning plastic knives on it, when four experienced adults nearly couldn't contain its random wrath even after doing modifications that no Toys R Us consumer should be expected to think of, much less execute, is a travesty. However, I'm not going to give this one a full-on 'F'. It is a failure, but not to that degree. I save the lowest grade for the worst of the worst, products that don't work at all. With simple modifications that you now know about, the FA-005 can be made to fly, if only barely, if you are an adult with a lot of dexterity and significant prior experience with RC helicopters. Next stop for the FA-005? RC Malarkey!

F+

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