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Unbelievable RC

Air Hogs Reflex Helicopter

March 2007
Street Price: $59.99 US
Manufacturer: Spin Master
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 10+
Our recommended age range: 10+
Primary use: Indoor
Radio: 49mhz (also available in 27mhz)
Includes:
  • Fully assembled helicopter
  • Transmitter
  • Full set of extra rotor blades
  • AC charging adapter
  • 9V battery for the transmitter, pre-installed
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • Just a pilot!

Initial Impressions

(Note: There are two helicopters that look identical to the one pictured here, the Helix and the Reflex. The Reflex is the updated version, with a better charger and slightly different blades for more stable flight.)

I ordered my Reflex online, so I didn't really understand how small it was going to be – just 6" from nose to tail, less than 8" tip to tip on the rotors! I can hold it in my palm; it's truly a micro! It's very lightweight, and the only thing I worry is that it seems a little fragile. The controller is nice – it's small enough for a kid, yet large enough for an adult. On the left is one control stick for up & down movement, and it's smoothly spring-loaded so that if you push it upward and then let go, it softly comes back to the full down position. On the right is a centered stick for controlling forward/backwards movement and turning.


Preparing to Fly

After fully charging the Reflex, I went through the initial tuning process the instructions strongly recommend. You put it on a flat surface and move the left control stick just enough to get the helicopter to barely take off. Chances are, it will spin a bit in one direction, so you have to land and adjust a small knob on the top rotor, turning it opposite the direction of the spin. I found that you only have to turn this knob a tiny, tiny amount for it to make a difference.

Once I had the tuning right, I took the Reflex to the middle of the largest open indoor space I had and started taking it up a couple feet in the air. Once it was hovering, it seemed to slowly spin again, so I readjusted the tuning once more. I guess it acts a little differently when you actually get it flying compared to just starting to lift off the ground for a couple seconds. After the second adjustment, it didn't spin on one direction, but it would still wander around a little, in seemingly random directions. It also wanted to always go forward, so I felt like I had to really fight it to stay within, oh, a six-foot area.

I figured the forward motion was because it was leaning forward a little in the air, so I stuck a small metal screw to the tail with a piece of tape to improve the balance. It worked! It still wanted to go forward just a little bit (really, really slow), but this was actually good because then I could just steer it around.

Testing

It takes practice to fly any aircraft and it's important that you have enough space to make a little mistake here or there. If you feel like you're losing control or might be about to crash, just throttle down with the left control stick to land. If you do hit something with the rotors, they fold back harmlessly, usually preventing damage. You just have to lock them back into their completely straight position before you fly again. Also, sometimes I found that after a crash landing, it would turn itself off – probably some sort of safety mechanism. When this happens, just turn off the switch on the helicopter and then turn it back on, and it should be fine. I did manage to chip off a small piece of the end of a rotor blade when I hit a doorway, but it still flies fine.

I found that I got about 7 or 8 minutes of almost continuous flying out of a battery charge. Recharging takes around 45 minutes, depending upon how quickly you decide to stop flying when the power gets low and it can't fly as high.

Video

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

In the Professor's Lab

Real-life helicopters usually have one large "main" spinning rotor to lift it up into the air. Because the main rotor is so wide and spins so fast, the force it takes to turn it creates an opposite force on the helicopter itself, making it want to actually spin in the opposite direction! Preventing this from happening is the job of the tail rotor – the small propeller alllll the way at the back, that spins in a circle when you look at the helicopter from the side. The tail rotor works like an airplane propeller, pushing against the tail, making the body of the helicopter want to turn in the direction opposite of where the main rotor makes it want to spin. When the forces are perfectly balanced, they cancel out, and the helicopter can hover in place or fly straight!

The Reflex, now, it is different. It has no tail rotor at all. No, instead, it has two main rotors, one above the other, spinning in opposite directions (they call them "counter-rotating"). Because the two rotors are exactly the same size, and spin at exactly the same speed, just opposite to each other, their spinning forces cancel out, and the body of the helicopter doesn't move except when you use the small thruster motors to maneuver about. Beauty in simplicity!

Conclusion

The Reflex is the real deal, a micro-sized helicopter that's stable enough to be flown around a room. It needs some adjustment right out of the box, but once you get it right, it's fun to fly. I wish it was possible to really hover in one place in the air, but it's so light that any breeze at all (even its own) moves it around, so I'll settle for really slow, controllable flight. The Reflex is a keeper for me.

A-

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