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Unbelievable RC

Lama V3 2ch helicopter

September 2007
Street Price: $35.99 US
Manufacturer: Syma
Mfgr's recommended min. age: 14
Our recommended age range: 12-15
Primary use: Indoor
Radio: 49mhz
Includes:
  • Fully assembled helicopter
  • Controller
  • Charger
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • 8 AA batteries for the controller

Initial Impressions

We've seen tiny, simple helicopters that use two-channel control (up/down, left/right) like the Air Hogs Havoc, and before that there was the slightly Reflex (Helix) which had a three-channel radio (up/down, left/right, and forward/back). Beyond that there have been still larger and more sophisticated four-channel helicopters, but they are relatively expensive (usually $100 to $180) and more for real hobbyists than casual living room raiders. Well, what we have here from Syma (and available at XHeli.com) is something in between.

     

This has the size and construction of a more expensive four-channel helicopter, but the easier controls and low cost of a two-channel setup. It looks pretty smart and has decent detail, I just hope it can fly well too. Another interesting thing is that the blades are not completely stiff -- they flop around easily. I would guess this is so that if it hits something, it's less likely to break.

Preparing to Fly

The Lama V3 2ch (two-channel) comes with a pre-installed rechargable battery pack and includes a charger in the box, which I really appreciate because I don't have to keep buying alkaline batteries or go buy a special battery/charger set separately. The wall charger is easy to use (plug it in & walk away and it will stop when it's done). All you need to buy that's not in the package is a set of AAs for the transmitter. No problem.

Testing

The most important thing to do with any aircraft is to get it trimmed right, so that it doesn't move in a direction you don't want it to. The Lama V3 2ch's transmitter has a left/right trim that works like wheel alignment or steering trim on a car. If the heli continually turns to the left on its own, you push the right trim button until it stops, or vice-versa. After I got this pretty well taken care of, I still found that it tended to move backwards while skirting sideways (not turning, just the whole thing moving to the right). There are no trims for this, but fortunately the Professor was around to help. He can tell you more about what he did later -- something about clay and gravity and some other stuff, I don't know, he'll explain it. It worked, though. I was able to get up in the air and control my flight around.

Unfortunately it was windy outside and I didn't have a lot of room inside to fly (too many boxes of RCs waiting to be reviewed), so I used the kitchen, which gave me roughly a six-foot square space. Simply put, this wasn't enough, as you'll see by the edits in the video below. The room was so small that the wind & air turbulence the helicopter created couldn't dissipate and just cycled around, actually coming back to it and pushing and pulling it a lot. This was entirely my fault, though. I need to get more reviews done so I'll have space to fly in other rooms. A helicopter of this size with simple controls should be flown in at least 10-15 feet of open space, preferrably with even more space beyond that so that the air the heli moves has somewhere to go.

Given all of that, though, the helicopter flew pretty well for the really adverse conditions I put it in. The controls are sufficiently fast, but not twitchy, and I was able to get the hang of the controls. The two-channel setup is actually pretty easy to deal with. One stick controls going up & down, and the other makes the craft spin left or right. Floating on air, it can spin in its own length continuously, so I didn't really have to wory too much about figuring out how to control it differently when it's facing me versus facing away. It basically steers like a car.

In the Professor's Lab

Balance -- balance is everything with RC helicopters! Without balance, you will fail! This one moved on its own, even after it was trimmed, because it was nto balanced. A helicopter basically has a big propeller (called a rotor) on top, or in this case, it has two that spin opposite directions like on the Reflex. When the rotor(s) spin fast enough, air is pushed down, which makes the helicopter go up. If the weight of the helicopter is balanced right under the rotor(s), it will go straight up or straight down, or it will hover in one place. If there is too much weight on one side, it will lean to that side, and move in that direction. If there is too much weight up front, it will move forward on its own. Too much weight on the tail, it goes backwards. You understand, right?

This helicopter was not balanced. To fix this was simple. I used clay. Clay. You know, the clay you squish and play with and make fun things out of. It comes in different colors and such. Clay is perfect for balancing things because you can easily add or subtract however much or little you want, and it can be formed to any shape, including wrapping it around things. The heli moved to the right, so I attached some clay on the left. Once I had the right amount, it only moved straight backwards. Do you think I added clay to the front? If you do, you are wrong! Wrong! Why add when you can move? The clay on the left needed to be on the left, but whether it was up front or towards the rear made no difference in side-to-side balance. Front-to-back balance was bad, so I moved the clay that was already there, forward. Here is a picture of the left side:

See the clay? Do you see it? It is all on the left, and forward of the center of the helicopter. It is simple. You take clay, you add patience, and you get balance. Ha!

Video

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

Conclusion

I think this is a decent helicopter for the money, but not great. The most important thing to consider before you think about buying one, is whether you have enough space to fly it. You want clear, unobstructed space all around so that you have enough room to maneuver and not get caught in its own wind. Because of its size and the fast-spinning blades, it should not be operated by or around small children, and you should keep pets away also. The good thing is, if it does crash badly, the blades can be replaced. Any place that sells this heli should be able to sell sets of blades (they come in pairs, but the top ones are different than the bottom ones). They're also the same ones used on many popular 4-channel helis, like the Esky Lama V4 and Heli-Max Aze EZ. Blades cost about $5 per pair. If you want to try medium-sized RC helicopters without spending a lot of money, this can be an okay way to start.

C

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