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Air Hogs Havoc Heli RTF Review

The SilverLit PiccoZ micro helicopter, now distributed in North America by Spin Master as the Air Hogs Havoc Heli, is worth its 10 gram weight in gold for the fun it can provide. Here's a look at this amazing little machine from the point of view of my 13 year old daughter, Barbara, with some comments from Yours Truly.

Splash

Introduction


Rotor diameter:5.3"
Disk Area:21.6 sq. in.
Weight:0.3 oz.
Length:6.8"
Disk Loading:2 oz/sq. ft.
Servos:None
Transmitter:SilverLit two-channel infrared
Receiver:SilverLit two-channel IR with two integral speed controls
Battery:1s 50 mAh Li-Poly
Motors:6mm and 4mm diameter brushed
ESCs:SilverLit - integral with receiver
Manufacturer:SilverLit Toy Manufactory Ltd.
Distributed in North America by: Spin Master LTD
Available From:Your local Target, Wal-Mart or Toys R Us stores
also:Hobby People
and:Tower Hobbies

Recently, thanks to a friend at work (who goes by al_wa on the RCGroups forums), we were introduced to the tiny little flying machine that was first known as the PiccoZ (then PicooZ) from SilverLit in China, and which has now become widely available in North America as the Air Hogs Havoc Heli. Al gave my daughter (whose thoughts on the Multiplex Easy*Star he enjoyed reading) one of these not long before her 13th birthday on the condition that she "do a little write-up" about it. So, without further ado, over to Barbara for that promised write-up:

Havoc causing Helicopter

First Impressions:

ITíS SO TINY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOOK AT THAT THING! ITíS ONLY LIKE THIS BIG!!!!!! *Gestures size* ITíS SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *Deep breath* Okay. Calm down. Iím sure there is a logical explanation to its unusually small size. Not that I care why itís so small, I just want to fly it.

First Fly:

Weeeeheeeeheeeeee!!!!!! This is fun!!!!!!!!!! EEEEhhhhhheeeeheeeeheeeheeeee! *More mad giggling ensues* *Zoom buzz bonk crash bounce buzz. * Oy!

For one thing, itís really hard to get out of the box if you donít slit all the tape, which is easy to do if you are very excited about flying it. Then you gotta wait while it charges. But once itís done, itís up, up, and buzz, bonk, owÖÖ whoops!

General Info:

When you turn it on, itís got this little flashing blue LED thatís inside the foam, so you canít see it unless itís on. This is very helpful if the helicopter falls behind or under some furniture. Itís also got a very distinct buzzing sound like a large fly. Itís kinda hard to control. It barely listens to directions, but thatís okay because it is nearly as indestructible as an Aero Ace. So far, the only thing Iíve damaged is one of the houseplants, but Mom assures me the leaves will grow back.

Beware of DUST BUNNIES!!!!! I once got one caught in the tail rotor that was as big as the helicopter itself! Dun dun duÖÖ.uÖÖ.un!!!!!! But that was behind the TV. Others came from under the couch. Uuuuugh. If you just pulled the helicopter out of a rather dusty place and it isnít flying well, check to see if thereís hair wrapped around the tail rotor shaft. That causes problems. [Note from Dad: by not "flying well" in this case, it means "spinning uncontrollably even with full rudder stick in the opposite direction".]

The other thing is that even the most mild mannered dog will think the copter is an evil bug after it lands on him/her a few times. Itís kinda funny to watch my grumpy old corgi running for the little helicopter every time it lands. He tries to kill it.

This little heli can be a bit squirrelly, especially fresh off the charge. But never fear! There is a BUTTER ZONE! Yeah!!!!!!! The best time in the flight is right before it starts showing signs of low battery. Still it is pretty hard to steer because it often just spins when you push on the stick. Sometimes it spins when youíre not even touching the right stick! Oy! When itís running out of battery, you tend to notice because it takes more and more throttle just to stay in the air. When itís really dead, you can have the left stick all the way up and it still is just buzziní along on the floor.

It tends to look silly when you crash. Like, once my mom was flying and she crashed into the curtains and it stuck there buzzing. The tail was caught in the curtains. It was silly. We all laughed. It was just hanging there halfheartedly buzzing. Sometimes you crash into the ceiling and get what I call the dead bug effect where it bounces across the floor still buzzing like that fly you just swatted with the newspaper.

The first time I flew I was giggling like crazy and crashing into things left and rightÖand up and down and forward and back and sometimes even diagonal. One of the things I crash into the most is the ceiling. If you fly too high it buzzes along the ceiling like itís stuck. (This is very frustrating might I add.) I wish I had a bigger room.

Speaking of bigger rooms, I recently got to fly the little bugger in our parish hall. We encountered some issues but the main thing is: if you're gonna fly in a large space, point the red dome on top of the transmitter at the helicopter, not the floor or just any old direction. It actually is almost harder to fly in a larger space cause you tend to forget to stop climbing and hit the ceiling. Also, itís like thereís a helicopter magnet in the wall. Itís kinda annoying.

So in my experience, thatís about it. Iím sure my dad will go into much more technical detail about everything, including ways to modify it but I donít feel qualified to say much more than this, so have fun with tiny helicopters and donít kill anything!

Once we'd each flown one battery charge through the one Al gave to Barbara, I had to have more of them. It was simply amazing to me how well this tiny and inexpensive little thing worked. So, it was off to the various retail outlets (Target, Wal Mart, Toys R Us) where I'd seen empty spaces on the shelf where the Air Hogs were out of stock. I finally managed to find some at a newly opened Wal Mart in our area, and shortly after that I found some at the Toys R Us that is fairly near my workplace. I've since also seen them in our local Target store, but I still see lots of empty out of stock shelf spaces. I imagine that's because, like me, once you try one you have to go back and get at least one more.

The original PiccoZ was designed by a clever Belgian named Alexander Van de Rostyne, who has been working on tiny helicopters for a number of years (the Ikarus Piccolo is another design of his). In an RCGroups post from February of 2006 about the introduction of the PiccoZ at the 2006 Nurmburg Toy Fair, he had this to say about this creation (and its larger cousin called the Gyrotor):

"- When I now do the Gyrotor and the PiccoZ, then it is because I simply wanted to go to the next 'unsurved audience': bring the helicopter experience (or at least part of it) to people who just want to have fun with a toy at the price of a toy. AND at the ease of operating of a toy.

"- I had many 'normal' people trying the models in Nurmberg, people who might have never touched an RC thing ever before in their life. I have never seen more smiling faces than during this week. The lady in the video somewhere on E-zone almost cried when she hovered the PiccoZ 2 seconds after her first takeoff...

" So folks, I am sure some of you will not be too excited , others may be very excited.

"Oh, by the way, the patent document is 25 pages long. There is quite a pile of hi-tech-hi-brain stuff required to make complicated things easy."

[quoted with permission]

As its inventor notes above, the PiccoZ/Havoc is not a fully functional helicopter because there is no cyclic pitch control. It does have a flybar arrangement which adjusts the collective pitch so as to make it very stable in pitch and roll. Left to it's own devices it has a strong tendency to stay upright. I'm sure this clever stabilizing arrangement is one of the reasons why it is so easy to fly and ideal for the "unserved audience" that includes my daughter and my wife among others. I am also in that category because even though I've been flying fixed wing models for many years, this is my first rotary-wing experience.

Details

What you get for your $30 is the complete and ready to fly helicopter, the transmitter, a four-page instruction sheet, and a little packet which contains a spare tail rotor and some small weight stickers for trimming. All you need to add is six AA cells for the transmitter and a Phillips screwdriver to open the transmitter's battery compartment. Install the transmitter batteries, charge up the helicopter and you're ready to go.

A vital piece of information that is missing from the instructions is that the transmitter has to be turned ON in order to charge the helicopter (this is different from the Aero Aces). So - to charge, turn off the little switch on the helicopter, plug the charge cord in and turn on the transmitter. When the charge is complete the green LED on the transmitter will go out. (This takes around twenty minutes.) If you leave it unattended after a while (another 5 minutes or so) the red LED (transmitter power indicator) will blink several times and then also turn off (to save the transmitter batteries). Cycle the switch to bring things back to life.

There are two controls: rotor head speed (which is really an altitude control) and tail rotor speed, which lets you point the direction it tends to go. This is set up as throttle and rudder (or ailerons) in a Mode II arrangement. There is also a trim function on the tail rotor control. If you've had an Air Hogs Aero Aces airplane (twin motor pusher with control by differential thrust) the control layout is the same. Because of the lack of cyclic pitch control, forward flight is achieved by either balancing it slightly nose heavy, which tilts the rotor disk forward a bit, giving just a bit of forward thrust along with the lift. There's no way to vary this in flight, or to bring the little helicopter to a hover, though the instructions suggest adjusting the thrust line of the tail rotor (by twisting the tail boom) so that it tends to fly forward if turned one way and slow down or stop when turned the opposite way.

The control of the Havoc (or PiccoZ) is by infrared light, not by radio. As with the Air Hogs Aero Aces (SilverLit X-Twins), the transmitter also serves as the charger for the 50 mAh li-poly cell inside the helicopter. Also, like the Aero Aces, these have three "channels" (labeled "A", "B", and "C"). The transmitter is switchable between the three channels straight from the factory so you can fly up to three Air Hogs Havoc Helis at once. We've seen no interaction or crosstalk between one channel and another.

At least with the Air Hogs Havoc Helis, each one is trimmed in a different color. The "A" channel helis have red trim, the "B" channels have yellow trim and the "C" channels are blue. I've not seen any of the prior SilverLit PiccoZ/PicooZs so I don't know if this color code applies to them as well or not.

The little flying machine has an expanded polypropylene foam body and rotor blades that seem to also be polypropylene. As Barb noted, we've not managed to kill one yet - or even hurt one - despite bouncing them off the ceiling, the floor, crepe paper party streamers (from Barb's birthday party - you can see them in the videos), a ceiling fan, walls, bookcases, my wife's Celtic harp, lamps, each other, and more. Of course they're so light that there's very little inertia there.

As supplied right out of the package (we've tried five of them now!) they tend to be trimmed to hover or fly forward very slowly, and there is some variation from one to another on that. As you'd expect for something mass produced and sold for the "huge sum" of $29.99 at your local Target, Wal-Mart or Toys R Us store (I've seen them in all three here), every now and then one's a dud. Of the five I've tried, one has had to go back to the store (Wal-Mart in this case) as all it would do is sort of swing back and forth in the air. That one also ran for about half the advertised 6 minutes.

On the other hand, the best one of the five flies forward at a speed which is comfortable in our little living room (watch the videos to get a sense of how small and how cluttered) and flies for over 9 minutes before it reaches that point Barb described as "just buzzin' along on the floor" with the throttle stick full up.

About the videos

The two videos that follow were both based on the same 20 minutes or so of tape shot not long after we got our Havocs. Both Barbara and I have gotten better at collaborating with them to get them where we want to go than you see in the videos. One thing the videos both illustrate clearly is that these things are pretty rugged. In spite of all the crashes you see in the "blooper" video (and many more), we have yet to damage one.

The tape was shot shortly after Barbara's birthday party, which is why there are streamers hanging down from the ceiling fan and over the windows.

The first video tries to give a sense of "normal" flying - at least by inexperienced hands. Barbara is flying the blue one, I am flying the yellow one (this was before I added a little ballast to help it fly forward as discussed below). Barb's blue Havoc is completely stock - no modifications at all. The yellow one also had none when we took the video.

Expect, with some practice, to do better than we're doing in these videos. I would like to think I'm doing much better now than it looks here.

Downloads

This second video is a series of mishaps, crashes and general mayhem. Editing by my 16-year-old son, Ian.

Downloads

Some Tips

The simplest way to get these little guys to fly forward is to put a tiny amount of weight on the nose. I've found that about half of a small paper clip, taped under the nose, is just about perfect for our living space. In a bigger place like the church hall Barbara mentioned, I'd put perhaps a whole paper clip on. The extra weight does cut into flight time a bit, but the flights are more satisfying. Other folks have suggested the sticky stuff used to stick posters to the wall as an easily adjustable alternative. One thing you don't want to do is stick a push pin or thumbtack into the nose. The little li-poly cell that powers it is not that far back inside and you can puncture it! Not a good idea. Twisting the tail boom as suggested in the instructions also helps get the right amount of forward flight.

We have learned that if it's heading for the wall (or other area where it might get trapped) it's better to just shut it down and let it fall than to have it flopping around behind a bookcase or under the couch or whatever. This may be why we've not even broken a tail rotor (even though a spare is supplied). Related to that, the downwash from the main rotor, when near a wall or the ceiling, causes the heli to be pulled toward that surface. This is especially apparent if you get within about a rotor-diameter of the ceiling - the little thing seems to get "sucked up" to the ceiling and you have to drop the power WAY off to get it away. In an ordinary room it will likely bounce off the floor once as you try to get the power back on after it falls away. It gets rather comical, really....

Another thing I've noticed is that while you can trim it to go straight at pretty much any point in the flight, the trim (which works like that on many computer RC transmitters - with repeated stabs of the trim lever rather than holding it) needs to be changed as the battery runs down. Barb just ignores the trim on hers but I'm fussing with it often when I'm flying mine. If it is trimmed, it can be steered with just little pulses of tail rotor commands one way or the other. With some practice, between working the trim and a light touch on the "rudder" stick, you can at least give the impression the little beastie is under control for most of a battery charge. Freshly charged the good ones are a little squirrelly for the first minute or so (there are really only a few discrete steps in the throttle, and it's either climbing for the ceiling or falling at that point) and also right at the end when they won't fly out of ground effect anyway. In between, as I say, you can at least give the impression you're in command of the thing.

There are all sorts of creative things folks are doing to modify these little things, like replacing the main rotor shaft with a carbon fiber rod and the bushings it runs in with ball bearings - there's even a kit of parts available to do this from a supplier in the UK called Indoor Flyer. There are two huge threads and a number of smaller ones in some of the RCGroups forums - notably the Micro RTF and Indoor and Micro Models forums. Even the PiccoZ's designer sometimes posts there with his own insights on how to tweak the mass-produced version to work just right. Two of these threads are New hit from Silverlit: PicooZ and PiccoZ, GyRotor - post your mods - part 1, both in the Micro RTF forum. One that has a particularly good set of pictures of the innards is PICOO Z Main Shaft Upgrade Silverlit PicooZ [PICTURES].

In those threads are pictures of just what's inside those little EPP bodies, alternate bodies, many different modifications (successful and not-so-successful), as well as "tuning" tips and more.

Another resource is the PiccoZ Toolbox, which may be found HERE.

Also discussed at length in those threads and others is the proliferation of clones of these little helicopters. From what I've read in the the discussions, the clones vary widely in quality and consistency, with some seemingly very close to the real ones in capability and others being - well - not so good. There also seems to be a huge variation in price ranging from less than the $30 the Havoc Heli goes for in all the stores around here (Seattle area) to quite a bit more.

For more on this from the manufacturer's point of view, go to the SilverLit flying toys site. Click on the "Special Announcement" for detailed info about this.

Conclusion

So, are these things worth their weight in gold for the fun value? Well, on the day I looked at gold prices, this is what I found: 9.5g is 0.305 troy ounce. At $670/ounce for gold that's $204. They actually cost about $101/ounce (avdp) including tax at Wal Mart or Toys R Us.

I don't know if I'd actually pay $200 for one, but I know I've not had much trouble paying $90+ for three of them and I'm sure I'm going to get my money's worth of fun out of them.

It also occurs to me that the Havoc Heli would make a great low-risk tool for learning that essential lesson all RC flyers (and drivers and sailors) have to learn: when you command a right turn your vehicle turns to its right even if it is coming toward you.

And as someone who has been flying electric-powered airplanes for over 25 years now, I am flat-out amazed that this thing is even possible. Only a couple of years ago I wouldn't have believed it at all, but I believe it now. Well done Alexander, and well done, SilverLit.

Last edited by BEC; Mar 14, 2007 at 10:16 PM..

Discussion

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Old May 01, 2007, 08:24 AM
Registered User
Kings Park, New York
Joined Jan 2005
1,236 Posts
Good info - wrong forum.
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Old May 01, 2007, 08:30 AM
Your attitude is your alt
Gary Morris's Avatar
Nashville Metro, Tennesse, United States
Joined Aug 2001
2,644 Posts
Not in wrong forum, just cross linked to the article. Good job of testing the new toy, I'm sure it's already a big hit, just wish I had invented the Air Hog fliers!

Gary Morris
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Old May 01, 2007, 04:55 PM
No Guts, No Glory
flyin C's Avatar
Simi Valley, CA
Joined Feb 2007
2,024 Posts
Theses little heli's are AWESOME. So much fun and when you get them trimmed out perfect, you have perfect control of them. To bad my main blade just broke
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Old May 01, 2007, 09:05 PM
There is no place like Hodges!
edge5foamy's Avatar
United States, GA, Byron
Joined Mar 2007
3,549 Posts
I was mad when I got mine, all it would do is go up, and down, not forward, I ended up putting a few paper clips on the front of mine to make it go forward, now its awsome. I would suggest that whatever you use to add wieght to the front, make it removable, so that you can go slower if you want to fly in very small places.
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Old May 01, 2007, 09:54 PM
TROUT OR THERMALS
steelhead's Avatar
Eureka, Ca
Joined Sep 2002
2,771 Posts
My local hobby shop sells replacement rotors for these guys as well as tail rotors. I havent broke one yet, but I knicked the snot out of the LE of the blades. Im sure they would work better when fresh.

Dean
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Old May 02, 2007, 10:25 AM
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Joined Feb 2005
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The family that plays together stays together

Good job Barbara, Ian, Bernard and Mom (who sacrificed a plant.)

Al
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Last edited by al_wa; May 02, 2007 at 10:37 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old May 03, 2007, 12:51 PM
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Angela H's Avatar
Nashville, TN
Joined Nov 2006
1,510 Posts
Bernard, I heard your voice in my head today when I impulsively bought one at Costco.
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Old May 03, 2007, 05:01 PM
BEC
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Auburn, Washington USA
Joined Jan 2001
12,937 Posts


Another fellow in my group at work just told me he'd done the same thing. I brought one to a staff meeting a few weeks ago and flew it around in the room while they were setting up the computer/projector which is where he saw it....
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Old May 04, 2007, 12:16 AM
Omnipote
stone_axe's Avatar
Louisville, KY
Joined Apr 2001
665 Posts
I had to purchase and return 2 of these heli's from my local Toys "R" Us before I got a decent one.

Now that I have a decent one - WOW! - what an amazing toy.

It does teach you about basic heli orientation. Mine only needs additional nose weight to compensate for the initial minute of over power where the ESC can't hold a hover. The last 3 minutes of charge is so amazing and gentle that it is mesmerizing. The other technique is to undercharge the Havoc so that you are always in that last 3 minute "sweet spot" and use 2 of the included nose weights.

Overall, the Havoc is the best $30 that I've spent on RC by a WIDE margin. Once you figure out that the first minute of the charge is unruly and with practise the last 3 minutes of the charge is totally controllable, you will be totally hooked.

So gentle, so beautiful, so affordable. The Havoc is amazing.
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Old May 04, 2007, 01:24 PM
ACB
stuck in a tree
Joined Mar 2006
80 Posts
I just picked one of these up at Walmart for $30, and now I can't put the thing down! Great fun!

stone axe is right on the money.
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Old May 04, 2007, 03:42 PM
Air Drummer
Nova Scotia
Joined Apr 2007
33 Posts
I like the way if it lands on its side, you can flip it back upright again and take off.
added all 3 of those little silver sticker weights to the nose so far...and i might even try more weight..but its got a little 'forward' in her now.
Definately buying one for my brother who's a chopper pilot.

/it's windy outside and i dont really care at the moment. weeeee
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Old May 04, 2007, 03:47 PM
Air Drummer
Nova Scotia
Joined Apr 2007
33 Posts
is this the only Havoc thread? its not THAT new, is it?
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Old May 04, 2007, 03:49 PM
No Guts, No Glory
flyin C's Avatar
Simi Valley, CA
Joined Feb 2007
2,024 Posts
no, theirs a thread in the micro section
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=554408
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Old May 04, 2007, 06:52 PM
Air Drummer
Nova Scotia
Joined Apr 2007
33 Posts
sweet. thx
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