Remote controlled helicopters have dropped in price drastically over the last 5 years or so. As lithium batteries replaced more “cumbersome” battery technologies it became possible to shrink down the helicopers, and by switching out the radios that controlled them with IR controls you essentially went from a highly complicated mechanical wonder to a flashlight controlled motor with a helicopter body.
A new trend over the last year or so has been to switch out the controller part of these helicopter setups with mobile devices. There have been Kickstarter projects that do this on the cheap as well as much more advanced systems like the Parrot AR Drone. Still, it’s been mostly a niche type of accessory, but now that might change as Griffin has announced their own version of such a helicopter.
The Helo TC is basically just your very standard cheap RC helicopter bundled with an attachment that plugs into your iOS device’s headphone port. You then download an app that gives you on-screen controls to control the helicopter. From a technical point of view, the app generates sound signals that the add on accessory turns into infrared signals that in turn control the helicopter the same way that these helicopters are normally controlled. Using IR brings down the cost, but requires that bulky accessory as well as a direct line of sight to the helicopter. Quite a bit away from the WiFi-controlled video-transmitting Parrot AR Drone, in other words, but still a nice toy. The price is also a lot more reasonable at $50 for the full kit, and with Griffin’s distribution network I assume this will hit store shelves as well, which pretty much guarantees its success.[Griffin via TouchArcade]