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Flying Toys

Bits & Pieces Newsletter - May 2014

By Ian Brown, Editor – Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

On my last day at Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In & Expo, I noticed a booth selling flying toys for very low prices. I thought “what the heck” and bought one for my grandson and one for myself. The gift, a quadcopter, all of $30, looked a little easier to fly and even had a button to get it to do 360-degree loops and rolls. The box mentioned a “choking hazard” but said nothing about the risks of blinding someone or shaving the dog! Anyway, his mom and dad will have fun with it. He’s only four. Maybe after a few weeks, he’ll be showing them how to fly.

The other toy was $39, but I got a deal by buying two together. The prices were about half off of what you might find at hobby shops or online. This amazing little helicopter even has an onboard camera with decent video and still-picture capability. Obviously at that price it had to be made in China, and the instructions provided $39 worth of entertainment. Fortunately, once you discover what the buttons do, the rest is fairly intuitive and very educational to a fixed-wing pilot.

I can’t claim any heli time, but I imagine that trying to finesse this little thing to hover demands a lot of the same concentration skills as a real helicopter. The left joystick controls lift, and the right one controls forward/back and rotation. It’s made by a company called Syma and the model is S107C. I imagine the 5 to 7 minutes flying time between charges can be increased by removing the camera pack, but 5 minutes of whizzing past my wife’s precious ornaments is enough for a single session.

You can find any number of YouTube videos just by Googling the model number, but if you really want to see something fascinating, check out the TED talk on quadcopters. TED talks contain some of the most fascinating presentations on “Technology, Entertainment, and Design.” This demonstration takes us into the realm of what you can do if you have computers to get flying machines to collaborate.

For the moment, I just want to make sure the dog doesn’t develop a phobia about objects flying past his nose, and that my skills sharpen up before I break anything.

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