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Swann Emergency Strike Remote Controlled Helicopter Review

I’ve seen these little toy helicopters for a while now, but as much as I like toys, I never bought one.  Why?  Well for one thing, I was always afraid I’d “shoot my eye out” or it just wouldn’t work.  I mean, how well could something so TINY work after all?

Enter the Swann series of gyro balanced remote controlled helicopters.  Not the flatbread with meat inside, but as in gyroscopic.  Notice the two sets of blades?  These counter-rotate, which attempts to cancel out the tendency for rotating things to swing in one direction.

Swann sells a wide range of little helicopters measuring from a petite 5.5″ long to one model measuring a whopping 18″ long.  Some models fire teeny toy missiles remotely.

The Emergency Strike model I got is a red and white little thing, measuring 8.6″ long.

 

  • Rotor Diameter 7″ (178mm)
  • Dimensions 8.6″ x 2″ x 3.7″ (215mm x 53mm x 3.7mm)
  • Weight 1.3oz / 37g (Helicopter only)
  • Helicopter Battery Built-in 3.7V 130mAh Li-poly
  • Rechargeable from Computer USB or Remote
  • Helicopter Flight Time Per Charge: 8 minutes
  • Helicopter Battery Charge Time: 50-60 minutes via Remote or USB
  • Remote Control: Infrared
  • Remote Control Battery Type x Qty: 6 x AA (Batteries NOT included)
 

Beware of the tie-wraps of death!

Tiny, non-rolling wheels make up the landing gear

The red and white blades don't move. The black one on top does, powered by what resembles a cell phone vibrator motor.

Warning: "DONOT" skip these warnings!

LED on the topside blinks blue and red when powered on

White-ish LED "spotlight" on the nose is a neat touch

Another blue-red blinky on the bottom

The bottom side reveals the teensy power switch, charging port, and a crooked IR receiver.

The IR remote control is almost as big as the helicopter. iPhone 4 for size comparison.

Feeding time! The remote takes six AA batteries.

A clever charging cable is hidden under one of the grips!

Swann also includes this yellow USB charging cable... with a twist...

The USB end glows red to indicate power. If it STILL glows red when you're plugged into the 'copter, you're not sending juice. I ended up charging up via iPhone charger.

 

OK OK so how does it FLY?

The left stick controls motor speed.  The stick doesn’t have a centering spring; you leave it one position, it stays there.  I thought this was dumb until I tried to fly the thing.  When the stick is in the lowest position, the motor stops.  You WANT the left stick to stay in place in case you’re trying to hover in place, otherwise your thumb just gets really, really tired.

The right stick is omnidirectional.  Pushing forward/back makes the helicopter go back and forth.  Left/right rotates the helicopter.  In other words, if you’re simply hovering in the air, left/right simply results in the thing spinning in place.

There is a small trim knob on the remote that fine-tunes the left-right rotation if you need to.

The instructions suggest flying indoors, since wind can be a factor.  I tried flying in the largest room in my office with interesting results.

The BIGGEST challenge I had was simply getting the helicopter to hover in one place.  The slightest movement of the left joystick sent the toy shooting up towards the ceiling or making a rapid descent.  At least the gyroscopic effects of the counter-rotating blades seemed spot on.  I sort of thought this thing would go spinning like mad, but that wasn’t the case.

After a LOT of crashes, I managed to get the helicopter to take off from one tabletop and land on another.  It was the most inelegant flight I’ve ever seen.  This obviously takes lots of practice.

DONOT crash into too many chairs.

After my first session of crashing into walls and chairs, I noticed the blades had already sustained some damage.  No wonder Swann packs in a second set.  I imagine with enough damage, the flight dynamics would change considerably (like shooting someone’s eye out).

These little helicopters a lot of fun!  I just wish I had more room to play in and more time to practice!

 

Product Information

Price:$69.99
Manufacturer:Swann
Requirements:
  • The box says ages 14+. I believe it. I barely trust myself with this thing!
Pros:
  • Nice little details like the flashing LEDs. Counter-rotating blades give the helicopter decent stability for beginners. Comes with extra blades.
Cons:
  • You'll need those extra blades and a good sized indoor space.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • The Slapster July 19, 2011, 12:27 am

    We recently gave a similar model to my nephew this weekend for his birthday. Out of 4 adults & a 12-year old and around 45 minutes, NONE of us could get the thing do more more than shoot straight up erratically & then drop back down. Very frustrating. I’ve tried a few of these with similar results, but the latest $40 failure is going back to the store. Grrrrrrr.

    Oh, and getting all of maybe 4-5 minutes of “flight” per charge? I think these things are some special form of mental torture.

  • Marc September 8, 2011, 8:54 pm

    I don’t agree with The Slapster.
    I have a similar model too, and it’s one of the most fascinating devices (hate to call it a mere toy) I’ve ever had. Yes, it takes practice and persistance to master it (I’m not there yet), and yes, you only get a few minutes of flight time per charge.
    As I said, it’s fascinating – despite these drawbacks (if you want to call them drawbacks). Anything worthwhile takes time and concentration. The few minutes flight time I get is the most fun I have all day.

  • Ken Chase November 23, 2011, 5:26 pm

    I am a pilot and find them to be very easy to fly. I bought one, it was so much fun I went back and 6 more to give as gifts this Christmas. I am, however, on my 3rd one. The problem is they soon start to wobble in flight and sort of “self destruct” in midair. The top blades seem to crash into the bottom blades which makes them immediately come crashing down. “Number 3″ has flown now for a month with no problems, the others started acting up in a few days so make sure and check the stores return policy cause 1 in 3 is not real good averages. I think the problem is in the electronic gyro located on the circuit board. I am still using the original controller from my first one so it can’t be that.
    They fly beautifully and people are just amazed at the precision of control you have.

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