Air Hogs is one of the undeniable kings of the R/C toy aisle. If you walk into any Wal-Mart or Toys-R-Us, you can usually find Air Hogs products dominating the shelves, just waiting for eager young children to pick them up. Air Hogs has introduced thousands of people to the hobby and are known for being innovators in the R/C world. Aircraft like the Picoo-Z and the Helix X-4 were revolutions when they first came out. The Picoo-Z was the world’s first nano-helicopter and it gave many people their first taste of R/C flight. The Helix X-4 was also the first fully-functioning ducted quad rotor sold in toy stores.
The most unique thing about the new Helix Video Drone is that it includes a video system. Cameras are becoming commonplace on aircraft, so it’s no surprise that Air Hogs finally decided to develop a quad rotor with an attached camera.
This aircraft isn’t made for cinematographers; it’s intended for newcomers, so the video quality is good, but not spectacular. It records video to the included 4 GB micro SD card at 60 frames per second, so it’s smooth with no jitter, but the resolution is at the lower end of the spectrum at only 640 x 360. It’s a wide-angle aspect ratio, but it’s not HD video.
The range is around 250 feet and it can fly outside, but I like to keep it below the treetops. The Helix Video Drone is a ducted fan aircraft, so even in advanced mode, it isn’t very fast and can get caught in the wind pretty easily.
|Battery type, Input Voltage||LiPo 1S 450 mAh, 3.7 V|
|Camera||60 FPS 640 x 360 action cam|
|Motors||4 x brushed Air Hogs motors|
|Body||High-impact, crack-resistant Foam|
|Camera motion||Manual 90-degree tilt|
|Flight time||5-7 minutes|
|Charge time||50 minutes|
|Transmitter||2.4 GHz 4 channel|
|Charger||Standard USB mini cable|
|Length||6 and 1/2 inches or 16.51 cm|
|Width||6 and 5/8th inches or 16.8275 cm|
|Depth||2 inches or 5.08 cm|
|Diameter||6 and 1/2 inches or 16.51 cm|
Quality of build
When it comes to the look of the aircraft, I must say that Air Hogs has some very creative designers. The original Helix-X-4 had a very unique futuristic look and they’ve continued with the same type of design for the Helix Video Drone. It looks like something straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. It’s made primarily out of Black Foam with plastic rotors, giving it great durability. The rotors and motors are completely protected by the ducts and the high-impact foam body is very difficult to break or scratch. It’s perfect for someone who’s never flown an aircraft because you can crash it all day without worrying about breaking your newest drone.
Assembly and tuning
The box is well designed to display the aircraft and includes everything you need to get into the air. All you need to do is charge the aircraft with the included USB charger and install 3 AA batteries in the transmitter. Then, you’re ready to fly!
The manual is pretty simple, consisting of charging instructions and a few flight tips.
The Helix Video Drone has 2 control modes, low and high speed, so you can finally take it outside. It’s the first ducted fan aircraft from Air Hogs to actually have a high-speed mode. The original X-4 was an amazing aircraft; it just wasn’t fast enough to fight wind, so you couldn’t take it outside. The Air Hogs Millennium Falcon also only had one flight mode, so it wasn’t very good outside. With this new high-speed mode, I was finally able to fly a ducted fan aircraft outdoors. I have to say, it did perform well outside in the wind, but I definitely needed to keep it below the treetops to avoid any strong gusts. Down low, however, it had no trouble flying around the yard. It’s the type of aircraft where you can sit on your porch and fly it around the backyard or take it to the park with your kids.
It’s also a very good indoor aircraft, as the ducted fans make for a very stable flight, allowing you to navigate in and out of tight spaces. Also, the foam body completely protects the rotors from damaging anything that you crash into. In other words, you don’t have to worry about breaking anything in the house with it. You can also crash it into walls and just keep on flying – another benefit of ducted fans.
Other than the low and high-speed modes, there are no other flight modes, such as headless mode or return home. There are also no preprogrammed stunts, like a one-button flip.
There is a video button, a still picture button, and a button to trim the spin.
Ground Station and Controller
The provided 2.4 GHz transmitter is decent, but the sticks are a little stiff. They don’t have the smooth motion I’ve become accustomed to. It also doesn’t have a charger built into the transmitter, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m actually quite happy that Air Hogs finally left out the old battery-draining transmitter charging cable in favor of a standard USB charging cable.
Obviously, there is no built-in GPS system or flight programming, and there is also no transmitter telemetry. The only telemetry you get is when the aircraft begins blinking its lights, letting you know that the battery is running low.
When it comes to the camera, the 640 x 360 res video doesn’t look too bad, and if you’re only getting started and just want a little aerial video, then it will work just fine. However, if you’re trying to take high-speed action shots or high-altitude shots, you might have a little trouble. The quality of the video wasn’t bad, but I did have a few issues with videos not finalizing. I would fly for 5 minutes and record video through the entire flight, but sometimes only half the video would show up. It was a little disappointing on occasion.
There’s no gimbal to stabilize the camera, but you can point the camera straight down to get shots of the ground or straight forward. It also has a very nice manual tilt that I enjoyed.
As a whole, everything is very easy to use. Even if you’re a 10-year-old kid that gets one of these for your birthday, you should have no trouble figuring it out and using it.
The only downside of getting one for your birthday is that they’re a bit pricey at $99.38 and out of stock as of February 2016. A few people are selling them on eBay, but I’ve had a difficult time locating them for sale anywhere else. It seems like the first production run of video drones sold out back in November of 2015 and hasn’t been replenished since.
After some searching, it seems likely that Air Hogs might be re-tooling the Helix Video Drone to either bring the price down or fix technical issues. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a re-stock date, so in the future, this may become a collectors item, just like the Air Hogs submarine or V-jet full tilt. Some of those limited-run Air Hogs vehicles can sell for upwards of $200 on eBay.