Thursday, September 27, 2007

Flying RC Helicopters

For quite sometimes I have been noticing a group of adult enjoying themselves flying the Remote Controlled Helicopters in front of the Guthrie Pavillion on the big open field. Initially I only saw them playing either on Saturday or Sunday morning but lately I noticed that sometimes they also will be playing during the weekdays evening before the sunset.

Recently my curiosity was so overwhelming that I took Gondai Jr to get closer to this group to have a first hand look of thier RC Helicopters. I was not so particularly surprised with the Nitro-engine Helis as I have seen them before more than ten years ago. What surprised me the most is how the RC electric Helis has evolved now. The price for a Nitro engine Heli is still very pricey even today starting from RM4K upwards. However, the story is different for the electric RC Helis. The technology of the electric heli has advanced so much and the cost of manufacturing them has also dropped tremendously. Partly I think this is because most manufacturers are now located in China and the cost of production over there is still the cheapest in the world. Before I purchased my first electric Heli some four weeks ago much to the joy of Gondai Jr and bemusement of my other half, I did some research on what RC Heli that I could buy to start with and here is some key findings.

First, I asked myself how many channel do I need to start up with? Well, at present, there are 3 main channel categories in the market:

2-Channel: Basically it is a toy for children, only moving up-down and turning left-right. It's good for Gondai Jr and in fact I bought one for him at RM60.00 Surprisngly, this 'toy' is damn good ! It can actually hover and can stand terrible crashes along the way. In fact until today, this heli is still in good working condition albeit it has crashed so many times.

4-Channel: A good starting point for RC hobbysts, it poses good challenges in flying and is emotionally satisfying for people who is serious in the hobby. It moves up-down, front-back, turn left-right, and tilt left-right, realistically emulate a real helicopter's movement, except it does not do acrobatic stunts, such as flying upside down. I bought the E-Sky Robbins 22 for RM350 and I can only say that it's not that easy flying this heli as advertised. Only after few broken rotor blades that I can actually feel how this thing flies.

In fact only after I practiced with the simulator, I finally got the 'hang of it' (Somehow Gondai Jr likes to say this also) and now alhamdullilah, I can pilot this heli reasonably OK. One thing I do agree with the advertisement is that one can get so much joy and personal satisfaction upon seeing the heli hovering under one's full control. So much so I bought another 4-channel Heli called ESKy Lama for RM250 and this heli is even easier to control.

Both models (Robbins and Lama) are working on same co-axial double main rotors principle, it give us much more control in keeping the helicopter hovering, I needed only minimum efforts in mastering the flying acts. Flying of these two models will make ones to misconveive that flying RC helicopter is an easy task indeed. Also, RC Helis are often considered as toys. Some will call them big boy toys. Well, to some extend maybe but the fact is that it requires a lot of patience and good reflect action before one can actually master to fly it. And of course for total beginners, extra spare blades are something of a must have during the learning process.The 4 channel models mainly is for those who just want to enjoy flying in the shortest possible time, and do not want to spend much time in doing fine-tuning, however, it does not prepare one with the skills necessary to handle the professional grade RC Heli models, like the 6 or 7-channel.

6 or 7-Channel: Capable of doing what 4-channel can and has the ability to perform aecrobatical moves, BUT those additional acts are of no use to beginners and intermediate players, the aecrobatical moves need ultra-high level of skills. Unless one is a highly-skilled expert, 6/7-channel model in a way is a burden for him to enjoy the hobby - it complicates the tuning and control. Nonetheless, after managed to convince my other half on the joy of flying an RC Heli, I secured one 6-channel Heli called E-Sky Honey Bee King II last week for slightly below RM500 for a ready to Fly unit. Well actually, the cost is a bit higher after I upgraded it to a Head Lock Gyro and and a Futaba Radio. However, I am yet to actually fly this heli because I am still on the simulator mode for the 6-Channel control. Insha'allah, I may do my maiden flight on the 6 channel this coming weekend.

There are in fact several RC Stores in KL. However AMCorp Mall in PJ has three stores which sell RC Equipment including Helicopters and also the spare-parts. I came to know about this only by googling 'RC Helicopter Malaysia' and it actually led me to which is a reasonable place to shop for RC Electric Helis.

Certainly the joy of flying an RC Heli is not similar to my other passions such as photography or golf, but it is actually a good past time activity since it can involve the children very much...and other good point is, they are not as pricey as cameras or lenses !!!