$49 Griffin helicopter takes flight with iPhone controls

Slated for a holiday release, the Helo TC takes commands from a virtual joystick or your iPhone's tilt sensors.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida

The typical $40 remote-control helicopter comes with a tiny, imprecise controller. Griffin's just-announced Helo TC turns your iPhone into the flight stick , with your choice of onscreen or accelerometer controls. Price: $49.99.

The kit consists of a dual-rotor 'copter and the Flight Deck, a case/sled that cradles your iPhone and controls the flyer via line-of-sight infrared. It also plugs into your iPhone's headphone jack, thus allowing the Helo TC app to communicate with the helicopter.

Want to see it in action? Check out Griffin's promo vid, which is not only surprisingly polished, but also pretty funny:

At just $50, the Helo TC is considerably more affordable than pricier helicopters like the AR.Drone. Of course, that model has four rotors, a built-in camera, and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Helo charges via USB and comes with a set of spare blades. The app looks pretty slick, though I'm curious to see if control is easier via the virtual joystick or tilt sensors. (My guess: the latter.) One key feature that a typical 'copter controller can't match: recordable flight plans. The app lets you store and "play back" up to three flights, which sounds mighty cool.

Griffin is not currently accepting preorders for the Helo TC, which is expected to go on sale in time for the holidays. My guess is this might make it onto many a holiday wish list.