I am in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. In my last posting, "Radio Control, Up or Down; the look from Hong Kong," I wrote about what is happening with RC cars and vehicles. In this segment I want to fill you in on the latest with the troubled helicopter segment.
On the helicopter front- there is hope due to two trends. One is the increasing introduction of multi-axis helicopters like quad-copters and even copters with six propellers. First, savvy designers are adding protective bumpers around the propellers to minimize the opportunity for catastrophic damage during inevitable crashes. The additional propellers also make for a much more stable flying experience for more novice pilots yet still offer an enjoyable RC experience. The second trend driving innovation in this sector is the "invasion of the drones". Drone sales this past Christmas GREATLY exceeded expectations- by as much as 10 times forecast according to some sources. Many drone designs use multi-axis copter designs and that can only boost the sector as a whole.
To get a better understanding of some of the innovations in this area I met with Hubsan, a leading manufacturer of "copter drones" in Hong Kong. I spoke with Ivy Chen while watching a demonstration of one of their new copter designs as it flew high above their Hong Kong booth and relayed video back to a handheld controller. Ms. Chen shared that the quad-copter we were watching weighed only 15 grams and it easily fit in my hand, but still felt and looked substantial, when it returned to earth. It had LED lights under each propeller which added a great effect to the flying experience. Available with or without a camera, flying control appeared effortless and stable even as it flew ever higher- which should lead to fewer catastrophic "accidents". It comes with a rechargeable 3.7 volt battery and an optional SIM card to record video that can later be removed and have its data downloaded to a computer. A controller with a screen to view video from the camera in flight is also available. The base unit, with camera and standard controller, is available in the US for around $50. That is some serious bang for your buck and represents a substantial price decrease from some of the early multi-axis drone products on the market. And that is good news for this struggling sector of the market and for the pilot in all of us.
Steve Velte from the 2015 Hong Kong Toy & Games Fair