It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s thefrom xenonproject.com! Want to know what’s going on around the corner and need to do some reconnaissance? Xenonproject.com’s Hawkspy RC helicopter is just for you! Sporting a tiny DVD-scale (720×480) video camera with included removable 1GB microSD card, the Hawkspy is an affordable fun RC toy for vicarious pilots. In addition to the review, we are offering a lucky reader the chance to win a Hawkspy for themselves. Details below. But first, the review.
RC helicopters just got even cooler with the new Hawkspy LT-712 Electric Helicopter. This metal gyro helicopter is an awesome machine comes with a spy camera, great for capturing aerial videos around the neighborhood. Need a helicopter with a camera attached? You don’t need to find a place to mount the camera on because this thing has it built in! You won’t need to tie the cam on the heli’s landing skid, also no need to worry about the balance! You can control the camera by the transmitter, so that you can turn on the camera during flight, this saves the memory. (i.e, you don’t need to turn on the cam before flying). It takes video right from the cockpit and takes high resolution color videos.
View of the dual set of rotors. The top is for forward/back motion (note top balance bar), the lower for vertical movement:
View of tail aft rotor below. The Hawkspy ships with a couple of replacement rotors here in case they break. That’s a nice feature of the Hawkspy, that many of the parts can be unscrewed and replaced if damaged, with parts listed in the user manual.
A nice piece of eye-candy the Hawkspy features is a blinking tail light:
There is also a solid bright white light on the lower tip of the front canopy, for all the world looking like a miniature police helicopter hunting down fugitives or other ne’er do wells:
View of the left side of the Hawkspy. The switch halfway down the cockpit body from the “Hawkspy” lettering is the unit’s on/off switch.
The Hawkspy is just a hair over 13.25″ long from tail to nose, composed of an aluminum frame with plastic fascia and rotor blades. The Hawkspy comes pre-assembled, merely requiring 6 ‘AA’ batteries for the controller unit and about an hour’s time charging up the helicopter’s internal Li-Poly battery using the enclosed charger. When fully charged, the wall charger light will go off, indicating the helicopter is ready to fly.
At the heart of the camera is a removable microSD. The Hawkspy convenient comes with a bright orange micoSD USB adapter, so users can transfer captured video directly to their PC. The camera itself sits beneath the landing skids and has a slight downward angle on the lens. The hole just aft of the camera facing the left of the picture is the camera status light. When the copter is on but not recording the light is green. When recording the light switches to red, so viewers underneath can know if the Hawkspy is recording:
Here is a closeup of the inserted memory card. Other cards will work; I used a 2GB card and the camera seemed to use it without any obvious problems, though admittedly I didn’t run it to full capacity. Gently press the card and it pops out for easy retrieval.
Never having dabbled in the realm of remote controlled aircraft before, the Hawkspy was a novel experience for me. For new users such as myself controlling the unit does take some practice.
The controller has two joysticks, the left that functioned as the throttle and the right joystick as the directional controller. Up/Down on the left joystick corresponded to Up/Down, and on the right joystick Up/Down corresponded with Left/Right movement. Moving the right joystick Left/Right causes the helicopter to turn either left or right. At the upper right top is a button to actuate the video camera. The video camera stores recorded video in AVI format, which is always dated 12/31/1999 11:00PM (maybe to never worry about the Y2K bug? ).
For starters, I tried the unit at work indoors. I recommend a LARGE, high room for such escapades.
Unfortunately, during testing inside I managed to break off the right ski strut when the helicopter inadvertently dropped onto a leg chair at just the right angle. That was my one complaint about the unit: while several key parts of the body proper were metal, the one part of the unit that would regularly come into contact with a solid object (e.g., the ground) was plastic.
The next flight test was the safer haven of outdoors in a wide open area:
Let me just say this helicopter can go high very quickly, and if you are careless with the throttle can descend very quickly! I was able to pop the Hawkspy up around 50+’ high…I did not however want to exceed the control limits of the controller, so I had shrug off the impulse to fly the helicopter even higher. Okay, I admit, I chickened out. In my defense, remember: I had to retrieve the unit to get the video off it, so losing it would not have been an option.
I tried the helicopter around my house, and there was a light wind. My back yard sits lower than some of the neighbors to the west, so it is partially sheltered from winds. Observe what happens in the video once the higher winds catch the Hawkspy:
I once the wind got hold of it I was caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place: cutting power at that distance risked the copter crashing hard onto the roof or worse, the concrete driveway or else zipping off and landing on some distant witch’s head in Oz. A thoughtful spruce tree caught it and with a short ladder I was able to retrieve the Hawkspy none too worse for the experience. Phew! Success! Note that the camera is video only…no audio, which is probably a good thing in this particular instance.
The Hawkspy was fun to play with, but for the inexperienced I strongly recommend a wide open area to familiarize yourself with the controls, particularly the throttle, as you might need to ease it up, but it’s sometimes a little to easy to flip the throttle to 100% and overcompensate by yanking the throttle back. It certainly attracted attention while in use (kind of defeats the spy bit a little) and didn’t take to long to get used to the helicopter’s handling characteristics. It was a bit noisier than I expected…not necessarily in a bad way, but again, if you are spying, the sound of a flying desk fan isn’t the stealthiest modus operandi. Nevertheless, I think the Hawkspy is an excellent entry-level R/C helicopter for those interested in the craft, and let’s face it, a flying video camera is pretty cool.
Now for the fun part for you, dear reader. Gear Diary and the generous folks at xenonproject.com are giving away a brand spanking new Hawkspy LT-712 to one lucky reader. All you need to do is leave a comment on how you might like to use the Hawkspy, and we’ll pick a winner next week. For those interested in other R/C equipment, head on over to xenonproject.com and check out their other nifty offerings…there’s more than just helicopters there!
The fine print–
1. This contest will be open until April 28, 2012. The winner will be announced shortly after.
2. Shipping address must be in the USA
3. If you’re entering this giveaway using Facebook connect, you MUST have your Facebook page set to accept messages from non-friends so we can contact you through your page if you are the winner. If you are unsure how to set your privacy settings to allow this, feel free to contact us for assistance or read Facebook’s instructions.
4. The winner will be announced on the site and will have 24 hours to contact us. After 24 hours a new winner will be picked.
What I liked: Neat toy for zipping around and recording video remotely; Responds to controls reasonably well; Sturdy housing (excepting skids); Most parts replaceable
What Needs Improvement: Landing skids ideally should be metal due to their potential to break easily