Product: Taking a cue from the popularity of first-person-shooter video games and flight simulators, Horizon Hobby’s combat helis from its new proprietary brand, Force RC, are a force to be reckoned with.
Essentially, built on an mCX2 ultra-micro helicopter airframe, Force’s FHX and MH-35 helis (sold separately) come battle-ready, with a 2.4GHz controller/charger, four AA batteries and a 120mAh LiPo battery. Each heli is equipped with a tiny infrared cannon beneath the nose, and a VDAS (Visual Damage Assessment System) that lets the pilot know when he’s been hit by an opponent.
Performance: Everything that has been said about the mCX2 holds true with the FHX and MH-35 helis. They are stable so that even a newbie can get into the air with little trouble. If pilots are looking for more aggressive flight characteristics, they can switch over to the advanced swashplate settings.
And while the Force helis are fun to fly by themselves, it is when you get two or more in a room together that the real fun begins. Each transmitter is equipped with trigger buttons like you’d find on a Play Station game controller. When depressed, the transmitter makes a machine-gun sound, and the heli’s nose cannon fires an IR beam. The goal, obviously, is to shoot down your opponents.
This is where the VDAS comes into play. If you hit an opposing helicopter’s hit detector (mounted behind its gun barrel), it flashes and the helicopter spins: once for the first hit; once and then back for the second hit; and on the third hit, the heli spins continuously and the throttle automatically decreases until it lands; the light flashes for 10 seconds and then the hit counter is reset.
Impressively, these little airframes are durable. While buzzing around, I was shot down from long range in the midst of a turn. My FHX went into a power dive, crashed into the floor nose-first and bounced twice before lying on its side like a dead bird.
I righted it, waited for the VDAS to stop blinking, spooled up and was back in the fight 10 seconds later.
Marketing: For the first time, we have interactive, highly maneuverable, quality micro-helicopters, far and above those you see in ads during cable TV kid shows. Get two of these helis into the air and the competitive streak will come out in anyone.
Of course, demoing the helis is going to be the best way to introduce customers to the products. The next best thing is to show videos (readily available on YouTube or at Horizon Hobby’s website) of the choppers flying around and shooting each other. It helps that the Blade series of helis have been so successful that people associate the name with cool, easy-to-fly fun.
An obvious drawback is that you need two to tango, so a pilot will either need to buy two Force RC helis or have a friend who buys one too. On the other hand, if there is a group of friends who have Force helis, they can battle each other in teams with the Team ID function, which ignores hits from teammates.
As add-ons, Force RC has IR targets available (No. FCE100, MSRP/MAP $18.99/$14.99) for target practice or use in a capture-the-flag scenario. Every time they’re hit, they light up and make explosion noises. Force also offers two alternate bodies: a brown MH-35 (No. FCE2027BR) and a blue FHX (No. FCE2127BL). Both have a $24.99 suggested retail price ($22.99 MAP).
Product: MH-35 (No. FCE2000), FHX (No. FCE2001) Ultra-Micro Combat Helis
Maker: Force RC
Availability: Horizon Hobby
Stable, durable airframes
Takes cue from video games