Heli-Max 200FP V-Cam RTF



By Greg Gimlick
Capture pictures and video indoors or out
Photos and video by Greg Gimlick
Full review in the Fall 2015
Park Pilot.


Specifications

Type: RTF fixed-pitch helicopter
Skill level: Beginner to intermediate
Rotor diameter: 14.97 inches
Weight: 10.12 ounces
Flight duration: 4 to 5 minutes
Price: $139.98
Info: towerhobbies.com

Features

• Assembled 200FP fixed-pitch heli with 45° offset flybar system
• 720-pixel HD digital video/still camera
• Rotor blades with bright LED lights
• Included 2 GB memory card with USB reader
• Four-channel 2.4 GHz radio system with dual rates



I’m kind of a photo nut and love contraptions that allow me to combine my photography and flying hobbies. The Heli-Max 200FP V-Cam RTF (Ready to Fly) provides the best of both worlds. It has a nice little premounted camera that shoots both stills and video in HD.

The helicopter’s body has a futuristic look and covers all of the “ugly” components usually visible on a pod-and-boom heli. The box doubles as a protective transport case, which allows me to toss it in the basement compartment of my motorhome when I travel—a big plus. Everything is included, right down to the battery and charger.

There really isn’t anything needed to do to get the heli ready to fly, except charging the battery and turning it on. The instruction manual is written for someone with no helicopter experience and describes everything he or she needs to know.

Although I didn’t need to build anything, I thought it might be interesting to pop the body off and look inside. (Curiosity didn’t kill this cat either.) The receiver is mounted in the nose and the motors are mounted near the main gear and tail rotor drive shaft. That means two motors and no gear train to worry about connecting for the main and tail groups. Two servos are mounted at a 45° offset and are real servos rather than the linear actuators that you often find in smaller helicopters.

The closest thing to construction you’ll have to do is remove the main rotor cap and install the two button-cell batteries that power the LEDs on the main rotor and tail. As you tighten the cap, the lights will turn on. They do not need to be on all of the time, so you can fly in daylight without running down the batteries.

The main flight battery is a 2S LiPo pack that installs in a nifty little compartment on the bottom of the fuselage. A hatch door snaps closed to hold it in place. There is no Velcro or other type of strap to fiddle with—you simply open the door, pop the battery in place, and close the door. It’s easy, and the BEC (battery eliminator circuit) connectors are accessible without having to open the hatch.

The little transmitter requires four AA batteries and has the normal features one expects in an RTF system. Activating the dual rates requires mashing the right stick down once. The symbol on the radio screen will change from a circle to a half circle, indicating low rate.

The camera control buttons are on the back of each top corner of the transmitter and are easily accessible during flight. The camera uses an included micro SD card that pops into the side of the little camera. The box includes a cool little USB dongle that is actually a micro SD card reader! Pop the card into the connector end of the USB device and slide it into your computer to read the files. What a cool idea!

If you are flying outdoors and you are a beginner, be aware that the 200FP will climb instantly if hit with a breeze—more so than a collective-pitch heli, but nothing to worry about.

This helicopter’s gear train is relatively loud. I checked it out after my test hops in the shop to be sure all was okay, and it appeared that it is simply one of those gear designs that simply makes a little more noise than some others.

The 200FP has plenty of power, and controllability was good. It’s a more stable camera platform than I expected, and the camera does nice-quality work given its low cost. I flew it around, taking both stills and video while checking out its flight envelope. It really does a nice job, even in light breezes.

In the interest of testing, I even crash tested it. Okay, maybe it wasn’t intentional, but I got a little frisky with it on a windy day and managed to clip a tree branch with the main rotor blade. That caused me to lose control and although I leveled it before impact, it hit going sideways on the skids and tumbled onto the concrete.

I was expecting bad news, but the repairs only involved replacing the tail drive bevel gear and patching a hole in the body. I’ve broken a few pieces off the body, so it seems slightly brittle to me. It’s also been very cold here, which probably contributed to that.

If you do manage to tear it up, rest assured that there are reasonably priced parts available. If you don’t want to use the lighted blades, you can also replace them with Novus 200 FP main rotor blades for roughly $5.

The LED blades are so cool that I would spend the extra and buy them if I damaged these. It’s hard to believe that I can have a set of nicely lit blades for $10.99 from Tower Hobbies.

I recommend flying the helicopter on calm days if you’re interested in smooth video. It is really affected by gusts, and that looks even worse when you’re filming.

I think the 200FP V-Cam outfit is a fun way to enjoy some helicopter flying and photography at the same time. It’s a stable little machine (in calm conditions) that is easy to transport, inexpensive to repair, and offers HD photography for less than $200.

If you’re a beginner, you can probably handle this helicopter on a calm day using low rates. If you’re an advanced flier, you will have no problems and will be shooting video and stills right away. The 200FP is not really a trainer, but it’s a capable and stable fixed-pitch machine. I sure enjoy mine.

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