Review of Cobra Mini RC Helicopter

Skip to the last update at the end for my final thoughts…

I bought a small remote control helicopter a few days ago because I was walking through the mall and saw the helicopter flying around a kiosk and thought, “That is so cool.” RC HELICOPTERI was instantly hooked. The guy controlling it was an expert. I watched him fly several helicopters, from tiny ones to giant ones, performing all kinds of impressive manoeuvres. He made it look easy (it’s not easy). I asked questions for about 10 minutes, watched the guy fly a few more models, and then bought the cheapest one ($45), which happens to be the most durable model: The Black Hawk. [Apr. 05/11 update: The prices have gone up considerably since I bought the first helicopter and then ordered a replacement. The helicopter, and especially the replacement, is not worth $45, let alone the $65 they're asking now. It's a fun helicopter if you happen to get one that works, but it's not worth the hassle if you don't.] I’ve crashed it about a hundred times in the past few days and it still flies. I doubt I’ll buy a larger model, but this mini-helicopter (it fits in the palm of my hand) is fun to fly around the house — especially for people who like to torment their pets. The manufacturer, Cobra Toys, recommends the Black Hawk mini-helicopter for children over the age of 5. I’d be impressed by any 5-year-old able to control one of these helicopters without crashing it into a wall every 10 seconds. Realistically, here’s the deal:

Don’t expect to do anything other than go up and down for the first day or two. There’s a joystick control for up and down; another stick for left, right, forward and backwards (but good luck on backwards); and a knob that turns left and right to adjust the trim. Just about every time the helicopter takes off, it starts spinning either left or right. Turn the trim knob in the opposite direction of the spin to steady the helicopter. I spend half my time trying to steady the helicopter, adjusting the trim. Even when I’m able to control the flight well, something will eventually cause the helicopter to start spinning and I’ll have to stop the flight (hover and hope the helicopter doesn’t drift into a wall) while I adjust the trim. So far, I don’t think I’ve gone a minute without having to adjust the trim — and that’s usually when the helicopter crashes. Automatic trim would be a huge improvement in the design. But it’s still a lot of fun trying not to crash.

A few flying tips based on my initial experience: 1) Practice going up and down and adjusting the trim; try to land softly. 2) After that, practice taking off, going forward and then landing again. 3) Don’t try to go forward and turn at the same time. An easier method: Go forward. STOP. Turn left or right. Then go forward in the new direction. Save the fancy moves for later. 4) Avoid air conditioners, any kind of fan or rooms with hot and cold air pockets. The helicopter is sensitive to air currents and will easily crash. It’s not an outdoor helicopter.

The controller takes 6 AA batteries. A wire from the controller charges the helicopter. It takes about 20 minutes to charge. The charge will last between 5 and 10 minutes. That might not seem like much, but it’s enough to entertain most beginners. I recommend rechargeable alkaline batteries.

LEDs on the controller are supposed to flash while the helicopter charges, then stop flashing afterwards, but my LEDs don’t do anything. I call that a defect, but I’ve crashed my helicopter too many times to return it, and the non-functioning LEDs don’t effect the flight of the helicopter, so I don’t care.

The instructions are horribly translated (from Chinese, I assume). Exhibit A: “In if the flight does not have the impetus to change the operating lever, but the helicopter still in airborne spun, by now might adjust in your hand on remote control’s vernier adjustment knob, balanced does not spin until the helicopter.” That’s fabulous.

Replacement parts, mainly rotor blades, can be ordered online (something like $5 each). That’s a good thing because I know mine will have more than a few nicks in them before I master the controls.

The helicopter sure can take a beating, which is excellent news for anyone who wants to learn how to fly remote control helicopters without spending much money. If I wanted to buy a larger outdoor model (and some of them are pretty damn cool), starting off small and cheap is a smart way to ease into it. Just don’t be fooled into thinking you can control the helicopter as well as the guy in the mall. (I still don’t know how he managed to do what he did.)

I’ll post updates and perhaps a video in the comments — except for this update:

Jan. 13/10: The helicopter finally died on me. I put it through its paces. Although I did get better at controlling it, none of it was precision flying or landing, and I crashed it over and over again. It probably would have lasted longer if I was more careful with it. It still operates, but the helicopter shakes like crazy and doesn’t get off the ground. It was fun while it lasted. I was just hoping it would last a bit longer. I’m not sure it was worth the money.

Apr. 11/10: I ordered a replacement helicopter of the same model, but the helicopter that came in the mail was a slightly different design and didn’t fly as smoothly as my original helicopter. It wobbled and couldn’t hover in one spot, which made precision flying impossible. It sucked. Some minor adjustment to the blades did nothing, so I removed them and put them on the old helicopter which now flies better than the new helicopter, but still not as smoothly as it used to. Final thoughts: It was a waste of money ordering the replacement helicopter. These helicopters are made cheaply. Some will fly well and some won’t. If you’re lucky to get one that flies well out of the box, be careful with it because you might not be so lucky if you order a replacement in the mail. Returning a defective helicopter through the mail isn’t worth the hassle. I’ll make due with a helicopter that doesn’t fly so well and won’t bother ordering from Cobra Toys again. To anyone thinking about buying one of these helicopters, don’t do it unless you can test out the actual helicopter first. And I’d only buy one in a store where you can easily return it if it’s defective. The guy selling them in the mall disappears after Xmas before anyone has a chance to return the duds.

About Phillip

Phillip Cairns is a beekeeper in St. John's, Newfoundland, who writes about beekeeping at MudSongs.org.
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19 Responses to Review of Cobra Mini RC Helicopter

  1. Mean Jean says:

    Ha! Mr. Mean is deep into the RC helicopter stuff. He has six of them. Go to YouTube and watch vids of guys maiming themselves with these. One guy severed his jungular and died. When Mr. Mean calls me out to watch, I hold a broom or rake in front of me so the blades can’t bite me if he looses control. The big ones are best operated from inside a car. Protection. Dinsdale Piranha over at J-Walk is an EXPERT RC flyer.

  2. Troy says:

    Hey I bought an RC helicopter yesterday – $25 at Rexall Drugs “Mini Apache” – been flying it all weekend – lots of fun.

    At some point I plan to take it out to the balcony – 19 floors up! Should be able to fly it to the next building! ;-) (Oh, and hopefully back again! :-)

  3. Pender says:

    Nice, I’ve been asking for an RC helicopter for the last two christmases but haven’t gotten one.. I’ll be more vocal this year. $45 sounds reasonable for a cheap one, it’s probably at least $45 worth of fun.

  4. Phillip says:

    The $45 model is good enough to get a taste of it, but it might be a bit too much on the cheap side. Having to adjust the trim half the time slows things down. It can be a drag. When I saw the guy in the mall fly the helicopters, none of them seemed to have any trim issues. Either he was fast on adjusting the trim, or mine is defective, which seems possible considering the LEDs don’t work. They’re just plastic helicopter moulds. They could easily have some defects that effect the flight.

    You get what you pay for, I suppose, but if I get another one (Jenny and I could have duelling helicopters), I’ll make sure to test drive it in the store first to make sure it doesn’t have any major trim problems.

  5. tommyboy says:

    I am still trying to get the spewing jugular out of my mind….henry had one a couple of years ago…20 bucks worked fine for about a week and he could fly it all around the house, through rooms…etc…he was seven at the time..not quite five… it was just a piece of foam with a motor..it was very small…but no problems with trim..the biggest problem was that it would run out of juice quickly and you would have to re charge it….I think I will have to look up some of those videos of mean jeans..

  6. Phillip says:

    The short fly times is the main compromise for battery-powered helicopters, or so I was told. Constantly having to adjust the trim is a bit of a pain, but I appreciate what a beating it can take. I crash it and I crash it hard every day, and it’s still going. I’m impressed.

    I’m tempted to get an outdoor model. I have a big field in my back yard that would give me plenty of room to fly it around without the worry of crashing into anything hard and heavy.

  7. Mean Jean says:

    Let me tell you there is nothing sadder in this old world than a man with 6 helicopters sitting by the door waiting for the UPS truck to bring him some new parts because he has crashed them all.

    There is a site where you can do flight simulation practice. Cheaper than practice-by-crashing.

  8. Phillip says:

    Well, I’ve had the helicopter for about a week now and I’m not too bad at controlling it. I get it off the ground to about eye level, then I adjust the trim and then I go forward and fly around the room until I turn too sharp, spinning out of control, or the helicopter flies too close to the ceiling or floor and gets caught up in its own air currents and crashes.

    I’m not too good at landing it softly. Most times it crashes and crashes hard. That’s the best quality of the helicopter: it’s virtually indestructible.

  9. richard says:

    Amazing Technology . for you who want to whine about what this thing won’t do for you.. Remember Every Service man who has died in a war had made this tiny helicopter possible. UAVs are now standard military hardware, It now makes our lives easier and entertain us at home. if you like RC or just wana have a bit of fun buy it . its a blast of time. I have the cobra 3 channel AH-64

  10. Pender says:

    Generally I think it’s the engineers, aka the ones who don’t run around in a field getting shot to death, that come up with these ideas. The ones who run out and get shot to death? Oh well, they were gonna die anyhow, guess they shoulda signed up for a different job if they don’t like it.

  11. Andrew says:

    Bought helicopter at the mall and gave it to my son for Christmas. The helicopter tail was broken out of the box and when we tried to fly it, the roter rod bent. The helicopter was supose to have a two year warenty. We took the toy back to the mall and the mall stand was out of there. We can not get a reply from the company and there isn’t a phone number to be found on the web. $45 bucks wasted.

  12. Phillip says:

    My helicopter is still running smoothly, in a relative way. I put it through its paces. I smash it and crash it into everything with no worries. The blades are full of nicks and it’s still flying. I’ve also smashed off both of the plastic wheels. When I turn the helicopter, it often turns too fast, probably because of the beating I’ve given it, but overall, it still works fine.

    Andrew, I noticed the seller left the mall right after Xmas too, but he (the guy with the Quebec accent, just to make sure we’re talking about the same guy here) told me when I bought the helicopter that he would be gone before the new year. He also said he’d replace the helicopter if I had any problems with it, so I went home and tested it right away. I wouldn’t call it a high-quality product (they’re likely mass-produced in China for 25 cents each), but mine is holding together so far. It’s too bad yours was broken. If you paid for the helicopter with a credit card, you’ll see on your bill when it arrives that the local company is located out in the Goulds or some place. I can’t remember the name, but you might be able to track them down then. (I’m assuming your bought the helicopter where I did, at the Avalon Mall in St. John’s, NL.)

  13. Tom H says:

    Andrew, I had the same problem with the RC. Got one for our 11 yr old for Xmas. It worked for 1 minute (Max) started spinning around like a top in the air and died. New Batteries and full charge. I was able to contact the company and got a speedy response from the internet. If you have the original box and receipt you can mail it to them and they will send a new one. The other option is to order one from them at cost with free shipping. They have a contact us section on their website: http://www.cobratoys.com. If you have already found the guy’s business number or location could you pass it on to me. Don’t know about you guys, but my receipt was from a generic pad. My wife picked it up. I’m not sure if I would have with that type of receipt. Lessons learned.

  14. Tom H says:

    My hat off to Cobra Toys. I sent back my son’s unresponsive RC helicopter and in a few weeks he received an upgraded helicopter from the company. This was with a hand written receipt from the Kiosk in the Avalon Mall. I am impressed and he loves it!

  15. Phillip says:

    I’m thinking about ordering a replacement helicopter, depending on how cheap it is. I gotta admit: the helicopter is fun, and at least one of my cats enjoyed running after it.

  16. Phillip says:

    My replacement helicopter arrived today, new remote included. It worked fine with my old remote control. I just switched it to channel C instead of channel A that was set for the old one, and it took off. Big difference in how a new helicopter flies compared to my old beat up one. I’ll write an update in the post with more details in a week or two.

  17. Ryan says:

    I am just making sure your new RC Helicopter From Cobratoys.com is acceptable. Please email me personally at ryan@cobratoys.com if there is any issues at all.

    Ryan
    Commander
    Cobratoys.com

    • Phillip says:

      Ryan, see the last update in the post. The replacement helicopter didn’t fly well. I’ve since trashed it along with the original. I’m not interested in the product anymore, but thanks for asking.

      • Grayson Feltham says:

        Bought a used Cobra s107, it hovers very steady ,however the tail rotor motor will not respond or has done so only a few times, also the main battery does not hold charge for long, anyone out there with a trashed model in the St. John’s area that i might get a spare battery from.
        Thanks.
        Gray

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