Performing Stunts With The Helix X4 Stunt Quadcopter

RC Helicopters are cool, but I’ve always thought quad-copters are even cooler. The use of four rotors makes them fast, stable, and easier to manipulate mid-air. Still, I never got around to buying one. Then the Air Hogs Helix X4 Stunt showed up in the mail. As one of Wal-Mart’s Top 20 Chosen by Kids, I was excited to dive right in.

Air Hogs Elite Helix X4

Usability and Control

With 4 ducted fans and gyro stabilization, the Helix X4 was really easy to get (and keep) in the air, even for a first-timer like myself. I’ve had a few RC helicopters and this was a lot more fun. While a helicopter requires constant attention in the air, the X4 was a little more self-sustaining and as a result, I crashed it far fewer times. The controls are easy to use and understand though not immediately intuitive. By this, I mean that you should always read the manual first. The thing that caught me off guard was how it isn’t ready to fly until it’s really ready. The X4 indicates via its lights when it is stable for launch and then you can get to the fun. The benefit is that it will always have a clean lift-off.

Features and Stunts

Other than the launch procedure, the lights on the front of this quad-copter will also flash orange if the battery is getting low and red when it’s time to land and re-charge. This is a step up from other quad-copters that just drop out of the sky when the batteries are done. Below is a list of other features of the Helix X4:

  • 2.4GHz radio control
  • Gyro stabilization
  • 4-ducted fans
  • 4-channel control
  • Incredibly crash-resistant materials
  • Superior durability
  • Charges from remote or using USB cable (included)
  • Did I mention stunts

Durability and Design

Let’s talk about the durability for a second. I’m super extra nervous-guy careful about my electronics, especially the ones that fly. The problem is, once it’s in the air, there’s not a lot you can do when it crashes. I’ve crashed my share of flying gadgets and much of my X4 flight time was in a cramped office, so I crashed this one even more. The difference this time is that the fans are protected by ducts as an extension of the quad-copter’s body.

The design, to me, is secondary, but also wasn’t lacking. There’s really not a lot of room to make one quad-copter look substantially better than others in it’s class, but the right colors and a little aerodynamics make all the difference.

The controller had a good weight to it and felt right in my hands. It also had features I liked such as the smooth stick control and right-hand placement of the stunt button and control as well as the handle, which was a nice touch. Unfortunately, the few fake controls that are built onto the controller but don’t do anything seemed out of place and the batteries didn’t seem to stay put very securely – although neither impeded performance in any way.

Helix X4 Stunt Video

With anything as fun as this, I try to include a little video with the review, so here you go!

Conclusions

With the suggested price of $79.99, the Helix X4 Stunt is might be a little more spendy than some of the lesser quad-copters, but it has the features to back it up. If you have limited skills and want to wow friends with some stunts, wrap your hands around one of these and you’ll be set.

How To Create A Digital Microscope For Under $10

I’ve always been a little frustrated with macro photography. Rather than spend a lot of money on macro lenses, I’ve often tested the minimum focus range of cameras to see how close I could get to a subject. A few weeks ago, I heard about a simple way to create a digital microscope from a cheap webcam, so I gave it a shot and the results were surprising. Here’s the camera I started with.

webcam

This is not a great webcam. I bought it for around $10 and have since determined that I don’t much like or need it, so it was sitting in a box with my other orphaned gadgets. You can get one on ebay for $7 now. With this camera, I had to unscrew the lens from the housing and then actually clip off the focus ring edge with wire snips. It screws on, but then I think they glued it. Yeah. $7. Anyway, it’s a decent camera for the job and is otherwise easy to take apart.

How To Create A Digital Microscope

This is really much easier than it sounds. While the instructions below are specific to this webcam, you can apply the theory to many other webcams: Open it up, flip the lens around to be backwards, close it up.

1. Take apart the webcam. (5 screws)
2. Remove the camera board from the housing. (2 screws)
3. Remove the lens housing from the board. (Be careful not to touch the tiny CMOS sensor) (2 screws)
4. Unscrew the lens from the mount.
5. Using wire snips, very carefully remove the black focus ring edge if it won’t unscrew on its own.
6. Screw the lens back into the mount backwards.
7. Re-assemble everything.

Sample Photos And Uses

Personally, I wanted to do this mostly to film small insects like ants and tiny spiders. Using a webcam adds the benefit of having both photo and video capabilities. If you have kids, this is a great way to provide them with a digital microscope and get them more excited about science. Below are some examples I came up with in the hour since I’ve completed the conversion.

A human hair
hair

The head of a pin
pinhead

Pixels on my monitor
pixels

The head of a small screw
screw

Enjoy and post your success stories and links to photos below.

The Future Starts Here

In 1996, before we had a real grasp of what “viral” would come to mean, Tiffany Shlain started a little thing called the Webby Awards and it quickly grew. Some 17 years later, having experienced success many times, Tiffany is embarking on a new adventure with her show, The Future Starts Here. I’m not yet sure what to expect of the new show which premieres Friday, October 11th, but watch the trailer below for yourself.

While I look forward to checking out the new show, I found myself sucked in by a couple other shows on AOL’s On Originals. The first caught my eye because I love the crowdfunding concept. It’s called Funded and the first episode hits home because it shares a much more uplifting image of Detroit by showcasing Detroit Soup.

Another show I’ll be watching often is iJustine’s Hardwired, where she talks about some pretty cool wearable tech. I have a project you might like, Justine.

Which show will you watch?