IMG_2200I’m a long-time fan of radio controlled flight, so when XenonProject.com offered me the chance to review the S107G Mini RC Helicopter I was excited for the opportunity!

Vitals

Product: S107G Mini Gyro (Yellow) 3 Channel Mini Gyro Helicopter by Syma
Price at time of review: $24.99
Overall impression: Highly recommended, fun, easy to learn heli. A perfect toy for the home or office. A good, cheap introduction to RC flight. A great value for a very well engineered machine.

Out of the box

The heli is very small, with a main rotor (blade) diameter of between 7 and 8 inches and a body length around the same. It can charge from the remote (which requires AA batteries) or off USB (very convenient in the office.) Charging took a little shy of an hour. The heli seems to hold a charge well and even a week after putting a full charge on I was able to fly without recharging first.

This type of heli is too small for outdoor flight, but perfect for the living room or office. The controller works over infrared, like a TV remote, but unlike a TV remote it doesn’t require you to point the remote at the heli. Pleasantly, I had no trouble with reception.

Overall construction seems surprisingly solid for such an inexpensive unit. There are several metal parts in the frame, plastic parts seem well engineered and reenforced in the right places, and nearly everything is held together with screws which will make repair possible. When on, the S107G has a blinking LED on the nose. While it does seem largely decorative it gives the heli a nice visual anchor making it easy to see where you are pointed.

In the air

The controls are simple (which is good because the manual is weak at best.) The throttle (left stick on the controller) will control your height, which is a little more complicated than you might expect if you’re new to RC flight, but is easily mastered if you find some time to fly daily. Other than that the heli flies much like an RC car drives. On the right stick forward and back do what you’d expect, left and right turn the direction of the heli.

Having flown RC for years I started out easy, trying to hover a foot or two off the ground without moving forward or backward. This proved highly achievable due to the S107G’s gyroscopes which hold it solidly in position. Without any work the heli stays right in place, other than the height which you will have to get used to controlling.

If you get the hang of keeping a consistent height the hard part is done. In forward flight, the S107G flies stable and straight. The heli also stops forward flight quickly when you let off the stick, unlike it’s larger and more ‘scale’ RC cousins. Left and right turns are possible while hovering or moving forward. Any air movement in the room will immediately become evident as the heli takes on a life of it’s own near a drafty window, ceiling fan or heating vent. Be aware of these and try to avoid them when you’re getting started.

All-in-all the S107G is about as easy to fly as an RC helicopter could be. The flashing light and bright colored body aid visibility and the gyroscopes simplify flight.

The inevitable crash(es)

You will crash the S107G. It happens. I have crashed mine at least 50 times in the mere two weeks I’ve had it. Thankfully the heli seems very resilient! I have run it into walls, landed too fast, hit chairs, and even hit the main blades on the ceiling causing the heli to drop nearly 8 feet onto the hardwood floor. Each time I cringed and thought I’d be replacing parts I just turned it back upright and away it flew!

When it does eventually need parts, XenonProject.com offers replacement parts right off the product page. Parts seem very reasonably priced and most should be easy to replace.

Tips

Start with tail-in hovering – Put the heli on the ground in front of you with the tail facing you. In that orientation left is left, and right is right.

Ground effect – Any aircraft behaves differently near the ground than it will further up in the air. You will find that the S107G is a lot more stable when you get it at least 1 foot off the ground, so make that an early goal.

If you’re considering a larger RC heli get one like this to learn a little first. Each model will fly differently, but one of the biggest challenges for folks new to RC is getting used to the orientation. When the heli (or a plane, or car) is facing you the controls for left and right will appear reversed. Getting used to that on an inexpensive unit will save you money and downtime when you start flying more expensive helis.

If you’re the type who can’t stand not having your toys, I’d suggest buying an extra set of main blades. They are the only part on mine that is showing some wear, but even after dozens of flights I’m still going on my original set.

Late last year NASA astronaut Don Pettit invented a coffee cup that will work in zero gravity!

“We can suck our coffee from a bag, but to drink it from a cup is hard to do because you can’t get the cup up to get the liquid out, and it’s also easy to slosh,” Pettit told Mission Control while sending a video of his new invention to Earth.

“The way this [cup] works is, the cross section of this cup looks like an airplane wing,” he said. “The narrow angle here will wick the coffee up.”

The result: space coffee in a zero-G cup.

You’d think the hard part about drinking a liquid from a cup in space would be keeping the liquid in the cup, but actually the hard part is getting the liquid out! Coffee, like most liquids, tends to stick to itself and the container it’s in, even rising at the edge of the cup it’s in (called the meniscus.)

By making the cup come together at a sharp angle on one side Pettit gave the cup a special edge that the coffee could climb. This encourages capillary action, a wicking effect to happen which delivers some of the coffee to the lip of the cup where it can be enjoyed.

Now let’s just hope someone can adapt this idea to a half-decent travel mug! Really! Please?

For those of you who don’t understand the problem with Wikipedia as a serious source I submit only that it currently (after being suggested in humor on 30 Rock) reports that Janis Joplin “speed walked everywhere and was afraid of toilets.”

While it appears the article has been locked before someone could update it to include that she also ate cats I think this is a good example of how the wisdom of the mob is not always correct.

Not since the early days of dial-up Internet have we had to worry about how much we use our Internet access, but today Internet service providers are searching for a way to make the folks who use the most bandwidth either pay up or get out!

As I wrote on InternetEvolution recently, it’s time we start treating the Internet like every other utility.

Using the utility model, an ISP could charge for the maximum bit rate available (many already offer several maximum bit rates at graduated prices), then a reasonable price for each gigabyte used. To simplify the user experience and reduce concern about overages, it makes sense to include a generous amount of leeway with the service — say, 200 Gbytes — but it will be essential to give the user a way to monitor how it’s consumed.

Ideally, enough bandwidth and storage would be included with the basic plan to more than satisfy the typical user, including allowance for downloading a reasonable amount of video and audio. (For reference, movies available on iTunes tend to run just a bit over 1 Gbyte.) With packages in the hundreds of Gbytes, the average user’s Internet experience and usage pattern is unlikely to be affected at all. But customers should not hesitate to stay up to date on their system updates and virus software.

Check out the full article and feel free to comment on Internet Evolution or here and let me know what you think!

Update: As Gary points out in a comment below, this is a very USA-centric view. I know internet rates and billing policies vary quite a bit around the world. Please leave a comment if your area already has bandwidth restrictions and let us know how it’s working out!

I’m the type of person who absolutely must disassemble just about everything I can get my hands on. (Carla still tells folks about me taking apart a small battery operated truck I received for some single digit birthday — before we even left the parking lot of the post office!) Few things amuse me more than magnets and gears, but this video of non-circular gears (found on MAKE really bent my brain!

If you watch to the end, or click straight through to YouTube for related videos you’ll find that there are tons of cool gear videos including some nice Lego projects.

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