6250 Traxxas Way
McKinney, TX 75070
Phone: 1-888-TRAXXAS www.traxxas.com
Not long ago I was asked if I'd be interested in reviewing one of the new products by Traxxas. At first I wasn't sure the question had been directed at me, as I'm not exactly an RC Car expert. "Huh?? Traxxas?? Of course I've HEARD of them, but cars really aren't my thing" I replied. Imagine my surprise when a cute little co-axial HELICOPTER showed up at my door!
I've flown my share of Helicopters before, I actually learned the dreaded 'nose in' hover with a co-ax. I had no idea that Traxxas had gotten into the game with not one but two entry level heli's: the Coaxial DR-1 and the Quad Rotor QR-1. The Subject for this review is the DR-1. (The Quad Rotor QR-1 will be quickly followed up in another RCU review.)
Upon opening the box, I was happy to see one very important item (important to ME at least): SPARE Rotor Blades! As I mentioned, I've owned a couple of coaxial helicopters before but have not always had great fortune in keeping them away from everything except AIR. More often than not I'd find myself with a broken main rotor after not too many flights. A small screwdriver is also included, nice but not nearly as useful as the spare blades. A USB lipo charger, one Lipo battery, an owners manual, four 'AAA' batteries and a 'game controller' style transmitter rounds out the box's contents. Everything you need to fly is included.
I was impressed by the overall quality of the DR-1, but was very much surprised to find not only actual micro servos, but also color coordinated, red anodized aluminum side plates! Most of the other Coax helicopters I'm familiar with are plastic and have open linear servos which look more like circuit boards than servos. The model basher and DIY'er in me was starting to like this little machine.
Traxxas has a well known service and support network, (after all, they ARE one of the top RC car companies) similar to all Traxxas products, spare parts for the DR-1 are available. After doing a little more research, I discovered that Traxxas has a 'Helicopter Replacement Plan' where you can trade in your DR-1 at ANY time and in ANY condition and purchase a brand new model at HALF the list price of a new DR-1. Although I doubt I will ever need that service, it's very comforting knowing it's available.
I'll fully report on the flight characteristics later in the flight report section, but first let's look at the transmitter and some of the features that make the DR-1 stand out.
The Transmitter is set at the factory to Mode 1 or Mode 2 and is NOT user selectable. The DR-1 has two main control settings: Normal and Expert. The system will always power up in 'Normal' mode (A good safety feature) but once you've become accustomed to flying the DR-1 you can select 'Expert' mode for more extreme control response. To activate Expert mode, turn on the transmitter and the helicopter then momentarily press down on the elevator stick. The word 'Expert' appears on the LCD screen and the red LED will blink continuously when in Expert mode.
One feature I like very much is the ON / OFF switch on the outside of the heli. I think it's a great feature that you can connect the battery and put the canopy on without needing to first power up the transmitter. It's not a big deal particularly because the DR-1's Canopy does install quickly, but it's nice not to have to connect the battery and rush to get the helicopter on a smooth, level surface while the gyro initializes.
The DR-1 has an automatic rudder trimming feature: simply land the helicopter and allow it to sit steady and level for 3 or more seconds and the DR-1 will automatically re-center the rudder control. You can customize the controls to suit your flying style: the 'Normal' and 'Expert' modes change the amount of travel on the servos. You can customize how much each servo travels (as well as change servo direction) in the transmitter's programming menu, and if for any reason you need to reset the transmitter to it's default settings you can do that also, all by using the control sticks.
Ok, let's see what sort of fun we can have with this impressive little heli!
I was VERY impressed with the manual included with the DR-1. Frankly I had no idea there were so many things to program or customize with an entry level helicopter. Each function is well explained (in proper English) with lots of photos to assist.
After familiarizing myself by thumbing through the manual I figured I would try flying the DR-1 first in normal mode, without making any adjustments. First I installed the batteries in the transmitter and charged the single cell 450 mAh battery with the included USB charger. I slipped the Lipo battery into the slot in the front of the DR-1's chassis, connected the battery installed the canopy and set the DR-1 on the floor in my living room. To power the heli up, you must first turn ON the transmitter, then with the DR-1 on a level surface turn it's switch on and wait for the beep. Within seconds the transmitter and heli were communicating. I did a quick check to make sure all the controls moved the in the proper direction, and smoothly advanced the throttle.
Immediately the DR-1 lifted off and settled into a nice eye level hover. Four clicks of aft cyclic (Up Elevator) trim was all it took. The little DR-1 is reasonable powerful for such a small Heli. After keeping the DR-1 'tail in' for half a minute, I yawed it around with the rudder stick and the DR-1 was looking right back at me, nose in.
I began to grin. I was more than a little amused that although I hadn't touched a heli of any kind in several months, I was able to hover nose in with no issues whatsoever (A testament to the DR-1, not to my heli skills).
It didn't take more than a couple of minutes hovering before I was ready for some forward flight. The DR-1 responded nicely but it didn't take long before I felt ready to take on Expert mode. pressing down on the elevator stick caused the LED on the transmitter to begin flashing, and the word 'Expert' to be displayed on the transmitter's LCD screen. I could see that the servos would now move further than with 'normal' mode selected.
With the system set to Expert, the helicopter was certainly more responsive, but still not twitchy or overly sensitive. I was now able to get some decent forward motion out of the DR-1. Normal mode absolutely does have its place: I can recall early in my heli training just having a heck of a time trying to keep any helicopter inside of a 6 foot (imaginary) cube. The naturally positive stability of a coaxial helicopter, combined with the gyro stabilization that the DR-1 provides is certainly a winning combination for training and general low stress flying. It's not realistic to expect Collective pitch (CP) maneuverability from any coax, but for learning and gentle flight characteristics you want stability. The DR-1 delivers.
Next I took the DR-1 out to the local flying field to see how it would handle the great outdoors. I was not disappointed. I met my flying buddy Geoff at the field at 5PM on a clear afternoon, winds were about 5 MPH. We had as much fun as you can imagine with this little heli. After getting a couple of camera shots, Geoff broke out the video camera for some footage. Although it's primarily designed for very little or calm winds, I had no difficulty at all keeping the DR-1 within a few feet of myself. The DR-1 felt like a much bigger machine, I'm sure the stabilization system was responsible, since the winds (although light) were beginning to gust. I handed the transmitter off to a couple of the local flyers (all fixed wing pilots) and within a few minutes, all of them were able to do a basic 'tail in' hover. I was impressed with the durability of this little heli, as we were not exactly being gentle with it. After several more flights with the DR-1 (and no damage) I can report that this is indeed one fun Co-ax.
From the sturdy construction to the gentle flight characteristics to the top notch customer and product support, the Traxxas DR-1 is a sure winner!
Check out the video to see the Traxxas DR-1 in action!
If you're looking for something you can learn to fly in your own living room, (at night, during the winter even) you'd do well to grab a Traxxas DR-1 before the winter blahs set in. It's very stable, affordable, has outstanding US based product support and just plain fun!
6250 Traxxas Way
McKinney, TX 75070
Phone: 1-888-TRAXXAS www.traxxas.com
The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.