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Traxxas DR-1 Helicopter Review

Traxxas is one of the biggest names in RC trucks, so when they released two “micro-sized” helicopters, we took notice. We’re sure most of you did too. Along the same lines, when a press release rather quickly transformed into available products, we were instantly curious how a company that knows surface RC inside and out would do with its first attempt at going airborne. The bottom line is that we knew that Traxxas’ whirlybirds would put helis on the radar of a good part of the RC Truck Stop audience, so we wanted to put them to the test and report back to you. First, up for review is the more traditional DR-1.

HIGHLIGHTS
> Counter rotating design
> $85 (ready-to-fly version), $61 (“EZ-Connect” without transmitter)
> Aluminum main frame, skids and tail boom
> Included 3.7V (1S) 450mAh LiPo battery
> USB battery charger
> 2.4GHz radio system
> Gyro stabilization
> Overall length: 8.9 in. (225 mm)
> Rotor diameter: 8.7 in. (220 mm)

DID YOU KNOW?
The DR-1 isn’t modeled after a specific full-size helicopter, but it is somewhat similar to small one-person helicopters that are about 20 ft long. That means the DR-1 is approximately 1/27 scale.

  

FEATURES
The “DR” in DR-1 stands for dual rotor. This style of RC heli uses two counter-rotating rotors and no tail rotor. The pitch and speed of the rotors controls the helicopter, and said controls include: elevation, forward and backward travel, yaw (rotation) and roll (moving to either side). There are some more basic 3-channel micro helis that do not include sideways movement as a control, but the DR-1 is as full function as anything else in its class.

The DR-1 has noticeably robust construction for a fairly pint-sized machine. As mentioned in the Highlights section, the main frame (and inner frame), skids and tail boom are all aluminum. Not only do the anodized aluminum parts increase durability, but they also add style. The frame comes in two colors–red or blue–to match the body work. Speaking of the body, it is lightweight molded plastic and flexible enough to snap on and off. Behind the canopy–which comes in blue/white and red/white schemes–the battery slides in place. This means you’ll have to take off the canopy to slide a charged battery in place and remove it once again after a flight to unplug the battery.

DID YOU KNOW?
Coaxial helicopters are not just an RC model design. The coaxial design is used on a variety of real helicopters. In fact, the first patent ever awarded for a helicopter design used coaxial rotors. It was awarded to Henry Bright in 1859 by British Patent Office.

Two counter rotating or coaxial rotor sets are powered by individual motors that spin large spur. As stated above, the fact that the rotors spin in opposite directions mean a tail rotor is not required as the torque from each rotor assembly cancels out the other. Above the top rotor, a weighted flybar helps keep the DR-1 stabile. Two super micro servos connect to what is called the swashplate. The swashplate allows the lower rotor to be front to back and to each side. This allows you to control forward and backwards movement and rolling to either side. Elevation is controlled by the overall speed of the rotors and yaw (rotating the heli) is controlled by varying the speed of the rotors independently.

DID YOU KNOW?
Traxxas was founded in 1986 by David Katz and Jim Jenkins. In 1994, Jim sold his share of the company to David. Traxxas is now owned and run by Jim’s son, Mike Jenkins, who bought the company in 2003. 

Each plastic blade is 4.1 inches long and Traxxas kindly includes spares–a complete set, in fact. On the rear of the helicopter’s main body is a tiny on/off switch. Even though there is an on/off switch, I advise that you unplug and remove the battery whenever DR-1 is not in use.

DID YOU KNOW?
Traxxas offers what it calls its Helicopter Replacement Plan where you can trade in a DR-1 in any condition and purchase a new DR-1 (without transmitter) at half the list price. 

  

The DR-1 includes a 3.7V 450mAh LiPo battery which is a single cell. It charges via a USB charger that would typically plug into a computer to charge. The radio is a 4-channel 2.4GHz setup to correspond appropriately with the 4-channel function of the DR-1. The transmitter is powered by four AAA batteries (Traxxas even includes its own proprietary AAA cells). The transmitter has two settings: Normal (default) and Expert. Switching into Expert mode increases the travel of the controls and thus increases the responsiveness of the DR-1. The transmitter also comes in what is known as Mode 2 for DR-1 models sold in the U.S. and other areas where this setup is preferred. It is offered in Mode 1 in other regions. Traxxas points out the DR-1 has automatic rudder trim feature that centers the rudder when the heli lands for three or more seconds. Another nice feature is the visible LED on the heli blinks as the battery gets close to the end of its capacity. Additionally, a gyro helps automatically stabilize flight.

As we often see in RC (and in the full-size world, for that matter), the DR-1 happens to also be sold under different badging by the original manufacturer, Hubsan. The DR-1 is not a clone. Other than cosmetic differences and some subtle changes such as the charger, it is the not so long lost brother of the Hubsan Hobby Mini Invader H203. I point this out only because you’re likely to hear it buzzing around the Internet (pun intended) and, as such, the fact that it is not a clone should also be clear. That said, it is completely irrelevant.

DID YOU KNOW?
The first fully functional helicopter was the German Focke-Wulf Fw 61 from 1936. It looked like an airplane fuselage fitted with twin rotor assembles.

PERFORMANCE & FINAL ASSESSMENT
The claim to fame of coaxial helicopters such as the DR-1 is that they–unlike traditional RC helis–are easy to fly. I am happy to report that Traxxas’ release fits the proverbial bill. I have flown a variety of coaxial helicopters (I have probably reviewed at least five different coaxial helis over the years) and they are not all created equal–performance varies between models and brands. My Traxxas test sample required a little trimming to achieve what I’d call perfect, zero corrective input needed flight. All this means is that I had to hit the trim buttons a few times to compensate for a little noticeable yaw (it wanted to rotate to the right on its own) and forward movement.

Once I “dialed in” the DR-1 it flew as stable as any other coaxial I have ever flown and hovered in a tight space. Mastering the controls doesn’t take very long (See “First Flight Tips” below) and one quickly gets a feel for how the DR-1 responds. The bottom line is it flies great. Like all other coaxial helis I’ve flown, it doesn’t travel forward at a tremendous amount of speed, but it is responsive and a whole lot of fun to fly around a room.

As my piloting skills got refreshed and I, in turn, got more comfortable with the DR-1, I got more aggressive with my flying. That means I crashed the DR-1 more. Sometimes I eased into an unplanned landing a little harder than I would like, but just as many crashes weren’t exactly pretty. I was amazed that I never broke a blade. Traxxas includes spare rotors, but I have, thus far, not needed them. As we report the truth here at RC truck Stop, I do have to point out that a did manage to bend (albeit slightly) the aluminum tail boom. The tweak occurred right where a small hole goes through the boom. The damage was strictly cosmetic and even then, hardly noticeable. That said, I couldn’t help myself and I very gently bent the boom pretty close to its original alignment. I guess the point is, even with aluminum construction, the DR-1 isn’t indestructible (nor does Traxxas make that claim).

The USB-powered charger is a bit of a mixed bag and kind of like the incredibly prevalent yoga pants trend–it’s cool . . . most of the time. I didn’t mind plugging into a USB port to charge until one wasn’t available. Standard power outlets are just about everywhere and USB ports are not.

BEWARE OF ROTOR WASH!
When you’re flying you will feel the breeze the DR-1 creates–it’s pretty strong. It is important to realize that this wind force bounces off objects such as walls and the ground and can upset the handling of your heli. Sometimes you’ll notice the heli give a solid twitch and sometimes the heli will actually get sucked into the surface. Be mindful as you get close to objects and be prepared to compensate with small, smooth adjustments. Along the same lines, beware of air vents around the house.

Overall, I was–and continue to be–completely satisfied and, in fact, impressed with the flying characteristics of the DR-1. The Traxxas DR-1 is noticeably stable and predictable. The price tag is completely reasonable and the overall quality is comparable or superior to anything in its class and at this general price point.

Hot
> Solid construction with aluminum parts
> Very good flying characteristics–it’s stable
> Well worth the money

Not
> On/off switch is tiny and hard to reach
> Canopy must be removed to access battery

FIRST FLIGHT TIPS
It is highly likely that the DR-1 will be many pilots first heli. That’s kind of the point of a product like this. The DR-1 is easy to fly and just about anyone can master controlling it, but there is a path to success. Below are some simple tips that will get you flying like a pro quickly and help prevent unneeded broken parts. Follow these tips and you’ll have master flying the Traxxas DR-1 before the first charge is depleted.
> Turn on the DR-1 with it “parked” on a flat level surface and let it sit for at least three seconds.
> Your first flight should be a ground flight–not really a flight at all. There’s no need to take off. Just turn on the DR-1 and slowly apply throttle (left stick up) until the DR-1 is pushing air but not lifting off the ground completely. Now, test the other controls. This will help you familiarize with what each control does.
> THIS IS CRUCIAL. Your first few flights should be short vertical climbs. Using only the left stick, slowly increase throttle until the DR-1 lifts off. Climb to about a foot and slowly decrease throttle. Work on gentle climbs and landings.
> After you have mastered taking off and landing, climb to about three feet or so and practice controlling a hover. You will again only be using the left stick–moving it up and down. Use small inputs to maintain a hover.
> After you learn how to hover, you can add in yaw or rotating the helicopter around its center axis. Simply take off, maintain a hover and practice spinning in both directions. Remember slow, smooth inputs are best.
> You are now ready for forward and backwards flight. Take it slow and have fun. As a final step, dd it a little roll to either side and you have now completely master the DR-1.

Links
Traxxas

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2 Comments

  1. This is the best review I found and it’s on a car site. I looked all over for a good review before buying this for my son. Thank you. The tips were great too. We used them to get started and they worked great.

  2. Amazing review but why there no information about the flying time ??? Is it 10 or 15 min ??? Juste curious because there no information on traxxas website et it seem that no body have information on that

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