Piccolo Micro-Heli

The Original Micro-heli

Look on ebay and you'll see around half a dozen micro helicopters, some bundled with transmitters and a host of extras, but turn the clock back to the beginning of this century and the only choice you had was the Ikarus Piccolo. This was fixed pitch, and came as a package with a Picoboard and a couple of servos for around £350, about half the price of the Blade, Twisters and others.

The Piccolo soon found a strong user base supported by a very active forum (which is now dead as a dodo due to the short sightedness of Ikarus's MD). In the early years a lot of forum members came up with enhancements and modifications that made the Piccolo fly a lot better than the stock product. These modifications have now found their way into the V2 version (which was why so many memebers boycotted the forum, as Ikarus claimed to have come up with the ideas themselves and never gave credit to its forum members). However, lets have a look at what made the Ikarus Piccolo so popular

The one thing Ikarus did right was to offer the Piccolo owner the chance of converting their Piccolo in to a scale looking huge's 300. This kit, in my opinion makes the Piccolo a real helicopter. The kit came with new white main and tail rotors, tape to cover the boom and an excellent canopy.

A year or two later Ikarus produced a collective pitch upgrade which really turned the Piccolo into a stable helicopter. The upgrade comprised of a pitch slider, linkages and a set of wooden semi-sym blades that you had to cover with bright orange or green film. Most of us used traditional solar film (white or black) to avoid the need of sunglasses :-)

The next development from the Ikarus stable was a new "scale" body. However this time they suffered a real flop in the design. This time, rather than a simple add on canopy Ikarus opted for a fully enclosed body. The kit came in two versions, the Bell 222 or Airwolf. It was made from molded expanded styrene and came with an up rated 310 motor.

The problem was that you had to chop the boom and undercarriage struts to fit the mechanics into the body, so there was no way of reverting the Piccolo back to its original form. However the other major flaw was that even with the 310 motor and freshly charged 8 cell pack, the helicopter would only just get to head height, and then slowly floated to the ground and remained in ground effect. It wasn't until the advent of li-ion and later li-pol battery technology coupled with brushless motor upgrades did people really get the performance and longer flight times that was desired. The one thing that was impressive was the way they came up with working retractable undercarriage, but that requited the additional weight of an extra servo which only added to the Bell 222's weight problems, however with the development in li-po battery technology and cheaper brushless motors, this weight problem is no longer an issue.