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Eco Piccolo

Flying the Raptor requires a big field, the closest for me is 20 minutes away, and as they are noisy and potentially dangerous they have to be flown well away from houses or other people. They are also very susceptible to crash damage and very expensive to repair, so learning is a slow process.

To make this easier I recently bought an Ikarus Eco Piccolo. This is a tiny electric helicopter that can be flown indoors or outside on a calm day.

In it's original configuration the Piccolo is a fixed pitch heli. All the electronics are on a single board that contains the reciever, two speed controllers for the main motor and tail motor and the gyro. The Picoboard also does the revo mixing so the Piccolo can be flown on 4 channel radio.

The tail is not driven by the main motor, but has it's own mini electric motor. This is slightly odd to start with as you can hear the motor speeding up and slowing down as you fly, and full left rudder results in the tail rotor stopping altogether. I think this design makes the piccolo more crash resistant, as if you hit anything with the tail it just stops. The main rival to the Piccolo, the Hornet, has a conventional tail, and there are a lot of complaints on the bulletin boards about stripping the tail gearing everytime it hits anything. This is the main reason I went for a Piccolo rather than a Hornet, although the Hornet is supposed to be more stable in ground effect as it has a higher headspeed, but this makes it more susceptible to damage.

The Piccolo parked on top of the Raptor The Piccolo

I really like my Piccolo, mainly because you can fly it anywhere. I have flown it in the office at work, in several local picnic sites, on the beach, in squash courts and in my living room. It is almost indestructible, I have run it into furniture, piled it into the ground at full tilt and crashed in all sorts of ways. The rotor head is designed to come off on impact, so when it crashes instead of being faced with 100 bill plus a week to wait for all the parts and a major reassembly job, you just pick it all up, clip it back together and take off again. The worst crashes so far have been fixed with a few drops of CA (Superglue).

Scale Bodies:

There are lots of scale bodies you can buy for the Piccolo, including ones with retractable undercarriage, but they tend to be expensive and heavy. I built this Bell 47 G scale fuselage from some plans in a copy of Model Helicopter World, the total cost was about 15.

Click on the pictures for a bigger version

For a copy of the article about how to build this click here:

Page1 Page 2 Page 3

And for the Plans:

Left Bit Middle Bit Right Bit

Ikarus Bulletin Board

The greatest thing about Piccolos is that although they can be a bit temperamental and require a fair amount of fiddling with, you get to spend hours on the Ikarus Bulletin Board where you can get advice on just about anything from lots of helpful and supremely knowledgeable individuals who are only too glad to offer good advice to fellow piccoholics, and lots of good ideas on how to make it better. The basic Piccolo flies OK out of the box, but there are a number of modifications made by a number of fabulous individuals who manufacture upgraded parts at very little cost that will improve performance and stability.

Best Upgrades

After a few months I found the Piccolo lacked powere, and this led to a number of crashes, also the batteries seemed to be performing badly. I eventually worked out that it was the stock 295 motor that was failing, and replaced it waith an Orion coreless motor from Helihobby. It cost $60 and arrived in 4 days, first tests seem to indicate that it makes a huge difference to the powere available. I a;so got 2 powerex 700Mah Nimh packs, I will post the results once I have tested these.

Chris Rigoleth who makes a swashplate ball for FP Piccolo and an upgraded anti rotation link

MIA make a replacement undercarriage that bends instead of breaking.

MC Mach sell Astro and Orion upgraded motors, pinions and seperate components

Robert Lee manufactures Carbon Fibre replacement blades

Pierre makes fantastic aluminium swashplates and rotorheads.

Worst Upgrade

I bought a collective pitch conversion kit for the Piccolo, but I do not think that it is worth the money. On top of the kit you have to buy an extra servo and new batteries, which makes it around 100, it is very fragile, particularly the slider unit, of which two broke although I hardly flew it. I never got the heli to fly properly with the CP kit despite hours of fiddling, it wouldn't lift off with any power, had a circular wobble unless the headspeed was about 2000 rpm, was extremely twitchy and almost impossible to fly, and at that headspeed the fragile wooden blades disintegrated the first time I hit anything with them. The blades are more expensive to replace than the Raptor blades, and I'm not going to bother. My advice if you're thinking of a CP conversion is don't bother, the only part of it worth having is the delrin collar.

Advantages over Big Helis

Another factor is that if a 30 size heli hits anyone, it is going to maim or seriously hurt them, whereas the Piccolo has lightweight flexible blades and a low headspeed, so you can crash it into yourself without fear of serious injury.

I have found that I have learned to fly a lot quicker since I got the Piccolo as I am not afraid to try nose in or pirouettes as the consequences of getting it wrong does not involve severe indentation of myself or my bank balance. Also once you have bought it the running costs are about 5p a year as opposed to 18 a gallon for the 15% Coolpower that the Raptor runs on.

They are also fantastic fun to fly as they can fly very fast and are very manoevrable and can take a fair amount of throwing about. As a first heli they would be difficult to learn on, but they really are great fun to fly.

Pictures: Place your cursor over the picture for a caption

The Head Stiffener Mod The Swashplate Assembly
The main motor, picoboard and battery mount mod The tail motor

Instruction Manuals:

English Instructions for CP Conversion Kit

English Instructions for Piccoboard Plus

Links to other sites:

The Ikarus Bulletin Board is a good place to start, there is a fantastic amount of information on Piccolo mods here.

The Ikarus Homepage give you all the basic information.

Malcolm Crabbe's page has some interesting mods, particularly the battery holder made from an old blanking plate from the floppy disk drive bay on the mods page.

Everything you need to know on Paul Goelz's Webpage. I found this Head Stiffener mod particularly good. Also very good advice on batteries on the FAQ page.

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