How To Go Fishing Using an RC Helicopter
I love spending time with my kids. We play all kinds of games, but being the odd father that I am I like to try and find new twists to common games my kids enjoy. One day we went to their school fund raising carnival - you know, the over priced food, the cheap games and activities with prices that would make Disney blush. Well we were there and one of the activities they had was the classic "Fishing Pond". There was a ratty sheet strung between two poles with a couple of junior high kids behind it connecting cheap prizes to cheap poles and tossing them out to any angler that came along. Now, I don't mean to belittle a time honored classic carnival game like the fish pond, but as I stood there watching child after child saunter up, toss their line over and wait for the telling tug that signaled the arrival of a really great sticker, an ugly plastic bug or an enigmatic Chinese finger trap I thought, "Surely there's a better way". I began to think of how I could modify the fish pond game and make it a bit more exciting. With the help of my site, RCPlanePro.com and Art-Tech, I think I've succeeded. Behold, RC Helicopter Fishing!
One of the best things about RC Helicopter fishing is that it doesn't require much to make it a smashing success. All you'll need is the following:
• A quality micro RC Helicopter - I got my Art-Tech Micro from my own website, RCPlanePro.com, but any quality micro heli will work.
• A length of string - Make sure you have enough to compensate for the downdraft produced by the helicopter rotors (more on that in a minute).
• A small, but relatively strong magnet.
• A roll of craft magnet, preferably with adhesive on one side (the kind you can get in any craft or hobby store that you can cut to a specific size). You can also substitute paperclips for the craft magnet, but the paperclips don't work as well.
• A hot glue gun complete with a glue stick.
• Several cutouts of funky looking fish (I typically plan on two or three fish per participant)
• A marker - doesn't matter what color, just try to get one that won't bleed through the paper fish you have.
• Tape - this is to attach the string to your helicopter, so be choosy what tape you use. I prefer painters tape since it never leaves marks or smudges on my helicopter, though it's not as strong as masking tape.
• A blue sheet, towel or rug.
• Other decorations as available depending on how elaborate you want your pond.
• Prizes for the participants.
Know Your Down Current
One of the most important things you can do to prepare your helicopter fish pond is to know the down current your helicopter produces. The down current is simply the force of air being pushed down as a result of the spinning rotors. Different helicopters produce varying amounts of wind. You need to know how much down current your copter produces so you can apply weight to your fish appropriately - you don't want the helicopter to blow away all the fish before the kids have a chance to catch them!
The helicopter's down current is one of the main reasons that paperclips are less effective than the heavier magnet option. So to test this, I suggest cutting out your fish and then placing various sized magnet pieces on them - without the adhesive exposed - and then flying your helicopter over the fish to see if they blow away; if they do, add more magnet.
Another option for this is to use slightly heavier magnets and glue the magnets to the fish. Again, you need to be careful with this since you need to make sure the helicopter can lift the fish off the ground!
Get the Right Length of String
Once you know how heavy your fish need to be, you want to determine the length of string to attach to the helicopter. This is an important step since you don't want the down current from your copter to cause the string to move in wide circles - that makes it really hard for the kids to catch a fish.
The best way to figure what length of string you need is simply to test it. I'm sure there's some snazzy mathematical equation out there that someone who is smarter than me could apply to figure it out the first time, but I'm not the guy. I go the old school route of trial and error. By the way, if you happen to be that smart guy, let me know your fancy equation so I can save some string. On with the regular old way...
I suggest starting with a piece of string about 2.5 feet long, that's generally enough to keep the magnet-weighted string stable. Tape the string to the bottom of your helicopter just a little back of the nose. The reason for putting the string here as opposed to right in the middle of the helicopter is that when most RC helicopters move, their nose dips just a little; if the string is attached in a place where it can get closer to the fish as a result of this dip, it makes it easier for kids to be successful. You may want to consider two pieces of tape for extra security for when you've captured a dangling fish.
Use the hot glue gun to glue the magnet to the far end of the string - the end that is not attached to the helicopter. Once the string and magnet are secure, lift off and start by simply hovering in one place. Make sure all of the string is off the ground so you don't get a false positive on this test due to ground friction. When the helicopter is up, let it hover for around 30 seconds and watch the amount of rotation you get on your string. If you don't have much, move on to negotiating a few twists and turns with your helicopter and again, watch how the string behaves.
If you find that you're getting a lot of string rotation, simply land and tape a slightly longer piece of string to your copter. The idea is to get the magnet end of the string far enough away from the rotors that it is not affected by the down current. Continue testing string lengths until you find one that allows the magnet to hang pretty steady without much rotation.
The Fish and the Pond
Now that you know your helicopter is all set up it's time to ready the fish and the pond. For the fish, simply find some good fish cutouts online and print them off. You could print them in color or you could print them in black and white and then have the kids color them prior to fishing for them. I prefer the latter since it engages the kids and really gets them wondering about the activity as they are coloring.
When the fish are printed or colored, cut them out and use a pen or marker to write a number on the back. Each number is associated with a prize the child wins for catching the fish. Alternately, you could have all different looking fish and have the type of fish correspond to a prize, it just depends on how many fish you need and can find.
Peel off the adhesive side of your magnet piece, or pieces, and stick them to the fish up close to their lips. As with attaching the string near the nose of your helicopter, putting the magnets close to the fish lips makes it a little easier for the kids to catch them.
When your fish are ready use the blue sheet or towel or whatever you have chosen to use, and spread it out on the floor where the game will take place. Don't worry about getting the sheet totally flat; in fact, a few wrinkles are good because they look sort of like waves and help some of the magnetized fish lips stick up making them a little easier to catch.
I like to decorate the pond with various plastic trees and maybe a log or three and anything else that comes to mind. Sometimes I have added aliens, others stuffed animals and once or twice some random "junk metal" as obstacles the kids need to avoid. Just take a few minutes to think about whatever would make the activity more fun for the kids.
When everything is set up and your helicopter is fully charged, let the crazy fishing begin! You can make you own rules according to the kids you have, but I typically like to let the kids fish for 90 seconds unless they catch something first. One catch per turn or ninety seconds, then switch. Go through the kids until each child has caught at least one fish and earned a prize. Depending on your budget, though, you might let them catch two, three or more fish! They'll be having so much fun they'll go until your helicopter dies or you run out of fish.
Here are some tips to consider before unleashing the kids on the game:
1- Test the game before the kids play. Make sure the string doesn't rotate, make sure the helicopter can lift the magnetized fish and that you have enough space to allow for kids not being the best pilots.
2- Have a spare battery or other activities you can do while the helicopter recharges - consider giving the kids a time limit to catch a fish. Most RC helicopters take about 30-45 minutes to recharge their batteries - that can be a long time for a group of antsy kids to wait! So if you have a battery backup or other planned activities while the battery charges, you won't have as great a risk of a child uprising.
3- Turn off any indoor fans or ceiling fans. The air currents caused by these fans can disrupt the flight pattern of the micro helicopter making it difficult for the kids to pilot.
4- If you're playing with younger kids who have a hard time piloting the helicopter, instead of using magnets on the fish, simply use large cutouts of fish (they still need to be weighted) and have the kids simply land - or crash - the helicopter on them to win. I have used lily pads with frogs for weights and that worked great.
If you have any other tips to consider, please let me know. Also, if you have tried RC helicopter fishing, let me know how it went. And if you happen to be that guy that's smarter than me and knows the funky math equations for the string, you better hit me up. Have fun kiddies, it's way better than the ratty sheet-plastic bug version!