The Tyco XFO or Xtreme Flying Object, is a radio-controlled flying toy manufactured by Tyco RC, and released into the US, UK, and other countries worldwide in 2004.
In the early 2000s, toy helicopters that actually flew like a helicopter simply did not exist. The closest thing you’d find if you went looking at your local toy store was one of those plastic models with the lights and fake spinning prop with sound effects. It was the boom in mobile phone technology, especially 3G and mobile internet that would accelerate the development of three key technologies needed for any kind of cheap, miniature chopper. Those technologies were:
- Cheap, light, and high power batteries (lithium cells)
- Miniature motors, used in phones for the vibrate function
- Miniature gyroscopes (gyros) used to calculate what angle you were facing in 3D space in just milliseconds – very useful for GPS/location in a cell phone.
It was this last requirement, gyros, that would prove the hardest to develop. A gyro was a crucial component for all helicopters, big or small, used to tell the tail rotor how fast it needs to spin in order to counteract the major rotational force of the main rotor-blade. Not enough spin would cause the main rotor to pull the rest of the helicopter around with it, spinning around and around until it crashed. Too much, and the same thing would happen, only in reverse. A perfect equilibrium was required.
And yet by 2004 with both battery and motor technology becoming cheap enough to incorporate in toys, yet gyros not quite being cheap enough yet, toy makers worldwide would come up with all sorts of cheeky ways to compensate for the lack of a gyro, and still try to create a helicopter type toy that would be fun to fly.
One of those was Taiyo’s Gyro Hawk which used two large ‘paddles’ to try and counter-act the rotational force of the main rotor, though I doubt this worked very well.
Tyco would take the concept a step further by providing three extra-large paddles, and doing away with that pesky tail rotor completely, accepting that it was going to spin and just going for a more controllable spin. It was named… the XFO, or Xtreme Flying Object.
Before I show you how this thing actually flies, let’s take a look at the 2004 ad.
Features and Performance
As we can see from this video posted to YouTube 13+ years ago, spin and spin it does.
Note: music warning!
“Control” of the XFO, if you can call it that, was handled by increasing or decreasing the speed of the rotor, causing it to drift more in one direction than another. Sort of.
You can see the main components of the vehicle here. The large red ‘XFO’ box is a portable battery recharger, and the main structure of the vehicle is EPS foam.
Availability and Collectability
The XFO, at approx. 20 years old, is one of the youngest products here at Tyco Collectors, and so good quality items are still available – including New In Box. In fact, Amazon.com still has original product listings for the XFO, though of course its out of stock.
As for whether its collectable, I suspect there will be people out there interested in getting their hands on a good condition XFO, most likely due to childhood memories. Prices remain reasonable, though that may change as availability continues to decrease.
What came after the Tyco XFO?
Just two years later in 2006, the helicopter toy scene would change forever with the introduction of the Picco-Z, the worlds first truly affordable and controllable toy helicopter due to its built-in miniature Gyro. These were incredible toys that really did ‘take the world by storm‘, being all over the news, TV advertisements, etc.
Working in IT in Australia, one of the technology vendors I worked with even gave us all a Picoo-Z each as a Christmas present, the first of many I’d own and ultimately crash. Today, toy helicopters are ubiquitous, available essentially anywhere there is a toy store, all with a micro gyroscope, able to fly stable and control relatively easily, setting the scene for the next game changer – radio controlled FPV drones.