Christmas 2011 and my wife, knowing my fondness for toys, purchased for me an Air Swimmer – Shark. These helium filled, radio controlled flying toys (best used indoors only) can be found from $25 to $40 depending on where you shop.
Here you see my new shark “Hugo” being controlled by my son (home for the holidays from the USMC).
I decided to write about Hugo because we had more fun with this silly toy than all the other electronic wonder gimcracks that were also under the tree this year.
You can fill your Air Swimmer (comes in Clown Fish, and Shark models) with helium from a tank (if you have one or purchase one) or do what I did, which was to take the shark balloon into my local Party Works and have them fill’em up. Cost was less than $2.
Once inflated you need to keep a good grip on the balloon and install the control surfaces and radio controlled servos that let you guide your air swimmer through the air. I’m fortunate in that I have a 2 story house with very high ceilings and a central stairwell that lends itself to balloon play.
Fins and servos are taped to the body of the fish (all parts supplied in the box). You can control nose up and down via a motorized servo that runs along a track that is secured to the shark’s belly.
In the motor housing has a cavity you can fill with the heavy putty provided. You add/remove weight this way until you have neutral buoyancy. Move the servo along the track towards the nose and the fish points downward. Run the servo to the rear and the fish will nose up.
Forward motion and turning are accomplished via the tail servo. You swish the tail back and forth and so push the fish forward. Repeated swings in the same direction and you can turn the fish around. With a little practice you can turn him on a dime!
Control is achieved via the tiny radio controller. Here the controller is shown with the putty storage compartment open. There is also a built in wire hook that you can flip up and use to anchor your fish to the controller when you are not playing with it and don’t want it drifting around untethered.
Here the controller is closed up and ready to go. On/off switch (there is another on the altitude control on the fish) and one toggle for tilting up or down, and another toggle for moving the tail back and forth.
Not only has this been a hoot and a half to play with around the house (see video) but I can see repurposing the servos on the train layout for some animation features in the future (especially the motorized track servo).
Let me know what you think. -TJ
(Originally posted 1/1/2012)