This was 2023
This year comes to an end, and although it was less noisy than the years before the epidemic, we have got a few surprises this year as well - some were quite astonishing. Annual review from our point of view.
In general, it can be said that the RC helicopter sport did not become a phoenix bird this year either, we did not witness a great resurrection, but at least the decline may have stopped, in fact, some kind of progress can be seen in terms of the number of modelers. We are still far from the good days, but at least we are surviving, and there are new joiners even though the conditions are not so favorable.
Rule makers almost everywhere in the world do a lot to make it not good for us - and for modeling in general. The prices of the models are very high, and since almost everything is digital today, the necessary technology also costs a lot. As a result, there are very few of the really young talents in modeling. We are an aging sport, the average age is much higher compared to a decade or two ago.
Unfortunately, we have also become poorer with a legend: József Mojzes, the iconic figure of Hungarian helicopter flying passed away in July. He has been at almost all major events in the 2010's - inluding 3D Masters, 3FX Italy, HeliChallenge and so on.
Nothing magical happened in terms of models this year, our calculation got realised, manufacturers either focus on the 700 category or on models below 380 and around, only few companies support the medium size. There are probably market reasons for this, because there is mostly demand for small, affordable models, and whoever has the money and determination will buy the 700. The selection in the 500-550-600 category is quite modest. This is not expected to change much next year either.
The biggest changes and surprises were produced by the manufacturers and their teams in 2023: Align try to get further, although it won't be able to achieve its former dominance. The Taiwanese manufacturer has updated its entire range, creating quite a bit of noise with the TB70 at the beginning of this year and at the end of 2022 - although the "eagle-eyed" SAB fans also helped a lot in this. In any case, with the new TB/TN series, the company fundamentally redesigned its models compared to the 15-year-old T-Rex series. In many respects, they broke with tradition, although older parts were sneaked back here and there into the new world. That's okay: Russian aeronautical engineers also work this way: once they've created something well, they don't mess with it for decades.
SAB suffered the biggest decline. While the Italian company dominated the helicopter market a few years ago, their market loss in 2023 was spectacular. Although they tried everything with different versions of Raw, and in many countries their primacy is still unquestionable, the popularity of the company has dropped considerably in the world. In addition, they lost one of their key figures: Duncan Bossion left the team. And he also took Filip Ban with him. The company is broadly going through what Align already suffered in the early 2010s. They are not in danger of disappearing completely, but they have definitely lost the level that was only theirs before.
Instead of them such manufacturers have secured themselves on the market that did not even exist before. Tron has broken out of the previous atmosphere and the team led by Dario Neuenschwander and Joachim Etter has stabilized itself in the market.
We can follow the fiercest fight between OMP Hobby and Goosky. The two companies have common roots, so the opponents follow each other's every movement. Until the OMP Hobby M4, OMP's advantage was obvious, but later the Goosky S1 became the real success story.
Goosky dropped two bombs at the end of the year: the release of the RS7 and bringing Duncan Bossion and Filip Ban on board. The presentation of the RS7 was better than the introduction of the OMP M7 version, although the latter model is a little behind in terms of release. There will certainly be heated debates about which one is better, but the marketing itself by Goosky was definitely better. And it was quite shocking that the former key figures of SAB, Dunkan and Filip, joined Goosky.
By the way, Tareq Alsaadi has also been seen several times with Goosky models, although Tareq is obviously present that he is strictly brand independent when it comes to helicopters, so he likes to advertise OMP's models as well.
The big flop of the year was performed by Mikado: the introduction of the VBar Evo series was more of a farce than a real debut. And the solutions were quite hacky. The story started with the radio transmitter short-circuit issue, and they did not connect via USB in some cases. The German company solved the USB problem with a software update, and four washers were issued to prevent the short circuit, which everyone could build into the radio themselves. The piquancy of the matter is that when someone opens the radio, in theory, the warranty has gone. True, no one has reported the warranty loss in practice.
Then the problems appeared with the Evo FBL modules: the vibration damping did not work well, the electronics was moving in the its case, which is not very beneficial in the case of an FBL. The solution: a glue gun. It has been officially published how to smash the electronics into the case with the glue gun, preventing that move. Except the software update, neither of them are elegant solutions, and in the case of a German company, they are downright embarrassing.
Mikado does not perform well anyway, with the exception of VBar, Logo helicopters are rapidly disappearing from the daily life, CD's departure in August 2022 did not help the German company either. Logo helicopters are barely represented by any of the better-known pilots. According to some rumors, Mikado may withdraw from the production of helicopters, but there are no practical signs or official confirmation of this.
And the up-and-comer of the year is Steam. The company was formed from the former Tarot, so they have experience in helicopter manufacturing, but the company was never strong in terms of marketing. They started to change this during this year, so their models are already appearing at larger events, and you can meet them more and more often. They have also made a lot of progress in building a proper sales network. At the same time, their models fall into the still affordable category, so the company's presence in the longer term is quite likely.
XLPower hasn't changed much, they have a couple of new models, they haven't made any big changes, but at the same time, their position is stable, the delivery is reliable, and scandals and problems have been avoided by the company this year.
In terms of component production, Sunnysky is the "new" competitor, thanks to the breakthrough of direct drive, the company manufactures all OMP Hobby motors. With the appearance of the M7, their innovations also appeared in the field of traditional motors, but in general, there were not many changes in the field of engines compared to the previous year.
The conditions for the other components did not change significantly either. In the field of FBLs, ESCs, controllers, nitro engines, and servos, new products appeared, improvements arrived, but basically we are closing a quiet year. The technology we should watch out for next year is the petrol models - Miniature Aircraft has proven it.