The RC Helicopter Buying Guide – Full Guide
Introduction to RC Helicopter Buying Guide
You may think that picking out the right RC helicopter may be a simple process, but it is a lot more difficult than you think. In the last few years, the design, function, and market for RC helicopters has changed dramatically, and new innovations to RC helicopters are making them higher performing and more affordable than ever.
If this is your first time shopping for RC helicopters, the process can be really overwhelming with all of the types of helicopters, features, additions, and remotes that can come with your helicopter. That doesn’t even consider the fact that different types of RC helicopters fly and handle differently. Some can be easier to operate, but have less maneuverability where others have the maximum amount of maneuverability for tricks, stunts, and cornering, but are extremely difficult to fly.
So that you don’t have to navigate through the stubborn weeds of buying your first RC helicopter, we are going to help you out a little. You can consider this your crash-course in learning everything that you need to know about RC helicopters so that you can make the best purchase for your hobby, flying, or gifting needs. let's start our RC helicopter buying guide
Things to keep in Mind Before Buying an RC Helicopter
Not all RC helicopters are created equal. In fact, there are some stark differences between the types of helicopters that you can purchase and what they can be used best for. The technology and science behind these helicopters has really advanced over the last few years, which has brought some really fun innovations and additions to the table.
Basically, electric RC helicopters can be broken down into three different categories which are coaxial, fixed pitch, and collective pitch.
It is pretty standard with RC helicopters that they come with an overhead main rotor for power and a tail motor for control and changing directions. The coaxial helicopter is a little bit different than the conventional RC helicopter models in that it has two overhead rotors and no tail rotors. Some call this a dual rotor or contra-rotating helicopters.
The coaxials uses a counter torque force that is used by both of the overhead rotors rotating in the opposite direction. That allows the torque force of the blades to cancel out one other, giving the helicopter more balance and control in the air. This counterbalance of torque allows this helicopter to operate smoothly without the use of a tail blade, which means that it has one less channel that you need to learn how to use when learning how to fly.
The dual blades rotating in opposite directions make the coaxial RC helicopters by far some of the easiest to fly. Coaxial helicopters however and move forward with ease, so these helicopters are ideal for a beginner flyer. Unfortunately, the dual blades do not make this helicopter much for performance. They aren’t great for high speeds, hard banking turns, or any kind of advanced performance while flying.
Another plus is that most coaxial helicopters are ready to fly right out of the box, whereas many where as single rotor models can require additional parts or materials before you are able to fly it. These are definitely great helicopters for beginners.
2) Fixed Pitch
Fixed pitch helicopters are like the advanced version of or the big brother of coaxial helicopters, and were, up until recently, really popular in the RC helicopter community. Since then there have been better models and new advancements in the RC helicopter world, which has enabled companies to make higher performing helicopters for even cheaper. Even though fixed pitch helicopters have fallen in popularity recently, they are still sold and they are still really solid beginner helicopters.
We will say that fixed pitch helicopters are significantly more difficult to fly than coaxial helicopters. Since these helicopters have a single blade and lack collective pitch, these helicopters are really difficult to maintain at a consistent altitude, and there appears to be a slight delay from the remote to the rotor. Collective pitch is what allows the helicopter to change altitude on real helicopters, but fixed pitch helicopters purely rely on the speed of the main rotor to elevate in altitude or lower themselves.
From having the single blade, these helicopters definitely have more of a handling capability than the coaxial helicopters, and area little more difficult to fly and control.
3) Collective Pitch
Collective pitch RC helicopters are the next step up from fixed pitch helicopters in terms of price, difficulty to control, and performance. These helicopters have a ton of mobility and can perform some really wild and intricate acrobatic tricks. Keep in mind as you read this that collective pitch helicopters take tons of hours and months of practice to master them.
These helicopters are well balanced and well oiled machines that could be considered more to be recreational aircraft than the could be considered toys. There are a ton of variables that make these helicopters really great for flying, but keep in mind that these RC helicopters can be very challenging to learn and master.
Number of Channels
The number of channels on your RC helicopter will vary with the complexity of the helicopter and the style that you buy. RC helicopter remotes send signals to the helicopter and the blades to tell it how to move. Each thing that you can do with your helicopter requires its own transmission channel.
The basic, beginner helicopters will have two channels that will move the helicopter in which one controls the speed of the rotor and the other allows the helicopter to turn. The more channels that the helicopter has, the more it can do and the harder the helicopter can be to control.
There are two main power supplies for RC helicopters which include glow fuel and battery power. Some will use turbine engines or gasoline, but glow fuel and batteries are much more common. Glow fuel helicopters are really powerful and have virtually no height limit for them, and they usually provide a flight time of 7-10 minutes.
Batteries are significantly easier to use, charge, are safer, and typically cheaper. Batteries usually allow you to fly for 4-12 minutes at a time depending on the model and size of the battery. Another major benefit to battery powered helicopters is that they are significantly quieter than glow fuel ones, so they are better for flying around congested areas.
If you are going to be looking for more advanced helicopters to fly, you are going to want to make sure that you can get replacement or additional parts for your helicopter. When you are learning in the beginning, you are going to be crashing a lot, which means that there are going to be parts on your helicopter that wear out faster, which you will need to replace.
If you are getting really into flying, you are going to want to make sure that your RC helicopter has upgradeable parts.
How The Helicopter is put together
RC helicopters come in a variety of different designs and materials that include plastic, reinforced plastic, aluminum, and carbon fiber. As we mentioned earlier, some helicopters come fully assembled, where others almost come as model kits that you get to construct on your own. If you are just starting to fly for the first time you want to make sure that your helicopter is made of something sturdy so that it can sustain some crashes.
Accessories And Additional Options for your Helicopter
If you are just planning on using the helicopter for flying and want to progress and get more advanced with your flying, you will definitely want to make sure that your helicopter has upgradeable parts. You may plan on using your helicopter for photography later on, and in that case you will want to make sure that your RC helicopter has the appropriate attachments so that you can mount a camera on it.
Notes Before Buying
At this point you have a really good idea of the types of RC helicopters that are out there and what they have to offer. When you are shopping around for your helicopter, you need to keep in mind what you are going to use it for and where you are going to use it. Here are some of the questions that you may want to ask yourself.
- Is this helicopter for indoor use or outdoor use?
- Do you want a helicopter as a toy for casual, and fun flying?
- Do you want an advanced helicopter so that you can learn how to do advanced maneuvers and tricks?
- How often are you planning on flying your helicopter?
- Which of the above helicopter types sounds the most appealing to you in terms of style and performance?
The next thing that we would recommend after you decide the type of plane that you are interested in and what you are going to use it for selecting a budget for what you are willing to spend on a helicopter.