What Are RC Helicopters?
Flying an RC helicopter isn’t the same as flying your grandpa’s RC airplane. In fact, flying an RC helicopter might be as difficult as flying a real helicopter. Still, RC helicopters are more than a curiosity. They are a fun and challenging way to enjoy remote-controlled aviation.
Different Types of Radio-Controlled Helicopters
There are many different versions of toy RC helicopters that are usually single-rotor and coaxial. These are inexpensive and fine for playing with. These toy copters have limited controls and aren’t precise.
Hobby-grade micro coaxial RC helicopters step things up a notch. You can change and upgrade individual parts with the hobby-grade. These dual or twin-rotor helicopters have complex controls just like a real helicopter. There’s up-and-down turning, flying forward and backward, sideways movement, and hovering. This is why helicopter flying can be so complex. These micro coaxial radio-controlled helicopters are best flown indoors or on calm days.
Quadrotor and multi-rotor RC helicopters can take off vertically, fly in all directions, and hover. They have four propellers. These have more stability and are easier to fly, which makes them an excellent choice for beginners. The main drawback is that they have four propellers and resemble a drone more than a helicopter.
You could also get a single micro rotor, fixed pitched hobby-grade RC helicopter. This little helicopter looks like helicopters and is a little bit harder to fly, but it does have electronic stabilization that helps make things a little bit easier.
Single-rotor, collective pitch, hobby-grade RC helicopters cost more and are more difficult to fly, but they also have the highest performance potential. These are the advanced helicopters for the advanced heli pilots.
What do I need to get started?
Hobby-grade RC helicopter flying is a lot more than just buying a toy helicopter and flying it. There are quite a few things you need to purchase to start flying, and this is why RC flying can get expensive.
You’ll need to purchase the actual RC helicopter. You’ll also need to choose an engine or motor, and this means deciding between an electric-powered RC motor or nitro-powered RC motor. The real difference is whether you want to recharge a battery or refuel your engine. There are also gas-powered options and even an expensive turbine-powered option.
Then, you’ll need your RC radio gear. This consists of the controller and the receiver, along with servos and other electronics that enable you to control your helicopter. You’ll also need a Gyro or flybarless system to control and fly your system. If you have an electric helicopter, you’ll need batteries and a charger, a flight box, training gear, and any other special tools for your specific model.
Why does the size of your helicopter matter?
There are a lot of reasons for this, including cost and the type of helicopter you purchase. The larger, more complex helicopters cost more. An advantage to having a larger helicopter is that it’s bigger, and you can fly higher. With the remote-controlled helicopter, you need to be able to see it. You can see a larger helicopter longer, so it can fly higher.
What’s the learning curve like?
The simple answer to this is that the curve is steep. Flying RC helicopters can be a fun and rewarding hobby, but you definitely have a lot to learn. You not only have to understand how to assemble and start your equipment and use your controller; you also need to understand helicopter flight theory. This means how you use your controls to make your helicopter do certain things. The FAA has a free PDF that could help explain the aerodynamics of helicopter flight.
If you have your heart set on flying RC helicopters, it’s not all doom and gloom. You can start with one of the more basic models and get used to flying. You can also practice within RC helicopter simulator. Everyone loves video games, and your skills build over time. The best thing to do is to start reading some of the helicopter theory, practicing with a low-end model or even a toy, then move on to a simulator, and then you’ll know if investing in a more expensive and complex RC helicopter is worth it for you.