10 Best RC Helicopters | April 2017
- cable lights up to indicate charging
- quality paint job
- side to side motion isn't great
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
- 10 minutes of flying time per charge
- smooth takeoffs and landings
- wind can throw it off its path
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- super wide infrared control
- arrives ready to fly
- backwards movement isn't great
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- precision speed control
- led light effects when firing
- smaller than some other models
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- sounds really cool
- long-range control capabilities
- replacement parts are hard to find
|Rating||4.0 / 5.0|
- self-levels if you let off the stick
- good for practicing new stunts
- high crash resilience
|Rating||4.4 / 5.0|
- digital transmitter and receiver
- gyro technology adds stability
- strong metal alloy frame
|Rating||4.1 / 5.0|
- lcd provides trim information
- can charge via usb or ac power
- gyro-controlled flight leveling
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
- battery charges in just 40 minutes
- comes with spare parts
- looks like a real apache helicopter
|Rating||4.8 / 5.0|
- can adjust controller sensitivity
- extremely agile in all directions
- stable in high winds
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
Take Flight With An RC Helicopter
The RC helicopter has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. For the first few decades of their existence, most radio controlled helicopters were powered by either a special fuel known as glow fuel (which is made of a blend of methanol, nitromethane, and oil) or by actual gasoline.
In fact, it was not until then mid 1990s that electrically powered RC helicopters began to see widespread use. The development of efficient, compact lithium batteries saw the ever more precipitous shift from fuel powered engines to electrically operated motors, and today almost every RC helicopter you will find is run using an electric battery.
RC helicopters are popular with children and adults alike. The smaller, more affordable models are akin to toys, with limited flight control options and shorter flight times, while lager, more complex and more expensive units operate essentially like full sized, helicopters, albeit obviously scaled down.
On the low end of the price scale, you can find RC helicopters for as little as fifteen dollars. These inexpensive, diminutive little choppers will usually only fly for around five minutes when fully charged, and often only have an effective control range of a few dozen feet. However, a compact and affordable helicopter like this is a great choice for the youngster just learning the hobby, especially if they will be flown indoors. This is true both because lightweight, little RC helicopters tend to be able to absorb the damage of frequent crashes and as they don't cause much damage when they have an accidental collision or two. Most such units offer enough control to fly up and down and to move about with relative ease. Given their low cost, these toy helicopters make the perfect first RC vehicle for the budding enthusiast.
One can also slide right up the pricing scale to find RC helicopters that cost as much as a hundred dollars and more. At this higher price point, you will indeed get a vehicle that is essentially just a scaled down helicopter. Advanced RC choppers can be controlled in terms of pitch, altitude, direction, and speed. They have much the same flight control surfaces as any helicopter you would see in the sky above you, albeit with those flight controls managed from the transmitter in your hand instead of by your body in the cockpit.
In the higher price ranges, you can look for RC helicopters outfitted with cameras, lights, and with the ability to fly continuously for between ten and fifteen minutes.
Differences Between Drones And RC Helicopters
To the uninitiated, one remotely controlled flying vehicle might seem similar to any other compact flying machine. But when someone uses the now common word drone, they more often than not referring to a quadcopter specifically. These ever more popular remotely controlled flying machines use a battery of four sets of rotors -- two of which rotate clockwise, the others that rotate counter clockwise -- to lift the vehicle upward, often requiring minimal input from the "pilot" to maintain stability.
Drones have only become popular to the point of ubiquity following the development of and miniaturization of the same batteries that led to electrically powered RC helicopters supplanting fuel powered fliers. Because drones with four rotors are inherently more stable than a helicopter, they can readily be used as platforms for other features such as cameras, GPS receivers, lights, and even adaptations designed to pick up objects or perform other functions.
An RC helicopter, on the other hand, is often a more challenging vehicle to fly, what with its one or two main rotors and its rear tail rotor requiring frequent input to maintain stable flight. The challenges of flying an RC helicopter also make their successful control more rewarding.
So ultimately, the person who chooses to use a drone is probably more interested in the images and videos they can capture using its camera, in seeing its lights shining high above the field in which they stand, checking its coordinates via GPS, or in running their drone through an obstacle course. The RC helicopter pilot is usually more interested in the flight characteristics of the RC helicopter itself, enjoying good flying as its own reward.
A Few Words On RC Helicopter Safety
When used properly, an RC helicopter is a reasonably safe device that is unlikely to cause damage or injury. When used irresponsibly, these flying vehicles can cause both damage and injury in the extreme -- RC aerial vehicle accidents have even been linked to several deaths over the years.
To avoid injuries or property damage, first make sure you know exactly how to fly your RC helicopter. That means reading through its manual, studying its flight surfaces and the controls on the transmitter, and reading up on or watching instructional videos about the flight characteristics of RC fliers and helicopters in general.
When you are first learning how to fly your RC helicopter, you should do so outside on days without significant wind blowing. That helps to reduce the collisions often caused by over correction, a common error new pilots make. Also try to choose an area free of power lines, low tree branches, and other obstacles. Once you know how to keep your aircraft flying stably, then you can begin to practice maneuvering it from side to side and back and forth. With that mastered, you can move on to varying flight speeds and, soon enough, making ever sharper turns, trying out some quick changes in elevation, and so forth.
Only once you have gotten a sure hand on controlling your RC helicopter outdoors where there are minimal obstacles, feel free to move a smaller chopper indoors. Know that some larger RC vehicles, especially those with larger blade diameters, should never be used inside. If an RC helicopter is large enough to cause significant damage in a crash, then consider the fact that even an experienced operator can always lose control with the vehicle and don't put it in flight in a situation where it could become a sudden liability.
Whenever possible, only fly an RC helicopter that has been given ample time to charge its batteries. When these units are at full power, they are more responsive to control and they are less likely to suddenly drop from the air.