RC Helicopter Radios - How Many Channels Should They Have?
How many channels should RC helicopter Radios have?
This is a question I get asked a lot by people who are just getting into the hobby and looking to purchase their first
. The simple answer is “it depends on the helicopter”. I know that doesn’t answer anything – so here we go...
When you go
RC heli radio
shopping, your first decision is to determine how many channels you will require. Each channel controls one surface or component on the RC helicopter. In short - the more complex the helicopter, the more channels you need.
Two Channel RC Radios
A two channel radio would be used for the most basic of
toy grade helicopters
, such as the Havoc Heli.
1. One channel controls the speed of the main rotor.
2. The second channel controls the tail rotor speed so the helicopter can turn or yaw left & right.
Since these very simple radios are included with toy helicopters, you don’t have to worry about getting one separately.
Three Channel RC Radios
A few toy grade coaxial (counter rotating main rotors) RC helicopters use three channel RC radios.
1. One channel to control the speed of the main rotors.
2. The second channel is used to control the left and right turning (yaw) movement by varying the speed of the counter rotating main rotors.
3. The third channel is used to control the speed and direction of another motor mounted on the tail boom with a small fan blade. This motor/fan is positioned vertically to pitch the helicopter forward or backward so it can move in those two directions.
Again, these are simple radios that are included with the toy helicopter so you don’t have to worry about getting one separately.
Four Channel RC Radios
Four channel RC helicopter radios are required for
micro coaxial RC helis
with cyclic controls and hobby grade
single rotor helis with tail rotors. Now we start getting into true
that uses a swash plate.
For a toy grade coaxial heli:
1. One channel controls the speed of the main rotors.
2. The second channel controls the left and right yaw movement by varying the speed of the counter rotating rotors.
3. The third channel is used to control the forward and backward movement of the swash plate (pitch).
4. The fourth channel is used to control the left and right movement of the swash plate (roll).
For a single rotor fixed pitch RC helicopter:
1. One channel controls the speed of the main rotor/throttle.
2. The second channel controls the speed or pitch of the tail rotor to turn the heli left or right.
3. Forward/backward cyclic.
4. Left/right cyclic.
Once again, RC helicopters that use a four channel helicopter radio are mostly of the RTF (ready to fly) micro coaxial variety or RTF single rotor type and will include the radio.
There are a few single rotor fixed pitch helis out there that you will have to purchase a radio separately for, but as you know from reading in the
best RC helicopter section
, a hobby grade single rotor heli that only has fixed pitch has many limitations and is something you should stay away from.
Five Channel RC Radios
This is the minimum number of channels you need to control a hobby grade RC helicopter with
Just like the explanation of the single rotor fixed pitch heli above, the first four channels are used for the same things:
2. Tail Rotor
3. Left/Right Cyclic (rolling)
4. Forward/Backward Cyclic (pitching)
5. The fifth channel is used for the collective pitch control of the main rotor blades.
Like I said, this is the minimum number of channels you need to control a good hobby grade RC helicopter with collective pitch, but is very limited in practicality these days since the introduction of
with remote gain and mode selection (pretty much the only option these days) – yup one more channel needed.
Six Channel RC Radios
As I just stated, if you are getting into a hobby grade heli with collective pitch and have anything but the most basic gyro, you will need a six channel helicopter radio to select different gyro gain settings or to select between yaw rate gyro mode or
heading hold gyro
For most people, a 2.4GHz
computerized 6 channel RC helicopter radio such as the entry level
is a good choice when first getting started provided you are not flying larger more expensive models where one starts questioning the robustness of entry level radio equipment being in control of higher end machines.
Seven and More Channel RC radios
If you are looking to control more items on your RC heli than the 5 basic RC helicopter controls and gyro features – you of course need more channels. These items include:
Dedicated landing gear control
Remote fuel mixture controls on nitro and gas powered helis
Remote head or engine speed governor adjustment
Multiple remote gain adjustments or "rescue modes" on some flybarless systems
GPS/return to home flight mode activation on some flybarless systems or multi rotor stabilization systems.
Navigation and landing lighting on scale models or for night flying
Movable/retractable gun turrets/rocket launchers on scale military models
Aerial photography/video controls
The options are really only limited by your imagination and credit card.
Here are some popular choices:
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