RADIO CONTROLLED HELICOPTERS... THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS ANSWERED
When I am out flying radio controlled helicopters, I often get asked many questions by people who stop and watch. Yes flying a RC helicopter usually draws a crowd.
There are several common questions I always get asked, but let's start with the basics first.
THE FIVE MAIN TYPES OF RC HELICOPTERS
Toy (single rotor and coaxial)
Micro Coaxial Hobby Grade
Quadrocopters (hobby & industrial grade)
Micro Single Rotor Fixed Pitch Hobby Grade
Single Rotor Collective Pitch Hobby Grade
Toy radio controlled helicopters are exactly that, a toy. They are very basic and inexpensive. The controls are limited and not precise, but they are still loads of fun and easy to fly.
A toy RC heli can take quite a bit of abuse from crashes or from hitting objects. If you just want to get your feet wet and find out if you even enjoy controlling a small flying device by radio control, then a toy heli is a good starting point. I have a section devoted to toy RC helicopters - click
if you wish to learn all about them.
Micro Coaxial Hobby Grade
Micro Coaxial hobby grade radio controlled helicopters are the next step up in complexity, cost, and control ability. First off, hobby grade generally means there are individual parts on the helicopter that can be purchased from a hobby shop and replaced separately.
This means when you crash or break something, the heli is not junk, you simply purchase a new part/s and your bird is good as new. The other benefit with hobby grade is that replaceable parts allow you to upgrade certain components to get better performance. A toy heli on the other hand comes as is, and if it breaks, that is the end of it.
Micro coaxial hobby grade RC helicopters, also called dual or twin rotor helicopters start introducing real helicopter control - up, down, turn, forward, backward, sideways movement and of course hovering. Micro Coaxials are almost as easy to fly as a toy radio controlled helicopter but they are larger in size and mass. This means if you crash one, you may break or damage a part. The good news as I mentioned above, is you can fix it very easily yourself.
If you already know you will enjoy flying a radio controlled model, and want good control over your RC helicopter, a hobby grade micro coaxial is a great way to start out. They are best for flying indoors, but a nice calm day outside will provide a nice flight as well. I have a section devoted to micro coaxial RC helicopters - click
to learn all about them.
RC Quadrocopters or Quadrotor RC Helicopters
RC Quadrocopters are the latest development in radio controlled vertical lift platforms that are able to take off vertically, hover, and fly in all directions. As the name suggests, there are 4 propellers arranged in a cross type configuration.
These are such a different animal
I built a page devoted to them
if you don't know much about quadrotor RC helicopters. They do make a very good first RC helicopter if you want an easy to fly RC aircraft and don't really care about it looking like a conventional helicopter design.
Micro Single Rotor Fixed Pitch Hobby Grade
These little micro single rotor heli's are the next step up from the micro coaxials and a fairly new development. They are slightly harder to fly than the coaxials, but with the 45 degree flybar placement, exhibit most of the same self correcting stability that is offered in the toy and micro coaxial variety. The newer higher performance flybarless versions such as the Blade mSR X respond a little more like a true collective pitch machine.
These little birds essentially bridge the gap between the lower performance micro coaxials and the higher performance single rotor collective pitch helis. If you know you are going to like this hobby - these are a wonderful little heli to start out on. I'm really impressed with both the
Blade mSR X
Blade 120 SR
(both those links take you to reviews I did on them).
Single Rotor Collective Pitch Hobby Grade
Now we get into real helicopter control, amazing performance potential, increased complexity, and cost. The majority of my web site is focused on single rotor collective pitch RC helicopters because there is so much to learn about them, the equipment required to fly them, and of course how to fly them.
On that note, let's dive into the complex, but fun world of single rotor collective pitch radio controlled helicopters. I usually get these 4 questions while I'm out flying more than any others:
Probably the single most common question I get asked is – "How Much Does A radio controlled helicopter Cost?" What most people don’t understand is the helicopter is just one part of it.
A better question is "How much does it cost to start flying hobby grade single rotor RC Helicopters?" There are several items you need to get before you can start flying, and usually these all have to be purchased separately.
Micro Single Rotor Collective Pitch Hobby Grade – $200.00 and up...
Small Single Rotor Collective Pitch Hobby Grade - $300.00 and up...
Mid Sized Single Rotor Collective Pitch Hobby Grade – $900.00 and up...
Large Single Rotor Collective Pitch Hobby Grade – $1500.00 and up...
Mid Sized Nitro - $1200.00 and up...
Large Nitro- $2000.00 and up...
Large Gas – $3000.00 and up...
Large Turbine - $9000.00 and up...
Remember – these are just very approximate numbers and you can spend many times more than this if you get top notch everything. Many Hobby shops will give discounts on full packages.
Manufacturers are starting to recognize that people new to the hobby just want to get in and get out - so they are putting together entire starting packages such as
Align's Trex 450 Plus RTF
(ready to fly) heli kit that will save you time and money by including every component you need to get airborne. There are always sales going on, and don’t over look the
used or pre-owned market
This might seem like a lot of money for a hobby, but when you look at what other hobbies cost – RC Helicopters are actually very reasonable.
2. HOW FAR, HOW FAST, HOW HIGH?
Next to cost, these are the three most common questions I get asked while flying radio controlled helicopters. It's kinda funny when you consider the complexity of the bird & equipment, the time and skill involved in learning how to hover and fly close-in which is what RC helicopters are all about; that the distance, speed, and altitude questions are so prevalent...
Let's start with how far and how high... There is no single answer to these "distance" questions because it depends on the type and size of radio controlled helicopter. Size? Yes, size is the limiting factor across the board here since you can only control a RC helicopter if you can see it; so the larger it is, the further out and higher you can fly it. Today's decent hobby grade radio equipment is generally good for up to a 1 KM control range (about 3000 feet) depending on factors such as receiver type/placement (park fliers & micros will have less range), surrounding buildings/power towers, and atmospheric conditions. Even a large RC helicopter starts to become hard to see at 1000 feet away and once you can't make out several critical identifying components on the heli such as the body, the tail boom, the landing skids, and the almost near invisible rotor disc - you will loose control ability since you have to be able to see it if you wish to control it.
Lighting also plays an important roll here as well as the color scheme on your bird. Bright colors are easier to see so that will help extend your range slightly. Late in the day when the sun starts getting closer to the horizon, visual range is reduced substantially since the heli gets darker and is silhouetted against the sky (same can be said for overcast days). This makes it near impossible to figure out which way the bird is flying and is very easy to loose orientation awareness (the number one cause of crashes for beginner to expert). How good your peepers are is obviously a big factor here as well. I know my 45 year old eyes can't see as well as what my 20 year old eyes could and over the years, that has reduced my distance and height flying envelope a little bit.
So the simple answer here is you can fly a radio controlled helicopter as far away or as high up to the point you can't see what you are doing. You will loose practical visual acquisition range long before radio range in other words.
Speed is also dependent on the specific type and size of radio controlled helicopter. A small micro coaxial may only fly with a top speed of about 5 kph (3 mph) where as I have clocked my larger collective pitch helis at over 100 kph (60 mph). The radio controlled helicopter world speed record last time I checked was just over 165 kph (103 mph)!
3. DO YOU HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO FLY RC AIRPLANES FIRST?
Not at all. There are very limited similarities in flight controls between helicopters and airplanes.
Experience with an RC airplane won't help you fly a radio controlled helicopter, but will certainly help you with things such as getting your engine running and tuning it. It will also help with the familiarity of RC radios, speed controllers and batteries.
Even RC car and truck experience will help. In fact, our RC car sisters and brothers probably have an advantage when it comes to building the helicopter, there are many similarities between the mechanical workings of RC cars and RC helis and how they are built.
Of course if you have no RC experience, that is okay to, you will just have a longer learning curve.
No sugar coatings here – when you are first starting, single rotor collective pitch are exceedingly difficult. It is said that radio controlled helicopters are harder to fly than real ones. I have talked to a few helicopter pilots who fly both, and most will agree with that statement to an extent.
Here is write-up
I have done that explains in greater detail just how hard - or easy depending on your point of view.
This is the main reason why I built the
How To Fly RC Helicopters
section of this web site and am offering these on line lessons for free - I don't want people to give up with RC helis simply because they didn't have someone to guide them through the basics of learning how to fly.
You also have to understand some basic
helicopter flight theory
before you even attempt to fly a helicopter, although that is the same for RC airplanes.
Like I side before, learning how to skate or ride a bike seemed impossible for many of us, but once you got it, it seemed so easy right. Helis are no different – just more technical.
There are more tools now than ever to help you along the way such as
rc flight simulators,
and the equipment is much better. Learning from a qualified RC heli instructor is the best way to go, but so many of us have learned on our own.
Any one can figure it out, some catch on quick others take a bit longer – but if you take your time, understand the basics, and learn in small steps, you will succeed!
The Beginners Guide To Flying Helicopters is an e-book I offer to help the RC heli newbie navigate through the maze of radio controlled helicopter information in a logical and easy to read format. Click on the image of the book if you wish to learn more about what's inside.
Setup & Tips For Electric Collective Pitch RC Helicopters is another one of my own e-books that will help people who are starting out on collective pitch helicopters and want to learn how to tame them down into a good trainer platform along with many other tips. Proper setup on a collective pitch heli is crucial - this e-book demystifies the process. Click on the image of the book to learn more about what's inside and how it can help.
This DVD provides good general
information on RC helicopters.
If you would rather watch than
There are several reasons why many people give up or fail with Radio Controlled Helicopters, the most common are:
I built this web site to offer sound advice and guide you along the way. I want people to succeed with
radio controlled helicopters
and enjoy this rewarding and fun hobby as much as I do - hopefully for a life time.
The Setup & Tips For Electric Collective Pitch RC Helicopters e-book is all about setting up a collective pitch RC helicopter with a computerized radio to turn it into the perfect trainer. Click on the image of the book to find out more about what information is covered in this, my most popular & #1 selling e-book.
The 120/140 Degree Swashplate Setup & Levelling e-book shows how to properly setup and level a 120,135, or 140 degree electronically mixed swash to attain perfect interaction and a trimmed out bird off the bench. Click on the image of the book to learn more about it.
RC helicopter training gear is the essential training aid used when learning to hover and fly most RC helicopters, this e-book shows how to build them. If you want to learn more about what's inside, click on the image of the book.
Thinking of getting into planes too, or trying to decide between RC helicopters or RC airplanes? If so, the Beginners Combo deal which includes both the Beginners Guide To Flying RC Helicopters and the Beginners Guide To Flying RC Airplanes e-Books, represents excellent value for anyone looking to get started safely and quickly in either or both forms of radio control flying.