UNDERSTANDING RC HELICOPTER CONTROLS AND THEORY

RC Heli Control System - Swashplate & Rotor Head

“Oh-No, THEORY and RC helicopter controls” I hear some of you saying. “THEORY”, I thought this was suppose to be “fun”!

Yes this will be fun - I promise. I am not going to put you to sleep with an in-depth aeronautical engineering course. If you want that kind of information – you won’t find it here.


If you are looking for a more advanced

and in depth explanation of the theory

behind how helicopters fly, I highly

recommend this book. It is technical

but well worth the read if you have a

passion for helicopters like I do.



My goal is to give you enough information to understand why a RC helicopter can fly in the first place and how we control it. You must first understand these basic principles before you can learn to fly a RC helicopter... it's that simple.


Yes, now comes one of those times that your high school physics teacher warned you about. You know the old “one day, this information will come in handy” statement to make some attempt to keep us all awake. Didn’t work for me – how about you?

So how will I keep you awake this time around? First, we are talking about something real here – your RC helicopter that you just spent a significant amount of time and money on. I think you will want to understand how it flies and how RC helicopter controls work – right? Second, this really is neat stuff - it is another reason this hobby is so rewarding.

RC Radio Helicopter Control Functions

Speaking of RC helicopter controls , you should also know what CCPM is (that link takes you to my CCPM page).

As I have said before, single rotor collective pitch RC helicopters are, at first, not easy to fly. They have the exact same controls and follow the same laws as full size helicopters. The first step is to understand these forces and laws. It will then be an easy matter to understand how a helicopter is controlled.

To make this as simple and basic as possible, I have broken helicopter flight and control down into three very basic areas:

By fully understanding these three basic areas of helicopter flight, you will have a much better idea of how helicopters fly and understand RC helicopter flight controls much better.

Like I said, this is pretty basic stuff, but you need to know it!

Here are also some very well done and entertaining videos explaining and demonstrating RC helicopter controls and basic heli flight physics. I am very impressed by them and they are well worth watching!

The Three Basic RC Helicopter Controls - Lift, Direction, & Torque



Visual Demonstration of Collective & Cyclic



Dissymmetry of Lift & the Helicopter Speed Limit



Now let’s look at two other areas of helicopter flight theory that are a bit more advanced. By understanding the first three, these two will make more sense. They are not crucial to understand, but it is nice to know they exist and how they affect the RC helicopter controls.


Gyroscopic Precession Video


So how did I do? Did I put you to sleep? Just remember, helicopters take time. If it doesn’t all make sense now, don’t worry. Come back to the explanation in a few hours or a few days and re-read it. Everything is more clear the second time around or as many times as you need.

Still a little confused? Here’s a little trick that I use all the time...

Simply visualize what is going on while your helicopter is flying. Unlike RC planes or cars, RC helicopter controls seem a bit abstract. You now know how a helicopter flies and how to control it.

Visualize yourself in a nice solid hover. What happens if the heli starts drifting to the right? What control input do you give and what is happening on the helicopter to achieve the result from that control input?

If you can think and visualize what your helicopter is doing before you even begin learning to fly, you will have a big advantage over others who learn by feel alone.

Who said there was anything wrong with day dreaming. Have fun with the process.


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RC Helicopter eBooks

Setup & Tips For RC Helis

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The Setup & Tips For Electric Collective Pitch RC Helicopters e-Book helps you understand all about setting up a collective pitch RC helicopter along with many other useful tips. Click on the image of the book or watch the video below to find out more about what information is covered in this, my most popular & #1 selling e-book.


Beginners Guide To RC Helicopters

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The Beginners Guide To Flying RC Helicopters is an e-Book that goes over the basics of getting started with RC helicopters. Click on the image of the book to learn more about what's inside.


Swash Setup, Leveling & FBL Configuration

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The 120/135/140 Degree Swashplate Setup, Levelling & FBL Configureation 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 or watch the video below to learn more about it.


Getting The Most Out Of Your mSR/X & 120SR

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Getting The Most Out Of Your mSR/X & 120SR is an e-Book that focuses on the Blade mSR, mSRX, & 120SR. Click on the image of the book or watch the video below if you want to find out more about it.


How To Build Training Gear

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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 or watch the video below.


Beginners Guides Combo Deal

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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.


RC Heli Magazines