RC Toy Helicopters have basically made it possible for anyone to enjoy flying RC Helicopters. They are not complicated or maintenance intensive, they are surprisingly easy to fly, and most are very inexpensive.
True, they don't offer the same level and precision of flight control as a true hobby grade micro RC helicopter will; but if you are just starting out and want to know if you even enjoy flying something remotely before investing a little more money in a true hobby grade bird, cheap toy RC helicopters are a viable option to consider.
Incidentally, I also have a page specifically on choosing the Best RC Helicopters for Kids & Beginners , which explains in greater depth what the difference is between these low cost and disposable toy helicopters compared to micro hobby grade RC helicopters.
Yes, toy helicopters are at best a short term device that will break or stop working within a week to a couple months (depending of course on how they are treated). Once that happens, they are destined for the trash bin. If you don't particularly want to throw your money away, again I recommend you take a peek at that best Helicopter for kids & beginners page I just mentioned or the video at the bottom of this page.
If you don't mind tossing a few bucks out there however and just want to see what a toy heli is all about and still feel getting one makes sense just to get you introduced & initiated to the hobby very easily and inexpensively, please continue reading.
The most common, and as it turns out the least expensive
design offers two channels of control - lift & yaw (turning).
They use a single main rotor and a conventional tail rotor to counteract the reactive torque.
The main rotor controls lift by speeding up and down, and the tail rotor allows right and left turns by speeding up and slowing down.
Those are the two channels of control, speed of the main and tail rotor - very simple.
With a little bit of nose weight to shift the center of gravity
forward of the main rotor mast, these very simple little 2 channel toy
helis will slowly drift forward giving a rudimentary form of forward
The other 2 channel control method uses two counter or "contra" rotating
rotors to supply both lift and yaw control - this is known as the
"coaxial design" (link takes you to my page on how they exactly work).
Again weight is used to change the center of gravity to allow a slow forward or backward drift.
The precision of control in any 2 channel toy heli as I mentioned is poor.
Nonetheless, they are still fun to fly but will get boring rather quickly!
The other toy heli design that is very common is the 3 channel coaxial.
Just as with the 2CH coaxial toy helicopter, these toy versions use two counter rotating main rotors and by altering the speed of the rotors to one another, you can turn (yaw) the helicopter left and right (1st channel) as well as control lift (2nd channel).
The 3rd channel of control is used to control the speed and direction of a small tail rotor, but this tail rotor is mounted horizontally, not vertically like on most helicopters. It's normally called the "tail fan" in this configuration.
The way it works
is if it blows air down the tail of the toy helicopter will pitch up
slightly and the heli will drift forward slowly. If the tail fan
direction is reversed and blows up, the tail will pitch down and the heli
will slowly drift backwards. It's slow and sluggish at best, but better than shifting the center of gravity as it gives some forward backward movement control.
BLADE SCOUT CX
Hobby grade quality and control performance at toy helicopter pricing and flying ease!
Nope, it's not a toy grade heli, but the price would make you think otherwise. I had to include the Scout on this page for those of you who know you want more than a toy grade heli but don't want to spend a lot and still get into all the benefits that go along with a hobby grade machine (namely better quality/performance, the ability to replace/update parts, & purchase extra flight batteries for back to back flights).
The Blade Scout is a 3 channel micro coaxial but unlike the 3 channel toy coaxial helis that use those little horizontal tail fans to pitch the heli forward and backward, the Scout uses true cyclic control (a tilting swashplate to change the pitch of the main rotors). This will give you much better hover and directional control. The Scout CX also incorporates a true heading lock gyro for impressive yaw stability and control.
In addition to the obvious control and performance improvements over a simple toy heli, the Blade Scout comes with a 2.4 GHz radio instead of the much more basic infra-red controller found on most toy grade helicopters. This provides a superior communication link to your heli and is not effected by high levels of ambient light or other infra-red interference by other IR sources or reflective surfaces. All this technology for only $50.00 USD!
I've been so happy with this little heli and think it's by far the best choice of any of these toy type micro RC helicopters from a performance/quality to cost ratio. In short - this is the heli I've been gifting to several newbie heli friends & family over the past couple years. The Scout remains to be a solid choice & are well received. Toy price but hobby grade quality and performance - very sensible & logical purchase in my opinion.
There are also a growing number of inexpensive 4-channel palm sized quad rotor helicopters such as the Hubsan X4 that could almost be considered a toy considering the fairly low cost and easy flying characteristics, but they are much more than a toy and can even do basic aerobatics. Feel free to read about this new generation of micro quad rotor on my quadrocopter page .
Toy grade RC helicopters are introducing so many kids and adults alike (total beginners) to the wonderful world of RC flight and in a very inexpensive manner. Many people who are first introduced to the hobby with one of these simple (generally impulse buy) toy helicopters are bitten by the RC helicopter bug and then progress into better quality hobby grade radio controlled helicopters. For this reason alone, even if toy helicopters are more or less disposable items, they do offer value to our hobby in general.
No question, I would much rather see people stop throwing their money away on these disposable toy helis and realize a quality micro hobby grade heli is not much more money, but even these toys provide lots of fun albeit short term fun. They weigh next to nothing and because of that low mass, slow rotor RPM, and slow flight speeds, they don't break that easy. In fact, the motors and batteries generally fail before a part breaks.