"What's the best RC helicopter for kids or beginners" is a common question I frequently get asked; especially around Christmas time since RC helicopters are very popular gifts for kids and adults alike.
I'm going to give you some "kid/beginner friendly" recommendations along with the reasons why I feel these are good helicopters for both children & first time newbies getting into the hobby.
First off, you may want to take a peek at my Toy RC Helicopter page
since it talks about toy helicopters which is a good place to start
most children off with - especially younger children (under 8 years of
age). No question for most kids, toy Air Hogs RC helicopters & quad rotors, are the most popular brand.
That said, there are limitations to toy type RC helicopters and
for not much more money (sometimes even less), you can actually get your
youngster/s a better quality hobby grade RC helicopter that they will
not only have more overall fun with; but it will also last longer.
Unlike toy/mall kiosk/big box store RC helicopters; hobby grade RC helicopters are almost always better in quality and fly much better. The very best feature they have going for them is you can easily get replacement parts for them when something breaks or wears out.
This is something that you usually can't do with a toy heli. Once a toy heli breaks (and they all will break eventually), chances are it's headed for the landfill and I've seen first hand how upset a child gets when this happens.
No question, they will still get upset when they break a part
on their hobby grade helicopter, but at least you can explain to them,
"we'll get it fixed and it will be good as new". To me, that is worth a
few extra bucks over throwing money down the drain on a disposable toy.
Hobby grade helicopters also allow you to purchase extra LiPo flight batteries for back to back flights. Most toy grade helis have built in LiPo flight battery packs and you'll have to wait an hour up to two hours after each 8 minute flight to recharge them.
This is the single biggest complaint you see on most toy heli reviews; the short flight times and the long re-charge times in-between.
I'm sorry folks, but 6 to 10 minutes is the norm for most electric RC aircraft - toy and hobby grade alike!
Current LiPo battery technology is just not capable of cramming more capacity into a light weight rechargeable package. Small capacity LiPo's also can't be "fast charged" so forget about a less than 1 hour recharge time. At a 1C charge rate (the recommended for all LiPo battery packs), it takes an hour to charge them.
Thing is, at least hobby grade heli's allow easy battery replacement for back to back flights; so although flight times won't be longer, you won't have to wait for an hour + to go flying again; just pop another charged battery into your bird.
There is a real reason however why toy helicopters have only built in LiPo flight batteries and that is to prevent a possible choking hazard that a small replaceable part could cause. Toy's are for children after all, so no question that safety aspect has to be taken into account in your decision when deciding between a toy and a hobby grade RC helicopter.
The other benefit with hobby grade is you can get knowledgeable help from the hobby shop or the manufacturer should you need it for problem's, repairs, or even recommendations.
You rarely if ever get service like that with the toy/mall/box store stuff. In fact, it's rare the person selling them at such places even knows the difference between a coaxial helicopter or multi rotor never mind how they actually work and which one is the best match for your particular child or beginner RC helicopter pilot.
In short, before making that impulsive toy/mall kiosk/box store RC helicopter for kids purchase, do a little research or pay a visit to your local or on-line hobby shop to see what they have for not all that much more money.
No longer are all hobby grade RC helicopters super expensive, hard to fly, and meant for enthusiasts only.
With all the micro coaxials and micro quadrocopters, you can get easy to fly quality hobby grade RC helicopters now for under $100 dollars. In fact, some are under $50 so they are not much more expensive than most of the toy stuff at all, yet offer superior value and most importantly, superior fun.
I'm trying to adhere to an under one hundred dollar budget since most people who contact me with this best RC helicopter for kids or beginners question want to keep the price under $100 bucks or less.
I do have a few more suggestions that cost more if your budget is a little more flexible or you are purchasing one for a BIG kid at heart. That is the one thing to be aware of. You may be purchasing this RC helicopter for your or someone else's child, but chances are you or other adults are also going to be having fun with it too.
you have likely guessed, all the RC Helicopter for kids recommendations
I'm going to be giving you are for easy to fly and economical hobby
grade helis. Again, if you want to go the toy helicopter route, check
out my toy helicopter page for more info on them.
The ones I'm recommending (Blade & Hubsan) are sold at most good hobby shops so it should be easy to find them and to then get parts for them when required. To be kid & beginner friendly, all these RC helicopters & quadcopters are ready to fly out of the box (no building required), robust, and naturally fairly easy to fly.
The majority of my recommendations are also very small in size and will fit in the palm of your hand.
Small micro sizes are good in that they have very little mass and less mass = less energy dissipated when they crash or hit something.
In other words the smaller and lighter they are, generally the less likely they are to break when they crash.
This makes them not only less dangerous to the child
but less damaging to items in your home as it's pretty much inevitable
that your young student pilot will have a few less then perfect first
That said, all these little helicopters for kids & beginners are still flying aircraft with spinning propellers or rotors on them. The micro size ones don't have enough power/energy to cut through skin, but they can sting when the blades contact bare skin and they are certainly capable of damaging soft eye tissue.
Don't fly them around pets either for that very reason!
Using common sense and caution go a long way.
Most of these kid friendly hobby grade RC helicopters are recommend for ages
12 and up, but depending on the child and the level of help offered by
an adult at first, that age limit is of course a recommendation only. I
know a few eight & nine year olds who can fly any of these kid
friendly helicopters & quadcopters better than their parents can, so it all depends on
the natural ability of the child.
I have links to each helicopter & quadcopter so you can learn more about each one along with ordering information if you wish to purchase online. I have also included a few videos on some of the models so feel free to watch them or better yet, show them to your young budding helicopter pilot and get his/her input.
First up are micro coaxial RC Helicopters. These are generally the type/design of RC helicopters that most toy/mall/box stores offer, but the ones I have listed here are true hobby grade quality with proper tail gyros & cyclic control.
up are the quad rotors - the latest and greatest thing in easy &
fun to fly RC right now. Quadcopters/quadrotors (quads for short and very incorrectly also called drones) are perfect RC
helicopters for kids (big & small alike).
They are more performance
minded over the micro coaxial helicopters and most are more
challenging so they may not be the best option for younger
unless they already have some RC heli experience with a toy or hobby grade coaxial.
All offer 4 channels
of flight control (lift, pitch, roll, & yaw). Most also have selectable flight modes for easier flight while first learning and then select the
more aggressive flight mode for aerobatics.
Micro quadrotors can however handle small amounts of wind outdoors much better than micro coaxials so if outdoor flight is an important consideration, a quad might be the better all round choice. Most are also very crash proof as there are very few moving parts on them which also makes them easier to fix when something does break. Some even come with a built in video camera for taking amazing aerial video footage.
Below are some of my favorites based on my experiences and visitor feedback.
As you can see, other than a few costlier exceptions, a true hobby grade RC helicopter or quadrotor for kids or beginners doesn't have to cost much more than the toy type. They give you more helicopter & quad value in most cases, way better control, overall better quality, the ability to fix them when something breaks, and with extra battery packs - way more back to back flying fun!
This video gives a really good primer on Toy Grade vs Hobby Grade if you are still a little foggy about some of the differences.
I've always dismissed these things as a total waste of money, but a buddy of mine got one for his son. After seeing how good he was getting landing his little Blade mCX2 on it with a big grin on his face, I quickly realized what a great little accessory it was.
I think he spends more time landing and taking off now then flying the thing. Of course he was putting a show on for me, showing off his new found heli piloting skills ;-)
Anyways, it was pretty entertaining watching him and I now realize these little landing pads do have merit.
They also come with an assortment of sticker sets allowing one to customize the pad to their liking. My buddy's son also uses his little Helipad as a display platform for his mCX2.