by John Salt - Updated December 2021
RC Toy Helicopters such as the Syma S107 have basically made it possible for anyone to enjoy flying RC Helicopters. They are not complicated or maintenance intensive, they are quite easy to fly, and most are very inexpensive.
True, they don't offer the same level and precision of flight control as an actual hobby grade micro RC helicopter will, nor can you swap flight batteries in many of them for back to back flights.
That said, if you want to know if you even enjoy flying something remotely before investing a little more time & money in a true hobby grade heli, toy RC helicopters are a viable option to consider.
Yes, toy RC helicopters are at best a short term device that will break or stop working within a week to several months (depending of course on how they are treated). Once that happens, most are destined for the trash bin.
If you don't particularly want to throw your money away, I recommend you take a peek at that best Helicopter for kids & beginners page which covers beginner hobby grade helicopters.
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 or your youngster introduced & initiated to the hobby very easily and inexpensively, please continue reading.
These were the first type of toy heli that were available for a low price. This basic single rotor 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 flight.
This type of toy helicopter has pretty much been phased out so you likely won't run into them that often anymore. They are however what first started the micro RC heli revolution back in 2004/2005, and are worth remembering for that reason alone.
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).
Weight shift is again 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 and they get boring extremely quickly.
For those reasons, they too are becoming less and less common.
These days you only find the least expensive toy helicopters using the 2ch coaxial design and in flying action figures like Spidey shown here.
Without doubt, the most popular type of toy helicopter on the market right now are the 3 channel Coaxial Type.
The Syma S107 and its variations are pretty much the top selling ones due to the almost give away prices ranging from $15 to $30 bucks at most retailers, and they are also one of the best quality toy helicopters currently on the market.
Unlike most toy helicopters, you can also get replacement parts for them; so they could be considered true hobby grade in that respect.
For the price, the Syma S107G is hard to beat!
Just as with the 2CH coaxial toy RC 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.
These can be slightly harder to fly, but generally offer the most fun in the toy segment. 4 Channels of control give you: lift, forward/backward (pitch), left/right (roll), and the ability to yaw (turn). Some can even perform flips and rolls at the push of a button.
I have a section on quadrotor RC helicopters if you wish to learn more about how they work.
There are certainly many brands and models of toy quad-rotors on the market these days, but the ATOYX / Holly Stone is a very popular one right now.
This attractive little quad-copter is a child and adult favorite alike and for only $50.00 USD, the value can't be beat. The propellers are not fully exposed, instead being encircled by a protective shroud ducted fan style.
This is both safer for your youngster/s and pets, not to mention your walls and other valuables that could be damaged by exposed spinning propellers.
The advanced electronic stabilization system makes it easy for beginners to pilot with features such as self level, auto orientation correction, emergency stop & low battery warning; while also having the ability to do flips and rolls at the push of a button as your skills get better.
It's one of my favorite toy quads on the market plus it allows battery changes for back to back flights. It actually comes with three flight batteries giving it even better value.
There are also a growing number of inexpensive 4-channel palm sized hobby grade quad-rotor helicopters for under $30 bucks or so.
The Hubsan X4 H107 pictured above is one of the better ones on the market.
It could certainly be considered a toy considering the very low cost and easy flying characteristics; but it offers better electronics, strong build quality, and of course you can change the flight battery for back to back flights and get replacement parts to fix it when things break.
Most in the hobby consider this little micro sized quad rotor the best in its class. I've had one for several years and they really are amazing little quads. They are however fairly agile and responsive so younger children may find them too difficult and frustrating.
I did however at least want to mention the Hubsan X4 on this page because for the toy price, it provides lots of fun factor and is more performance minded for "bigger kids".
Toy grade RC helicopters are introducing so many kids and adults alike (total beginners) to the wonderful world of RC flight 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.
Incidentally, my first toy helicopter was a VertiBird way back in the 70's, and although it wasn't RC, it had a profound impact on my interest in helicopters that continues to this day.
For this reason alone, toy helicopters offer massive value to our hobby. Neat little toy helicopter accessories such as the heli landing pad shown below can add even more fun.