There’s no thrill quite like flying, right? Soaring into the sky, feeling the rush of the cool wind, and being able to go WHEREVER you want! That’s the life! Even if you aren’t sitting inside and flying, you can still fly RC aircraft! In a toss-up between RC airplanes and RC helicopters, I’d have to go with RC helis. Why? Because you can fly RC helicopters anywhere! You don’t need a runway, you don’t need fields and fields of open space. You just need some space, and take-offs and landings are vertical. RC stands for radio control(not remote control). There are actually a TON of different kinds of RC helicopters available, from those geared at beginners and kids to those geared at pros. Flying RC helicopters has a learning curve to it, so maybe you want to start small and then progress, since the smaller models are much cheaper than the advanced ones, some of which go for upwards of a thousand dollars! So that begs the question:
Which is the best RC helicopter?
The best RC helicopter really depends on which is the best RC helicopter for you. Depending on your skill level(and what you want to get out of flying), you would want to go for different types of choppers. Broadly speaking, you can divide helicopters into the following types:
- Multi rotor – Think quadcopters from The Sharper Image
- Micro coaxial – Helicopters with two sets of blades one on top of the other
- Fixed pitch – Helicopters with one main set of blades, adjusted by a swashplate
- Collective Pitch – Advanced helis geared towards pro flyers
For the helicopters I am going to review here, I will stick to RTF(ready-to-fly) models. I’m assuming that you are new to RC helicopters, and you are looking for the best way to get into them. That’s actually why I built this website – I was looking to get into them as well and was having trouble finding the information I needed – so I’ve put it all together for you here!
Multi Rotor Helicopters
Multi rotor helicopters are a relatively new entrant on the toy hobby scene, and they are really taking everyone by storm! Quadrocopters have 4 sets of blades arranged perpendicularly. 4 blades means there is four times more control, since the lifting power is balanced from each side, allowing for much smoother flight. The four rotors, when turning in different directions and combinations will let you control every aspect of helicopter flight: lift, turning, hovering, and of course, going forward and backward. Quadrocopters are also very technologically advanced – while the smaller toy helicopters are pretty primitive, quadrocopters are literally computers that fly – there is a lot of processing and computing going on inside of them that makes them fly properly. Perhaps the best innovation in quadrocopters is the fact that they have GPS. This let’s you fly them pretty much on autopilot if you wanted. Even if you lost the radio link, some quadrocopters come with a built in homing feature that they use to fly back to a point that you set. How cool is that? If you just want to have the thrill of FLYING something right away without much of a learning curve, quadrocopters are the things for you! You can also use them in aerial photography.
The Blade 180 QX HD is a Ready To Fly quadcopter that is suitable for beginners, while also being equipped with the advanced features more seasoned pilots want. The 180 QX is about one foot in diameter(and length), so it’s small enough to fly indoors – but also strong enough to fly outdoors. The coolest thing about it is that it has 2 flight modes – one called Stability Mode where the amount you can pitch and yaw the heli is limited, so you don’t overcorrect and crash! The second is called Agility mode, which gives you full control over everything, so you can pull off acrobatics and stunts. It comes with an attachable 720p HD camera that also takes 1.2 megapixel stills – and you can switch between video and still photos using the radio control. A 2 GB micro SD card is included to record and save videos and images. It also comes with one set of replacement blades in case you crash and break them on the first few tries :D.
The Traxxas LaTrax Alias(model number 6608) is an awesome quadcopter. In fact, just as I was researching it, I felt compelled to buy it right away! The Alias has a super powerful motor, and is about 10 inches at its longest. It’s made from a special composite material which makes it VERY durable, and so you can expect it to survive quite a few crashes! There are three flight modes(like in the Blade 180), one Easy, one Medium, and one Advanced. The controls are designed to help you get flying as soon as possible and without any hassle. There is a battery indicator on the remote similar to ones in cameras, and acrobatics are literally push button – you push a button and tilt the stick in the direction you want to roll or spin or loop. That makes it good for showing off, but perhaps not so much for practice…
The Traxxas QR-1 is a tiny little thing, measuring only 5 inches by 5 inches – making it a super choice for using indoors. It’s still got four powerful motors, though, so you can fly it outside as well. The really cool thing about the QR-1(and all Traxxas Quadcopters for that matter) is that even though they have the ability to let you do all sorts of wild maneuvers, when you let go of the sticks, it will stabilize itself. It’ll need a little bit of room to do this though – don’t expect to let go of the sticks 2 feet from a wall and not crash! It’s got two flight modes – Normal(for most of us) and Expert(for RC rockstars). It’s small but powerful, so you can still pull off neat tricks and acrobatics. The QR-1 comes with two battery packs so you can switch ‘em out right away for maximum flying time.
Micro Coaxial Helicopters
Micro coaxial helicopters are small helicopters that use two sets of rotor blades – one on top of the other – to stabilize the helicopter. Normally, helicopters have two rotors – one on top and one on the tail. When the one on top starts to spin really fast, the torque, or force produced by the spinning would cause the body of the helicopter to start spinning too! The rotor on the tail produces a force that counters the torque of the main rotor, making the helicopter stay still and not spin. With coaxial helicopters, there are two sets of blades – one spins in one direction, and the other spins in the opposite direction. This provides lift, as regular blades would, and the top blade spinning in the opposite direction provides opposite torque, so the helicopter is stable. It’s brilliant, right? These helis are perfect for beginners and for indoor flying as well – and a good stepping stone to more advanced copters. Check out our favorites:
I can’t say enough good things about the Syma S107G – it’s quite possibly THE BEST micro sized helicopter out there. It’s tiny, easy to fly, there’s no learning curve, and it is designed to fly indoors. You don’t want to take this little guy outdoors! It’s still got a decent amount of power, and the cool thing about the coaxial design is that once you get the hang of flying this kind of heli, progressing to more advanced ones is much, much easier. Plus it has a gyroscope which automatically stabilizes the tail – so within two or three tries, you will have this little guy zooming around everywhere like you’ve been flying for years. And do you know what the best part is? It’s less than $30. Brighten up your day(or your child’s) with an awesome hobby toy. Remember to check out the awesome ways to mod it, too.
Designed with the outdoors in mind, the Double Horse Volitation is a significantly larger helicopter than any of the other ones we have seen so far. At an impressive 26 inches in length, this guy won’t fit indoors! It has the size and power to fly comfortably in the great outdoors. Equipped with a 3.5 channel radio, you can control 4 aspects of its flight: going up and down, turning left or right, going forwards and backwards, and flying at variable speeds. Normally, these helis don’t let you control speed – the faster the rotor spins, the higher it will go – the additional channel in the radio allows greater control over flying. Plus, the lightweight metal frame gives the heli a sturdy but flight-friendly build.
Resources for advanced pilots
Who are RC helicopters for?
RC helicopters are for everyone, really! Whether you are buying it for you child or yourself, it is an awesome hobby to get into – especially since you can do it indoors and outdoors. That’s the trouble with RC planes – they require a lot more space to fly than helicopters! Plus, some of the smaller helicopters are really cheap, so getting into this rewarding and fulfilling hobby won’t be really hard on the wallet. In fact, the cheapest RC planes sell for nearly three times as much as the cheapest RC helicopter. Plus, depending on where you live, it may be very difficult to fly an RC plane. I’m from the Windy City, and most of the time, the gusts are far too strong for a little radio control plane to survive in. I’m going to stick to helicopters, I think! To see where you might end up with your newfound hobby, check out this ridiculously awesome video of a world class RC pilot doing slick tricks with his heli: