Home Guides RC Helicopters for Beginners – Your Ultimate Guide

RC Helicopters for Beginners – Your Ultimate Guide

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RC helicopters are now widely available, more affordable, and easier to fly than ever before, making them extremely popular. Mini and micro model copters can be flown indoors for year-round enjoyment, regardless of the weather.

Once you get the hang of them, RC helicopters are a LOT of fun! But you need to proceed carefully at first.  You don’t want to hurt yourself or someone else with your new helicopter and you don’t want to crash it either.

Remote Control Helicopters for Beginners Explained

First off, let’s define beginner’s RC helicopter. Basically, an RC helicopter for beginners should be “easy-to-fly” and require “no experience”.

If you are new to flying radio-controlled helicopters, your goal should be to find something that you can easily control without having to remember advanced features and when to use them. A basic coaxial helicopter or an FP helicopter will give you much-needed experience in manipulating the controls and actions while learning how a helicopter moves. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it then you can move up a more complex heli.

It’s important and I recommend that you seek out help locally if you are new to flying RC helicopters. Flying helicopters is very rewarding – but it can also be just as discouraging without help and experience to draw from. If you do choose to go it alone, I recommend you use a flight simulator until you are comfortable instead of attempting to fly your helicopter first even then be sure you have plenty of spare parts available.

RC Helicopter Types

Engine Type

Electric Helicopters

Flying electric RC helicopters has become incredibly popular and relatively inexpensive. With the availability of very advanced yet inexpensive microelectronics with high-quality RTF (ready to fly) and ARF (almost ready to fly) helicopters, Even some of the smallest helicopters benefit with very advanced features that typically was found only in much larger more expensive helicopters. Add up all these features and you’ll find flying an electric RC helicopter has become much easier and affordable. More

Gas Nitro Helicopters

 

Gas helicopters – require quite a commitment – both in time and money. Gas helicopters are very much involved since they are very similar to the real thing and while choosing to learn to fly gas helicopters can be incredibly rewarding be aware that because of the high cost and complexity these are not suitable for the novice flyer.

Micro Helicopters – Advances in microelectronics have really fueled the recent growth of these little helicopters. Even though they may be small, they very often have the same complex features that have only been available in the past to larger more expensive helicopters.

Rotor/Blade Design

Typically RC helicopters are categorized by the design or mechanics of the rotor or main blades and fall within 3 categories. Coaxial, Fixed Pitch (FP) & Collective Pitch (CP). Let’s take a look at the differences.

Coaxial Helicopters

 

Coaxial RC helicopters have two main rotors (and blades) that spin in the opposite direction of each other.  When you see “counter-rotating blades,” “dual rotor” or “contra-rotation” in a helicopter’s description, it uses the Coaxial design. The two rotors cancel out each other’s torque, so a tail rotor is not necessary.  That gives you one less channel to worry about when you’re learning to fly, making things easier.

Coaxial helicopters have the big advantage of being easier to master and that makes them excellent for the novice or beginner. They are those “easy-to-fly” with “no experience” kind of RC helicopters. These are typically electric and the dual counter-rotating rotors combination makes these heli’s very stable and easy to learn to fly with. This stability and ease of flight have introduced a great many new flyers to the hobby.

Fixed Pitch (FP) Helicopter

On a Fixed Pitch helicopter, more lift is generated when the rotor spins faster and the helicopter will rise. By slowing the rotor rotation, less lift is generated and the helicopter descends.

A fixed-pitch helicopter is ideal for a beginner since it has fewer moving parts and requires less maintenance. The trade-off of that simplicity is a lag or delay in the response time needed to spin up the rotor. So, if you have a Flight Simulator to work with or an experienced helicopter flier to learn from, the FP 4-channel electric helicopters are great for beginners who want a realistic-looking helicopter but don’t want to spend a large amount of money.  These copters definitely have a learning curve but they’re a good introduction to multi-channel RC helicopter flying.

Collective Pitch (CP) Helicopter

More complex than the Coaxial and FP designs are the Collective Pitch (CP) helicopters. With collective pitch helicopters, the rotor spins up to full speed (known as head speed) and is constant, lift and directional control are achieved by varying the blade pitch relative to the disk of rotation. Since the rotor is already at full rpm, control changes are almost instantaneous.

CP Helicopters are more agile, responsive, and smoother to fly. The downside is a collective pitch helicopter is much harder to learn to fly and requires a more complicated 6 channel radio system increasing their cost. They also have many more moving parts that can easily break and require more maintenance.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of helicopter flying and you’re ready to attempt the amazing aerobatics and 3D flying that’s so exciting and fun to watch, then you’re ready to begin shopping for your first CP copter.  Some CP’s are specifically designed with the CP novice in mind and they’ll be easier to fly, but all CP helicopters have the inherent instability that comes with single rotors.  You’ll want to practice and learn as much as you can (through side-by-side instruction with an experienced pilot, flight simulator practice, reading) before your maiden solo flight.

What is the best RC helicopter for beginners and how to choose it?

There are so many RC helicopters on the market that choosing the best one can be a daunting task. Please allow me to share this process with you. Hopefully watching me go through these steps will help someone else when it comes time to selecting their own helicopter. Ready? Let’s go.

To start the selection process, the first thing you need to do is define an objective. Why do you want this helicopter? Knowing this will make it easier to select the features needed to reach that objective. So What’s my objective?

To find a fun and easy entry point into the world of hobby helicopters.

Basically, I want something with a short learning curve so I don’t get bored or frustrated. At the same time though, it needs to be something that will allow me to start building some basic flying skills.

Here are the criteria I’ve come up with…

Low cost

I’m considering this a stepping stone into the hobby and I suspect there will be crashes etc so I want to keep the investment to a minimum at this point.

Easy to Fly

I’m looking for something with a short learning curve here, so something easy to fly would be desirable. But. it has to be at least challenging enough to help develop some beginner skills. From what I’ve read, orientation seems to be one of the most important skills to learn right away. I’ll try and find something that is responsive and doesn’t drift around excessively so that I can concentrate on orientation.

Small Size

A small helicopter can be flown inside the house, which will prevent outdoor factors (aka wind) from slowing the learning curve. To fly safely in the house you need to have a lot of room, and the smaller the helicopter the less space that’s necessary.

Durable

It needs to be able to stand up to the inevitable crashes that will no doubt happen. The small, lightweight form factor will help keep the helicopter from being damaged in a crash (you know what they say, the bigger they are…). I’m not sure specifically what characteristics make for a durable helicopter, but I’ll dig into those specifics later.

Parts Availability

Another important factor is the availability of parts. When those inevitable crashes do happen, and damage occurs, I want to make sure there will be spare parts available for repairs.

Flight Time

I’m not too concerned about flight time, but I will take it into consideration. More time in the air means more practice, and therefore, better skills.

I’m really excited to select the perfect micro helicopter for my objective. With it, I can begin to hone my skills while having a blast at the same time. Before long I’m sure I’ll be back in the market looking for the next level of heli. In the meantime, I hope you’ve found these tips on how to choose the best beginner RC helicopter helpful.

Final Word

Due to their immense popularity, it is easy to find helicopters to fit any skill level and budget.  As long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and are cautious and sensible, you can learn to fly radio remote control RC helicopters and become one of the many copter fliers who are addicted to this intensely satisfying and rewarding hobby.

In my own personal experience, there’s no more satisfying and rewarding hobby than flying RC helicopters and planes. It’s healthy for the mind and body, gets us outdoors, it’s fun for the entire family, and a great way to make new friends.

by Isaac Dimmer

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