Looking for the best indoor RC helicopter? Well, we’ll look at what makes a great indoor RC helicopter. Flying RC helicopters indoors is a pastime that can provide hours of fun. Of course, for the newbie, the choices of brands and types and prices can also be a bit bewildering. So, we hope this article helps you to get your bearings so that you can find one that’s “best” for you.
There are five main things to consider when we choose an indoor helicopter: size, controller channels, rotor type, gyros, and value. So, we’ll take a quick look at each of these factors.
Generally, when people say indoor RC helicopter, they mean micro RC helicopters. These helicopters fit in the palm of your hand. Their small size makes them easy to maneuver even in a home or office.
Think about it for a minute. How fun can it be to fly a 2-foot helicopter around in, say, a 20′ x 20′ room (a kind of biggish room, really)? There just isn’t much you can do when the length of the room is only 10 times the length of the helicopter.
If your helicopter is 6 inches long, then that same 20′ x 20′ room is 40 times as long as the helicopter. Now, you’ve got time to build up a little speed and room to move around in. It’s a lot more fun.
Of course, if you have access to a giant warehouse, a gym, or some other really large indoor facility, then you can have fun indoors with an 18-inch or 24-inch helicopter. But most people don’t have access to such facilities.
Here the word “channels” refers to the number of ways you can control the helicopter. Indoor RC helicopters can have either two, three, or four channels. We will describe these channels below.
With two channels, you can move the helicopter two ways. You can move it up/down, and you can spin it left/right. Two-channel helicopters always move forward. You cannot make them hover or move backwards. My first indoor RC helicopter had two channels. It was fun. But it was disappointing at the same time because it couldn’t hover or fly backwards.
Three channels let you move the helicopter three ways. You can move it up/down, move it forward/backward, and spin it left/right. A three-channel helicopter can hover and fly backwards. Three-channel helicopters are a lot of fun. They are also probably the most common type.
With four channels, you can move the helicopter four ways. You can move it up/down, move it forward/backward, spin it left/right, and strafe it left/right. Strafe just means to move sideways without turning. Four-channel helicopters have a more realistic and responsive feel than two and three-channel helicopters. But they also have a somewhat steeper learning curve. Four-channel helicopters tend to be more expensive than two and three-channel helicopters.
As far as channels are concerned, the best indoor RC helicopter is probably going to be a three or four-channel helicopter. Two-channel helicopters leave a lot to be desired. And, in my opinion, due to the constant forward motion, two-channel helis are more difficult for beginners.
Indoor RC helicopters have three basic rotor types: (1) single rotor, (2) coaxial rotors, and (3) tandem rotors. Single-rotor helis are also commonly referred to as “fixed pitch” helicopters. We discuss each type below.
Single Rotor (aka, Fixed Pitch)
Single-rotor means that there is only one main rotor on the helicopter.
Fixed pitch just means that the angle of the blades does not change. In other words, the rotor is nothing more than a regular propeller. Really, all indoor RC helicopters have fixed pitch blades. However, for some reason, only single-rotor RC helicopters are usually called fixed-pitch helicopters.
Single-rotor helicopters usually have a vertical rear rotor. The rear rotor serves two purposes. First of all, it turns the helicopter left or right. It also counters the torque of the main rotor.
Coaxial rotors are two rotors kind of stacked on top of each other. They share the same axis. The two rotors spin in opposite directions. By doing this, they cancel out each other’s torque. This makes coaxial helicopters very stable. Because of the torque cancellation effect, a vertical rear rotor is not needed to counter the torque.
Many people used to think that only toy helicopters had coaxial rotors. But there are real coaxial helicopters.
Even though most real coaxial helicopters don’t have a rear rotor, many RC coaxial helicopters do. But it is normally a horizontal rotor. In this case, the rear rotor doesn’t turn the helicopter left or right. Instead, it pushes the tail up or down. This makes the helicopter move forward or backward. Real helicopters use the main rotor to move forward or backward, which is why real coaxial helicopters don’t need a rear rotor at all.
Coaxial helicopters turn left or right by making one rotor spin faster than the other. This results in a torque differential, which causes the helicopter to turn.
Coaxial Rotors vs. Single Rotors. RC helicopters with coaxial rotors tend to be extremely stable and easier to fly. Single-rotor helicopters are more responsive and many consider these to be more fun.
A real Chinook helicopter with tandem rotors. Giant cargo helicopters tend to have tandem rotors. I’m sure most every young boy has admired with awe the giant Chinook.
Helicopters with tandem blades have a main rotor on each end of the helicopter. Just like with the coaxial rotors, tandem rotors spin opposite ways to cancel out each other’s torque. So, they also don’t need a vertical rear rotor. And also like coaxial helicopters, tandem helicopters turn left or right by causing one rotor to spin faster than the other. As we said before, this causes a torque differential. The torque differential causes the helicopter to turn left or right.
These RC helicopters have four rotors. They are generally very stable and larger quadcopters are typically used for FPV (first-person view) flying. Incredible videos can be taken from an RC quad-copter with a good camera. But quad-copters come in mini-form, too, for great indoor flying. The great thing about quadcopters is that you can do some tricks with them, they are very stable, are usually 4-channel, usually use a radio controller (instead of an infrared controller), and many can even fly well outdoors.
What Kind of Rotor Does the Best Indoor RC Helicopter Have?
Well, there is no way to pin that down. Beginners should probably go for a coaxial helicopter. After that, it becomes a matter of preference. You’ll just have to experiment. It seems many people eventually end up preferring the single-rotor helis.
Some RC helicopters come with gyros and some don’t. Gyros try to keep the helicopter level. This makes the helicopter easier to fly but also a bit less responsive. Beginners should probably look for a model that has a gyro.
Value is a mix of price and quality. Most indoor RC helicopters go from $20 to $120. Sadly, most of them are made in China, and sometimes, products made in China have quality control issues.
However, on the flip side, they have the advantage of being quite cheap. This will prove to be a great advantage if you are a complete beginner. So, despite their not-so-great quality, the RC helis made in China could be a wise option for your very first learning sessions. You will do some crashes so why waste tons of money?
So, Which One Is the Best Indoor RC Helicopter?
If it’s your first indoor RC helicopter and you would probably get a three-channel coaxial helicopter with a gyro. They are easy to fly and quite affordable. It’s possibly the most popular model. Keep in mind that there are also a ton of very poor-quality Syma clones out on the market.
If you think you and a friend might like to fly at the same time, consider getting a pair of helicopters.
Now, if you’ve got lots of extra money, you would probably go for a four-channel coaxial helicopter. Four channels offer very realistic helicopter movement. Just know that they come in ready-to-fly (RTF) and bind-and-fly (BNF) versions. RTF means the chopper comes with a controller or transmitter. BNF means you must purchase the controller separately. Beginners should probably go with RTF versions.
Well, we have really enjoyed talking about RC helis, and hope this little article will help you pick the best indoor RC helicopter for you.